INTRODUCTION

The genesis of this blog came from an article that I wrote for See Page XX examining prevalence of sexist depictions of women in different areas of gaming. Before you read anything else here, you should really go read the article. (Yes it’s important enough to link twice.) If you find yourself wanting to argue with the article, please read this post here elucidating common arguments against my findings and clarifying some points regarding my criteria and methods.

My goal is to make this a place you can point people to regarding specific issues pertaining to sexism in gaming.

If this is your first time visiting my blog, welcome! If you don’t want to read chronologically, consider checking out this guide on how to use this blog. If you’re a feminist or ally looking for a specific post to use as a reference, then visit this guide here.

Friday silliness: Bayonetta proportions in real life

After doing my recent post about Bayonetta 2, I regretted I’d given up doing a corrected redraw as completely pointless. The problem was that Bayonetta’s proportions are so inhumanly wrong that a “corrected” version wouldn’t match the original at all. So then I got to thinking…

Maybe what I needed wasn’t a drawing over top of the original artwork to illustrate exactly where the figure went wrong. (Ie: everywhere) Maybe what I needed was to photoshop an actual human woman to have the same proportions as Bayonetta for it to really hit home about how weirdly inhuman her proportions are.

So I decided on Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, since she’s someone we’re used to seeing obviously-Photoshopped images of. Case in point, this awful Cap 2 poster:

captain-america-2-poster-black-widow

Then I just needed to find a mostly-not-foreshortened picture of Bayonetta that WASN’T posed like a porn still. That turned out to be… a lot harder than I thought. But finally, I found this render here:

bayonetta-imagen-i244178-i

Lastly, I needed a full-body still of Scarjo as Black Widow to make sure that I got something un-photoshopped (like pretty much all of her promo photos). I would have preferred her in the catsuit, since that’s most similar to what Bayonetta herself is wearing. But this is what I settled for, since the pose is the most similar:

captain-america-2-black-widow-bhdznrru

All right! So with the images sourced, it was time for some photoshop magic. In order to do this, I overlaid Bayonetta as a transparent layer on top of Scarjo and then just resized-stretched things until they matched the Bayonetta’s proportions. Once that was done, I did some half-assed cloning to blend it together and… ta-da!

scarlett-johansson-black-widow-5 (1)

I’ll admit I got lazy photoshopping the background back in

Yes Scarlett’s head looks tiny, but it is the same size as Bayonetta’s. Bayonetta’s weird beehive hairdo just serves as an optical illusion. I’ll admit that I also should have smudged her thighs a tiny bit wider, but honestly it was close enough to illustrate the point. It’s easy to look at a computer-rendered figure and ignore obvious distortions, because there’s already a level of removal there by virtue of it obviously not being real. But seeing these anatomy distortions on an actual human? I find that really emphasizes how very inhuman Bayonetta is.

I’m not anti-sex, video games just suck at not failing at it

One of the charges that routinely gets hurled at me is that I’m a sex-hating prude that hates sex in games and thinks that people who put sex in games are just the worst. Which is pretty ludicrous, but it’s the lowest-hanging fruit of dismissive criticism aside from “she’s crazy”, which means it’s something I hear a lot. For a lot of people, it’s easier to attack the messenger than it is to engage with the message, especially when the message is openly critical of something that you like.

However, it’s also true that about 99% of the things that I write here pertaining to sex and female sexuality as they are portrayed in video games are harshly critical. It’s something I’ve been thinking about since writing my last post, because Bayonetta is a character that you really can’t write about without examining how her sexuality is portrayed and how that portrayal is actively harmful.

Sex in videogames: seriously, why is it so bad?

The reality is that as a medium, video games are 10-15 years behind other art forms in their portrayal of female sexuality[1]. That’s not to say that the rest of art and pop culture get it right – there are still an awful lot of terrible things to be found in movies, comics, and television. But there are also a wealth of examples of non-video-game pop culture in which female sexuality isn’t demonized, punished, or objectified[2].

As for video games…? Even after wracking my brains, I was only able to come up with a handful of games with totally positive portrayals of female sexuality, and even then half of those had caveats:

good_depictions

Although romance has been a staple of the Final Fantasy series, it’s been pretty much void of sex, with the exception of that not-a-sex-scene-that’s-still-totally-a-sex-scene in FFX. Which is a shame, because as much as Squeenix fails at costume design, their writers are really top notch at writing believable female characters who are a mix of strong and vulnerable and everything in between. And despite the fact that they didn’t technically have sex, I thought X’s not-a-sex-scene was a really touching portrayal of Yuna and Tidus allowing themselves to be mutually vulnerable to each other. (And you will never convince me that they weren’t totally having sex offscreen and that the music montage was just some epic afterglow.)

BioWare is a better example in that its sex scenes are actually sex scenes, although this hasn’t always been the case. While Dragon Age: Origins takes the cake for the BioWare romance I found most compelling (I know he’s not to everyone’s taste, but my female warden fell for Alistair so frigging hard), the fact that the designers chickened out and rendered all of the sex scenes with characters in their underwear really bugged me. It actually felt more objectifying than the Mass Effect series’ sex scenes, which were underwear free, just because at least Mass Effect wasn’t specifically calling attention to people’s junk.

Still, ridiculous underwear aside, BioWare has done really well in their portrayals of female sexuality. There are women who are lesbians, bisexual, hetero, and cheerfully ambiguous. They have women who just want casual sex, women who are after romance, and women who aren’t really sure what they want. And none of these women are presented as wrong, or as being punished for their sexuality. Even better, there’s no difference between how sex scenes are handled between FemShep and BroShep. No matter who you play, there’s real tenderness there.

And sure, there are missteps. Like Morrigan’s blatant and stereotypical sexuality, or Jack with her ridiculous nipple straps and her MaleShep romance option of fixing her with sex, which I just find really terrible. (Seriously, feminists get told all the damn time that what we need to “fix” us is a good dicking, so I find that trope particularly offensive.)

But beyond Final Fantasy and recent BioWare titles, I was stuck. An informal straw poll on Google+ yielded a few more like Saint’s Row IV (which I haven’t played) - a notable example that was put forth by several people. (I’ll admit to being surprised.) Gone Home also came up, as did The Sims[3]. ..aaaand that was about all any of us could come up with. Sadly, it seems AAA game studios (that aren’t BioWare) simply don’t have a clue how to write sexual content that doesn’t exist to solely to objectify female characters.

Not that that should come as a surprise. 88 percent of game industry devs are male, and it’s been well documented that harassment for women in the industry is pretty much a given. (Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, Elizabeth Shoemaker-Sampat, Jennifer Hepler, Jade Raymond… the list is very long and very depressing.) Much as we think of games as an interactive medium, interactions have to be programmed. Every interaction has to be scripted and its potential outcomes defined, and the people doing that programming are largely white and male – and all of that is happening in an environment steeped in misogyny and brogramming culture.

Is it any wonder, then, that AAA games nearly always fail to deliver genuine portrayals of female sexuality? How can they, when the few women in the industry can’t effectively advocate for themselves, let alone for a fictional female character? So when AAA game studios try to include honest portrayals of female sexuality, the result is nearly always something like this:

So_romantic

Oof. Right in the feels.

But you know what? It doesn’t have to be this way.

Sex in tabletop game design: an example to be emulated [4]

The conversation about how to handle sex at the table is hardly a new one in tabletop land. Of course, being a different medium, that conversation has resulted in different tools. Some of those tools can best be described as “safety nets” – tools to help people feel safe in playing through content that makes them vulnerable. I’m only going to mention those tangentially as a separate conversation worth being aware of; though if you’re not familiar with lines and veils  and the X-Card, you should definitely read up on them.

What I find more interesting, however – at least for the purposes of this conversation – is the different mechanical approaches that varying designers have taken to solving this problem of how to address sex in a mechanical way in ways that feel meaningful, without resorting to cheap stereotypes. While this is far from an exhaustive catalog of games worth considering, here are some games that explicitly include sex mechanics I have played and enjoyed:

1) Kagematsu - a game in which the sole male character (a ronin) is played by a woman, and all of the other characters are trying to seduce him with the purpose of convincing him to stay and protect their village. In playing this, I loved how it greatly inverted players’ default point of view.

2) Apocalypse World focuses on the consequences that result from sex, with custom sex moves that only take effect after characters have sex, and with varying results, depending on just who it is that’s doing it. (And let me tell you, things get real interesting when it’s two PCs having sex.)

3) Much to my regret, I have yet to play Monsterhearts as anything other than a convention game. Still, Monsterhearts is a fantastic game for exploring themes of emerging sexuality – queer or otherwise – and the confusion that this can cause. As an Apocalypse World derivative, Monsterhearts has sex moves. However, it’s worth noting that a Monsterhearts-specific move lets all PCs make rolls to turn someone on – the person targeted is either turned on or not as determined by the dice.

Of course, the main thing that all of these systems have in common is that these are systems that aren’t exclusively engineered to model violence. Violence is definitely a large part of Apocalypse World, because hey – apocalypse. But Apocalypse World is also designed to model relationships, sex, fucking, psychic horror, and general social dysfunction. Monsterhearts does include harm (damage), but that’s far less central to the system than the mechanics modeling relationships, obligation, arousal, and sex. And Kagematsu doesn’t even have any violence mechanics at all! Kagematsu’s rules focus on modeling affection versus desperation, and about the most violent thing that players can choose to do mechanically is slap Kagematsu – which doesn’t leave any lasting effect, aside from the effect on what he thinks of you.

These sorts of mechanics lead to sex that feels messy and vulnerable and real. Sex that can feel fun or fraught; romantic or deeply unhealthy or even both; complicated and wonderful and meaningful. And the mechanics drive that story!

The best example I have witnessed of this is actually something that just happened in an Apocalypse World campaign that I’m part of. My character and another PC had been “circling the drain” (as I had previously described our relationship), with sex as an almost-inevitable conclusion that we somehow hadn’t managed until the end of our most recent session. And when it did finally happen, I was so very excited because of this little rule on my character sheet:

quarantine

For those of you familiar with AW, it was my Quarantine and the Hocus. Yes it was just as messed up as it sounds.

And let me tell you, knowing that this was a move that was going to come into play, the rest of the players were super invested in the scene! There wasn’t any phone-checking or side conversations, because the Quarantine sex move is so goddamn sweet in a post-apocalyptic world composed almost entirely of awfulness! Which is how this happened:

loved-oh-snap

And then the rest of the scene happened, and it was great and we moved on with our lives. It wasn’t until later that it really struck me that people had reacted as if we were playing D&D and I’d just rolled a one-shot on a dragon, which just goes to show why I love Apocalypse World so very much. It is absolutely possible to get player investment and excitement in things other than death and violence!

The problem is that the complete lack of these sorts of mechanics is where the majority of video games run into problems. The majority of AAA video games are violence simulators, with a couple other sub-systems thrown in. And that’s not to decry their worth as games – I’ll admit that I find using Adrenaline’s slow-mo effect in Mass Effect to line up a sniper rifle shot through an eye-slit in a riot shield immensely satisfying! But when 90% or more of a game’s mechanics revolve around various flavors of how to kill things, it shouldn’t be surprising that portrayals of female sexuality wind up as hollow retreads of awful sexist stereotypes.

Even BioWare games, which I feel generally handle female sexuality pretty well, rely on an incredibly shallow sub-system slapped on top of their violence simulator. If you do things a, b, and c and say things x, y, and z – you can accumulate enough points sleep with a woman, so long as the option has been programmed to allow you to do so. Their very sophisticated script-writing obscures the fact that the only design that has gone into modeling character relationships is a simple system of one-time bonuses and penalties, hidden behind pretty graphics and clever dialogue.

And as a game designer, I just feel like we can do so much better! Yes video games are a different medium with different constraints than tabletop. But tabletop designers have been learning from video game design for years. Maybe it’s time for video game devs to start looking at tabletop systems for solutions to the problem of how to use mechanical systems to drive satisfying stories about sex and relationships.

Sadly, until that happens I think the best we can expect is a thin veneer of romance on top of games about killing things and taking their stuff.

[1] Worth noting, that I’m almost exclusively writing about cisgender female sexuality here, simply because of the dearth of examples available to me.

[2] Granted, those examples are almost always indie-affiliated. But that’s a different conundrum.

[3] Which I wouldn’t have thought of, since the Sims don’t have any character beyond what the player constructs for them. But at the same time, any punishment of female Sims for having sex comes entirely from the player and not from the game. And given that having recreational sex is an entirely different option from having procreative sex, the mechanics are pretty darn feminist.

[4] I’m going to speak specifically about indie tabletop design, mostly because that’s the type of game that I play and the type of games that my friends design. That’s not to say that there aren’t games outside of Indie Tabletop Land that might not also provide positive examples.

On Bayonetta 2 and Female Sexuality in Video Games [TW]

[TW: The first part of this post contains some content looking at rape-as-punishment-of-in-game-failure, as well as a link to a rapey cut scene.]

Recently, I had a decent-sized traffic spike on my old post about Bayonetta and the male gaze… from three years ago. (Usually that post averages 200-300 direct links per month; in October of this year it got 3700+.) Apparently, a bunch of guys on Reddit got really sore that I said nasty things about Bayonetta and hate-read the article so they could talk about how terrible I was.

…weird. And they say the feminists are just “looking for things to be offended by”.

My reaction initially was along the lines of ‘oh well – I feel pretty much everything I said about Bayonetta back then certainly applies to the new game’, so I’d planned on leaving well enough alone. But a few things caught my attention recently that made me think it would be worth revisiting. So first, some thoughts, and then a redraw.

Part the first: you can oppose #GamerGate and still be misogynist

One of the things that made me want to revisit Bayonetta is that her creator, Hideki Kamiya, has actually gained a small amount of notoriety as a game dev opposed to #GamerGate who attracted moderate levels of harassment. (And by that I mean that he was harassed by #GG proponents, but certainly not anything comparable to what women like Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian have faced.)

However, it’s very important to remember that even though he opposes #GamerGate, Hideki Kamiya is still very much a misogynist. Here are just a few things he’s said about Bayonetta in the past:

Well, if I had to pick one, I would say it is the scene where Joy first appears in the game, with Bayonetta and her impostor getting into a pose battle. That was my way of expressing the feminine notion that, to one woman, all other women are enemies. Even women walking by each other will check out what the other is wearing, and might smolder a bit with antagonism. Women are scary. (source: Bayonetta dev: to one woman, all other women are enemies)

I strongly feel that women outside should dress like her. Like, when she does a hair attack, you’d see the skin. I want women to wear fashion like that. (1up.com: Bayonetta developer interview)

But anyway that’s how we’re creating Bayonetta’s moves and all that, and that’s actually the most fun part of this game, thinking about all that stuff. So you will be able to see what everybody in the team likes in a girl from the finished project. (1up.com: Bayonetta developer interview)

[On whether her outfit really is just hair] Yes, completely hair. That means that she’s actually naked, but naked because that’s just hair, that’s not clothing. She has strong magical powers, she’s using her strength, her magical power to keep her hair on her body, to make it form an outfit. So when she gets weak or something, she might just lose her magical power, and if that happens…you know what that means. (1up.com: Bayonetta developer interview)

In other words, Hideki Kamiya is someone who has zero problems objectifying women, whether in real life or in fiction. He also has designed Bayonetta explicitly to appeal to male sexuality, and has no problem equating a woman’s worth with her sexual appeal.

Still, some people point to Bayonetta as a character to be celebrated because empowerment! And choice feminism! Bayonetta’s chosen to be this way!

But that ignores the fact that Bayonetta is not real. All of the choices she makes – how to dress, how to act, who to flirt with and when – are actually being made by her creator, whose only priority is to present Bayonetta as a sexual object that is pleasing to men. Her sexuality isn’t presented as something to be celebrated – it’s something that is explicitly punished.

Part of Bayonetta 2 includes a secret fight against Rodin, a character from the first game who is a friend of Bayonetta’s. Unfortunately, the sequence that plays if you actually lose this boss fight is… suuuuper rapetastic.

If you win the fight, Bayonetta doesn’t have sex with Rodin. Sex is only something that happens if you lose. And yeah, a lot of people would argue that the flirtatious dialogue at the beginning of the scene means that it’s not rape. I mean, how can it be rape if she flirted with him, right? But that’s just victim-blaming of the worst sort. I point again to the fact that Bayonetta only has sex with Rodin if she loses; if sex can only happen with violence, that looks an awful lot like rape.

And then there’s just the whole way it’s presented. Bayonetta is naked lying face down, trying to cover herself while Rodin smokes a cigarette. All of which really just screams rape to me – especially when you consider that “rape” is (disgustingly) still widely used as a synonym for “defeat” by many gamers.

I hate Bayonetta as a character and all of the hollow, awful stereotypes about female sexuality that she represents, but I still find this sequence utterly repugnant.Yes Bayonetta is presented as in charge and blatant in her sexuality. Yes she is aggressively flirtatious. Yes she dresses provocatively. But she is not “asking for it”. No woman is ever “asking for it”.

This is categorically not what female empowerment looks like.

Maybe Kamiya isn’t a misogynist in the sense of hating women. I really can’t say – I’ve never met the guy, nor am I ever likely to have the chance to. But in terms of being someone who promotes the objectification of women and perpetuates toxic sexist stereotypes? Absolutely he is a misogynist.

Besides, have you seen her character design?

Part two: everything about Bayonetta is wrong

So here’s the image that I decided to work with:

20140615210025!Cereza_Bayonetta_2_renderHoo boy. Looking at this, I’m actually a little terrified of Hideki Kamiya, because Bayonetta isn’t even remotely human. Clearly Kamiya has a fetish for weirdly elongated, rubber-boned snake women. Literally every part of her body is wrong.

Let’s start with the easy part. Heads:

Bayonetta-heads

Bayonetta is a whopping nine heads tall. So if you at Bayonetta and think “wow, her head looks really small”, that’s because it’s weirdly tiny. The average human is 7 heads tall, with half a head variance on either side. That’s an extra two heads of height!

Furthermore, Bayonetta’s legs by themselves are 6 heads tall. So just like Hyung Tae Kim’s anatomy nightmares, you could put Bayonetta’s head on just her legs and it would be as tall as a real human. Brr. (I did try to draw that, by the way, but it wasn’t nearly as funny as I’d hoped.)

When doing redraws, parsing the anatomy is usually pretty simple. But with Bayonetta, I found myself stumped and had to resort to drawing part of her skeleton to figure out what was going on:

Bayonetta-skeleton

Oh god. My head hurts.

Looking at this, about the only thing that I can give Bayonetta’s creators for is that she does, at least, have a ribcage and internal organs. However, Bayonetta’s spine is just ridiculous – it’s bent at a 130 degree angle there. And sure, there are contortionists out there who can sit on their own heads, but even they can’t fold their spine sharply in half in the middle.

There’s also this confusing thing that happens in order to elongate Bayonetta’s breasts (we’ll come back to that in a second) that results in her having the world’s longest sternum. The average human sternum is 17cm (6.69 inches) – and is significantly shorter in women. But despite spending way too much time trying to figure out a base for an estimate, all I can say is that her sternum is just too long, okay?

Her arms are also weirdly messed up:

Bayonetta-boobs-elbow

 

To be honest, I don’t know what the fuck is happening with her right arm, other than her shoulder is completely dislocated. I can partially dislocate one of my shoulders (on purpose) and I still can’t reach backwards that far. As for the rest of her arm… Man, I don’t know. I mean, it looks like it might be correct? But the foreshortening combined with the extreme anatomy distortion makes it really hard to tell.

As for her left arm, it’s waaaay hyper-extended. Now I’ll admit that it’s actually not beyond the realm of anatomical possibility – I have a few friends with hyper-bendy elbows and they like to squick me out by bending them freakily. (Stop it bendy friends!) But a choice was clearly made to hyper extend the arm so that the foreshortened hand wouldn’t block the view of her breasts, which. Okay. I guess most dudes don’t share my squick over elbow hyper-extension, but it still strikes me as really weird.

And her breasts! (I said I’d come back to those…) I can’t get over how weird and elongated they are. They look like baguettes stapled to her torso and… just… what? What’s up with that? I mean, when’s the last time you heard a guy say “hey, look at the sub buns on that chick”? Never, that’s when. Because normal humans fetishize round breasts. Melons. Basketballs. Not baguettes.

But the thing I find most disconcerting of all is Bayonetta’s pelvis:

Bayonetta-pelvis

When I was drawing her skeleton, I was weirded out by how tall Bayonetta’s pelvis is. It just seemed out of proportion, and way too large in comparison to the ribcage. So I drew a perspective box around the pelvis, duplicated the layer, rotated it, and stuck it on top of the ribcage. And her ribcage is only a tiiiny bit bigger than her pelvis, which is just about a million kinds of wrong:
Human-SkeletonThe pelvis on this (real, not fake) skeleton is slightly more than HALF the height of the ribcage. It’s true that there is an awful lot of variance in the length of the human ribcage, but we’re not talking anywhere near enough variance to make Bayonetta’s freaky pelvis remotely plausible.

All of which leaves me incredibly stymied. Normally this is the point where I’d try to correct everything and redraw the figure over the original art with normal human proportions. But in this instance, I’ll concede defeat because really – what’s the point? When literally everything about Bayonetta is wrong, it seems easier to just point you to photos of Bayonetta cosplayers. (Who, it’s worth noting, still manage to be very sexy despite their handicap of having an “ordinary” human skeleton.)

Concluding thoughts

There’s a legal concept that I find useful in this situation – namely, fruit of the poison tree. Basically, Bayonetta is not an empowering feminist figure, because everything that she is has been tainted by the deeply-held misogyny of her creators. At no point does Bayonetta have any real agency over her sexuality because she is entirely fictional. Rather than being a celebration of female sexuality, Bayonetta is a shallow stereotype constructed out of sexist stereotypes and objectification who only serves as a mirror for the misogynist views of the people who designed her.

Wednesday Freebies: the getting back to normal (for now) edition

I’m currently working on a post about Bayonetta 2 that’s hit a snag. (I wanted to include a redraw, but holy shit, folks. This is the hardest redraw I’ve ever tried. Harder even than re-drawing HTK, which was a nightmare.) So I thought I’d share a few things worth reading, since it seems like the internet awful is finally (finally!) creeping back into its usual corners and it might be safe to start reading things about gaming again.

For now, that is. Because let’s not kid ourselves. The internet awful has not gone away. The volume dial has just been turned back down. But the next time another one of these faux scandals occurs – and it will occur, have no doubt – #GamerGate has really raised the bar for just how bad things can get for whichever woman finds herself being targeted by a hatemob next.

So anyway, here are some things worth checking out. And I plan on getting up that Bayonetta post tomorrow.


 

#GGish things that I promise are funny and not awful

This comic about how to complain about video game review scores is perfect, and I can’t think of anything I would add to it.

There are very few things I love more than sarcastic charts, and this sarcastic pie chart by a former BioWare game dev about “the true impact of SJWs on Game Development” is a masterpiece.

Not #GGish things that are rad

Speaking of BioWare, a group of game devs at the BioWare Montreal studio recently helped a woman propose to her girlfriend by making a custom Mass Effect level, and really just go read the story right now it will definitely make you smile. I know I go after BioWare a lot on this blog, but it’s fantastic to see something like this.

And lastly, over Google+, the ever-perfect Avery McDaldno is killing it as usual in this post about creating queer-friendly games and spaces. It’s definitely a must-read for game designers concerned about making inclusive, queer-friendly games.

Looking back: comparing old and new M:TG art [MANY IMAGES]

Lately I’ve been having fun going through my collection recently and revamping old decks as well as building new ones.  Because reasons that are boring to people who don’t play Magic, a lot of this deck-building has me going through our new Khans of Tarkir stuff as well as stuff from Return to Ravnica, which is a set from two years ago.

And the thing that I’m really noticing is that Ravnica… really sucks at it’s portrayals of women. For all that Khans artwork didn’t really include women, it also (for the most part) didn’t really fail that hard. I mean, there were a couple eyeroll-worthy pieces of art, particularly the snake tits on Kheru Spellsnatcher. But Ravnica? Man. Where to start.

Which is really interesting! Because it’s not like there’s a ton of time separating the two sets. There are only two years separating Ravnica and Khans. So I thought it would be worth taking a look at Ravnica, numbers-wise, to see how M:TG has changed direction with it’s artwork in the last two years.

The Numbers

Interestingly, while Khans may have had a much lower eyeroll factor, there were also many fewer women over all:

discernable-gender

Yikes!  The percentage of female representation went down by half! Given that women in the Ravnica set were already under-represented, that’s a pretty startling decrease!

However my initial assessment of Ravnica’s art was pretty accurate. Ravnica might have had many more women, but a large majority of them were objectified pretty blatantly:

breakdown

HALF of all women in Ravnica artwork were counted as suggestively attired! As compared to Khans, where only five female characters total were counted as suggestively attired. Yikes!

Still it might be easy to look at the numbers for Ravnica and conclude that characters in Ravnica are just more suggestively attired overall. After all, looking at the breakdown of suggestively attired figures, men account for nearly half. So if there’s equal opportunity objectification going on, that’s not bad, right?

…well. No.

Caveats. Always with the caveats

Because as always, there are very stark differences between suggestively attired male figures and suggestively attired female figures. There tend to be three rough categories of suggestively attired male figures:

1. “Savage” or “bestial” characters clearly gendered as male

With art that falls into this category, the lack of clothing is always a device intended to display their lack of civilization:

Animals

All of the above images depict characters that are clearly not intended to be sexually appealing. Indeed, I’d argue that Golgari Charm is intended to be unappealing. These are just some “savage” beast-men looking to inflict some hurt on someone.

2. Dead stuff: corpses, necromancers, and corpse necromancers

All of the following figures were counted as suggestively attired:
Dead

Which is, of course, ridiculous. These figures were clearly not intended to be sexually appealing. Not unless you happen to find dessicated corpses and dudes without noses appealing, in which case I’d like to remind you that society has agreed that necrophilia is a thing that is Not Okay.

3. Goblins and weirdos

Okay, I’ll admit this is a bit of a catch-all. But seriously, check out this art:

goblins and weirdos

Goblins always throw off the numbers when it comes to counts of suggestive figures, because it’s very common for the art of goblins to include high numbers of figures. And goblins always get counted as suggestive, because they never, ever wear pants. (I mean, I’m pretty sure if it wears pants, you can’t call it a goblin.)

And then there’s the weirdos, by which I mean figures that count as suggestively attired who are not bestial, dead, necromancers, or goblin, but are clearly not meant to be sexually appealing because they’re just… so… weird. I mean, look at the Rakdos Shred Freak. I’m pretty sure that even hardcore fetishists aren’t going to look at this guy and say “oo, look at his muscle definition”.

And the Hellhole Flailer? What the hell is up with this guy? Why are his forearms the size of his biceps? Why are his biceps the size of his thighs? Why does he have a skull on his head? Or does he have a skull for a head? Anyway, whatever is going on there – it’s clear that this guy isn’t supposed to be sexually appealing. And yet that’s how he was counted, along with all of the other savage, dead, and goblin figures.

Which has a clear spoiler effect on the numbers! Because while these figures are suggestively attired, they are clearly not suggestive.

In fact, out of all of the male figures in Ravnica, I’d argue that only one counts as being maybe sorta actually suggestive – the Golgari Decoy:

Golgari decoy

I have no idea what is going on here, but this guy is rocking some pretty extreme “boobs and butt”, which is pretty weird, frankly. Is this supposed to be a satire of the usual female boobs and butt? Or is this just an anatomy fail? I really don’t know.

Lastly, it’s worth pointing out that there are a good number of female figures who were counted as fully clothed, but who are actually kind of sexualized by their frigging boobplate. Take, for example, the Ash Zealot, who I otherwise really like because she is just straight up ending a bunch of zombies in the face:

ld212_ash_uxiyudxxey

She’s so great! So, so great! …except for her bizarre boobplate. The boobs on her boobplate are actually so high that she is actually wearing a pushup boobplate, because, I don’t know, it’s hard to want to go out and brain zombies with a flaming mace if you feel insecure about your saggy tits? I guess?

And unfortunately, Ravnica had a lot of pretty egregious boobplate:

Boobplate

There are 3 or 4 more examples that didn’t fit into this picture, btw.

The first three aren’t terrible, because the art itself is actually pretty rad and is about them being awesome, not about them having boobs. The last three, however, are pretty clearly a case of the artist going “bah, why draw a woman with armor if you can’t see her tits”? Arg.

In which I belabor the point

I don’t want to look like I’m arguing that the reason for the 50% decrease in female representation between Ravnica and Khans is because they got rid of all of the bullshit female characters. Because that would imply that only 50% of Ravnica art of women is bullshit. But the reality is that non-bullshit art of women is vastly outnumbered by the totally-bullshit art.

And it comes in so many different flavors! Flavors like “sexualized spellcasting”!

spellcasters

WHY DOES SHE HAVE DUCKFACE. WHY. AND WHY DOES THIS BUG ME MORE THAN THE TOP LEFT’S BROKEN SPINE???

Or how about “the spec for this card actually has nothing to do with boobs at all, I just super like them”?

Boobs for the sake of boobs

The Oak Street Innkeeper (far right) is the only one of these where you could maaaayyybe argue for the inclusion of some boobage. (But given the extremity of that boob window, I’d argue pretty hard against that). Chorus of Might and Electrickery (top left and top middle) don’t necessarily exclude ridiculous boobage, though the fact that some pretty ridiculously sexualized women were the go-to for otherwise ambiguous art requirement says a lot, I think.

But check out the Wild Beastmaster (top right). If you look up the full artwork, the animals she’s commanding are cropped almost entirely out of frame so that we can see the totality of that boobplate trainwreck she’s wearing. Even worse are the Korozda Monitor and Slime Molding (bottom left and bottom middle). The art requirements specifically called for not sexy ladies. Giant-ass lizards are not sexy ladies. Huge slimes are not sexy ladies. And yet, in both cases, the artist was so devastated about having to draw not-sexy-ladies that sexy ladies were inserted where none was needed. This is why we can’t have nice things.

And then we have the closely related flavor of “I can’t take this art seriously because of these gratuitous breasts”:

Maybe no one will notice

I’m sure that these were all intended to be dramatic pieces of art, but you completely lost me at the ridiculous sexualization. Why would a “Keening Apparition” (top middle) be a Kirsten Dunst-lookalike at serious risk for some nip-slip? Why would a soldier wear armor that completely fails to protect her vital organs? Why would you decide to summon a giant-ass rhino in a “Horncaller’s Chant” (top right) while completely failing to wear pants? Wouldn’t you think that putting on pants before summoning spectral rhinos would be a good call?

Anyhow, we can’t forget the “I don’t even know how that clothing is supposed to work”:

Nipple straps

I have spent way too much time staring at those weirdo straps on Rites of Reaping (left) and still can’t figure out how they would do anything to prevent that vest from shifting, causing her boobs to fall right out anyway. Copious amounts of body glue? Which is also the only explanation I can muster for what the fuck is going on with Treasured Find (right). For fucks, sake, she’s a gorgon. Why would she go through such ridiculous fashion shenanigans if anyone who looks at her is just going to turn to stone anyway?

And last, but certainly not least, we have “what the actual fucking fuck”

wut

No, seriously. What the fuck. What the actual unholy fuck is going on here. Who the fuck thought that this would be a good idea? And why the fuck would an art director let these awful breasttacular trainwrecks slide? Because about three seconds after…. whatever they’re doing in that card art, this would happen:

stab wound

This card is delightfully called “stab wound”, and this is pretty much what would happen to all of these women in bullshit outfits. I have no idea if this piece was intended as satire (I suspect that it is, given the comical facial expression), and I’m reluctant to Google it lest I find out otherwise.

Concluding Thoughts

So I think we’ve pretty thoroughly disproven the notion that sexualization of men and women in Ravnica art is somehow “equal”. Which, you know, yay.

After looking at all this bullshit art, I’m left with a lot of mixed feelings about the direction that M:TG art direction has taken. On the one hand, it’s great to not have to look at bullshit art. Ravnica had a lot of super great cards with some super-bullshit art, and I have some Ravnica cards in my current decks with some pretty terrible artwork as a result.

But on the other hand, I don’t really feel that great about the “solution” to the problem of Magic artists being incapable of not treating women like shit. The only way that Magic can have NOT shitty women is to pretend that women don’t exist, period? What the ever-loving fuck is up with that? It is totally possible to have awesome, fantastical artwork that includes women and doesn’t ridiculously sexualize and objectify them. Look at D&D 5E! They pulled it off beautifully, and D&D is published by the same damn company.

So, you know, thanks for mostly not treating women like shit in the new Khans set. Now maybe we can take another small step and remember that we exist and actually do things.

Self-promotion sidebar: Ruined Empire is at 81% 4 days left!

Hey, folks. I’ve been working for, like, the last week on a numbers post looking at older M:TG Ravnica art and comparing the trends in art then (a couple years ago) to now (very recently, with M:TG Khans). (Spoiler alert: Ravnica’s art is really terrible).

And look, it’s super laborious. I’ve already sunk 6 hours into this thing with analyzing art and grabbing images and photoshopping them and writing an outline… and I’ve got probably another 2 or 3 of writing to go. In fact, here’s an image that I put together for the post:

spellcasters

Totally awesome, right?

Anyway, the post will happen. I might wind up splitting it? We’ll see. I was trying hard to get it done for this week, but KickStarter yannow? It’s hard to get anything done when you’re running one of those.

So new content next week, but in the mean time – have you seen my KickStarter? No? You were meaning to check it out? Well now is the time!

You guys, I promise that this is the best anime/Final Fantasy/social-justice/feminism campaign setting sourcebook ever. You could totally use this to play a social justice cyborg ninja wizard who runs around getting into laser battles with giant mechs if you wanted. People might question your taste, but you could still do it!

Plus there’s going to be system conversions if it funds! The book will include hacks of The Shadow of Yesterday/Solar System and Dogs in the Vineyard. There will also be PDF mini-supplements for use with Fate, Heroine, and a hack of Dungeon World/Numenera!

And it’s going to be ridiculously pretty! So very very pretty, because Claudia Cangini is amazing!

As of the time of this post, we only need $1046 CAD to reach the goal, which – for you non-Canadians – is roughly equivalent to three squirrels and a mountie. Or the Maple Leafs[1].

So, you know, I just met you. And this seems crazy. But here’s my KickStarter, so fund it maybe?

[1] Canada-specific jokes FTW!

[2] I make terrible jokes when I’m stressed, but I make no apologies.

Peeling back the curtain on progressive game development [LONG]

[ETA: The name of the forum poster who assisted Steffie de Vaan with the Laibon is Jacob Middleton.]

Coincidentally, The Ruined Empire (62% funded with 11 days to go!) isn’t the only thing that I’ve written currently on KickStarter. I was also part of the team that wrote for V20 Dark Ages – the new edition of Dark Ages: Vampire. V20DA is totally killing it on KickStarter, which makes me happy because it’s seriously one of the most social justice-oriented game projects I’ve seen come out of the game world in the last few years.

Seriously, look at this art. LOOK AT IT.

Image taken from the V20:DA KickStarter.

Look at this! Look at it! Look at all those awesome ladies and people of color! That’s doing it right folks! Take that, people who hate SJWs making games!

inside-the-industry

So because I want to talk about something that’s not totally depressing, I wanted to peel back the curtain a bit and demonstrate what real progressive game development looks like. To that end, I asked some people on the people on the very large and very awesome team of writers to comment on they approached the work. (I’ll be chipping in my two cents with them as well.) The things I asked them to address were:

  • What section(s) they wrote
  • Their thoughts on how the previous edition did re: the section(s) they wrote
  • Their thoughts going into the writing process, as well as reasons behind changes they made to lore/tone in their sections from the previous edition

This post got a bit long because I couldn’t bear to cut down any of the stuff that was sent to me! It’s all so good! So I’ve formatted this for clarity as best as I can.

Neall Raemonn Price on the Malkavians and mental illness

* What section(s) you wrote
I wrote the section on Derangements and Dementation, the Malkavian signature Discipline. David Hill did Malkavians. (I also wrote Baali, Salubri, and their respective Disciplines, but that’s not really germane to the topic)
* Your thoughts on how the previous edition did re: the section(s) you wrote
Malkavians have a very long and tortured history in Masquerade, especially in the LARP community. Because their clan flaw involves an automatic and severe Derangement, that sort of subsumes their character concept, no matter what it is. Everyone’s heard about the fishmalk – the Malkavian who carries around a fish, or hits the prince with the fish, or thinks the fish is Caine, or whatever. Vampire was originally conceived as a horror game, so each vampire clan sort of embodies a particular fearful image – and mental illness is frightening. The vast majority of mentally ill folks aren’t violent, yet there’s this incredible stigma and lack of understanding and acceptance. With that comes the fear of violence, and Malkavians, for good or ill, tap into that fear.
The previous Dark Ages raised the idea that if you were visibly mentally ill in the High Middle Ages – meaning schizophrenic, because both the modern and Dark Ages lines generally portrayed Malkavians as either schizophrenic or somewhere deep on the autistic spectrum – you were probably possessed by demons, which wasn’t a truism everywhere.
Adding to that, Derangements were never precisely fun to play around with. Not that mental illness should exactly be fun, but if you’re trying to portray characters with struggles in their lives, grappling with those elements should be part of the game.
* Your thoughts going into writing your stuff and reasons behind changes of lore/tone/whatevs from previous edition.
In a lot of the media I consume, mental illness is either frightening or it’s a punching bag for mockery. Early on in the writing process, we decided that we wanted to break from the classic portrayal of Malkavians and Derangements. We decided this for a lot of reasons: firstly, because we wanted to move away from the fishmalk in the direction that Revised and V20 started. Secondly, it was always jarring to see the list of Dark Ages Derangements and see stuff like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Schizophrenia, Fugue…
People in the Dark Ages didn’t have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. They had what we’d now characterize as those tendencies, but medical science at the time had zero context whatsoever for that behavior, and we felt that it introduced an unnecessarily modern angle into a period game. Even when you’re talking about a time and a place, you have to approach things from a modern angle, because players (and writers) don’t always have the necessary scholarship to view things from a medieval mindset. Nor do we really want to. We’re talking about eight hundred years of change, and even for a vampire, that’s a long time.
So we went at Derangements from a medieval mindset, but with an eye towards being respectful, and making them play at the game table. Derangements – and fundamentally, mental illness - can be something your character has and deals with, but only rarely should be the whole of that character, even for Malkavians. Because of the global focus of DA:V20, I went with a sort of “greatest hits” of medieval causes for illness. Demonic possession, angelic communion, blessed by the gods, cursed by the gods, humour imbalance. They don’t map to modern illnesses or conditions – they instead reflect what was the best guess of scholars and doctors and priests at the time.
Dementation was a slightly different case, built around inflicting “madness” to victims. I tried, instead, to rebuild the Discipline around the Derangements themselves, and around being a Malkavian at higher levels – since realistically, that’s who’d have the Discipline.

Steffie de Vaan on not writing the Laibon (African vampires) as a monolith

When David asked me to write the Laibon for V20 Dark Ages, we knew from the start that we wanted to split them into two or three bloodlines. After all, ‘Laibon’ is the name for African vampires as a whole, so having a ‘bloodline: Laibon’ is the same as ‘bloodline: Cainite’ – it lumps a lot of different people in under the same (mis)nomer. Plus Africa is a preeeetty big place and we felt it warranted more than one kind of vampire. So I picked up my copy of Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom (KotEK) to find three legacies in there and translate them to bloodlines. KotEK comes with its own setting and system though, and there was simply no way to do that justice in the space we had. So I re-shelved the book and started from scratch.

The first decision I made for the Dark Ages Laibon is that I did not want them to be Cainite bloodlines. I wanted them to be indigenous African vampires, distinct from the European and Middle-Eastern Cainites. I racked my brain for information on Africa and discovered that my European education had been sorely lacking in that department. Which threw me for a loop, because how was I going to find a voice for the Laibon if I didn’t know anything about their home? That’s when I realized that I was searching in the wrong place. I didn’t have to look for *my* voice – I needed to listen to African voices. I began researching African vampire myths and found three that looked like they’d make great vampire archetypes (actually, I found more than three, but that was the extent of the room we had). Then I worked backwards, in a way, thinking: “what kind of creature would have inspired mortals to tell this particular story.”  I used online resources to get the right setting for them too, though googling i.e. ‘Ghana in 1242’ didn’t yield much. I particularly made sure to stay as true to the original myth as possible, and give the Laibon strong voices and unique origin stories.

When the Ramanga, Impundulu and Bonsam were finished, we posted them on the open development blog. There were a lot of responses, but the ones that stood out most were from Jacob Middleton, a poster who said we painted Africa as one homogeneous continent without doing justice to African culture. That hurt, because doing justice to African culture had been a main focus in writing the new Laibon. I’d worked hard on that and I was still accused of ignorance. I put that feeling aside though, and asked the poster to help me make the Laibon better. That’s what you do when people confront you with your own ignorance. First you try to educate yourself (start with google) and if that doesn’t work, you ask someone to teach you. Fortunately he was really patient and knowledgeable, and offered more information about medieval Africa than I could ever fit into three Laibon (though if we ever do a Laibon stretch goal or supplement, I’m ready to go!). The Laibon are better for it, too. Not only did we use African myth to inspire the Laibon, we used a (more) accurate depiction of medieval Africa to place them in. Sometimes it pays to shut up and listen to voices other than your own.

I’m happy with the new Laibon. We worked hard on them and I think we did a great job in the time we had. Still, I’m hoping that in a few years from now, people will read them and go “man, I can’t believe she fell into that trope.” Because if they do, that might hurt my pride a little, but it also means that as a whole we’ve become more inclusive and more sensitive. That’s a good thing.

[Editor’s note: Yesterday’s update was actually David talking about his take on the development of the Laibon. You can read that update here.]

Renee Knipe on trans inclusiveness and the Tzimisce

So I got to write a bunch of fun stuff for V20: Dark Ages. Most prominently, the Tzimisce, but also the Gargoyles and Anda, associated Disciplines, some Roads, and a bunch of the setting material.

The Tzimisce were special because it was an opportunity to approach something I have a real issue with in gaming (and pop culture in general): The treatment and portrayal of transgender people. We’ve seem some decent depictions of late, particularly from the likes of Paizo, but with only one or two exceptions, trans* folks – when they’re represented at all – are often depicted in a way familiar and convenient to cis people. A way that’s extremely othering to trans* people. Usually it involves trotting out birth names, blatant misgendering, subtle but troublesome understandings of sex and gender, lazy stereotyping, and so on.
Heck, you can see some of this if you Google “Sascha Vykos” right now. Sascha is arguably the most famous Tzimisce in all of Vampire, and the first line on whitewolfwikia trots out their former name. Maybe this was necessary, given that Sascha was known by both names at different points in canon, but it’s nonetheless reminiscent of the way media and popular culture likes to think about trans* people. A manner which exemplifies the banal dehumanization of trans* people we’ve accepted into our general way of thinking. It doesn’t help that Sascha is pretty much the monster of monsters in Vampire lore…their aren’t many who can top them for sheer grotesqueness and psychopathy. That, as it turns out, is another trope…going back to at least Psycho, and familiar to anyone who’s seen Sleepaway Camp, Silence of the Lambs, pretty much any television police procedural (NCIS probably has the grossest depiction I can think of), any film “based” on Ed Gein, and countless, countless others. In a pop culture nutshell, trans* people are either monsters, victims, or both. And to be frank, the vast majority of this is reserved for trans* women (because in any social calculus, women always come out “less than”, though to what degree this is true simply because people refuse to acknowledge the existence of non-binary people, I couldn’t say). That’s something I wanted to address, and thanks to mighty, mighty Vicissitude, I had a perfect opportunity.
Most of what I wrote regarding Caltuna and her journey doesn’t end up in the book. I wasn’t working on the fiction, but I did write up a couple thousand words as a sort of guide for those who were handling the fiction. You can see it here, actually:
My guidelines were simple:
- Never refer to her as anything but “she” and “her”, even when discussing the pre-transition part of her life (which is most of what I wrote).
- Never refer to her by anything but her chosen name.
- Ensure sure she is neither psychopath nor victim (while still being tough and good vampire material).
- Give her an authentic point of view.
It’s a rough piece of writing; it was never intended to be polished, or even seen outside the development team. But there it is, and I think it stands well as an example of how to write trans* characters respectfully. It wasn’t easy, even for me…there was a lot of language I couldn’t use due to it being a period piece, but it was totally worth the effort and I hope others can see it and take heed. In truth, there are a lot of good ways to write trans* characters, and not all of them will always be able to follow the rules I set for myself (nor should they). But if you’re going to fall back on misgendering or using their “old name”, make them a murderer or a murder victim or a prostitute, there should be a good reason for it. The lazy tropes we’ve been condition to accept, when used in an unconsidered manner, only allow us to see trans* people as objects or monsters – a narrative we’ve been all too willing to accept thus far, despite its complete lack of credibility.

My thoughts on Lasombra, Setites, and the whitewashing of Europe

One of the things that excited me most about being part of this project was the chance to portray medieval Europe as the fantastically diverse place that it actually was, instead of the whitewashed white-Christians-only version that is the vision that most people have today when they think of Europe in medieval times. So my choices of what to write were very much informed by that, as well as the fact that I had a chance to fix some specific things that had irked me.

With the Lasombra, I wanted to make the Muslim Kindred much more front-and-center because while much of Europe was in the “Dark Ages”, the Islamic kingdoms of Spain were still very much a power. Scholars from all over the world came to take part in the flowering of art and academics that took place there, and at the point that the book is set at, the final elimination of Muslims from Iberia wouldn’t take place for more than 250 years. If anything, I felt they deserved top billing over their Christian clanmates from comparatively backward parts of Europe!

I also took on the Setites, because there were honestly so many things that bothered me about them. Setites are evil hedonists who want to destroy civilization because mumble mumble evil! And they worship Set, but their Clan Discipline is all about snakes even though Set was totally not about snakes because I honestly have no idea. Christian symbolism? All of which, really bothered me. Because there are a lot of really great, totally historically accurate reasons why Setites would totally hate European civilization and try to knock that shit down.
Like the fact that Set totally wasn’t an evil god… until the Ptolemies took over Egypt and made him that way. And then destroyed the native Egyptian religion completely by about the 5th century. Yep. And then Egypt kept getting invaded by other European powers. That’s bound to make you pretty bitter.
Serpentis was also a totally easy fix with only a modicum of reading about Egyptian mythology. Before the Ptolemaic influence on the Set cult, one of Set’s primary functions was to protect Ra as he sailed through the Underworld each night by fighting off Apep, the serpent of Chaos. Boom! There’s the snake connection right there! A totally easy fix that turned the Setites from a totally boring collection of cartoonishly evil stereotypes to a group of antagonist with rich history and compelling motives.
Lastly, I jumped at the chance to re-write the Road of Heaven for much the same reasons as I wanted to work on the Lasombra and Setites. I mean, This sort of whitewashing makes even less sense when you are writing about Vampires, because you’re going to have a ton of anachronistic vampires who definitely are not Christian, and who would see Christianity as the new kid on the block, thanks.
So now the new Road of Heaven includes Christianity and Islam and Judaism (remember them? they were totally there!), as well as differing strains of paganism. As I cracked in an email to David, medieval Europe wasn’t some wacky sitcom called Everybody Loves Abraham.

David Hill on picking teams, revising nostalgic properties, and SJW-friendliness

On Team: 
Whenever I do an all-call, and whenever I’ve been part of an all-call in the past for a roleplaying game project, I tend to see significantly less diversity than we end up seeing in final products. And let’s be honest: we could all use a little more diversity in final products.
The problem I run into the most is, if a designer isn’t the stereotype (straight, white, cis male), they’re very likely to send a pitch that self-deprecates, apologizes, points out a lack of experience, or otherwise downplays its viability. And we’re all human. So if a writer sends me a submission and says, “I’m a really terrible writer, but I’d like you to consider my work,” I’m not likely to spend my valuable time on it. After all, I don’t want to hire terrible writers, right? But this becomes a problem that perpetuates itself.
In hard numbers, I usually see about 5 women to every 95 men in a standard all-call. That’s just one metric, but that doesn’t bode well. So, with V20 Dark Ages, I explicitly made all calls looking for groups I don’t often see. I just flat-out said, “I’m looking for women writers” among other things. I also explained what I was looking for, and the kinds of things I don’t really want to see (like the aforementioned self-deprecation). This time, I got about 150 women’s submissions (and about twenty guys who didn’t read the submission guidelines or just flat-out disregarded them).
This let me bring in a lot of new talent in the field, as well as bringing in some people who had only worked in independent circles in the past. I think the book is significantly better for it.
Re: Nostalgia
I think it’s important to stick with what’s best for the product. But there’s the rub, you have to understand what you want out of the product, and your priorities. Diversity in V20 Dark Ages is less a social justice issue for me, and more just a flat-out intellectual honesty thing. I’m so tired of seeing white-washed, romanticized, Victorian concepts of the Middle Ages in games and fiction. Some people dig that. I don’t. So, I wanted to present something that right to me. There was a lot of fascinating diversity in that time period, so I wanted to touch on it.
Most of the changes we made were little design experiments, like fussing with Koldunic Sorcery. This was stuff I field tested by sharing with the public (as the whole document is currently available for free on the Kickstarter page). We also did a couple of logical changes. For example, the “Giovanni” clan has always had a bit of a controversial name with anyone familiar with the Italian language and culture. One of our writers, the wonderful Giulia Barbano, proposed we change it to Giovani, which actually has a really cool etymology now and makes sense within that cultural context.
As far as nostalgia goes, nostalgia is a feeling. So I made design choices that weren’t necessarily identical to the originals everywhere, but I did focus on trying to evoke the same feelings. That’s always important to me.
SJW-Friendliness
Listen. Listen. Listen. I hired diverse voices for their diverse views and backgrounds. I could have very easily shouted over them and not paid attention to the things they had to say and the choices they wanted to make. But even when I disagreed with a choice, I listened and took it to heart. I tried to put together why they thought that way. And if I couldn’t understand, I just asked. The fact is, if you’re trying to hire diversity, that’s part of the inherent value in your team. So from both business and artistic standpoints, it’s important to grab onto that value and not throw it away.
There’s a weird thing with leadership and credibility from a place of privilege. I’m a straight white cis dude, basically. Throw in my blonde hair and you basically have a cultural winning lottery ticket, right? I mean, contextually that’s not always true. Sure, I grew up absurdly poor. Sure, I grew up around mental illness all my life. But the thing is, people are always going to take me a little more seriously and give me a little more inherent credibility than most other people in the world. And like Uncle Ben said, with great power comes great responsibility. So instead of just ignoring that fact or denying it, I try to be mindful of when it can hurt people both on my team and off, and I try to use my privilege for the change I want. I have the privilege of making hiring decisions. So I use that privilege to be that change. I have the privilege of a pulpit people pay attention to. So I try to present my values in a way that people will be excited to engage with.

Lastly, why diverse development teams matter from Tristan Tarwater

It was a pleasure watching and reading as the developers picked over history and etymology as they tried to reconstruct a darker but more genuine version of the Dark Ages. People went in with the intent to research and willing to learn, and were genuinely exited to read about the actual borders of countries, trade routes that connected regions, cultures and religions. As a person of color and a woman, I was proud to be able to talk about Dark Ages at conventions to gamers of all backgrounds and see their eyes light up as we said yes, finally, the truth. PLUS VAMPIRES. HA!
[Thanks for sticking with me if you made it this far, and thanks to David Hill for allowing me to solicit content for this post. And if what you read here interests you, consider backing my KickStarter for the Ruined Empire, which is also social-justice-oriented?]

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