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.

D&D 5E: Why so many wimmenz??

I’ve actually avoided writing about the new edition of D&D, even though I have a lot of positive feelings toward it, mostly because of having my name tied to the shitstorm that was Consultancygate – despite never actually saying anything publicly about Consultancygate. (Other than referencing that it was a thing that was stupid. Go ahead and google if you need to. I’ll wait.)

But now that’s died down, albeit mostly because a bunch of shitstains succeeded in creating an even bigger and more embarrassing faux-“scandal” that’s currently being used to harass women and “SJWs” in gaming (ie #GamerGate or #GamerGhazi or #notyourshield or #SockPuppetGate or #WhateverTheFuckTheyreCallingItNow), I figured now would be a good time to write about my impressions of the new edition.

Or, wait, no. Scratch that. What I meant was that some butthead said some wrongheaded stuff about the art direction and I felt compelled to lay a smackdown[1]:

tweet

This quote is taken from an RPGnet thread, which has since been locked (thankfully) (@tablehop is not the butthead being referenced, I am saying the opposite of that)

UGH WIMMENZ WHY DOES THE NEW D&D HAVE SO MANY OF THEM THEY ARE OBJECTIVELY TERRIBLE AMIRITE AND ALSO BROWN PEOPLE DON’T RUIN MY FANTASY ABOUT MAGIC AND DRAGONS WITH BROWN WOMEN WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU

Jesus, internet. Could you maybe try to be less awful some time?

So here we go. Because it’s a thing worth saying, here are some reasons why D&D 5E is great and is totally a thing that tabletop gaming needed. (Spoilers: it’s the art)

Guys the art is so good I just can’t even

In the interests of full disclosure, I will mention that D&D really doesn’t mesh with my play preferences[2], and although I do own the PHB 3E and 4E, I will not be purchasing 5E. But this is the first time that I’m actually sad about that, because YOOUUU GUYYYYYSSSS. LOOK AT THE ART YOU GUYS:

full-pages

These are taken from different spreads

WUT. Fully-clothed, actively posed, heroic looking women? Brown people? Heroic looking brown women? NO BOOBPLATE??? [swoon]

illos

From LEFT to RIGHT: art for the Soldier, the Hermit, the Paladin, and the Tiefling

CHECK IT OUT, A HALF-ORC PALADIN. This is something I never expected to see! The treatment of race in the Forgotten Realms setting has always been… problematic at best. Orcs and half-orcs have always been depicted with traits that read as a very thinly veiled analogue for blackness. So to see Paladins, who are the literal embodiment of good, being represented by a righteous-as-fuck looking half-orc? That’s revolutionary!

Also, taking a step back, look at the characters being depicted here. These characters all come from obviously distinct cultures. So not only do we have group portraits that include a variety of ethnic backgrounds, but we also have PoC adventurers who come from obviously non-white cultures, rather than being rolled into some White Fantasy Crypto-European culture.

Which is really just the best, because yay social justice! But also because White Fantasy Crypto-Europe has gotten boring as shit. So the fact that WoTC has taken effort to portray a variety of cultures that go beyond different flavors of white people is amazing, because it’s new and exciting.

And to anyone who is complaining that not-sexualized women are so booooring, I submit the following as evidence:

photo-331

Illustration: the Bard, from the PHB

BEST. BARD. EVER.

Seriously, look at that cocky smile. Look at that badass outfit. LOOK AT THE GUITAR. How could you not want to play David Bowie with pointy ears? What is wrong with you? Are you some kind of terrorist? Some kind of awful, freedom-hating anti-Elf-Bowie terrorist?

Seriously, though, look at the image on the title page – the very first piece of art you see when you crack the book:

PH Teaser 1

Holy crap! That is one seriously heroic-looking black guy, beating the ever-loving shit out of a group of goblins! And we’re not talking “slightly tan skintone” black guy, either. Rather, this is a very-dark North-African-looking guy looking totally heroic and not-at-all like a villain, which is just really refreshing. Because all-too-often in fantasy artwork, people with this sort of skin tone are depicted as either 1) not focal or 2) evil. (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, THE DROW.)

But awesome depictions of PoC aren’t just limited to men. Nope! There are plenty of badass PoC ladies too:

WoC

That’s right! The iconic human is a black woman! A badass, fighter-y black woman to boot. I guess you could say that makes her a social justice warrior?[3]

Now all of this isn’t to say that there aren’t still things that could use improvement. For instance:

starter1a

…it’d be nice if this group shot included some non-white folks. (Although I’ll admit that the old elf guy reads as white to me, but his skintone is also a bit ambiguous?) But even saying that directed at one illustration feels like nitpicking; there’s a good mix of gender and ages depicted and no ridiculous boobplate, and the rest of the book is obviously making a clear statement that THIS WORLD IS INCLUSIVE DAMMIT.

Why we’re winning the culture war (in which I drop names)

To see this kind of dedicated effort to Not Failing At Art from what is arguably the flagship product of tabletop gaming is just the best. It feels like a vindication of everything that I’ve been doing here. And in some ways, it sort of is.

I’ve posted earlier about how I got a chance to have lunch with Tracy Hurley and Mike Mearls at this year’s GenCon:

Mike was very open about the difficulties that he’s faced in trying to push inclusivity in the game products he’s worked on. He talked about how he’d been assuming diversity of representation was the default, only to realize later that there were many others who had assumed the opposite, who feared they might face consequences if they pushed their content “too far”. And now he’s working to actively make D&D products more inclusive going forward (something which I will write about in further detail later).

Another topic of conversation that we talked a fair bit about was how they’ve been trying to solve the problem of diverse art by creating a list of fictional cultures inspired by real-world counterparts and then making that part of the specs handed out to the artists. Instead of asking an artist to give them an illustration of a “human warrior”, they are asking for a “human warrior from [Fictional Culture]” to ensure that the art that is handed in isn’t mostly just white folks.

It also sounds like they’re making a point of cracking down on ridiculously gratuitous sexualization when initial art drafts come in. Without going into potentially incriminating detail, Mike Mearls did tell us a pretty funny story about rejecting a piece of artwork that had humanoid breasts on a non-mammalian fantasy creature – which is heartening to hear! (One of my greatest disappointments regarding 4E was that female dragonborn were described textually as not being visually different from male dragonborn, only ALL THE DAMN ART gave them boobs. All of it.)

So to bring this back to Hates Women and Brown People in D&D Guy… Sorry, random awful person on the internet, but this bygone era that you long for, in which women and brown people are either objectified or ignored in D&D? That ship has sailed, and it’s not too likely to return. And frankly, I can only believe that that is a good thing.

[1] Don’t get me wrong, GG is still a total fucking shit show and anyone who seriously tries to advocate for it as a “real issue” after 3+ weeks of abuse that has actually driven women out of the industry is going to land themselves straight on my block list.

[2] I’ve played a fair amount of 3E and 4E, and a lot of 3.5E. But now if I’m going to play “killing things and taking their stuff” games, I’m much more likely to play Dungeon World or Descent.

[3] I’ll be here all week.

Thoughts on Lightning Returns and cultural appropriation [SPOILERS]

[NOTE: I'm just about to finish Day 10, so please no spoilers on things that come after that.]

I was having a conversation with my husband the other night about cultural appropriation and Lightning Returns, in which I had occasion to make the following comparison: “It’s like an Evangelical white Texan decided to write a game about Hinduism. That’s how wrong it gets everything.”

And I’d really like to expand on that! But before we go any further, let’s break down the specific example I’m talking about.

Lightning Returns: the most bonkers take on Catholicism ever

So firstly, let’s just get started with the fact that in 13-1, Lightning becomes the pawn of the fal’cie, nigh-omnipotent servants of an omnipotent but mostly absent god who created the world and then abandoned it. She then spends the entire game fighting against entities that are roughly analogous to archangels, and soundly kicks their asses. And somewhere in there she somehow befriends Odin and he becomes her beating-things-up buddy, because, I dunno, I guess he just really likes that her name is Lightning?

Then in 13-2, she’s suddenly abducted by a goddess of Death-but-not-really(?) and turned into a valkyrie. And now in 13-3, she’s back working for God again, and she is literally the savior. As in, that is her title now – Savior Comma The[1].

So now 13-3, Lightning Returns, stars Lightning, The Savior, chosen of God – Bhunivelze the Lord of Light, who apparently decided that priestly robes were passe and that Lightning should have priestly bondage wear instead.

Lightning_LR_screenshot

Fetish messiah ftw

And then there’s a bunch of stuff about the end of the world because it’s Squeenix and let’s just cut to the fact that “God’s” base of operations is The Ark, which looks like a fevered acid-trip conjured by the love child of a Futurist and an Art Nouveau aficionado. And that weird tree there? Oh, don’t mind that, that’s just The Tree of Life, AKA Yggdrasil, AKA the World Tree of Norse mythology:

Ark_screenshot

Why is Yggdrasil a plot point in a game that is literally about making Lightning the Christian Bondage Wear Messiah? Let’s not worry about that, okay? Let’s also not worry about that in 13-3, Lightning saves a white chocobo named The Angel of Valhalla, who was really – surprise! – Odin all along! Only Odin is a giant white chicken now, because reasons. And Odin, Valhalla, and Yggdrasil… well Norse culture only predates Christianity by, like, a couple centuries, and Scandinavia is, like, in the same hemisphere and Norse people and Christians are both white, or you know, mostly white, or okay there are non-white Christians but we just won’t pay attention to them because that’s not important.

REASONS.

So, okay, Lightning the Bondage Messiah has been chosen by God to save the souls of as many people as she can before the end of the world so that they can live again in the new world that God is going to create. And no, none of that sentence was in any way a metaphor, because here is Lightning doing some sweet, sweet, soul saving:

saving souls

Oh, and then there’s the official church of God, who are, like, God’s official homies. Only they’re called “The Order”, and they are totes Catholic because seriously check out this badass Cathedral:

photo 2 - Copy

But even though the Order are God’s official homies, they’re also preparing to fuck up God’s shit by doing a ritual to destroy all of the dead souls still hanging around and shit, which would ruin God’s promise to bring back Lightning’s dead sister after she helps him save the world and stuff. Because holding family members hostage is something that totally happened, like for real the New Testament was full of DO WHAT I SAY JESUS OR I WILL FUCKING SHIV MARY SERIOUSLY DO NOT FUCK WITH ME JESUS.

Oh, and even though I haven’t finished the game, I know for realz that Lightning is going to wind up beating up and maybe killing God because Squeenix is telegraphing it so hard, which is also legit Christian, because don’t you remember that time that Jesus and God had that throwdown in the Octagon?

Jesus confirms that is totally what happened.

…I think you probably get the idea by now.

So what does this have to do with cultural appropriation?

What exactly does and does not count as cultural appropriation is always tricky to pin down. Myself, I would say that although Lightning Returns is a bizarre and misinterpretation of Catholic Christianity, I would not call it cultural appropriation, simply because of the context of the two cultures in question. While Japan did not suffer as many ill effects of Western colonial oppression as other Asian countries, it still left an indelible mark on Japanese society. And in general, it is certainly true that Christianity was often a tool of colonial oppression.

And yes Japan does have a history of colonialism itself, and yes it does have a problem with racism against non-Yamato-Japanese. But Japan has never colonized the West, nor has it attempted to forcibly convert Western people or otherwise destroy Western religion. And bizarrely-worded t-shirts aside, it certainly doesn’t have a history of selling misrepresentations of Western religion and culture for profit in such a way that would comprise a threat to the integrity of said religion and culture.

So while Lightning Returns is a deeply weird take on Christianity that some might find offensive (I don’t, but I could understand people who do), I don’t think it’s fair to call it cultural appropriation.

So why go on at such length? Because I think the close-but-not-quite nature of Lightning Returns makes it a useful illustration of what cultural appropriation looks like for people who might not be accustomed to looking out for such things.

There are, unfortunately, a lot of game writers out there who see nothing wrong with raiding non-European cultures for game fodder. Because these cultures are often seen as “inspiration” and not as cultures that belong to real, living people, the result can be big, dumb pastiches of stereotypes and misinterpretations that read as bizarre at best to members of that culture. And because the majority of game developers are still, sadly, white, it only perpetuates the cultural trend of white people commodifying and profiting from the cultures of groups that they themselves have historically victimized.

There’s nothing inherently wrong about writing a game about or set in a culture that you are not a part of. I’m a firm believer in promoting the stories of marginalized groups of people! Hell, I wrote a game set in the Reconquista specifically because I was bothered by the erasure of PoC from European history. But it is wrong to write a game about a culture that isn’t yours if you don’t treat it as something worthy of respect.

Which is where we come back to Lightning Returns as a useful example of What Not To Do!

Looking at Lightning Returns, we have:

* Casual conflation of two distinct cultures from ethnically similar but distinct groups of people (Norse paganism =/ Christianity)

* Use of a cultural or religious symbols to argue for the destruction of that culture or religion (because come on, I don’t have to have finished the game to know that Lightning is going to try to kill God)

* Characters represented in such a way that would be offensive to a significant portion of the real-world members of that culture (Lightning’s bondage messiah gear)

* Representation of a religious figure/cultural hero as something antithetical to their traditional representation. (Jesus was a Jewish carpenter and prophet, not a pink-haired Japanese sword-wielding lady badass who beats up gods for fun.)

So, you know, if you’re struggling with the whole “how not to do cultural appropriation”, you can at least not do those things, which will be a start.

[1] Because a Buffy reference seemed appropriate.

[2] Only it’s Thor that’s the Norse Thunder God, not Odin, but let’s not get sidetracked…

 

Freebie: Anita Sarkeesian said it better (and that’s okay)

For quite a while, I’ve been working on collecting data for a post about sex workers in video games. It was going to be long and contain a lot of detailed data points and… honestly I tried to find just about any excuse not to work on it, because it was hard. Almost all of the games I was looking at were of the GRIMDARK MALE HERO school of protagonist design, which for the most part I avoid like the plague. (Although I’m willing to make exceptions for exceptional writing. I loved The Last of Us so much that I wrote two posts about it.)

So in order to gather the data points that I was looking for, I was having to wade through some truly awful gameplay clips on youtube, or depressing Google Image search results, and it was just depressing.

spreadsheet

This is the spreadsheet I was putting together. (CLICK FOR MORE READABLE VIEW)

And the idea of collecting all the data points I wanted for the entire list of 86 titles I’d put together was more than daunting. It made me want to give up all together. And I felt bad about that, because it was important – something well worth writing about! Something that spoke to the deepest core of misogyny in the game development industry.

And then Anita Sarkeesian released her most recent video about the phenomenon she calls “non-player sex objects”, which addressed everything that I wanted to say and so much more. And I’ve been mulling over the problem of this post that I wanted to write and realizing that the thing I was planning on writing? I think that’s a thing that would be redundant now. Because Anita said it better than I could.

I feel a little bad about it, because this was something that I’d had hanging over my head for the last six months. But at the same time, I have to recognize that doing the needed research required exposing myself to disturbing and violent imagery, which was a task I just don’t have the emotional bandwidth for right now.

Still, I thought it was worth writing a brief post here, because I want to highlight again that Anita Sarkeesian IS A MOTHERFUCKING SUPERHERO. She deals with the absolute worst that the internet can throw at her and marinates in the disturbing and graphic misogyny produced by the game industry and still manages to create videos that are insightful and powerful and compelling.

I’ll probably still write about sex workers in video games at some point in the future, but I imagine it will be more narrowly focused than the sprawlingly ambitious piece I had intended to write. In the mean time, if you haven’t seen Part 2 of the Non-Playable Sex Objects series, here it is. [ALL OF THE TRIGGER WARNINGS]

Lightning Returns is fun, but who do I have to kill for a pair of pants? [MANY IMAGES]

[NOTE: SPOILERS for pretty much all of the FFXIII games. ALSO - I'm writing this post before I've actually finished playing Lightning Returns, so PLEASE don't spoil anything past day 10. Thanks.]

I’ve been working my way (slowly) through Lightning Returns the last few months. Despite the railroad-y nature of FFXIII, I did enjoy the characters – especially Lightning, whom I’ve written about as being one of my favorite RPG characters ever. I enjoyed FFXIII-2 even more, as it combined solid writing with more non-linear play options, even if the ending was 100% full of shit.

Hope can’t fucking deal with how terrible the ending was.

Especially since Squeenix was coy for the first several months about whether there was going to be an FFXIII-3. Yup! We’ve killed a protagonist, destroyed time, and ended the entire universe. The end!

…sorry. Got a little sidetracked there.

Anyway, when I found out that XIII-3 was going to be a thing, I knew that I was going to have to play. It was going to mitigate XIII-2’s crappy ending! And even better, it was going to star Lightning!

And then I started hearing… things. About how the game was going to bring back dress-spheres, and how the development team wanted to implement jiggle physics, and how there was a catgirl outfit that served no real purpose other than making Lightning look hawt. And suddenly I wasn’t so sure I wanted to pay money for the game.

Thankfully, a friend of mine had already purchased it before getting sidetracked playing the re-release of FFX/X-2. Problem solved!

Canonical Lightning’s Outfit sucks

Unfortunately, the facepalms started as soon as I fired up the game for the first time and saw Lightning’s new costume design. Yes, despite supposedly just having woke up from crystal stasis, which she entered while wearing her FFXIII-2 valkyrie armor, she woke up in this brand new outfit that honestly doesn’t make any fucking sense at all. Seriously, check out these stills, both of which happen in cutscenes within the first hour of starting a new game:

Opening cutscenes

The worst part is that the top image is from the very beginning of the game, the first time we see Lightning, the supposed protagonist of the game that I’m supposed to spend the next 40ish hours with. And the first thing I get is Lightning’s crotch.

Seriously, it would be impossible to overstate just how bad Lightning’s starting outfit is. Because while it might look borderline “reasonable” from the front, at least by the standards of normal video game oversexualization, what it looks like from the back is an entirely different story:

lightning default outfit

That’s right. Her flappy loincloth is designed to billow dramatically, which also, coincidentally, gives us a total panty shot. Also, it highlights that Lightning is really just wearing mostly straps and not much else.

BUT WUNDERGEEK. U CAN CHANGE WHAT LIGHTNING WEARS SO WHY DOES IT MATTER.

Well, yes, thanks internet. But that doesn’t change the fact that I had to play through the first hour or so of the game without any option to change outfits. Also, in terms of what has been established as the “canonical Lightning” for Lightning returns, this is, unfortunately, it:

toy

FUCK EVERYTHING.

But sure. Yes. Okay. There are lots of other garbs to choose from, so I don’t have to play with the default garb. True! Except…

The entire impetus for this post happened when my husband was watching me play last night and commented that I hadn’t changed any of my outfits in a long time. (As in 12-15 hours of gameplay.) And I groused that that was because the few garbs I’d encountered with better stats than my current garbs were garbs I wasn’t willing to wear because they were oversexualized nonsense.

So I decided that I was going to look at all of the available garbs in Lightning Returns and see how bad the actual breakdown was.

Sources, Criteria, and Caveats

I used the Final Fantasy Wiki to get a complete list of garbs, although there are a lot of limited edition preorder garbs that are nothing more than color- or pattern-swaps. So I decided to only include the 80 that either come with the game itself or can be gotten as DLC, so that the preorder only garbs didn’t muddy the results.

My goal was to classify each garb as either suggestive or not suggestive, using the same criteria established in my original article that started this blog. Tl;dr: anything showing cleavage, bared midriff or otherwise incompletely covered torso, or legs uncovered by a garment (skirts count, thigh-high stockings do not) counts as suggestive. (And honestly, all of the outfits classified as suggestive hit more than one, if not all of these.)

My hypothesis going in was that the breakdown would probably be 50/50 suggestive versus non-suggestive. So I was surprised when 44 of the 80 garbs counted as suggestive. No wonder I’d had trouble finding useful garbs that didn’t suck! The odds were actually stacked against me!

simple

The problem with the above chart, however, is that it doesn’t really tell the whole story. Because the problem is that while a 45/55 split still sounds okay in terms of reasonable outfits versus sexualized outfits, there were outfits that I wouldn’t ever consider wearing that didn’t count as suggestive.

For instance, there are no less than seven different evening gowns. EVENING GOWNS. Which makes no freaking sense. The entire series has been built up around what a martial badass Lightning is and how no one in the world is as strong or as good at fighting as she is, not even Snow. Not even Caius. So please explain to me how in a game based entirely around solo combat with a sword and shield, it makes even the smallest amount of sense to have Lightning run around in an evening gown while she swordilates things. (Yes it’s a word, shut up.)

In addition to the seven evening gowns, there were two other garbs that I categorically would never use, even if they don’t count as suggestive, simply because they feel so radically out of character that I wouldn’t be able to take the game seriously at all while using them.

OOC-not-suggsstive

Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against non-awful schoolgirl outfits, and this one is certainly pretty decent. The thing is, throughout the entire series, Lightning is depicted as the hardened veteran, the one who knows what has to be done and is willing to walk the difficult path – pretty much the complete opposite of the naive schoolgirl trope. Which makes this garb read as a fanservice fetish outfit to me. Gross.

And the moogle queen? …do I even need to explain how weird and jarring it would be to play with this garb?

Anyway, when I factor the above caveats into the breakdown, it winds up looking a lot worse:

detailed

Wow. So now instead of having slightly less than half of the outfits being not-suggestive, not-immersion breaking outfits, we’re down to only a third. That sucks. That sucks a lot.

How does it suck? Let me count the ways.

First, let me dispel the notion that when I talk about sexualized outfits, that I’m talking about things like Lightning’s FFXIII-2 valkyrie armor, which was admittedly pretty cool even if it didn’t have pants. The stuff that I’m complaining about is this:

seriously wtf

No #2’s outfit doesn’t include the hat by default. That’s just an accessory that makes it worse.

The garb on the far left is actually called, I shit you not, AMAZON WARRIOR. Because nothing says “female empowerment” like battle panties. Or thigh-high stockings. Or lingerie ninjas. You know, because ridiculous oversexualization to the point of becoming the platonic ideal of the male gaze is, like, totally okay if it’s a strong female character.

The problem with these extremely sexualized garbs is that they’re actually what shows up in the game’s in-engine cutscenes, which has been pretty much everything past the first hour. And that radically undercuts any sense of drama or investment in the narrative that I might have. How am I supposed to pay attention to Lightning’s speeches about saving her sister or creating a new world when I can’t take my eyes off of her ridiculous battle panties?

wtf cutscenes

Like the power to somehow not be flashing you right now.

And again, some people might say BUT U DON’T HAVE TO WEAR THEM STFU. And sure, if you ignore the fact that the game mechanically punishes people not willing to use sexualized or impractical garbs by having them outnumber the reasonable garbs 2-to-1, that’s true.

But what is also true is that it isn’t possible for me to entirely ignore the sexualized garbs either. Whenever I visit an Outfitters, looking for new garbs, there isn’t any indication of which garbs are sexy versus which aren’t, so I wind up being frustrated half the time when all of my new options are just more ridiculous cheesecake.

There’s also the issue that some of the ridiculously sexualized garbs are actual plot rewards, which makes them doubly impossible to ignore. The above Amazon Warrior garb is an example of this – it’s a garb that you get as a plot reward upon completing one of the game days. But another equally egregious example is the Mi’quote garb, which you have to actually quest for:

miquote

LEFT: Actual victory pose. (The ears and tail are accessories, not part of the actual outfit)

SO GROSS. I did the quest, because I’m something of a completionist, albeit within reason. (I didn’t bother getting any of the ultimate weapons in FFX, for example, although I did build up a champion blitzball team.) But as soon as I saw what it was, I promptly wish that I hadn’t. Hope’s dialogue about the Mi’quote as a culture felt like a weirdly tacked on addition to justify putting Lightning in blatant fetish wear, which was jarring. The director might as well have come onscreen and said “hey, I just really wanted to see sexy catgirl Lightning. Sorry.”

And I hate that. HATE IT. Because the immersive qualities of the Final Fantasy series games are what keep me coming back for each new title. And having that immersion jarred SUCKS. How the hell am I supposed to take this game seriously when this kind of bullshit sexism is being continually shoved in my face?

Just look at the difference one of these stupid outfits makes:

cutscene contrast

The first screenshot is an epic fantasy hero who happens to be female holding her own against a dude wielding a seriously ridiculous sword. The second is a stripper in a cat costume using an improvised weapon to fend off some creepy dude.

Do some people want to play the second way? Sure. But the people who are actually invested in Lightning as a character and who want to see her treated like a human being and not a piece of meat shouldn’t have to have this bullshit sexualization rammed down their throats in order to even play the game.

In other words, I’m not even saying that the sexy costumes shouldn’t necessarily exist. I’m just saying that they should be optional, clearly marked, and NOT FUCKING PLOT REWARDS. In other words, they should be opt-IN, not opt-OUT.

Lastly, a point of pedantry for the Final Fantasy fanatics

My last beef with the bullshit sexist outfits is that they even spilled over into the classic Final Fantasy jobs that appeared among the garb choices. Here are the six iconic final fantasy jobs/classes that showed up as garb choices:

FF Class Garbs

And here’s how those classes have typically been rendered in other series. (Yes I’m ignoring X-2. It was one game and didn’t match with how the jobs/classes are typically portrayed):

jobs

So looking at the Red Mage and Black Mage garbs, I have to say that I actually really like them! The red mage is absolutely true to form. And the Black Mage is actually a really nice feminine version of the typical unisex Bklack Mage design while still not being ridiculously impractical or fanservice-y.

The Dragoon and the Dark Knight I was much less happy with. They’re certainly much better than most of the other sexualized armors, but would it have killed them to include pants? The armors are so good except for that pesky lack of pants!

The two I like the least are the Blue Mage and the White Mage. The Blue Mage, because it tosses all of the design history out the window in favor of sexay that happens to be mostly blue. And the White Mage, while I didn’t actually count it as suggestive, also feels really boring and girly. They didn’t include any red in the design, the silhoutte is completely different, and there isn’t anything remotely priest-like about that dress. Which, honestly. If even X-2 managed to have sexay outfits that still recognizably adhered to the iconic class outfit design, what was their freaking excuse? It strikes me as being just plain lazy.

Self-promotion sidebar – announcing the release of SexyTime Adventures: the RPG

Several months ago, I wrote a post about the difficulties I was having doing illustrations for SexyTime Adventures – my ridiculous feminist satire Dungeon World hack – and the impossibility of satirizing something that is already its own satire.

Well I’m pleased to announce that it’s finally complete and ready to be released into the wild!

The land of Sexonia is a dangerous place, a land of fantasy and adventure beyond your wildest imaginings. Maybe you got into adventuring because your village was destroyed by orcs, or to prevent fire elementals from taking over your kingdom, or maybe just because it was better than staying at home and settling down with that nice boy that your parents wanted you to marry. Whatever the reason, you can’t go home now. The kingdom needs you. And more importantly, that chain mail makes you look totally hot. Are you seeing anyone right now? Could I maybe buy you an ale some time?

…I’m sorry, where was I?

SexyTime Adventures: the RPG is a Dungeon World hack in which you play a party of fantasy adventurers having adventures and being sexy.

Adventure! Danger! Sexy outfits! Come, fellow adventurers. It’s sexytime.

If you are looking for a game that lets you combine feminist satire, fantasy adventuring, and shittons of sexual innuendo, then this is the game for you! It has a move called “The Male Gaze” and PAPER DOLLS AS PART OF CHARACTER CREATION. Because I want to destroy all gaming!

It is not a standalone hack – you will need a copy of Dungeon World to play. Currently, SexyTime Adventures: the RPG is only available in PDF; you can buy it from my page on the UnStore. It will also be available on DriveThru RPG once they approve it (although I’ll get to keep more money if you purchase through the UnStore).

If you want a glimpse of what you’re getting into before-hand, you can see a preview here.

And lastly, because I consider this my magnum opus of published game art, the game’s cover:

cover-prev

Faux allies: GTFO [SWEARING]

[Note: Those of you who read my blog know I love to swear, right? Well I drop the f-bomb a lot in this post, like a lot more than usual. I have zero apologies about it, but still - fair warning for those of you who aren't okay with profanity.]

I’ve been sitting on this post for quite a while. I wrote out a good half of it months ago, then quietly shelved it because I wanted to start trying to focus on more “positive” things for a little while. It’s hard being that feminist who writes about harassment all the time, and I worry that writing about it too much will cost me readers. Who would want to read a blog about nothing but harassment? Hell, I wouldn’t.

But here I am, blowing the dust off of this post. Why? Because Anita Sarkeesian wasn’t able to sleep in her own house last night because she committed the crime of Having Opinions About Video Games While Female:

femfreq tweets

Folks, it’s been a hard few weeks to be a ladyblogger in games land, folks. D&D 5E ConsultancyGate is already the gift that keeps on giving. Then we’ve got the Zoe Quinn “scandal” in which a bunch of MRAs decided to doxx her in the name of “ethics”. (Spoiler alert: not actually about ethics) All this in addition to the “quiet” daily aggressions against ladybloggers and lady game designers that take a predictable toll.

Just recently a woman that I looked up to as brilliant, funny, and a bright new light in game design decided she couldn’t deal with the bullshit and shut down her G+ account. Which I found devastating, but certainly understandable. Still, I couldn’t help but vent my frustration on Twitter:

my tweets

 

So all of that happened, and still I sat on this. But then Anita Sarkeesian didn’t get to sleep in her own home because of knuckle-dragging fuckwits decided that they couldn’t handle a woman having opinions and they needed to SHUT THAT SHIT DOWN. And that’s what pushed me over the edge.

I am lucky, insanely lucky, that the only trolls I get are both laughably bad at trolling and incredibly lazy. I have never had any credible death or rape threats. Nor have I had any real problems with sock puppets, aside from that one time a dude created one sock puppet and gave up when I blocked it right away. No one has ever made a video game about beating me up, or sought funding for a crowdfunding project about how awful I am as a human being. I’ve never been doxxed, stalked, or harassed offline.

But these are things that could all happen to me in the future because I am a woman Having Opinions About Games on the Internet.

So the fact that Anita Sarkeesian is willing to stick to her guns, to keep making videos despite facing all of these things? She’s a superhero, people. A MOTHERFUCKING SUPERHERO.

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And I realize that all of this is a hell of a prelude to what was originally only 300 words, but I have SO MANY STRONG FEELS ABOUT THIS, YOU GUYS.

The thing I was actually going to say

You know, I feel like it’s pretty obvious to say fuck the guys who engage in this harassing misogynist bullshit. That shit should be a no-brainer, right? If you’re the type of dude who thinks that telling Anita she is a fucking twat because you don’t like her videos? Congratulations. You’re exactly the type of dude who needs to FUCK RIGHT OFF OUT OF THIS HOBBY.

But you know, that’s not exactly controversial. (I mean, unless you’re That Dude. In which case, go fuck yourself.)

No, what I want to add is that it is time to start holding fake “allies” accountable for their bullshit. Allies, if you want to be an ally, then actually be a fucking ally. Or if that’s just too hard, then SHUT THE FUCK UP AND GO THE FUCK AWAY.

Because here’s the deal, it’s actually harder for me, and for many feminists whom I’ve talked with about this, to deal with a fake ally than it is to deal with actual misogynists. With up-front misogynists, they wear their misogyny on their sleeves so you already know it’s not worth investing any emotional energy into an interaction with them.

Fake allies? Man, it can be so. Fucking. Hard. to tell the difference between an ally who needs educating and a misogynist who wants to hide behind the ally label. Sometimes it can take years, years of friendship and regular interaction to realize that an ally who you thought was one of the good guys? Totally wasn’t.

And friends, let me tell you, that will fuck your shit right up. Because emotional investment isn’t a switch you can just turn off. You can’t just say “oh, I was mistaken about the kind of person I thought you were, I no longer give any shits about you or what you think” once a certain level of relationship has been established. Cutting ties with someone who has become toxic is hard once those ties have been allowed to persist, even when we KNOW that cutting ties is what’s best for us.

So these days, the majority of emotional damage I take is from asshole fake allies who want to claim the ally label as a way to stroke their own ego and be the hero of their own story. And I figure enough is enough. So this is me, declaring war on fake allies:

It is time to get rid of allies who…

…occupy more emotional bandwidth than misogynists and anti-feminists

…prioritize their feelings over the well-being of the feminists they claim to support

…brag about having feminist friends but sever all ties with women that tell them things they don’t want to hear

…dominate the conversation

…don’t know how to shut up and listen

…place constraints on acceptable expressions of marginalization

…use tone arguments (“I can’t listen because you’re too angry”)

…want feminists to prove their lived experience

…tell feminists they’re being oversensitive while simultaneous requiring that one walk on verbal eggshells to converse with them at all

…tell feminists they are mentally ill and need help

…make feminists gaslight themselves by making them second-guess their own memories and perceptions

…insist that not all men are like that

…tell feminists they are depressing when they talk about their lived experiences

…say feminists are making everything about them

…support and defend men with proven public records of misogyny

…mansplain

…mansplain mansplaining

…mansplain mansplainers

…don’t promote women’s voices

…say that you have to separate art from its creator

…try to shout feminists down when a thing is criticized that they like

…say that a feminists “owes” them for the times when the faux-ally was just being a decent fucking human being

…use friendship as a weapon (“I’m saying this as a friend, but…”)

…call feminist spaces toxic

…don’t understand the need for safe spaces that don’t include them

…attempt to silence feminists by tarring their reputation

…are not willing to consider the fact that they might be wrong

GenCon 2014: The bad and the needs improvement

While I have some posts coming up that are prompted by interactions I had at GenCon, this will be the last post I write explicitly about my experience at GenCon itself (at least for the next little while). I’ve talked about the things that made me excited, as well as specific crappy things observed in the dealers’ room. But I didn’t address negative things outside of the dealers’ room, so here are some observations about things with varying degrees of crappyness.

Bad: Some dude mansplained my shirt to me

One of my birthday gifts this year was a shirt that said “FAKE GEEK GIRL: REAL GEEK WOMAN”. So of course I wore it to GenCon. I mean, how could I not?

Friday morning, I got dressed in The Shirt (and also pants) and headed out to get breakfast, bleary from a late night of awesome awesomeness. As I was standing in line, two guys spotted my shirt. One of them looked excited and said, “oh wow, that’s an awesome shirt! My wife would love that shirt? Where did you get it?”.

Pleased, I said that I did love the shirt but that it was a gift and I didn’t know where it was purchased. And that’s when Complimentary Dude’s mansplainy friend chimed in with, “but you’re not fake”. Which led to the following conversation:

Me: I’m… not a girl.

Mansplainy Friend: But you’re not fake. You’re–

Me: Not a girl. I have a toddler. I pay taxes. I am a woman.

Mansplainy Friend: Yes, but you’re not a fake woman.

Me: Okay, but you’re getting bogged down in the definition of one word. Do you not understand that this shirt is commenting on a larger social phenomenon where women like me have to fight to have our interest in geek culture seen as valid?

…at which point Mansplainy Friend tried to continue the argument, but thankfully Shirt-Complimenting Guy got him to shut up and I collected my breakfast and left.

And I suppose that I really should have expected something of the sort to occur. After all, I did wear the shirt rather expecting that hanging out primarily in tabletop RPG areas would mean that it would provoke some kind of a reaction. Still, in my defense, I don’t think anyone can be entirely blamed for being surprised when someone attempts to mansplain their own clothing to them when they are still in a severely under-caffeinated state.

Bad: I didn’t X-card the jokey sexism in a game that I ran

I was a GM at Games on Demand this year, which turned out to be tons of fun for all of my games except one – a game of Zombie Cinema. (Zombie Cinema is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a fun little game that creates zombie movie plots. It’s eminently replayable and never leaves my bag at conventions, in case I ever find myself with spare time, friends, and desire for a pick-up game that lasts about two hours.)

The problem with that game? There were six people at the table, including myself, but I was the only woman. And three of the six players were, well, the bro-iest of bros. Still, because some of the random character gen options specify gender, we wound up with three female characters, so I was hoping things would turn out well.

Early on in the game, however, the bro players started tossing out stuff about “protecting the women”, which was irritating. I jokingly had my character, a middle-aged mom and secretary, call them on it. At which point it promptly became a running joke throughout the rest of the session. And not the friendly sort of running joke, a “oh this clearly bothers you, so now my character is going to keep doing it” kind of running joke.

At the time, I just thought that it was a B- game of Zombie Cinema. There were some amusing jokes, like how the zombie plague came to be known as “raibola” (rabies/Ebola), but mostly it was a slightly sub-par but still amusing enough for the price of a generic ticket game of Zombie Cinema.

It wasn’t until I ran into James Stuart, the “new” proprietor of Story-Games, fellow GoD GM, and one of the not-bros at the table for the game, that he helped crystallize my annoyance by asking if I was okay with what happened in our game. He said that he was reluctant to X-card them since I seemed okay with it, but at the same time it seemed pretty gross. And at the time I was like, “oh yeah, I was okay, it was just kind of irritating is all”.

But since then I’ve examined that reaction and now I regret not X-carding the jokey sexism once it became a nasty little running joke, because it was a joke that made the game less fun for me. I got trapped in the mindset that because Games on Demand was paying for my badge, I was obligated to provide the players with a fun game. But I forgot that my fun was also an important part of the equation, and the “ha ha girls suck” running “joke” throughout the game definitely made it less fun for me.

And all of this despite an excellent all-hands meeting on Thursday night that stressed that GMs had to consider their own fun as much as their players when deciding what to X-card! So it’s not even like this was a possibility that hadn’t been addressed.

So that’s something I think I’ll need to work on being more aware of next year.

Bad: Casual harassment

I didn’t experience as much of it this year as I have previous years, there was only one creepy dude on the street of the “oh god avert your eyes, don’t make eye contact, stick close to your group” variety that I encountered this year, although he was a doozie. (He started singing at me and pelvic thrusting, although thankfully he didn’t approach me and I was able to give him a wide berth as we passed him on the sidewalk.)

But let me turn that around and say that this year was the best year I’ve had in terms of street harassment. So the fact that I go to GenCon expecting to be creepily harassed and made to feel unsafe by at least one dude while at the convention? That’s messed up.

Another insanely not-cool moment was my very first night at the convention, at a party where I was going to head back to my hotel with my hotel roomie and her boyfriend. On the way out, she stopped at a table to say hi to someone that she knew, and a dude literally grabbed her hand and started trying to pull her into the booth. At which point I started hovering very visibily while wearing my best “we need to leave because I need sleep face”.

And, you know, generally my friend and convention-roomie is a super capable woman and I would trust her to be able to handle her own creeps. But at the same time, Creepy Arm-Hauling Guy was large and I wanted to at least try to shame him into letting go. (Which he did, though probably not because of me, and we made our escape, and that was the end of that.)

And maybe it was because we were at a party? But you know what, fellas? Being drunk is not an excuse for harassing women, even if it’s just because you want to get to know them. Calm the fuck down, and if you can’t behave yourself around strange women when you’re drunk, then DON’T FUCKING DRINK.

Needs improvement: Convention harassment policy signage

One of the things that I forgot to mention in my post about good things about GenCon was the fact that the opening ceremonies of the convention specifically mentioned the harassment policy and that harassment was not okay, and that anyone feeling threatened or uncomfortable should seek out convention staff who would take the situation seriously. WHICH IS GREAT. The fact that GenCon has gone from having effectively no harassment policy to having a well-written policy that staff are being trained on? That’s awesome.

HOWEVER.

The only signs spelling out the complete policy were in the badge registration area. There weren’t any in the dealer’s room area that I or any of the people that attended the Women in Gaming panel had spotted. And I didn’t see any outside of the main convention center, either.

And that’s a problem! If nothing else, there needs to be at least some basic “cosplay is not consent” posters in the dealers’ room, because that’s where a whole lot of cosplay is happening.

The other problem is that a whole lot of people just don’t need to go to the badge registration area. Because I was running through Games on Demand, I picked up my badge from the GoD staff without ever having to go through the badge line. And for the most part, trips to the dealers’ room to acquire specific items were the only trips that I made into the convention center itself. The one panel I was able to go to (all the others overlapped with my GM slots! Curses!) was in the Crowne Plaza – all of which were areas that didn’t have any sort of signage to raise awareness of this policy.

It’s also worth noting that a lot of people don’t attend the first day of the convention, or don’t manage to be awake in time to hit the dealers room in time for the opening ceremonies, or aren’t able to stand close enough to hear what everyone else is saying.

This is something that is important. If you want to change the social norms around toxic and harassing behavior at conventions, you have to change expectations and raise awareness, and signage is an important part of that. GenCon is just too big an event to do it in a more individualized way.

And that’s all I have to say about that

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