>A belated look at gamer Valentines: the good, the questionable, the pathetic

>Okay, so I know I’m about two weeks late with this. Since I’m including stuff from previous years’ Valentine’s Days, I’ll call this a retrospective and pretend that I meant to be late. (Actually, I didn’t start looking for most of this stuff until after I stumbled across a truly awful Valentine’s Day feature on the FilePlanet FileBlog. That got me looking for other examples of gamer Valentines and Valentine’s Day features on major gaming sites.)

What I found was a pretty mixed bag. There’s a lot of genuinely funny stuff out there to be found. Then again, there’s some pretty tasteless stuff too.

The good/funny

First up we have some Street Fighter valentines. These were done as a promo for last year’s release of Street IV and were posted along with a trailer of Cammy, Juri, and Chun Li. And while the trailer is exactly what you’d expect for a promo trailer featuring fighting game women (SO MANY PANTY SHOTS), the valentines are actually pretty good:

I appreciate that “I’m head over heels for you” shows Juri knocking out Kratos, and that the pose isn’t blatantly fanservice-y. (Considering that Juri wears a square of fabric strapped to her chest, it’s impossible to avoid completely…) I also enjoy the number of male/male pairings. I realize that given how vastly the women in Street Fighter are outnumbered by the men, it’s probably a function of not many women to choose from. But still, I’d like to think that they meant to have valentines with non-straight pairings. (I’d root for female/female pairings too, only that wouldn’t end well given the design of all of the Street Fighter women.)

Valve got in on the act as well with a few different Valentine’s themed promos for Portal 2. In particular, I loved the video that they produced as a message from Aperture Laboratories with Valetine’s day “tips” like “women love diamonds for their wide variety of industrial applications. It was humorous and did a pretty good job of turning a few stereotypes on their head, albeit in bizarre fashion.

They also released a few more traditional valentines like these:

Overall I’m a fan, but I have to say I have mixed feelings about the first one. It seems like they might be using this as a chance to promote Chell’s new design in the upcoming release. Chell in the first game was female, yes, but definitely was not a traditionally slutty female heroine. I’m a bit worried by the decision to glam her up. Here’s hoping that we don’t start seeing disgusting Chell fanart pop up like we did with post-Zero Suit Samus.

I also stumbled across this gem by the producers of The Misadventures of P. B. Winterbottom:

I love the retro styling, but what I love even more is the instruction at the bottom that starts with: “should feelings of love or desire overcome you, this clever card can be used to fan away such salacious vapors.” It’s always nice to see game studios treat gender stereotypes, even outdated ones, satirically. Lord knows it’s far oftener the case that game studios are PERPETUATING gender stereotypes, yes even the outdated ones, rather than mocking them.

Some other gems I found that aren’t gender/sexism related are:
* some Left4Dead valentines by the hugely talented Alexandria Neonakis (aka Beavotron).
* gamer valentines on IGN, including one by a horny Elcor (if you play Mass Effect it’s hilarious, trust me)
* these NES valentines

They’re worth checking out for a few chuckles at least.

The questionable

This is going back quite a while… Lion’s Head, the studio behind the Fable series put out this Valentine in 2007:

Now, I’ll admit that the one thing I have been arguing for here is a diversity of female body types in game art. That said, I think this is more of a negative than a positive. This woman is being presented as an object of ridicule, not as an object of beauty. She is clearly designed to disgust the intended male viewer, which is sad. It wouldn’t have taken much to present such a character as beautiful, but clearly Lion’s Head just wanted to get some cheap laughs.

Richard Mitchell, the author of the feature that ran this valentine on Joystiq, ended the piece by saying:

We’re sure she has a great personality. Hopefully, this has nothing to do with the secret Fable 2 feature that Peter Molyneux will reveal at GDC.

Even more depressing are the comments left on the Joystiq feature:

Ew. Just ew. I wouldn’t touch that chick with a 110 ft. pole.

Hard nipples…going to give me nightmares!

I’d hit it.
Yea, with a baseball bat :)

That’s about what I expected. Still… yuck.

Then there’s this valentine of questionable taste from Kotaku:

I dunno. I guess it’s kind of funny. But then, it’s yet another example of puerile sex humor coming out of Kotaku. What a shock! Not sure what to think of it, so in the end I’ll roll my eyes and move onto this valentine from Destructoid:

Okay. This is actually pretty cute, and doesn’t have some cleavagey piece of fanservice like I half expected from Destructoid. But they couldn’t leave it there, could they? I mean, then they wouldn’t be the Destructoid we know and… um… love.

Anyway, the feature ended with: “Now who’s going to make a Destructoid card for Steak and BJ Day?”

…charming, guys. Real charming. So nice of you to “throw us women a bone” every once in a while. Now do you think you could refrain from practically in the same breath demanding that us women give you blow jobs? Christ.

The pathetic: FilePlanet’s FileBlog

Surprisingly, Kotaku and Destructoid put in pretty half-hearted attempts to offend this year. But have no fear – FilePlanet has come to the rescue! Apparently this year is the third year that they have posted a selection of nude mods for Valentine’s Day in a charming feature they call Valentine’s Nudity.

Because really, what better way is there to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by hacking video games to remove the clothes of video game women? That’ll show those uppity bitches. How dare they have “empowerment” and “character arcs”. Fuck character arcs – tits or gtfo, bitches!

And then of course there’s the comments:

No males? All female. That’s refreshing.

Where did i stick my vaseline?

AVG Detected a virus in a file needed for the Mass Effect 2 nude skin to work. Oh well the miranda nude mod is better anyway

I liek wen day showda boobays

Wow… might consider making a lesbein sim just to take advantage of this…

So yet another example of how a subset of male gamers are determined to systematically dis-empower any female character who might have some degree of strength or agency. What kind of sick entitlement causes this sort of shit, anyway? Why can’t they just do what normal people do and go find porn on the internet? God knows there’s enough free porn out there that going to this much effort shouldn’t be appealing.

So I guess thanks go to FilePlanet for making even Kotaku and Destructoid seem appealing. Then again, I guess they’ll be needing the nude mods since some of those guys probably couldn’t NOT offend a woman if their lives depended on it.

About wundergeek
In addition to being a cranky feminist blogger, I am an artist, photographer, and somewhat half-assed writer living in the wilds of Canada with a wonderful spouse and two slightly broken cats.

24 Responses to >A belated look at gamer Valentines: the good, the questionable, the pathetic

  1. Chaltab says:

    >There is nothing I can say about the valentines that you didnt' say better.Hm, I kind of like the redesign of Chell. She has big arms and reasonably sized boobs. Valve generally has a good track record with female characters.

  2. Anonymous says:

    >Who's making this sick nude mods ? Don't tell that's someone older then 14…I don't like new Chell design at all.

  3. Joseph says:

    >To be fair to the modders, they're just realising what the original character modellers were thinking about. At least they have the guts to just make them naked, rather than hang on to the pretence that these women are not the stuff of erotica.Not Alyx or Zoe though. I'm not saying they were intended to be unattractive, only that their character designs were never dominated by their supermodel physique.

  4. wundergeek says:

    >Joseph: Sure characters like Cammy have always been walking fanservice, but I'm not too comfortable slotting Sheva into that category. Resident Evil hasn't always been the best series in terms of avoiding fanservice, but it still remains a series in which female characters kill hordes and hordes of zombies. As such, it's disappointing to see one of the main characters modded this way. Ditto for Lara Croft. Sure she has a problematic design history, but she's still strong, tough, and heads her own franchise. And FemShep! HOW DARE THEY MOD FEMSHEP??? FemShep is one of the awesomest, least sexualized, strongest female characters I have ever, EVER had the delight to play. Seeing FemShep nude modded makes me feel even worse than I do when I see Samus porn. Gah. DO NOT WANT.

  5. Anonymous says:

    >Just a small correction: That's not Kratos that Juri's kicking in the first street fighter valentine; that's Seth, the boss from the first Street Fighter IV

  6. >The nude mods make me very sad. I mean, it's annoying when they do it to DOA characters and such, but those are so close to porn that it bothers me FAR less than messing with characters like Alyx and Shepard. :(I've seen some utterly contemptible fanart of Chell already (a few were incredibly mind scarring), so I imagine her redesign will get it too. But Valve appears to be doing it fairly well, so here's hoping.

  7. Maverynthia says:

    >Ah yes, once again women are sluts, while men will always be free to have sex with whomever they want and dress however they want with no repercussions."Now do you think you could refrain from practically in the same breath demanding that us women give you blow jobs?"But you just said women are slutty! So of course the women wearing something you dislike that might be revealing would jump on that right? I mean they aren't REAL women and want to be degraded sexually as much as possible right based on what they are wearing?!Why the the hate for FilePlanet Blog, those women were dressed like sluts to begin with to you, so who cares if they are stripped naked. Slutty sluts will be slutty right?:| Yeah, can we stop the slut shaming now? Your just like the commenters that post on Kotaku when you keep saying they are dressed like sluts.

  8. Chaltab says:

    >Didn't she already go over this on TERA thread? You're suggesting that these digital women have autonomy in the way they're dressed. They don't; it's chosen by developers.Now, I personally don't agree with the use of the term because of its cultural baggage, its use by sexists and sex-negative systems of thought. But don't pretend you're defending the autonmy of a fictional being.

  9. tekanji says:

    >I am having a hard time understanding why people who can grasp that the objectification of women in games affects real life women are having such a hard time wrapping their minds around how denying fictional women agency by calling them sluts also impacts real women.I'm going to break it down real simple: the problem with calling characters sluts is the same exact problem as drawing them as under-clothed, impossibly constructed, pornified wank material. It legitimizes the broadly accepted idea that women's sexuality belongs to men.Listen, I think it's an extremely important part of deconstructing the way that objectification turns women (real and fictional) into nothing more than wank material by looking at clothing choices by examining how they fit into a sex-negative culture that simultaneously encourages women to put themselves on sexual display for men while slut shaming them for doing so. But, you know what? Uncritically calling women sluts, even if it's "just" the digital women, doesn't call out the sexism, it reinforces it.If you want to call out the devs for creating women that fit into the cultural narrative of the "slut", by all means do so. But it's going to take a lot more than just spewing out the gendered slur in order to make it clear that you're attacking those who try to reduce women into sex objects rather than the many, many women who have been labeled as a "slut" because she wore something that another person didn't approve of.

  10. jo says:

    >Slut is bad slur, but seriously? "denying fictional women agency"?! They're fictional, the author/designer is the one with agency.

  11. wundergeek says:

    >Okay. I'm copying and pasting here because it's early and I'm tired:I'm not going to apologize for calling imaginary women skanks, especially not women who have been EXPLICITLY DESIGNED to be "fuckable". Everything about the costume, posing, anatomy, and other contextual elements of these elements is designed to make it clear to the male viewer that these women are totally available for banging. THAT is why I call them skanks.There is ABSOLUTELY a difference between calling fictional women who have been designed for the express purpose of titillating male viewers a slut/skank/whatever and engaging in the slut shaming of REAL WOMEN. Please understand, I approach character design from the lens of someone who has done freelance illustration and holds a degree in Fine Arts. It is absolutely not my intention to reinforce a sex-negative culture. It IS my intention to call attention to the repugnance of sexist character design.

  12. tekanji says:

    >All I have to say is that it still fucking boggles my mind that you're using the same excuses about slut-shaming characters that people use to deny that character design can be sexist. I already explained why your uncritical use of slut-shaming language in fact goes opposite to your stated intentions, so I won't bother repeating myself. Look, I'm glad that you have mean well but your intentions mean absolutely shit to me when reading your blog means that I have to see you heap the same slut-shaming abuse on fictional characters as was heaped on me by an abusive partner.Ultimately, this is your blog. You don't need to apologize, you don't need to change anything, and you certainly don't need to care. But you need to understand that your choice hurts real women like me. If that means anything to you, then please educate yourself. The On victim blaming and slut-shaming FAQ that I maintain on Iris is a good place to start, as it contains links to other articles.This will be my last post here, as I don't want to continue adding to what amounts to a derail. I wish you well with your work.

  13. Maverynthia says:

    >So just because you have a degree in fine arts you thinks it's OK to give men further ammunition to slut shame women. I also have a degree in fine arts as well, it doesn't make it right.

  14. tekanji says:

    >I'm not sure if you deleted my comment or it somehow got eaten, but if you have a copy I would very much appreciate it if you would e-mail it to me since I didn't think to keep a copy of it myself.

  15. wundergeek says:

    >Maverynthia: Okay. I don't know how else to present my point of view in a way that won't result in me still being seen as a terrible person. I've tried to make clear that I respect your position, despite that I don't agree with it. I'm sorry if the language I use is upsetting to you. Unfortunately, I think we're going to have to agree to disagree, though. This is something that I feel pretty strongly about and something that I have put a lot of thought into. Like I've said to others here, sexism and misogyny are messy issues and feminists who agree about larger issues are bound to wind up on opposite sides sometimes with specific issues. If you think that I'm engaging in slut-shaming and that I'm invalidating everything I'm trying to do here, well. I'm sorry to hear that, I really am. I'd like to think that I put forward some pretty good arguments, but who knows. Maybe I'm completely full of shit and blowing smoke out my ass. If that's the case, I hope you find a more valuable place to talk about these issues. And that's not me saying YOU DISAGREE WITH ME SO GTFO. It's me honestly not knowing how to politely disagree with you and still not be seen as a horrible person.

  16. Anison says:

    >Wundergeek, where are your thoughts on calling "calling imaginary women skanks" recorded in more detail? I'd be interested in reading them. Apologies if you already covered this vector, but the problem I have with your use of those terms is that they place blame for "unacceptable" sexuality on the woman. What constitutes unacceptable is different in this context than it is in the real world in that here it is defined by women tired of sexual objectification and in real life it is defined by men exerting sexual control, but you appear to be focusing your ire on the wrong people. Yes, these characters are designed to be titillating objects, but it is the devs who design them that way. Would your point truly be so seriously altered by saying "Chell in the first game was female, yes, but definitely was not a traditionally objectified female heroine"? That would more clearly put the blame in the correct place.That being said, I love this blog and check it daily. Thanks for doing what you do.

  17. smurasaki says:

    >You can't use the word slut as a put down (even of imaginary women) without contributing to slut shaming. Or at least, I don't see how. It also seems like it's perpetuating the idea that people who are scantily clad or who act a certain way are inherently available. I realize that, yes, the game designers are perpetuating that idea and you're trying to call them on it. But there have to be better ways to do it. Anison's suggestion, for one.

  18. wundergeek says:

    >Okay. I know there's a lot of pathos about this. I can't give my response the time it deserves until Monday. I apologize, but I'm stealing sleep time to post this. Anison, smurasaki – thanks for not accusing me of being a terrible person. I will write a full-blown post explaining my views in very much detail as soon as I can!

  19. wundergeek says:

    >Tekanji: Didn't delete it – Blogger's shitty shitty shitty ass spam filter ate it. I restored it as soon as I saw it in the spam folder.Not ignoring you. Will give my response the attention it deserves as soon as I can. (Not this weekend)

  20. tekanji says:

    >Wundergeek: Thanks… I DID think it was weird that you would delete my comments without any sort of acknowledgment… but I've seen too many other people who I respected do the same thing to others.Also, I think it's totally bizarre that Blogspot's spam filter shows the comment as properly posted to the person submitting it and then eats it on a refresh. o.O Most of my experience is with WP and all the times my comment has been eaten in those instances it never showed up to me as properly posted.

  21. tekanji says:

    >Also, since you keep bringing it up, no one on this thread said, or implied, that you were a terrible person.I believe that your choice to slut shame is a terrible one because it hurts people like me, but it's important when being called out to understand the distinction between the "what you did" conversation and "what you ARE" conversation. Blogging about sexism in games means that you're going to get called out on things by other feminists and social justice advocates, because of this it's a good idea to learn how to take that kind of criticism and use it as a learning experience.

  22. wundergeek says:

    >Tekanji: That's how Blogger's spam filter works, sadly. It tends to nom after the fact.Also, I'll admit to skimming comments so sorry if I wound up blowing things out of proportion. I was totally taken by surprise by this blowing up just when I went on vacation.

  23. Admittedly, the comment “No males? All female. That’s refreshing.” may have been meant as sarcasm.

  24. Pingback: Happy Birthday! Looking back at a year of GMMaS. | Go Make Me a Sandwich

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