Gaming as Women: Bastion and men as automatic protagonists

I’ve got a new post up on Gaming as Women! It’s about Bastion and the automatic cultural assumption that we tend to make that protagonists of a story are automatically male. It also features a gender-swap of Bastion’s characters that I’m quite pleased with. Go give it a read!

Gender swap! Yuna and Kuja

For this gender swap I wanted another pair of male and female characters. I liked the idea of the Fran/Balthier gender-swap, but didn’t really feel I nailed the execution. But as I was casting about for inspiration, nothing hit me. Then my husband suggested Kuja, and I thought yessssssssss! Kuja would be ridiculously fun to draw gender-swapped since he’s literally the only male character I can think of that is as sexualized as the ridiculous cheesecake women I mock here on a regular basis.

But then who to swap for the female to male? Well, I thought of this excellent pinup series of sexualized male comic superheroes, and that gave me the inspiration I needed. Yuna from X-2! I was going to turn those ridiculous shorts that expose half her ass cheek into stupid banana hammock shorts!

I was so, so psyched.

Now this involved more work than my previous gender-swaps, since I had to do an original drawing rather than just a trace-over (there’s a reason I stick to trace-overs. They’re easier and much less time-consuming), hence the lack of posts. Just to make things interesting, I decided to use poses from X-2’s transformation sequences. I searched around and found a pretty decent image of Rikku and Paine’s final pose for… whatever the hell they called the Gambler class in X-2. (Lady Luck? I’m feeling lazy here.)

Making myself draw these poses was quite a challenge and took quite a while to get right. I kept roughing in a body part, looking at the whole and realizing that the pose wasn’t extreme enough. And then I’d have to erase and start over. The resulting poses are pretty tortured. Rikku’s hips are arched forward even as she’s leaning backwards. It’s doable, as long as you have strong back muscles, but you’re going to regret holding that pose for any length of time.

Amusingly, drawing Paine’s pose made me realize that she’s pretty seriously over-balanced. I became skeptical that this pose was even possible when I failed to achieve it without toppling over after several attempts. When I called my husband in to look, he maintained that the pose is possible, barely, but only if you have really good core strength. As we didn’t have a mirror handy to verify, I’m not sure which of us was right. As yet I consider the matter unsettled.

Anyhow. Enough blather. Gender-swap time! First, Yuna and Kuja’s original designs:

and now… swap!

I can’t even begin to tell you how tickled I was to be doing this. I am so very, very pleased that this turned out as well as it did; I’m feeling a bit redeemed after the Fran/Balthier swap.

Yuna actually didn’t require much adaptation. I did have to do some *ahem* research into banana hammock shorts, since it’s not something I’m too familiar drawing. I’m pleased with how the shorts came out and consider male-Yuna to be one of my more successful swaps.

Kuja also required surprisingly little adaptation. I did change the top a little to make sure that the nipples (and yes, the areola too!) could stay covered – even if it would require much body tape.

I was told I had to scan this doodle in the margins.

All in all, I consider this to be a smashing success, and really – I think I had way too much fun doing this. I suppose I should do these more often.

Time for another gender-swap! (Fran & Balthier)

Well, folks. It’s that time again! A commenter (I forget who and am feeling too lazy to check, sorry) had previously suggested that I tackle Fran and Balthier as a pair for my next gender-swap, a suggestion which I found delightful. Final Fantasy XII was, in my opinion, one of the weaker entries in the series and while Fran was a pretty decent character, the transparently fetishized design of the viera was irksome, to say the least. Add to that the fact that Fran typifies the “lingerie ninja” school of character design and Balthier is completely covered from head to toe, and they seemed a ripe target for swapping.

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

Fran and Balthier (Final Fantasy XII)And here’s my version:

Fran & Balthier - gender-swapped(Yes the quality isn’t quite as good as previous entrants. My printer is dead, which meant I had to color digitally. I work a lot slower that way and thus got lazy with stuff like shading, color blending, and background. Whatevs. It gets the point across.)

When I my last gender-swap, there were some people who argued that I shouldn’t have tried to use gender-equivalent garments and that I should have left the outfit unchanged. As an experiment, I decided to change absolutely nothing other than facial structure and anatomy to make them read as opposite gendered. The result, while a bit artistically disappointing, is certainly interesting.

As with previous entrants in the series, the changing of Fran from male to female causes a lot of the sexualization to be lost in translation. Here’s the thing. People like to look at faces – it’s a fundamental human impulse – so any face is going to be a natural focal point. In the original, Fran’s boobs and crotch are right next to Balthier’s face – a natural spot for our eyes to gravitate to. But that gets lost in the gender-swap. The weirdness of the pose does come through nicely, however. We’re so conditioned to seeing scantily-clad women lounging in almost torturous positions that it’s hard to really see how awfully contorted Fran’s pose is until you turn her into a man. So I will give my male Fran a thumbs up.

My swap of Balthier, however, was more disappointing. I wanted to keep as much as possible, including the hairstyles – since Fran’s hair style is so ridiculous. However, I’m not sure that the changes I made are enough for Balthier to read as female at first glance. (Thoughts?) The only thing that saves Balthier for me is that I think this is a great pose for a self-assured, not half-naked and not stereotyped female character. It makes me think of the maxim for writing great female characters – write a male character and then switch genders – and wonder if maybe that shouldn’t apply to making game art as well? Something to ponder.

So there we are. Not my most successful swap so far, but certainly not the worst either. If anyone has suggestions for a character I should tackle down the line, I’m all ears.

>Gender swap! The Magna Carta edition

>It’s been too long since I’ve done any original art for this blog, and I’ve been itching to do more! I knew as soon as I started working on that post about Hyung Tae Kim that I wanted to do another gender swap using his artwork, but it took me a while to find the time to sit down and do one.

Choosing an image was difficult. A lot of HTK’s art is heavily distorted, and I wanted to experiment with actually not correcting anatomy this time around to see what the effect would be. However, I also really wanted to see what would happen if I took on a figure with an unnecessarily detailed crotch. For some reason, I wasn’t able to find an image that was both very, very distorted AND very crotchular, so I settled for something crotchular and still a little distorted:

So this is Celestin Roaa from the Magna Carta series. This presented a huge challenge with the crazy boob perspective, and also with the costume – but I think it turned out well:

The costume presented quite the challenge, in that there wasn’t any real male equivalent of the clothing that she was wearing. I compromised and gave my gender-swapped version a codpiece and chaps. Amusingly, I didn’t realize how phallic the design on the codpiece was until after I drew it. I did try to give him a bulge, since Ken-doll superheroes with no visible bulge have always irritated me, but I think it was a bit obscured by the crazy codpiece. Alas.

The figure is softer than I intended, but I think that’s more a result of me attempting to change as few lines as possible; I changed as little as I could to have the figure still be interpreted as male. (I’ll admit the beard was me hedging my bets.)

Anyhow, in all other regards I’m quite happy with how the ridiculousness comes through. The chaps + codpiece are a wonderfully ridiculous combination, and the codpiece especially draws attention to the “HEY EVERYBODY LOOK AT MY CROTCH”-ness of the original pose. I think the low cut of the codpiece also helps make the sexualization extreme enough that it actually reads as sexualization. Were he wearing pants, I don’t think that even the bare chest would really read as extreme sexualization the way the mostly bare chest with bikini top does with the original figure.

I think next time I’ll tackle something with more obvious figure distortion, just to see what happens. I suspect it won’t translate well, since the parts of the female body that get distorted don’t really have male equivalents. But that unknown is part of why I’m doing this. I enjoy highlighting the ridiculousness of the imagery, sure. But the experimentation of what works and what doesn’t is neat too.

I’d also like to do more re-designed characters, but I was having trouble deciding which character I should take on next. Anyone have any suggestions?

>Re-launched WoW Galleries: Let’s end with a gender-swap

>As promised, I have another gender-swap to finish out this series of WoW posts. My first attempt at a gender-swap was reasonably successful, but I discovered that a lot of the sexualization gets lost in translation since the “collection of bits” phenomenon has to be unbelievably exaggerated in order to come across on a male figure.

Thankfully, the new WoW galleries provided plenty of ammunition!

The ladybit assassin (see part 3) was almost my choice, but I was afraid that people have been so desensitized to Conan-type beefcake that it wouldn’t have the impact I was looking for. So instead, I went for my second, uh, favorite:

God. This makes me want to facepalm every time I see it.

And here is my take, what I have dubbed a work of “mancake”:

I got lazy and didn’t bother reproducing the bad PhotoShop filter frost magic effects. Also, I changed the colors and simplified the design of the robes. That was out of copyright concerns, not laziness.

This time, I was every bit as successful as I had hoped. This time, the sheer ridiculousness of the pose and costume wasn’t lost in translation, even after correcting the anatomy to give my gender-swapped mage a rib cage.

We have the usual suspects when it comes to sexualized female figures. Her costume has both a cleavage AND a midriff window. Anatomy is similarly distorted in the usual fashion. Ginormous fake boobs? Check. Lack of rib cage? Check. Impossibly flat abs? Check. But honestly, that’s not what I was after.

The most obvious object of ridicule is the pose. Her back is arched with her breasts and ass being thrust out at the same time. I’m really not sure how she’s supposed to cast magic like that; I tried to get into that pose myself and it was all I could do to not fall over or accidentally injure my back. (Give it a try when no one’s looking. It’s pretty hard.)

So I’m pretty pleased that most of that still comes through with my gender-swapped version. I’m not positive that the cleavage window has the same effect, even with him thrusting his chest forward. Without actual cleavage I suspect some of the impact is lost. But the intent still comes through loud and clear, which makes me very happy indeed.

Now to be fair, a fair number of the comments in the WoW gallery revolve around how it looks like she’s about to take a crap. But there’s just as many comments about how “real” this looks – which kind of freaks me out that nobody notices basic shit like WHERE ARE HER ORGANS? And then there’s an even scarier subset of people who, predictably, find Crapping Frost Mage hot:

she definatley… wants it in her anal cavity

she hot she most will be a porn star

Delicious

Mage porn star.

Oh, internet. I’m finding it harder to be surprised by this stuff anymore.

Anyhow. I’ll definitely do more of these in the future (though perhaps not right away since my time is at a premium for the next few weeks). I had way too much fun doing this one!

>Gender-swapping female characters: Vanille

>Some of the arguments here about the sexualized design of female video game characters got me to thinking about how I could illustrate this more clearly, since some people just seem to understand that idealization of male characters JUST ISN’T THE SAME as the sexualization of female characters. I got to thinking about a post I saw several years ago on LiveJournal in which a female blogger photoshopped hypothetical comic covers with extreme male fanservice.

I wanted to do something along those lines, only with game art and perhaps a bit less extreme. When discussing sexualized character design, people seem to focus on the body parts – perhaps just because distorted anatomy is very easy for us to recognize. But posing plays just as big a part – even when it’s not the subtle-as-a-brick “take me now” posing that all of us are pretty used to seeing. So I decided that I’m going to start doing a series of gender-swapped female game characters, starting with Vanille from Final Fantasy XIII – mostly just because that’s the game I’m playing right now.

So here’s female Vanille:

And here’s my genderswapped “Van”:


CLICK FOR LARGER VIEW

I did contemplate leaving Vanille’s ridiculous bikini top and mini skirt combo intact, but I decided that instead I would swap the clothing for their nearest gender equivalents – which is why Van is in a wife-beater and shortish shorts. Van here comes off as pretty gender-inappropriate by conventional standards, and not just because I kept the pink shirt. According to what we’re conditioned to expect, everything about the pose is incredibly inappropriate on a male figure.

Vanille’s spine is arched in such a way that her breasts are thrust forward. Her legs and clothing are arranged in such a way that your eyes are drawn to her ladybits that are just barely covered by the arrangement of her limbs. And despite this being a somewhat action-y pose, the posing of her arms doesn’t suggest strength or action – they suggest softness and femininity. Everything about Vanille’s pose is designed to be inviting and appealing to the male viewer. And yet a lot of that gets lost in the gender-swap. Van isn’t that much more covered than Vanille, but you don’t get the “collection of parts” impression looking at him that you do looking at Vanille.

So all in all, I consider this a pretty successful experiment, and one that I’ll definitely repeat. My only regret in that trying to go less extreme than the photoshopped comic covers, I think I went a little too far. Next time I’ll pick a character and pose that are a little more obviously sexual and see what happens. (Suggestions?)

Lastly, as recommended reading I’ll suggest you check out this great LJ post here with lots of scans from a book on how to draw comic characters that highlights a lot of what I’m talking about. Especially check out the first three scanned pages which highlight pretty much what I’m talking about here.

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