>Et Tu Nintendo?

>With the noteable exception of Princess Peach, Nintendo has been doing better than Sony and Microsoft in terms of positive depictions of women in its video games. The female characters in Super Smash Brothers kick just as much ass as the males, and with the Wii Nintendo has largely steered clear of the jiggle-tastic fighting game series that have proliferated on the PS3 and Xbox360. (Mostly. I’m looking at you, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.) And of course, Nintendo had one of the first female hero characters ever, the unbelievably bad-ass Samus Aran of Metroid series fame.

Of course, what most people know Samus for is her assortment of cannons and the bulky power armor. There’s been a lot of suits over the years, but they’ve all been large, bulky, and powerful-looking:

Now I’ll admit that I haven’t played any of the Metroid games after the original GameBoy games (My first console was a PlayStation and I’ve stuck with Sony since), so I’m a little fuzzy on the chronology of which suit came when. But I can definitely say that I love, love, love these suits. Samus started out as a total badass and has continued to be a total badass.

Except…

Except then they created the “Zero Suit” – a much less powerful spandex version of Samus’ suit. Gone is the badass armor, gone is the huge cannon. They replaced the Samus that I love with some blonde bimbo with a handgun:

Et tu Nintendo? ET TU??? It seems like a pretty blatant attempt to re-design Samus to be more appealing to the lowest common denominator of gamers that marketing departments seem so convinced are their “core” market – lonely horny teenage boys looking for action games with wank-fantasy females.

Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t guys who were unhappy with the re-design. But for every guy who complained that he wanted his power-suited Samus back, it seemed like there were twenty more who welcomed the new Zero Suit Samus with open… um… arms. And they’re all too eager to dogpile on people who complain about the new Samus with gems like:

dont be mad shes not a frumpy carpet muncher

get laid, mouth-breather

i really don’t like the idea, but she’s hot man.. and i hope that playing with no suit will be an extra o something like that.

Please, stay off the internet for the rest of your life.

lol, youre a fag.

*sigh* I wish those weren’t actual quotes.

And now, of course, the damage has been done. According to Wikipedia, the Zero Suit was introduced in 2008, but it seems to have come to dominate the popular representations of Samus, despite that the Zero Suit was never a total replacement, just a new option. If you search for “Samus Aran” on Google Image search, 15 out of 44 images on the first two pages are of the Zero Suited Samus – some very NSFW. So despite that there are seven suits to choose from, if you include the Fusion Suit that only appeared in one game, the Zero Suit accounts for 34% of the results on the first two pages – definitely a disproportionate representation.

(An interesting side note, though I’m honestly not sure if this signifies anything, is that despite the fact that the helmet is one of the most distinctive features of her power suits besides the cannon and the large shoulders, only 16 of 44 images on the first two pages show Samus actually wearing the helmet. Almost two thirds, 63% show Samus without her helmet on. Not sure if that’s good or bad.)

But if you really want to see how much of a wank-fantasy Zero Suit Samus has become, just search for “Zero Suit” and look at the huge number of fanart results that come up on the first two pages. The fanart universally falls into three categories: Ridiculous Cheesecake (Sphere Boob Ahoy!), Soft Core Porn, and Holy Shit That’s Disgusting. (Needless to say, links NOT SFW.)

None of these images depict Samus as anything other than a sex object, and none of them show the toughness that made Samus such a popular character in the first place – which is hugely disappointing. There are so few really good female characters that have their own franchises, so it’s really disheartening to see Nintendo give in to the Sex Sells Marketing Machine after around two decades of a Samus who in no uncertain terms could feed you your spleen on a plate if she felt like it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go soak my eyeballs in Lysol. Srsly. Yuck.

>Because clearly women don’t have adventures

>[Edited: True20 is the system behind Blue Rose, not Blue Roses.]

All right. So I’m going to shut up about Soul Calibur IV for a while and turn my sights back to tabletop roleplaying for a moment – specifically Green Ronin publishing. Green Ronin has published some pretty popular games like Mutants & Masterminds, Blue Roses, and the new Dragon Age RPG. Still, they command a much smaller piece of the RPG pie than either Wizards or Paizo.

Now, the problematic trend that Green Ronin displays with their products isn’t so much about cheesecake as it is about representation. Witness, the True20 cover – the system behind their popular Blue Rose RPG:

Check it out! She’s got clothes on! And pants! And isn’t overly sexualized! Which is great and awesome, but she’s also outnumbered three to one by male figures. And Green Ronin doesn’t really try to even the score with the covers of their True20 supplements either:

(CLICK FOR MUCH LARGER VERSION)

So out of 21 figures on these five covers, only 6 are women. 7 if you want to be charitable and call the ninja a woman since the gender is ambiguous. That means that women account for between just over a quarter (uncharitable) and a third (charitable) of figures on these covers. Which, for a system that touts itself as being about “adventure roleplaying” is very disappointing. So, women don’t go on adventures? (And yes the female Indiana Jones has a ridiculous case of sphere-boobs that are bigger than her head. Whatever. We’ve seen worse, so… moving on.)

It gets even worse when you look at the covers of Mutants & Masterminds products:

(CLICK FOR MUCH LARGER VERSIONS)

Out of 30 figures with a discernable gender, only 7 of them are female! That’s even LESS than a quarter! And of the seven female figures, only two of them could be called focal to the illustration – as opposed to the True20 covers where at least the female figures had equal weight with the male figures in terms of cover real estate.

Now, Green Ronin is known as a fairly “trad” publisher, and trad gaming isn’t always the friendliest place for women. But still – it’s hard not to look at these covers and get the message that these are games for telling stories about MEN. Men having MANLY ADVENTURES. Which is kind of sad. I love superheroes, and I love adventure stories, but the exclusion leaves me kind of cold here.

>Boobs: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG (Taki)

>Sometimes it’s easier to show what’s wrong with an image by drawing directly over it, so that’s what I’m doing today. (Every once in a while, my degree in Fine Arts does serve a practical purpose…)

I know I’ve been picking on Soul Calibur IV a lot. I promise I’ll move onto other targets, but for the purposes of what I’m doing here the freakish anatomy of the Soul Calibur IV women helps me make a point a bit better.

Okay, so today I’m going to pick on Taki, the boobtacular spandex ninja:

Her boobs in addition to being unnaturally huge are also POINTY, which is just kind of freaky. There must be some serious architecture to that spandex suit that we don’t know about, because… yeah. Boobs don’t do that. So let’s go in there and do a little correcting…

Now, I didn’t make Taki small-chested by any stretch of the imagination – she’s still rocking somwehere between a C and a D cup. See the difference there? But check this out -In the designer’s quest to make Taki a walking fetish, they’ve turned Taki into something actually not human:

The red lines are how Taki was drawn, and the black are my corrections. When you compare the two, you can see that they’ve given Taki so much of an “hourglass figure” that her rib cage is practically inverting itself, as is her stomach. This begs the question, where does she keep her organs? Also, you’ll notice that I fleshed out Taki’s ass a bit. That’s not me making Taki a bit fatter, that’s me giving Taki the musculature needed to connect her legs to her torso.

Considered from this angle, this makes the Soul Calibur IV women even more disturbing. Namco has gone from fanservice-y idealized women to women that are demonstrably not human. Considering that the Soul Calibur series is aimed mostly at young men, should we be surprised if the segments of the target audience partially internalizes some of these attitudes, even if only to a small degree?

>Better character designs: Sophitia

>My plans are to make this a semi-regular feature. I won’t promise a regular schedule of these, since my muse is a fickle creature these days, but I will promise that this won’t be the last.

Okay, remember Soul Calibur VI’s freakishly proportioned jiggle-fest Sophitia? Of course you do. (Who could forget? Brr.) But just for the sake of comparison, here she is again:

If one considers that the human head weighs around eighteen pounds (thank you, Google), then it looks like she’s carrying around 54 to 72 pounds of boob around there. Just for a little perspective, guys, you can understand how difficult fighting with those bazookas would be by strapping a nine-year-old to your chest and trying to swing a sword while so encumbered. At that size, the boobs would be about as rambunctious as the nine-year-old.

So here’s my take on Sophitia as she should have been. (And apologies for the sketchiness and the somewhat ghetto coloring job. I didn’t feel like taking the time to make it a finished piece.)

(CLICK FOR LARGER VIEW)

My Sophitia is regularly proportioned, but still quite sexy. Her proportions are athletic without being waifish. My Sophitia has never had breast enlargement, and she isn’t averse to eating a freaking burger now and then.

The other huge problem besides the anatomy is the white-washing. How about the fact that she’s explicitly Greek by her story and costume, and yet she’s a paragon of Aryan beauty? Seriously, wtf? Mediterranean people are brown. (In fact, my Sophitia might not be quite brown enough. I struggled getting the right skin tone with only photos for reference.)

Lastly, I also changed her costume. If she’s a Greek warrior, why invent some bullshit faux toga for her to fight in? Why not clothe her like an actual hoplite? Hell, the hoplites pranced around with no pants on and short sleeves, so you’d have a historical excuse to put her in a fanservice-y outfit. Make the skirt on that bad boy a little shorter and you’d still be within the realm of accuracy.

So that’s Sophitia. Any suggestions on who I might tackle next?

>Sexist blogging

>Coming Soon

I’ve been working a bit on some illustrations that will accompany a post on how to correctly design female fighting game characters. I’m also going to make at least one (maybe more) post in the near future about how boobs work, including correcting some of the more ridiculous images in my files. Hopefully I’ll have some of that finished soon.

And Now For Something Else

First thing’s first – credit where credit is due. I pulled many of these links from an amazing post on harassment in gaming by tekanji on the Shrub.com blog.

Okay, people. So, let me just open by saying that I’m kind of disgusted that by the realization that I’m going to have to create a harassment tag in the near future. Srsly. Yuck.

Now, there’s a lot of general gaming blogs and forums out there – way too many to go into any kind of exhaustive list – and pretty much all of them contain sexist content to some extent. For many of these sites, the sexism that you’ll find is simply the pervading assumption that women do not play and are not interested in playing games. (Card games, board games, video games, whatever.)

It’s pretty common. Just use Google to search Board Game Geek for the phrase “wife-friendly” (used synonymously with “non-gamer-friendly”) and you’ll see what I mean. This type of sexism is pervasive and irritating, the assumption that because I’m a woman I can’t be a “real” gamer. I hate that when I go into GameStop, I feel like I’m being judged for what I purchase. If I purchase a game like Civ V or Dragon Age, well clearly it’s a gift for my husband. But when I buy games like Katamari (dude, I love the doppler screaming) or DDR (it’s amazing cardio), I almost feel guilty – like I’m contributing the idea that “chicks are only interested in non-games”.

A lot of gamer men ascribe to the myth that women don’t game. Many of them can be can be accustomed to the idea that women game through actually playing games with women. Case in point, during a session of D&D our party totally demolished a guy in a fight, at which point one of the male players said “man, what a girl”. I objected, and he looked embarassed. When I suggested that “lady” would be an acceptable substitute, since “ladies” are not supposed to run around and hit things with swords, he happily switched terminology and everyone was happy.

However, there are a lot of gamer men who simply cannot tolerate the idea that women might be invading gaming. These men take this idea to the next level, actively spewing hateful things about women in an effort to drive them away from the hobby. Many of these men, unfortunately, have blogs. Many more of them comment on blogs and forums. And a select few write columns on popular gaming websites. Like Kotaku.

Kotaku isn’t exactly known for its female-friendly reputation, having sparked a Kotaku boycot a few years ago by a popular female game blogger. And it’s pretty easy to see why female bloggers would want to boycott Kotaku when you take a look at some of their past articles.

Why Do Gaming Guys Hate Gaming Girls? is a pretty good example. Written by John Brownlee, it starts off by all but listing all of the most horrible things that gaming men say to women:

I wince every time my girlfriend wanders barefoot out of the kitchen to play a game of Animal Crossing on my Gamecube: Doesn’t she know that the estrogen she’s oozing all over the controller is having an acidic reaction to the Cheetos-dust patina I’ve laboriously worked up over the years? You girls want to game? I’ve got a game you can play. It’s called “make me a sandwich.”

And then suddenly he does an about-face. Just kidding! I love women and am totally enlightened – unlike all those other slobs. And of course I’m totally NOT SEXIST. Not at all.

Right. It seems unlikely that this is a failed attempt at satire when you look at another article by Brownlee: Women Outnumber Men in Games; Men Think They Should Go Back Into The Kitchen. (The comments aren’t quite as bad as you’d expect, but they’re still pretty bad.) And then there’s Mike Fahey’s article: Kotaku Pantsu [pantsu is a Japanese word used to refer to panty-shots in anime]: A Chat With a Wii Panty Girl, during which Fahey spends the whole interview alluding to the fact that he’d love to have sex with this girl, if only it weren’t for that pesky wife. Way to keep it classy. He makes it worse by claiming in the comments that he “highly domesticated boyfriend object” and that of course he had no intent to be creepy. Sure, dude. Whatever. (The comments, unsurprisingly, on Fahey’s article are a lot more horrifying.)

Now, those articles are older articles and there are newer articles that are more even-handed, like: The Official Bulletstorm Breast Size Debate by Stephen Totilo. One can hope that maybe we’ll see more of that from Kotaku, but I won’t hold my breath. Especially not when the article received comments like:

like a disproportionately gargantuan set of sweater puppies would mean the female character can’t be strong? [Read: What’s wrong with us men liking boobies? Why do you girls have to be such haters?]

Well anything in game design is going to be male dominated, and a few will always want nothing but hot bodies with no personality in their games. [Read: If you don’t like it, then leave.]

Of course, horrific staff columns on gaming sites can pop up just about anywhere. Like: I Want To Have Sex With Carmen Sandiego by Andrew Burch, formerly of Destructoid. (“I like my women like I like my dogs: silent, or with my foot in their ass.” …REALLY?)

And then there’s Dan Landis over on ripten, with such gems as a 10 part series on the nicest asses in video games and a post about a fictional game called Vagina Hero.

It’s enough to make a woman bang her head against her desk until she passes out.

Thankfully, there are sane bloggers out there in the gaming blogosphere calling for some sanity. Like the aforementioned Stephen Tutilo (take a look at another article of his on the sex-i-fication of the heroine in Mirror’s edge). Also, Adam Bishop on GamaSutra speaks out against harassment in the workplace as a game developer. Sometimes on forums, people do speak out against indiscriminate sexist and homophobic remarks. And sometimes when a man makes a post that is sexist and obviously not well researched, the result is actually a positive and informative conversation. (Well, okay, until the thread gets dogpiled by people using tactics straight out of Derailing for Dummies.

Still, there are times when I feel like I’m trying to hold back the sea with nothing but my hands.

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