>WTF: The tired Friday edition

>Okay, folks. My schedule is kicking my ass this week, and my ass will be kicked even harder next week. So instead of giving you three real posts this week, you get two and a half. This might happen next week, depending on how much brainpower I have left after tech weekend for the show I’m in… But after that, I promise that I’ll be returning to normal levels of snark.

Anyhow, I couldn’t leave you empty-handed, so here’s some miscellaneous pictures that I haven’t found a home rant for yet.

I’ve forgotten what game this comes from, since I forgot to include the game’s name in the file name when I saved it. I think that says a lot, don’t you? I think I’m becoming a bit too blase about crotch floss as armor.


Okay, does anyone think it’s a coincidence that “GROWING” is right over this poor woman’s boobs? Neither did I. Though I’ll admit the mental image of growing boobs made me think of DragonBall, which was an amusing mental non-sequiter. “AAAAAAAAAA!” “SHE’S REACHED BOOB LEVEL 9000!” “IMPOSSIBLE!”…no? Just me then. Moving on… How about this?

WHAT. THE. FUCK. Seize power? Fine. Seize glory? Sure, if you think people really give a shit about your performance in a shitty knock-off browser-based game. Seize WOMEN? BECAUSE THEY’RE YOURS? AAARG. I know that the Chinese export a lot of translated games, Caesary being one of many, but I’d prefer that they didn’t export their misogyny as well.


This is from an ad campaign in Europe – thank God not in North America. This fails on multiple levels.


Once again proving that the default of anything is male, and that female is always “special” or “distinct”. Even, apparently, with puzzle games. I hope those of you with iPhones refrain from purchasing either version of what looks to be an uninspired Tetris clone.

I can’t decide what I hate more. The cleavagey outfits, the interchangeable faces, the nauseating levels of pink, or the actual words. MISS BIMBO? There’s a game out there called MISS BIMBO? Do they honestly think that making their ad pink will make the title any less revolting? Also, advertisers who perpetuate “bored of” should go die, like, right now. This makes my inner grammarian want to stab my eyes out.

>BTO Online: Selling games with sexism, classism, AND racism!

>BTO (or Business Tycoon Online) is yet another translated Chinese browser-based free online game. It’s published by Dovogame, which also publishes a free online browser RTS called “WarFlow”. (Which isn’t the worst name I’ve heard for an RTS, but it sure as shit isn’t the best by a long shot.)

Unsurprisingly, like pretty much all others of its ilk that I’ve encountered, it uses pretty women and big fake breasts in its ads, despite the game having pretty much nothing to do with sex – unless distribution and franchising is the sort of thing that gets you hot and bothered. If you stumble across one of their tamer ads, like this one, it might seem pretty indistinguishable from the legions of ads just like this one:

I am totally hot and fiscal for you!

Albeit one whose translations are not as good as some other Chinese-translated games out there:

Fix you typo!

Make money like a former Senate Republican? Woo! What fun!

All joking aside, the second banner about making your “frist” million pretty much sets the tone for the whole ad campaign. Boss = man = clothes. Subordinates = women = BOOBIEZ. And that makes sense, right? If there’s one thing that I learned from the few years I worked for a multi-national corporation it’s that only men get to be fully clothed. And let me tell you, showing the amount of skin mandated by corporate policy got pretty damned uncomfortable in the winter, what with being in Canada all. I had to resort to drinking margaritas at my desk to keep warm!
Boobz = profits is one of the biggest laws of economics.
I have to hand it to BTO. They actually have a pretty diverse range of ads in that they steal from pretty much every other online game’s ad campaign ever. We have the Breast Now Button from games like Evony and Caesary:
I’m pretty sure the girl on top is naked behind that box. Whiskey tango foxtrot.

There’s also the “half-naked woman with o-face with cars” from… just about every car ad ever:

Apparently cars give women orgasms, but only expensive ones.
I have to say, it’s pretty surreal seeing all of this sex-based marketing applied to a game about building a business empire. I mean, sure I guess the sexist advertising matches up with the misogynist reality of corporate boardrooms, what with less than 4% of all Fortune 500 CEOs being women. But even so, there seems to be an even larger disconnect between the ads and the game than with other free mmos that use these advertising tactics. When I think “business empire”, I usually don’t associate it with women’s crotches. But apparently, the BTO advertisers would like me to:

Not exactly subtle, are they? Amusingly, I think the advertisers may have fallen into their own trap. It seems like they were so busy staring at this poor woman’s crotch to notice that they misspelled treasure – unless they’re trying to invent new marketing slang. (Treat + treasure = punany?)All of this is bad enough, but BTO really goes for the gold with this one:

…by becoming a white man, amirite? I haven’t seen a single woman resembling an avatar in any of these ads. All of the women shown as presented as rewards, not as people or potential characters.Also, look at the ads and really examine the skin tone. The first woman looks Asian, and a few of the others might be (it’s hard to tell at such small resolution). But all of the ads feature only figures that share a certain paleness of skin tone. The woman in the first ad is even paler than the JFK-ish guy on the left in the “Power-Up” ad! I didn’t find a single figure with a skin tone darker than light caucasian tan until I went hunting for screen shots and found this gem:

Because only women work as admins. (Fuck. Did I fall into a time warp to the 60’s?)

So I guess the lesson is that it’s okay to be non-white, as long as you’re a hot chick willing to bone your boss, who will always be a white man and may also be ugly and/or old. Remember, it doesn’t matter if men in corporate culture aren’t young and attractive because we don’t hold them to such shallow standards. As for the women, tits or gtfo, bitches.

What I really, REALLY love is that if you squint hard enough to make out the words, each portrait is captioned with not a name but a generic descriptor. Like “sociable”, “sweet”, “innocent” or “dutiful” – none of which really tell you a whole lot about what sort of assistants they would be. Then you have the even LESS helpful descriptors like “gorgeous” and “stylish” – which describes the highlighted secretary with her shirt open.

…stylish? I can think of a few adjectives to describe her, but “stylish” isn’t the one that pops to mind. Generally, being stylish involves, um, wearing clothes.

And then there’s the red circle… the type was really small; I initially thought the caption was “Oriental”, which I just couldn’t believe – hence the red circle. I went hunting for a larger screen and discovered that the caption is actually “Outstanding”, which is still pretty ridiculous. Just what is she outstanding at? I think the implication is that it’s not paperwork ifyouknowwhatimean.

The thing is, when I went looking for a larger screenshot just now, I happened to find this:

Okay, what gives? This is a game published by a Chinese company! Even if this is a mis-translation, it’s one that should have been corrected. I mean, this is just awful. Really, unbelievably awful.So, wow. Dovogame – you fail. A lot.

>Lightning is awesome. I just wish she was wearing pants.


I know I write a lot here about things that game companies and game artists do wrong, so I thought that maybe I should start doing occasional looks at things done right, or at least things done mostly right. I just finished playing FFXIII a few weeks ago (yeah, I know – I’m a bit late to the party), so I thought I’d take a look at Lightning, since she is now officially one of my favorite female characters evar.

[SPOILER WARNING: There be lots and lots of spoilers]

I’ve long enjoyed the Final Fantasy series of games because of the excellent writing and because they tend to be a bit more even-handed with the nudity. (Pantlessness is a bit more equal opportunity – just look at characters like Tidus or Kuja…) The more recent games in the series, from about Final Fantasy X onwards, have all had some pretty decent female characters as well. Sure there are some stereotyped characters like Rikku – the genki thief girl – or Lulu – the wise-cracking and sexy mage. But there are some really fantastic female characters – like Payne and Yuna in X(2) or Lightning and Fang in XIII. And even the more stereotyped characters are still engaging and three dimensional.

Anyhow. Lightning.

Lightning is probably one of my favorite female characters in a game I’ve played in the last couple of years.

I’ll admit to totally hating her for the first several hours; at the beginning of the game Lightning is pretty one-dimensional and unsympathetic. She’s completely focused on reaching her sister in time to save her, and doesn’t much care how her actions affect the people around her. When circumstances throw her in with people less capable of dealing with the chaos and violence that the game opens with, she doesn’t try to use her strength to protect those less able to protect themselves. Instead she bluntly tells her future companions to either keep up or get the hell out of her way. Not exactly an endearing introduction. (I’ll admit that I said “what a bitch” several times during the first couple hours.)

Still, there was one thing that I appreciated right off the bat. Lightning is portrayed consistently through the game as the strongest character, bar none. Snow might come close to her prowess, as does Fang, but when it comes to engaging the enemy and emerging completely unscathed no one beats my girl Lightning.

Is that all you got?

Lightning’s strength isn’t ever questioned – it just is. Even better, no one ever comments that she should be easy prey because she’s a woman. Nor does Lightning ever apologize for her strength or try to minimize her abilities to soothe male egos. She knows she’s stronger than everyone else, and she enjoys the fact.

Gotta love that cocky smile.

Now the downside to all of this is that for the first several hours, Lightning does seem almost as if she’s been written as a man with boobs. Out to rescue her sister from certain death, a cavalier attitude toward danger and a bold willingness to face danger single-handedly… these are traits we think of being the hallmarks of male heroes. Not to mention that Lightning does have a certain level of machismo…

Eventually, though, Lightning develops from a one-dimensional man with boobs into a sympathetic, engaging female character. The vulnerability beneath the bravado is revealed in glimpses until we get a picture of a woman who has become what she is in an effort to protect what is important to her. And we learn that the rudeness and unsympathetic behavior she exhibits at the beginning of the game are because she is consumed with guilt at failing at what she sees as her duty – to keep her sister safe. This is the kind of wonderful complex backstory that female characters almost never get. Here is a hyper-competent female character with complex motives and emotionally engaging goals who is allowed to be what she is without anyone ever second-guessing her because of her gender!

Eventually, as is inevitable in any game in the Final Fantasy series, Lightning forms close bonds with her companions and comes to value their safety just as much as her desire to free her sister from imprisonment by the Fal’Cie.

What really made me happy about the relationships she develops with the other party members is that Lightning is allowed to be a character without a love interest. She treats Hope as a younger, more vulnerable version of herself – responding to the fact that he has lost his mother just as she lost her parents, and repeatedly assumes the role of his protector and mentor. With Sazh, she shares the bond of experience and a certain world-weariness.

Incidentally, I was also very glad that Sazh wasn’t just another Wise Cracking Black Man. Thank you for resisting the urge to make him comic relief, Squeenix.

And Lightning’s initial antipathy for Snow deepens into a complex friendship between two very opposite personalities without ever once veering into romantic territory – despite the expectation for a romance between two of your party members. This makes her all that much more unique – how many strong and well-rounded female characters can you think of that don’t have a romance arc?

By the end of the game, I was completely love with Lightning as a character. She wavers in the beginning, but once she finds the path that she needs to walk she doesn’t falter in her resolve. She is strong without being unsympathetic, has complex and engaging relationships with her companions, and she becomes a source of strength to her companions.

At the end, I found myself crying just as much because of the touching reunion between Lightning and Serah as because of the bittersweet nature of Fang and Vanille’s sacrifice.

Lightning’s reunion with Serah

The final scene made me so very happy. Lightning doesn’t try to hide her feelings as she might have at the beginning of the game – she’s allowed to be both strong and sensitive and emotionally vulnerable.

The only thing…. the oooooooonly thing… I wish that Lightning was wearing pants. She’s such a wonderful, otherwise completely unsexualized character that from certain camera angles her lack of pants just felt really jarring – especially since all of the male characters (for once) were completely covered by contrast. She’s such a well-rounded and positive character that I wish that I could whole-heartedly embrace her as a universally positive character. As it is, my eyeroll is a very minimal one, and I very much hope that Lightning continues to be as well written in the upcoming FFXIII-2!


>Why I am arrogant, crazy, ugly, and not worth listening to

>I’m discovering that trackback links are a mixed blessing. Sometimes you find super-interesting stuff as a result. And sometimes you find out that a couple dozen people are slamming you over on reddit. I’m mostly getting the hang of not taking the attacks personally, because it’s not really ME that they’re attacking, if that makes any sense.

Anyhow, one of the gems I discovered in the trackback links was a podcast called the Dungeon Master’s Round Table – their most recent podcast links to this blog in the show notes and featured the first half as a discussion of sexism in gaming. Curious, I fired up the podcast only to find out that the discussion was prompted by the fact that one of the contributors (Jerry) had seen my blog and tweeted that clearly I must be ugly. Because I’m a feminist, or something. I got a laugh out of that and kept listening, hoping to hear some good conversation since the host was pretty clearly upset by that tweet.

Unfortunately, what I heard was pretty much what I expected – a bunch of gaming dudes being defensive and coming up with reasons why no one should listen to me. The first portion is about half an hour, so I’ll spare you from listening and pick out the highlights. For clarity, if I use elipses in the middle of a sentence, it’s to remove things like “uhm, ah” that are just verbal filler. I otherwise tried to limit myself to quoting only complete sentences. I’ve also added some things in brackets to the quotes, just to make clear the context of the comments.

In their words (with my responses)

right now they [Blizzard] have a marketing strategy that works, so calling them out is kind of ridiculous

3.2 million women play WoW. 48 million women play FarmVille. Do the math and tell me that alienating gaming women is a sound business decision.

I haven’t read her website, so you know, I’m talking completely blind about this… She is, from what I understand… telling everybody else why this morality that she’s assigned exists for them too, which it doesn’t…


(I think the post he’s referring to is my original article, since he mentions charts and graphs. Anyway, original article is this one here.)

You know, I really admire their ability to know what I was saying without ever actually reading what I had written. Saying that I’m trying to dictate a universal morality based on seeing at an article, that you didn’t read, that happened to have charts that you also didn’t read… That would be about as sane as if I flipped through an issue of Time Magazine, saw a picture of Barack Obama, and started bitching about how Time was telling me what to think about black people. (In other words, not very.)

This is a fantasy world where I want to play, and the reality is I like chicks with big boobs and very little clothing. I’ll admit that. Maybe I’m a pig. (Another contributor, interrupting: “You are a pig.”) Yeah, I am. That’s fine.


Yeah! Hear that, chicks? That’s fine! How dare us wimminz have the nerve to complain about unequal treatment? We’re failing to consider something far more important! This male gamer likes boobs! I mean, come on! Case closed, slam dunk, let’s move on.

[Here Jerry – the dude who initially tweeted about me clearly being ugly – speaks. He starts off by apologizing for his comment on twitter.] Her ideas I completely agree with. [Long rambling monologue about how he was raised by women and shouldn’t be misogynist and how because he’s married he’s seen some estrogen-filled chick flicks and enjoyed them and then starts talking about Sex in the City 2 and how ridiculous it was. Apologies if I’m not summarizing accurately.]

…Sex in the City 2 or this woman’s blog where you take the bullet train to Too Much Fucking Time on Your Hands We Get It Town and it gets ridiculous. Like, I understand her point but…


“Okay, look. I said something that was out of line and I apologize. Here’s a bunch of reasons why I have anti-sexist cred and why I agree with your ideas. Now that we’ve established that, could you please just shut up and not talk about them?”

So why do I think that if this dude would get serious backlash if he started saying things like: “Like, oh my god Haiti. We get that you’re poor and all your shit was destroyed and you have lots of corruption and stuff, but can you please take this money and SHUT UP? We’re kind of tired of seeing you on the news. It’s been a year, move on with your lives.”

…but since I’m just a woman, it’s okay to tell me to just SHUT UP AND MOVE ON ALREADY.

She has a clear agenda, that is true … Looking at most feminist writings, its clear that there is an agenda there.

Oh my god, they’re on to me! I want to make the same amount of money as my male counterparts, equal representation in government and corporate board rooms, and I want people to stop blaming rape victims for being raped. I’m a crazy fucking radical who has to be stopped! Quick! Somebody put a stop to me before I have a chance to do more damage!

Jerry, don’t beat yourself up. I understand where you were coming from with your comment. I think it was a reactionary comment… [Jerry agrees that it was] …if you felt like you needed to apologize, that’s fine. But you could also tell the world to eff themselves too.

Yeah! She’s just some bitchy feminist, so who cares if you hurt her feelings? Boo fucking hoo. Go cry me a river and go back to writing love letters to Gloria Steinem!

[Jerry – twitter guy – again] Oh, by the way, my wife… has the capacity to really hate men, but she’s been able to spend some time with this blog today and she thinks she’s [meaning me, not his wife] maybe a little crazy. So, that makes me feel good because my feminist wife thinks that maybe the blog lady is a little out in left field.

Congratulations! You’ve found one woman who agrees with you! Clearly that invalidates everything I am saying! Sexism only exists if ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE say it does.

(Also, mental illness automatically invalidates anything that a person says. True story.)

[about art on Blizzard’s site] …the fanart is more racy than the official art because they’re pretty classy folks for the most part…



She seems like someone who plays WoW too much and has too much time to bitch about things.

Make up your minds, guys. EITHER I have too much time to bitch about things, OR I play WoW too much. It can’t be both, because if I play WoW too much, then I don’t have time to bitch about things and vice versa. C’mon. If you’re going to find reasons to dismiss me, at least don’t make statements that logically contradict themselves in the same sentence.

[The host] This woman makes some good points, however crazy she must be.

I’m glad one of you agrees with me. I would have appreciated you calling your friends on their bullshit rather than taking the easy way out and throwing me to the wolves, but I guess that would be asking you to feel uncomfortable. So, on second thought, never mind. It’s easier for everyone involved if we all agree that I’m crazy.

The feminist point of view for me as a guy is when they come out and say all men are pigs and all men like this and that…

Oh, shucks! I have to admit, there’s nothing I love more than man-hating and gender-reductionism! Guilty!

Not every feminist is a feminazi

Consensus: Did they Godwin themselves? I’m inclined to say yes, but I’m open to other opinions.

I hate to say it, but I may come to this chick’s site just to see awesome pictures

… I can’t come up with a response that isn’t a proofless insult. However, I suspect the ridiculousness of this statement is its own counter-argument.

So, Jerry, it would be inappropriate at this time to say that your wife is hot?


Yes. Jerry’s wife is hot while I am clearly a shambling, drooling horror. (Remember, feminist = ugly.) Pretty wins the day!

[Soon after this they changed the subject and started talking about D&D at GenCon.]

What came next

I held off commenting until I’d listened to the whole conversation. Even then I debated with myself for a bit on whether I should comment at all. I decided to err on the side of stupidity (read: commenting), mostly because the host really did seem earnest in his desire to address the issue of sexism in gaming. I may not like the fact that he caved in the face of a unified resistant front from the other contributors and called me crazy, but I do appreciate the fact that I think he at least was attempting to have a productive conversation.

And that’s the thing. As much as I appreciate my dedicated readers, you’re kind of the choir. I enjoy preaching to you, but sometimes it doesn’t feel productive. It’s guys like the host that I want to reach out to, guys who maybe don’t agree with me but who are still willing to listen to what I have to say without dismissing it out of hand.

As such, I made the effort to keep my comment vitriol-free. (It’s still snarky, but I felt a little entitled after being insulted for half an hour. Not terribly mature, I know, I know.) Here’s the comment I left:

Hi. I’m the crazy ugly feminazi with too much time on my hands who writes Go Make Me A Sandwich. I feel compelled to assert a few things, since I couldn’t exactly defend myself. First, I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts, which is a five-year honors program and gives me an excellent grounding in art history and theory. Secondly, I have worked as a freelance illustrator in the rpg industry. I won’t make any assertions as to my hotness or my mental health.

If you’d be interested in doing a followup show and actually talking TO me instead of ABOUT me, I’d be game. My contact info can be found through my blog, which I hope you would read more in-depth before addressing my credentials, appearance, politics, mental health, or my radical “agenda”.


So I guess we’ll see what happens. Should be amusing. Just one more thing.

Don’t troll these guys.

I mean it! (Also it’s not worth it. Srsly.)

[Edit: The host did contact me through email and has been pretty apologetic about the whole affair. We’ll see where it goes from here, but I’m cautiously optimistic for a positive outcome.]

>Ubisoft makes games for girls that I want to KILL WITH FIRE

>[Edited to fix some minor formatting issues.]

The other day I stumbled across a link to the sort of game that makes me cringe – Imagine Fashion Party. According to Amazon, the key features are:

  • Express your individual creativity in workshops including hair, makeup, clothing and accessories
  • Use the Wii remote and nunchuck as scissors, hair brushes, makeup applicator and more
  • Make your models perform the right moves to show off your designs in front of fierce judges
  • Design in Creation mode, compete in the Reality Show, and challenge friends in mini-games
  • Roll out your collection in a photo shoot and catwalk show, and share it with your friends via wi-fi


But then I noticed that this trainwreck of a “game” was by Ubisoft! I was curious about what other “girl’s games” they might have in their lineup, so I did a little poking around and discovered that Imagine is actually its own line of video games with at least thirty-seven titles for the DS and Wii. (I think there may be a few that aren’t showing up on Amazon.)

Even with the duplicates, that’s still a pretty impressive number of titles. Most, though not all, games revolve around an occupation. Admittedly, a few of the titles are duplicates; there are three fashion designer titles, two rock star titles, two teacher titles, and two vet titles. But there’s still a pretty impressive list of careers represented, including things like… Fashion Designer. And Fashion Stylist. And Makeup Artist. And Salon Stylist. In fact, a large portion of the careers represented by Imagine titles are stereotypically feminine roles. And even the ones that aren’t are ridiculously infantalized or feminized.

For instance, instead of “Imagine Veterinarian”, there are two “Imagine Animal Doctor” titles. Do they think that girls are too stupid to understand words longer than 2 syllables? And what about “Resort Owner” and “Boutique Owner”? Are these the only types of businesses that little girls should aspire to own? Even the sports titles are for sports that are traditionally “acceptable” female sports like cheerleading, ice skating, and gymnastics.

Just for shits and giggles, I made a tally of represented careers counted by job categories that were totally made up by me. Duplicate careers are counted – which means that all three “Fashion Designer” titles were counted under Fashion, etc. I also color-coded the resulting chart to help illustrate my point. (“Medicine” is orange because it is a bit of a stereotype, but the titles are for doctors, not nurses – which is a more traditional stereotype.)

Look at that! Nine titles just for fashion! NINE! Almost a quarter of all of their titles are devoted to telling girls that they should find fashion fun and important! ARG! Out of all of the careers that might make interesting games that exist out there, Ubisoft couldn’t find careers that didn’t involve either being pretty or making things look pretty???Okay. So Ubisoft wants to market to girls who like girly things, you might be saying. And that might be reasonable. But then how does one explain the Imagine Babyz series of titles – Imagine Babyz, Imagine Party Babyz, and Imagine Babyz Fashion? That just takes the patronizing tone to a whole new level. “Not only are we going to try to sell you games about babies, but we’re also going to give it a cutesy misspelling since you girls should be worrying more about babies and looking pretty than spelling!”


Even then – EVEN THEN – I might have been able to forgive them if I hadn’t gone looking for screen captures of Imagine games:

LEFT: Sweet 16 – a game about trying to become popular through throwing THE BEST PARTIES EVAR OMG! RIGHT: Makeup Artist – a screen capture from the Wii minigame in which you have to color inside the lip-shaped lines. Yawn.

This is from one of the many fashion design titles. I forget which.
From Champion Rider. Because all girls love horses, amirite?

Oh god. So. Many. Pastels. So. Much. Inane. Cuteness.

And all of this is just one series of “girls games” by just one company! There are dozens, if not hundreds of these shitty stereotype-ridden, steaming piles of failure out there – all marketed as “games for girls”. And judging by the comments and reviews on Amazon, there seem to be a fair amount of mothers who play these games with their daughters. Way to teach your daughters about female empowerment, ladies.The thing that makes it all so ridiculous for me is that Ubisoft is pretty famous for its hyper-violent adult titles like Splinter Cell, Assassin’s Creed, Prince of Persia, to name a few:

So all of this “games for girls” bullshit is just another way in which the gaming establishment (read:men) is telling gaming women that “YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE”. And now I seriously want to buy as many copies as I can find of these horrendous games and set them on fire like the trash that they are.


>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


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!

>Re-launched WoW Galleries: Analysis, Part 4 (right and wrong)

>Last time, I highlighted the difference between class depictions with male figures and class depictions with female figures. In this post, I’m going to end the series with some comparisons of some positive art and some problematic art.

Some of the response that I get to complaints about over-sexualized women in game art is can be summed up in one of two ways: 1) sex sells tits or gtfo or 2) OMG WUT DO U WIMMINZ WANT ALL UGLY GIRLZ OR SUMTHIN? And then you get the artists themselves who say things like:

When I draw a woman, I want to draw her as sexy as possible, I can’t really help that. That doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t draw a woman more realistically, but that’s the truth.

(Taken from the comment thread on the previous post.) Since not sexualizing women seems to be a challenging concept for a lot of male gamers and artists, so I thought I’d put together a basic primer on ways to create positive depictions of women.

First: The basics (so I don’t wind up repeating myself)

Make an effort to learn how female anatomy works. In particular, educate yourself about how breasts – REAL breasts – work. Life-drawing is best, but there are lots of great resources on the internet and in print. Then put what you learn into practice.

Don’t use porn as a reference.

When composing your image, choose a pose and angle that are suited to telling a story. That isn’t PLEASE COME FUCK ME.

Repeat after me: I will not draw gratuitous cleavage. I will not give female clothing mysterious holes. I will not make breasts larger than heads.

Draw clothing appropriate to the setting. That means no bikinis in the middle of a snowfield. Or on a battlefield.

If your character is toting a five foot long sword, she should probably have some muscles.

Second: Advanced lessons and some examples

All of the examples here listed as “WRONG” violate at least one of the previous rules. Some of them violate several at once. I won’t belabor the point with these examples – the violations should be easy to spot.

Please excuse me. I have to take a dump.

Remember the basics? This breaks almost every single one of those rules. DON’T DO THAT. If your art looks anything like this, throw it out and start over.

This is going to seem counter-intuitive, since I spent most of my last post bitching about how passively women are depicted in Blizzard’s art. But sometimes when drawing female characters, a neutral pose is better than an active pose. The death knight on the left is active, yes, but look at the bizarre pose she is contorted into that is pretty clearly designed to show off her curves. Contrast that with the death knight on the right, who is standing still, but with her weapon at the ready. The woman on the right is clearly more threatening; the woman on the left just looks like a model in a silly pose.Expression is important too. People are drawn to faces. The image on the left, with the vaccuous and generically inviting expression on her face, doesn’t really convey much of a sense of character. The image on the right is full of it. This woman is not posing for your benefit. Her expression is genuinely menacing. This is a character I want to play! The Draenei? Totally forgettable.

Another example of my point. The druid on the left, while active, is still wrong. Again, the pose serves more to emphasize her, ahem, “feminine wiles” than to give her any real sense of character. Contrast this with the druid on the right, who looks capable of doing things more important than running through the forest in a weird Azerothian version of Baywatch.

Now these are a little less obvious, so I’ve circled the problematic bits. (You might have to click through to see what I’m talking about.) All of these women are fierce, all of them are active, and all of them are in a believable environment. But all three of them are still wrong. Let female characters be awesome without having to show their tits and/or midriff!

The druid on the right is fierce! Like a mitten!

Okay. The druid on the left is an edge case for me – her robes are pretty tight. But she gets a pass because she’s mostly covered up and because she’s COMPLETELY AWESOME. Come on, she’s calling lightning from the sky. What does the druid on the right have going for her? Nothing. (Oh look, it’s a woman in a revealing outfit trying to look vaguely fierce. Yawn.)

Resist the temptation to have your female characters standing around and doing nothing. Draw them doing awesome things!

I won’t waste time discussing why number three is wrong. If you’re having trouble with that, go back and read the basics before taking a second look. However, I will divert matters for one second to talk about prettiness. Not all of your female characters have to be pretty! If you’re drawing a character that is monstrous in nature (like undead) it’s okay to have them be monstrous! Do you have any idea how jealous I was when I discovered that only MALE undead get to have missing jaws in WoW?

Okay. Back on track…

Both number and number two are rotten everywhere except their (pretty) faces and their (perky) boobs – which is a particular pet peeve of mine. Let them be gross! But number one gets a pass where number two doesn’t because of a few factors. First, number one is posed actively, and not just for the sake of showing off her boobs. Her stance and armor are appropriate for the type of fighter she’s supposed to be, and her expression is wonderfully cocky.

Number does have some things going for it: she’s covered, her expression is actually menacing, and the image conveys a real sense of atmosphere. However, once again we have the aforementioned magical rotless breasts and the passive stance. What tips it over into fail for me is the visible nipple. Come on, guys. Don’t put visible nipples on dead things. That’s just yucky.

Lastly, we’ll close with the blood elf rogue. This! This is what I want! She is active and competent looking and actually looks like an adventurer! There is a story in this image. I can totally imagine trying to sneak past that giant. This is an exciting avatar! Do you hear me, Blizzard? Now go and do more of it. Lots more.

[Edit: part 5, the final installment, can be found here.]

>Re-launched WoW Galleries: Analysis, Part 3 (unbalanced class depictions)

>In my last post, I picked out some images from the re-launched galleries to illustrate why numbers can be misleading and why it’s important to consider the content and context of images when you’re looking at them. This time we’re going to look at images that clearly depict characters of a specific class to see how women are often portrayed differently than men as archetypes of a given class.

They say an image is worth a thousand words. To me, this picture speaks volumes:

So, okay, on the surface we don’t have anything that we haven’t seen before. We’ve got fully clad dude mage next to scantily clad lady mage. Of course she’s got big breasts, and of course they’re just about popping out of her top. Whatever. What bothers me most is not how she’s dressed, but how she’s clinging on to this big strong man as he stands there with a cocky expression, ready to cast a spell. Yet another example of the attitude that if you need someone to go on an adventure in Azeroth, you’d better find a man.Now I’ll admit the above picture isn’t from the Classes gallery. It’s actually from the Races gallery. So here are images all pulled from the Classes gallery to help illustrate my point further…

Pretty standard mage, right? Long robes, fully covered, looking dramatic while preparing to cast a spell… Nothing we all haven’t seen many times before. Now compare this with, oh, every picture ever of female mages:

I shit you not, every single picture in the Classes gallery that is tagged as mage and depicts a female has ridiculous cleavage, even when it’s in somewhat questionable taste. These are all of the boobs, I mean, female mages you’ll see in the Classes gallery. The boobs on the top right are undead boobs, which is gross. And the boobs in the bottom middle are gnome boobs, which is even grosser. I mean, seriously – please don’t sexualize gnomes of either sex ever. Yuck.

Warlocks seem to fare a little better in their depictions, even if they wind up contorted into unnatural poses to emphasis their, uh, attributes. But overall, these two women just aren’t as compelling as the male warlock. According to the lore, warlocks are supposed to be mages who’ve gone bad. They make pacts with demons for crying out loud! When I look at the male warlock, he looks dangerous and maybe disturbed. The women, well, they kind of look pretty while waving their hands around.And really, that’s a problem with a lot of the class artwork. So many of the male class images show male figures doing stuff dramatically while the female class images just show figures posing prettily. Like…

So, yay that the female priest is actually covered and doesn’t have ridiculous boob-holes or thigh-slits or body paint masquerading as clothing. But look at these two images next to each other. The priest on the right looks like he is about five seconds from seriously messing up your day. The priest on the left is just posed against a neutral background, almost like she’s part of some weird Azerothian photo shoot.

Again, the usual dichotomy of clothed (men) versus not (woman). And again you have examples of men in dynamic poses while the woman is in a static pose. The male hunters have their bows drawn and are about to actually fire at something. The female hunter is standing in a neutral pose with her hips cocked, which makes the figure softer and less threatening.

Also, while her arrow is on fire, her bow is not drawn and the arrow is pointed at the ground. And like our female priest, she is depicted on a flat grey background. With all of the many and varied landscapes that Azeroth has to offer, the artist couldn’t think of one to put her in? Not one? Hell, plunk her in the Barrens if you’re feeling lazy. Or Tanaris, or the salt flats in Thousand Needles. Something! But no, again our female class depiction is just another model posing for the camera.

Even when both of the figures are in neutral poses, there’s still a marked difference between male and female depictions. It’s impressive how many points of divergence there are when both illustrations clearly started with the same idea. There’s the obvious difference of armor: the male paladin is wearing about fifty pounds of plate mail while female paladin is wearing spandex with armored shoulders and boots. (Why don’t female paladins ever get to be hulking walls of glowy metal, huh?) But again, posing is almost the more important difference.

Everything about the female paladin is designed to be alluring. She stands with her hips cocked and her head tilted. The expression on her face is seductive, with a coy smile and half-lidded eyes that are supposed to be inviting. Her sword is unsheathed, but is not held ready and is positioned so as to further emphasize the exaggerated stance she is in.

The male paladin is everything that we’d expect to see in a paladin. His pose is erect, his shoulders and hips are squared. He looks at the viewer with a solemn expression, and while he does not look as if he about to attack, his weapon is still at the ready. Everything about this character conveys strength and power, while the female figure conveys only softness and sexual invitation.

Of course, even when the female figures are depicted as active, often they are hyper-sexualized as well (see above mage boobs). Sometimes this can be of the mildly bothersome variety (OMG! She’s so cool! If only I couldn’t see her tits!):

Sometimes it only makes me want to facepalm:

And sometimes it makes me want to scream and hit things very hard:

Neither of these women get to be rogues – that privilege remains the bailiwick of our male rogue. These women are just porn stars. The rogue on the left is bad enough – her arched back and outthrust tits and ass just scream “fuckable”. But the rogue on the right? SO. MUCH. RAGE.

So, okay. We have the complete lack of clothing. We have the pose – arched back with outthrust boobs. We have the perspective, which emphasizes the size of the boobs. And we have the angle, which makes her look as if she is thrusting her ladybits right at the viewer. The sum total of all these elements reads something like: I KILL THINGS WITH MY LADYBITS. Or something like that anyway.

All of which brings me back to the point I made at the beginning of this post. Male adventurers in Azeroth get to do important things, while female adventurers just get to stand around and look pretty. But maybe I’m getting bent out of shape over nothing. Trolls, orcs, and night elves don’t exist right? This is all “just fantasy” after all.


(Next up: positive female depictions versus problematic female depictions)

>Sexist depictions of women in gaming: links with numbers

>Okay, folks. It’s been pointed out to me that having links to my various posts with actual numbers might be helpful for people looking to linkspam people saying stupid things on the internet about games not being sexist. So I’m putting up this post just to collect the most useful stuff in one place. For the most part, what you’ll find here is numbers based on surveys of game artwork.

My original article about sexist depictions of women in gaming can be found here. In it, I surveyed art from MMOs, console games, CCGs, and tabletop RPGs and came up with detailed numbers of sexist depictions in various sources.

There is also a followup survey done of the relaunched galleries on the official WoW site after the release of the Cataclysm expansion. The survey is the first part in a series that also includes posts on why the numbers are misleading, unbalanced class depictions, and comparisons of good and bad character design.

It’s very probably that any of these links will be responded to with comments along the line of “but gaming is sexist against men too!”. You may want to link them to this post about why idealized figures are not the same as sexualized figures. (Do note that since I was pretty angry when I wrote that post, it’s likely that they will respond that I’m biased.)

Feel free to link to any of these posts if you feel like it. This post will be edited to add new links whenever I do something that includes actual numbers.

>Re-launched WoW Galleries: Analysis, Part 2 (Numbers lie. Sort of.)

>In my last post, I examined the re-launched galleries on the official WoW site according to the criteria of my original survey. The first post was just a look at the numbers as they were counted. From here on out, we’ll be looking at some of the actual images pulled from the galleries on the official WoW site.

(As such, I’ll note that all of the images used here are official Blizzard artwork; the fanart gallery was not counted, and nor do I use any images from the fanart gallery in these posts. While Blizzard is choosing which fanart submissions to post on their site, they themselves did not commission the artwork, nor did they pay for it – so I decided to err on the side of caution.)

In the last post, the significant trends that were observed was the increase in female figures, the increase in actively posed female figures, and the increase in suggestive depictions of men. Those seem like positive things, right? Even if the changes were small, they were all changes in the right direction. Well…

Why the numbers aren’t as positive as they seem

In the original survey, my criteria for what qualifies as suggestive is intended to be slightly ridiculous in that it is very easy for a male figure to be classified as suggestive while being comparatively hard for female figures to be classified as suggestive.

All of these were counted as suggestive male figures. The left-most figure is classified as suggestive male figure because he has a discernable gender (male) and isn’t wearing a shirt. Now, we can argue about whether or not it’s reasonable for some people to find giant bipedal cows sexy, but I feel a little more confident in saying that it’s definitely ridiculous for someone to find an insect sexy. (But who knows, perhaps that’s just my arachnophobia talking.)

The middle figure is also a pretty silly inclusion. This cartoonish goblin is in no way presented as a “sexy” figure, but his lack of pants automatically included him in the suggestive category. The orc on the right is the only figure with even a semi-legitimate claim to actual sexiness. A case could be made for him being a sexualized figure. But I could also put together a pretty good case for him not being sexualized, so I’ll settle for calling the running orc an edge case.

Now when it came to female figures, any female figure that was wearing a leg-covering garment and whose costume did not expose anything suggestive (cleavage, midriff, portions of thighs, butt, etc) were automatically counted as not suggestively attired, even if their outfit was clearly spray-painted on and left nothing to the imagination. Here are some of the women counted as not suggestive:

The blood elf paladin seems to be wearing spandex instead of the impossibly huge plate armor that male paladin characters usually get to wear. Furthermore, her costume has two conveniently placed straps that call attention to her breasts, since they hang right where her nipples would be.

The rogue fares a bit better in terms of costume in that it looks like actual armor and not just spandex. However, it’s every bit as tight as the blood elf paladin’s outfit, and she has the ridiculously sexualized pose to boot! Her pose has her arching her back while simultaneously thrusting out both her breasts and her ass. It’s pretty clear that she’s on display for the male viewer.

As for the two undead… During my counts, I didn’t count any undead as suggestive since they’re – you know – dead. But when you look at these undead women, they reflect what you see when you look at almost all art of female undead. Both women are pretty seriously rotten, and yet somehow their faces show no trace of rot.

Furthermore, neither do their breasts – which are still large and improbably perky given the state of the rest of them. Are women in Azeroth too poor to afford a full embalming, so they just get their face and tits done? “Well, I might be dead, but at least I’ll still have a great rack!”. Give me a break. These women are dead, and yet they’re still being designed to appeal to male viewers.

As for the last two, calling the warlock not suggestively attired is pretty ridiculous since I can discern anatomical features not normally visible through clothing. (If I can see individual ribs, she might as well not be wearing clothing at all.) The priest’s robes are pretty tight too, though not as tight as the warlock. However, there’s clearly visible underboob through the robe, and the cross is pretty clearly only there to call attention to her breasts.

Not all suggestive depictions are created equal

Second, we have to consider that there is absolutely a difference between the majority of male figures that were counted as suggestive and female figures that were counted as suggestive. For instance, look at this concept art of male and female Draenei:

Both of these characters were counted as suggestive – the male because he’s not wearing pants and the female because she’s not wearing much of anything at all. Is the male Draenei suggestive? Maybe. Is he as sexualized as the female Draenei? Absolutely not.

I’m not going to try to figure out whether the suggestive monstrous figures that were counted were meant to appeal to women. But I am going to say that there is a world of difference between this:

and this:

These women are being presented as sexual objects in a way that just isn’t true for the majority, if not all, of the suggestive male figures. Every single of one of these women is drawn to be nothing more than a collection of sexy parts, presented for maximum titillation. I mean, I think this image says it all:

By the numbers, the new gallery shows an improvement in all measureable sexist trends except for depictions of class archetypes. But looking at the images tells a different story. Even if Blizzard were to start counting the numbers of male and female figures in their illustrations and making a conscious effort to have men and women equally represented, it wouldn’t change the underlying attitude that women in Azeroth exist to be sexually pleasing to men.

What’s next

· Comparisons of male class illustrations and female class illustrations.
· Comparisons of positive female depictions and problematic female depictions
· Another gender-swap! Now with 200% more ridiculousness!

[Edit: Part 3 is now up!]