From the mailbag: things I wouldn’t have caught on my own.

[Before I get started, a brief personal note: So I’m unemployed again (long story, don’t want to go into it) and I’ve been moping. Yes, childish, whatever. Now that I’ve had a good mope, I’ll get back to updating. I’m incredibly embarassed that this is only my fourth post this month. To whit, I’ll make sure that I get up another post this weekend, despite my usual policy of not posting on weekends. And I will post more frequently afterwards, though I can’t say that I’d manage a return to three posts a week.

Also, I have been reading comments. I just don’t feel like I have a lot to say in response right now. That is all.]

So I’ve been getting a lot of email lately from people who have been forwarding me stuff that I would have missed otherwise. I tagged these emails but hadn’t really found an opportunity to use them, so I thought I’d go through more recent emails and pull out the best (worst?) things people have sent me lately.

The bad

Using female body parts to sell games. Literally.

First up, this link to a feature on the Top 10 Embarrassingly Bad Moments in Video Games. And of course, what roundup of video gaming’s most embarrassing moments would be complete without sexist advertising? Specifically, check out numbers 10 and 4:

Okay, let me just burst some bubbles. As a woman who games, I have never, ever wanted to have sex with a video game. Sorry, guys, that’s just the way it is. Also, I’m pretty sure that even if I was a heterosexual man, a woman in a bikini top with a price painted on her stomach would not induce me to spend money on any product. Ever.

Of course, sometimes getting real women to show off their bits in order to make you money gets inconvenient. Which is why game companies often just get their digital women to do that for them. After all, digital women won’t complain about being stereotyped or mistreated, right? Free-to-play MMOs are all about this, since they don’t really make much money up front. (It’s all about the micro-transactions, people. Think about how many Hello Kitty outfits you could buy for your custom avatar with the fee for a professional model!)

My brother sent this to me, saying that he thought I could “rage about it amusingly”.

Alas, I hate to disappoint but I find my rage is somewhat tired these days. Okay sure she’s mostly naked. And yes we have a great case of crotch-centric logo-placement that is about as subtle as a brick. And okay, she’s pretty anorexic and might be missing part of her ribcage. But I have to say, TERA has really lowered the bar for me. I mean, her boobs are covered, even if it’s only with a tube of fabric. And while she might not be wearing any clothes, she is at least not contorted into anatomically impossible positions designed to show off both tits and ass. Also, there aren’t any other mostly-naked women nearby that look about to initiate some kind of pirate lesbian sex, which is also a huge improvement over TERA.

So all in all, I’ll give it a 6.5 out of 10. Is it sexist? Yes. But come on people. Vanilla sexism just doesn’t cut it anymore! We have to move with the times.


Which brings us to our next goody from the mail bag… I guess game companies are getting jealous of how Hollywood is systematically murdering all of our best childhood memories (I’m looking at YOU, X-Men: The Last Stand!), because that’s the only way I can explain this:

So what we have here are new designs for Harley Quinn in the upcoming Arkham City game, as compared to Harley Quinn from the excellent cartoon series. And, man. I’m mad on Harley’s behalf here. The animated Harley was an awesome character, but the Arkham City Harley? She just looks like a wannabe bad girl with a goth fetish, too much plastic surgery, and industrial-strength corsets. (Seriously? How does she get cinched in that far? I want to pass out just looking at her!)

And this kills me! Animated Harley wears full-body spandex for crying out loud. How insane are game developers when they look at a woman wearing nothing but spandex and think “you know, she’s just wearing too much clothing”. Only in the gaming world, I swear.

Casual sexism… is still sexism (but I guess not as bad as that other stuff)

Next up… okay I’ll admit I’m sort of cheating since this isn’t directly gaming related. But it’s irksome enough that I figured I’d cheat, since this is (after all) my blog:

(Link with photo here.)

Thanks, Microsoft. Please do continue to perpetuate the stereotype that the only people who care about technical things are men. (Straight men of course.) Because the tech/gaming world doesn’t have enough casual sexism floating around. So thanks for reinforcing my decision to never use Internet Explorer for anything ever.

I mean, okay. They’re not putting an IE CD case in front of a naked vajayjay, but… still. Grow up, guys.

The good?

I wanted to finish up with something not crappy, or at least something I think is not crappy. But then, I might be biased since it features a very brief interview with yours truly. Recently I got emailed about being interviewed for a podcast about the portrayal of women in video games that was being done as a project for a university game design course. Once I stopped laughing at the idea of anything I say having a bearing on someone’s grades, I was quite happy to do the interview, and I think the end result is pretty cool. I was especially amused at how they compensated for my lack of a webcam, since it is a video podcast.

Anywhoo, the link is here. It’s only about 6 minutes, so I suggest giving it a listen.

9 thoughts on “From the mailbag: things I wouldn’t have caught on my own.

  1. Mm, well I’m sorry your job didn’t work out :(. No one should push the subject if you don’t want to go into it.

    I must say though, even if it’s not Tera, the sexism is still pretty bad. Is it really so hard to think of women beyond something to fap off to for some of these developers? Sexual decorations first, dynamic character second (or not at all!). If one can only think of bothering to put women in a world if they’re jiggling and practically naked and otherwise sexually serving, if it’s so hard (or not worth it, to some people) to think of them beyond such a reductive and one-dimensional scope… there /might/ be some issues with women going on behind the scenes there.

  2. Sorry to hear that you lost your job. I really enjoy reading your blog, and discovered it just before you got the job and started updating less. I was hoping you’d start updating more at some point, but not for this reason.

  3. Well, my sister didn’t get her job back. That’s one theory falsified in the name of sicence, if it makes you happy.

    Now, I’m not not an expert in anatomy here, but isn’t that pirate woman’s (girl’s?) torso way in the hell too large? And those arms! Dear god, the noodle people have leaked out of CLAMP.

    The Harley thing is just infuriating. I get that the Arkham games are supposed to be Nolan!Batman, so you couldn’t really have Harley being cartoony as she normally is. I get that it has to look like a horror movie or something. But, for fuck’s sake, if you can’t make a harlequin costume look terrifying then you really need a better graphics team. So, we lose an iconic costume and we get… this? Not scary. Looks like a bad knockoff of Jeanette Voerman. (and hell, everyone preferred Therese anyway)

    Also, why do these models all have to look strung out on Valium? the game is Battle Cruiser 3000, right? The point of a game like that is war. Competition. It’s supposed to be exhilarating. That’s why we would, in theory, play it. Why can’t we at least see some adrenaline here? Same with the Pirate woman. And that other model, the one with the price body painted, how the fuck am I even supposed to know what she’s selling? And why would I even buy it when she looks at interested in this thing as a zombie? I know a woman that smashed my best friend’s car window and stole her 3DS. Sure as fuck made me go “Holy shit, that thing’s probably awesome.” and I hate handheld shit. Where the hell are women like that in advertising?

  4. I’m so extremely disappointed about Harley’s “update.” She’s one of my favorite comic book characters. There are no words 😦

    And so sorry to hear about your job, as well. I wish you luck in the future

    • Harley was everyone’s favourite character; you don’t get fans to rejoice at retconning in a while new sidekick unless that sidekick’s pure genius. That’s what’s so baffling about this: where in the hell did they find a focus group that looked at the “before” and “after” pictures and actually approved?

  5. I genuinely don’t understand Harley’s redesigns. They seem to completely miss the point of her character, which is odd, because I think the original creators of Harley even had influence on her new look.

    She’s supposed to be this innocent, somewhat clueless character who has been completely corrupted by the Joker. She’s the epitome of what his evil influence is capable of- that he was able to turn somebody so sweet and naive into an insane criminal who was completely devoted to him with a few simple words. He’s THAT evil.

    So the cutesy spandex outfit made sense. Her idea of trying to be sexually appealing was to don an outfit more suited to little girls’ gymnastics than that of a sexy, mature woman.

    These new outfits…don’t really show that at all. And I noticed Harley’s breasts seem to have grown in size – they’re even bigger than Poison Ivy’s! Isn’t Ivy supposed to be the “sexy” one of the Gotham villains?

    Let’s not mention that Harley is a HARLEQUIN to match the Joker’s clown theme. Not a freaking dominatrix-nurse or a Hot Topic reject. 😦

  6. Speaking of stuff in the mailbag, may I suggest an article that may have been suggested before: The recent WoW comics.

    Where to start? Well, you could mention that every single female character is depicted in ridiculously skimpy clothing, the only exceptions being the crones and Aegwynn. You could also mention the fact that almost every female is dependant on magic for their attacks, and the only one who isn’t can barely even stand because she’s too ‘weakened’ from her magic addiction. Or perhaps the numerous cleavage shots throughout the series? Or perhaps the fact that Jaina has -no rib cage-? And don’t even get me STARTED on the sheer MASS of sphereboob. To add insult to the injuries above, most of the protagonists are male, melee fighters, and depicted with huge armor and weaponry. They also usually end up riding to the rescue of the female characters (sometimes literally), or in one notable example, saving them from themselves/temptation. Remember kids, women are stupid and need a man to guide them through their lives. And the ICING on the proverbial cake? The two times that female characters are shown who are NOT either attractive or cleavagey, they are either drawing the pretty elf girls into temptation or are killed within four panels. Why, Blizz, you just reminded me why I stopped giving you $15 a month to shove garbage in my face.

    • Honestly, Blizzard lore is pretty freaking sexist. But it’s hard for me to tease apart where the Blizzard sexism ends and the comics sexism begins – and comics are, sadly, a different kettle of fish with different issues. While the art I’ve seen out of the comics is pretty fucking terrible, I’m – sadly – going to leave it alone for the most part, just because I’m not very conversant with comics myself. (I make an exception for the Buffy comics, but that’s pretty much it.)

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