Mass Effect Fail: the stuff BioWare didn’t get right (Part 1)

Female Shepard is an easy example of what BioWare got right with the Mass Effect series, but that doesn’t obviate the massive amounts of gender fail that can be found throughout both games. So I thought I’d take a look at the things that stuck out to me as irksome. Obviously, spoilers will abound for the Mass Effect series – though I’ll request that commenters tag spoilers for DA2, which I haven’t played yet. (Thank you.)

Anyhow, I had planned to make this one post but discovered that I can’t fit everything I want to say into just one post, so I’m splitting it into two. Today’s post focuses on gender fail in character design; next time I’ll look at the gender fail in writing. And then I’ll come back and talk about the few bits of non-FemShep related gender win, just to end on an up note.

Gender fail: character designs

I’ve bitched about Matriarch Benezia in a previous post, so I won’t revisit that particular rant except to say that it’s pretty ridiculous that a female villain is showing more cleavage than her daughter, who is supposed to be a potential love interest for the protagonist. As bothersome as I found Benezia, though, BioWare actually managed to design female characters that were even worse in Mass Effect 2: Miranda, Samara, and Jack.

Jack, of course, wears those ridiculous nipple straps. I made a point on my second playthrough of doing her loyalty mission first, despite caring nothing for her as a character, just because I wanted to get her a goddamn shirt. Samara’s outfit is unbelievably cleavagey, and with Miranda you have to choose between a white outfit that emphasizes her tits and crotch or a black outfit that is so tight you can see her belly button. Great. That’s bad enough, but then we constantly get bombarded with camera angles and shot compositions that emphasize their bits even more.

See, there are some pretty predictable ways in which humans look at images. The closest thing to the camera will be a natural focal point. The center of the image also tends to be a focal point. Because humans are very face-oriented, we tend to follow lines of sight if we can see someone’s eyes. And strong lines often lead a viewer’s eye along that line. So with these basics of composition in mind, let’s look at some screenshots:

Miranda’s pretty infamous because at THREE DIFFERENT POINTS in her conversation tree, you get presented with a closeup of Miranda’s ass cleavage – which is just ridiculous. Yes, yes, I get that she’s beautiful. Do you have to constantly wave her ass in my face? Even worse is the fact that she’s constantly talking about her genetic modification, which includes her hawtness. Because her hawtness is part of what gives her an edge, and btw did you know that she was genetically engineered to be hawt and OH MY GOD I GET IT STFU ABOUT BEING HAWT.

Sadly, Miranda is the most tame of your non-Tali female crew. Samara is even worse. Miranda only shows a little bit of cleavage. Samara shows off half her chest, which is considerable given that her bazongas are even bigger than Miranda’s. And with Samara, it always seems like she’s either being shot from boob perspective (from below looking up) or that she’s standing in ridiculously sexualized poses that have her arching her back or curving her spine while simultaneously cocking her hips. Sometimes she doesn’t look so much like a badass Asari warrior as she looks like Bayonetta painted blue with some headtentacles:


The thing I find especially baffling is that Samara is wearing much less clothing than her daughter Morinth, who is supposed to be this terrifyingly badass sexual predator that microwaves your brain with sexy. Shouldn’t their character designs be reversed if that’s the case? Because really, I have a hard time being intimidated by Samara when her every move seems calculated to provide a wank-factor.

Samara is pretty awful, cleavage down to the middle of her chest, constant stripper poses, unrealistic sphere boob, terrible camera angles. Just about the only way that you could get a character worse than Samara is to have a female character with no shirt at all. Which is exactly what BioWare did with Jack:

CLICK FOR LARGE VIEW (Again, this one is large.)

Okay, can the nipple strap school of character design die now and forever? A leather strap is not clothing. TATTOOS ARE NOT CLOTHING. Yes I get that she’s supposed to be a “bad girl”, but this is just ridiculous. Unless she’s using industrial-strength body glue, there’s no way that thing would cover up her nipples 100% of the time. Then again, Jack is a powerful enough biotic that maybe she just keeps it in place biotically. It seems like a bit of a waste of her biotic superpowers, but maybe she wasn’t feeling challenged enough. Or something. Anyway, if I had to pick “worst character design in a BioWare game ever”, Jack would win hands down. (She’s even worse than Morrigan, which is saying a lot.)

Like Samara, they just can’t seem to resist putting Jack in shots where the camera angles practically scream OMG BEWBS. But honestly, Jack is such a despicable human being – she’s completely selfish, amoral, and totally unsympathetic. I fail to see the appeal of Jack as a romance, or even as a quick roll in the hay. What Jack needs is a bullet between the eyes for the good of the whole galaxy, so this whole JACK IS SEXAY thing is totally lost on me. But that gets into the writing fail, which I will have to tackle next time.

102 thoughts on “Mass Effect Fail: the stuff BioWare didn’t get right (Part 1)

  1. Jack’s head seems way unproportionately big for me to notice anything else. There’s something off about her shoulders, extremely thin arms and head that i can’t really place. If she had hair that would be even worse.

  2. It’s not just how they look or how they’re presented as what they represent. Not only are their visual designs quite obviously constructed for the pubescent male gamer, but their entire personalities are seemingly and uncomfortably written to appeal to particular mindsets in their target demographic. Samara may be the least offensive in this case, (except for the creepy “MILF” vibe) but that does not make up for the jerkassiness (that’s… not a real word, is it?) of Jack. The bad girl attitude coupled with her lack of clothing, entirely unlikable and violent behavior and general lack of any redeeming qualities makes her seem like she was created especially for XBox Live-dwelling 14 year old boys.
    Miranda is, in a way, even worse. Her entire being is a portrayal of the sort of crypto-fascism all too common in videogames these days. Ashley Williams had hints of the same type of views, sure, but it was not the defining aspect of her whole personality.

    But I sound much too harsh. Mass Effect 2 was an amazing game. One of the best I’ve ever played, certainly. But it’s not without flaws, and those flaws lie mainly in the squad members. Which is a shame, obviously. Mordin, Thane, Tali, Garrus, even Liara, are all fascinating, multi-layered and well-written characters. The badly written characters in no way detract from the qualities of the well written ones. And sure, both Jack and Miranda can be steered subtly away from their unfortunate paths, but it’s very much a case of too little, too late. At the end of the day, I choose to merely ignore them altogether.

    • I would say that even Tali caters to a particular perky-and-innocent-girl-next-door fantasy (or perky-and-innocent-girl-next-door-now-all-grown-up-but-still-vulnerable, in the case of ME2).

      It’s unfortunate that because of the current makeup of the industry and their target audience we can’t look at… well, pretty much any female character without having to ask “Which features of this character are genuine and which are fap material?” and “Is the fact that a character like this shows up frequently due to an archetype or a fetish?”

      • I agree, even though Tali is… somewhat on the edge, I feel. On one hand, she is a strong, capable character with a believable personality. On the other hand, she really attracts the moé fan crowd.

        To be perfectly frank though, so does Garrus…

        But yeah, she’s nowhere near as bad as some other characters, even if there’s a hint of Flanderization to her in ME2.

        • To me, Tali is the most obnoxious offender in the game by far. Everything she represents is a calculated demographic sex grab. She is female sexuality made nonthreatening and subserviant so that repressed male nerds can feel the power rush of having a pair of hips and ass practically beg for dick while insulting herself, while repressed female nerds will bend over backwards in an attempt to relate to a shallow, sexualized charicature.

          The fact that it worked is probably what annoys me the most, however. That and they tried to do the exact same thing in Dragon Age 2 with Merril.

          • Yes, Merrill. I could ignore the way they did Tali if they didn’t repeat it with (and even more so) with Merrill. Naivete and a lack of self-confidence are valid character traits, but something about watching Merrill makes me feel like I’ve stumbled upon someone’s weird porn collection.

        • All of the characters are strong and capable with believable personalities. I genuinely like every party character in ME2, to be honest. Even Miranda and Jacob. These aren’t characters who need sexualization to work, and when it’s as awkwardly tacked-on as it is, it diminishes them.

      • Wow. I can’t disagree more. Tali is one of my favorite BioWare characters ever. When we first get introduced to her, she’s a teenager who has LITERALLY been sequestered from the outside world who independently decides to take down a majorly evil dude. And when we see her again in ME2, she’s a strong leader in her own right. After her recruitment mission, she expresses regret that so many of her team had to die to get her the data, but she doesn’t castigate herself or otherwise express doubt about HER part in the affair; she’s clearly very comfortable with leadership. There’s a reason I left her out of the above post – in my books Tali is awesome.

        • Yes, Tali is awesome. I adore Tali. In my books, all of these characters are awesome. The only one I dislike even a little bit is Thane; I find him kind of boring.

          That doesn’t change the fact that she is designed to be appealing to men, even if it’s in a different way than Miranda or Jack are designed to be appealing. Jack is the bad girl, Miranda is the sex bomb, and Tali is the shy girl. This isn’t a new thing in video game romance options. She’s not a bad character, but the way she gets awkward and flustered when Shepard flirts with her is every bit as calculated as Miranda’s butt-shot, and toward the same end.

          • Some girls get awkward and flustered when flirted with. I’m dating one now. With enough characters present, doesn’t it make sense that one of them would be shy?

  3. That’s kinda funny because I actually really liked Jack. 😡 I hardly ever noticed the lack of shirt thing, too, because she had so many tattoos and her small boobs provide less cleavage so her boobs were never a huge focus for me. For some reason the excessive cleavage of Miranda and Samara bothered me way more than Jack’s shirtlessness. It also never really felt to me like Jack was being sexualized the same way as Miranda or Samara, even though Jack’s clothing suggested otherwise. Agreed, though, the nipple strap is silly no matter who’s wearing it. The person who designed that has obviously never had breasts and realized that generally, no matter the size, breasts tend to like to move around a lot and thus it can be very hard to contain them in anything even slightly revealing. So maybe it’s just me and my pro-Jack bias (she and Grunt were my usual team members) that makes me ignore the nipple straps. Once I got her alt outfit she wore a shirt all the time. It just looked better.

    And I don’t know why I like Jack so much. Or Grunt. Come to think about it, I seem to be attracted to the more violent characters in Mass Effect. Even in ME1 Wrex was pretty much my all time favorite character ever, aside from Tali. Tali is still the best thing to ever happen ever in a game. Ever.

    Samara’s outfit was the worst for me. I actually just took to referring to her as Boobs McGee throughout the game because the cleavage was just. so. bad. Though I got her on my team fairly late in the game so she really wasn’t around that much aside from doing her personal mission. And I never liked Miranda so I never played with her aside from her personal mission as well. Though I think that had more to do with me not really liking their characters and less that they were just so sexualized it hurt. I think ME2 just had way too many characters, so there were more for me to dislike. And so far there hasn’t been a single human character that I’ve actually liked. :\

  4. They should have just grown a pair (metaphorically speaking) and just done Jack the way they intended and had her fully nude. I actually liked her character, she was a good example of a completely broken human who cant just be ‘fixed’ .

    Miranda was more than a little distracting and really irratating with her ‘woe is me, the burden of being perfect is so heavy’ and the camera angles were just supremely unnerving.

  5. You should do a gender-swap picture of Jacob and Miranda. Heck, just switch their outfits! So similar and yet so very, very different in key ways.

      • I third this idea. The gender swaps and character design corrections (especially the Chun Li) are some of my favorite of your posts.

  6. Okay, I agree with the vast majority of this post. I see what is wrong in everything you point out within the article itself, as well as some of the pictures. I wonder, however, if you might be a little too harsh judging the screenshots.

    It seems to me like there is no way for them to present their female characters without somehow, in your eyes, emphasizing their boobs. If they’re standing sideways? Boob shot. Looking up at them? Boob shot. Looking down? Boob shot. Are they in the middle of the screen? So are their boobs. Boob shot. Are they standing up straight? They’re pushing out their boobs. Boob shot. Leaning over? Boob shot as well.

    I understand complaints about what you call “boob perspective” and about shots that look down a character’s top, but looking at the variety of angles and poses you are condemning here, it would appear that the only safe shot would be as follows:

    1) Standing straight, but not TOO straight.
    2) Character looking straight at the screen, so as to avoid emphasizing the boobs via a side angle.
    3) The camera angle running parallel to the ground, at a level somewhere between the breasts and the top of the head, to avoid looking up at the bottom or down at the tops of the breasts.
    4) The character must be off-center, so that her breasts aren’t in the middle of the shot with her.

    Please note, I’m not trying to troll and I promise that I am with you on the majority of your complaints about the character’s designs, I just feel like there is no way they could have made their cut scenes fit the criteria you are giving without drastically reducing their available options.

    • Yeah, I noticed that as well. It’s not that some of those examples don’t prove her point, Samara’s hips cocking and Miranda’s ass-shot are good ones, if well known examples. Some, however, I felt were nitpicking to the point where a character is just barely glancing at cleavage (Jack, the middle picture on the bottom row) or having their breasts barely in the shot (Jack, 3rd row, 3rd picture). A medium shot =/= boob shot, sometimes it’s just there for good composition.

      • Exactly. I’m not defending every one of the shots by any means. Some of Samara’s poses are absolutely gratuitous and the infamous Miranda ass-shot has no purpose beyond fanservice. To condemn any shot in which a female character slouches, stands up perfectly straight, or is seen from the side seems like it’s a little too picky.

        A lot of the shots I consider the most picky were with Jack, and I sincerely believe that if the same shots were taken with her alternate attire on that there would be no problem. It’s not the sidelong shots which are the problem per se, just the fact that her “outfit” leaves the sides of her boobs expand.

        • Exactly. I’m not defending every one of the shots by any means. Some of Samara’s poses are absolutely gratuitous and the infamous Miranda ass-shot has no purpose beyond fanservice. To condemn any shot in which a female character slouches, stands up perfectly straight, or is seen from the side seems like it’s a little too picky.

          I think that a lot of the images being criticized for “slouching,” “standing up perfectly straight” or “being seen from the side” are problematic because of way those poses interact with the characters’ outfits, even if they’re not being criticized in those terms.

          For instance, the pose in the third row-farthest to the right image in the Samara collage wouldn’t be emphasizing anything unduly if she was wearing a baggy turtleneck sweater, but it really does seem to emphasize her breasts given the skintight, almost-Absolute Cleavage outfit that she’s wearing.

          And I agree with your assessment of Jack: the poses are problematic because she’s virtually naked, but they wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if she put some clothes on.

          • the poses are problematic because she’s virtually naked, but they wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if she put some clothes on.

            I think a good rule of thumb regarding this is that if you change the character’s outfit in anyway and it is not fanservice then, the original way probably was not fanservice to begin with. For example, in the 3rd row, 3rd picture of Jack you could replace her outfit with something that would cover her boobs and it would be perfectly fine. However, that wouldn’t work for Miranda in the 1st row, 3rd picture and 2nd row, 3rd picture. It may not be a universal system, but I feel it works well for what we’ve got.

            • Uh, I disagree with that system really, I know you said it’s not universal but I don’t think it can apply to a lot of things in general either. Revealing clothing is a part of fanservice/sexualization (chainmail bikini/thong as an example). Just one part, but still a part.

              • Revealing clothing is a part of fanservice/sexualization (chainmail bikini/thong as an example). Just one part, but still a part.

                Yeah, but in those instances the “precious bits” are usually shown prominently or already emphasized. Like this…. wouldn’t necessarily be fanservice with a (large) change in clothes, but <a href="” title=”this”> would be regardless of what she’d be wearing. Just an interesting system I thought up rather randomly, mind you.

                (hope the HTML tag came out right)

              • Unfortunately it did not come out too well, it just shows the same two pictures actually. ^^;

                Though with that picture shown (blades drawn, staring at the viewer, think it’s called WP3) then I agree it wouldn’t really be fan(boy)service if she had actual clothes on. But I mostly disagree with the idea that the original, as she is right there, is not fan(boy)service because putting clothes on would take away the fan(boy)service. It just sounded like you were saying women having only strips of clothing on alone was not fan(boy)service. And I guess I don’t agree with that.

              • It just sounded like you were saying women having only strips of clothing on alone was not fan(boy)service. And I guess I don’t agree with that.

                I thought Jumplion was saying that the composition of the image isn’t fanservice, if a simple change of clothes would make the image not-fanservice.

                That doesn’t mean the clothing itself isn’t fanservice, of course.

              • Ohhh, okay I think I get it now. So I did misunderstand. I wasn’t properly thinking about the context of this post, which is all about male gaze-y camera angles and poses and such. I think I get it now. Thanks, Ikkin.

          • Some of Jack’s poses are up for debate (the eyeline ones are especially questionable), but I see nothing wrong with ANY of the Miranda and Samara selections– insomuch that I see everything wrong with them

            • I don’t see the ones where her boobs are in the center as being bad just because they’re in the center. She is the focal point of the scene; her boobs are in the middle of the screen with her (meaning Miranda). The last picture, for example, bottom row. I also don’t see the one with her and Shepard side-by-side, guns drawn, as her pushing her boobs out so much a her standing up straight. It just so happens that she has improbably large-yet-perky breasts that are pushed out by her standing straight.

        • Yeah, the whole point of sexy clothes is to make you look sexy without having to put any actual effort into it. So, surprise, surprise, people in sexy clothes will look sexier when doing the same thing as people in regular clothes. Shocking.

    • Here’s the thing. I majored in Fine Art – so looking at stuff this way isn’t something I can really turn off. I realize that some of what I picked out can be nitpicking, and I realize not everyone cares about some of what I picked out. But I can’t stop seeing it and it seriously bugs the shit out of me.

      For instance, the two most common conversation angles with Jack are 1) her hunching over facing the camera with her boobs somehow being contained by the Miraculous Nipple Strap and 2) sideboob + boob perspective from below. With Samara, same kind of deal -the constant camera angles from above or below bug the shit out of me. My annoyance with Miranda was mostly just having to look at her ass cleavage all the time and how every conversation with her came back to how “perfect” she was.

  7. I don’t buy some of those examples, a few of those poses only happen for one second, and with some examples of Jack it’s in the middle of an action scene, I doubt anyone would have time to look at or receive fanservice in those situations whether a character is vaguely glancing at the general direction of it. If the boob was in the center of the frame, it would be in the center of the frame. A medium shot =/= fanservice.

    However, that being said, I do see your overall point with Miranda’s and Samara’s poses, and Jack’s clothing as well. It doesn’t make sense in any context, even a powerful biotic would wear some form of armor in a gunfight. Either those nipple-straps are made of adamantium or the Enkindlers are keeping it up with sheer willpower.

    • Well, I also don’t agree that /all/ the pictures picked out are problematic really (Like that one of Jack leaning against a wall). But most of them are, really. I don’t know, I’ve seen shots that have been higher on people’s chests before and Male Gaze-y shots are sometimes those kind that seem to always be sure to include the breasts/cleavage (though the ‘random cleavage in space, because surely /competent/ warriors would do that!’ in general sort of irks me) in it. Example: Top row, farthest-right for Samara. I could see the shot working just as well with the starting point of the camera tilted up a bit to emphasize more on her face. The boob was the only in the center of the frame because it was designed to be put in the center of the frame in most situations.

      • I don’t see that last example. Her boobs are in the center along the horizontal axis, sure, but vertically her face is in the center of the screen. My eyes gravitate toward the true center of my screen, not the middle of the bottom. She’s the focal point of the shot, her boobs just come along with her, package deal that the three of them are. By putting her in the frame, her boobs happen to be there as well. Were it a shot like Miranda’s last on her first row, I’d agree that the boobs are in the center, clearly the focus. But in the middle of the bottom edge of the screen doesn’t draw my attention, really, and I highly doubt it was purposeful to show off her chest, or they’d have included more of it in the shot.

        • I don’t agree. Her boobs don’t ‘happen’ to be there, they are there because they were put there. Closing up on her face, which men normally get anyway, would be just as viable. There was no reason to put the cleavage in there.

          • Though yeah, I really doubt it /wasn’t/ purposeful, otherwise there wouldn’t be random revealed cleavage on her character in the first place. But, as I said, I find just the random cleavage canyon in the suit more irksome than the camera angle, even if it is male gaze-y.

            • I totally agree that the cleavage was exposed purposefully, I just see the exposing of her cleavage in that shot to be a character design flaw as opposed to a cinematographic one. I don’t think the shot was designed to show off her boobs, or it probably would have been shot so that more of them show.

              And yes, that could have been solved by a full face shot, but those sorts of shots are not nearly as interesting. You see less of the environment and are limiting the “actor” to only vocal and facial acting, taking away the use of body language.

              • Not so much full face as shoulders and face. I still can’t say I agree with the amount of boob needing to be in your face for it to qualify as a Male Gaze-y shot. Mainly because they got low enough to show the cleavage anyway.

                To the environment, I can’t see much of it even with that shot to be honest. I see a door behind her, I think. Mm, to the thing about body language, that’s true.. though i’d have to wonder how much acting really goes into body language and I feel like it goes more into vocal and facial anyway.. though that also depends on the technology of the visuals to get the facial stuff across.

  8. I completely agree with your takes on Miranda and Samara. The way they’re presented within the story–Miranda as a supergenius scientist and powerful biotics, Samara as an Asari paladin with nearly god-like abilities–clashes very forcefully with how they’re portrayed visually, which is sex, sex, sex.

    I disagree about Jack, though. Her costume, despite it’s skimpiness, rarely leads to overt visualization. Her boobs are there, but they’re not emphasized in he way they are with the others. Her body language is not ‘feminine’ in the way Miranda and Samara’s are. Her design, including the shaved hair and tattoos, are all emphasizing her anti-social personality, and not wearing real clothes is part of that.

    Jack being an incredibly messed up person is not really in dispute, but I think arguably everyone on the ship is messed up in some way. Except maybe Jacob, who was, to me, boring as hell. So I seriously don’t buy the idea that Jack alone needs to be shot and left for dead while all the other murderers and crazies on your ship get a pass.

    • It’s funny how Jack is kind of a divisive figure. For me, I’m just finishing my Renegade playthrough now – and both ways you interact with her I have not found a single instance in which Jack is portrayed in a sympathetic way. I don’t mind having deeply flawed, psychopathic killers. Thane is cool, Mordin is entertaining, and Grunt is hilarious – and all of these are characters who kill without qualms. But Jack strikes me as someone without a single shred of human decency. Yes, she’s fucked up. I get it! But, man. Every single interaction I had with her had me going – Jesus. That’s reprehensible. I just don’t understand how Jack is at all appealing.

  9. Heya! I read a lot, but I do not think I have commented before, so I can only attest to my good intentions and then hope to prove them… And before I point out the things I noticed playing ME2, I want to say that I agree with a lot of what you say above.

    I am a mom gamer, raising girl gamers, and my girls watch me game a lot. So when we see things both good or bad in a game, I talk to them about it…

    The one thing about Samara and the Matriarch, for that matter – is that they had mature breasts. You almost never see that in gaming. I know, the only reason to notice is that they are way out there in front, but I was a little impressed. How often do you see cleavage that is not gravity defiant, that looks like it has lived the life of the body it is attached to? Older women in games are usually asexual (if present at all), so I was kind of happy to see these older women considered viable in a physically intimate way (and not as a joke or gross out). Okay, maybe it is bizarre to be impressed by full, aged breasts, but I was. Of course, as a mom on her way to forty, this is somewhat on my mind sometimes!

    Jack hit me in a different way than maybe her characterization was supposed to… Everything about how she is dressed and acts says “Pay attention to and FEAR me! Rawr!” So she came across to me as very troubled.* I did not find her sexual at all, but rather felt protective and maternal towards her, wanting her to see life in a different way. I mean, she wields sexuality as a weapon – but she is not attractive. As I see it, she has gone out of her way to not be attractive – her hair is gone, her tattoos are not designed to please the viewer, her breasts are almost totally exposed but small and actually visually deemphasized by the tattoos and the straps. Her breasts do not visually stand out nearly as much as Samara’s (there is little to no color contrast).

    Miranda is also problematic. I saw it as part of the “striving to be too perfect to too many people too much of the time” thing she suffers from in her life. I was left wanting her to know she did not have to do that, her competency was enough. She talked about being designed for hotness enough that I felt like it was impressed to her by her father often enough for that hotness itself had become baggage, a detriment to her deciding her own fate.

    I am totally in agreement that these characters, and some others are very problematic. Tali particularly gets on my nerves because her characterization is so heavy handed with the “This Is What Nerd Guys Want In a Nerd Girl!!one!” stuff that I quit talking to her except for plot. Which is a shame, because I think I would like her otherwise. This is just some other things that also occurred to me and I wanted to post them here to see what you and your readers thought.

    Thanks for posting stuff like this, I am often left wondering if it is just me…

    *As a wearer of leather and a proud tattoo owner, I am not saying that people that do such are de facto disturbed. I do recognize a troupe when I see it, though.

  10. I think the thing which bothers me most about the nipple straps style of “clothing” is the purpose of it: it is intended wholly and solely to get the game past the censors, by covering up areas which are coded as “sexual” (thus nipples and crotch tend to be the only areas covered). This character, ideally speaking, would probably be naked save for tattoos (fair enough, a lot of people regard full-body tatts as clothing) – but this would mean the censors would insist it receives an adult classification (thus narrowing the market for the game). So long as the game design industry continues to even nod to the fiction of all games being intended for children (or for a juvenile market) we’re going to keep seeing these idiotic efforts at “clothing” female characters who are mainly there for the eye-candy.

    I’m not sure what the best solution to the problem might be – possibly a combination of dealing with the myth of gaming being “for kids” and providing eye-candy for all orientations (so for every female-appearing character in practically nothing, there’s a male-appearing character in practically nothing to match) in any adult-targeted game. Alternatively, there might be a certain amount of value in creating a game-world in which all the characters start naked and stay naked while doing nothing sexual, if only to watch the censorious (and those who believe that skin = sex) self-destruct.

  11. This is basically what happens when you make an homage to old science fiction: you get all the stupid with none of the thought experiments or complexity. I swear that one day I am just going to email every visual-media company and say “Yes, everyone knows that spaceships, lasers, and latex space amazons are cool and all, but if you’re going to write anachronistic science fiction, you might as well write a fantasy.” Seriously, this stuff would’ve been behind the curve in the ’60s.

    I’m mostly behind this post as far as a characters go. The thing I get about Jack though, and stop me if I’m wrong here, is that she’s aggressively sexual, so that means her costume’s probably much more congruent with her character than the others. So many characters are dressed like they’re going out to an orgy, but damn near none of them are actually sexual, not even Bayonetta! Hell, half the low-budget 2d rpgs now have some “joke” where the characters wonder why an ice queen is wearing a c-string, as though lampshading stupid makes it smart. By actually being what was suggested by her suggestive attire, Jack was refreshing, and I was almost convinced to keep playing the game by her, until I remembered that fucking mining game. But yeah: nipple straps are asinine. I can’t wait until digital distribution kills brick stores so we never have to deal with the ESRB ever again.

    You missed the big one, though: Tali’s entire purpose is fanservice. Every single fact about her character is geared entirely towards the /v/ demographic’s sex drive, with nothing else existing. She has no other purpose. Miranda, at least, seemed to have an actual purpose. Tali is flatter than a porn character. (well, metaphorically anyway)

    • What is the deal with you and science fiction? Did you dad die while filming a sci fi movie? Did a sci fi author steal your high school sweetheart? You seem to have a deep-rooted disdain for the entire genre.

      From what you’ve said, by it’s very inclusion of lasers and space ships, Mass Effect is using antiquated “50 year old” sci fi. If thee concepts are so stale and old, please, enlighten me as to what bioware could have used images to keep this fresh? And why did you even play a sci fi game when you clearly dislike the genre so much?

      • Okay, analogy time: remember when The Matrix came out, and anyone that read speculative fiction at all was rolling their eyes because that cyberpunk thing was tapped dry in the ’80s? You still didn’t bitch about other people liking it, because most of them didn’t read SF and thus didn’t know that this future was anachronistic. Now, this Mass Effect stuff dates to the ’30s. Seriously. This shit hasn’t changed since Lensman, which was great for it’s time, don’t get me wrong, but science fiction doesn’t age well. That’s sort of the point.

        Now, as to decent science fiction, I’d reccomend this as a good start for a beginner in the genre.

        • Sam, if you want to convince those of us who have played and enjoyed Mass Effect that all sci-fi that everyone has liked ever is, in fact, crap – I will ask you to kindly cut it out. Now you’re just derailing the conversation. If you want to argue whether or not given characters are problematic, fine. But please don’t nerd-rage this into an argument about SF because this IS NOT the space for it. Go start your own blog about shitty modern SF if it matters that much to you.

  12. Jack basically was the paedophile guy from Prison Break, minus the sexy southern accent.

    I find the entire Asari race a little insulting, to be honest. It’s implied they’re subconsciously hypnotising people to make themselves look attractive to whoever looks at them. Why a race would evolve that trait to make themselves look pretty, and not like ten foot tall monsters with demon eyes is a question for another day, but the implication that what all humans find attractive is the same generic female form is rather insulting.

      • Okay, sorry for my stupid reply, it was just kinda shocking. Just to clarify I was saying ew to the hypnotizing sexy thing. It’s just so.. creepy. Bioware has basically framed as the Asari as obsessed with meeting narrow beauty standards (Explicitly female race and the first action is to.. make them into sexpots and femme fatale stereotypes. Whoo, that’s fresh and new). Apparently even warriors can’t get away from it x.x

        • Well, looking like “one of us” would be a pretty damn good trait, evolutionarily speaking. Biology doesn’t actually work that way, of course, but that’s okay because we know that every species was intelligently designed by inscrutable magic robots.

          What I really want to know is : You can play a woman or a gay man if you want, so why does hypnotic beauty still make you see “skinny large breasted woman?”

          You know, it’d almost be worth the stupid of the whole concept in general if you put your character’s sexual orientation down in chargen and woman or gay characters see beefcake running around half naked, just to fuck with the fanboys.

    • I actually don’t see that as too big of a problem with that concept, so long as the hypnotism applies to every alien race. The hypnotism thing to make themselves look more appealing to their species of choice, a potential evolutionary trait for an alien race that lives and thrives off of diversity. If you can’t attract a specimen, or worse yet if you can’t attract anyone outside of your own species, then you’re screwed socially and biologically.

      Of course, you could make the argument that it promotes unnatural beauty or creates the stereotype that women (though the Asari technically have no gender, but whatever) must look pretty towards their man, and I would agree with that to a degree as well though far more subtle.

      Now, if this only applied to hypnotizing humans (male or female), then I’d see the point, and to an extent I still do. But I doubt a Hangar, Elcor, or Batarian would see beauty in the same way.

      Ew…female Batarian….>_o

  13. At times playing ME2 with the normal outfits for characters feels like watching a softporn movie. I actually bought the two appearance DLC packs for Mass Effect 2 mainly to get Miranda and Jack in less oversexualized outfits. Miranda in particular becomes a much better character if she is put in armor that looks like Jacob’s, and you already addressed how Jack benefits from putting on actual clothing.

    As a heterosexual male I like looking at women of course, but I can’t exactly take a ridiculously oversexualized character like Miranda in her catsuit seriously as a (pseudo-) military commander.
    Ashley Williams in ME1 got a far better treatment, as she simply wore similar armour to the protagonists, still accentuating the female form but not to a ridiculous degree.

  14. This isn’t so much a comment on this particular article, but the nature of your website as a whole. I haven’t read any of the comments on your website either so I hope you’ll forgive me if I am repeating points already made.

    Firstly, I am already wary of your arguments because feminism in the twenty-first century is a warped shell of what it once was. Many self-confessed feminists these days not only do not understand the proper definition of the phrase and movement, but use the moniker as an excuse to justify excessive, and at times, completely unjustified misandry. Your brand of feminism seems to be on the right track, but I worry about how many misinformed ‘feminists’ use this website as a lobby for hatred and idle complaints.

    Which brings me to my next point. its great to challenge the status quo by highlighting its existence and chokehold on society, but put yourself in the shoes of a games developer.

    Firstly, I’ve always disagreed with the idea of attacking the chosen content in another’s creative expression, as long as it gets through the ratings system, demanding that they change character designs and characterisation is like asking Picasso to put facial features in the right spot. It’s another’s creative choice to make, not your own, there’s no onus on the developers of these games to promote every single group’s individualised ideals, or even ANY person’s ideals except for their own.

    If you don’t like what you see, do something about it! And by that I don’t mean highlight every single example of sexism in games that you see with screenshots and point out all the ways it disgusts you (because it’s like pole dancing for fitness, you may be trying to change the perception of the dance form and re-appropriate its role in society, but at the end of the day you’re still doing things creepy dudes will touch themselves to). No, what I mean is make your own games company, or work for a games company, or get into a position where you can actually do something about it. When you do this, you can make any game you like! You can make any characters in any proportions and dress them however you so choose. But this brings me to my next point:

    Imagine if you will, you are a games developer in 2011. The hardcore games market is overwhelmingly still a boys club, recent pie-charts and bar graphs and infographic studies would make it seem like the ratio to men to women gamers is like, 60/40, but the majority of female gamers would be classed in the ‘casual gamer’ zone. They’d never play a game like Mass Effect 2, for example. On top of that, we live in an age where people (males) will have a single disk in their console for months on end, that being the mind-bogglingly overrated Call Of Duty franchise.

    It takes very strong stimuli to even get gamers to consider pushing eject on the disk tray, let alone following through with it, and this is a huge part of everything on Go Make Me A Sandwich. Bearing in mind that most of the hardcore market is male, and most of the money to make fully-fledged and involving games exists with the hardcore developers, choices like scantily clad heroines and suggestive camera angles start to make more sense.

    Something I like to do on occasion is read fashion magazines (the good ones at least). Anything from the layout and graphic design to the photography to the writing itself can grab my attention in a profound way, but I don’t get upset when all the articles assume I’m a female, or talk about how to know what he’s thinking (which is never right and completely misrepresenting the male population by the way) or give me tips on how to get that sultry smoky-eyed look without resembling a panda bear. I don’t get upset because I know when they were putting this magazine together they didn’t have 21 year old males at the forefront of their mind, they had their TARGET MARKET, which is women.

    Consider the same when playing hardcore games on consoles such as Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and apply this thinking to who Team Ninja had in mind when they made Dead Or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball, that being Japanese perverts, and less so women with self-respect.

    There is now so much money in video games, and such a strong obsession with pseudo-realistic first-person shooters that only blockbuster games make enough money to ensure continued success for games developers. When you see the requisite sexualised female character(s) in games, you are seeing developers playing it safe. Sex sells. In fact, sex is probably the only thing that sells better than violence, and if you have both, which is often the case in videogames, your chances of making money are that much higher. And it is all about money, developers like Activision and EA are companies and their primary goal is to make bank, they want to make good games too, but if it has to be one or the other, there’s no contest.

    And it’s not even up to them; it’s up to us. When you see gender inequality in games, you are seeing the direct result society has had on the industry. We shouldn’t be blaming developers for the games coming out; we should be blaming ourselves. For every copy of Mirror’s Edge ignored for the latest bi-yearly iteration of COD, WE are directly shaping the state of videogames in the twenty-first century.

    And of course, asking men to not ‘appreciate’ the female form is like asking a Zebra to change its stripes. The very nature of male existence is to seek power, and women (and the power is only there to get more desirable women). It’s not an active choice, like learning to play the piano; it’s a subconscious, predetermined facet of the male psyche. Women are ‘designed’ to be both subjectively AND empirically beautiful, as befits their role in perpetuating the human race. What you see in video games is an arguably appealing and warped extension of the real world, and it’s warped because it’s supposed to be a form of escape. You can’t kill someone in the real world or get shot a hundred times and get away with it, and get praised for it. Similarly, attention from beautiful members of the opposite sex is something that is highly sought after, but sometimes out of reach. If people wanted real life in videogames, we’d be playing Tax Return 4: Modern Accounting this holiday season.

    What’s important is knowing the difference between the video game world and the real world. Knowing that women won’t be wearing next to nothing, with zero regard for self-respect and in provocative poses unless it’s Halloween. And knowing that running over grandmothers in your stolen Ferrari won’t earn you bonus points in real life.

    Anyone with a shred of sense and an age appropriate level of maturity can walk away from a video game without it colouring their perception of the world and the people in it by a measurable degree, anyone worth your time can separate fiction from reality.

    And people who can’t have issues that less T&A in video games is not going to rectify.

    I’d really love to hear a response as well, if it starts a healthy debate, we’ll be all the better for it.

        • So you could better derail? Well, I guess I applaud you for putting so much effort into mastering it. You sure seem to have done it well here. You make so many excuses for sexism and misogyny (including one of my favorites ‘men are just like that inherently, that’s the way it is so get over it!’) it’s just mind boggling.

    • Um. I appreciate that you’re commenting in a civil manner, so I’m going to try to respond in the same spirit. However, your post hits an impressive number of common apologist arguments for sexism in gaming, so I would recommend reading through the following. (Note I’m not saying that YOU ARE A SEXISM APOLOGIST. I’m saying these arguments are often used by apologists. It seems nitpicky, but it’s an important distinction) For brevity’s sake, I’ve summarized each main point and provided links to useful reading material:

      My feminism: I am an unapologetic third wave feminist. Third wave feminism is not the same as second wave feminism, which is the more “classical” feminism of the Boomer generation. My feminism is different because the reality that I face as a woman is different than the reality women in the sixties faced. That doesn’t make modern feminism bad. It means it’s adapting to current realities. (That said, please don’t interpret this as SECOND WAVE FEMINISM IS BAD. Because it’s not.)

      You can’t criticize art created by someone else: (Okay, don’t have a link for this one.) Just because something is art does NOT make it sacred. Art is something that touches us as human beings, and we all have the ability to use our human intellect to analyze the ways in which art is flawed or ways in which art is successful. I have a degree in Fine Art, but having an education in how to criticize creative content properly doesn’t mean that ONLY artists can criticize art. We all can and should criticize the media that we consume, because critical thinking is key to not stagnating as people.

      If you don’t like sexism in gaming, do something about it: The reason women don’t get more involved in game development is because they face discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The few women in the gaming industry who DO have prominent roles, like Jade Raymond, can also expect to get harassed BY GAMERS when they assume “too prominent” a role in game development. Just because I want games to change does NOT obligate me to put up with sexual harassment.

      Most gamers are men: The number of women in gaming is steadily increasing. Also, there are EIGHTY MILLION players of FarmVille, most of them 40-something women. So please explain to me IN BUSINESS TERMS how continuing to alienate female gamers – a MUCH LARGER potential market – makes sense. 80M = just over one quarter of the American population. And don’t just handwave and say FarmVille players won’t play “hardcore” games. I have plenty of friends who play FarmVille and also do 50 hours a week on WoW.

      Women don’t play “hardcore” games like Mass Effect: Okay, there are a lot of women IN THIS THREAD who have played Mass Effect. Also, please go here and read affirmations from women who play Mass Effect. (Please ignore the dudes trying to claim that no women actually play Mass Effect.)

      Only games by big studios can be commercial successes: Oh? Tell that to Minecraft. Or Super Meat Boy, which started as an indie title on Steam. Steam and other similar services have been huge in the resurgence and commercial success of indie video games.

      Sex sells: Please see above re: FarmVille players equating one quarter of the American population, remembering FarmVille players = mostly women.

      Men like boobs: Please see above re: FarmVille players equating one quarter of the American population, remembering FarmVille players = mostly women. ALSO – not all male gamers are straight. (For that matter, not all female gamers are straight.)

      Video games don’t affect real people: Being constantly presented with a view of women as a collection of sexy bits who exist solely to gratify a male viewer is something that men can become accustomed to – this is an attitude that can carry over into real life. I present, in support of my argument, Fat, Ugly, or Slutty – a site cataloging sexual harassment on Xbox Live, WoW, and other online gaming. (Also, read any thread mentioning women over on Team Liquid.)

      • Thanks for the comment wundergeek. The tricky thing now is making points that the previous commentators (who clearly have no interest in a real conversation) can’t refer straight back to that ‘derailing for dummies’ page (which is a ironic move in itself). I appreciate your more thought out and mature answer. I will try to respond in a similar fashion to the way you have and do so in points.

        1 . Firstly, I think you have misinterpreted what I meant about Feminism. Third Wave Feminism, Second Wave Feminism and any form of legitimate feminism that came before or after it will always be a great thing for society. Personally I believe that respecting people who deserve respect as a whole, regardless of signifier and distinction does a lot of the work feminism is trying to achieve, but there are obviously specific issues that concern only women and in that case, Feminism is great for that.

        But I’m not talking about Feminism in my first comment; I’m referring to when Feminism is distorted to create hate and negativity towards men of all kinds. It happens all the time and I have been on the receiving end of it more than once. I don’t want to have to use the example of child custody or divorce cases here because it’s a bit to ‘easy’, but they are great examples of this in effect.

        2. I agree wholeheartedly that you can certainly criticise art! But to expect change simply from criticism will never yield favourable results. You can constructively criticise what another has done in their work but you can never make them change it, so you are left with a few choices. Either you can stop viewing/enjoying their work. You can enjoy the work in spite of what you disagree with. Or you can make your own work in which you can make the rules. You can’t ask for change, you must make change yourself. Because doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is a pretty strong indicator of insanity.

        3. That’s pretty reprehensible, what’s highlighted in that article, but he makes a strong point at the start:

        “I want it to be clear that I’m not accusing everyone at the company of engaging in this kind of behaviour; there were plenty of reasonable, respectful people, but this is sadly another instance where the jerks ruin it for everyone.”

        As for Jade Raymond, it’s great to see her now heading the Toronto branch of Ubisoft development, being the producer of one of my favourite game franchises I have nothing but respect for that woman. Unfortunately when you have that mob mentality there’s going to be the ugliness that comes with it. When hidden in the crowd people can do and say the most horrific things with no consequence. It’s another case of the worst and loudest minority completely objectifying and disrespecting her, which makes it seem like it’s a view shared by the majority of society.

        Many gamers are disgusting, perverted nerds who have no idea or experience when it comes to interacting with women. But as the article states:

        “(I’m being charitable here by saying half… not all male gamers are mouth-breathing lunks, that’s another stereotype I’d like to see go away.)”

        There are many heterosexual male gamers who are definitely not like this. I consider myself to be one of them and know of many others who are the same way.

        Jade chose not to hide away from those who disrespected her so fervently, but instead had the confidence and motivation to move past it, to continue with her work. I believe this is because she knew that there are always going to be people who don’t take you seriously in life, whether you are male or female, and that you need to concern yourself with the people that are worth your time, not those who aren’t. Again, strong indicator of why she deserves to be where she is.

        4. Yes, like I said, there is a huge market of gamers who are girls. But as I also said, these are usually casual games. Farmville is very much a casual game that set out to be appealing to both genders from the very get go. World Of Warcraft is has insane amounts of depth but was also designed to be both incredibly accessible and addictive. It’s sort of as casual or hardcore as you choose to make it (which is a great design decision).

        But do you know what’s similar about both these games? They are on PC, and equally important, are designed to be played on a wide variety of hardware specs. The install base for personal computers in households is essentially 50/50; everyone owns a computer! This is why games like The Sims and Farmville and World Of Warcraft became so successful with a largely untapped female market and games like Gears Of War do not.

        The chance of a female only household owning a console such as Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 is much slimmer than them owning computers. Now one could argue that it’s a chicken/egg situation whereby the lack of female gamers playing consoles is due to the lack of appropriate, compelling content and the lack of that content is due to the absence of the target fanbase and so on and so forth into infinity.

        But it doesn’t change the fact that, right now, if you are a woman playing Mass Effect or many other games on Xbox or Playstation, you are in the minority. Does this justify sexism in games? Certainly not! But it does partially account for why the state of the hardcore games industry is the way it is. They are simply catering for the percentage of the market that will yield the greatest returns.

        Which relates back to the fashion magazines I was discussing earlier. I don’t take it personally when males are misrepresented or disregarded in these magazines, they were never written for me and I’m probably inferring things out of context because of this. If i were so strongly against what was in them I would write a letter expressing my concern. But I can’t expect a company to change their whole business strategy to cater for a group they never set out to address in the first place at the expense of their already established one.

        5. There are many women who have written on this website expressing that they love Mass Effect yes, but that is sort of like saying ‘look at all these people who love guns on!’ This is a website written about the direct correlation between women and videogames, its readership will hopefully be mostly female hardcore gamers, because these are the ones who will benefit most from its content. But it is still not as large a number, in the grand scheme of things, as you think. Once again I must stress that this is not a ‘you are in the minority so just deal with it’ comment, it is a ‘you are in the minority so try to understand why you are seeing what you are seeing, and use this knowledge to strengthen your arguments and actions’ comment.

        6. I never suggested that only big game studios are the ones with commercial success in any way! Minecraft is proportionately far more profitable than a game like Call Of Duty because of how much less money was put into it than a major release.

        But the major releases DO sink hundreds of millions of dollars into development, and as such, there must be a certain level of risk security imposed. This is why we don’t have the same level of diversity and depth that something like the music industry has in games development.

        Games cost a lot of money to make. If you don’t spend a lot of money, you must make technical concessions, which may or may not be in line with your creative vision (Minecraft’s blocky appearance is a great example of planned technical management), but they will always be there. It’s not like being an indie band and releasing amazing technically superior music in spite of the lack of a major record label’s support, there are different rules and that just can’t happen in games.

        When a company plays it safe by including overtly sexualised characters or guns and explosions, they are protecting the money invested in the development of the game. They are keeping the investors happy and content. It’s more about covering the cost of development first, and being hugely profitable second.

        7. Sex sells: Please see above re: points 4 and 5; console gaming being a boys club.

        8. “Men Like Boobs”: Same as above. As for the sexual orientation argument, we’re once again dealing in a minority (on consoles) that simply isn’t a big enough market YET to cater for exclusively. Even though Mass Effect does allow same sex romances, I’m not sure about male/male ones though, I don’t think it does actually, but Dragon Age does. There are definitely niche games that cater for these specific interests as well.

        9. And as for your last point, once again, like Go Make Me A Sandwich, these are definitely niche websites that I personally have never had any knowledge of before you linked them to me (and many others would definitely have no awareness of them also).

        This is the small, loud group of males that make us all look bad by perpetuating hate and disrespect. I can personally say that from playing many many games from an early age (including all genres, many of which did include sexism and violence) that I have no desire to rape or pillage and no expectation that women should be viewed as sex objects and nothing more. And I can firmly state that I am not in the minority when it comes to this.

        Hopefully I have ironed out any miscommunications that occurred in my previous comment.

        • Your comment was nowhere near as ‘thought out’ and mature as hers. You make the same misogyny apologism arguments as so many others before you in this situation. In fact, this post is just you rearranging it a bit. It sums up to: “Sexism and misogyny is okay because -insert rationalizing reason here-“. “That’s just the way it is”. “Guys are just /like/ that, objectifying women is just what they do!” (From your first post. Nice misandry there by the way). And you’ve done the same thing all over again, you’re just making excuses for it to go on (I know, shocker, the profit motive does /not/ actually justify discrimination and degrading women).

          The general idea that because ‘hardcore’ games are supposedly played mostly by men.. woman-hating and objectifying is fine! People who are comfortable with discrimination always try to isolate marginalized groups and pretend they have less value and less presence than they actually do and they will bend over backwards to do so. Mental gymnastics at their sloppiest. And, lets say they’re right about the, um, ‘hardcore and casual’ split, perhaps those marginalized groups don’t take more part in ‘hardcore’ games because of people who keep reinforcing the idea that they’re lesser and then justifying really shitty treatment of minority groups like treating them as if they’re invisible. Self-perpetuating cycle. You continue to marginalize them, to demean them and degrade then, to treat them as invisible, then after you’ve run quite a few off you say ‘see they don’t really play this stuff’.. rationalizing further exclusion (which will definitely discourage them from coming back) of them to yourself. Self perpetuating. You use your own shitty treatment of them to justify your shitty treatment of them, dudebro gamer, then claim that them not wanting to put up with the shitty treatment (y’know, the discrimination and the constant reminder that you see them as inferior beings on an inherent scale) somehow proves it’s okay. This is equivalent ‘it’s always been sexist, no need to change now and quit criticizing and just let me and mine discriminate against you in peace’.

          Oh and then decide that all these instances must /surely/ be ‘niche’ and ‘small groups’ instead of the obvious reality that this is largely acceptable behavior in gaming culture still. It doesn’t have to be every single guy, it’s a large majority of them. You just pretend it doesn’t exist or that it’s those /other/ people, surely not you, you try to make it out to be an isolated incident because it makes you feel better about yourself and makes it easier to ignore. No responsibility for you, the companies, or anyone else to actually look into the woman-hating behavior or encourage it to Stop. If other feminists hate you.. you have given them /many/ reasons to do so. Maybe It’s You (I say the same for the supposed child custody and divorce cases that unfairly hurt men.. which I will be happy to call out as myths and distorted truths. As if that somehow balances all the shit men heap on women all the damn time).

          You do not deserve anything but contempt for that first post (this one really isn’t better, because it all still be wrapped up as ‘Oh well, that’s the way it is’) and Wundergeek gave you a civil response you did not deserve. If anyone was immature, it was you, regurgitating the same damn arguments about why we should just accept it and shutup and move on. You know what would make things better? If you’d stop making excuses for it, pretending it’s not a big deal, defending it, and perpetuating it.

          • @LilithXIV: Firstly her comment was very accommodating and I thank her once again for giving me a chance to express myself, but her response seemed a lot like she wasn’t actually reading what I was saying properly, and responding to what she thought i meant, rather than what was actually said.

            Most of the point of the second post was, as you said, reiterating everything I said more clearly so my meaning was made as obvious as possible to avoid misinterpretation (which, judging by your comment, I sadly failed in achieving). So no, there wasn’t a noticeably greater level in planning in her response than there was in mine.

            However it’s becoming alarmingly clear that nothing I say will be viewed as anything other than the statement “I hate women and I want the ill-treatment of them to continue”, even though I have stated many times I not only find this behaviour abhorrent, but have only attempted to provide context for the situation, not justification.

            Objectification of women is not ok, objectification of ANYONE is not ok.

            But it IS happening and the reasons I listed is why. You will not change these people, you can only hope to be better than them. And create better than them. Take what you have seen and apply your knowledge and awareness to your own efforts. There is nothing constructive in destroying the work of others. Take that energy and create something instead.

            Anyway I will stop beating around the bush here and ask you to look at the words in brackets at the top of the main page:

            “Go Make Me A Sandwich (HOW NOT TO SELL GAMES TO WOMEN)”

            My comments have all been along the lines of THESE COMPANIES HAVE VERY LITTLE INTEREST IN SELLING THESE PARTICULAR GAMES TO WOMEN, your protests are largely falling on deaf ears.

            Never ‘Don’t fight sexism, just accept it’.

            Also, it’s not enough to have Female Shepard, who as Wundergeek has stated, is a fantastic female character in such a male centric industry, EVERY woman in the game has to uphold this exact same behaviour? Forgetting the fact that the military doesn’t actually allow women into roles that would put them at such certain physical risk to begin with (again, just an observation being made, NOT condoned). If you went about it this way you’d end up with the way MALE protagonists are portrayed in games, always the stoic, powerful hero who can complete any challenge (which is boring, unrealistic, and just as close-minded as the way women are portrayed). Only through difference and comparison can we see what makes each person special and unique.

            As far as isolating marginalised groups go, the readership of this website has been nothing but abusive and confrontational in the face of a PARALLEL viewpoint from someone of the opposite gender. I take great offense to you talking down to me like I am part of the problem when you have no idea about me. I have not made any comments on the calibre of anyone on this website, or what ideals they uphold. I have only spoken of my own perspective and inference taken from the state of the gaming world, not assuming what you think as women or who you harass when you do the things you enjoy, like you have done so with me.

            YOU do not deserve anything but love for your wanton warmongering, because you clearly haven’t experienced enough of it to treat people with respect, and for that; I pity you.

            I’m not disagreeing with what is said on this website, I’m questioning its purpose!

            (Also, please don’t try and argue against the whole men like the way women look thing, because there’s some very VERY basic biology that supports it. The meaning of our life is to create the next generation, everything else is just a bonus.)

            • Lilith, Justin, & Alex: Guys, please keep the shoutiness down, okay? At the risk of sounding eighty years old and a complete tool, if you can’t say something nicely then do at least consider not saying it.

              Alex: Here’s the thing. You seem to have the idea that women can’t be “hardcore” gamers in significant numbers. And I’m not really interested in having this argument, because what constitutes “hardcore” is always a moving goalpost that moves to wherever women aren’t. 28% of console owners are women, around 30% of WoW players are women, 40% of gamers overall are women. I play Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Civilization, and have been seriously a hardcore MMO player in the past. But I play Bejeweled Blitz too – so does that make me a “casual” gamer? What we’re trying to tell you is that there are LOTS of women who play “hardcore” games, and that companies SHOULD care about us because WE HAVE MONEY TOO, DAMMIT.

              Now please don’t get the idea that I am saying that you are horrible and sexist and you hate women. I’m not. But I think where Lilith is coming from is when I read your response, it didn’t really read as being willing to put a lot of thought into the arguments that we’re putting forward.

              Granted, this is the interwebs and conversations like this are hard with just words on a screen. Maybe I was wrong. But it really sounds like you’re saying I shouldn’t complain because these companies only care about male customers? If that’s not the case, I apologize. But if it is, then that’s the whole reason I have this blog. Because I have money, I game, and I’m not going anywhere.

              • 1) I apologize. You don’t sound 80. This is your blog and you have every right to moderate it as you see fit. I write and re-write the things I post in an attempt to keep them from being unnecessarily offensive; I’m here for intelligent discourse, not to troll. Sometimes it doesn’t come across exactly how I intended, I miss some info, or something to that effect.

                It seemed to me that his point was less “Just deal with it, this is how it is” and more “if you don’t like it, DO something about it”. Like making games yourselves which don’t violate the morals you want the games industry to uphold. Showing them how it’s done, if you will. What he doesn’t seem to be taking into account is that that is easier said than done. Not everyone has the knowledge and/or inclination to make games. Some people are only capable of/only want to play them. And you definitely have the right to expect them not to offend you.

                I think he has a point, that complaining about this stuff in a semi-private forum such as this isn’t really going to change things. Unfortunately, the solution he suggests just isn’t that easy.

              • Well, yeah, as Justin said, it’s your blog. Sometimes I forget that. I’m sorry, I could’ve framed my argument better than I did (though I think I did better on the other reply to Alex below hopefully >.> <.<). And nah you don't sound eighty or anything. I keep forgetting the whole 'anger is alright, but not when it makes you rage and act a troll'. I guess with just so many years of getting the 'tits or gtfo, that's the way it is' messages I tend to just go into bad behavior in response or misinterpret what others are really saying and jump down their throats, which isn't exactly productive is it?

                You and Justin mostly said what I was trying to say in a better way than I did. I still don't agree with that point, of course, that only one solution can change things. I think the work done here by you is a great thing and shouldn't stop. I think criticism can change things, by making people more aware of these things and the need to be more critical of the games we play and the messages they send. And sometimes, just venting about how kinda badly the gaming industry treats women can be freeing.

              • -I- don’t think what is done on this blog should stop, at all. I love this blog, and I love the conversations we have here, when everyone manages to remain calm about it. =P

                I don’t think there is only one solution, either, and I think that Alex’s point was that this blog isn’t exactly well-known enough, and isn’t raising enough awareness to make as much of a real difference as, say, making your own games would.

                And I totally understand the instant-anger reaction, just try to remember that not everyone who has a differed viewpoint is against you, and sometimes those who see something in a way you perceive as wrong might have jus never been exposed to the Right viewpoint, yet.

          • He never said that the things he was listing made sexism in games okay. As a matter of fact, he specifically said at one point: “Does this justify sexism in games? Certainly not!” That is the polar opposite of what you accused him of.

            He wasn’t making excuses for it or justifying it, he was simply listing the reasons why the people for whom gaming is a business make the decisions that they do.

            You can argue all you like about how inaccurate the assumptions he laid out are, but they aren’t his assumptions, they’re the assumptions of the marketing departments of gaming companies. Disrespecting Alex for listing them, while also admitting that they don’t actually justify the sexism that the gaming companies think they justify, accomplishes nothing.

            • Justin, did you even read the first post?

              Example: “And it’s not even up to them; it’s up to us. When you see gender inequality in games, you are seeing the direct result society has had on the industry. We shouldn’t be blaming developers for the games coming out; we should be blaming ourselves.”

              Another: “And of course, asking men to not ‘appreciate’ the female form is like asking a Zebra to change its stripes. The very nature of male existence is to seek power, and women (and the power is only there to get more desirable women). It’s not an active choice, like learning to play the piano; it’s a subconscious, predetermined facet of the male psyche.” – Because being attracted to women obviously entitles one to objectify them right and treat them like fap toys right? We can’t just respect them or anything? Oh, wait, ‘it’s predetermined’ and ‘not an active choice’, the essentialist argument that ‘men can’t help it’ so it’s okay. No responsibility for them, no need for them to change or try some actual /self control/ or even be introspective. You’ll just have to tolerate it ladies. Plenty of his assumptions are in there, who are you trying to fool? Disrespect, pfft, as if he didn’t have plenty from the beginning.

              Making excuses for it is saying it’s okay, it’s the same thing. It’s giving it tacit approval, it’s not criticizing it or challenging it. That’s how bigotry works, if you just let it pass then that you’ve given it the go ahead. You can talk about how you think sexism or racism or homophobia is wrong but it’s entirely hollow when you turn around and make up reasons for why people keep perpetuating it. It’s just helping complacency, and that is what actually accomplishes nothing while actively supporting the stagnation. It’s just evading things.

              • Are you sure YOU read the post Lilith? Because I mean you clearly didn’t read my latest one because you have ignored it completely!

                The first quote is me saying that sexism is the direct result of society’s acceptance and promotion of it, that it is caused by people saying it’s ‘just one of those things’, and that it is an inescapably a BAD thing we should be ashamed of!

                I am in awe to say the least!

                And for the second quote; maybe you are perceiving ‘appreciate’ in quotation marks as ‘perverted leering’. Assume instead it means ‘attraction’.

                And by that I mean that attraction to the female gender is at the very core of what it is to be a man, regardless of whether it is in literature, video games, film or music! The reason why women are so often a focal point of videogames is because they are the focal point of everything that matters to men! I am not justifying the warping of womankind’s identity with that statement, just explaining the prevalence of the idealised female form in gaming.

                We have to be fascinated by women or THE HUMAN RACE DIES.

                And in a world where there are aliens and ancient robots that want to kill mankind, the 100% realistic depiction of men and women in a creative form designed to ENTERTAIN seems to be a ludicrous expectation. Everything is fantastical and hyperbolic, whether it’s the colour of the lasers, the look of the aliens, the bicep girth and body fat percentage of every man or the size of mammary glands in women.

                (Furthermore, as an apparently world-class bigot, I take issue with someone who, in their mind; has never participated in it, telling me “That’s how bigotry works”.)

              • I didn’t miss your post, I just replied to Justin first. I’m not always able to type these up quickly or anything and sometimes I reply to them out of order. Anywho, I guess now I’ll just reply to this one..

                “And by that I mean that attraction to the female gender is at the very core of what it is to be a man, regardless of whether it is in literature, video games, film or music!”

                … What? This is what I was talking about though, this exact thing you’re doing still :\ Dude, this is gender essentialism again (‘Men are like this and Women are like this, at their core, it’s biological and natural and surely couldn’t influenced or exaggerated social constructs and narratives!). No, it is not at ‘the core’ of every man. Could you stop erasing homosexual men? You’re sort of implying they’re not real men with the essentialism. And even beyond erasing homosexuals, the core of every man is their sexual attraction to women? That’s just insulting to men and still makes them all out to be sex hounds (which people, Not Saying You Are, have used to dismiss stuff like sexual harassment and rape and things like that). Also, defines them by their sex instead of who they are as a person, I’m not cool with that.

                “The reason why women are so often a focal point of videogames is because they are the focal point of everything that matters to men!”

                A focal point? No, I’m pretty sure the main characters are usually white-straight-het-men. And really, there’s a difference between the women being a focus.. and their sexual parts/fetish appeal being a focus. And I’m not sure why you think it’s idealized, if anything it’s dehumanizing to women the way they are usually treated in the majority of games (plot devices, prizes, objects of desire, sexy props, blow-up dolls). Valuing someone as an object and valuing them as a person with just as much value as you are not the same.

                Those explanations just don’t really hold up.

                “We have to be fascinated by women or THE HUMAN RACE DIES.”

                Eh? o.o I’m not even saying you can’t be attracted to women (though I think the human extinction thing would be kinda far off given our numbers). I’m saying why does that need to bleed over into so much of our media and why does it need to be turned up to such a degree as to continuously objectify women and define them by men’s sexual attraction to them? It’s not that the attraction is wrong, it’s that the sex drives are being prized over actually taking the women in the audience and how they feel about being represented like that over and over again. Instead they kind of that message of ‘tits or gtfo’ and that they aren’t as valuable to stop discriminating against. Women have money too, I’m sure women want to play the games too but not to feel like they’re being turned into blow-up dolls each time. The whole idea behind sex sells is sexually exploiting women really, but since it’s assumed they aren’t as valuable as the men this is perceived as alright. Maybe if those companies started actively appealing to women and showing them that they think they’re valuable (beyond the sexual parts) then maybe we’d find that the idea of ‘sex sells’ is not as necessary as it is often assumed but never proven.

                Humankind, by the way, if you please. And yeah you may talk of fantasy and it’s meaning to entertain if you please.. and I believe in that meaning. However, it’s not being exercised. It’s only entertaining one half of the population while treating the other half only semi-decently a quarter of the time. Men get to have varied body shapes beyond muscleheads, but even that is a power fantasy for men. Women don’t really, stuck the same generic sexpot look, because they’re marketed as a sexual fantasy for men.

                Also, I never called you a ‘world-class’ bigot. You’re not. I explain merely that excuses for to not challenge oppression or leave it be tends to let bigotry go unrestrained. This includes apologist statements. Bigotry isn’t always outright maliciousness or cruelty, sometimes it’s just apathy and inaction, a resistance to change. But we’re all prejudiced in one way or another, but we should challenge that and not settle with it just being inevitable or comfortable about the idea that what we have now is acceptable.

          • LilithXIV:

            There was no reason for you to attack Alex that way. I understand that you feel strongly about your feminist ideology, but damn- you come across as being stereotypically misandrinistic. Perhaps you really don’t hate men, but your accusations and choice of words towards Alex, who was completely undeserving of such a rant, suggest otherwise…

        • Okay, I’m going to respond to a few of your points that I think I can provide a bit of a different perspective on, since you seem willing enough to have a proper discussion.

          Re: point 2, switch out “art” with “society” — “you can constructively criticize society but you can never make others change it.” Because that’s the crux of the issue, not the desire for videogames that better suit our personal tastes — and I think you’re reasonable enough to understand why giving up on changing society is defeatist.

          Re: point 3, the problem is that there aren’t all that many Jade Raymonds out there who can continue on in the face of such abuse. For every one of her, there’s probably several women who have all the other qualifications but simply are either unwilling or unable to face that kind of targeted harassment on a constant basis — and can you really blame them for that?

          Re: points 4 and 5, you might want to consider the fact that virtually every group targeted by game publishers are made for a minority of gamers. To put things into perspective, the most recent Call of Duty title topped out at about 21mil sales on X360 and PS3, which is only about 20% of the 103mil X360 and PS3 consoles that have been sold to date. The current fanbase for Call of Duty is a smaller minority than women who are the primary owner of consoles by your own numbers!

          Re: point 6, the technical concessions are exactly why it’s so important to convince the big game companies to take us seriously as an audience. We don’t want to have to be stuck with the terribly-restrictive technical limitations imposed on anything we could possibly create ourselves. We want to have the chance to explore fully-realized constructed universes, too, without the universes themselves being designed to leave women out, and that can’t happen if the people with the money to make those kind of words aren’t swayed.

          Hopefully, there’s something in that big wall ‘o text up there that might help you understand why we have a problem with a lot of your claims.

          • Re: points 4 and 5:

            I am curious how many units Modern Warfare 2 sold, as opposed to Black Ops. CoD has two developers, and the ones that made Black Ops are commonly considered the lesser of the two. I would assume that MW2 sold more than Black Ops for that reason. My brother and sister still play MW2 as they prefer it over Black Ops.

            Also, of those 103 million combined PS3s and 360s, not every one represents a separate user. I have personally owned one PS3 and 2 360s (due to my first being stolen during a burglary). My brother has owned 4 or 5 360s due to issues with the Red Ring of Death. Some people upgraded to Elites or Slims when these better models became available. Between the people who own one of each, the people who have had to replace stolen/broken consoles, and the people who have upgraded, that 103 million represents less users than 103 million individual users. I don’t know the numbers, it’s probably impossible to know them, but those 21 millions sales of Black Ops represent a larger percentage of the gamer population than your post theorized, as I am sure that most of the people who own both consoles only bought the game for one, not both, and because I am sure that the people who are sitting on a couple of red ringed corpses of 360s didn’t buy copies for their departed consoles.

            Not disputing your point, mind you. I am sure that, as different as the numbers might end up if we could get an accurate comparison versus individual users/households rather than consoles, they would still point to CoD players as being in a minority, I just don’t believe the percentage would be as low as you postulated.

            • Re: Modern Warfare 2 vs. Black Ops, their sales are virtually identical, with Black Ops selling about a half-million more on PS3 and a half-million less on 360. I think it’s a pretty fair guess to say that the base for both games is nearly identical, which is what makes it such a good example.

              As for the reasons you posted for there being fewer consoles out there than were actually sold, some of them I think aren’t exactly fair (someone who replaces an OG console with a Slim is likely to sell the OG version instead of throwing it away) or limited in scale (there aren’t really that many people who buy multiples of the same console, and I think buying both HD consoles probably isn’t that widespread either). You definitely have a point about the Red Rings, though, because that’s known to involve multiple millions of units.

              However, we shouldn’t forget that we’re talking about an incredibly unique property here — apart from Call of Duty, there’s virtually nothing on the HD consoles that can compare, and the publishers for almost any other game on the systems would be ecstatic with 5mil total sales — and that it’s probably common for consoles to be used by more than one person. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that, in the vast majority of cases, the minority being targeted by videogames is going to be smaller than the number of women who are the primary owners of consoles.

              There are a few Wii games that have sold to higher percentages of the audience, but those both tend to be a) pack-ins and b) completely gender-neutral (as much as I dislike the overall visual style of Miis, female Miis at least aren’t there to look sexy), so they’re a rather different kettle of fish.

              • Like I said, I highly doubt that the numbers would shift by much. The original point would remain intact, I just felt that those points needed to be made.

                As for the old consoles of people who upgraded, these are often traded in to stores for credit toward the new one, taking them at least temporarily out of people’s hands.

              • Ah, okay then. I can certainly understand that (it’s not like I don’t do that all the time myself).

                And, yeah, they’re temporarily taken out of people’s hands, but the stores wouldn’t take them if they didn’t turn over fast enough — I’m pretty sure that the amount of used consoles sitting in stores is probably far lower than the amount of used consoles sitting in a new home being used by new owners, so that effect is likely much smaller than, say, the Red Ring effect.

  15. @Ikkin
    I thought Jumplion was saying that the composition of the image isn’t fanservice, if a simple change of clothes would make the image not-fanservice.

    That doesn’t mean the clothing itself isn’t fanservice, of course.

    Yeah, that’s mainly what I was trying to say. Not every position of the female body is always presented for the sole purpose of fanservice, sometimes it’s just there for composition (which I am studying films and such). The cloths themselves may be fanservice, but the composition isn’t always so. That’s what I feel most of Jack’s photos were like, her cloths were pretty stupid but the fanservice falls flat when you implement a simple change of clothing.

    And by the by, the other picture I wanted to show was this one;

    That is fanservice no matter what you slap on her.

    • Uh, ouch, her spine…

      Wundergeek might throw things at me for this but the cover art alone has (in my experience) garnered it a good few sales in my store, of course its the same 2 copies rotating in and out all the time but still….

      I even decided one month to ‘experiment’ with having it flat-faced (IE cover fully displayed) for a week and then displayed spine-on, flat-face sold in about 3 days and the spine on sat there for 2 weeks or so before an inspector customer (someone who takes out every single fucking game in a section, inspects the cover/blurb/manual and puts them all back wrong,grrrrr) found it part way through her inspection and brought it up to the counter and bought it.

      I failed to ask her what made her buy it as I was too busy trying to not launch myself over the counter and beat her to death with a label gun (I wanted a rotary label cannon but apparently we dont have the budget for it 😦 ).

      I acknowledge that this experiment is far from scientific but it is interesting.

  16. Without taking anything away from the more obvious sexualization of the female characters, most of the underlying complaints are just a subset of the greater truths behind male/female dynamics.

    The stereotypes that Bioware taps into are simple truths that play out all day everyday around the globe. The majority of men and woman are walking around this earth with a concept of who/what they are and should be, and the sexual element might be the most salient element of our particular identity shields.

    Bioware does of this this to the male peronas, but from the male framework. Males are supposed to be strong, confident, powerful, decisive heroes… and lastly, attractive.

    The only standard “positive” male sexual stereotype missing is financial power.

    The majority of males AND females accept and unconsciously subscribe to unwritten masculine, feminine rules. This game is more a reflection of our world, than the hard selling of female sexuality to young males.

    Go look outside and you’ll see ALL Bioware characters on display on every street in this nation… and probably the world.

    While I agree with most everything said in this article, I think it’s the wrong conversation, ignoring the much greater truths of basic male/female interaction, and possibly the impossibly large truths of self identification and the nature of being.

    If any of this interests anyone, a good starting point for this line of thinking can be found in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

    • I was reading this page earlier, and walked away for a while and talked with some friends about their ME 2 games. Casublett makes a good point about relationships and how people identify themselves in society, and i thought about how my friends and i played the game. I don’t mean to imply that all real women fit these molds (thank the maker), but Miranda (stereotypically hot Cheerleader, feel sorry for her cuz she has to be perfect and hot all the time), Tali (geek girl hidden behind big glasses/glass plate, even more insecure than the boy geek) and Jack (the goth/alt/punk chick cutter taken to its sci-fi extreme) do represent what a lot of guys expect or encounter (possibly based on their expectations), plus Samara as the mature hot lady who knows better and Kelly as the overly flirtatious chick who won’t actually get with you.. So….

      My first game was an idealized version of myself, but that is completely different from the real me. I am a hetero man-boy in his twenties, but my Shepard was a frustrated lesbian paragon. Flirtations with Kelly, Jack, and Samara went nowhere (although I am playing on PS3 and I chose Liara as my relationship from the first game and managed to maintain the relationship this game) for my pale red-headed lady, and I was attracted to Miranda physically but thought she was a repulsive uptight fascist bitch.

      My brother-in-law totally went for Tali, and that makes perfect sense for him.

      My roommate sexed Jack but ended up with Miranda, also appropriate,

      Now I’m playing a renegade male Shepard (on Insanity difficulty for my platinum trophy!), and my relationships are playing a lot closer to my real life. I just had sex with Jack to early because I thought it was what she wanted, so now I can’t have a relationship with her, and I will have to pursue Tali to try and get my Paramour trophy.

      p.s. I’m going to play through a third time as a renegade female Shepard so that both my games in Mass Effect 3 can be female, because Jennifer Hale rocked, and my generic male Shepard voice totally doesn’t fit my character, who I tried to make look like latter-day Sisco from Deep Space Nine but ended up lookin like a black albino with the game’s lighting.

    • A social construct is not a truth, it is not natural and it is not inherent. It is conditioned, from birth, and ingrained into us throughout our lives. Just because something is a status quo, and just because we happen to imitate the stereotypes presented to us, does not mean it is correct or accurate.

      “Males are supposed to be strong, confident, powerful, decisive heroes… and lastly, attractive.” – ‘Supposed to be?’ According to what? These are more like human traits than male traits, you don’t need a certain set of chromosomes to be heroic either. We live in a world of prejudice and discrimination, settling for it is settling for stagnation. We need to be better than that.

      • “This game is more a reflection of our world, than the hard selling of female sexuality to young males.”

        Also.. I would say it’s both, not one or the other more. And a reflection is just that, a reflection, it’s doesn’t make for anything but yet another game that indulges a bit too much with sexploitation of female characters. Reflected without sufficient comment simply reinforces the general atmosphere that this is acceptable. Also, I find too many Sci-Fi is just a reflection of our world.. and that gets awfully boring when it’s supposed to be a fantasy.

        • “And a reflection is just that, a reflection, it’s doesn’t make for anything but yet another game that indulges a bit too much with sexploitation of female characters. Reflected without sufficient comment simply reinforces the general atmosphere that this is acceptable”

          But the whole point of my post was to relflect on these issues, but change to focal point to the much larger dynamics playing out.

          I’m not excusing or denying anything mentioned in this article, I’m trying to re-frame this conversation to include the MUCH larger dynamics in play.

      • Accuracy and truth are not the same thing. It happens, it exists, therefore it is true.

        “Supposed to be strong…” based on personal and societal expectations.

        My post was not about the validity of these very human stereotypes, or if we should follow or buy into them. My comment is that they exist, have existed and will continue to exist.

        My comment was stating there is something much deeper going on under the surface, and only looking at this topic from that limited perspective, while valid and correct in most regards, is missing the larger point.

        It’s a bit like the revived torture debate in this country. Politicians, pundits and talking heads are debating if torture is effective, and that is the wrong point to focus on. The question isn’t how effective torture is, but if we as a country should torture at all.

        The torture debate with such a limited framework serves to obfuscate and confine said debate to empty and pointless theater.

        This article shines the spotlight on a conversation humans should be having, as it’s not just video games that these personal/societal stereotypes/identity shields occur, it’s on every conceivable level of human interaction.

        While this articles topic is valid, like the torture debate, its focal point serves to limit and confine the real nature of the broached topic.

        I think you missed the entire point of my post.

        • If you don’t mind me saying, I think you sort of missed the entire point of this blog XD It’s only about video games, cause that’s what the author wanted it to be about. Saying that’s not really good enough to be worth anything because it’s not in a broader context, or at least not more than your proposed solution, seems kind of rude. In my opinion, anyway.

          • Fair enough, although I never took away from ANY points she made, and never intended anything but to the greater context.

            And “it’s only about video games” isn’t quite fair. Segrating ANY human activity from being human kinda misses the point.

            There are reason we play them beyond entertainment. There are uncounscious projections flying back and forth in all that humans do. And it so happens that video games have more of that projection exchange than most mediums.

            Most games with a narrative are played because of this very projection. A lot of males play because they want to be larger than life idealized heroes, saving the day and getting the girl. Just like some females play with barbies and Bratz for the very same reason, but from a female standpoint. On the flip side, some females would reject these personified ideals, finding them silly, trite or demeaning.

            So while lots of young girls do dream of being the Disney Princess, other find it below their personal standards, but the basic projection exchange, even though it’s “only about video games” still apply.

            Whether it’s a Disney Princess, slick rockstar, sports hero, intellectual giant, latest fashion trend or a personal spiritual hero, human projections speak to the best and worst of all that we are. Even simple dolls and videogames are parts of this picture.

            These projections aren’t always unconscious, and sometimes actively sought out the the participant. Whether books, movies, music or theater, this is a basic function of the human psyche, and when talking about these projections, there are greater dynamics at play.

            It just seems to me you can’t have a more than surface conversation along these lines without taking in account root causes and including the bigger framework to properly frame the conversation.

            While I agree, it’s pretty sad that young males are pandered to and respond on this level, and females are often relegated to little more than a sexual object, these things aren’t happening in a vacuum.

            Even if this articles intention wasn’t of this scope, these issues can’t be truly looked at without taking them into account.

            I never meant to offend, and forgive my inelegance if I did. I only wished to deepen what I considered and extremely interesting topic/article and extend the framework.

            I found this blog from either an N4G or Reddit link, and upon discovery, found an intelligent mind examining oft overlooked/unexamined aspects of the videogame world, and decided to join the conversation. If my thoughts are unwelcome, at the minimum I’ve discovered a great new site I’ll be visiting often.

  17. I didn’t find any of them particularly offensive.
    I really didn’t notice any of the emphasis listed, nor did I find any of the three in question attractive.
    Jack however was some of my favorite character design in Mass Effect, just because it was something different. The tattoo shirt was interesting.
    In my opinion any argument against the strap thing she wears saying it would be impractical or make no sense or wouldn’t stay in place is void by the game being about Robot Space Gods that are actually mind controlling space ships that are also older than time.

  18. Hi,

    This is my first post on this website – apologies for the length, brevity has never been my strong point.

    Before I start posting, I am going to say a bit about myself – I am male, 32 years old, and heterosexual (e.g. probably too old to be considered part of the core demographic of adolscent teenagers but apart from that I guess close to the alleged target market for most games). I’ve been playing video games pretty much my whole life. I consider myself to be pretty non chauvinistic, and I’ve found this site, along with Fat Ugly or Slutty, to be pretty eye opening, its certainly drawn my attention to some things I’d never really thought about.

    I’ve been reading this and the other posts on Mass Effect 2, and thinking about:
    a) my own reaction to the game (and particularly the characters that have been discussed in this forum) as a I played through it
    b) the discussions I had with it with my other male friends of a similar age who also play a lot of games.

    And in short its left me questioning, from a pure business perspective, the presentation of some of the female characters.

    In terms of point a) I:
    * Didn’t really notice Miranda – like Wundergeek I found her pretty dull as a character so didn’t really pay any attention to her. The point I am making here is that I did not even notice the now infamous butt cleavage shots – now I am not a patient man so I do skip a lot of cut scenes, but I am wondering if this actually means I am now so used to this type of thing (and worse) that it didn’t even register.
    * Can share some other posters comments about Samara (or ‘Boobs McGee’ as another poster aptly called her). My honest reaction to her cleavage was mostly ‘cringe’ – I was somewhat embarassed when the missus saw me playing the game and asked me to explain what the boobs were all about.
    * Jack bemused me entirely, again I didn’t take much of an interest in this character, like Wundergeek I didn’t like her much. Probably as was noted earlier she seems crafted to appeal to an angsty teenage emo / goth type audience, which ain’t me.
    * Tali I liked (probably cos I thought she was good in Mass Effect 1). I ended up romancing her, but probably cos I felt it was more in fitting with the Shepherd character to stick with someone he’d been through some scrapes with (and probably cos I didn’t much care for the others). Not sure if subliminally the ‘geek girl’ thing suggested above appealed to me.

    So that’s part a) covered – I guess my point being that apart from old Boobs McGee I didn’t really even register the way some of these characters were presented.

    Now to move on to part b), I do remember discussing Mass Effect 2 with some of my friends and recommending they buy it. But at no point during any discussion I had about his game did I, or any of my friends suggest a reason the game was good was because of:
    * ‘hawt’ female characters / explicit butt shots / boob shots
    * Titillation from romances

    Again to adopt the terminology that seems to be used here, lets put the above two points under the category of ‘Fap material’.

    So I guess where I am getting to on point b) is that, in terms of making a decision to buy the game, the volume / quality of the ‘fap material’ didn’t have any weight whatsover in my (and I think my friends) decision to buy the game, and certainly it never crossed my mind to mention it, I don’t think we discussed it, ever. Again I am 32, perhaps this is not typical amongst the more teenage demographic.

    So I’ve been mulling over the basic premise of a lot of arguments here, correct me if I’m wrong but I feel there is a general assumption that Bioware (and I guess other developers) felt the need to present female characters in this way because
    1) The core game buying public are heterosexual males
    2) This segment likes their games to be full of fap material
    3) Thus if you want to sell games, you need to include plenty of point 2.

    The thing I struggle with here is that I don’t quite get the link between 2 and 3 – certainly for me the presence of the fap material didn’t in any way influence my decision to buy the game, or to recommend it to my friends.

    I also believe that that in this day and age, any male with access to an internet connection (which I’d assume to be pretty much anyone with a console these days) has got access to a huge volume of purpose built, dedicated fap material (or ‘porn’ as its more commonly known) – so I find it pretty amazing to think that games designers feel the need to compete with this by providing suggestive /sexualised female characters. I guess I find the idea that teenage boys would ‘fap’ to Mass Effect 2 rather than just go look at some porn to be a bit bizarre.

    I guess what I am trying to get at is:

    Do Bioware (and other developers) really believe that they would sell less games if they cut down on the fap material and made games that had broader appeal to women?

    Personally it wouldn’t influence my buying decision one bit (and would have the benefit of being a lot less embarassing when playing the game in front of the missus) – and I would hope the same would go for the majority of other heterosexual male gamers – surely I am not the only one who doesn’t play Mass Effect with the lights off and a box of tissues beside me?

    And Bioware might just sell more games to the ever growing female market segment?

    Anyways, that’s just my thoughts on it – I suspect perhaps its my age (and the fact I’m even reading this website in the first place) means I shouldn’t really consider myself to be the ‘core demographic’ and perhaps teenage boys DO like to make their purchasing decisons based on word of mouth fap-quality, I would of course be interested in other readers views.

    Just want to finish by saying I think this is a great website, keep up the good work Wundergeek,



  19. Any male griping and whining about t and a on female characters in a game should check their shorts… you may have a vagina.

    • or occasional/actual respect for women but hey dont let me get in the way of your trolling child.

      Although you could try an original approach, that one is about on part with ‘go make me a sandwhich’ …actually no, more on par with coming in and spouting ‘all your base are belong to us’ but lacking the old school cool vibe.

        • Bwuh? :\ I already clarified that I didn’t mean to say or imply you were a bigot in one of my other posts.

          • I now have an image of Lilith wearing a monacle just from the ‘Bwuh’, so it can humorously fall out in shock 🙂

  20. Now to move on to part b), I do remember discussing Mass Effect 2 with some of my friends and recommending they buy it. But at no point during any discussion I had about his game did I, or any of my friends suggest a reason the game was good was because of:
    * ‘hawt’ female characters / explicit butt shots / boob shots
    * Titillation from romances

    Again to adopt the terminology that seems to be used here, lets put the above two points under the category of ‘Fap material’.

    As a male slightly closer to the teenage demographic than you (24), I’m also doubtful about the selling power of ‘fap material’ in video game. Also, I don’t think that the ‘fap material’ in those games is really that much of a ‘fap material’, with the infamous exception of The Witcher and its sex cards.

    But perhaps you should take the problem from another angle, not wonder how this kind of material can be of any selling power, but ponder the possibility that anything short of ‘fap material’ could turn off some gamers. And by this, I mean women (and men) who don’t adhere to some the norms of beauty and relationships of our societies. Slightly overweight women, women who are ‘masculine’, older romance options, etc. For two specific examples :

    – Aveline in Dragon Age 2 is a very tall and large woman, a warrior who hits things with big sticks and does not move an inch even if charged by an angry bull. Her face doesn’t adhere to the canon of beauty in our societies and goes along with her general toughness and hardness. Some of the first mods for Dragon Age 2 were meant to tone down her ‘masculinity’ and some players complained about her and her physic.

    – In Alpha Protocol, SIE is a crazy mercenary with a love for very big guns and double-entendres, she’s got some weird clothing habits given her job and the places she goes to, and she’s all-around the most fanservice-y woman of the game. And yet, some players of Alpha Protocol complained that the ‘romance’ (the quotes are intentional and very much appropriate) with her was creepy because of the age difference, as she is a veteran of the intrigue world in her forties, while the main character is in his late twenties.

    To tell the truth, I even wonder if Bioware’s decision of not making Aveline a romance option doesn’t have something to do with all this. Like that, no threads asking the developers if they think that all their fan-base has an ‘manly amazon’ fetish and no players asking for a patch that would make her more ‘normal’.

    • Actually the idea of fap material title doesn’t always mean ‘something you’re going to masturbate too’ strictly. It’s to point out that the general idea that women in gaming worlds only get to exist if they’re sexually appealing to men in the audience most of the time while men get to be as gritty, grim, monstrous, intimidating, and (frankly) ugly as they please. The women characters shouldn’t be there to turn on the men. I just wish more gaming companies would kind of address that the kind of men not being able to tolerate strong women and women with muscles and non-stereotyped women… should deal with their own obvious insecurities and egos and that it won’t happen if they keep being pandered to.

      I’m saying you’re supporting the way the gaming industry does things of course, I’m simply giving my own perspective on it.

      • Hi Sannom / LilithXIV,

        Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my post.

        When writing the post, I’d purely been looking at the issue from a Business perspective (in view of the site tagline ‘how not to sell games to women’) rather than making any value or moral judgements over whether it was right or wrong.

        I suppose my thinking was that aforementioned material is viewed as a tool to increase sales, lets say:

        x = base of customers who will buy the game irrespective of FAP material (I’d consider myself to be in this segment) – lets call them the fap-agnostics.
        y = those who make their buying decision based purely on fap content – the fap fans if you will. My thinking (hope?) in my previous post had been that this segment is going to be small, this is purely based on me not personally knowing anyone I’d consider to be in this segment.
        z = those less likely to buy a game based on the inclusions of fap material, lets call them the anti-faps. I suppose having been reading this website, in my own mind I was estimating that this segment might be a bit bigger than x.

        I was about to define ‘f’ as the ‘fap factor’ and put in a formula like: Sales = X +fY – fZ, but lets not get carried away with the maths, I guess the simple logic for any Publisher is that provided Y > Z, its in their interests to go heavy on the fap.

        I’m pretty interested in Sannom’s suggestion to consider from a different angle:

        I’ve been trying to work out how I’d express this, I guess I think that Sannom is perhaps arguing that the ‘fap fans’ (Y) make up a way, way bigger segment in sales than the ‘fap agnostics’ (X)? Would this fit with what you are saying Sannom?

        I suppose it all comes down to what assumptions you come into this with, I started off on the basis that X was probably the biggest, and I’d have hoped that Z was larger than Y based on my own experience.

        I guess this flys in the face of the evidence though, as I’ve no doubt that the large publishers focus first and foremost on sales and if they did feel the anti-fap segments was larger than the fap-fans and this was causing them to lose business, they’d be toning it down now.

        Following this thought through, does this mean that the best way to get a change in attitudes within the publishers would be for the anti-faps to boycott games that were overly fap heavy? Hit them where it hurts as it were?

        Like I say, I am purely looking at the issue from a sales / business perspective – if Sannom is correct and sales will drop if they don’t include a certain level of fap, then I guess its optimistic to think the big publishers will start cutting back on it?


        P.S. I don’t really read Bioware forums and I am pretty stunned about some of the stuff that Sannom has mentioned people complaining about. I’d be interested whether:
        * are these views representative as a whole, or just those of a vocal minority?
        * has the game in question lost sales because of the views (I would hope the answer is no since the folk complaining have clearly bought the game)

        Is anyone aware of any proper data on these?

  21. Jesus Christ,you are being over-sensitive. Those are all powerful characters,especially Miranda who is independent,successful and deadly. She just uses all of strenghts in her favour,including her good looks. And out all those pictures of her,only two with her ass in first plan are too much,on other pictures you can see her face and rest of the body,it’s your fault you are focusing on ass and breasts. I’m all for gender equality,but stop taking everything so seriously.

  22. I agree with the assessment of Miranda. Shes supposed to be a top Cerberus operative, genetic enhancement or no it seems atypical for her to act and present herself the way she does when she has a serious job to do. i.e fap material part of the character.

    I also agree with the Samara assessment to a lesser extent. She’s the holy paladin of ME yet throws her breasts around everywhere, otherwise she at least acted the part.

    I do not agree with the jack assessment. Its part of her character to dress and act the way she does. She’s a wild, mentally disturbed individual. In ME3 we’ve been told she dresses more like an adult and less like a rebellious teenager, due to her character maturing. When we actually get to -see- what this turns out to be, then i think she’d be worthy of assessing in this context.

    It may not be very flattering, but Jack fits as is in ME2.

  23. Can I just say, rather late, I’m playing through Mass Effect 2 again and it’s really obvious that Jacob’s suit is just as form fitting as Miranda’s, yet that’s fine for him to wear? I’ve seen more ass shots of him than her so far. Something to consider instead of viewing everything in relation to women at the expense of how the men are presented.

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