June 20, 2011 36 Comments
I’ll provide more detail when I can, but this space will be silent for a while. There’s a good chance I won’t be responding to email or reading comments.
Play nice, kids.
(how not to sell games to women)
June 14, 2011 44 Comments
Over the weekend, someone must have linked my old TERA post to the official TERA forums as I got a flood of troll comments on that post. Most of the comments really weren’t really more than a waste of space and many of them repeated each other, since trolls often seem to lack in originality. The responses I got can be roughly summarized as follows:
Now it’s worth pointing out that I did get one comment from a TERA user who wasn’t comfortable with the others trolling my blog:
While we may disagree with some of the author’s points, can we avoid the personal attacks?
So, thekillerangel, thank you for trying to inject a little sanity into the flood of outraged temper tantrums.
Now ordinarily I wouldn’t bother dignifying this sort of thing with too much of a response besides dropping some pertinent links in the comment thread for people who stumble across the post in the future. However, the whole charge that male castanics are “just as bad” and that not showing them was “revealing my bias” or some such really stuck in my craw.
For one thing, they’re completely ignoring all of my points about the promotional art that centers on nearly naked women next to fully covered men. Not one of the commenters even tried to address that, I’m guessing because it didn’t fit into their comfortable knee-jerk reactions. But even ignoring that point, I can say that I’ve seen screenshots of male castanics, and sure they’ve got rippling abs and low cut pants. But that is NOT THE SAME as two spangles and a cork. It’s just not. So I want to debunk this publicly.
A brief side note before I continue
In my previous TERA post, I used problematic language when talking about the women of TERA. In a subsequent post and discussion, I repented of my use of the word slut, so for those of you following this link who missed out on that discussion, please don’t rake me over hot coals for my use of the word slut. I’m aware it was terrible, and it’s kind of tangential to the point I’m trying to make today. (Thanks.)
Back to business: some pictures
So the first order of business when examining these claims that male castanics are just as sexualized as female castanics is to round up a shit ton of screen shots. So here, for your edification, is a collection of male castanics showing some skin:
Now sure, they’re all showing a fair amount of skin. And yes several of them are wearing some low-cut pants. But you know what all of them have that none of the TERA women do? F*CKING PANTS:
Not a single one of these models is wearing anything that could be called pants. Many of them are exposing portions of thigh, which the male models don’t do. Many are also exposing portions of buttock, which the male models don’t do. And while male castanics might have low-cut pants, that’s a far sight from the dental floss that half of the female castanics seem to be wearing.
Furthermore, it is possible to find male armor sets for castanics that fully cover the male model:
The following is the most conservative female castanic armor I could find:
And you know what? That’s really not so bad. That is until you consider that the most conservative armor set I could find still consists of a micro-minidress with a cleavage window and stripper boots.
So really, all of you trolls complaining that male castanics are “just as bad” are helping to make my point for me. When you line male and female castanics up next to each other, it is patently obvious that female castanics are consistently more sexualized than male castanics. The fact that six armor options exist for male castanics to be covered completely and not one exists for females is a compelling fact that needs to be considered as well.
This insistence that the treatment of male and female castanics is equal is yet another illustration of how sexualization of women in games is seen as normal while sexualization of men is seen as “extreme”. The male castanics, while definitely sexay, are still only mildly sexualized. The female castanics are extremely sexualized – after all, I have yet to see any screen shots used as promo that show a male castanic greased up with two nipple pasties and a sock to go fight monsters. And yet there is a subset of gamer who has gotten so desensitized to the oversexualization of women in their games that they read these two groups as being treated equally. It’s kind of a sad statement of the state of gaming when you think about it.
June 13, 2011 65 Comments
I know I said I’d do a post about the new Tomb Raider trailer. I guess I lied. I’m just feeling really burned out on arguments right now and don’t feel up to having one that is sure to be both heated and incredibly entrenched with no hope of either side convincing the other. Been there, done that, not up to doing it again right now. So instead I thought I’d post some of the other E3 wtf I found on sites that weren’t Destructoid.
More booth babes
Looking at the various gaming sites, you’d think that E3 was a convention devoted to booth babes, not a convention devoted to gaming and other consumer electronics. The week after the show, 1up users apparently think that the E3 booth babe roundup is the top feature on 1up.com:
But IGN is not to be outdone! First they have an E3 booth babe roundup of their own, with 135 photos no less! They also went the extra mile, though, and did feature interviews each day of the show with their pick for “booth babe of the day”, sprinkled with photos of them in their hawt booth babe outfits of course. There’s an interview with this redhead (or rather, woman in a red wig), this “fairy dancer”, and – my personal favorite – this cringe-worthy interview: E3 2011: Booth Babe of the Day Hindu Goddess.
But wait! There’s more!
Lest you get the impression that E3 might actually be a show about video games and boobs, IGN would like to assert that… nope. It’s just about boobs:
Seriously? I don’t even know what’s the most messed up thing on this page. First you have the booth babe battle itself. Because, you know, it’s not bad enough that these women are getting paid to be ogled at and pawed over by grown men who really should know better. No, what they really need is for men who would like to ogle/paw at them (but can’t, by virtue of not being at the show) to judge their attractiveness and post these ratings for the world to see. Intrinsc is clearly getting into the spirit of things by setting a high standard for what constitutes a booth “babe” versus a booth “acceptable girl”. I guess it’s a useful reminder for us feminists, who are all (by virtue of being feminists) unutterably, horrifyingly ugly.
But let’s not miss that we can get “babeology” updates and exclusive content through social media. OMG! Creepy coverage of half-naked women as purveyed by a major gaming website? SIGN ME UP!
The weirdest thing in all of this is that Kotaku only had one article featuring pictures of booth babes promoting a game. Or rather, car wash babes promoting a game. Just one. So what the hell, folks? Since when is Kotaku the classiest gaming website out there? Did I fall into an alternate universe again?
On IGN I also managed to find some fail-worthy trailers I hadn’t seen on Destructoid, like this trailer for Skullgirls – a hand-animated 2D fighting game. Despite being hand-animated, each character features skimpy outfits and, if you watch closely (it’s pretty zoomed out) BOOB JIGGLING. Now, automated boob-jiggling in 3D games is one thing since you can get algorithms to do the heavy lifting (heh) for you. But it just seems ridiculous in games where the boob jiggle is hand-animated. Don’t you guys have better things to do with your time? Like, say, balancing gameplay? Or are you too busy balancing other things?
I also found this awful Catwoman-centric Arkham City Trailer complete with crotchcam, asscam, and wannabe porn riffs. I didn’t think it was possible, but this makes me want to play Arkham City even less than the interview that Destructoid did with one of the devs about Catwoman as a playable character. Yuck.
Sometimes it’s not the games that fail, it’s the coverage of the games that fails. Over on 1up, I found this feature called: Postcard from E3: Atlus and the Booth so Sexy It Had to be Hidden (Forget Duke Nukem’s booth; the sauciest place at E3 was Atlus.)
Yeah, you can practically hear the fail a mile away. I especially love gems like:
Why such an out-of-the way location for a prominent show sponsor? My theory is that Atlus’ booth was just too darned sexy for the main halls.
Not only was the booth plastered with drawings of ladies in lingerie, it also included the newly licensed King of Fighters XIII. And when we sat down to demo the game, Atlus’ spokesdude Aram and our own Janine both decided to play as the decidedly pendulous Mai Shiranui. Swing low, sweet chariot.
And people wonder why gamers get stereotyped…
Of course, this is the same guy who wrote a feature about Irrational’s preview of Bioshock Infinite and titled it: Irrational Declares Grey the Color of Girly-Men. Then, rather than explaining this rather controversial claim straight off, his opening paragraph centers on objectifying all of the staff who work at Irrational. But hey, he objectifies them equally, which makes everything okay according to Jim Sterling.
Kotaku also wanted to get in on the fail feature fun with this feature called: What Will A Middle-Aged Ivy Look Like In Soulcalibur V?
Yes, despite the new Soul Calibur title taking place 17 years after the end of Soul Calibur IV, Ivy is going to be returning. And of course the question on everyone’s minds is: will Ivy be a MILF? In this feature, Michael McWhertor asks the important questions, like:
Would it mean a more modestly dressed Ivy?
Would the ravages of time have an impact on her vast… sex appeal?
I’m glad someone out there cares enough to look into these important journalistic issues.
Two bits of actual E3 coverage win
Anyhow, the first is a video in which an E3 attendee videos a line to jump in a bouncy castle with a booth babe and sarcastically reminds the viewer that E3 is a convention for only industry professional. (That professional is a term used loosely in the gaming industry should surprise no one, right?)
The second is a bit of news I didn’t see on any other website and which actually makes me quite happy. Apparently, Lara Croft models at E3 will “never happen again”. Quite an encouraging bit of news when you consider that the Lara Croft models often did promo shoots that resulted in things like this:
The fact that both of these come from Kotaku actually frightens me, but there you have it. Maybe they weren’t intending to be ironic? It’s hard to say.
June 9, 2011 85 Comments
Hi, folks. I’ve been coming across so much WTF coming out of E3 that I decided it deserved its own post. I had big intentions of surfing all of the major gaming news sites (Kotaku, Joystiq, IGN, etc) for their E3 news, but it took me so long just to get through all of the fail on Destructoid that those intentions didn’t last. Besides, I can’t pretend that I don’t love picking on Destructoid, because I do. So! On to the WTF!
Fail the first: boobies are important news hurr hurr
Well, it seems like I can always count on Dale North to really cover the important things: boobies!
Real subtle. It helps that he also lists some variant of ‘pretty girls’ twice. Because who cares about getting to go to the biggest gaming convention of the year when there are BOOBIES to see? Come on people. Priorities.
Of course, given that Dale North seems to be the designated boobular cosplay correspondent, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the boob-centric nature of his E3 coverage. But remember, folks, these are boobies that think that Dale isn’t sexist, which is really all that matters.
But let me not give the impression that Dale is the only one doing some boobie-loving in the name of GARME JURNALIZM (as Jim Sterling calls it). No, it seems that Destructoid felt the need to further strengthen the mental link between its brand and BOOBIEZ by having their mascot photographed with hordes of boobular cosplayers:
The most disappointing instance of this that I saw, however, was this video by Jonathan Holmes of all people that was nothing more than a few second clip of a large crowd of attractive women and talking about how this was clearly very important video game news.
Et tu Jonathan? ET TU???
I previously had become a fan of Jonathan’s when he did a Constructoid episode featuring a conversation between Princess Peach and Bayonetta in which he examined the stereotypes that they were each based on. I also quoted Jonathan in my post about Bayonetta about his view that Bayonetta is a hollow character based on stereotypes and gender misconceptions. So I have to confess that right now I’m feeling pretty betrayed. So, Jonathan:
Fail the second: Game trailers
The obvious contender here is the trailer for the new Tomb Raider game. I’m actually going to save that for it’s own post. It might wind up being a bit short, but it’s sufficiently fucked up that I feel it deserves to be singled out. Still, there’s plenty of other completely fucked up trailers that deserve mocking.
Take, for instance, this interview with Dax Ginn of Rocksteady about the upcoming Arkham City game:
Charming thumbnail. And it gets better, the fail begins at 2:40 when the interviewer asks Ginn “tell me about this lovely lady right here”. We then see lots of clips of Catwoman in action with camera angles that play up her… ahem… assets:
There’s also the Dead Island trailer that was released which seems to heavily play up the ‘tropical island = bewbs’:
To be fair, this still doesn’t have anything on DNF. But still, it seems like a pretty cynical attempt to combine breasts, zombies, and violence to appeal to the ever sought-after “18-24 male and his penis” demographic. Disappointing.
The worst, however (okay, that’s not Tomb Raider), is this trailer for Dragon’s Crown:
What’s incredibly bizarre about this game is that it’s 2D, using glorified sprites. And the sorceress’ breasts STILL jiggle every time she moves. You have to watch the video to truly grasp the titanic amounts of fail that this game has. It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen something that fails harder than Soul Calibur IV, but this trailer definitely manages that feat.
Fail the Third: DNF release party
All right, this is cheating slightly since it’s not tied to E3, but it was announced during all of the E3 hype so I’m including it. Gearbox is apparently having a release party for DNF that will feature sexay wimminz and be DJed by Jazzy Jeff. And just in case you’re not getting the theme, they’re calling the party Happy Ending:
June 7, 2011 70 Comments
This is sorta off-topic, but it’s also my blog. (So deal.)
Okay. A bit of a preamble here. I’ve been agonizing over whether to post this here for pretty much the entire time I’ve had this blog. But since I’ve gotten pretty serious about finishing this project (described below) in the last few months, I think I owe it to myself to make this post rather than keeping my doubts to myself, despite that I’d honestly rather scoop my own eyeballs out with a rusty spoon.
(Also, I realize that all of this sounds horrifically cliche in less than 100,000 words, but I’m honestly not setting out to rip off Tolkein or the legions of Tolkein knock-offs. Honestly, I can’t stand Terry Brooks and authors like him. I’m not about to summarize the plot because that would be boring, so you’ll have to trust me on this.)
Full disclosure – I’m a middle-class white ciswoman, so despite the ranting I do here I certainly have a fuckton of privilege. I was brought up in a very conservative community full of pretty much every kind of fail ever, but especially classism and racism, and as such am painfully aware my own fail-worthy tendencies. The last thing I want is for this to sound like “oh I am a white woman with white guilt and I’m trying soooo haaaaard and I’m afraid the evil anti-racists will be meeeeaaaaaan to meeeee and I feeeeeeeeel so baaaaaaaaad”. This whole thing shouldn’t be about me, and I recognize that. However, I realize that silence doesn’t help anything. So despite that I grew up in a place where Good People just Didn’t Talk about Those Things and that I have more than my fair share of (ex)Catholic Guilt, I want to give this a try.
All of this is an incredibly long-winded way of saying – hey, I’m trying. Please let me know if I fail, and please accept my apologies in advance since I know I probably will.
Okay. So one of the things that I’ve been doing during my soul-cripplingly long period of unemployment has been finally putting serious effort into the fantasy novel that I’ve been working on for … <ahem> waytoof*ckinglongnow.
Now I recognize that SF and Fantasy are genres with a disproportionate amount of fail of all kinds, be it gender fail, race fail, orientation fail, what have you. Tanya Huff in particular has been one of my favorite fantasy authors for a long time particularly because of her efforts to address some of these various types of fail. Similarly, while Ursula K. LeGuin’s purple prose tends to turn me off, I did read and enjoy the Earthsea Trilogy and wish that her writing was more up my alley, since I would love to support her more. So when I sat down to do my world-building, I made sure to engineer things so as to avoid the most basic types of fail that so many fantasy authors seem to fall into time and time again.
My protagonists are not all white – it’s a mixed group. Nor are the villains all brown. (That’s the basics of the basics, and yet people still manage to screw that up all the time, sadly. I’m looking at you, M. Knight Shayalaman!) Neither are my protagonists solely members of the aristocracy fighting to uphold a feudal monarchy. And I am certainly not pretending gay people don’t exist, nor am I demonizing them or portraying them as two-dimensional stereotypes. However, there’s something that I’ve been quietly angsting about.
My book has elves.
I freaking love elves. Maybe it’s being a visual artist, or a former anime freak, or having grown up stuffing my face with fantasy, I don’t know. But I loves me some elves. And I know, I know, I know that elves are one of the most problematic things in fantasy ever. They’re super-perfect, beautiful, slender, immortal, aristocratic, super-white people. (There’s a recent post on Ars Marginal that sums this up much better than I can.) So I get it. Elves are bad (not to mention lazy writing in about 99% of instances). But I adore high fantasy – I adore elves, and dragons, and mages, and especially romance set with elves, dragons, and mages – and the book I’m writing has all of this.
It’s important to me that even working with such cliched material that I find new things to say that aren’t just ripping off Tolkien and the legions of Tolkein knock-offs, and that I do so in a responsible manner. I’m not about to pretend that Fantasy Doesn’t Count, because haven’t I been railing against that argument here? I also don’t want to write a love letter to classism, or have this turn into “White People Are Awesome The Fantasy Novel”, because I would consider that a failure in every sense of the word. It sounds schmaltzy when I say it in less than 100,000 words, but I’m trying to make this my love letter to anti-isolationism, “being the change you want to see”, and “thinking for yourself”.
But the thing I keep coming back to is this – does making elves central to my story set me up for inevitable failure? Are elves just one of those things it’s not possible to redeem? I’m doing everything I can to portray elves as imperfect and flawed rather than the Platonic Ideal of Whiteness, but is that enough?
Some of the things that I’ve done in an attempt to controvert the worst fantasy stereotypes make me worry that I’m just setting myself up to fail in different ways. The main character of the story is an elf woman, because I’m fucking tired of the Great Male Savior. (And because, again, I freaking love elves.) The other main character is a nonwhite male human, because Jesus Christ I’m tired of nonwhite characters being relegated to sidekicks. And because I love romance there is of course a romance between the two, only then I can’t stop angsting about how OH GOD YET ANOTHER BLACK MAN WHO GOES FOR WHITE WOMEN SHITSHITSHIT. And honestly everything I think of to try and fix that just makes things worse.
I’m at a point where I’m not going to give up writing the novel, because I’ve been unemployed so long I’m beginning to entertain serious doubts that I’ll ever find traditional employment that’s not Tim Horton’s. (What can I say, unemployment makes you gloomy.) My economic situation is the primary motivation in finally putting my nose to the grindstone, as it were. But I don’t want to throw my hands in the air and say ‘fuck it, I’ve done the best I can’.
So here’s me asking for opinions and really wishing I wasn’t. Thoughts?
June 3, 2011 124 Comments
Bayonetta is hands-down my least favorite character in any type of gaming ever. I hate her more than Ivy, more than Princess Peach, more than Other M Samus put together. She is one of the most blatantly sexualized and objectified characters in all of gaming. So it never fails to baffle me that she manages to generate a fair bit of controversy. That might sound counter-intuitive, but controversy is something that requires fervor on both sides of an argument, and I really don’t see how anyone could possibly defend Bayonetta as a positive role model. And yet, people do. So I’m going to take a look at both sides of the argument, and then weigh in with what I feel is some compelling evidence.
This is an issue I feel strongly enough about that I don’t trust myself to accurately summarize the arguments for Bayonetta as a positive character, so I’m going to let some other people do the talking for me for a moment. First, a defense of Bayonetta as a male fantasy:
She’s sexy, sexUAL, funny, ungodly strong,supremely confident, always composed, fiercely independent and often (chidingly) protective of others.
She’s on top of every situation, kicks an apocalyptic amount of ass and, though sexual, does not (as far as I can see) ever use her sexuality in an instrumental way. Instead, she relies on a personal power that would make Satan himself wet himself.
Are women actually offended that the modern man fantasizes about a woman like that? Are these poor qualities to put on a pedestal? If we think Bayonetta is an awesome character, are we somehow hurting the collective female consciousness? (Gamepot forum thread: Granted, B is a male fantasy…but is she a bad one? Are women offended?)
Also, an argument that Bayonetta is an empowering figure for women:
Bayonetta takes the video game sexy woman stereotype from object to subject, and it’s tremendously empowering. The title character uses the mantle of her sexuality as a power source. Between Bayonetta and her equally fierce rival, Jeane, it’s a women’s world — the boys just play in it. The Umbra Witches aren’t to be messed with. With this unique theme, the game itself is an artistic representation of the concept that female sexuality is its own kind of weapon. (Bayonetta: empowering or exploitative?)
Lastly, we’ll throw in a dose of “people who hate Bayonetta are just slut-shaming” for good measure:
I’ve learned something from this. If you are a God of war that wants to screw 2 concubines at once for red orbs it’s kosher. If you are a game designer that wants to include the function of jiggling the tits of the supporting female protagonists in a ninja game it’s okay. (Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2) If you are a shirtless devil hunter doing a rant about your newest thrusting and penetrating weapon you’re fine! Yet heaven forbid if a woman in a game is the main heroine and expresses she is comfortable with her sexuality!
Up until this point I thought we were making progress. I believed we could accept games as the enjoyable unrealistic fantasies they were, not compare them to reality, and let females have just as much mature rated kinky fun in video games as men did. (Bayonetta at her witch trial(It’s not feminists trying her by the way) – How some people take stuff [sic]to seriously and don’t realize how sexist they are being)
Those are generally the three main points that pro-Bayonetta advocates like to hit when they’re arguing for Bayonetta as a positive character in gaming. I don’t agree with any of these points, but I wanted to give the pro-Bayonetta camp a chance to speak for itself rather than trying to put words in their mouth.
First of all, I think it’s important to consider the context in which Bayonetta was created. Bayonetta is not a real person, and as such we have to consider the source as well as the character herself in considering whether she is a positive figure. Bayonetta is the brainchild of Hideki Kamiya, a Japanese game designer who has been pretty open about describing Bayonetta as his idea woman. Furthermore, in reference to Bayonetta, Kamiya has said some pretty sexist things:
Well, if I had to pick one, I would say it is the scene where Joy first appears in the game, with Bayonetta and her impostor getting into a pose battle. That was my way of expressing the feminine notion that, to one woman, all other women are enemies. Even women walking by each other will check out what the other is wearing, and might smolder a bit with antagonism. Women are scary. (source: Bayonetta dev: to one woman, all other women are enemies)
Hair attacks are something that only a woman can do, it’s a woman’s beauty. So that’s why I came up with the hair idea. (1up.com: Bayonetta developer interview)
I strongly feel that women outside should dress like her. Like, when she does a hair attack, you’d see the skin. I want women to wear fashion like that. (1up.com: Bayonetta developer interview)
[in reference to Devil May Cry sequel being done by someone else] I wanted to do the sequel. I used to want to do the sequel, but now it’s like, some other guy’s chick. It’s not my chick anymore. And my chick got fooled, and played all around from all over, so I don’t want her anymore. I’m only concentrating on my current chick. (1up.com: Bayonetta developer interview)
But anyway that’s how we’re creating Bayonetta’s moves and all that, and that’s actually the most fun part of this game, thinking about all that stuff. So you will be able to see what everybody in the team likes in a girl from the finished project. (1up.com: Bayonetta developer interview)
[On whether her outfit really is just hair] Yes, completely hair. That means that she’s actually naked, but naked because that’s just hair, that’s not clothing. She has strong magical powers, she’s using her strength, her magical power to keep her hair on her body, to make it form an outfit. So when she gets weak or something, she might just lose her magical power, and if that happens…you know what that means. (1up.com: Bayonetta developer interview)
So. Bayonetta is a sexy character who technically goes around naked designed by a guy who is pretty sexist and coded by a studio of men who are all spending their time thinking about the types of sexy moves they want to see Bayonetta do. This for me is the biggest nail in the coffin.
If Bayonetta were an actual person, then it would make sense to proclaim that her sexuality is a choice and that she’s an empowering female figure. But she’s not a real woman. Everything about her was designed to be sexually appealing by a man who in his own words thinks that all women should strive to be as sexual as Bayonetta. These are not the words of someone who was looking to create a character that would turn stereotypes on their head, nor are they the words of someone who is genuinely interested in creating empowering female characters. Kamiya’s sole concern in creating Bayonetta was to create an action character who was his ideal woman and designing her for maximum sex-appeal for the straight male viewer.
It all comes back to the male gaze. (Seriously, please visit that link if the male gaze is a concept you’re not familiar with.) When looking at fictional characters like Bayonetta, you can’t disregard the creator. It’s not enough to say that she embraces her sexuality, because at no point did Bayonetta ever get to make a choice. Her creators made the choices for her. So I totally agree with Jonathan Holmes in his assessment of Bayonetta:
she’s an empty shell of a character; a shell made from here creators’ sexual fantasies, negative stereotypes, and misconceived notions of the female gender.
As for the people who claim you are somehow sexist or slut-shaming when you hate on Bayonetta, the same point applies. Bayonetta is not a person with agency, she’s a fictional creation devoid of any free will or choice. It is not slut-shaming to decry Bayonetta as a hollow stereotype whose sexuality is nothing more than a harmful perpetuation of the stereotypes surrounding female sexuality. It is a judgement on the designers and writers who created her to be what she is. Bayonetta is not for women, plain and simple. She is designed by men for men. As such, I feel no need to pretend that she’s a positive role model.
The compelling evidence
Sometimes, a picture is worth 1000 words. Moving pictures can be worth even more than that. So I took it upon myself to edit some clips together that illustrate Bayonetta at her most sexual and pair it with some appropriate music. (Although I realize that my choice in songs will date me, alas.) Therefore, I submit the following as an argument for why Bayonetta typifies the male gaze: