League of Legends: SO MUCH character design fail

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for quite a while, ever since a previous post in which my brother and I performed a silly experiment to see if a pose depicted in a LoL wallpaper was possible. (It is, but only if you have double-jointed shoulders.)

Anyway, I got curious about the design of other female characters and went looking to see how the awful design of Soraka compared to other female LoL characters since there have been repeated comments on this blog that LoL is not “as bad” as a lot of the other stuff I lampoon here. And the results… let’s just say that yes. Yes it really is “as bad”.

The fail

(Disclaimer: I got all of these from a list of LoL characters found on GiantBomb, so if any of my information is wrong I blame them. My only exposure to LoL is having watched my brother play a match one time, so I can’t say I’m too conversant with the game.)

First of all, the most important bit of fail worth mentioning is that out of the 79 champions that you can choose to play, less than a third are humanoid females. (I’m not including champions like Anivia, btw. Being a giant bird doesn’t count in my books.) Now that ratio, while disappointing, isn’t out of line with the typical representation that women can expect in most other video games, so I might not be so annoyed if there were at least a good variety of designs. Only, there’s really not. Female LoL champions tend to come in one flavor: breastacular. In fact, there were so many fail-worthy characters that I had to split them into two images:

CLICK FOR LARGE VIEW

So… many… sphere boobs… I mean, pretty much any one of these images wouldn’t be out of place on Boobs Don’t Work That Way, but some of them are especially egregious. Katarina and Morgana are pretty good examples of basketball-pinned-to-the-chest syndrome, Evelynn is a prime example of anti-gravity breasts, and Ashe… I don’t know what the fuck is going on there. Not only are they impossibly huge and gravity defying, but they’re also kind of pointy, which is just baffling.

The other thing that really stands out to me when I look at these character designs is how incredibly unoriginal they are. Soraka is just a boobular draenai with a horn, Nidalee is a rip-off of Pathfinder’s iconic sorceress Seoni, Leona looks like female warriors from just about every kMMO ever, and Evelynn is a total Starfire knockoff. She even has red hair!

I have to say that the lack of originality is another mark against the character designs. I mean, come on guys. If you’re going to have ridiculously fanservice-y designs, can you at least manage not to completely phone it in on the design process? Then again, when you ask LoL players what they think about boobs, these are some of the thought-provoking responses you get:

We need moar boobs. (comment here)

Too many boobs? I dont see why anyone would say that. There are only 2 boobs per female champ (comment here)

Complaining about boobs? Lol community is full of homos? (comment here)

…so really, maybe they don’t need to try all that hard. After all, it doesn’t sound like they have a particularly high-brow audience.

The meh

Thankfully, not all of the characters are as eye-searingly awful as the above. Some of them only cause mild aggravation rather than mouth-foaming rage and the desire to hit things:

Yes, Vayne is wearing almost nothing but spandex, but at least her skin is mostly covered. And yes Orianna has kind of freakily pointy boobs and an absurdly short “robo skirt”, but at least they’re mildly less sexualized than some of their compatriots. Still, putting these on the “meh” list makes me feel a little dirty since Vayne is wearing stilettos for gods sake and with Orianna we’re getting ROBOT UPSKIRT which is about fifteen different kinds of stupid.

I mean, give me a fucking break

Mixed bags: awesome characters, except for how they’re not

Some of the female champions are interesting in that they manage to have one good skin and one (or more) really awful one. Case in point, Irelia:

Now granted, even Irelia’s cleavagey outfits are still much, much better than other female champions. Unlike Leona, another “heavily armored” female champion, Irelia is at least wearing pants in all of her various looks! Still, two of these three outfits have inexplicable cleavage windows, which is – in my books – about the worst sin that can be committed in female character design for heavily armored characters. Honestly, it’s better to lose the armor altogether than to have armor that is only meant to accentuate the boobage.

Now the design in the middle would still be better if her waist wasn’t so impossibly tiny. Unless she’s got some kind of freaky chest-TARDIS, there’s no way she’s got room for organs in there. But compared to the vast amounts of fail the rest of the female champions display, I’m more than happy to give the middle Irelia a thumbs up, albeit with a small eye-roll for bad anatomy.

Lux is another great example of a character where one of the skins is so very, very good and the other is… not. Both of the designs on the left feature stupid poses, weird color choices, and yet more terrible anatomy. Guys, please. If you’re going to draw fanservicey outfits, please make sure you have the basics of female anatomy down, okay? Because when I put the two designs on the left next to the one on the right, they just plain suck.

Now, yes, the design on the right does have problems – the armor does accentuate the boobs at the cost of actual structural integrity. But she’s actually fully covered, and more importantly – has an actual waist. Her figure in this one reads as “athletic” and not “weirdly inhuman”. Even better, her pose looks more like an action pose and less like a “sexy pinup pose” like the other two designs. So, thumbs up. This is even better than the non-sexy Irelia.

I have mixed feelings about comparing these two designs for Karma, another magic-wielding character. On the one hand we have yet another mage with lots of skin. On the other hand, it looks like they were trying to model her costume after some specific cultural roots. Considering the sorts of outfits one often sees at Caribana in Toronto, I half think that the design on the right might not be quite as bad as some of the others.

Then again, context is important. If there was a decent mix of sexualized and non-sexualized women, I might be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. However, considering that boobular has been the overwhelming choice for the design of female LoL champions, I’m going to say that this has less to do with “cultural costume” and more with the artists wanting a “different flavor” of sexy.

Annie has come up in the comments before on this blog, but I thought I’d post her two designs side by side. The design on the right is fine. Evil little girls are the stuff horror films are made of. The Annie on the left? Is wrong, wrong, WRONG. Don’t put boobs on little girls ever. Ever. EVAR.

Yes some girls develop early, but she’s, like, 8 or 9. That’s just gross.

The win

It shouldn’t be too surprising that two out of the three totally awesome characters I found are gnome-types. I almost didn’t include Tristana and Poppy because they do look less human than even the WoW gnomes, but I did finally decide that they made the cut, if only because they look totally confident and totally badass. Also, it’s a relief not to see cleavagey armor like you see on WoW gnomes all the time; given that gnomish proportions are pretty much identical to human toddlers, I don’t want to see cleavage on a gnome EVER. So thanks for not inflicting that on us, at least.

That leaves us with Kayle who is, oh my god, one of my new favorite character designs EVAR EVAR EVAR. Can I talk about how much I love her breastplate? It allows room for breasts without having structurally unsound boob compartments like Lux’s armor. Plus it’s super bulky, much like the armor you see male WoW characters wearing. The fact that it hasn’t been slimmed down or de-bulked to suit a female character is completely awesome. And best of all, Kayle’s alternate design is also completely badass.

THIS. OH MY GOD THIS.

Seeing Kayle next to all of these other wannabes makes me so sad, because if characters like Kayle were the norm in gaming, you’d definitely see a lot more women joining the hobby. Kayle gets to be awesome, confident, badass, and female without being on display for anyone’s benefit. It makes my heart happy that LoL broke with the trend when they made her, and I hope that they’ll consider at the very least creating alternate looks for their older characters that emulate this non-sexualized mode of design. Until that happens, though, while I’m happy to say that Kayle is full of win, she doesn’t obviate the fact that LoL has so much gender fail that it practically has its own gravitational pull.

Two reasons I’m hating humanity

So, I didn’t realize that it had been a whole week since my last post. Holy cow! It’s been a crazy week and time got away from me there. Anyhow, my slowitude (yes it’s a word, shut up) means that the things I’m going to be writing about might seem like old news. To those of you who think this is too little too late, I say – throw off the tyranny of internet time! I refuse to fall into the trap of feeling like I have to blog about something the very second it happens!

-ahem-

Also, I have some stuff to say about these two topics that I haven’t seen other people (quite) say. So bear with me.

Fail the first: Organizers have decided to ban women from a major Battlefield 3 launch LAN party (Via Kotaku)

A lot of people have already written about this and about the titanic amounts of fail the organizers have engaged in by deciding to ban women from their event. Tami B (who sometimes goes by cuppycake), in particular, had a great analysis over on the Border House. However, I had a few points of my own that I wanted to add to the general castigation of the organizers of this event:

Point the first: this perpetuates stereotypes and makes it easier for others to do so

Thank you so much for once again contributing to the stereotype that women don’t count as “real” gamers. Your decision has ensured that this will be a major gaming event in which no women participate, despite that Battlefield is an immensely popular titled that appeals to both men and women. But by making your event a male-only space, your reinforcing the idea that only men are “real” gamers. Even worse, you’re perpetuating the idea of gaming as a male space and actually making women less welcome at future such events. If your event is successful, other event organizers are sure to at least consider adopting your highly flawed model. It will set a precedent that other organizers may well choose to emulate. After all, why put up with the hassle of trying to make a safe space for female attendees when you can just ban them all together?

Point the second: this is cowardice

I will at least give the organizers props for acknowleging that harassment is a serious problem at large gaming events. But by deciding to avoid the unpleasantness by banning the victims of potential harassment, the organizers are taking the cowardly way out. They want this to be a fun and friendly space; standing up to your friends and calling them on their privilege/bad behavior is often uncomfortable, sometimes even downright terrifying. Rather than being courageous enough to implement a strong non-harassment policy, the event organizers are caving, giving in to those men who use harassment as a tool to drive women away from such events. Which leads into…

Point the third: They know what they’re doing is wrong

In the original version of their event FAQ, here’s how they justified their decision to exclude women from the event:

Nothing ruins a good LAN party like uncomfortable guests or lots of tension, both of which can result from mixing immature, misogynistic male-gamers with female counterparts

Naturally, they got a lot of flack for this and have since removed the above language. The above language was replaced with:

This event is a ‘gentlemen’s retreat’; as such we do not allow women to attend.

Afterward, they were kind enough to add the following clarification:

We actively discourage gamers from being the kind of mysogynistic jackwagons seen in the Reddit post, and such behaviour should not be tolerated. Frankly, we don’t like that kind of player either. So far as this event goes, it is an special event designed specifically for male gamers. Further, it is meant as a getaway designed to help said male contingent become better men both for themselves and for those who love us.

Now, a lot of smart people have written about why this is just the wrong approach to take, and given that the organizers were cognizant of the problem of potential harassment, these arguments can’t have gone completely over their heads. Rather than listening and saying ‘mea culpa, we shouldn’t exclude women’, they’ve changed the language to call this a “gentleman’s retreat”, making it clear that they have no interest in reexamining their decision to exclude women from the event.

This is, to me, the most damning fact of all – the fact that they understand that this exclusion is unjust, or at least they understand enough to change their public statement that precludes argument. Clearly, they know this is wrong and they don’t give a shit because they’re doing it anyway. So shame on you all. I hope your event is a flop, or at the very least that the backlash you receive convinces organizers of future such events that it’s in their interests to be inclusive of women.

Fail the second:“easy” trivia quiz with E3 booth babes

Someone (I forget who) sent me the link to this video that made the rounds about a month ago. In it, a total of 8 booth babes at E3 are asked five “easy” trivia questions:

What are the original three Pokemon?
What love interest are you forced to kill in the original Portal?
What video game is inspired by the Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged?
What character introduced the gun stiletto?
What is the name of the main character in Zelda: Ocarina of time?

Predictably, the booth babes answered all of the questions incorrectly and were then mocked by male gamers for getting the answers to such easy questions wrong:

These aren’t trick questions. You know all of the answers, and they don’t. (Kotaku)

To be honest, they all sound very stupid, I’m sure they’d struggle with general knowledge, let alone that of video games. Who hasn’t even heard of Atlas Shrugged? *sigh* Hundreds of years of suffrage, and we’re still here. (Kotaku)

There is a reason they are [sic] both babes… brains is not it (G4tv.com forums)

Nice. Real nice. There’s one thing that you asswipes are forgetting – gaming trivia isn’t exactly general knowledge, is it? And honestly, can you really be surprised that booth babes at E3 turn out not to be gamers when they’re paid to be exposed to the very worst aspects of gaming culture? Would I be interested in a hobby that treated me like a piece of meat and largely turned a blind eye to incidents of harassment that happen on the job? No. No I wouldn’t. And I think that’s just human nature.

Secondly, some of these questions are just plain bad questions. Like the last question – we tend to be culturally conditioned to expect that if a media property (book, movie, game) names a character, that the named character will be the protagonist. After all, Hermione wasn’t the main character of Harry Potter, was she? Assuming that Zelda would be the main character is a logical assumption, kids.

Similarly, BioShock is a pretty niche game and I’m willing to bet there are a shitton of gamers who don’t know that BioShock is Atlas Shrugged plus a bazooka. And even if all gamers everywhere did know that, Ayn Rand is a shit author and I’d be happy to see her books drop off the list of what “educated” people should be expected to be conversant with. (But that’s just my opinion.)

The worst, though, is #2 – the question about portal. I’m sorry, but “love interest”?

Okay, now I know that there are people who really developed an attachment to the companion cube, and that some people felt having to destroy it very keenly. But I’m going to remind you that the companion cube IS A FUCKING BOX. Generally speaking, humans do not have romances with boxes, not even boxes with hearts on them. Putting a heart on something does not make it suddenly romance-able.

I realize I forgot to photoshop out her arm. D’oh! But I’m too lazy to care.

Not knowing the answers to these stupid questions doesn’t make these booth babes dumb. It makes them smart enough to not want to associate with a hobby that treats women like shit.

From the mailbag: Heartbreak & Heroines win, M:TG wtf

I’ve gotten a fair number of emails recently and things have been piling up faster than I’ve had time to blog about them; I still have notes lying around for that post about Shelly Mazzanoble I’ve been meaning to write, and I still do want to do a roundup of all of the LoL characters… But these are things that deserve mention, so I thought I’d shove two half-posts together about things I think deserve some attention but wouldn’t ordinarily fill out an entire blog post of their own.

Win: Heartbreak & Heroines Kickstarter:

Amusingly, here’s the part where I have to disclose that I do have a sort of tenuous non-connection with Heartbreak & Heroines. Back at a much earlier stage in the game’s development, the author actually originally approached me asking if I would be willing to do the illustrations. At the time I was very burned out on illustration and had several other creative projects that were consuming all of my energy, so I regretfully passed. Still, the concept was interesting to me, so I’m glad to see that it’s close to turning into a finished product.

What is the concept? Well here are some key paragraphs from the Heartbreak & Heroines Kickstarter:

Heartbreak & Heroines is a fantasy roleplaying game about adventurous women who go and have awesome adventures — saving the world, falling in love, building community, defeating evil. It’s a game about relationships and romance, about fairy tales and feminism.

Heartbreak & Heroines is first and foremost a fantasy adventure game. It’s not preachy and it isn’t a textbook about feminism, but it’s written from a feminist point of view. It challenges some of our assumptions about the role of gender in gaming but at the heart of H&H, it’s about being a heroine (or hero) and finding your way to happiness in a dangerous world.

This is the kind of stuff that makes me happy, and honestly the sort of angle that I wish more mainstream companies would at least consider when writing games – telling stories from the female point of view. Roughly half of humans are female, so it does seem to make a sort of sense that one would create games that would explicitly seek to encourage storytelling from a female perspective.

But all of this sounds like crazy-talk to quite a lot of gamers. So, you know, predictably a bunch of people over on RPGnet freaked out about the game and started flailing at strawmen. Because, you know, HOW DARE someone suggest that gaming isn’t the most inclusive hobby out there. And HOW DARE someone have the gall to write a game that attempts to tell stories from a feminist perspective. Didn’t they know that gaming is THE MOST INCLUSIVE HOBBY EVAR? What a bitch.

…ahem. [/sarcasm]

Anyhow, I could write more about why inclusiveness in RPGs is important, and why RPGnet is (as usual) a wretched hive of scum and privilege, but the fine folks over on The Designer Monologues already beat me to it with a very well reasoned and well articulated post which I hope you’ll go read.

I do want to take a moment here to mention, however, that Heartbreak & Heroines isn’t the first game ever to tackle storytelling from a female perspective. While mainstream RPG companies seem to have their collective heads very far up their asses, indie tabletop gaming offers quite a wide diversity of games that allow stories to be told from pretty much any perspective you can think of. For that matter, while the world of indie RPG design is still a world in which male designers outnumber female designers, you don’t see the kind of tokenism that you do in mainstream game companies.

So specifically I want to mention that if the idea of a game that encourages feminist-friendly storytelling from a female perspective is one that interests you but Heartbreak & Heroines doesn’t seem to appeal to your personal preferences, don’t be discouraged. If you’re into period romances without the fantasy adventure bits, might I recommend Kagematsu as another game that is explicitly designed to tell stories about female characters, albeit with a bit of a gender-bending twist.

And if that doesn’t float your boat, there are so many good indie titles out there by great female designers. I could try to list them, but I’d leave awesome people off the list and that would make me sad, so I’ll just say that as full of fail as companies like Wizards, Paizo, Green Ronin, White Wolf et all are… there’s some good stuff to be had out in indie land. (And bad stuff too – no one’s perfect. But much less bad stuff overall.)

Fail: some M:TG wtf

A reader sent me a link to this blog post about Azure Mage over on the official Wizards site. As you might have guessed, the post features prominently the Azure Mage, from the Magic 2012 card gallery:

What the… but… she isn’t… those don’t… ARG!

Okay, so clearly the artist has not been reading Boobs Don’t Work That Way. Boobs are sacks of flesh attached the chest, not whatever the hell this guy is drawing. Without a bra, there is no way she would have this much cleavage. Cleavage just isn’t natural without some sort of support pushing breasts together; as sacks of flesh and fat, breasts tend to hang separately. They’re not magically attracted to each other like magnets.

Also, one assumes that those stupid silver buttons are meant to cover her nipples, which is just so very wrong. Nipples are not ON TOP of the breasts, they are generally toward the underside. Another reason her breasts are just plain freakish is her complete lack of areola. With that much exposed tit, we’d be seeing at least some areola – especially as the “nipple-concealing buttons” are in entirely the wrong place to actually conceal her nipples.

Lastly, her rib cage DOESN’T EVEN CONNECT TO ITSELF. Seriously, check this out:


It’s like the artist realized that without a bra, SOMETHING would need to push the two breasts together and then failed to remember that the arm connects to the shoulder, which connects to the rib cage… I mean, it’s not that hard. Remember the song we all had to learn in kindergarten? Maybe the Wizards artists should have to prove they know the song in the first place to get hired on…

So this is bad enough, but I had to laugh at the image that was pointed out to me at the very bottom of the article:

Were they seriously trying to rip off Crapping Frost Mage? I can’t think of any other explanation for this picture. I mean, honestly. As little sense as the Stripper Pole Dancing school of spellcasting makes to me, it at least makes more sense than the Taking a Dump school of spellcasting. Now, admittedly I might be too jaded to be an objective judge of this sort of thing, but I fail to see how this pose would be attractive on any real woman ever. Even her expression makes her look like she’s trying not to crap more than she’s concentrating on mastering arcane forces.

I never thought I’d see the day when Crapping Front Mage had competition for the most ridiculous crapping pose ever, but it looks like that day is here. I guess, this being the internet and all, I shouldn’t be surprised.

Guest Post: King of Fighters 13 is heading in the right direction

[Raelcun is the nerdy younger brother of wundergeek and sticks mostly to PC Gaming but delves into consoles now and then. He does high level Starcraft 2 commentary under the same name and some technical work on the production end for Starcraft 2 Team FXOpen E-sports. You can find some videos of his work here, but he hasn’t been as active recently.

In general he tends to agree with wundergeek on her rantings about video games and even sends her examples of the terrible works now and then for laughs and while looking over some KoF13 footage was inspired to write up a bit more of a positive outlook on some of the same issues wundergeek goes over on her blog.]

Okay, the key point in the title here would be: “is heading in the right direction”. This is extremely important, because in no way is KOF13 perfectly designed and without flaw. There are definite problems, but one of the things that has impressed me the most about this game is how much it has artistically improved from earlier entries in the series. To clarify, female characters who have been badly portrayed in previous iterations have been almost universally more positively portrayed in this game. I find this to be the focal point and the reason why I say they’re heading in the correct direction, even if there are still more improvements they could make.

First of all, I will divide the characters I’m going to be discussing specifically into a few categories: the awesome, the not-as-awesome-but-still-improved, and problematic. These classifications are by my standards and opinions; you might disagree with them, but I’m the one writing this post.

So let’s start with a mashup of all of the characters from the newest installation of the King of Fighters series:

CLICK FOR LARGER VIEW

These are all taken from the official website and are the official artwork for the newest KoF. As a whole this is pretty badass; the designs are pretty decent, there aren’t too many glaring anatomy issues, and the quality of the artwork is high overall. Mai down there on the bottom is a problem, but frankly my sister has gone over the problems with Mai many, many times in the past so I’m not going to go too in depth with her.

A side note regarding atypical male characters

One of the most encouraging things about the cast of characters I found is that there’s a specific group of characters that are a little different from the others. The men have a pretty good variety in body types but there’s also these four fellows:

Now if I were to tell you that these were all female characters, there might not be any immediate disagreements as they are designed and portrayed in a rather feminine manner. K is probably the most masculine of them all but he could probably still pass for a woman if you didn’t know any better. I find that characters like this are awesome in light of the fact that most fighting games tend to go too far into the extremes of gender stereotyping. Characters are either VERY MANLY or EXTREMELY FEMININE.
(Furthermore, it tends to be extremely apparent that a woman is a woman because her bewbs are thrust into our faces.) So it’s great that these four characters create a little bit of question in their sex. I knew that Benimaru, Duolon, and K were male, but I legitimately thought that Ash was female for quite a long time. I like the fact that this is true and the next thing to come hopefully would be more diversity in the females… (Hint hint hint)

But that’s enough about that. On to the women of King of Fighters 13, because that’s where the real controversy is. So first up:

The Awesome

This is Elisabeth, she is obviously an equestrian character and her original design was… well pretty bad, what with the unnecessary heels and the random boobage. In her next appearance the cleavage disappeared, and in her current iteration the heels are smaller a little bit more reasonable but still a mite too large. (Riding boots do have a little bit of heel to them, just not quite that much.) Overall though, her design is pretty badass, which is why she’s under the awesome instead of the “improved.” Her riding crop is reasonable and not too BDSMish and her outfit is pretty accurate for an equestrian character, and stylish to boot.

If I had to score Elisabeth out of 10, I’d give her an 8. That might be a little bit harsh considering that her anatomy is pretty good, but her waist is on the small end for an athlete. (If you don’t think Equestrians are athletes try riding horses for hours on end. Seriously, ouch.) Also, her heels (again) are just a little bit too big and narrow for real riding boots, especially since she has to fight in them too. Still she’s pretty effing sweet and if you look up footage of her on youtube she kicks some major ass as with style and grace as well.

This is King, and I have to say she is probably my favorite female from this series. She is completely awesome, as are her previous incarnations. I especially like 2003 version with the nice jacket, and her expression as to say she might deign to give you the rose, instead of the other way around. There’s not much I can nitpick on here, except maybe again her waist size for an athlete. However, not only does she wear a tuxedo, but it’s a badass tuxedo – which rocks since tuxes are usually reserved for men in most designs. On top of this usually when you see one on a woman it’s been “modified” to “fit the female form” (code for showing lots of skin) so it’s nice to see a pretty sweet female character in a real
tux in a fighting game.

Bonus points go to her for wearing the gloves as well; too many people in fighting games fight bare fisted. Hell, even professional fighters don’t do that. (Really, watch UFC.) Also, look at her shoes! Her shoes are actually pretty flat no heels. Since heels in fighting games are one of my BIGGEST pet peeves, she passes on that one as well. Overall I’d give her a 9 out of 10 when it comes to character design, the only problem here being her waist being far too small for a serious athlete who kicks some serious ass.

The not-as-awesome-but-still-improved

Next up we have the “improved”. These are the ones that still have their issues but have improved so much compared to previous designs that I wouldn’t call them terrible or a straight up “problem.”

Admittedly, Athena is VERY close to being dropped in the “Problematic” pile, but her saving graces here are two specific things: 1) her skirt length has increased significantly in the newest game and 2) her job as a character is “pop star” a job in which if you’re not being sexualized you’re doing it wrong (in Japan at least.) One of the other things in her favor is the fact that you can see there has been quite a bit of redesign going on with Athena, there are some ups and down in the previous iterations but her most recent one is not terrible.

She is portrayed a little bit on the young end but she’s supposed to be around the 18 marker, so she barely gets by on that aspect. Also, the fact that she’s wearing flats instead of heels is also in her favor. In the current design her skirt would almost fit the dress code of the high school I went to, so when it comes to skimpy Japanese school girl outfits this is pretty tame. None the less, she’s just barely in the “improved” pile and is a few design changes away from being thrown right into “problematic.” I’d give her about a 5 out of 10 on the design scale, mostly due to the fact that her breast size isn’t over the top her skirt is almost reasonable, and the lack of heels and exposed midriff.

This is Leona, and again she’s close to being thrown into the problematic pile because of the tank top.

She’s obviously a military character, and for some reason game designers seem to think that they all like to expose a lot of skin. (Like Cammy.) This is somewhat of a pet peeve in that generally when you’re getting shot at, most people tend to think that having your skin covered is a good idea.

However, there are two reasons why she’s in the less-awesome-but-still-improved pile and not in the “problematic” pile. First is the fact that she HAS PANTS now instead of ridiculous butt shorts that make her boots look just plain silly. Secondly is the fact that her outfit is close to identical to the male counterparts on her team:

They’re not 100% the same but it’s pretty damn close. (Obviously, if she’s going to have a bullet belt she can’t have the same over the top caliber that her male counterparts have or she’d look a little silly.) She does suffer from the one recurring theme of King of Fighters, though – giving pretty extreme athletes tiny waists. So I guess I’m going to stop harping on this because it happens with pretty much every female in this game. But the reason I keep bringing this up is that they are supposedly the top fighters in the world. They’re going to have muscle down there. Come on. Seriously.

Still, I’d say that she’s better than Athena at least because she has pants – which is a pretty big deal in a fighting game. Her tank top is a little bit on the silly end; I’d like to see it be a little bit more covering to match her male counterparts a bit more. But as is, I will mark is as passable. Overall this translates into about a 6 out of 10, her bewbs are a little bit on the silly end but I’ll be nice and chalk that up to the fact that if you’re going to be fighting you’re going to want some damn support and not have them be flopping all over the place painfully.

I’m going to do these two at the same time as they’re almost the same design-wise. Also, they’re on the same fighting team and therefore have almost identical fighting styles. In two most recent games, they both have had the same costume (with a color swap).

The blonde is “Mature” and the Redhead is “Vice”. (Yes their names are rather suggestive and that part makes me facedesk a little bit. But I will try not to harp on the names as it’s tough for a company to change a character name without dealing with angry nerds.) Their current outfits are both pretty badass and while the cleavage shown there is a bit more than necessary for a business suit; to be fair in game you basically can’t see it as they both spend most of the time with their backs turned to the viewer. So while I’d like to see those shirts maybe have a few more buttons done up, it’s not actually too bad in game.

Both of these characters had pretty ridiculous outfits in the past. Like, seriously, what kind of dress is that? I’ve heard of having a slit down the side but a dress that’s just open in the front? I’m glad they dropped that design and of course when the new character designs (actually their original design) were revealed, almost all of the comments were about how they missed the dresses. When it comes to the score on these two I’d give them both 7 out of 10 in design. You can’t see it in these pictures but neither of these ladies are sporting high heels, which again is good seeing as they’re jumping around and doing kicks constantly.

The problematic

The last three characters I have here are just problems. They are problems for different reasons, to be fair, but each of them are to the point where I just facedesk in reaction.

This is Kula. Now, your first reaction is probably something like, “But Raelcun! She has pants and no exposed skin!” And, yes, that is true but the problem here is that she’s fourteen and that outfit is rather sexualized for a fourteen year old. The anatomy in her 2001 outfit is frankly disturbing, and in maximum impact she’s holding a lollipop? Seriously? Her design would be fine if she was older, or maybe if her top didn’t have that nice little “BOOBS!” golden outline. There’s not much else to discuss here and this is
probably where I’ll get the most detractors. I‘m just not a big fan of the sexualization of minors and for that reason Kula bothers me.

She does get a slight begrudging nod in yet again resisting the urge to put her into heels against the efforts of seemingly the rest of the industry. And for this I’ll give her a 4; her boobs are a little large for a fourteen year old, but you know sometimes that happens. However, she suffers from the same waist problem as the other female characters, and the golden BOOBS outline is, frankly, ridiculous.

This is Mai. She is a problem. We don’t really need to discuss why as you can figure this out basically just by looking at her. But surprisingly I actually have a few positive things to say here. When looking over the gallery of official artwork for Mai I realized that this current iteration is actually a slight improvement. (We’re talking very slight here.) I mean look at the anatomy on the 2001 one, and her posture is very slightly better than 2000, though she still suffers from some serious sphere boobage. Surprisingly, though, compare this to the other pictures present here, and the Mai in KOF 13 the current one is actually somewhat preferable. See included picture below for more reference.

I could easily have included this with the first group and most people wouldn’t have known the difference, but I’m striving to have some integrity here. So the difference between this one is that it was actually rejected by the company for the 2001 game. So the designers had enough sense to realize that when the artist turned this in for Mai it was just going way too far. I don’t need to discuss why. I mean, just look at it.

She’s got some serious problems with her boobs there, pretty classic horribly uncomfortable back arch and her torso is pretty damn elongated. Anatomy wise, the current Mai – gigantic unrealistically shaped breasts aside – her anatomy isn’t actually too terrible in comparison. So I’ll give the current Mai a generous 3 in design. There’s no possible way she can fight in that outfit and have her top stay on the upper portion of her body. There’s pretty much no amount of body glue that will make that stay on while punching kicking, as well as getting punched kicked and thrown vigorously. In design terms this is what we would classify as “You’re doing it wrong.”

This is Yuri… Yuri is at first glance pretty well designed, but she is a major problem because of the fact that she has problems keeping her clothes on. The worst part is that her design is actually pretty good despite this one major factor. I’ll leave the details of this particular problem up to the fine folks over at the SNK Wiki:

• In some games, when Yuri is knocked out with a special move, the top of her costume flies off. This happens in Art of Fighting 2, The King of Fighters ’94, The King of Fighters ’95, The King of Fighters XIII.
• In Capcom vs. SNK 2, when Yuri finishes a fight with a “Dramatic KO” (finish with a super move as a counter to an opponent’s special or super move), she will attempt to tie her gi tighter. However, the belt becomes completely undone and her top opens, revealing a semi sheer undershirt. Yuri will then blush in total embarrassment and immediately cover herself. This victory pose first appeared in Art of Fighting 2 when Yuri scores a Perfect victory.

And this is where I move beyond the facedesk and have to work very hard to not smash my head into a wall. According to the game story she is in fact 18 so she’s not technically a minor but she’s drawn to look like one so I’m going to count this as “sexualization of minors, with a very thin excuse to get away from that on a mere technicality.” I mean first guesses looking at her current picture at least I would put her at 16 or 17; oddly enough the older ones look more mature 2002 and 2000 especially. But she definitely looks much younger in the current iteration and this really annoys me.

IF we assume that she learns how to keep her outfit on at this point after 10+ years of fighting then I’d give her character design a 7 in any upcoming game that features her current design plus her clothes staying on. Her breasts are reasonably done, she’s decently covered, wearing sensible shoes, and has her hair under control in a pretty reasonable manner for a fighter. I’m sorry but if you have long hair you’re going to tie it up or back somehow before you get into an organized fight. (Yet another pet peeve when it comes to fighting games.) But since she has once again shown a tendency to not tie her top tight enough I am forced to give her a generous 2 because it annoys me that much. Seriously learn to keep your clothes on it really isn’t that hard. I put this as worse than Mai because while Mai has serious issues at least she’s employing copious amounts of I assume arcane power to keep her clothes still technically in the “on” position.

Overall King of Fighters 13 is moving in the right direction and it seems to me at least that the good aspects are outweighing the bad. King of Fighters as an actual game is traditionally made very well and to see the artwork starting to match that is encouraging. The artwork for Street Fighter (I’m looking at you Cammy) is still a pretty large problem but hopefully some other games will take a gander over at King of Fighter 13 and will copy some of the positive aspects and not… Mai.

Ennie Awards Cover Nominations: the good, the bad, and the awful

So in the post that I made linking to my interview over on The Id DM, a commenter suggested that I take a look at the cover nominations for the Ennie’s Best Cover Award, which will be announced at this coming GenCon. Those of you who aren’t familiar with tabletop games might not have heard of the Ennies, but they’re a pretty huge deal. Besides the Diana Jones Award, the Ennies are pretty much the most important tabletop RPG awards out there. Sadly, they tend to skew a little too much towards “establishment” companies and ignore the great stuff going on in indie tabletop design, but that’s not terribly relevant so we’ll leave that discussion for another day…

Anyway, the commenter got me curious about the covers being nominated for this year’s Ennies so I took a look. I discovered, much to my chagrin, that most of the covers are… really quite bad. Not in terms of execution – all of the covers that made the list are from large publishers who can afford highly skilled artists. However, many of the covers include what I consider to be highly problematic elements, so I thought I’d throw up a quick post here:

The Good: Eoris Essence

So let me first say that I have absolutely no familiarity with this game. I know nothing of the game, the system, or the publisher. However, considering that this game features the only cover that doesn’t depict humans, it’s also the easiest to deal with. It passes!

Now I will say as an aside that I do hope this book wins best cover art, because it’s honestly the most original of the covers submitted for this award. It takes a lot of guts not to put people on the cover of an RPG, and I think the gamble paid off. These covers are stunning, original, and totally what I’d love to see more of. In a world full of RPGs with large-breasted women on the cover, this title really stands out, and I can guarantee that if I make it to GenCon I’ll be keeping my eye out for this title in the hopes of talking to the brains behind the cover. Kudos, guys. I’m a fan.

The Meh: Song of Ice and Fire & The Laundry

The next two contestants we have are for the Song of Ice and Fire Campaign Guide and for an RPG called The Laundry which seems to be about zombies. I realize that there isn’t much objectionable about these covers in terms of naked boobage, so this will probably seem a bit picky. However, here we have a classic case of Adventures Only Happen to Men. Notice that the focal character of each cover is male, and how only one character on one of the covers (The Laundry) is female:

So while there’s nothing objectionable about the covers themselves, I classify them as Meh because while they don’t have large-chested women not wearing not much clothing, they don’t really show women at all.

I realize that this will lead some people to nod their head sagely and say to themselves (and others) that this clearly illustrates how clearly I hate men and desire superiority of women in all things, and frankly I don’t much care.

The Bad: Shadowrun: Attitude,The Danse Macabre, and Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition

Now it’s worth noting that the Danse Macabre (a White Wolf title that is part of their Vampire line) is only an Honorable Mention, and thus not actually in the running for the actual award. Still, it seemed notable to me that half of the titles in the category were clearly problematic and displayed obviously sexist imagery. Hell, these three images were the impetus in me deciding to write this post…

So first off, we have two titles in which the cover is dominated by male characters plus One Female:

Now I’ve written about Green Ronin (Mutants & Masterminds) in the past, specifically about how the covers of their products in various lines have a disappointing but overwhelming trend of depicting women in the vast minority of figures on the covers of their books. Green Ronin covers are disappointing in that they depict MEN having MANLY ADVENTURES and doing MANLY THINGS. The few women that do show up on Green Ronin covers are invariably sexualized or placed in a non-focal position, and this cover is no exception.

While the female character on the cover of the 3rd Ed M&M book isn’t the least focal character, she’s certainly far less focal than the three male characters in front of her. Secondly, while all of the other male characters fit recognizable superhero archetypes design-wise, the lone female character displays no recognizable superhero traits at all. Even worse, she is the only character to be showing any amount of skin at all. (Okay, yes, the beast-man isn’t wearing any clothing. But I’d still argue that’s not the same as actually showing skin, as our female character is doing.)

As far as covers go, frankly it’s pretty mediocre. It’s Male Action Characters in Male Action Poses with a Gratuitously Sexualized Female Character – which is so unoriginal in tabletop RPG art. I will be very disappointed if M&M 3rd Ed actually gets the nod for the Ennies this year.

We also have the Danse Macabre, a Vampire supplement I’m honestly not too familiar with. I won’t dwell too much on this since the fail should be pretty obvious. We have… dude vampire, dude vampire, dude vampire, dude vampire, dude vampire, and…. exsanguinated female victim, probably a corpse.

…really, White Wolf? Really? You’ve been the one RPG company that has at least tried to market its products in a female-friendly manner. So what the hell is with this cover? Five dude vampires and a drained female corpse? Do we really need vampire gang rape scenarios on the cover of RPG books? It’s especially disappointing from a company that made a point of using the female pronoun to refer to Storytellers (GMs) in its second edition books.

So… seriously, White Wolf. Clean up your act. I’ve been a long-time player of your Mind’s Eye Theater (read: LARP) systems, and frankly I expect better from you than this bullshit.

Anyway.

Lastly, we have this complete bullshit Shadowrun cover:

I swear to god, if this cover wins I’m going to hunt down all of the Ennie’s judges and bash their faces in with a longstaff. What the hell is this, and how the fuck did it even wind up on the list of “best covers” nominations without being laughed out of the running? Are gamers just so used to seeing shit-tastic boobular women on the cover of RPGs that the ridiculousness of a cover like this doesn’t even register anymore? I honestly can’t think of any other explanation than that.

Her hips are wrong, her waist is wrong, her ribcage is wrong… And what the hell is with the gravity-defying spherical Picasso-boobs? This anatomy is just terrible, and yet this cover is considered one of the best in the industry for THE PAST YEAR? Honestly, if this cover winds up taking the title, the Ennies will have lost all credibility with me forever. I realize that there’s not a lot of choice when one is looking for art that doesn’t blatantly objectify women and distort female anatomy past the realm of the physically possible, but there’s GOT TO BE something better than this bullshit. There’s just got to be.

Short post: a bit of League of Legends silliness

[Aside: This is not a terrible serious, hard-hitting, thought-provoking, or otherwise important post. However, it amuses me. So there.]

On a recent trip home, my brother and I were laughing about a ridiculous piece of official League of Legends artwork that he’d emailed to me:

Soraka the Star Child (I believe?)

The costume is terrible; large portions of that outfit must be secured with industrial quantities of body glue, because I can’t conceive how we’re not seeing even a hit of nipple with the construction of those garments. She also has ridiculous sphere-boob going on, which is par for the course for a free MMO. But the worst aspect of the picture is that ridiculous pose. Look at how far her spine is arched, and how far back the arm farthest from the “camera” is. I’m not sure that’s even possible without double-jointed shoulders.

Anyway, we were feeling silly and decided to see if real humans could replicate the impossible spine arch of this pose. …okay, actually I bullied my brother into seeing if he could replicate the impossible spine arch of this pose – that is on the condition that turnabout was fair play. One thing we both agreed on, however, is that we were not under any circumstances going to attempt to replicate the outfit. No way, no how.

As you can see, the results were… well… amusing:

CLICK FOR LARGER VIEW (& MORE LEGIBLE CAPTIONS)

We didn’t get the angle quite right, and we mis-remembered the tilt of the head. But we did manage to prove that yes, real human beings can achieve that level of spine arch. However, holding that pose for even the ten seconds needed to take the picture was excruciating for both of us. I used to do (CLOTHED!) portrait modeling back in university and I can pronounce with some authority that if this character were sitting for a traditional portrait, there’s no effing way she’d be able to hold that pose long enough for her portrait to be painted.

I’d also like to point out that my brother’s upper arm is thrown back at the correct angle while mine is not. I attribute this to the fact that he has double-jointed shoulders and I do not, so I’m going to flag that back arm as “implausible” but not “impossible”.

So much for League of Legends not being “as bad” as other MMOs, however. Man. I’ll probably do a future post about the design of Champion characters. They’re just awful.

Quick link: I did another interview!

Michael over at The Id DM has just posted an interview with yours truly that was conducted via email. It’s kind of long, definitely rambling, but I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. He asked some really excellent questions, questions that more than once made me need to reflect on how to answer them for a day or two. It was especially interesting as Michael’s background is in psychology, which made for a different angle on the subjects I usually talk about here. I do hope that you’ll go give it a read.

Thanks, folks.