Valve licenses IP to Korean developer Nexon to make sexist game

[I had this 80% finished last week, but then I got sick[1] and was too tired to brain well. Sorry, folks!]

Recently, I happened to stumble across this while doing research for another piece:

I was intrigued. I don’t pay much attention to MMOs anymore (partly out of self-defense – I get too addicted[1]), but I wasn’t aware that Valve was releasing a Counter-Strike MMO. Curious, I googled the game to see what else turned up.

And found this.

I’m pretty sure that skirt isn’t regulation.

/headdesk

…I was a little baffled. I mean Valve has made games with some pretty great female characters, like Alyx Vance in Half Life 2 and Portal’s Chell. So what was the deal? I wouldn’t think this was out of character for a publisher like Ubisoft, but this was kind of hard to understand.

But things started to make sense once I did a little more digging. The actual developer behind the game is Nexon, a South Korean game studio. The weapons, maps, characters, and graphics engine were all modified from content used in the original Counter Strike game published by Valve – which apparently has licensed the brand as well as the development assets to Nexon.

In developing Counter Strike Online, Nexon tweaked maps and guns and improved models. They also added a bunch of game modes, some which were downright wacky like Bazooka Battle and Soccer. Now (with the exception of Mass Effect), I don’t play shooters, but I have to say it looks like they put together a good collection of different gameplay offerings.

Too bad the other thing Nexon felt that Counter Strike needed more of was boobs. Lots of boobs. SO. MANY. BOOBS.

/facepalm

These are NOT practical outfits for running around and shooting people. I know that personally, I would have a hell of a time lugging around a bunch of guns and trying not to get shot if I was also having to worry about potential nip slips.

But then again, I really shouldn’t be surprised that this is yet another MMO being developed by a Korean studio that treats women like pieces of meat. TERA and Blade and Soul are just two of the most egregious examples to come out of South Korea in the past few years, but they’re hardly unique. Treating women like shit is pretty much a hallmark of kMMOs. (Unfortunately.)

Still, the inclusion of ZOMGBOOBZ in Counter Strike Online is pretty ludicrous. I mean, if I played a match where this happened I would have trouble taking anything about the game seriously:

Soooo. Dude shows up in sensible clothing with lots of pockets and holsters while the woman shows up in… a maid outfit? With no visible pockets or holsters? And immaculate hair and makeup? And is that machine gun just kind of floating on her back? Riiiiiight.

What makes this even more ridiculous is the fact that Counter Strike is set in a modern or near-modern setting, which eliminates most of the usual excuses/justifications for sexist bullshit like this. ZOMG IT’S FANTASY STFU? Well. No. Nothing too fantastical about Counter Strike. SHE’S NOT HUMAN SO IT DOESN’T COUNT? Nope. That doesn’t apply either. The developers really just wanted to include sexualized wimmenz and didn’t really care how well the ZOMGBOOBZ meshed with the source material. [sigh] At least they were up front about it?

Anyhow. It seems like Counter Strike Online was a success because why wouldn’t it be? It’s unfortunate, but despite the Asian gaming market being saturated with these fap-worthy kMMOs, there certainly doesn’t seem to be any tapering in demand.

Certainly it was enough of a success that Nexon is currently developing a sequel! Counter Strike Online 2! It has new features like new game modes:

  • Pig: Shoot at the enemies to increase your health points. When it reaches 3000, you will turn into a pig that has a very high speed and damage.

…o-okay.

And. You know. “The characters are revamped nicely.”

[grinds teeth in anger]

Okay, the woman on the left? That kind of cleavage isn’t remotely possible with what she’s wearing. Breasts hang down and slightly away from each other. It doesn’t matter how large they are – they’re not magnetically attracted to each other. That kind of cleavage requires some serious structured garmenting that just isn’t being provided by that ridiculous vest. Also, screw nip slips. She’s about 30 seconds of running from full frontal, considering that she’s wearing unzipped low-riders with no belt.

And the woman on the right? That latex bodysuit she’s wearing over(??) those leather pants is lodged so far up her colon that I don’t know if she’ll ever be able to take it off. And asses are not that round or that shiny – you certainly wouldn’t get a perfectly round highlight off of one. Even Kim Kardashian does not have spherical ass cheeks.

And of course that’s not even touching on the awful art cliches this art falls victim to. Like the boobs and butt pose, random O-face, and sameface. (Seriously, they both have the same face.)

But as awful as Risking-Full-Frontal-Woman and Latex-Bodysuit-Stuck-In-Colon-Woman are, this is what really made me flip my shit:

OKAY. Latex-Bodysuit-Stuck-in-Colon-Woman? FINE. Sexy Librarian here? WHATEVER. But sexy school girl on the left? Or blue-haired girl in the smaller CSO banner? What the fuck is wrong with you?

Those girls do not look like adults. Not to mention that the schoolgirl fetish is creepy in general since schoolgirls are, you know, children. Sexualizing adult female bodies is one thing. Sexualizing those bodies and then giving them the faces of children? That’s just fucking gross.

So who cares? What’s the big deal?

I mean, it’s another kMMO that treats women like crap. Big deal. It’s not like this is exactly news. Hell, there are plenty of MMOs that manage to be even more awful than CSO seems to be!

Well here’s the part where I get tripped up: Valve.

Here’s the thing. Valve is no Ubisoft[3] – they manage to publish games with decent female characters on a pretty regular basis. Until now, I had always thought of them as one of the more progressive publishers out there that at least puts some thought into not failing at decent female characters 100% of the time. But now that’s starting to look a lot less like actually progressive leanings and more like cynical market analysis.

They won’t release such a blatantly sexist game in North America. But they’re more than happy to license their IP to a South Korean studio to make a blatantly sexist game for them, because money.

No one under 30 got this reference.

Well I call bullshit. Even if it’s not Valve developers injecting the tits and ass into their game, Valve is still profiting from other people boob-i-fying their IP. This is just another awful, cynical cash-grab, and Valve should be ashamed of themselves.

[1] [While saying our goodbyes this morning]

Spouse: [Daughter], can I have a kiss?

[Daughter darts forward to give me a kiss instead, interrupts herself to cough into my mouth, then slobber on my face kiss me.]

…and that’s why I catch every damn cold she brings home from daycare.

[2] Case in point – I’m kind of addicted to Hearthstone right now, which is a bit embarrassing because it’s not even a “real” MMO.

[3] Despite the fact that female character models can only be obtained through a mine deep in the earth guarded by a ferocious dragon. It’s quite progressive of them, really, to have female characters in spite of those obstacles.

17 thoughts on “Valve licenses IP to Korean developer Nexon to make sexist game

  1. I don’t think you mentioned the fact the company was Korean enough. Racist much? Asian men already have to deal with enough stereotypes. Check your privilege next time.

    • You know what? I typed up a bunch of super defensive things and deleted them until I realized that being defensive is a losing proposition.

      That said, I stand by what I wrote, all of which is factually accurate. I call out racist bullshit when I see it – I’ve written a fair amount about racism in gaming recently, particularly against Asians. But I’m not going to confine myself to criticizing only people who look like me when they make shitty sexist games.

      Am I trying to imply that only Koreans make shitty sexist games? Uh, no. And I would hope that the 95% of this blog that’s devoted to writing about games developed for Western audiences would support that. Am I trying to say that Korean sexism is “worse” than Western sexism? Nope. They’re each their own unique flavors of just-as-awful bullshit.

      I’m not going list all the reasons why I deserve anti-racism cookies, because that would be as shitty as me getting all huffy and defensive. But all the same, I feel like I deserve to have this post, which raises legitimate concerns, taken in context with the body of work that I have written for this blog and not just in isolation.

  2. This article also comes to me as overtly imperialistic. You are trying to think in the place of Korean women and Korean feminists, that could have a very different set of problems and priorities than American women and American feminists. Trying to belittle cultural values of other people without getting to know the personal stories and struggles of those peoples looks very problematic to me.

    Also Nexon makes Mabinogi, one of the best sandbox MMORPGs without nonconsensual PvP ever. That got same-sex marriage in-game years before other games even tried.

    • Imperialistic? Uh. Yeah, no. I’m not going and colonizing Korea’s game studios, oppressing their game developers, and stealing their resources, so this isn’t Imperialism, but thanks for trying.

      So Nexon had same-sex marriage in their games a long time ago. Good for them? You know, it’s really great that studios like Nexon and BioWare can be progressive about same-sex marriage in their games and still really not care about women.

  3. The ease with which you dismiss the accusation of imperialism is shocking. Mizahnyx has a point and you just dismissed without even staging a counter-argument. I also felt your post came across as imperialistic. Reading through your comments when a man asked you why you didn’t provide any money or support for women in Saudi Arabia, the response was that you thought it was bad form to try and help out women in another country who are capable of solving their own problems. Now you have switched your stance. You want to criticize Korean culture and fight for women you obviously don’t think can do it on their own. Why don’t you have a guest post from a Korean feminist who you respect instead of assuming you know best. I can tell you why you didn’t do this…

    Because money!

    You are making money off this blog and you are all too happy to point out what is flawed with other cultures entertainment when you can collect on it. When is the last time you donated a dime from the proceeds you make off this blog to a cause that actually helps women? Every heard of Anita Sarsleezian? She did something similar. Please continue to bless your Asian readers with how you as the White Privileged Woman would change things for the better (sarcasm). You need to stop promoting slave-culture because you are coming dangerously close to writing slave-apologist drivel.

    • Slave-apologist drivel? ….yeah okay. Now you’re just derailing.

      I’m upfront about how my Patreon funds get used. If you have a problem with it, then DON’T BACK IT. But if you choose not to back it, then don’t feel like you have any claim over how I should be spending that money, because I am obligated to give exactly ZERO fucks about what you think.

  4. Huh. I see that wundergeek is pointed out a trend of poor portrayals of women in kMMOs which, based on the evidence presented, does appear to be the case. She focuses on one specific company but examples cited do seem to support the trend.

    The accusation of racism and imperialism seems to stem from the fact that wundergeek spoke negatively about a Korean company and the trend in kMMOs but I’m afraid I don’t see how this post is a part of a systemic effort to override local voices on the matter. Do Korean feminists have a completely different viewpoint which is at odds with wundergeek’s analysis? Are Korean feminists largely in favour of such portrayals of women? I would be startled to find that to be the case. I don’t suppose anyone has some basic 101 resources on Korean feminism I could read up on? I will hit the google, of course, but if there’s something considered to be definitive or must-read I’d appreciate a link.

  5. I’ve watched enough Korean movies aimed at female audiences to know that this sexualization is not something that is fully embraced by Korean women and is something at least some of them fight against. So, the arguments about Korean feminists not caring about this seems to be based more on selection bias than truth.

    Additionally, my understanding is that the MMO is created for more than a Korean audience and explicitly to be inclusive of an English speaking Western audience. To say that a Western audience can’t then give opinions on the game because that would then be “imperialist,” is derailing at best.

  6. I see Devoras wants to continue the racism on this blog with that last comment. When will you people with privilege realize the Korean community can solve their problems on their own. How about I flip the scenario around.

    “Treating women like crap is pretty much a hallmark of American Culture”.

    Do you see the problem now Wundergeek? Keep your opinions to yourself and stop trying to cash in on the exploitation of another culture. We have already shown what kind of person you are. I feel like I have donated more money toward less privileged women at this point. Keep kidding yourself and believe you are solving the problem by taking no action.

    • “Treating women like crap is pretty much a hallmark of American Culture”

      Yup. No argument from me here. In fact, given that I’m not aware of Korea having a major war on women’s rights, I’d say that American culture is in some ways more misogynistic than Korean culture.

      Oh wait. I was supposed to get defensive and disagree with you, wasn’t I? Except patriarchy is a global phenomenon. So sure, I’ll agree that America is a shitty place for womens’ rights. But Korean MMOs are definitely more sexist than American MMOs. Both facts are true.

    • Yeah, that seems like a fair assessment of American culture.

      My readings of Korean gender equality thinking so far are in keeping with wundergeek’s writing though, to be fair, they focus more on k-pop culture, possibly because video game writing is more focused on addiction. There’s quite a strong thread towards the portrayal of men and the need to allow men to express their emotions and engage in traditionally feminine activities and expression. Perhaps you’d be more comfortable with a post that also included criticism of the Stoic Male Warrior?

      So far, I have not seen any evidence of systemic bias along cultural lines. Perhaps you’re mistaking criticism of something by someone not of a culture as racism? That’s a rather simplistic analysis.

      Also, I’m startled by your assessment that wundergeek is trying to solve Korean problems for money. I’m at a loss why you think she’d want to do that. I don’t think that’s a career she’s interested in.

  7. Wundergeek, I wouldn’t take these people accusing you of racism too seriously. I mean, do the normal thing and re-read your post to make sure you aren’t fooling yourself, but then also be OK with dimissing what are possibly trolls.

    This just got posted and reminded me of some of the above comments:
    http://wehuntedthemammoth.com/2014/06/15/endfathersday-trolls-being-trolls-or-black-propaganda-designed-to-tear-apart-feminism/

    It absolutely needs to be OK to point out bigotry wherever you see it. There’s a big difference between saying “I see a disproportionate amount of problematic representations of women in Korean-made video games” and “Korean feminists aren’t doing their jobs right, here’s how to do it.”

    Keep up the good work, I look forward to your posts, even the angry ones.

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