Overwatch delivers diversity alongside racist stereotypes, still does better than rest of AAA gaming [LONG]

Overwatch, the hit new shooter/MOBA released by Blizzard has been taking the internet by storm lately. (That is, until the internet collectively lost its damn mind over Pokemon Go this past week[1].) As of mid-June, they had already accumulated more than 10 million active players, no mean feat considering that it was released less than two months ago.

Since the beginning of its development, one of the major talking points that has been emphasized in press pieces is that Blizzard was trying to design with an eye to diversity. Like the piece on Kotaku proclaiming that Blizzard wanted to “do women better”, which showed Widowmaker displaying a whole lot of ass cleavage:

Meanwhile over on Polygon, there was a piece with the headline: “Blizzard wants its diverse fans to feel ‘equally represented’ by Overwatch’s heroes“. Which, by the way, only featured quotes from a press conference given by Blizzard, and which completely failed to mention any of Blizzard’s previous problems with representation in their games to date. (*cough* Hearthstone *cough* Worldofwarcraft *cough*)

I’ve written about Overwatch before. (In fact, people talking trash about my Overwatch posts are still a reliable source of occasional traffic spikes from Reddit, which is a bit surprising two years later.) And the game’s recent release, along with the fact that it seems diversity is still being used as a talking point to promote the game – as evidenced by this piece published just 3 days in advance of the release, made me think that it would probably be worthwhile taking a second look at Overwatch to see how it’s shaped up.

Overwatch Characters and Gender

The last time I wrote about Overwatch, 6 out of the (then) 14 characters that had been announced were female, however, 1 character – Bastion – was genderless. If you don’t count Bastion, that made for a roster that was 46% female – not too shabby. At the game’s release, it featured 8 female characters out of 21 characters that have a gender – which was only 40%. However, as of yesterday, a new female character was announced – Ana – which brings the ratio up to 9 out of 21 gendered characters, or 42%.

icons-gender

So, you know. It’s not fifty-fifty, which is disappointing from a game that says it wanted to “do women better”. How hard would it have been to make one of the weirdo characters, like Winston or Zenyatta, female? And sure, 42% is still a damn site better than almost every game I’ve ever bothered to review numbers for on this blog. But I tend to think that to “do women better”, you should at the very least reflect their levels of representation in the actual world. And we won’t even talk about how there are ugly or weird looking male characters, but all of the female characters except for one are in their mid-20s and have flawless skin – except for Ana. And even then, the only concession to her age is white hair and maaayyybbbbe a hint of an eye wrinkle.

It’s worth noting that all of that completely ignores the issue of queer and nonbinary gender identities. Since the canon doesn’t say otherwise, it has to be assumed that all 21 of the gendered heroes are cisgender, which is – again – disappointing from a game that seems to be trying to sell itself, at least in part, on the diversity of its character’s designs and backgrounds.

But overall, those turned out to be minor irritants compared to the embarrassing levels of racism (with a sprinkling of ableism) in the hero backstories and alternate character designs. Hooray!

Character Backstories

Lucio

So out of a lineup of 22 characters, you have exactly 1 black person – Lucio. And YES I get that there are other characters who are visible minorities – Symmetra, Pharah, Hanzo, etc. But what about McCree and Soldier 76, who are both from the United States? Or Tracer, who is from the UK? Or Widowmaker, who is from France? Or Mercy, who is from Switzerland? All of these are countries with diverse populations! Black people live in all of these countries! Coding all of the Western first world nations as white is problematic as hell. (And no, Widowmaker does not count as a PoC because she’s blue.)

So with all of that in mind, it is doubly problematic that Lucio – the only black guy – is a black guy from the slums. And sure, he’s from the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. And sure he was “fighting the man”. But the core concept was “black DJ from the slums who stole things”. And when your go-to backstory for the only black guy is “poor thief”, that is super fucking problematic. The stereotype of black people as thieves and criminals is the reason why real actual black people get profiled by police and followed in shops and stores. And the fact that the video games industry is more than 87% white makes all of this even more problematic.

So. You know. What the actual fuck, Blizzard?

Reaper

Similarly, Gabriel Reyes AKA Reaper is the only Latino in the game (you know, despite the fact that it actually would have made more sense to make McCree Latino instead of making him white). And what’s his backstory? Well, according to the Overwatch wiki:

Reaper admits to being a high-functioning psychopath, having a passion for murder and vengeance and is willing to kill even without a solid motivation. —Overwatch Wiki

And this is shitty for pretty much exactly the same reasons that making Lucio a black thief from the slums is shitty. When news coverage of Latin@s is 1% of total coverage, despite the fact that they make up 13% of the US population? And 66% of that coverage is about Latinos as criminals? Making THE ONLY LATINO in your game an actual fucking psychopathic murderer is shitty and racist.

Symmetra

Symmetra’s backstory and concept doesn’t read as racist to me, although I’ll admit to not being conversant enough with those particular stereotypes to be able to spot something that’s not completely obvious. However, where her backstory does fall down is a WHOLE LOT OF FUCKING ABLEISM. And sure, it’s obvious that it’s at least well-meaning ableism? But there is a lot of hinky mental health and neurotypical stereotyping going on. Again, according to the Overwatch Wiki:

Symmetra may be on the autism spectrum as implied in A Better World[1]. In it, she says it used to “bother her” when people would ask where she fit on the spectrum; further, she appears to have what could be described as obsessive-compulsive disorder, namely her preoccupation with “perfection”, such as when she can’t resist fixing a crooked picture or how she notices the perfection of a child’s face. Traits common to OCD are also associated with autism.[2] —Overwatch Wiki

For fuck’s sake.

First, if you want to have a character who is on the autism spectrum, EITHER DO IT OR DON’T. Don’t say well she miiiiiiight be, but then maaaaaybe not. Because what the fuck is wrong with having a heroic character who is autistic? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Second, fixing crooked frames or noticing a perfect face isn’t OCD – unless you spend your entire day checking and re-checking and re-checking every picture frame to make sure it’s straight, or obsessively scanning people’s faces looking for flaws, to the detriment of actually getting anything done. OCD is an anxiety spectrum disorder, emphasis on the disorder. If it doesn’t interfere with your daily life and ability to function, then it’s not OCD. Being particular about how things are placed or wanting things to be just so? That’s not fucking OCD, and it’s really shitty trivializing OCD that way.

Character Designs: Racist Tropes and Culture as Costume

Mercy

So I’ve written before about how it’s really problematic making the character who is coded as “angel” blonde. But you know what’s even shittier? Making your angel character blonde, then having an alternate skin named “Devil” and giving that skin black hair.

Not following why that’s problematic? Well, allow me to quote myself:

Here’s another one I wish I didn’t see as often as I did. If you’re writing a race that has inborn magic powers, immortality, supernatural sexiness, preternatural senses, or is otherwise superior to normal boring humans, DON’T have the defining trait of that race be a real world racial trait.

Wait. No. I’m going to be more explicit.

DON’T MAKE THEM BLONDE. Because that is some creepy white supremacy shit right there – ESPECIALLY when combined with the Evil Darkies [aka: the trope of making evil races have dark skin] mentioned above.

That’s not to say you can’t have superhumans! … you can keep 100% of your magical superhumans and still have them not suck. Case in point, World of Warcraft. The good elves are purple and the bad elves are blonde. (Granted, there’s still an awwwwwful lot of fail of just about all types in WoW. But this is, at least, one small thing that they did manage to get right.)

When you tie the idea of “good” to traits that are White and “evil” to traits that are Not-White, THAT IS RACIST.

Mercy-angel-devil

The irony is that Mercy’s other alternate skins depict her as a Valkyrie, which honestly I like about a million times better than either her default skin or her “Devil” skin. Boobplate aside, they did a great job of translating the character concept into a design appropriate to the character’s cultural background.

Zenyatta, Roadhog, and Pharah

Zenyatta is a bit of a tricky case in that he is a robot (who is gendered as male) monk who is never explicitly called out as being a Buddhist monk. But his backstory says he wanders the Himalayas, and the Saffron robes as well as descriptions of Zenyatta’s approach to philosophy make it pretty clear that he is supposed to be a Tibetan Buddhist (robot) monk. And, you know what, cool. There could be some cool elements about robots deciding to investigate humanity and ending up identifying as a particular gender and culture.

What is definitely uncool is tying Zenyatta strongly (if implicitly) to one culture, and then using other cultural costumes as alternate looks:

Zenyatta

Look. This is a theme that I’m going to come back to for the next few designs, but I would think that after the stink that gets raised on the internet and social media every October, people would start getting the hint that using cultural attire or cultural dress for the sake of looking “cool” is not okay. Culture is not costume.

This gets even more problematic when Native and Aboriginal cultures are the ones being used as costume, because there is a global history of white people oppressing Native and Aboriginal peoples and then appropriating their culture.

Take Roadhog, whose has two alternate skins that show him in Maori dress:

Roadhog-Maori

And. Man. Here’s where I admit that things get real fuzzy and hard to tease out. Because while it’s not commented on officially, it’s possible that Mako is of Maori descent:

“It is highly likely that Roadhog is of New Zealand Maori heritage due to his real name (Mako) and alternate skin titled “Toa” which is the Maori word for “Warrior”.” – Overwatch Wiki

And honestly, I keep going back and forth on whether this is problematic or not. Roadhog’s pale skin reads more “white” than “Maori” to me. But then, the long struggle of Metis and non-status Native Canadians to be recognized as “legitimately Native”, makes me feel like that might not be a valid criticism. Except, Roadhog is said to come from the Outback of Australia – and the Aborigine people of Australia and the Maori of New Zealand are two different peoples – or at least as far as I’m aware.

So. I think for me the tipping point, the deciding factor of “is this okay?” is the fact that there are so many other examples of stereotyped depictions and appropriative costumes. This isn’t a singular misstep in a game that otherwise did its homework and tried to be respectful. Because if it was, you wouldn’t have something like Pharah and her alternate skins:

Farah

Pharah is explicitly, canonically Egyptian. And yet two of her alternate skins are explicitly North American Native – titled “Raindancer” and “Thunderbird”. And that is just such an obvious, straight-forward case of “what do we do for a cool alternate look for Pharah?” “I dunno, make her Native?” that I just can’t even.

Symmetra

And here’s the last example, the reason why I’m really not inclined to give the Blizzard development team a lot of slack on the question of “did they mean to be offensive” or not. Symmetra, who comes from India, has two alternate skins – which cost a lot of credits to unlock – that depict her as the Hindu goddess Kali:

Symmetra-goddess

It’s hard to overstate how gallingly tasteless and appalling this is. Hinduism isn’t like the worship of the ancient Egyptian gods. While using Ra as a skin for an implicitly Tibetan character is tasteless, it’s nowhere near on the same level of awful, because you’re talking about a dead religion. There are somewhere around 1 billion Hindu people on the planet, which makes this roughly equivalent to having a male character who can “level up” into Jesus. And obviously, game developers would never consider making Actual Fucking Jesus an unlockable skin, because that would be disrespectful. But because Hindus are mostly brown people, that makes having Actual Fucking Kali – who is a god that real actual people actually worship right now – somehow okay? No. Just. NO.

Conclusion: Overwatch has problems, but it’s still better than the rest of AAA gaming

As horrible as all this stuff is, Blizzard at least gets the absolute minimum of points for trying. Which is something that the rest of the AAA game industry is emphatically not doing, as evidenced by yet another year of Scowly McWhiteGuy being mostly the only thing on offer at E3.

SO. MANY. WHITE GUYS.

So. You know. Reluctant kudos for trying? But “slightly less racist than the rest of the AAA game industry” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement that Blizzard should be proud of.

[1] I am unspeakably bitter that Pokemon Go has yet to be released in Canada

From the mail bag: Mostly fail, with a little win on the side

Okay, I’ll admit that I’ve been lazy this week. After my fast-and-furious post-GenCon posting spree, I needed a bit of a rest. And sure, posts like this are a bit of a cop-out, but I promise I’ll make it up to you next week with a new gender swap.

Anyhow, during the last week people have been sending me a lot of stuff to look at, and much of it was stuff I thought deserved attention and/or ridicule. So let the mocking commence!

In which entitled gamers put their privilege on display

Now it may have escaped your notice – as it did mine – that there is a video game in development called Lollipop Chainsaw that features a scantily-clad chainsaw-wielding cheerleader named Juliet who kills zombies:

Oh, hey look. It’s a scantily clad nubile young woman who will kill lots of stuff while wearing next to nothing. A thinly veiled platform for a combination of fanservice and violence – how original! Unsurprisingly, some people have taken exception to such a ridiculous character and pointed out that this game concept just might be a little sexist. Which is where gamer entitlement comes in.

Sure, Juliet isn’t exactly the most tasteful portrayal of a woman, but who cares? She’s a character in a video game that boasts an absolutely ridiculous premise. Are the actions of a fictitious girl truly detrimental to the image of females everywhere?

Ah, right. The “it’s just fantasy” argument. Yes, because really – everyone knows that humans are completely independent creatures and are never influenced by any of the media they consume ever. EVAR. End of story.

Perhaps we should focus our attention not on a video game character, but on real men and women that are sending the wrong messages, or even parents that let their children leave the house dressed like Paris Hilton. Turn on the MTV, or just about any channel these days, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Video games are the least of our worries.

Yes, because sexism in video games is such a trivial concern and don’t we have more important things to worry about? There are starving children in Africa, people. Since it is inherently true that people are incapable of caring about more than one kind of injustice simultaneously, being bothered by sexism in gaming reveals what a petty and shallow person I am for taking time away from being sad about starving children, war refugees, and sad puppies. Clearly, I am a terrible person.

Moving on…

Exhibit B begins with this article over on IGN by Emma Boyes asking whether LA Noire is sexist. It’s a pretty thoughtful and objective piece, definitely free of the vitriol and hyperbole that I like to fling around over here. She makes some pretty good points, and if anything understates how sexist the game industry itself is. Overall, it’s a pretty solid piece that is only minimally controversial, in that a woman dared to accuse teh awesome menz at RockStar of being sexist.

But you’d never guess that from the comments, which are a veritable tidal wave of scorn and entitlement:

They should have had a main, woman character in LA Noire. Her duty: to better LA from HQ, the kitchen, one sandwich at a time. LOL

its supposed to be a 50s cop show procedural as a videogame. they were sexist back then so YES… is ign writing articles sheerly for the sake of asking stupid questions?

IGN gets more and more retarded every day

who wrote this article? – a women . . .

…and so on and so forth.

But then, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised since this is IGN, the website that has a dedicated “Babeology” section of their site:

Charming.

Stupid visuals

I’ve raged plenty of times here about the stupidity of “play now” advertisements for free MMOs. Well, this one takes that stupidity to an impressive level.

Nothing too unusual here. We’ve got gravity-defying sphere-boobs the size of her head. Her “corset” must also be made of some very hard metal to contain those titanic breasts of hers, because there’s no way that a construction of mere cloth and leather could contain breasts that large and that gravity-defying. Now I will admit that her anatomy (aside from the ridiculous breasts) looks like it might be physically attainable… by a vanishingly small percentage of the human population. However, the ridiculous bikini is… well… ridiculous. And let’s not overlook that the key phrase of the ad describing the game is RIGHT OVER HER CROTCH.

And now for the win

So first up, a bit of visual win to counter the visual fail:

These are character class designs from the upcoming Namco/Bandai title – Dark Souls. And I feel like I literally cannot express how much I love these designs and want this game to be a good game. I mean, holy shit, people! The women are wearing exactly the same outfits as the men. THE SAME. When does that happen? Never. Or almost never. I’m over the moon.

For that matter, I’m delighted that the one class that does run around naked has the male iteration just as naked as the female. Equal opportunity nudity. I love it! So please, Namco/Bandai, for the love of god – I’m begging you! Don’t fuck this up!

Lastly, I’m going to link to my new favorite thing on the internet since Boobs Don’t Work That Way – a new tumblr devoted entirely to pictures of women fighters in reasonable armor. It’s a delightful collection of images of female fighters in totally badass and not sexualized armor. I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

[And that’s enough of that. Next time – gender swap!]

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.

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.

GMMaS returns with a look at Forsaken World

The hiatus

Hi, folks. It’s been about two weeks since you heard from me. I was off dealing with a death in the family. Now that I’m home again, I can get back to blogging – though the schedule might be a bit unpredictable while I’m catching up on all the real-life stuff I’ve been ignoring since dropping everything to deal with other stuff.

On to the mocking: Clothing disparity

Forsaken World is a new offering from Perfect World Entertainment that is either in closed beta or newly released (the few sites I bothered checking out disagreed and I don’t really care enough to spend time verifying that particular detail). Some of you may remember that I posted previously about Perfect World and its freakish body customization. Thankfully, Forsaken World does seem to be free of that particular feature, although it’s chock full of other problems.

The first and most obvious of these problems is the classic fully-covered male versus wearing-almost-nothing female that plagues so many free Chinese and Korean MMOs. Forsaken World doesn’t disappoint in that department:

The top left image is disappointing in particular because the armor is so great from the waist up. It has the same coverage (again, from the waist up), has a lot of visual interest, and her boobs aren’t humungous. It’s almost like she’s a completely different person from the waist down, what with the spread legs, plate mail stripper boots, and Inexplicable Codpiece. (What purpose do codpieces serve on women? To call attention to the fact that they’re not wearing pants?)

On the bottom we also have a classic example of how female vampire = SEXAY while male vampire = modestly attired, which is another stereotype that I wish would die in a fire. What is it about vampirism that makes women dress in as little clothing as possible? I mean, I get tired of men staring at my boobs when I go to conventions and I’m dressed normally. You’d think that after a few centuries the lady vampires would be about ready to kill anyone who stares at their tits when talking to them, but maybe they’re newly undead and playing around with the stereotypes. Who knows.

Anyway.

The worst comparison is this official wallpaper here:

Seriously? What the hell is this? Okay, sure, the guy on the right isn’t wearing pants. And he’s even showing some nipple, that is, if I could FIND the nipple. (Srlsy, where is it? Does everyone have weird Barbie/Ken-doll anatomy in Forsaken World? And if so, how do they reproduce?) But you know what, that’s a far sight from the chick on the right who’s got a thong and some art-deco nipple pasties. Wtf.

Then again, I’d have trouble taking any game seriously that had this character as a quest-giver:

Additional fail: creepy sexless breasts

Something else I found irksome is the prevalence of creepy sexless breasts like one would find on a Barbie doll. Now a lot of artists do try to ride that fine line of just barely covering up the nipple with some cleverly placed hair or a strap or some such, but there’s something else you asshats are forgetting about. THE F*CKING AREOLA.

In both of these outfits, there should be partially visible areola on at least ONE tit. So please, for the love of god male artists out there, learn how breasts work, okay? And don’t use porn as reference because, guess what? WE CAN TELL. (Try consulting this awesome Tumblr for examples of shit NOT TO DO when drawing breasts, too.)

A (lengthy) aside: artists aren’t the only problem

I just wanted to mention that I pulled the screenshot on the right from a blog hosted on IGN.com. It doesn’t appear to be an official IGN blog, so I won’t link, but suffice to say that the post in question described how they rolled up a new female vampire character and promptly got harassed by two morons who followed them around and yelled “BOOBIES” for approximately half an hour, making enough of a nuisance of themselves that they had trouble questing. And yet, at the end of the post the author concludes that they want to see more skimpy armor and cleavage because the art style is JUST SO PURDY.

/facepalm

A lot of the time I reserve judgement for the artists who, frankly, should really know better. If you’re getting paid to draw tits for a living, you should know how they work. But at the same time, I can’t deny that some users really are part of the problem.

/end aside

The worst fail of all

I found this gem while going through the wallpaper section of the Forsaken World website. Originally I had only intended to do some comparisons and mock screenshots, but I was stupefied by how bad the anatomy in this photo is. I mean, sure you have a mostly naked mage doing some Butt Wiggling Spell Casting, and sure the naked chick ON HER SPELL BOOK is a “nice” touch, but the anatomy is just so bad that even Crapping Frost Mage just can’t compete. I realized that I simply had to do an anatomy correction on her to point out just how terrifying she is.

So here in green (without the underlying image, since the colors are too varied to make it show up well) is a trace of the figure as it would be underneath the clothes/hair:

Oh my god, people. Had I ever turned in anything this bad, I would have been failed out of art school. I know I harp about artists who refuse to draw breasts as objects affected by gravity, but this poor woman has the breasts of an 80 year old. Even worse, she has 80 year old breasts on an anorexic torso, an obese butt and thighs, and freakily distorted Dhalsim arms.

Just to make my point, let’s throw our freaky fat/anorexic/elderly Dhalsim-elf up next to what is surely a photoshopped photo of Selma Hayek:

Now look at how absolutely perfect Selma Hayek’s abs are, free from any wrinkles, ripples, or hints that she might have fat cells anywhere other than her boobs. (Like I said, photoshopped.) And even our artificial Selma Hayek has a waist that is MUCH WIDER than her head. I’m not sure why this is so hard for artists to grasp, but if your waist is skinnier than your head YOU ARE NOT SEXY. You’re just a freak. Also, the human arm is approximately the same length from shoulder to elbow as it is from elbow to wrist. There’s variance, sure, but not that much.

The hips I’m going to make a bit more of a tentative note. Hip width as compared to shoulder width varies quite a bit in humans, especially in women. However, it is entirely impossible for our freakish elf to have these proportions and be a living person rather than a Barbie doll. You can’t go from a waist narrower than your head to hips that are 1.2 times the width of your shoulders without enough corseting to risk serious internal injury. It’s just not anatomically possible.

So let’s look at the original traced figure with corrections:

On second viewing, I think I may have made her boobs slightly gravity-defying, but other than that I’m pretty happy with how this turned out. not only does she have room for organs, she also has enough arm muscles to lift things heavier than a newspaper. And happily, she has normal human proportions. Granted, the pose is still complete garbage, but you can’t exactly make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

TERA followup: no, male castanics are not “as bad” (lots of pictures)

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:

  • hurr hurr you’re ugly (3 comments)
  • it’s just a game/it’s just fantasy (5 comments)
  • I’m a woman and I’m not bothered by it (1 comment)
  • you feminist bitches are so silly (3 comments)
  • you’re making this all about you (2 comments)
  • nonsensical slurs (1 comment)
  • games are for men (1 comment)
  • talking about discrimination is stupid and makes people feel bad (2 comments)
  • omg ur biased for not showing male castanics who are just as bad (2 comments)

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:

CLICK FOR LARGE VIEW

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:

CLICK FOR LARGE VIEW

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:

Do you know how many armor sets exist that fully cover female castanic models? NOT ONE. Don’t believe me? Check out the armor sets for yourself: female armor sets here, male armor sets here.

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.

Dragon Magazine in 2010. Also, Caesary sinks to new depths.

Hey, folks. Things have been quiet the last several days because I’ve been working on another three-parter. (What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment.) I’ve been picking on video games a lot lately and was feeling an itch to go back to pen and paper RPGs. In the past, I’ve looked at the D&D 4E core books as well as the D&D press kit so I thought I’d take a look at a year’s worth of Dragon Magazines and see how they stack up against the sources I’ve already looked at. (Get it? Stack up? Magazines? …oh never mind.)

Numbers

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the art for Dragon Magazine Issues 383-394 displays clear sexist trends:

CLICK FOR LARGE (MORE READABLE) VIEW

Yep. Women are underrepresented, more likely to be found in neutral poses, comprise the minority of fully-clothed characters, and are far more likely to be suggestively attired. And of course, their chances of being depicted as a fighter are pretty slim when compared to their male counterparts. Again, nothing new or suprising here. I’ll grant, as always, that at least D&D does better in terms of numbers of female depictions when compared to other gaming sources. But women are still consistently under-represented.

What’s interesting is when you take a look at how these numbers compare to the numbers for the 4E core books:

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

The interesting thing is that while the numbers are pretty much the same, the numbers for Dragon Magazine are just slightly worse across most categories – suggestive depictions being a notable exception. There are slightly fewer active women, and slightly fewer women overall. They are a little less fully clothed, a little less likely to be fighters and a little more likely to be thieves.

The suggestive depictions pose an interesting wrinkle. About 70% of all suggestive figures are women, down from 80% of all suggestive figures in the core books. However, a little less than one half of women in the core books are depicted as suggestive while almost three quarters of women in Dragon Magazine are depicted as suggestively attired. So while the number of suggestive male figures has increased, it doesn’t seem to have kept pace with the increase in suggestive female figures.

I’m still working on the other stuff

As mentioned, this will be a three-parter. Next time I’ll do an images post picking out some points of interest. I’ll also be doing an entire post about Shelly Mazzanoble, who will take up too much space to cram into this post.

Since I realize that today’s post is a bit light on content, here for your amusement…

Caesary sinks to new depths

Caesary is a browser-based game owned by the same folks who publish Evony, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they use the same tactics in their advertising. Still, this is pretty ridiculous, even for them:

(You can go here to see the page it came from, complete with nifty animations.) I mean, wow. “Real Men”? They do know that the game has absolutely nothing to do with actual women, right?