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?

>Industy artist fail: Wayne Reynolds (at least he’s not as bad as HTK)

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[Preamble and Disclaimer: All of these can be seen at much higher resolution if you click the images. I recommend doing this. And as always, none of this is mine. All of this is copyright Wayne Reynolds and/or whichever company hired him. I don’t own a thing!]

I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite a while now – it just kept getting put off every time I spotted more egregious stuff I wanted to post about. But Wayne Reynolds has long been a pet peeve of mine when it comes to fantasy tabletop art, and I thought it was important to highlight his artwork because he is a huge name within the fantasy art industry. I will certainly be the first to admit that skill-wise, his artistic chops far exceed my own; however, Mr. Reynolds is a perfect example of an artist using his powers for evil.

Now when I say “using his powers for evil”, let’s be clear. Wayne Reynolds is no HTK. Even if he has a propensity for stupidly cheesecakey women, his cheesecake women are definitely active and strong characters. Also, for the most part the only anatomy distortion that they suffer from is an over-inflation of the breasts, which is also a far cry from HTK’s barely-human-looking crotch-thrusting figures.

In a way, that is actually part of my frustration with Wayne. I know that he’s capable of producing totally epic, non-sexualized female characters that kick huge amounts of ass when an art director puts their foot down and insists on NO CLEAVAGE WAYNE I MEAN IT. I mean check these women out:

Totally epic, right? Any of these women would be completely badass characters for long-term play. Each of them is strong and has a real sense of character. I mean I’ve talked about how much I love Seelah (paladin, far right) before here. But sadly, I had to look pretty hard to find these examples. For the most part, Wayne prefers his women looking like this:

/sigh

Don’t get me wrong. Tiger lady is pretty badass, for sure. But, you know, does she have to have her tiger bits hanging out like that? Now, it wouldn’t be so bad if Wayne had a habit of doing equally sexualized illustrations of male characters. I’ve long said that I wouldn’t mind a line that just sexified everyone equally regardless of gender; it might not be to my personal tastes, but I could at least get behind it’s existence. And Wayne does occasionally do illustrations of sexy male characters like Seltyiel:

But sadly, Seltyiel is pretty well in the minority for male characters in Wayne’s art. Mostly Wayne’s men tend to look like this:
…covered head to toe in armor and in poses that don’t emphasize their sexy bits. (Okay, maybe not with quite that many weapons. I couldn’t resist the opportunity for a bit of visual hyperbole…)

Now this isn’t exactly new, and it certainly puts Wayne in good company with many other fantasy game artists. The male = fully armored & not sexualized / female = chainmail bikini and heaving bosoms paradigm has been pretty dominant in fantasy game art ever since the creation of D&D. And at least Wayne manages to draw women who look competent while thrusting their scantily clad bosoms out for the rest of the world to see, which is certainly a far cry from women in cages.

Still, it’s pretty discouraging when Paizo hires Wayne to design their iconic sorceress and he comes up with this:

Wow! How distinctive from every other female mage ever! A gorgeous woman with big fake boobs and not enough clothing. I mean, come on – she’s practically walking fanservice. Unless she’s using body glue to hold that top in place, there’s no way that top is going to confine those ta-tas once she starts dodging arrows. But then again, I suppose she could use sorcery to the same effect? Still, it seems like a waste of a spell slot…

And Seoni is far from the only example of Wayne’s stereotypically slutty cleavagey mages:

Okay, can the female = mage = slutty cleavagey stereotype please die now and forever please? The female = mage stereotype is bad enough! God knows I get so sick of seeing female characters get railroaded into being magic-users and not being allowed to swing an honest-to-god weapon at people. But it’s DOUBLY frustrating to see the mage = slutty cleavagey stereotype in action, because it just reinforces the “tits or GTFO” that women in gaming get all the time.

The trap that fantasy women fall into is that if all women are mages and all mages show their tits, then clearly all women show their tits! And Wayne certainly isn’t doing much to dispel that notion either. But then I think that stuff like this:

…makes Wayne’s opinions on the importance of breasts in fantasy art pretty clear. Sure, none of these women are in cages, but it doesn’t exactly feel very progressive to say “sure women can be adventurers” when the clear parenthetical is “as long as they show us (male gamers) their tits”.And most of these aren’t even NICE tits, which is kind of bizarre given the fact that these figures are otherwise pretty undistorted. (They’re all Barbie, sure, but not too distorted.) All of these women have bizarrely inflated sphere boobs that in some cases aren’t even that appealing. I mean, the gnome and the hook fighter especially have boobs that just kind of freak me out – it looks like someone taped melons to their chests. How is that in any way appealing?

The only one of these women that I in any way appreciate is the fire mage; her chest is actually quite small. Still, body paint =/ clothing and gee it would be great if she HAD SOME DAMN CLOTHES.

The ones that make me the most frustrated though are the ones where the art direction was pretty obviously for a strong, FULLY-COVERED female character and Wayne gave them cleavage anyway:

I mean, Christ, Wayne. Looking at these, I hate to think of what initial drafts of Seelah might have looked like. Did you honestly think that people wouldn’t notice the random cleavage? It’s especially frustrating on these characters because they come SO CLOSE to being every bit as awesome as the first set and then fall flat on her face. Is there ANY reason for us to see Imrijka’s (far left) hugely inflated sphere boobs? No. Does being able to see Merisiel’s (middle) tits somehow make her a better, more compelling avatar? No. Does being able to see the pirate’s tits AND panties make us more able to believe in her strength? Um… no.The worst part is that I can so clearly see what these characters could have been had they not been gratuitously sexualized. Please – can’t we allow strong female characters to be strong AND female and not have to show their tits to the world? Why do we have to do this? Why do we have to continue to tell women that they can only expect to be strong and competent so long as they agree to dress for the titillation of their male counterparts?

Fuck that. I want women who are badass and not sexualized:

So how about it, Wayne? You’re clearly able. Now are you willing?

>Mixed Messages in D&D 4th Edition

>So it has to be said that Wizards has made strides in improving how women are portrayed in 4th Edition D&D. It’s certainly a lot easier to find images of women who are both fully clothed and active. You also see a lot more pictures of women as fighters, where in the past any woman in armor was by default a cleric. Furthermore, I’ve been quite pleased by some of the images I’ve seen of strong, competent, not sexualized women.

The problem is that Wizards seems to want to have their cake and eat it too. It seems like for every fantastic image I see, there’s somewhere between one and two really awful ones. What’s worse, when you see women on the covers of 4E books they’re almost always cheesecake women and not the positive strong women I just mentioned. (Case in point: The Adventurer’s Vault 2, Dungeon Delve, The DMG 2, The PHB, The PHB 2, The PHB 3, and too many others to count.)

So I thought I’d do a little side-by-side comparison of some really great pictures of 4E women right next to some really awful ones. These are images that I found in two threads (good art, bad art) in the Astrid’s Parlor forum on the Wizards site. As such, I don’t own the rights to any of this. See the end of this post for the cover-my-ass boilerplate.

(Noteably, unlike my last post, there are larger versions you can click through to of the below for more detail.) First up we have:

So here we have a comparison of different approaches to the badass pose with weapon. The woman on the left really does look badass. Those weapons are most definitely not for show. (Incidentally, this is one of the few images by Wayne Reynolds that I found that WASN’T guilty of egregious cheesecake. Maybe he got tired of all those uncovered boobs.) The woman on the right – what is she doing? Getting drunk? That would explain her complete lack of caring about the sideboob. I know which one of these two women I’d rather take on.

So D&D is purported to be loosely based on medieval Europe. The wizard on the left is a good example of that, with her costume looking pretty similar to stuff you might see in that period. The woman on the right, however, appears to be wearing absolutely nothing to cover her backside – which I’m pretty sure isn’t in keeping with the feel of medieval Europe. Last time I checked, Europe gets pretty cold and, dude, a tail is not a replacement for pants.

I’ll also note that despite the fact that the tiefling is actually casting a spell and “controlling the elements” or whatever, I find the halfling far more imposing. I love the “don’t fuck with me” expression on her face.

Another contrast in spell casters, here. Overall, the art for the female dwarves has been pretty fantastic and positive in 4E, and the mage on the left lives up to that standard. The pose is pretty neutral, but the shadow-serpent and the expression on her face make her someone not to be dismissed lightly. And sure, the mage on the right has a more active pose – but she’s pretty obviously posed that way so as to display her, uh, attributes to their maximum advantage.

Also, the anatomy is problematic on the slutty-mage – she’s suffering from a pretty serious case of sphere-boob. She also doesn’t seem to have any hips, which is kind of bewildering. Maybe the only difference between the sexes for elves is that women are just men with boobs tacked on?

These are, unfortunately, both depictions of female fighters. Don’t ask me how the chick on the right is supposed to fight in that getup. I’m sure she spent a much longer time getting her hair to do that than getting into that “armor”. The sad thing about this is that the woman on the left is both powerful and feminine. The chainmail she’s wearing is clearly serving a function and actually covers all the stuff you’d want to protect when hacking at people with swords. And, personally, I find the woman on the left a lot sexier than the freak show on the right.

What to wear when hacking at people with swords: Part Two. Again, fantastic female dwarf. Again, I love, love, LOVE the “don’t fuck with me” expression. Whereas the woman on the right is wearing a tube-top held together with a few pieces of string. Here’s the deal, guys. I’m approximately that well endowed, and there’s no way in hell I’d trust that top to keep the girls contained. Also, what’s with the visible thong? Did medieval Europe have Victoria’s Secret? Lastly, look at the poses. The dwarf looks like she’s two seconds from smashing your face in with that giant hammer. The human just looks like she’s posing for a glamour shot.

Okay, we’re going to end with how to portray threatening women. The woman on the left is strong and competent. She’s not just swinging the spear around for show. Whereas the women on the right… Okay, okay, yes they’re succubi. They’re “supposed” to be sexy. But succubi are demons, for crying out loud! Practically immortal beings from another plane that are supposed to eat men for breakfast! These women don’t look like they’ve eaten anything more than a lettuce leaf for breakfast.

Furthermore, they’re in these awful “look at me, I’m so sexy” poses, but the anatomy is so distorted that I have a hard time seeing them that way. Their waists and shoulders are both way too small. Plus, you know, the boobs. Again, guys – BOOBS DON’T WORK THAT WAY. Christ, the succubus on the right practically has a shelf. I’m surprised she doesn’t carry stuff around on that thing.

So, yes. D&D is making strides, but they’re no Paizo. (Not that Paizo is perfect either.) And when you consider how many of their covers have cheesecake, it makes me wonder if they have any real intention of improving their depictions of women past this point.

[Oh yeah, the boiler plate. This blog is not affiliated with, endorsed, sponsored, or specifically approved by Wizards of the Coast LLC. Wizards owns everything, I own nothing. For more information about the products these are taken from, go to the Wizards website.]