On female protagonists and the cowardice of AAA publishers

While it’s clear that there is still a long way to go in terms of evening the playing field as far as representation of women in AAA gaming is concerned, undeniably things are (slowly) getting better. Recently I’ve written about female representation in games previewed at E3, as well as the amazing and rich focus on women’s stories in Life is Strange – so there is tangible evidence that things are indeed changing! Unfortunately, one thing that really isn’t helping is the, sadly still quite prevalent, myth that female protagonists are bad for sales.

You see, despite women now accounting for half of video gamers and the clear majority of all consumer purchases, AAA Game studios are terrified of female-led titles, because marketing to the 18-34 white cishet dude is how it’s always been done. And much like Hollywood, big-budget games have such large budgets that the big studios are reluctant to try anything “new” that might stray outside of their already-proven sales formulas – even if that “something new” is making games that star protagonists that look like half the people on the goddamn planet.

There are developers out there who are bucking the trend and managing to get female-led games published. But the resistance that they face in finding AAA publishers who are willing to publish and distribute these games can be… formidable. Things may be changing, but that change can fairly be described as glacial, and there are still a lot of publishers out there who prefer to make their money the way it’s always been done. (Read: by not publishing games with women in them)

So on the rare occasion that there is a development studio working on a game that features female protagonists, all too often what they hear from the publishers they attempt to court is that they need to make the protagonists male. Take, for example, Dontnod Entertainment – the developers behind both Remember Me and Life is Strange. Both titles were conceived of as stories with female protagonists from the beginning:

dontnod
LEFT: Niln, Remember Me RIGHT: Max and Chloe, Life is Strange

Predictably, when Dontnod started approaching developers about both of these games, the very first response was “looks great, but you need to make the protagonists male”. Because, of course, men are relateable and universal while women are weird with only limited niche appeal.

Seriously! Check this out:

When Dontnod started showing Remember Me to publishers, some of them refused to publish the title simply because people would playing as a woman in it, and because that could reduce the game’s sales potential.

“We had some [companies] that said, ‘Well, we don’t want to publish it because that’s not going to succeed. You can’t have a female character in games. It has to be a male character, simple as that,'” said Moris.

–Source: Polygon – Remember Me dev says publishers balked at a female lead character

But wait! It gets even more damning than that, as witnessed by this quote here:

“We wanted to be able to tease on Nilin’s private life, and that means for instance, at one point, we wanted a scene where she was kissing a guy. We had people tell us, ‘You can’t make a dude like the player kiss another dude in the game, that’s going to feel awkward.'”

— Source: Eurogamer – Why Publishers Refuse Games Such as Remember Me

Thankfully, things seemed to go a little better for Dontnod while they were shopping around for a publisher for Life is Strange, in that nobody said anything quite as boneheaded. (Or at least, nobody said anything that Dontnod quoted.) Still, Squeenix was pretty much the only one willing to run with a story about two teenage girls for Life is Strange:

“Square is basically the only publisher that didn’t want to change a single thing about the game,” Dontnod co-founder Jean-Maxime “J-Max” Moris says in the video. “We had other publishers telling us ‘Make it a male lead character,’ and Square didn’t even question that once.”

–Source: Kotaku – Publishers Wanted to Change Life is Strange’s Protagonists Into Men

Which, okay. I’ll admit that I’ve been deeply, deeply disappointed by the increasingly misogynistic visual design of Squeenix’s single-player Final Fantasy titles. However, as awful as Squeenix’s character design has gotten in Final Fantasy, the writing for their female characters has always been top notch[1]! So it does make a certain amount of sense that it would be Squeenix that would wind up publishing Life is Strange.

However, it’s also worth noting that this was also well after the runaway success of The Last of Us – Naughty Dog’s survival horror game about a grizzled man and a young girl on a harrowing mission in the fungus-zombie apocalypse. While Joel was the primary protagonist of TLoU, the story was about both Joel and Ellie. Furthermore, Ellie is actually playable for a large chunk of the game, and repeatedly saves Joel’s life.

last-of-us-ellie

The Last of Us totally killed in terms of sales numbers. In the first week alone, The Last of Us sold 1.3 million  copies! Perhaps because Naughty Dog is an established studio with a proven track record of franchise-spawning hits, they didn’t face pressure to remove Ellie from the game (although the cynic in me says that’s because she was the secondary protagonist, and thus not a threat to Joel’s primacy). However, they did wind up fighting a lesser version of that same pernicious battle, as their publisher made efforts to get them to remove Ellie from the cover art, or at the very least push her to the back of the box:

During the making of The Last of Us, developer Naughty Dog “flat-out refused” to move Ellie — one of this title’s two central characters — to the back of the game’s cover art, during discussions over whether female-led game covers sell fewer units, creative director Neil Druckmann told VG247.

— Source: Polygon – The Last of Us developer refused to push female lead to back of cover

Thankfully Naughty Dog stuck to their guns, because AAA gaming has more than enough cover art featuring grizzled white dudes looking grimly into the middle distance, thank you very much.

The same could not be said of Irrational Games, who caved to pressure to push Elizabeth, the protagonist’s companion and partner, to the back of the box. Worse, the cover art itself was one of the blandest renditions of “white dude with firearm in front of explosions” that I have ever seen grace the cover of a video game.

Subsquently, when there was a flap over Elizabeth’s exclusion, Ken Levine – Bioshock Infinite’s creative director – gave the most weak sauce explanation of why they HAD to make their cover so bland.

Our gaming world, we sometimes forget, is so important to us, but… there are plenty of products that I buy that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about. My salad dressing. If there’s a new salad dressing coming out, I would have no idea. I use salad dressing; I don’t read Salad Dressing Weekly. I don’t care who makes it, I don’t know any of the personalities in the salad dressing business.

— Source: Wired – Ken Levine Explains Bioshock Infinite’s Bland Box Art

Their hands were tied! Honest! There’s just no way that they could ever have made a business case for putting a fucking woman on the cover of a game that she features prominently in! Because reasons! Salad dressing reasons!

(I’m sure there are more examples of this sort of shenanigans that I’m not aware of, given that I don’t tend to closely follow the politics of game development in the AAA industry, but going further would be beating a dead horse.)

So now we have a landscape in which games like The Last of Us and Life is Strange (which cracked the top five Playstation games in February of this year) have started to blaze a trail towards AAA publishers finally pulling their heads out of their asses and realizing that yes people will still pay to play games starring women. And yet, the studios smart enough to actually start moving in this “bold” and “new” direction are engaging in so much whinging about how MAKING GAMES ABOUT WOMEN IS HARD AND REALLY SCARY YOU GUYS that it’s enough to make me want to punch someone.

Case in point: just about everything I read coming out of E3 about Sony’s upcoming title Horizon Zero Dawn featured Sony execs simultaneously trying to sell the game on its merits while also fearfully apologizing for having the temerity to make a game with a female lead. Frex:

“She’s a female lead character,” he said. “That has always been the vision by the team, but we had a discussion. Is it risky to do a female character?”

In fact, once development was underway, so many questions were asked about the protagonist internally, that the company brought in a marketing team to do some focus testing.

“The concern came after the game was in development,” he said. “We started to show it to many more people internally and they had questions about it. So we worked with our marketing groups to do this focus testing.

“We wanted to see how people would react to some of the things: open world RPG, the set up of machine versus primitive weapons and the female protagonist. All of those things.”

— Source: Sony was worried about a female protagonist in Killzone dev’s new IP

“We’re just… we’re just so worried. I mean, we have this great concept for a killer game with entertaining game play, and we have an obscene budget for graphics, but we’re just worried that no one will buy it because cooties. So, you know, we did lots of focus groups and they all told us that cooties aren’t a thing, but that doesn’t square with our industry experience that gamers won’t buy games with women because they don’t want cooties. After extensive research, we’re pressing forward, but we just want to say that we’re really, really nervous about cooties.”

OH MY GOD JUST SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UUUUUUP.

Look , you’re making a game about a wildling woman fighting robot dinosaurs in the post-apocalypse. THAT’S AMAZING. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?

Herd.0

If you’re going to publish games about women, just fucking do it and spare me the hand-wringing apologies, because honestly – this level of cowardice is pretty hard to stomach when all we’re talking about is making games that happen to star a fucking woman.

Okay? Okay. Now get out there and make me some more games with female protagonists, pronto. I’m all caught up on Life is Strange and I’m jonesing for more games like that, please.

[1] With the notable exception of Lightning Returns, which was garbage.

 

Nintendo and Ubisoft: in which the pot calls the kettle black [MANY IMAGES]

Ubisoft’s colossal E3 “open mouth insert foot” blunder about it being tooooo haaaaard to develop female characters was useful in that it started a lot of great conversations about the lack  of playable female characters in video games. However, one irritating trend that I’ve seen is that there are other game studios who have rushed to proclaim “well OUR games have female characters”, only the female characters in question are nothing more than sexy collections of ladyparts, improbable and/or outright impossible costumes, and shitty sexist stereotypes.

And you know what? That’s bullshit. Yeah Ubisoft fucked up, but at least their fuck-up was one of omission, which is better than the committed, ongoing sexism required to produce a lot of the frankly awful female characters that the major games studios continue to churn out like this, or this, or this. (And those are all just things I saw this morning while catching up on a weekend away from tumblr!)

The company that irritated me the most with these tactics, however, was Nintendo, since not only did they populate their games with shitty characters but people actually praised them for it!

Of course, it helped Nintendo that this year’s E3 was pretty abysmal for women. Almost none of the AAA game studios showcased games with playable female characters, and as Vlambeer developer Rami Ismail snarked there were more severed heads than female Playstation presenters at E3.

So when Nintendo showcased their upcoming games that actually featured some female characters, notably Hyrule Warriors and the next iteration of Super Smash Brothers, many people heralded it as a breath of fresh air – just because at least one studio wasn’t stupidly pretending women didn’t exist. The dearth of women was so great that the inclusion of female characters, any female characters was seen as a good thing.

And in light of the glaring omission of female characters by other studios, it didn’t take Nintendo long at all to start tooting it’s own horn. Look at our upcoming games that are full of strong female characters! Which would be great if it were true. Unfortunately, the female characters in question are only “strong female characters” in the Hark! A Vagrant! sense:

I will never skip an opportunity to link to Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant!. NEVER.

So pull up a chair, kids, and let’s talk about why Nintendo fails at women in both of these titles that supposedly contain such “strong female characters”.

Hyrule Warriors

Hyrule Warriors looks to be an interesting game, truth be told. Based on the sort of epic combats that are characteristic of the Dynasty Warriors series, it has you fighting battles on a grand scale. Further, the cast of characters seems pretty well divided with half of the 12 “main” characters being female[1]:

LEFT TO RIGHT: Lana, Zelda, Midna
LEFT TO RIGHT: Agitha, Shia, Impa
LEFT TO RIGHT: Valga, Zant, Link
LEFT TO RIGHT: Argorok, Wizzro

(Not pictured with the male characters – the obligatory Ganondorf.)

Now there are some positive things here. It’s nice that Zelda is a playable character and actually doesn’t get back-benched for this title. Also, it is nice that female characters account for half of the main characters. However, there are some serious issues that come up when you start looking in more depth at the character design.

For example, the range of designs of the female characters is incredibly constricted, with all of the 6 main female characters being either “pretty”, “cute”, or “sexy”. But when you look at the not-female characters, the range is so much wider! You have a slim youth, mysterious warriors, an inhuman monster, a horrific shade, and… whatever the hell Ganondorf is.

So in the Zelda universe there are super-attractive male characters and monstrous male characters and some things in between, but there is literally no such thing as an unattractive female character. Because even in a universe where single characters can defeat entire armies, it is unbelievable that heroic women might also be unattractive?

Also, it’s important to note that there are some suuuuuper problematic character designs going on here. Most notably, Shia.

So she’s got gravity-defying nippleless sphere-boobs, improbable costuming, decorative armor plating that protects nothing while vital bits of anatomy are exposed, pointy metal objects stabbing her directly in the boob… Christ. It would be easier to find things they didn’t get wrong. What the hell happened to Nintendo’s reputation as a “family-friendly” game publisher?

But wait, it gets worse! Shia’s entire backstory is that she was once a guardian of the Triforce until she fell in love with Link and her jealousy of Zelda made her get all evil and stuff.

Right. Because the only motivation that ever exists for female characters is a man. And the reason she’s dressed like that is because she’s evil, and what better way to show that than to have her dress provocatively? Because, you know, sexy wimmenz = evil.

/headdesk

Depressingly. Zelda honestly isn’t much better than the trainwreck that is Shia. Sure, her design looks cool at first blush, but let’s look at it in a bit more detail:

I mean, it’s better than Shia’s design? But that’s not saying a whole hell of a lot. But I guess this is what “strong female characters” look like these days. Hyrule Warriors development producer had this to say about Zelda’s new design:

“Regarding the look of Zelda herself, she is a ruler. So we want to make sure she is seen as a strong character in that she needs to look like a ruler, she needs to feel like a ruler,” Hayashi said. “So, [she has] what you might consider a stronger look for the character.”

…yeah. She looks real empowered there, what with her armor that prioritized sexiness over actual protection of vital anatomy. One might even say regal.

But the worst, THE WORST part of this awful Zelda design? Her attack involves her loincloth levitating upward while she pulls glowy energy out of her ladybits to form weapons.

Hrm. Nope, not strong enough. Merida, help me out here.

Super Smash Brothers

Sadly, as awful as Highrule Warriors does with regard to its female characters, it still does better than the upcoming Smash Brothers. Here’s what the roster looks like, as of the most recent update I was able to find:

A lot of familiar faces there, as well as some new ones, like the WiiFit Trainer. The problem is, when you start breaking it down by gender, things get depressing pretty quickly: (Pokemon not included because I’m not prepared to argue about the gender of pokemon.)

Yeah. Way to go at including female characters, Nintendo. You’re clearly doing a bang-up job there.

Now, granted, the characters featured in Smash Brothers are all iconic characters from a wide variety of different series. But many of these series (Metal Gear, Sonic, Star Fox) have female characters that aren’t being featured. And sure, those characters aren’t the “iconic” characters of the series, but that in itself makes a pretty damning indictment of gender representation.

But wait! It gets worse! You see, Samus’ Zero Suit is once again a thing in the new Smash Brothers title, which. Ugh. Other M was pretty much the worst thing ever to happen to Samus, what with how it took away her armor and made her whinily subordinate to a bunch of dudes. Why does that shit have to become the dominant portrayal of her? WHY?

And yet here’s Nintendo, doubling down on the awful. The Zero Suit’s rocket boots, which were frankly one of the only things going for it, are now stripper rocket heels.

STRIPPER. ROCKET. HEELS.

And look! They made the suit even more vacuum-sealed than before, as witness by how bizarrely separated and defined Samus’ (awful, spherical) breasts are. Also, given the level of definition on her belly-button, that thing must be tight enough to cause problems breathing. Unless this is some kind of future tech thing. Space age polymers ftw!

The anatomy on the Samus model is also pretty fucking terrible, although that might not be immediately apparent from the above screencap so here’s another:

Holy bendy snake torso with bonus chest-TARDIS, Batman!

So thanks, Nintendo, for making me totally not at all regret that I haven’t owned any Nintendo platforms since the Game Boy Advance. And how about next time you try to claim that you’re “better” than another studio at including female characters in your games, look at the quality of those characters before you go trying to earn feminism cookies.


[1] According to what I was able to find online.

Hey, game devs. Knock it off with the corpse tits! [NSFW] [MANY IMAGES]

Yesterday, I had occasion to post the following on Twitter:

File that under the list of Shit I Wish I Didn’t Have to Say. Sadly, 95% of internet feminism seems to be saying shit that really should be completely obvious. (You know, like “hey – women are people”. Stuff like that.)

What prompted the Twitter mini-rant? Well, someone on my Google+ feed happened to link to this:

*sigh*

It’s like the artist was going through a mental checklist. “Okay, we’ve got 4 different skin tones. Staples, check. Rivets and metal plates, check. Creepy-looking veins, check. Just got to make sure I don’t forget the titties!”

Seriously. How ridiculous is it that the stitching and patches are actually more believable than the breasts, which have impossible cleavage (without support, breasts hang DOWN and AWAY from one another), seem to have no areolae, and definitely have no nipples. But then, as referenced in my tweets, this is hardly a new thing in games, tragic as that may be.

This particular gem is courtesy of Louis Porter Jr, who hasn’t bothered to hide the fact that he holds pretty regressive views on the portrayal of women in games. Back when I had just started this blog, he actually commented on a post I had made about Paizo, saying that he was glad that that Paizo was doing positive things with regard to racial diversity, but that sexualized wimmenz were just good business sense.

Uh. No. But thanks for playing, dude.

Still, it would be unfair to pick on LPJ too much, considering that Franken-Tits here isn’t exactly a unique phenomenon. So here is a totally-not-at-all definitive list of corpse tits in games that I had either run across previously or was able to find with only a modicum of Googling.

BRING ON THE CORPSE TITS

I honestly don’t know what game this first image is from, but frankly it pretty well sums up the problem that I’m talking about quite nicely:

That was on one of the first few pages of search results for “female lich”, which is an image search you should not do if you don’t want to see a whole lot of gory necro-tits with occasional gruesome necro-crotch.

Disturbingly, but not all that surprisingly, corpse tits are such a common phenomenon in gaming that they can be found in every subgenre of gaming.

It didn’t take much work at all to turn up these images for games funded on KickStarter. The image on the left comes from a game called Hands of Fate, which I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know was fully funded. Phew! I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine the horror of living in a world where a game of such bold artistic vision failed to become a reality.

The image on the right is from a game called Zpocalypse, which also fully funded. Right on! It’s so great to see so many independent creators get to realize their dreams of creating games that feature creepily sexualized women’s corpses.

Now I will give them credit for having a jawless zombie, mostly because I’m still bitter about not being able to play a jawless female Forsaken in World of Warcraft. But they just lose the points again for giving her weirdly pristine (considering the state of the rest of her) corpse tits.

Then we have this gem, which is actually (as far as I can gather) the cover image for Lich Queen’s Beloved – an official, Wizards-published  adventure module for D&D. Of course, on the Wizards site they only use the thumbnail on the left, which an amusing bit of obfuscation on Wizards’ part. Given the amount of embarrassing cheesecake art that I’ve seen in official Wizards’ products, it’s amusing that this is sufficiently awful that they don’t want to include the full image on their website.

But Wizards of the Coast is hardly the only large publisher guilty of this nonsense. Disappointingly, despite that Paizo seems to have been trying to not fail quite as much at female characters lately, they still included this character in some published material released August of last year.

 

And sure, she’s not as bad as the others. But the fact is that she is dessicated, her skin and muscle tissue are clearly withered and dried out. So WHY in god’s name is she wearing boob plate? Given that her nose and lips rotten and she is clearly giving zero fucks about that, I highly doubt it’s a fashion statement. And if her limbs and lower torso are at that level of desiccation, it’s not like her tits are going to be perky enough to need any support, not unless she’s had some very selective embalming done.

But let’s not forget video games! Because there are so. Goddamn. Many. corpse tits in video games.

One of the elder statesmen of video game corpse tits would have to be WoW, who from the very beginning made it clear that even in death the women in the WoW universe would have supermodel faces and amazing tits.

What makes it even more frustrating is the fact that apparently there are a few artists who work for Blizzard whose heads aren’t completely up their asses:

I have pretty much zero interest in playing a character like Barbie McCorpse-Tits, but I would totally play the shit out of her! Look at her! Rotten nose and face, not sexualized, just getting shit done. AWESOME. MORE OF THAT PLEASE. And less of this shit:

How sad is it that Resident Evil has the least sexualized female zombie? What the hell? Why is this a thing that game companies are competing over? Still, if I had to give an award I would give Guild Wars the trophy for the grossest corpse tits ever. Seriously, look at her. The skin on her face is leatherized but she’s still got fucking basketballs pinned to her chest. I’m surprised they didn’t put nipples on her for gods sake.

But wait! There’s more!

Even Facebook games just can’t resist getting in on that sexy necro-boob action. Look at miss Zombie Prostitute here. Sure her face and arm are all decayed and gross, but don’t worry, the important stuff is still perky and fleshy. (Also, the contrast here just underscores everything I’m saying here. Why do female zombies never get to wear any fucking clothes, but male zombies walk around in three piece suits and the like?)

The Bottom of the Barrel

As bad as all of that is, it actually gets worse. “But, wundergeek!” I’m sure you’re asking. “How could it get worse?”

Well, gentle reader. As bad as the above examples are, they aren’t generally being used to promote the brands that the represent. As awful as corpse tits are, most companies still have the sense not to use them to promote their products to a wider audience.

Of course, some companies aren’t put off such tactics by things like “common sense” and “taste”, which is how you end up with things like this promo image here:

Aww, yeah. We’re getting a first look all right. RIGHT AT HER TIIIIIITS! HIGH FIVE BRO!

…bad enough that you’re using Valindra Shadowmantle, the most boobular of all video game liches, as the promo for your game. But did you really need to make it worse by making an arrow pointing right at her necro-cleavage? Her impossibly fleshy and perky necro-cleavage?

However, I’m afraid that Valindra loses the crown for Worst Promotional Necro Boobs to Dead Island, whose publishers also net themselves an award for Shittiest Human Beings In Game Development:

That’s right, folks. For this box set, they actually included a promo figurine of a mutilated and disembodied torso with big, weirdly compressed fake tits. And then advertised the fact. AS A SELLING POINT.

Now given that Techland is the same studio that caused the uproar over their inclusion a skill named “Feminist Whore” in a test build of the game, misogynist promotion shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Still, publisher Deep Silver really went for the misogyny gold with this one. I can only imagine the conversation that led to this being a thing that actually happened:

The Boss: We need a promotional item to include with the box set. Ideas?

Operations Exec: A toy? Maybe a figurine?

Marketing Exec: Figurines make excellent limited edition items. They’re very collectible.

The Boss: Very good. Talk to me about how we can make this a quality, value-added proposition for our customers.

[Marketing Exec and Operations Exec look at each other]

Operations Exec: Well I was thinking a mutilated torso.

Marketing Exec: What a disembodied torso?

Operations Exec: Oh, yeah. Obviously. No limbs or anything. Just a torso. A mutilated lady torso.

The Boss: Interesting. I like your style. Do go on.

Operations Exec: [to Marketing Exec] So her torso should be totally mutilated, right? Except for her boobs?

Marketing Exec: Oh, totally. You can’t mutilate the boobs.

The Boss: They should be large and round. And firm. Very firm. There’s nothing I hate worse than saggy tits.

Operations Exec: [taking notes] Uh-huh. Got it. Does it have a face?

The Boss: Does what have a face?

Operations Exec: The mutilated torso figurine. Does it have a face?

The Boss: No. No face.

Marketing Exec: Why would it have a face? It doesn’t need a face.

Operations Exec: All right. So the spec I’m handing to my artist is mutilated torso, no limbs, with very large, very firm breasts, and absolutely no face.

Marketing Exec: I’ll get to work on promotional branding right away.

The Boss: This is some damn fine work, people. Damn fine indeed.

Operations Exec: Thank you, sir.


A Depressing Conclusion

Corpse tits in games go from depressing to outright scary once you consider the logic and carry it to its natural conclusion. Gaming culture is one that demands that all game women should be attractive and entirely available for the sexual gratification of a presumed male viewer. Game culture also objectifies women, breaking women down into their pleasing and less pleasing parts, emphasizing the pleasing bits and de-emphasizing the less important bits. When these two concepts collide, that’s the kind of thinking that leads to necro-tits.

At no point during the design of these characters are they ever considered to be people. They are designed piece-by-piece, carefully degrading their not-sexy parts while preserving the holy trinity of boobs, crotch, and ass. Often the face is allowed to be shown as decayed, because who cares what comes out of women’s faces? Ladywords? Ladyfeelings. Boring. Heads aren’t even mandatory, as evidenced by Dead Island.

Some of them might have story tacked on as an after-thought, but most won’t even get that much. Because the category of “woman” trumps that of “human”, and even in death women must be rendered as sexually pleasing objects, not people. Never people.

But that begs the question – why is there such a need to have sexy corpses in so goddamn many games? Why is no one taking a moment to be like “dude, that’s a corpse“? Frankly, if you’re capable of finding any of these images sexually appealing, I don’t really want to know you. Ever. But the dehumanization of women in games is so rampant, so systemic, that even the concept of FUCKABLE CORPSES doesn’t raise eyebrows.

>Clothing damage being exported to North America? (VERY NSFW)

>[Note: It’s been a shittastic week, hence the lack of posting. I’ll get back to three posts for next week. Meanwhile, I’ll try to hammer out a linkspam in addition to this post. Sorry, folks.]

While I wouldn’t exactly call clothing damage a hallmark of Japanese/Asian games, it’s something that is common enough that (for the most part) it doesn’t raise any eyebrows. However, it’s not exactly something that’s been too common in North American games. Unfortunately, it looks as if that trend may be changing, thanks to games originally made by Asian companies and translated for North American players.

So here for your, um, edification are screens from Kabod Online, Soul Calibur IV: Broken Destiny, and Parasite Eve: the 3rd Birthday. I wanted to confine this post to titles that have gotten more hype than others – but there are certainly smaller titles featuring clothing damage as a key feature that are being translated as well: Ikki Tousen Xross and Queen’s Blade: Spiral Chaos are just two that I’ve stumbled across recently. I’m sure there’s more.

Kabod Online

Kabod Online is a translated Korean MMO from Kabod Entertainment. As far as fanservice-y models go, they seem to be pretty standard as far as free Asian MMOs go:


Fully armored dude? Check. Standing next to a chick in cheesecake armor? Check. Le sigh.

When you go to Kabod’s website, there are apparently only three character classes to choose from, with only two specializations for each class – so it doesn’t look like there’s a whole lot of gameplay diversity. K-MMOs are pretty infamous for not even trying to disguise the treadmill, but this seems perhaps more egregious than most.But Kabod Entertainment doesn’t seem too worried about that. They’ve got a sure-fire plan. Sell their game with breasts! Only, since that’s what ALL of the free Asian MMOs are doing, they had to take it to eleven – hence the introduction of clothing damage. In Kabod, both players and monsters take clothing damage as they engage in combat. There’s a base level where clothing/armor is undamaged, a middle level where it’s mostly off, and a bottom level where you’re in your skivvies and, if the character is female, your gazongas are hanging out:


So Kabod has this neat combat simulation feature called clothing da… BOOBIES!!
Unsurprisingly, the clothing damage feature is what has gotten the most attention and what Kabod Entertainment has been advertising most heavily. Way to pander to the lowest common denominator guys. From what I read while searching for screenshots, it’s pretty common to play a rogue (one of the least clothed classes) and let her get down to mostly naked just so you can ogle her while you play. I mean, check this out:
LEFT: One breast in, one breast out? That’s gotta be uncomfortable. RIGHT: Oh god. They modeled ladybits, didn’t they? That’s just gross.

Will this be the game that launches a thousand faps?
So. Moving on. Shame on you, Kabod. Etc, etc, etc.

Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny

The studio behind Soul Calibur is apparently having a competition with Dead or Alive to see who can make the skeeviest game – it’s the only explanation I can think of. Soul Calibur IV is getting a PSP release, with the addition of – you guessed it – clothing damage! Because, really, we weren’t seeing ENOUGH of these ladies, amirite?

Also, there is a character creator that will not only let you create new characters, but will also let you customize existing characters, in case you’re feeling like some of your wimminz are too covered up.

Anyway. I’ve ranted enough about Soul Calibur here, so here’s some screens:


FLAWLESS… um… nudality?
Parasite Eve: the 3rd Birthday

So we have yet another entry in a series of female characters who used to be mildly positive strong characters and who have been turned into walking fapfests designed to please male gamers. Poor Aya. I’m not saying that Aya Brea was ever on the level of Samus, but she’s a far cry from Princess Peach!

It should be noted that there was a fair amount of buzz about the fact that the beginning of 3rd Birthday features a shower scene. OMG! Color me excited!

So the shower scene is bad enough, but series creator Nomura decided from the outset that there would be clothing damage in this title, and that Aya would take more damage as her clothing got damaged further. This would make sense if Aya was walking around in plate mail, but since she’s wearing just normal clothes, the only possible explanation is “sex sells”. So here’s the progression that Aya goes through:


LEFT: Very slightly damaged (jeans start out distressed) MIDDLE: Medium damage RIGHT: Max damage
Now, Aya can get changes of clothing to cover herself up again by going back to base – but it doesn’t really seem like that’s a feature that’s being heavily encouraged, since Nomura has said in an interview (unfortunately, I can’t find the link anymore) that you can get Aya to max clothing damage quickly by dropping a few grenades nearby. “Not that anyone should play that way” – he hastened to add.

Even worse is that the clothing damage is, again, pretty much how they’re promoting the game. I mean, check out this promotional art.

Look at that! Half her ass is just hanging out there! Oh Squeenix. I know that you can be pretty sexist, but why do you have to do shit like this? You want to give me well written female characters with no pants and very little clothing? Fine. I’ll roll my eyes and pony up. But this? This is not okay.

Perhaps the most depressing thing of all is that you can switch Aya’s costumes. There’s a loooong list of options, including a Lightning costume aaaaannnd…

Fetish wear! Because who doesn’t want to watch a maid get her clothes torn off while fighting monsters and stuff?/headdesk

>Why the phrase "games for girls" makes me cringe

>I’m going to take a break from gaming-related porn here. The thing about delving the depths of the internet is that you always discover that there’s an entirely new level of awful that you didn’t know about until you went looking. Instead, I’m going look at girls’ versions of board games today as kind of a palette cleanser. Before I start, though, I’ll note that several of these pictures were ganked from an excellent article on The Society Pages that deserves a read.

Anyone who has ever tried to buy a board game for the children in their lives will know that toys and games for children are marketed in a very gendered way. It is not at all uncommon to go to a toy store and see displays like this:

Stuff like this just makes me cringe because this isn’t me, nor has it ever been me. As a child, I refused to own anything pink – although to my mother’s credit she was far less dismayed by this than by the fact that I refused to wear dresses from the age of 8 onward. So the fact that the robots in marketing departments everywhere have decided that LITTLE GIRLS LIKE PINK is discomfiting to me. Sure I liked pants better than dresses and took tae kwon do instead of ballet, but I’d like to think that didn’t make me any less of a girl.Now of course I’ll admit that there’s a good reason why game companies do this – these things sell. Look at the Disney Princess line; it’s practically a license to print money. But just as with any group of people, not all little girls have the same tastes – so it makes me sad to see game companies marketing to girls as if all girls ever want the same things, especially when that same marketing comes with the added sexist baggage that goes with it.

I mean, check this out:


OMG! Why bother with the boring game when I can just pose with this pretty, pretty purse?

So, yes, a pink version of Twister is pretty ridiculous. I defy you to give me a rational explanation of how the default Twister is a “boys’ game” and thus warrants a “girls’ version”. But aside from the total eyeroll factor, check out the packaging and you’ll notice that Twister Pink doesn’t come in a game box – it comes in A PURSE. Even better, there’s a tiny drawing of some girls actually playing the game up top, but the image that dominates the packaging is the girl posing prettily with the purse.Does Milton Bradley think that girls won’t play games if they don’t come in gender-appropriate containers? Like little girls who would not have played vanilla Twister IN A BOX would suddenly jump all over playing Twister Pink IN A PURSE? How is the purse a value-added feature? Arg. Just… arg.

And there’s plenty of other examples of patronizing packaging as well. Like:


“F*CKYOU” would also be a bingo, and would be worth a lot more with F, C, K, and Y. Too bad its two words.

Fashion? FASHION? There’s an entire world of seven letter words out there, like “entrail”, “retinas”, and “inertia”. And you chose to go with FASHION. I mean, even from a Scrabble point of view it’s a shitty word since five of your seven letters are 1-pointers.And, man, what are you trying to say with this? That the only reading girls do is Twilight, fashion mags, and celebrity gossip? That fashion is such an all-consuming part of a girl’s life that even while playing a board game her thoughts are, naturally, about what she’s wearing? That she can’t relate to any concept that isn’t directly related to fashion?

Well, that would at least explain this monstrosity:


Monopoly for girls! Colon capital D! I have to have one!

This edition of Monopoly comes with the pieces in a jewelry box. And even better, all those boring properties like “Boardwalk” and “Park Place” have been replaced with things way more relevant to girls – like shopping malls, hair salons, and fashion boutiques! Because heaven knows that girls can’t ever aspire to be usurious property barons out to make a quick buck. That would make them successful business people! Much better to change it so that the things that they own are stuff that boys wouldn’t want to own anyway. Eew, cooties!But then, everyone knows that girls can’t expect to have the same careers as boys:


Quick! Someone give me some insulin! I’m going into pink overload!

So the great thing about this game is that you get to play to figure out what kind of career is best for you. Don’t worry about having challenging professions – your options are all things won’t be intellectually taxing. (And if they are they’ll be jobs men don’t want.) Potential careers include things like: “Fashion Designer”, “Animal Doctor”, and “Super Mom”. Because it’s important to start teaching girls at a young age that the only value they offer to society is their ability to reproduce.I realize that this is an older game – from about 1990 – and I don’t honestly know if there’s a newer edition. I devoutly hope not. But I thought it deserved a mention since I found it while browsing through Board Game Geek. Wei Hwa Huang wrote an excellent review of the game called “Most Condescending Game Ever“, and then some BGG users proceeded to then argue that this actually wasn’t sexist at all.

/facepalm

Other things that are, apparently, not sexist include:


New preschool curricula include Disney Princess Recognition. True story.

It doesn’t really matter what pictures you use for Memory as long as there are two of them. But you know what I’d love? A “Girls Edition” of Memory with pictures of astronauts, spaceships, and power tools. I would totally buy that for the girl toddlers in my life.Last we have something that a friend alerted me to:

 

The fail is so large it practically has its own gravitational pull.

So. Much. Hatred.

The bottom right hand of the package says SOLID WOOD BLOCKS (are pretty in pink). Because I guess it’s important that all board games for girls are pretty. What makes this extra terrible is that it’s essentially Truth or Dare, but without the Dares and with only really insipid Truths. Like “If you had one wish, what would you wish for?” and “who do you have a crush on right now?”.

Now, I’ll admit to creating a Truth or Dare Jenga set with some friends in university, and it was always a blast to play. Why not create a non-gendered Truth or Dare Jenga and let the game stand on its own merits for crying out loud?