Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blame NaNoWriMo

Hey, folks. Sorry for the radio silence. American Thanksgiving, birthday celebrations, a wedding, and the end of NaNoWriMo all conspired to make sure that any time spent at my computer since last Thursday has been time in which I have been prying my daily words out of my brain in an increasingly desperate attempt to make it to the finish line. But look! I finished!

Yes I use a spreadsheet to track my words. I'm a giant nerd.

So now that that's over with, I can now reclaim the mental bandwidth that was being consumed by NaNoWriMo. Hooray! I've been doing lots of research in the last little while and I promise I have lots of interesting stuff to rant about, including body customization, sexist webcomic ads, and Paizo.

In the mean time, I don't want to leave you empty handed. So here, gentle reader, is your daily dose of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

WTF the first:

Fair warning, unbelievably NSFW! Orgasm Girl - a flash game on New Grounds about a lesbian who goes around giving girls orgasms in their sleep. Apparently successful enough that it warranted a sequel, because there's also an Orgasm Girl 2.

I'm afraid that I've spent a little too much time dragging prose out of my brain to mock this in a sufficiently scathing and intelligent manner. I'll leave that task to you.

WTF the second:

How Fat Princess is blatantly better than feminism - a column on Destructoid by Jim Sterling.

This is seriously one of the most offensive and disgusting anti-feminist screeds that I have read since I started the research that wound up to me starting this blog. Among other things, he claims that feminism is bad for women as well as perpetuates the stereotype that feminists are humorless trolls who have no chance of finding a man. And then at the very end, he turns around and says surprise! This was all a joke! If you're offended, clearly it just proves that everything men say about humorless feminists is true! Clearly that makes them blameless, right?

Well, except for the comments where readers fall all over themselves to say OMG THIS IS SO TRUE. Consider yourself on notice Jim Sterling - I'm adding you to my Google Alerts.

WTF the third:

(NSFW!!) Video Game Girls DB - proof that in every stereotype there is at least a small grain of truth.

Perhaps the creepiest masturbation aid I've ever encountered, this site lets you sort by hair color, eye color, measurements, breast size, and bounciness - among many other factors. Seriously? Yuck. Just... yuck.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Amusing side note: search terms

An amusing thing that I've noticed is that a lot of people seem to find this blog by accident while looking for other things. I thought I'd share some of the more amusing search terms.

So it seems that my post about 4th Edition D&D art is far and away my most popular so far. So I guess that explains the proliferation of 4E related search terms like: 4E PHB, D&D 4th pics, 4th Edition D&D, and D&D art. My favorite, though, is "D&D 4th Edition boons" - for which my post about D&D art comes up as the first result thanks to what I can only presume is an error in the search results. Note to search bots: "boons" =/ "boobs".

At least now I know how I can pump more traffic here if I ever feel like attention whoring. Apparently writing shit about D&D is the way to go. Who knew?

I have no idea why this came up in the image results for "4E PHB". (Click image for original source)

Then there's the search terms that I'll roughly categorize as "maybe they were looking for this blog... and maybe they weren't" - which includes: Taki, Taki boobs, Allods lesbian fairies, Allods boob jiggle, is go make me a sandwich sexist, advertising porn, evony girls hot, and go make me a sandwich RPG.

This was on the first page of search results for "Evony Girls Hot". What? (from somewhere on popehat.com, not mine)

My favorite in this category is "go make me a sandwich RPG". It makes me want to design a horrible tabletop game about the sad and pathetic lives of lonely female-hating XBox Live users. I'll also point out that "advertising porn" actually leads to some interesting articles about the current state of advertising - just make sure that you're using Google WEB and not Google IMAGE. (For reasons that should be obvious.) Lastly, "Taki boobs" yields as many forum comments that Taki's bazookas are actually kind of gross as those in favor of them, so that's sort of encouraging... I guess.

Last we have the "definitely weren't looking for this blog" category, which includes: lesbians rubbing boobs, boobs blogspot.com, and sandwich boobs. (I guess I must be naive in the ways of pr0n, because I honestly wasn't expecting pr0n to come up for sandwich boobs.)

It just goes downhill from here. (click for source, not mine)

The internet is a weird place.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dear, BioWare: you're awesome, except for when you suck

[Warning, this post contains spoilers for Baldur's Gate, Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect. If you haven't played them by now and think you might care about being spoiled, turn back now.]

I've been playing BioWare games since the original Baldur's Gate. I played through NWN and a substantial amount of Shadows of Undrentide. I loved KOTOR and KOTOR2 (except for the last three hours), was completely obsessed with Dragon Age (no really, ask my husband), and only just recently discovered the joy that is Mass Effect. (I have plans to play ME2 some day, but for now I'm working on FFXIII.) I love BioWare games for their rich story lines and the staggering amount of freedom that their games allow - especially the more recent ones.

Best of all, I love the well-written and engaging characters. I'll admit to giggling like a lunatic while playing through the romance plot with Alastair in DA:O. BioWare has definitely mastered the art of creating believable and memorable NPCs. They're also perhaps the most female-friendly game publisher out there - hence the title. So this is both my love letter and my disapproving stare going out to the BioWare folks. Don't get me wrong, BioWare. I love you - I need you. You rock my socks. Except for when you don't.

Rock: Female avatars

So can I say how much I love being able to have female avatars? Because I love it - I really, really do. I do tend to play male characters on second play-throughs, but for my first play-through, I want to have a female character.

You did okay with this in the Baldur's Gate series. The romance subplots were obviously geared toward male players, but that's okay. You were still finding your voice. KOTOR was better, but after my first playthrough I still felt like I had missed something important. And then I discovered that only male Revan had the option of romancing Bastila. Don't get me wrong, Carth was a nice guy and all and I appreciate that a real female romance option was included. I just didn't find him a very useful character and thus didn't really do a lot of plot stuff with him. Sorry, Carth.

With Mass Effect and DA:O they totally hit it out of the park. I played both of these with female avatars and thought that the writing was spot on. Both female Shephard and the protagonist of DA:O are strong female characters without anyone ever having to point out that OMG UR A CHICK. After playing these games, I wasn't left with the feeling that a male-centric plot had been shoehorned into a female avatar and had all the pronouns changed. So kudos, BioWare for including a viable and well-written female protagonist. And also kudos for having the good sense to choose Jennifer Hale as the voice of female Shephard. She kicks seven kinds of ass.

This is what my female Shephard looked like, except mine was more brown and didn't look goth.

Anti-Rock: Ads don't feature female avatars

The problem is that from the advertising that BioWare puts out, you'd never know that female avatars are a viable option. Only the canonical male Shephard - a rather boring pasty space marine - is ever shown in ads for the ME series:

Wow. Another white space marine. Yawn.

You'd never get the idea from the ME ads that Shephard's gender and race are customizable. And it's the same with DA:O, Dragon Age: Origins - Awakenings (the expansion), and the promos for the upcoming Dragon Age 2. Again, despite being able to choose a female avatar, the ads feature only male avatars.

Given a recent study of how many registered users choose female Shephards over male Shephards in ME2, it's not too surprising that the marketing bots made this decision, even if it is disappointing

Further Anti-Rock: BioWare mod response to forum complaints

BioWare's official response to calls on their forums for more (or, you know, any) female avatars in their advertising is pretty mixed too. In one thread, BioWare forum mod Chris Priestly responded to a complaint that ads never feature female avatars with:

While the percentage population of online gaming audence may be growing or higher, the audence for our games is still predominantly male. This does not mean the female gamer, or again, the male gamer who prefers to play a female character is less important, but it should in part explain why some marketing campaigns are targetted as they are.

As I said in another thread, BioWare always has and continues to greatly support and value our female gaming audience. I hope in the (roughly) 8 months between now and launch female gamers find materials in our marketing that they enjoy.
In other words, the ads have male avatars because they're the ones who buy the games, silly! But don't worry, we'll throw you a bone and expect you girls to be content.

And in another thread asking the same thing, BioWare forum mod Mike Laidlaw said:

We will show her eventually. I don't have a firm timeline, but we well. And she is -hot-.
Yes. Because that is what I as a female gamer need to know. Is my female avatar going to be hot?


Mitigating Rock: Forum mod who thinks wanting female avatars in ads isn't crazy talk

Thankfully, contrasting this rather patronizing response we have a thread wherin BioWare forum mod John Epler made many responses in a thread asking to see models of Female Hawke - the protagonist in the upcoming DA2. Among other things, he says:

Honestly, I don't see a desire for more female-focused attention in development to be an unreasonable request.

No one's asking for a game and story based around the ideals of second-wave feminism, but merely that we as developers acknowledge that there are more than one audience interested in our product. And I honestly don't see that as unreasonable in the slightest.

Please keep the gender stereotypes (on both sides of the fence, mind) out of this thread, folks. It's been pretty productive and positive thus far! Let's not end up turning this into a 'men like this' 'well women like THIS' debate.
Phew. Thanks for restoring my faith, John. I mean, I'd buy your games anyway, because they're just THAT GOOD, but I'd rather not get all resentful about it. So, moving on:

Rock: Female NPCs

BioWare has some of the best female NPCs ever, hands down. From Dynaheir in BG to Bastila in KOTOR to Ashley in Mass Effect, the female NPCs that join your party are well rounded, engaging, and memorable with nary a personality stereotype to be found. Not for BioWare the helpless princess primadonna who needs rescuing. (Okay, excepting Imoen in BG2. But at least she's your sister and not your love interest.) No, the female characters who join your party are ass-kickers with complex motivations and compelling story lines.

Don't mess with us. We will ruin your day.

Anti-rock: Sexist character designs

With all of that in mind, why oh WHY the sexist character designs? Seriously!

Okay, so in Mass Effect, one of your party members is Liara - an Asari. (Think blue space elves without the pointy ears.) She wears the same type of form-fitting body suit that all of the human military types do when they're not all armored up. And while the 'daughter seeking to atone for the misdeeds of her mother' story line didn't do much for me, the fact that she's a scientist certainly goes against stereotypes. Awesome.

But then you finally meet her mother - Matriarch Benezia. They spend the first few hours of the game building her up as this huge threat and then I'm confronted with massive cleavage. It was one of the most jarring, anti-immersive moments I have ever encountered in a game.

Oh my god, Mom. Are you seriously going out in that? I'm, like, SO EMBARRASSED.

It happens in DA:O as well. The first NPC you meet is Morrigan, an awesomely useful sorceress who is playing some very deep games and has all kinds of hidden motives that the player is left to guess at. The only problem is that she walks around half naked the entire game:

I guess she's hoping to distract that ogre with her tits.

And of course, Morrigan is prominently featured in a lot of the ads for DA:O.

And what about Leliana - the somewhat crazy assassin turned bard? If you stick with her as a thief, any suit of leather armor that she wears exposes a good portion of her chest. That same armor on a male character covers them up to the neck. Again, WTF? I mean, not wearing pants, fine. It seems like not-pants-wearing is pretty equal opportunity in DA:O, but why the difference?

I find it ironic that Zevran, perhaps BioWare's sluttiest character ever, is more covered than Leliana.

Maybe Rock?: Leliana redesign

Apparently Leliana gets her own DLC and has gotten a bit of a makeover:

Yay, covered chest! Yay, pants!

So that's at least mildly encouraging.

So what is it that you want?

I want more female avatars in BioWare's game ads! (And for that matter, some non-white avatars would be fantastic too.) And I'd like to not have random sexism show up in your character designs. It's hard to focus on your awesome and compelling stories when I keep getting distracted by irritating random cleavage.

Now go and sin no more! Or I'll sic Jaheira on you.

(She'd actually kinda like that.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Two short plays in the style of Vincent Baker

I promise that I'll get back to criticizing images soon! I have two posts planned out on body customization in MMOs and on terrible webcomic banners. (It's not games, but considering how many webcomics are based on games I'm bending the rules a bit.) Also, once my article on sexism in gaming goes live with the new issue of See Page XX (some time in December, I'm hoping?) I'll be discussing that in detail.

Anyhow, what I have for you is two "short plays" in the style of "short plays" done by Vincent Baker. I find that writing small, satirical plays is a good way to deconstruct conversations - especially conversations that happen on the internet. So with no further ado:



GROUP Y: We are a statistically significant number of people who are highly articulate and intelligent, as well as linked by a common background and experience. We all agree that Thing X happens to us because we are a part of Group Y.

SOME OTHER PEOPLE: Thing X is entirely fictitious. I discount your intelligence and experience. I also ignore that a statistically significant number of people are sharing personal experiences to support Thing X.

GROUP Y: We are upset and feel unvalued!


GROUP Y: Thing X exists. Let us discuss Thing X to understand the underlying causes and implications.

SOME OTHER PEOPLE: I am interested in discussing this with you. Let us talk in a civil manner.

STILL OTHER PEOPLE: Anyone who thinks Thing X exists is dumb and/or evil!

GROUP Y: We are upset!

SOME OTHER PEOPLE: We question whether your aggressiveness contributes to this discussion.

STILL OTHER PEOPLE: People over-reacting in a way they would not be were this discussion not about Thing X. Clearly, talking about Thing X makes people crazy.

GROUP Y: Being called crazy because of Thing X pushes our Internet Crazy button! Get out of our thread!

STILL OTHER PEOPLE: This only proves my point. I am vindicated!


A PERSON: I say Thing Q about Thing X.

GROUP Y: Saying Thing Q upsets me!

A PERSON: Upon reflection, Thing Q was not called for. I apologize.

GROUP Y: Let's move on and have a productive conversation.


ANOTHER PERSON: I say Thing R about Thing X.

GROUP Y: Saying Thing Q upsets me!

ANOTHER PERSON: Whoa! Let me clarify. What I said was Thing R, not Thing Q.

GROUP Y: We apologize. Let's move on and have a productive conversation.


A THIRD PERSON: I say Thing Q about Thing X! Unapologetically!

GROUP Y: Saying Thing Q upsets me!

A THIRD PERSON: Thing Q is righteous! Your disapproval makes me a martyr!

GROUP Y: We are upset and feel unvalued!

EVERYBODY ELSE: Alas, Internet Crazy has killed the conversation. Let us talk about something else.


I wrote this back in 2007, and sadly I don't see it becoming obsolete any time soon. One of the biggest problems about trying to discuss anything controversial on the internet, be it racism, sexism, gender issues, or anything else that pushes people's Crazy Buttons, people never get to have a productive conversation because it always ends in flames and people walk away. As such, important conversations about discrimination in the hobby we love never happen.

Sometimes, however, I find myself prompted to try to educate myself further about subjects that border on controversial. When this happens I will spend half an hour crafting a question that is absolutely neutral and totally controversy proof. And then this happens:


Me: [A Specific Question about a very specific aspect of Controversial Subject that, none the less, attempts to avoid controversy]

A Small Number of People on The Internet: [Thoughtful and informative response to Specific Question]

Many More People on The Internet: [Controversy targetted! Commence strawman arguments and offended flailing!]

Me: [An attempt to clarify the original Specific Question]

Many More People on The Internet: [Philosophic questions about the broader nature of controversial subject totally not related to the initial Specific Question]

Me: [Polite refusal to engage in philosophic discussion of Controversial Subject for therein lies the path directly to Internet Crazy]

Many More People on The Internet: [Internet Crazy!]

A Small Number of People on The Internet: [We will send you whispers supporting you, but have given this conversation up as a lost cause. Turn back! For this way lies madness!]

Many More People on The Internet: [Personal attacks FTW!]

Me: [An attempt to take the high ground by refusing to participate further]

Many More People on the Internet: [Let us continue with personal attacks and strawmen now that the Specific Question has been completely destroyed]

Me & A Small Number of People on The Internet: [Note to self: quit asking controversial questions on The Internet]

Some days I find humanity tiresome.

Friday, November 19, 2010

WoW novels - only female heroes need apply

[A brief side note before I get started: It's been a month since I started this blog. Fifteen posts and thirty days later, I've gotten just over 2500 page views. Holy crap, people! That's four to five times more traffic of my art blog! So thanks to those of you who keep reading. I'll do my best to keep things interesting here.]

So it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that WoW is sexist. I mean, when the prevalence of armor like this...

...makes it hard to find pants that are actually pants for my female characters in WoW, it's hard to deny the sexism. WoW's not at all unique in this regard, so I swallow my dislike and play anyway because I enjoy the gameplay.

But there's also an entirely different kind of sexism at work besides the bimbo-fied armor. Women simply don't seem to be capable of performing heroic deeds in Azeroth. I mean, sure - they can strap on some, ahem, "armor" and go out adventuring. But when it comes to the real earth-shaking events that change the course of Azeroth's history, well then you'd better hope that you have some big strong men to deal with the problem.

It's no secret that the majority of the major lore characters are men. Disappointingly, the women that do appear in the Warcraft lore are depressingly stereotyped.

But, okay, fine. So what if Sylvanas is too pretty to be undead? She's still the leader of the undead, and pretty freaking creepy. And so what if Jaina Proudmoor spends all of her time whining at the Horde and Alliance leaders to stop fighting each other? And so what if she's way, way more slutty in the comics than even in the game? She's still a badass sorceress and leader of an important faction of super-powerful mages. I mean, that's gotta count for something, right? Surely there have to be some women capable of doing really important stuff, right?

Well, apparently not if you read the novels. Not a single one of them features a female hero important enough to be mentioned in the cover copy on the back. Check this out:

The Shattering (Christie Golden): back cover mentions Thrall, King Varian Wrynn, and Prince Anduin

Warcraft Archive (Christie Golden, Richard A. Knaak, Jeff Grubb, and Chris Metzen): back cover mentions Rhonin, Thrall, Medivh, and Tirion Fordring

Tides of Darkness (Aaron Rosenberg): back cover mentions Ogrim Doomhammer, Anduin Lothar, and King Terenas

Rise of the Horde (Christie Golden): back cover mentions Thrall

War of the Ancients Book 1 - The Well of Eternity (Richard A. Knaak): back cover only mentions "three heroes" (no names), Sargeras and Queen Azshara are mentioned as villains.

War of the Ancients Book 2 (Richard A. Knaak): despite having a boobalicious cover, the the "three heroes" of this trilogy are all men - Krasus, Rhonin, and Broxigar. Queen Azshara is mentioned as a villain, not as a hero.

War of the Ancients Book 3 - The Sundering (Richard A. Knaak): no heroes mentioned on back cover, Neltharion and Archimonde mentioned as villains

Day of the Dragon (Richard A. Knaak): Another cover with cleavage! But whoever that cleavagey night elf is, she's not important enough to mention on the back cover. Only Rhonin gets a mention.

Night of the Dragon (Richard A. Knaak): The most boobalicious cover yet! And yet the only hero mentioned is Krasus. Dragon Queen Alexstrasza gets a mention as a nod to past events not in the novel, but only because she had her eggs defiled.

So out of nine books, we have three that feature cleavage on the cover and none that mention a female hero in the back cover copy. Two of the books mention the same female villain, and one book has a tangential reference to a mother who's children were corrupted. So... what's the deal, Blizzard??? You're okay with splashing cleavage on the cover, but heaven forbid that the cover mention a female hero! That might threaten the insulated little bubble your target audience lives in! Female villains are okay, because everyone knows that girls are icky. And moms are okay, because even geeks still love them moms, right?

Okay, you know what? I'm going to say something revolutionary. Women like to read fantasy adventure stories too. I know! OMG! But it's true! And, you know, sometimes we like to see heroes that are women. Not all the time! Male heroes are great! But sometimes it's nice to see female heroes who don't need rescuing and aren't only important for their relationship to male characters. (I'm looking at you Aegwynn, Tyrande, Iridi, Jaina, Maiev, Valeera, Vareesa, Modgud, Onyxia, Soridormi, Moira, Sintharia, Sindragosa, Abbendis, Tyrygosa, and Geyah!)

The problem here is that this type of sexism is just as dangerous as the sexism that paints women as sex objects, because this is the sexism that says that women aren't important and will never be important. Taken to the extreme, this is the sexism that says women can't be "real" gamers and thus it is okay to harass them when they get all uppity and try to play games and stuff.

When put that way, sure it sounds insane. But that doesn't change the fact that there are tons of men out there for whom the response to a woman gamer invading their space is either "go make me a sandwich" or "boobs or gtfo". I'm not saying that putting female heroes into the WoW novels would suddenly make everything okay for female gamers, but hey. Baby steps.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fanart Hall of Shame

Okay, folks. I'm about 3000 words in the hole for NaNoWriMo, so I thought I'd post something smallish here before returning to frantically catching up. (I've completed only two of the four NaNos that I've attempted, so I'd really like to finish this one.)

So, there's a lot of really sexist art on Deviant Art. That's not to say Deviant Art is sexist, or people who use/view Deviant Art are sexist. Just that there are a sizeable number of artists producing sexist art on DA.

Today I'm going to call out Butcher20 as the first inductee of my Fanart Hall of Shame. According to his profile, Butcher20 is a 26 year old man. Which makes it not terribly surprising that the first piece of art you see on his profile is this fanart of Cortana from the Halo series:


Okay, so let's count the awful things wrong with this picture. She has a serious case of sphere boob, although I do have to grudgingly give him props for having them be at least partially subject to gravity. We've got a case of incorrectly located nipple (I know, I know, Cortana's a hologram. But those blue streaks aren't properly placed to cover up the nipple that would exist if she wasn't a hologram and had nipples.) And her waist is practically non-existent. It's a good thing Cortana is a hologram, or I'd be asking if, like Taki, she was storing some of her organs in her boobs.

But wait! It gets worse!


Yikes! How does she keep those bazookas from popping out while she's flying? Of course, I guess the fact that they seem to completely defy gravity helps. Maybe that's a superpower that only the female Kryptonians get. Also, let's not forget that in the comics and cartoon, Super Girl is in high school. So, you know, yuck.

And these are, apparently the tame ones! The vast majority of his art comes up as traffic signs since I'm not logged in, which means it's been flagged as being explicit. I didn't log in because these and the few other images that aren't tagged explicit were more than enough, thanks.

The really fun part that you might otherwise miss is if you scroll to the bottom and look at what groups he's a member of. Some of the more questionable ones: Happy Perverts, Boob Lovers, Boobies Love, Perv Pics, Super Perverts, Perverts Without Frontiers, Lactation Art, and - my personal favorite - Dead Girls Me, which is a group devoted to images of "Erotic Death through Asphyxiation". And the tagline of the group is "Dead Girls Are Easy".

Seriously. Whisky Tango Foxtrot.

So once again, congratulations go to Butcher20 for being the premier inductee of the Fanart Hall of Shame. I'm going to go boil my eyeballs.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Click breast, er, buy now!

Okay, so back in my post on porn as advertising, I talked about the growing prevalence of using porn to advertise free MMOs. Today I'm going to target a somewhat related phenomenon - the breast play now button. Cheesecake women with heaving bosoms and not enough clothing are a tried and true tactic in MMO advertising, but some advertisers (*cough*Evony*cough*) really go the extra mile with the "breast (or sometimes ass) now button".

Here, I'll show you what I mean with some examples:

All right. Now does anything strike you about the placement of this button? Like, say, that it's right next to her luscious faerie ass? In order to look at the "Play for Free" button, you literally have to ogle this poor faerie's backside.

In a fairly marketing shill piece on mmocrunch.com, an Allods marketing rep was asked why Allods is using such sexual advertisements. Response is as follows:

Allods Online: This ad actually only makes up around 2% of our ad spending, while 98% of our spending goes towards ads that rave about Allods’ graphics and award-winning gameplay. Sometimes these other ads just get lost in the marketplace and a different strategy is required to break out of the clutter.
Riiiiight. Clearly this ad is justified because it's bringing something new to the world of MMO advertising. I mean no one else has ever used breasts to make their product stand out, right?

All sarcasm aside, this response is entirely disingenuous. He's trying to make it sound like the boob-tacular advertisements are a very small part of their marketing portfolio, but notice the wording. "This ad"? Well if you consider that to mean that particular permutation of that ad, well he might be telling the truth. But wait! I've seen at least three different versions of the lesbian fairies on the internet. And how the hell does he explain this?

Oh my god! This is, like, the most clever ad EVAR. You see what they did there? It's a quest for chests, right? And the word CHEST is over the hot chick's mostly bare CHEST. OMG. You guys are like the best marketers ever.

Sweet! In order to download the game, I get to click on that fairy chick's boobs! I totally understand now that your advertising is all about graphics and award-winning gameplay! I'm sorry, Allods Shill Guy. I was so wrong to doubt you!

Okay, enough sarcasm. Let's get back on topic. The Breast Now Button! This was actually emailed to me by a friend around the same time that I started noticing other ads for this game. Depressingly, it seems like YET ANOTHER game jumping on the Allods bandwagon:

Oh wow. Yet another boob related pun! I sure hope you fellas didn't strain anything thinking up this work of genius. You're like, the DaVinci of boobs.

Hey look, it's right another giant "play" button right next to another pair of giant fake breasts. And what's with the "feeling naughty?" slogan here? Do they want people to equate clicking the button with feeling this chick's boobs, or what?

They just got lazy with this one. It looks like they ran out of shitty jokes and just said "eh, let's just put the button on her boobs".

Now, if you own an MMO and you're not comfortable with having this many Breast Now Buttons as part of your advertising campaign, don't worry. It's easy enough to add just one to your current mix. Consider the following:

"Oh, baby! That's not all I'll grab!"

...sorry, I couldn't resist. The possibilities are almost endless! I mean, look at the way she's sticking those ta-ta's out there. What else am I supposed to think?

"Anyone got a Sharpie? I'm going to sign up, all right. Sign up ALL OVER HER BREASTS. Woo! High five!"

Okay, this one is actually a Crotch Now Button instead of a Breast Now Button. See, it's telling you to DIVE DEEP and CLAIM your TREASURE. And then there's a TREASURE CHEST in front of her CROTCH. It's almost like they're telling you to dive RIGHT INTO HER PANTS!

But I saved the best for last. It's small, but check this out:

This is from Lords Online. Their button for buying game currency requires that you actually click on her breasts. I mean, come on, people. Could you be less subtle? Why don't you tie your business card to a brick with "TITTIES" written on it and hit me in the face with it?


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Et Tu Nintendo?

With the noteable exception of Princess Peach, Nintendo has been doing better than Sony and Microsoft in terms of positive depictions of women in its video games. The female characters in Super Smash Brothers kick just as much ass as the males, and with the Wii Nintendo has largely steered clear of the jiggle-tastic fighting game series that have proliferated on the PS3 and Xbox360. (Mostly. I'm looking at you, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.) And of course, Nintendo had one of the first female hero characters ever, the unbelievably bad-ass Samus Aran of Metroid series fame.

Of course, what most people know Samus for is her assortment of cannons and the bulky power armor. There's been a lot of suits over the years, but they've all been large, bulky, and powerful-looking:

Now I'll admit that I haven't played any of the Metroid games after the original GameBoy games (My first console was a PlayStation and I've stuck with Sony since), so I'm a little fuzzy on the chronology of which suit came when. But I can definitely say that I love, love, love these suits. Samus started out as a total badass and has continued to be a total badass.


Except then they created the "Zero Suit" - a much less powerful spandex version of Samus' suit. Gone is the badass armor, gone is the huge cannon. They replaced the Samus that I love with some blonde bimbo with a handgun:

Et tu Nintendo? ET TU??? It seems like a pretty blatant attempt to re-design Samus to be more appealing to the lowest common denominator of gamers that marketing departments seem so convinced are their "core" market - lonely horny teenage boys looking for action games with wank-fantasy females.

Now, that's not to say that there aren't guys who were unhappy with the re-design. But for every guy who complained that he wanted his power-suited Samus back, it seemed like there were twenty more who welcomed the new Zero Suit Samus with open... um... arms. And they're all too eager to dogpile on people who complain about the new Samus with gems like:

dont be mad shes not a frumpy carpet muncher

get laid, mouth-breather

i really don't like the idea, but she's hot man.. and i hope that playing with no suit will be an extra o something like that.

Please, stay off the internet for the rest of your life.

lol, youre a fag.

*sigh* I wish those weren't actual quotes.

And now, of course, the damage has been done. According to Wikipedia, the Zero Suit was introduced in 2008, but it seems to have come to dominate the popular representations of Samus, despite that the Zero Suit was never a total replacement, just a new option. If you search for "Samus Aran" on Google Image search, 15 out of 44 images on the first two pages are of the Zero Suited Samus - some very NSFW. So despite that there are seven suits to choose from, if you include the Fusion Suit that only appeared in one game, the Zero Suit accounts for 34% of the results on the first two pages - definitely a disproportionate representation.

(An interesting side note, though I'm honestly not sure if this signifies anything, is that despite the fact that the helmet is one of the most distinctive features of her power suits besides the cannon and the large shoulders, only 16 of 44 images on the first two pages show Samus actually wearing the helmet. Almost two thirds, 63% show Samus without her helmet on. Not sure if that's good or bad.)

But if you really want to see how much of a wank-fantasy Zero Suit Samus has become, just search for "Zero Suit" and look at the huge number of fanart results that come up on the first two pages. The fanart universally falls into three categories: Ridiculous Cheesecake (Sphere Boob Ahoy!), Soft Core Porn, and Holy Shit That's Disgusting. (Needless to say, links NOT SFW.)

None of these images depict Samus as anything other than a sex object, and none of them show the toughness that made Samus such a popular character in the first place - which is hugely disappointing. There are so few really good female characters that have their own franchises, so it's really disheartening to see Nintendo give in to the Sex Sells Marketing Machine after around two decades of a Samus who in no uncertain terms could feed you your spleen on a plate if she felt like it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go soak my eyeballs in Lysol. Srsly. Yuck.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Because clearly women don't have adventures

[Edited: True20 is the system behind Blue Rose, not Blue Roses.]

All right. So I'm going to shut up about Soul Calibur IV for a while and turn my sights back to tabletop roleplaying for a moment - specifically Green Ronin publishing. Green Ronin has published some pretty popular games like Mutants & Masterminds, Blue Roses, and the new Dragon Age RPG. Still, they command a much smaller piece of the RPG pie than either Wizards or Paizo.

Now, the problematic trend that Green Ronin displays with their products isn't so much about cheesecake as it is about representation. Witness, the True20 cover - the system behind their popular Blue Rose RPG:

Check it out! She's got clothes on! And pants! And isn't overly sexualized! Which is great and awesome, but she's also outnumbered three to one by male figures. And Green Ronin doesn't really try to even the score with the covers of their True20 supplements either:


So out of 21 figures on these five covers, only 6 are women. 7 if you want to be charitable and call the ninja a woman since the gender is ambiguous. That means that women account for between just over a quarter (uncharitable) and a third (charitable) of figures on these covers. Which, for a system that touts itself as being about "adventure roleplaying" is very disappointing. So, women don't go on adventures? (And yes the female Indiana Jones has a ridiculous case of sphere-boobs that are bigger than her head. Whatever. We've seen worse, so... moving on.)

It gets even worse when you look at the covers of Mutants & Masterminds products:


Out of 30 figures with a discernable gender, only 7 of them are female! That's even LESS than a quarter! And of the seven female figures, only two of them could be called focal to the illustration - as opposed to the True20 covers where at least the female figures had equal weight with the male figures in terms of cover real estate.

Now, Green Ronin is known as a fairly "trad" publisher, and trad gaming isn't always the friendliest place for women. But still - it's hard not to look at these covers and get the message that these are games for telling stories about MEN. Men having MANLY ADVENTURES. Which is kind of sad. I love superheroes, and I love adventure stories, but the exclusion leaves me kind of cold here.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Sometimes it's easier to show what's wrong with an image by drawing directly over it, so that's what I'm doing today. (Every once in a while, my degree in Fine Arts does serve a practical purpose...)

I know I've been picking on Soul Calibur IV a lot. I promise I'll move onto other targets, but for the purposes of what I'm doing here the freakish anatomy of the Soul Calibur IV women helps me make a point a bit better.

Okay, so today I'm going to pick on Taki, the boobtacular spandex ninja:

Her boobs in addition to being unnaturally huge are also POINTY, which is just kind of freaky. There must be some serious architecture to that spandex suit that we don't know about, because... yeah. Boobs don't do that. So let's go in there and do a little correcting...

Now, I didn't make Taki small-chested by any stretch of the imagination - she's still rocking somwehere between a C and a D cup. See the difference there? But check this out -In the designer's quest to make Taki a walking fetish, they've turned Taki into something actually not human:

The red lines are how Taki was drawn, and the black are my corrections. When you compare the two, you can see that they've given Taki so much of an "hourglass figure" that her rib cage is practically inverting itself, as is her stomach. This begs the question, where does she keep her organs? Also, you'll notice that I fleshed out Taki's ass a bit. That's not me making Taki a bit fatter, that's me giving Taki the musculature needed to connect her legs to her torso.

Considered from this angle, this makes the Soul Calibur IV women even more disturbing. Namco has gone from fanservice-y idealized women to women that are demonstrably not human. Considering that the Soul Calibur series is aimed mostly at young men, should we be surprised if the segments of the target audience partially internalizes some of these attitudes, even if only to a small degree?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Better character designs: Sophitia

My plans are to make this a semi-regular feature. I won’t promise a regular schedule of these, since my muse is a fickle creature these days, but I will promise that this won’t be the last.

Okay, remember Soul Calibur VI’s freakishly proportioned jiggle-fest Sophitia? Of course you do. (Who could forget? Brr.) But just for the sake of comparison, here she is again:

If one considers that the human head weighs around eighteen pounds (thank you, Google), then it looks like she’s carrying around 54 to 72 pounds of boob around there. Just for a little perspective, guys, you can understand how difficult fighting with those bazookas would be by strapping a nine-year-old to your chest and trying to swing a sword while so encumbered. At that size, the boobs would be about as rambunctious as the nine-year-old.

So here’s my take on Sophitia as she should have been. (And apologies for the sketchiness and the somewhat ghetto coloring job. I didn't feel like taking the time to make it a finished piece.)


My Sophitia is regularly proportioned, but still quite sexy. Her proportions are athletic without being waifish. My Sophitia has never had breast enlargement, and she isn’t averse to eating a freaking burger now and then.

The other huge problem besides the anatomy is the white-washing. How about the fact that she’s explicitly Greek by her story and costume, and yet she’s a paragon of Aryan beauty? Seriously, wtf? Mediterranean people are brown. (In fact, my Sophitia might not be quite brown enough. I struggled getting the right skin tone with only photos for reference.)

Lastly, I also changed her costume. If she’s a Greek warrior, why invent some bullshit faux toga for her to fight in? Why not clothe her like an actual hoplite? Hell, the hoplites pranced around with no pants on and short sleeves, so you’d have a historical excuse to put her in a fanservice-y outfit. Make the skirt on that bad boy a little shorter and you’d still be within the realm of accuracy.

So that’s Sophitia. Any suggestions on who I might tackle next?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sexist blogging

Coming Soon

I've been working a bit on some illustrations that will accompany a post on how to correctly design female fighting game characters. I'm also going to make at least one (maybe more) post in the near future about how boobs work, including correcting some of the more ridiculous images in my files. Hopefully I'll have some of that finished soon.

And Now For Something Else

First thing's first - credit where credit is due. I pulled many of these links from an amazing post on harassment in gaming by tekanji on the Shrub.com blog.

Okay, people. So, let me just open by saying that I'm kind of disgusted that by the realization that I'm going to have to create a harassment tag in the near future. Srsly. Yuck.

Now, there's a lot of general gaming blogs and forums out there - way too many to go into any kind of exhaustive list - and pretty much all of them contain sexist content to some extent. For many of these sites, the sexism that you'll find is simply the pervading assumption that women do not play and are not interested in playing games. (Card games, board games, video games, whatever.)

It's pretty common. Just use Google to search Board Game Geek for the phrase "wife-friendly" (used synonymously with "non-gamer-friendly") and you'll see what I mean. This type of sexism is pervasive and irritating, the assumption that because I'm a woman I can't be a "real" gamer. I hate that when I go into GameStop, I feel like I'm being judged for what I purchase. If I purchase a game like Civ V or Dragon Age, well clearly it's a gift for my husband. But when I buy games like Katamari (dude, I love the doppler screaming) or DDR (it's amazing cardio), I almost feel guilty - like I'm contributing the idea that "chicks are only interested in non-games".

A lot of gamer men ascribe to the myth that women don't game. Many of them can be can be accustomed to the idea that women game through actually playing games with women. Case in point, during a session of D&D our party totally demolished a guy in a fight, at which point one of the male players said "man, what a girl". I objected, and he looked embarassed. When I suggested that "lady" would be an acceptable substitute, since "ladies" are not supposed to run around and hit things with swords, he happily switched terminology and everyone was happy.

However, there are a lot of gamer men who simply cannot tolerate the idea that women might be invading gaming. These men take this idea to the next level, actively spewing hateful things about women in an effort to drive them away from the hobby. Many of these men, unfortunately, have blogs. Many more of them comment on blogs and forums. And a select few write columns on popular gaming websites. Like Kotaku.

Kotaku isn't exactly known for its female-friendly reputation, having sparked a Kotaku boycot a few years ago by a popular female game blogger. And it's pretty easy to see why female bloggers would want to boycott Kotaku when you take a look at some of their past articles.

Why Do Gaming Guys Hate Gaming Girls? is a pretty good example. Written by John Brownlee, it starts off by all but listing all of the most horrible things that gaming men say to women:
I wince every time my girlfriend wanders barefoot out of the kitchen to play a game of Animal Crossing on my Gamecube: Doesn't she know that the estrogen she's oozing all over the controller is having an acidic reaction to the Cheetos-dust patina I've laboriously worked up over the years? You girls want to game? I've got a game you can play. It's called "make me a sandwich."
And then suddenly he does an about-face. Just kidding! I love women and am totally enlightened - unlike all those other slobs. And of course I'm totally NOT SEXIST. Not at all.

Right. It seems unlikely that this is a failed attempt at satire when you look at another article by Brownlee: Women Outnumber Men in Games; Men Think They Should Go Back Into The Kitchen. (The comments aren't quite as bad as you'd expect, but they're still pretty bad.) And then there's Mike Fahey's article: Kotaku Pantsu [pantsu is a Japanese word used to refer to panty-shots in anime]: A Chat With a Wii Panty Girl, during which Fahey spends the whole interview alluding to the fact that he'd love to have sex with this girl, if only it weren't for that pesky wife. Way to keep it classy. He makes it worse by claiming in the comments that he "highly domesticated boyfriend object" and that of course he had no intent to be creepy. Sure, dude. Whatever. (The comments, unsurprisingly, on Fahey's article are a lot more horrifying.)

Now, those articles are older articles and there are newer articles that are more even-handed, like: The Official Bulletstorm Breast Size Debate by Stephen Totilo. One can hope that maybe we'll see more of that from Kotaku, but I won't hold my breath. Especially not when the article received comments like:
like a disproportionately gargantuan set of sweater puppies would mean the female character can't be strong? [Read: What's wrong with us men liking boobies? Why do you girls have to be such haters?]

Well anything in game design is going to be male dominated, and a few will always want nothing but hot bodies with no personality in their games. [Read: If you don't like it, then leave.]

Of course, horrific staff columns on gaming sites can pop up just about anywhere. Like: I Want To Have Sex With Carmen Sandiego by Andrew Burch, formerly of Destructoid. ("I like my women like I like my dogs: silent, or with my foot in their ass." ...REALLY?)

And then there's Dan Landis over on ripten, with such gems as a 10 part series on the nicest asses in video games and a post about a fictional game called Vagina Hero.

It's enough to make a woman bang her head against her desk until she passes out.

Thankfully, there are sane bloggers out there in the gaming blogosphere calling for some sanity. Like the aforementioned Stephen Tutilo (take a look at another article of his on the sex-i-fication of the heroine in Mirror's edge). Also, Adam Bishop on GamaSutra speaks out against harassment in the workplace as a game developer. Sometimes on forums, people do speak out against indiscriminate sexist and homophobic remarks. And sometimes when a man makes a post that is sexist and obviously not well researched, the result is actually a positive and informative conversation. (Well, okay, until the thread gets dogpiled by people using tactics straight out of Derailing for Dummies.

Still, there are times when I feel like I'm trying to hold back the sea with nothing but my hands.