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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

Essay

Form Follows Function: Dressing Your Video Game Characters, and Other Concerns


Allow me to present two vignettes from my life.

The first is me in my early days of playing World of Warcraft (I can happily say that I’ve been clean for two years now). I am looking at the official website, perusing high-tier armor sets. I am irritated, though resignedly unsurprised, to note the female version of several sets, despite having the same stats as the male sets, are low-cut and missing midriffs.

The second is in the company of friends at a burlesque show in San Francisco (come to think of it, a few of those friends were guildies). I am leaning over the balcony railing, my cup of absinthe sloshing precariously as I loudly voice my approval for an innovative use of tassels that is totally blowing my mind.

Contradictory? Not at all.

We all know that female armor sucks. This is an argument that has been going around the geek community forever (or at least since the 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons strength cap for female characters). I don’t need to tell you how impractical it is to go charging into melee combat with your vital organs unprotected, or how high heels are the absolute worst shoes you can wear if you want to do anything other than stand around and eat canapés. The utter absurdity of the wardrobes belonging to female characters is established fact. The argument nowadays tends to center around how best to solve the problem.

When we get angry about the portrayal of the female form – especially when it comes to clothing – there is a misconception that in order to create a “strong female character,” you have to chuck sexuality out the window. As much as men and women may argue about this point, I have observed that women are often just as divided amongst themselves, if not more so. This goes far beyond geek culture. For every Andrea Dworkin, there’s a Nina Hartley. For every pair of Birkenstocks, there’s a pair of stilettos. For every woman who decries lipstick as a tool of misogynist objectification, there’s another who lauds her implants as two double-D symbols of her own empowerment.

And then there are those like me, who fall somewhere in the middle.

So, ladies – and gentlemen, too – let us put aside our differences for a moment, because I believe there is a common cause for why we get pissed off about heroines with heaving bosoms and unprotected midriffs (though many of my examples will be from video games, the core issue here applies to comics and film as well).

It’s not about the sexuality. It’s about narrative disconnect.

Consider the now-infamous redesign of Harley Quinn. After skillfully slapping Harley’s clothing (or lack thereof) on a man, artist Jess Fink wrote, “If I saw this on the cover of a comic I would pick it up. HOWEVER I would assume that the comic would be FILLED with sex.” That, right there, is the problem. We look at that picture, we think about what we know of Harley Quinn, and our brain misfires.

Now, of course, there’s no reason why a supervillain couldn’t wear a badly-laced corset, if she so chose. After all, the ladies I’ve cheered on at burlesque shows certainly have day jobs. But those ladies get changed before they head into the office. We are being told that Harley Quinn wears this outfit to work. Which, in her case, is fighting Batman.

It just doesn’t make sense.

Now, that is not to say that bared skin and exposed breasts on female characters should be shunned at all times. In my view, Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins is a perfect example of when it’s okay to put one of your heroines in something revealing. I know her constant verbal sniping drives some players up the wall, but Morrigan is one of my favorite NPCs of all time. For those who haven’t played the game, Morrigan is a “witch of the wilds” – a shady, acerbic, morally ambiguous spellcaster whose true motives for helping you out are constantly up in the air. Before you showed up, she and her devious mother, Flemeth, have been kicking it in the woods, killing Templars and clergy for the lulz (this is alluded to in Morrigan’s costume as well; her patchwork skirt is made from leather belts). Morrigan is also one of the romance options for male player characters, and she is fiercely in control of her own sexuality. Though she flirts and pays a few coy compliments, you always get the sense that your relationship is entirely on her terms. One way or another, she will walk out on you at the end of the game, because she’s got her own priorities.

She looks like this:

To me, that works. Everything about her appearance, even the very little coverage she’s got going on up top, meshes with what I have been told about her. She’d look absurd in plate mail (as she says later on in the game, while staying with you in a nobleman’s estate, “If one more servant asks if I would like a change of clothes, I will set the house on fire!”). And to be fair, if I’d spent my entire life running around in the woods by myself, you can bet your boots that I’d spend most days topless (weather permitting).

So then, what’s the problem? If Morrigan can have her girls out on display because her characterization offers justification for it, then why can’t we argue that the same is true for all scantily-clad female characters? Why can’t we give them a free pass to wear whatever the hell they want?

This is where it comes back to most people’s initial problem with female armor: the practicality of it. On a purely functional level, Morrigan’s a mage. She doesn’t need heavy armor. We have been told what her role is in combat, we have been told about the nature of her character, and her look corresponds with both.

But for far too many female characters, the look and the purpose don’t jibe at all. If I pick up a game in which I’m told that I am the roughest, toughest warrior in the land, and I’m wearing nothing but a corset and knickers, then the message is clear. I’m not really there to be the roughest, toughest warrior in the land.

Take a look at this screencap from the official website for Torchlight (which, honestly, is a crazy fun game that I highly recommend). This is a game in which the characters are defined by nothing but their class abilities. Do you notice anything…out of place?

The argument some folks will put forward at this point is the one of the “target audience.” It goes like this: games are primarily played by straight men, and therefore the advertising and the game content caters to them. The women in video games (or comics, or sci-fi/action movies) aren’t wearing much clothing because that’s what straight men like to see (as one fellow on Vent put it, many years ago, when asked about his female player character: “If I’m going to be staring at an ass all day, I want it to be a girl’s”). The rest of us need to just suck it up and deal, because games weren’t made for us in the first place.

And you know what? On some level, I’m fine with the concept of giving your audience something pretty to look at (though I think it’s highly unfair to say that all straight men subscribe to the same fantasy). Sexual fantasy is healthy, and damning straight men for enjoying the sight of breasts doesn’t make make much sense to me. Male sexuality is not offensive; what ruffles my feathers and the feathers of others is when the attitude surrounding it is lacking in respect and empathy. So if you’re an egalitarian, fair-minded dude who knows how to separate fantasy from reality, then by all means, ogle all the fictional characters you want. You’re a man! You’re straight! Of course you like looking at naked women! That means your junk is functioning normally! Congratulations!

The problem is that when I buy a game (and by the by, I’m handing over the same kind of cash as everybody else), I’m not going out to buy Generalized Straight Male Fantasy VII. I’m sold on the premise of dragons and spaceships and talent trees. I am told that I will be whisked off to an unparalleled, adventurous wonderland, in which heroes and villains and craftable loot await. So when I’m suddenly thrust into a world where the only women are either simpering damsels or sidekicks in perpetual heat, or if I’m made to wear armor that has the exact same stats as the male set but is missing the entire middle section, I do feel marginalized. It’s not what I signed up for. In mild cases, I roll my eyes and keep playing. If the narrative disconnect is particularly prevalent, however, I feel like I’m being made to take an active part in somebody else’s fantasy. And that’s just kind of icky.

So does that mean we should just sweep sexuality under the rug in the name of being fair to all parties involved? Hardly. You can have your cake and eat it, too. You just have to do it right.

One of the best balances I’ve seen between eye candy and strong female characters is from that modern titan of RPGs, Mass Effect. In both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, there are strip clubs – flashy, smoky dens of iniquity full of gyrating Asari and surly bartenders. You can go in for a table dance, if you fancy it. You can even lean forward to get a better look.

I was not bothered by this, though I often find in-game strip clubs to be demeaning. In Mass Effect, it was fine. It even made sense.

Part of it was that Mass Effect is one of the paragons (heh, see what I did there) of games with strong female characters. My Commander Shepard was female. I had Tali, Liara and Ashley on the Normandy, ready to kick ass in their own unique ways. The rest of the galaxy was populated by women who were diplomats, reporters, merchants, engineers, doctors and scientists. Why, then, should I be bothered by a strip club? Such places exist. Strippers are a thing, whether you approve of them or not.

If you have Liara in your party when you stroll into Chora’s Den, she quietly comments, “Asari are very comfortable with our sexuality. Some bar owners exploit this for their own profit.” While I imagine some might argue that the “bar owners” are in fact BioWare, I choose to look at this from another perspective. The universe in Mass Effect is, in many ways, very much like our own. There are good guys and bad guys and in-between guys. There are scary things that don’t make sense. There is sex, and people approach sex in all different sorts of ways. Would it have been nice if there was something on the table (literally and figuratively) for players who prefer men? Sure, but you could say the same about such establishments in the real world. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it sure is a step in the right direction.

To put it simply: if sexuality was there if you wanted it, but you weren’t forced into it.

Which is how I’d like to feel about my armor as well.

Becky Chambers is a freelance writer and a full-time geek. She keeps a blog over at http://otherscribbles.com.

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  • Anonymous

    Its weird, I don’t mind some differences in female armor as long as it makes sense. One of my biggest beefs about real life law enforcement and military uniforms is that they make men look like badasses and women look frumpy because they aren’t cut for the female form… which, let’s face it, is different than the male form.

    Command presence is something that is frequently talked about in LE and Military and has a lot to do with how you present yourself, including your uniform. Having a uniform that makes you look sharp plays into that. But sharp doesn’t mean slutty, it means commanding, something that games don’t seem to get for the most part.

    It isn’t that I don’t want my character to look good. I do! To be honest, I enjoy playing a good looking chick who looks good in what she’s wearing, but I want it to make sense. I want my badass characters to look badass. It always irritated me in Oblivion, that if I wanted to wear chainmail, I get the chainmail tank top – which looks asinine, not even sexy – stupid. Same with the iron armor. Guys would look buff and cool and the women would look ridiculous. (This isn’t even touching on making most of the pants turn into long skirts for the female characters. This was made balanced by the fact that they made most men look ridiculous in some of the other outfits, which made me think this was less deliberate sexism and more likely just bad taste on the part of the designers).

    In Fallout, some of the merc armor would make the dudes look like incredible thugs and then give the gals a midriff cutoff. Thanks?

    Personally, I’d be mollified if there were an option, somehow, of getting a sexy version vs. a badass version. That way if a lonely guy wants to watch his PC bounce around in her undies while slaying badies he can and I can run around looking like Bonnie Badass in armor that makes sense.

  • Ms. Sunlight

    Oblivion is a tragic example, because its predecessor Morrowind got it spectacularly right.  Armour was armour and looked more or less the same no matter who you put it on.  You could put trousers or skirts on your character, many female NPCs wore trousers and some male NPCs (the Redoran guards for example) wore skirts.  I found it really refreshing, and was very disappointed that Oblivion was such a step backwards.

  • http://www.extremelydissatisfied.wordpress.com Adam R. Charpentier

    I’d like to know what the lot of you feel about character customization, pertaining to sexuality. I recently attempted to play Champions Online, which is a horrible game. As is my custom, I made a character that closely resembled myself. Bored with him, hoping that I had merely chosen a lousy powerset and it wasn’t the game’s fault, I asked my fiancee if she wouldn’t mind if I modeled my second character after her. Low and behold, there’s a new scale unavailable to the male model: a bust scaler. Actually, I think it was labeled breasts. The choices were, apparently, D to G, and I was unable to make a version of my fiancee that looked anything less than comical (which, I suppose, is appropriate). Anyway, this article made me think of that.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7G4SWUX2MCWWXLMYNN347JMIZY Frodo Baggins

    “there’s another who lauds her implants as two double-D symbols of her own empowerment.”

    LOL. http://www.theonion.com/articles/women-now-empowered-by-everything-a-woman-does,1398/

    “We are being told that Harley Quinn wears this outfit to work. Which, in her case, is fighting Batman.”

    I get that you’re making a point, but are you seriously claiming that Harley Quinn’s outfit causes cognitive dissonance… because it isn’t practical? Again, LOL. It’s more objectionable because it loses everything about her original costume that resembled a, er, harlequin. Her name isn’t “Corsette Beckini.”

    “This is a game in which the characters are defined by nothing but their class abilities. Do you notice anything…out of place?”

    In terms of body type, the woman is pretty close to the middle guy. In terms of costume, she’s showing only slightly more skin than the left guy. Plus she’s an archer, and they traditionally weren’t very armored, because they’d shoot people from far away, out of range of other weapons. If anyone’s costume is impractical, it’s the melee fighter on the left, defending his entire naked torso with one small shield and a shoulder pad. Okay, her skirt is a bit skimpy, I’ll, grant you.

    Sorry if I sound contrarian. I agree with your premise, I just think you might have chosen stronger examples.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16800157 Kristen White

    BioWare is the best in the business when it comes to inclusion and gender neutrality. I completely agree with your assessment of Morrigan’s outfit. 

    I played through the game with both a male and a female lead, and when I played the female warrior, I always loved her armor. It was *armor*–full coverage plate mail. It was cut a little bit differently, thinner in the legs than the male version and with room for cleavage on top. 

    I would buy BioWare games anyway because they make such great games, but their progressive company culture is what makes me such a rabid fan.  

  • Ceili

    I’m gonna be honest, I kind of hate articles like this. Like, a lot.  I’m a girl (yes, a girl, not a woman, even though I’m 26; everyone about to get up in arms over what I call myself can shove off), and I love skimpy outfits in games. ESPECIALLY MMOs where my character is my character, not someone with a storyline or holding some position that would make a particularly revealing outfit awkward.

    The issue isn’t with revealing clothing, it’s with revealing clothing that looks trashy and cheap. For example, if you look at the female armor in Rift, you get horrible cheesy plate mail granny panties and chain mail bikinis, and most of the female NPCs look like rejects from an 80s metal album. Conversely, if you look at, say, Aion or TERA, some (most, in TERA’s case) of the clothing is ridiculously revealing, but it’s classy and downright sexy as hell.

    I also really hae the idea that a girl (or woman, whatever) in video games can’t be dressed in a revealing manner without losing credibility. Even if it is mostly for men, some of us like that eye candy just fine, and it really grates on my nerves and smacks of the sort of beliefs Jezebel seems to have that women can’t decide to dress sexily or in a revealing way without being slut-shamed for it by our own sex.

    Look, I like fully covered clothes just fine. Most of my own wardrobe is loose pants and t-shirts or hoodies, I love FFXIV’s more modest designs, and I think my WoW paladin looks absolutely badass in full plate at the moment. I also like really sexy designs that show off an attractive amount of skin, as long as it’s done right, and I’m certainly not going to think less of the designer for making it or the wearer for showing their body off.

    Honestly, I don’t care if men make games and make the women in skimpy clothes, as long as tey know how to do it–and games like the aforementioned TERA, or Rubi in Wet, etc, know how to do it. It’s crossing the line into dudebro Duke Nukem and Rift territory when the problems start.

  • Ceili

    I kind of wonder if you just had issues with the game, since I don’t recall Champions having that sort of problem–though I barely gave it the time of day, since as you said, it -is- a horrible game. That’s a problem with Comic games in general though, like DCUO.

    Look at the bust sliders in something like Aion or EVE and they’re just fine.

  • Ceili

    Personally I think Bioware takes it too far. While I love Femshep, it’s way too hard to make her look like less than your stereotypical butch you see stereotyped in the military so often. Fortunately Hawke in DA2 manages things a bit better, but even the default design is awfully masculine in the hair, etc.

  • http://twitter.com/KomiIsDrawing Komiyan

    She had a short, choppy, gorgeous haircut that didn’t look masculine in the least, unless you’re associating ALL short hair with being for men, which is just ludicrous. 

  • Ceili

    Meh, I’m not a fan of short hair on women at all, but no, that’s not what I meant. I’ll grant masculine was a bit of a strong term, but it’s still pretty androgynous at the very least. 

  • http://twitter.com/KomiIsDrawing Komiyan

    The issue is moreso with being *forced* into revealing clothing with no option for otherwise. No-one’s saying a lady can’t be sexy, just that they shouldn’t *have* to be all the time.

  • http://twitter.com/beckysaysrawr Becky Chambers

    Ceili, if I inadvertently implied any slut-shaming, I apologize. As someone who has run around MMOs with women in all manner of dress, it certainly was not my intention. People can dress themselves up however they want. That, too, is healthy, and the implication that women who enjoy wearing revealing clothes — be it IRL or in-game — are somehow threatening “the cause,” whatever the hell that is, drives me up the wall as well. Femininity comes in all colors and flavors, and I welcome that.

    Komiyan is right — my issue is with not being given a choice in the matter, and with there being an overall lack of equity. Perhaps I should have been more clear on that point.

  • http://twitter.com/KhalMojo Khal Mojo

    When I saw the Torchlight picture, I saw the big bulky guy with more tits hanging out than the female archer.

  • Jenn Lauer

    I grok this article *so hard.* I feel so guilty and confused as a lesbian sometimes when I enjoy geeky media with men around…I love the eyecandy and can be “one of the guys,” if I’m willing to be a total tomboy at the time and get “desexed,” and yet I feel even more marginalized in some ways–like representation and seeing women I see like myself.

    I worry I’m encouraging the mismatched sexualization vs. sexy issue because I’m into women. It doesn’t help that I am happy, a bit, when ANY lesbians show up, even if they’re crazy or simply eyecandy, and I know they’re not positive representations. The women presented in geeky media are not necessarily the sort of women I find attractive, though because I always found badasses like Starbuck, Athena, Ripley, Sarah Connor, Original Cindy, and Zoe Alleyne just as sexy as their (more prevalent) traditional feminine counterparts.

    I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t know if I’m part of the problem or just another marginalized minority.

  • http://twitter.com/LogicallyYours Jen

    I have actually been compulsively playing torchlight for a week now, and I love it. I definitely play as the Vanquisher, not because she’s a girl, but because I love double-wielding pistols a hell of a lot more than bashing things with a sword, and getting to play as a female character is totes a bonus, but the lack of pants has definitely made me shout senselessly at my TV at least once a day. Seriously, how is that outfit at all practical for dungeon-crawling? And why is my “breastplate” just a shiny corset?

    JK, I know why, and the” target audience” issue is a factor, but I honestly think the developers don’t really think about it when they are making a game. They are making a game they want to play, and so the male characters are usually the kinds of characters they think it would be cool to pretend to be, and if they throw in a female character (and in the case of Torchlight I think the female character is only there because it is a trope in this style of game that the archer character is always a woman) they aren’t really getting inside that character anyway, so they make her “hot” because that’s just what you do… I don’t think it’s always consciously sexist or malicious, I just think developers don’t always think about it that much or understand why it’s irritating.

    I feel this comment got kinda rambling and out of my control… I hope some of that was coherent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/qmchaffie Quimbie Mchaffie

    I hate this argument.  You know why it’s a game, it’s a movie.  It’s like asking why can’t we go to the bathroom, or make a grilled cheese, or be forced to work at desk job for 40% of the time of the game. While there are few exceptions to those activities being in games they are rarely seen in games because they are NO FUN or uninteresting.  Men have just as unrealistic stereo types in games when you get right down to it.  Enjoy it for what it is, if really bothers you that much don’t play those games. There are games out there that don’t treat woman’s gear any differently then men’s. Lord of the Rings Online, gear looks the same for both sexes.  Men can even slap on a dress if they feel like it.  

    In the end the game companies make decisions on what put in a game to make it sell to make money.  If people don’t like the way female armor is handled so badly then don’t buy the games with itty bitty girl amour   Eventually they will get the hint.  Or perhaps people like itty bitty girl armor in that case don’t expect it to go away any time soon.  

  • Eric Bazilio

    I enjoyed the Vanquisher in Torchlight for the very same reason I loved the Rogue in the original Diablo. Long-range weaponry. That they happened to be women was just mere coincidence.

    I simply do not understand playing as a female with the excuse to look at her body. I mean, if stared at her ass in the middle of a combat, I would not be paying attention to the dangers surrounding the character. So, no point in that. I’m a straight dude and if I want to stare at great asses, I’ll take a walk in real-life streets, thank you very much.

    The Vanquisher’s skimpy outfit gets better when you pick up new
    clothing items. I never really liked the original anyway, the surface city and those mines seem to be cold at some sections and all.

    Anyway, I liked this article as it is still sadly necessary, but really, Harley Quinn is insane. Her choice in outfit will reflect anything BUT rational practicality. But I’m obviously talking about her actual outfit, not that gratuitous mini-skirt/corset bullshit thing that is the one flaw in the great Arkham Asylum game.

  • Eric Bazilio

    I enjoyed the Vanquisher in Torchlight for the very same reason I loved the Rogue in the original Diablo. Long-range weaponry. That they happened to be women was just mere coincidence.

    I simply do not understand playing as a female with the excuse to look at her body. I mean, if stared at her ass in the middle of a combat, I would not be paying attention to the dangers surrounding the character. So, no point in that. I’m a straight dude and if I want to stare at great asses, I’ll take a walk in real-life streets, thank you very much.

    The Vanquisher’s skimpy outfit gets better when you pick up new
    clothing items. I never really liked the original anyway, the surface city and those mines seem to be cold at some sections and all.

    Anyway, I liked this article as it is still sadly necessary, but really, Harley Quinn is insane. Her choice in outfit will reflect anything BUT rational practicality. But I’m obviously talking about her actual outfit, not that gratuitous mini-skirt/corset bullshit thing that is the one flaw in the great Arkham Asylum game.

  • Eric Bazilio

    I enjoyed the Vanquisher in Torchlight for the very same reason I loved the Rogue in the original Diablo. Long-range weaponry. That they happened to be women was just mere coincidence.

    I simply do not understand playing as a female with the excuse to look at her body. I mean, if stared at her ass in the middle of a combat, I would not be paying attention to the dangers surrounding the character. So, no point in that. I’m a straight dude and if I want to stare at great asses, I’ll take a walk in real-life streets, thank you very much.

    The Vanquisher’s skimpy outfit gets better when you pick up new
    clothing items. I never really liked the original anyway, the surface city and those mines seem to be cold at some sections and all.

    Anyway, I liked this article as it is still sadly necessary, but really, Harley Quinn is insane. Her choice in outfit will reflect anything BUT rational practicality. But I’m obviously talking about her actual outfit, not that gratuitous mini-skirt/corset bullshit thing that is the one flaw in the great Arkham Asylum game.

  • http://twitter.com/maverynthia Maverynthia

    I’m going to disagree with the Moriggan bit. Putting even spellcasters in that get up is giving a free pass for ALL female mages to be stuck in the. You have to remember, this is a game. Morigann didn’t CHOOSE to wear that, the character designers gave that too her then wrote in that she likes it. Which to me is a bit MORE reprehensible.

    I also think sexuality SHOULD be thrown out. Because once again it’s being argued that women HAVE to be sexual objects all the time, even in their plate mail, even if we ARE covering them in armor. While men are hardly ever objectified. I think it’s time to give it a rest unless your trying to go for a “sexy game”.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7G4SWUX2MCWWXLMYNN347JMIZY Frodo Baggins

    I’ve got three words for you. The first is “Natalie”. The second is “Portman”. The third is “was so freaking hot in V for Vendetta with her buzz cut.”

    Okay, more than three words.

  • http://www.extremelydissatisfied.wordpress.com Adam R. Charpentier

    I just think it’s bizarre that there are bust sliders. Where’s my gut slider? 

  • http://scooteratreides.blogspot.com/ Boredlizzie

    “If the narrative disconnect is particularly prevalent, however, I feel
    like I’m being made to take an active part in somebody else’s fantasy.
    And that’s just kind of icky.”

    YES. This statement captures the uncomfortable feeling I get when I look at & have to move as these characters. Would straight men feel comfortable, at ease and included if the male warriors wore thongs? Like guys who refuse to fight as Voldo because he looks “gay” and wears an actual thong?

  • http://twitter.com/relmneiko relmneiko

    I don’t think having female sexuality on display is a problem – the problem is male sexuality *isn’t*. If I can stick my female PC in a chainkini I want to stick my male PC in a thong, too. That was one of the things that endlessly amused me about DA, actually – that I could strip my male PC down to his silly little loincloth and ogle him as he walked around the city in his knickers. (and can I say: nude mod? LOL)

    I want more games like Devil May Cry 3, where you can play Dante as a shirtless badass, or Sengoku Basara, where one of the male leads, Yukimura, has his tiny little jacket perpetually open to reveal his awesome pecs. I enjoy seeing Solid Snake’s beautifully defined ass hump the ground in Metal Gear Solid 4. I am totally down with objectification as long as it’s *everyone* being objectified. And I think it’s notable that all the examples I just listed are Japanese games – gaming isn’t considered a “guy’s thing” in Japan, and many franchises actively try to pander to (straight) women. I can think of a number of Japanese games that are either very aware of their female fans or actually designed specifically with women in mind, but on the American side I can think of very little.

    And I agree with you partway on your assessment of ME – FemShep is great, yes, but the way ME does aliens just drips male gaze for me. I mean, you never see male turians, salarians, or krogans, because none of those races are very human-looking and wouldn’t be “sexy”. The only females you see are asari, which are basically blue alien babes. Let’s face it: the strip club was gratuitous, and the second game upped the ante by having a strip club AND a love hotel. All races are apparently attracted to asari, hur hur. It just smacks of bad writing, all of it. I’d like to see an alien strip club that features aliens that are completely unattractive by human standards, not to mention females of other alien races.

    That said I am so, so grateful for the opportunity to romance Garrus. :P It shows developers weren’t completely ignoring the female fanbase.

  • Anonymous

    As mentioned above, I think it’s all about choice. I identify as straight, but it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the female form. However, I also don’t want my ladies to be more prone to gut wounds (“it’s a gut wound Henry, YER DONE FER!”) and getting an eyeful of their own intestines because their armor doesn’t cover their midriff or can’t draw a bow properly because their corset shoves their ta-tas into an inconvenient place for archery. My favorite example is Isabela from DA2 – she’s gorgeous, I love her outfit, but the gal needs some hotpants under that tunic – being a pirate queen and her form of fighting means her outfit gives her the free-form flexibility she needs and the sex appeal she wants…but exposing the ladybits to the elements like she does can’t be comfortable. For a gal who professes to love sex as much as she does, I’d think she’d care a bit more about ladypart protection…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7G4SWUX2MCWWXLMYNN347JMIZY Frodo Baggins

    Sexist != Malicious, or even conscious. The fact that they’re only identifying with male characters and throwing in one girl they don’t really care about as eye candy is WHY such games/developers are called out for sexism.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7G4SWUX2MCWWXLMYNN347JMIZY Frodo Baggins

    You’re gonna like the new Conan game, I predict.

  • http://twitter.com/madfishmonger Sharene G

    I have never understood the difference in armor or superhero costumes. It never made sense to me. As a woman with larger breasts, I know how uncomfortable it can be if you are not properly supported. Actually it can be outright painful. I am a DDD myself, and I would never wear any of that “armor” they have in most games/RPGs. Not enough support. And I’m not even as large-chested as some of these women.
    It’s not that I don’t enjoy a nice-looking character (male or female), it’s just sometimes inappropriate (there is no reason for that character to be dressing that way) or gratuitous (only put there to please, not essential to the storyline). Sometimes it’s cool, but I do feel they’re often pandering and not actually thinking. If you are going to design armor for ALL your characters that is fun and weird and ridiculous, great! But if you’re going to put everyone in sensible, workable armor except the hot skinny young ladies then you’re really not considering who your audience is or what they want. I will play a porn game if that’s what I want, if I want to be immersed in a fantasy world where I get to ride dragons and slay evil sorcerers, I want to be able to put myself in that place, and I can’t do that when I am constantly wondering how the character could sit on the dragon’s scales with her ass hanging out like that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnradclyffe John Radclyffe Lohan

    I think the article was pretty clear on saying that there’s nothing wrong with revealing clothing – it just would be nice if it wasn’t the constant default option with no alternative ^^

  • Anonymous

    Gut sliders are available … in the shortly to be defunct Star Wars Galaxies.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s a little unfair to use the “If I’m going to be staring at an ass all day, I want it to be a girl’s” comment in this context. That’s really a explanation for why men (that would be me) play female characters in RPGs, which I often do. Not an excuse for female characters skimpy clothing. After all the player character is the one whose clothing you see least of.
     
    I do agree that there should be more choice for armors, both male *and* female sets. The generic solution for this in online games seems to be to provide cosmetic outfits.

    Mike.

  • http://www.extremelydissatisfied.wordpress.com Adam R. Charpentier

    …that is wonderful and hilarious.

  • Tamara Day

    THIS.
    I have a similar issue.  I’m bi and love the chance to be one of the guys but sometimes I feel like they don’t understand that I am attracted to people in different way than they are.  They’ll point out a scantily clad woman to me, or a bared breast, in a very excited manner and I nod because it is REALLY pretty, but I’m not a dude.  I’m a woman and I’m attracted to women in the same way I’m attracted to men; that is, I’m a lot more interested in the love story. 
    I’m going to spend more time thinking about the romance late at night than I am about the side boob because what gets my motor running is personality, comportment, and looks.  Now I definitely notice looks first, but unlike most of the guys I know I can be as easily turned off by a scantily clad amazon as I am turned on by a skinny red head in a Meh t-shirt and jeans.  I tend to judge personality and interests based on appearance.  It’s not fair of me in an every-day sense and it also causes some discomfort when a character in a game looks entirely unlike her archetype.
    I guess my point is, I enjoy the eye candy, but unless there is a compelling back story for it I lose interest pretty fast.

  • cycadia

    Yes, to me it seems it should be about choice. You want your character to wear almost nothing, you should get it. You want them fully clothed, you should get that too. Whatever gender.

    I don’t quite get skimpy = sexuality. At least, people don’t confuse skimpiness with (straight) masculine sexuality/desirability very much, and I hope you’re not essentialising all women or desirable women as feminine.

    I would argue that compulsory skimpy clothing for women serves more than just fanservice for the male gaze. It’s also a subconscious assurance that these women are considerate of the male gaze, inviting it, acquiescent to the viewer (whatever they say – their bodies say otherwise).  This makes them less intimidating. It also can have some quite striking parallels with the Dominatrix archetype, which is not particularly empowered/feminist/novel. I also think that the sheer impracticality of the clothing is also an assurance that this is all fantasy, and real women in real life aren’t so intimidatingly strong. Same with how goddamn *small* women are compared to most of the blokes – I mean, they look tiny.

  • Maria Caliban

    Femshep looks butch because she is butch. Dudeshep also looks butch because he is butch. Shepard is firmly part of the ‘badass space marine’ trope and BioWare has always been very clear that Shepard more predefined than the typical Western RPG protagonist.

  • Maria Caliban

    If every female mage in the game dressed like Morrigan, I’d see your point, but they don’t. Dragon Age: Origins needs to be judged on its own merits, not on the possibility that someone might read an article saying that Morrigan is a well-done bit of eye-candy and decide that they have a free pass to dress all female mages that way.

  • Anonymous

    And what is wrong with making an itty bitty girl armour option and a practical plate girl armour option, in games with customizable characters? No-one’s saying NO MORE SKIMPY ARMOUR EVER, they’re saying let there be other options than skimpy armour.

    And if we stop buying the games, then a. we’ll lose out on a lot of otherwise fun games, and b. the companies will look at who’s buying their games, see that it’s even more dominated by straight men, and have even less incentive to cater to other gamers. When the argument that we’re getting is already ‘but they’re designed for straight men because that’s who plays games the most’, making that MORE TRUE isn’t going to help.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_H77264ANIMBKYRLGXMAO7CJPNE Nuraini

    yeah, some of the armour in oblivion is annoying. but i like the skirts, actually. i would ‘change’ out of my armour into ‘town clothes’ when i come back to one of my houses and find it fun to run my errands dressed like an ordinary person. i’d change back into gear for going adventuring again. and they do have some pants that remain pants for both genders (i admit to collecting as many possible articles of clothing as i could find). but then i hadn’t previously played morrowind. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BJ65LLJI6OOKT7NR4SLMWO2XZA Dazee

    I don’t feel Champions Online is a horrible game (I also try to make sure I state my opinions as opinions and not facts because hey, everyone’s different). My fiance and I enjoy immensely, more than any other (free to play) MMO we’ve played so far. Especially so, since we were able to find a strong RP community there as well as missions that didn’t make us feel like I was grinding out levels. I find the game very fun. I do think it’s easier than most other MMO’s, but not so much so that there isn’t challenge there. It’s nice to know that I don’t have to spend an hour looking for a cleric/healer for a quest that I’m only doing because it’s the fastest way to level. It’s also nice that I don’t lose XP when I die.

     It does give a lot more perks to its paying members though (subscribers or one time payments), to include the option of freeform builds. This makes sense though, they’re a company after all. No money, no game. They’re also not the only ones to do it. Other than that, I don’t know why else you found it horrible. I’m going to have to assume that it’s just a matter of personal taste and not the actual game itself.

    As for the subject at hand, I have several characters on Champions Online that have small breasts (I’ve seen some with no breasts actually) it’s just a matter of how you use the settings. You probably had your Body Mass set too high for the breast size you were trying to make. I know this isn’t a new feature, I’ve been playing CO for almost a year now. As for even having a ‘breast’ slider to begin with, every MMO I’ve played that has any sort of in-depth customizations, especially to the body sizes, have had one. I do wish I could make a chubby looking toon (male or female) but again, that’s a personal thing.

    Why am I responding to a 6mo old post? There’s a ton of reasons, but sum it up as, I wanted to.