It Never Ends

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It Never Ends

MovieBob discusses the recent Dragon's Crown controversy, and why we really need more diversity in our videogame characters.

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It is unclear to me why Dragon's Crown gets to be star of the show in this latest round of internet drama but a game like Starcraft 2, for instance, gets a free pass on their character design. Why is the Sorceress over the line but Kerrigan with her impractical zerg heels and meticulous non-chitin covered ass is somehow ok?

Is my primary objective to this representation allowed to be that huge breasts are just a turnoff to me?

I think this is your most important point:

The problem isn't, and has never been, that The Sorceress (or Ivy, or Cammy, or Lara, or Daphne, or whomever else) look like they do... it's that everything looks like they do.

A lot of the people on this site in particular have the notion that female gamers are always going to be upset when this kind of thing crops up. As someone who has had lengthy conversations with said female gamers on the subject I can attest to the fact that this is completely untrue... at least for the majority of female gamers. There is always going to be a market for sleazy character designs and that's okay. The reason female gamers are so upset is because, frankly, there aren't many games out their that don't objectify the female form.

Dragon's Crown may turn out to be a pretty cool game and I am not about to mock someone who's a fan of the character design, but is it so wrong for games like this to get criticized? If there isn't any dialogue in this regard we'll never see any progress. This game's just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I'll be honest Bob, I started this article expecting to read how the game in question was a misogynistic piece of filth that is holding gaming back, but I think you did this article in a truly impressively neutral way. Above all I thank you for pointing out the flaws in approaching controversial issues in a polarising manner.

Most of all I think it's great that you pointed out that the solution to the problem with female representation in games isn't to destroy those that we find un-progressive or misogynistic, it's to expand the industry to include representations of women that we can deem progressive. The natural evolution of that would then be to argue that this expansion isn't happening fast enough, if at all, and I'm afraid I can't comment on that. But it's important that we remember that by solving this issue with more varied representations of women, we create a solution where no one loses out, but everyone gains.

In my opinion, the body shape and objectification here crosses the line from sexy to ridiculous and frankly makes it a parody of itself. The character epitomizes the ridiculously high standards that we have set for female characters in video games and if the design wasn't at least a LITTLE tongue in cheek when the artist made it and wanted it to be taken as serious as a character in a Japanese RPG can, then I am frankly saddened by its existence.

RJ Dalton:
Is my primary objective to this representation allowed to be that huge breasts are just a turnoff to me?

Of course. It's entirely subjective.

Whenever a game comes out that somehow offends your sensibilities or someone else's, you *do* have the right not to play it. I didn't care much for Skullgirls, for instance, no matter how many times my fighting game aficionado of a friend yells "AWESOME COMBO SYSTEM!" my way. The design just doesn't appeal to me.

I'm reminded of LilithSlave and of her sheer devotion to Touhou. It's a game, it's also an aesthetic choice and a personal inclination that may or may not be taken - but I don't care for it. No matter how often I've been told the Touhou games are quintessential Bullet Hell titles, the kami-as-borderline-gothic-lolitas design just doesn't appeal to me. Some people get super involved in the lore and backstory, to the point of recreating Gensokyo in Minecraft - but all I ever saw was a gallery of moe-moe types launching into overblown firefights over the slightest disagreement.

Dragon's Crown, like anything else, will be liked or disliked. If anybody parrots anything about awesome fighting mechanics, they'll be missing the point. Sometimes, a game's aesthetics can be reason enough not to play it.

And, well, I personally think the new Lara Croft is far sexier than anything from Team Ninja's female roster, if you catch my drift.

castlewise:
It is unclear to me why Dragon's Crown gets to be star of the show in this latest round of internet drama but a game like Starcraft 2, for instance, gets a free pass on their character design. Why is the Sorceress over the line but Kerrigan with her impractical zerg heels and meticulous non-chitin covered ass is somehow ok?

Mainly because of just how truly absurd the Sorceress is. I don't know if you've watched the trailer in question, but it goes past sexy or good taste into pure absurdity. Sure, it's intentionally overstylized, but it just looks so ludicrously awkward to see this character in motion. The reason this character is getting more attention than others did is because she is so ludicrously over the top.

RJ Dalton:
Is my primary objective to this representation allowed to be that huge breasts are just a turnoff to me?

Amen. This idea that "bigger is better" is just...weird. Who started this and how can I put a stop to it?!

'Pre-reboot Lara Croft' I'm still getting used to how nice it is having that qualifier in front of a Lara Croft boobs reference

What irks me is that all the other characters designs are being ignored because of one OTT female character in a game filled with OTT characters. Here's a picture of all the characters:

The other two female characters are a pretty, but relatively un-sexualized archer and a MASSIVE amazonian woman.

Another thing that irks me is the fact that because of this one character the game hasn't had any other discussion about it, and to be honest it doesn't even look that good anyway.

At this point, I really have to ask: if game characters were oversexualized for women instead of for men, then what would they look like? I'd imagine I would still find a woman's idea of a sexy woman attractive, and the men I could probably get over as long as they could wear a shirt.

Wow, this is a conundrum for me. I've always been a fan of Vanillaware, I mean just look at it. It's usually enough to make me overlook that the gameplay itself is often pretty mediocre. The problem here, is that game's stunning imagery has upped the raunchiness to the point where I can't comfortably play it in front of other people. I guess the only thing to do is check the reviews and see what else the game has to offer.

castlewise:
It is unclear to me why Dragon's Crown gets to be star of the show in this latest round of internet drama but a game like Starcraft 2, for instance, gets a free pass on their character design. Why is the Sorceress over the line but Kerrigan with her impractical zerg heels and meticulous non-chitin covered ass is somehow ok?

The difference is in quality. Starcraft is generally an excellently made game (if completely lacking in innovation in the sequels). I mean, Skyrim on the PC often gets converted to an effective porn sim and yet no one complains about some of the characterizations done there either (note a certain red-head werewolf in the fighter's guild). The truth is, people don't mind hyper-sexualized characters nearly as much as they may seem to. What people really don't like is mediocre and poor games using hyper-sexualized characters as a crutch to up their sales. This problem would go away if people refused to play bad games. On the other hand, many game developers make bad games before they make good games so sometimes it pays to support even the bad games on the idea that the risk could lead to something really good.

Daaaah Whoosh:
At this point, I really have to ask: if game characters were oversexualized for women instead of for men, then what would they look like? I'd imagine I would still find a woman's idea of a sexy woman attractive, and the men I could probably get over as long as they could wear a shirt.

They would look like Skyward Sword Link, Pyramid Head and/or Solid Snake. I've seen legions of women fawn over those three characters. What women find attractive is either not entirely noticeable or seen as a power fantasy for men. But if you really want to see examples of male characters that were definitely made exclusively for the straight teen-young adult demographic to love look at both Fifty Shades of Grey's and Twilight's male leads. We all know how shit those two were, though.

I'm in total agreement with Bob on this. I dated a feminist for a while and she opened my eyes to a whole bunch of crap (I realized I was a textbook example of a "Nice Guy" towards this other girl). Though I wouldn't call myself a feminist, more like someone who wants true gender equality; I'm against gender stereotypes mainly because I don't "fit" neatly into the "man mold" that society has created, yet I am a mature, responsible adult male.

At the same time, boy do I love looking at boobies. Does that invalidate my previous paragraph? No, of course not. I think the Sorceress design is fun in a goofy sort of way, but I don't expect or demand women in real life model themselves like that.

Two things:

-As much as I sympathize with the viewpoint against over-sexualization and agree that the Sorceress character is insanely overdone, I feel like the goal of awareness backfired because I've now been introduced to the game and really really want to play it.

-Who wants to bet there are heterosexual women out there who look at the Sorceress and honestly, un-ironically think she's the coolest thing ever?

Honestly, I find that her breasts have passed the threshold where their size actually makes her less attractive. She'd look better if they were ~25% smaller.

To be honest, I don't see the problem in sexualization. It's a comical, cartoonish and, above all, non-representative portrayal of a very specific woman in a very specific context. The character has been depicted in such an exaggerated fashion that there is very little sex appeal to be found there - what is there, however, is a certain comical value.

As long as it's consistent with the overall tone of the game (and given the picture of the three bearded guys in thongs, I think it is), I see no issue whatsoever.

Yes, I think I know where the people who are complaining are coming from. Representation of female characters in the medium has been a hot issue lately and I think that the movement toward more realistic female characters is a good thing. Given the context, however, I think that the massive comical boobs of the sorceress are appropriate.

I don't think that these debates 'need to go away', not be any means. I am however, increasingly skeptical about whether the internet is ever going to provide the right environment in which to have them. It's hardly a new observation that internet forums act as an echo-chamber for the worst parts of our character. So many things you say to others, and that others can say to you, are easily dismissed or misinterpreted when you're interacting with a faceless, opposing avatar rather than a person in the flesh.

If I start a thread that has anything to do with sexism on this site, there will be hundreds of comments, but only three responses, as every comment will fall into one of three categories of response ("Oh my God you're so right, and everyone who disagrees is a fascist!", "You're wrong, eat shit and die you fascist!", or "Oh look, it's THIS thread again!"). I can predict this as surely as I can predict the Sun rising tomorrow, so it begs the question, what's the point of even starting the discussion in the first place?

I don't want these debates to go away, I just want them to be amiable and, I don't know, actually get somewhere, rather than each and every one going round in the same increasingly vitriolic circle. If the internet can't provide that, then we have to start talking about these things somewhere other than the internet.

This last week has just layed into representations of male fantasy in video gaming and anime. Basically graphically designed characters being analysed way too much.

They are meant to pander to male imagination, yes. But they are also meant to be super stylized and show artistic flare, by creating dysmorphic body types that is exactly what they are trying to achieve.

Not to mention, the characters in Dragon's Crown in particular are definitely overemphasized stereotypes and not solely for male ego. There's the giant muscular woman, like with legs the size of actual tree trunks, guy with so much armor he may as well be made of metal. If that stuff is alright... why's the woman with the oversize boobs the problem?

Also... it's Atlus. This isn't new it's basically been part of their art style for the last decade.

grigjd3:

castlewise:
It is unclear to me why Dragon's Crown gets to be star of the show in this latest round of internet drama but a game like Starcraft 2, for instance, gets a free pass on their character design. Why is the Sorceress over the line but Kerrigan with her impractical zerg heels and meticulous non-chitin covered ass is somehow ok?

The difference is in quality. Starcraft is generally an excellently made game (if completely lacking in innovation in the sequels). I mean, Skyrim on the PC often gets converted to an effective porn sim and yet no one complains about some of the characterizations done there either (note a certain red-head werewolf in the fighter's guild). The truth is, people don't mind hyper-sexualized characters nearly as much as they may seem to. What people really don't like is mediocre and poor games using hyper-sexualized characters as a crutch to up their sales. This problem would go away if people refused to play bad games. On the other hand, many game developers make bad games before they make good games so sometimes it pays to support even the bad games on the idea that the risk could lead to something really good.

Is Dragon's Crown turning out to be bad/mediocre? I don't really know because I haven't been keeping up with it, but I remember hearing good things about Odin Sphere and some of Vanillaware's other stuff.

You may be on to something, in any case. I don't know if its so much that people don't mind hyper-sexualization as that its so prevalent that you mostly stop caring after a while. And I've put up with a lot of terrible story for the sake of good gameplay (and vice versa). I suppose mildly stupid character designs just roll right off.

I still think its all a little unfortunate though. The Sorceress is dumb, but as was pointed out above there is a distinct style to the game. There are so many other examples where the character designs may be more subtle, but are about a thousand times more cynical in their sexualization.

Hmm... I don't hear many people (both female AND male) pointing out that japanese "bishonen" male characters, with which japanese game market is practically flooded, can be offensive to men. Do I smell... SEXISM???!!!

On a bit more serious note, I agree with Bob about need of diversity. Let's take Blazblue for example. It is one of my most favorite modern fighting games, but I do feel that they overdid it with quantity. What I mean is this:

In Calamity Trigger (along with Noel, Rachel and Taokaka) we got Litchi

Fine, I get it, every game needs one sexualized female character. Plus, she is a nice character story and gameplay-wize.

Then, in Continuum Shift, we got Makoto

Umm... I get it too. She is a beastkin and beast tend to not wear clothing. Plus, as in previous example, she has great personality and is one of my mains.

But, in the upcoming Chrono Phantasma, we will have a chance to play as Bullet

WHY? Her backstory says that she was raised among mercs (who I bet were mostly guys). I don't think that anyone would have worn something as revealing in the same situation.
But then I watched her gameplay videos and I really, REALLY liked her. I like that she is a fast grappler, I like her voice, I like her mannerisms of "tough big sis".

As a man, I like those designs. But as a person, I think that I should at least have a chance to switch them to less revealing uniforms.

I get that sexy girls sell well, but a bit more class is always welcome.

The game looks cool cuz of the sprites and has a old touch to it or something.

But I don't really like the character designs

The archer and wizard look kinda cool

Daaaah Whoosh:
At this point, I really have to ask: if game characters were oversexualized for women instead of for men, then what would they look like? I'd imagine I would still find a woman's idea of a sexy woman attractive, and the men I could probably get over as long as they could wear a shirt.

I suppose, strictly speaking the knight guy in the post above yours counts. Broad shoulders and triangular body shape which are supposedly attractive features in men, taken to ridiculous extremes. I mean for flips sake, it looks like his centre of mass is in his flipping pecks.

On the other hand, probably still not as ridiculous as the video of the sorceress. The jiggling...so hypnotic....so stupid.

Ugh, Kotaku; it's kind of hard to take any chance of them railing against sexism seriously when they let a guy brag about how he convinced women to have sex with him on his Sonic the Hedgehog sheets.

Plus we're talking about Vanillaware here; EVERY design in their games is stylized and exaggerated, so of course sometimes they're going to have women who are outrageously curvy and sexualized. Though the Sorceress and he Amazon are oddly a minority for playable characters in terms of their titles. Before Dragon's Crown the most sexualized playable character was Velvet in Odin's Sphere.

VMK:
Hmm... I don't hear many people (both female AND male) pointing out that japanese "bishonen" male characters, with which japanese game market is practically flooded, can be offensive to men. Do I smell... SEXISM???!!!

No, no they're not. Why? Because "bishounen"...is actually considered the male standard over there. Seriously, a dude the West looking pretty or even downright effeminate is actually the epitome of male physicality in Japan. Usually "rugged" men (which the West prefers) are not considered the ideal. That archetype is usually associated with older men, silly dudes, or outright gay (and that's before I get into the psychos like with Azrael in Blazblue)

The problem isn't, and has never been, that The Sorceress (or Ivy, or Cammy, or Lara, or Daphne, or whomever else) look like they do... it's that everything looks like they do

I'd just like to point out that if you look at the character roster for the game, it actually has quite a bit of variety in character presentation. All of them are way over the top fantasy concepts, but within that bubble they include a lot of choice:

The Amazon has the same waist and boob "issue" as the sorceress but her butt has been made this distorted mass of granite-like musculature. To some extent that alone should be considered an indication of progress because, years ago, the idea of having a muscled female avatar was pretty far out there. You also have the elf which is, for the most part, a very normal looking female form.

On the male side, you have a similar scenario with two totally over the top physiques, the Dwarf massive sinewy chest and the Fighter with shoulders as wide as the character is tall. And you have the Wizard, a male with a fairly normal from.

I point this out only to illustrate that diversity doesn't entirely solve the problem. We have become so quick to condemn that one instance of the offensive in a collection, game, series, entire company library potentially, is enough to label the whole thing as distasteful.

Any attempt to appeal to that aesthetic seems to bring the whole house of cards down in the PR sense, yet that market, while shrinking, is still a big piece of the pie.

And, while I don't want to meander too far into another topic that could easily consume pages of debate, I will say that there is no character ideal for females that is so different and distinct from the male ideals that it would deter the criticism because it had both. Could anyone honestly distill the female ideal to such a point that it would have more counterbalancing impact than those "plain" characters already in the game do?

I'm not offended by how the sorceress looks but seeing her boobs flop around like that makes me cringe with sypathy pains. Why couldn't they have had her wear a bra or some thing?

I thought she looked silly at first, then I saw a picture of the amazon. She's not that bad in comparison.

castlewise:

Is Dragon's Crown turning out to be bad/mediocre? I don't really know because I haven't been keeping up with it, but I remember hearing good things about Odin Sphere and some of Vanillaware's other stuff.

You may be on to something, in any case. I don't know if its so much that people don't mind hyper-sexualization as that its so prevalent that you mostly stop caring after a while. And I've put up with a lot of terrible story for the sake of good gameplay (and vice versa). I suppose mildly stupid character designs just roll right off.

I still think its all a little unfortunate though. The Sorceress is dumb, but as was pointed out above there is a distinct style to the game. There are so many other examples where the character designs may be more subtle, but are about a thousand times more cynical in their sexualization.

I don't want to prejudge the game itself. I've never played anything from Vanillaware and I certainly haven't been paying attention to this title. It is clearly not, however, of the high-minded style that generally gives these things a pass. Think about Monster's Ball or Midnight Cowboy (now heading into movie territory). These were movies where there were fundamental statements made about society and the ills we create in them and so they are forgiven for their explicit content.

Vanillaware isn't just using sexualization to up sales, they are reveling in the practice. This isn't necessarily a bad thing either. However, when one clearly creates this type of material with intention and even revels in it, it seems one should expect the reaction it brings and be ready to handle it better. Yes the author at Kotaku took a cheap shot, but the cheap shot was responded to with insincere, almost embarrassed (and certainly embarrassing) homophobia. I mean, (back in movies) Bad Santa was released to all kinds of negative press and yet the responses given by the studio and indeed, even Disney were entirely professional. The thing is, that's where the industry stands right now: knowingly doing childish things they shouldn't be doing. This kind of crap isn't tolerated in any professional setting which tells me that the gaming industry isn't very professional.

Art has a right to exist but people have a right to be critical. If the art is good the market will decide. So I think people should go crazy to defend/ attack art. It's why it's there. To inspire feelings and passion. This work doesn't really do anything for me to be honest. I think the designs are ugly over anything else. It's like Frazetta and Froud had a one night stand. And not a good one. Also the artist sounds like a prick.

Also complaining about this kind of sexual treatment of ladies in games is like complaining that after the tiger ate your kid it shit on the rug. Kind of missing the point. It's not one character of one game, or even games themselves. It's a social attitude. Again, not for a second saying it's not worth discussing. I just don't think it will change attitudes much

I feel like this article helped the gaming community grow up a little bit more.

Speaking on the Sorceress, I'm clearly not the target demo. I love pretty women, but her design is actually repugnant to me. If I was in the same room as her, I'd do whatever I could to get out; perhaps by throwing a chair out of the window. She's clearly some kind of deformed stygian monster.

Her character design isn't necessarily sexist. The creator insinuating that the critic was gay because he doesn't like it is completely out of line, of course. Her design just isn't helping. It's potato chips. A single brick added to a gigantic wall a great number of people are trying to tear down.

Why bother?

This is why I love you Bob, agreements all round. I was raised by my mum, little sister and nan but gawd damn if I just don't like me a busty red head.

This is why I can't take anything from Kotaku seriouly. It is a storm in a glasscup. That this Jason Twat (yes, I'm calling him a twat, because that is what he is) is saying that this just a work by a horny 14 year, show how much respect he has for for the artist for that game. You know who also draw in that over the top style? Frank fucking Frazetta! The man who gave us the style that they used for Conan and define a generation of artist. The Style in Dragon Crown is a throwback to that artstyle.
http://lcart2.narod.ru/image/fantasy/frank_frazetta/frank_frazetta_flashmanonthecharge.jpg
http://imgs.abduzeedo.com/files/articles/frank_frazetta/1.jpg
http://frankfrazetta.org/images/frank_frazetta_thebarbarian.jpg
Some of the art that Frazetta made.
http://www.destructoid.com/in-defense-of-boobies-252408.phtml

Aiddon:

VMK:
Hmm... I don't hear many people (both female AND male) pointing out that japanese "bishonen" male characters, with which japanese game market is practically flooded, can be offensive to men. Do I smell... SEXISM???!!!

No, no they're not. Why? Because "bishounen"...is actually considered the male standard over there. Seriously, a dude the West looking pretty or even downright effeminate is actually the epitome of male physicality in Japan. Usually "rugged" men (which the West prefers) are not considered the ideal. That archetype is usually associated with older men, silly dudes, or outright gay (and that's before I get into the psychos like with Azrael in Blazblue)

I know that. Haven't I wrote that this particular sentence is not serious? Must I always type something like "lol, jk" so that people would understand that it's a joke?

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