Thursday, March 17, 2011

Goodbye, Blogger. Hello, Wordpress.

Go Make Me A Sandwich has moved to Wordpress.

Okay, folks. I've had to remove 10 comments so far from the spam folder today alone. TEN. And yet it fails to remove comments that are ACTUAL SPAM. I'm sick of having to deal with this, and I'm sick of feeling like I have to check in every few hours to make sure no one's comments have been eaten. I want to reject the tyranny of internet time, so I'm moved things over to Wordpress. I apologize for the short notice, but I happened to have time today so I figured I'd get it done now.

All of the comment threads have been moved over to Wordpress as well, so please update your bookmarks accordingly.

I'm leaving comments open here through the end of the weekend, just so people don't have to change their bookmarks for the conversations they're currently following, but starting Monday morning comments will be closed here.

Other than that, nothing is changing. I plan to stick to my current posting "schedule" and format.

Once again, please update your bookmarks to

Thanks, and sorry for the inconvenience, folks!

Google Search Results: Revised

First, a Disclaimer:

As always, not a professional academic or researcher. Also, not a statistician. I'm just a fine art major who happens to really, really like spreadsheets.

Revisions explained

Okay, so I got some helpful feedback yesterday that included improvements to my search methods. So I thought I'd write a quick post updating my data as well as providing some information about traffic and such. I may or may not get to the post about the context of these terms since I went a little crazy making spreadsheets. (Call me a nerd, but I love spreadsheets. They can fix anything.)

I made a major blunder in my original post, I realized. In my searches yesterday, I was only searching and not all of its various gaming subdomains. As such, I revised my search to and this substantially affected the results. Now has subdomains for tv, movies, and comics that get much less traffic than its gaming subdomains, but I still searched those subdomains and subtracted those results from the overall total. With the numbers for all of the subdomains and forums included, this wound up altering the final outcome.

I also had some requests to add some additional terms - specifically homophobic or male-gendered slurs. I did wind up adding "fag" to my list, but "dyke" did not make the cut because of the fact that "dyke" is also a name. Specifically, Gordon Van Dyke, who is one of the big figures behind the Battlefield series, skewed the results too heavily. I also did contemplate adding "prick" to the list of terms, but I made an entirely subjective judgement that "prick" is not "as bad" as "cunt". Entirely my opinion, but I'm also trying to keep the list of terms short so I don't go completely insane running them all through Google. For the same reason, I also did not search for racial slurs, since that would cause the list to balloon beyond the point that I can gather data in an hour or two.

Lastly, my problem with Kotaku was that instead of running "" through Google, I was using "site:". That's what I get for not copying and pasting, I suppose.

The Results

So here are the raw results. (No pretty charts today. I like spreadsheets, but charts are a pain in the ass.)

Interestingly, adding Kotaku to the list didn't have any effect on the final outcome. Adding all of IGN's subdomains, however, did. In terms of raw results, IGN now comes out on top with 18 points, just barely edging out Destructoid at 17. Team Liquid's showing isn't quite as impressive, but is still pretty solid at 11.

It's worth noting that Joystiq only scored 3 points, and that Kotaku actually managed to score 0. Something I found almost as interesting is the fact that there are absolutely no results for "feminist/feminazi bitch" on Kotaku.

Now none of this gives us more than a very sketchy general picture without at least having some information about traffic patterns and context. Context we'll save for my next post. As for traffic patterns, I was able to find some super-basic traffic information for Destructoid, Kotaku, IGN, Joystiq, and Team Liquid by using Compete's free traffic search features. (It doesn't let you search subdomains.) The monthly normalized data for February for the five sites is as follows:

Sadly, data about page views is not available for free, so I can't provide that data. But unique visitors and monthly visits will still give us a pretty good picture.

In an attempt to at least half-assedly normalize the raw results, I decided to divide the unique visitors by the number of search results for each term. It doesn't really mean much in terms of where the words are coming from - staff writers? Users? Anonymous commenters? But it at least provides some sort of context as to traffic versus usage of each term. It seems counter-intuitive, but lower numbers are "bad" and higher numbers are "good":

I decided to go through these results and award points again, this time going from lowest to highest. When looking at unique visitors, this time Team Liquid came in first with 20 points, barely edging out Destructoid with 19 points. IGN, by comparison, came in a distant third with a meager 6 points.

When you divide monthly visitors by numbers of search results, results change again - but the overall picture stays the same:

By this metric, Destructoid wins with 20 points, Team Liquid places second with 16 points, and IGN once again comes in third with 6 points.

What does any of this mean?

Well, not a whole lot really. We can make sort of general statements saying that Destructoid and Team Liquid seem to have a higher per capita usage of these terms than other sites, but it's not possible to make any definitive statements about just what any of this means. Another important factor that was not possible for me to examine is the source of the comments. With the exception of Team Liquid, all of these sites employ paid writers, but they also host user blogs. As mentioned before, it's not really possible for me to discern the frequency of use by the writers versus the frequency of use by users or anonymous commenters.

So, overall these numbers aren't that useful from an academic standpoint. However, they provide a useful illustration of the fact that misogynist (as well as other forms of hate speech) language is pervasive across all major gaming sites, and that some sites are consistently more guilty of using this language than others.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Google Results - misogynist language used on major gaming sites

Rather than diving back into things here with something easy, I decided to try something I haven't done before. While browsing my Google Alerts for Jim Sterling, I had an idea inspired by the awesome troll data analysis done by blogger kirbybits in the wake of the whole dickwolves fiasco. I decided to see how many search results for common misogynist language I could get for major gaming sites. I was curious - is my growing hate for Destructoid simply because of Jim Sterling? Or is it really more misogynist than other major gaming sites?

The first thing I did was draw up a list of sites to search from: Destructoid, Kotaku, Joystiq, Team Liquid, 4chan/v/, Reddit/r/gaming, the official WoW forums, and the official StarCraft II forums. (Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that Kotaku doesn't allow Google searches. I don't know if there's a way around it, but I was feeling too lazy to find out.)

The next thing I did was draw up a list of search terms. I did this mainly using the word maps in kirbybits' troll data analysis. The searches I ran were: slut, whore, fat slut/whore, feminazi, feminist/feminazi bitch, cunt, and rape. For the two word phrases, I searched for both with "or" (eg: "fat slut" OR fat whore"). I had initially planned on including "bitch" as its own search term, but I discovered that bitch by itself was a problematic term because of it's varying uses - it wasn't possible to easily separate the verb from the noun, and so I dropped it from my list.

The results were... well.... not too surprising, but I went to the effort of making them pretty anyway using IBM's ManyEyes. Unfortunately, while ManyEyes makes things pretty, it doesn't make them terribly readable at smaller sizes - so I wound up making ugly charts in Excel. (If you'd like, you can click this link to see the visualization itself.)

Just to amuse myself, I've decided on a tournament style ranking to determine which gaming site "wins" the prize of using the most misogynist language. The "winner" will get three points for each top result, second gets two, third gets one. The site with the highest total "wins".

The search terms:

The results:

Although Destructoid didn't win every search term, they still managed to completely dominate the competition with a whopping 19 points, winning in five of the seven categories. Team Liquid, though, put in a solid showing as well with a solid 14 points - proving once again that their reputation for sexual harassment has at least some basis in reality. Joystiq managed to come in third with 5 points, just barely edging out Reddit/r/gaming/'s 4 points. And 4chan, a supposed hotbed of anonymous internet fuckwittery, barely even managed to make the list with 1 point. Better luck next time, guys.

Now to be fair, I do imagine the terms feminazi and cunt were edged in Destructoid's favor, given the recent Jim Sterling twitter fiasco in which he called twitter user Daphny a "feminazi cunt" - something for which he received a lot of backlash. But given the huge gulf between Destructoid and its nearest competitors, I feel confident in saying that Destructoid uses the most misogynist language of the group. (Which makes me regret being unable to get search data for Kotaku. Now I really want to know how they compare.)

None of this, of course, considers the context of the usages, so I'll look at that next time.

Friday, March 11, 2011

WTF: the "not enough hours in the day" edition

Okay, folks. Sorry for the radio silence. (I've been trying to check in with the comment threads since things have been pretty busy...) I got a MASSIVE video-editing project with a crazily short deadline dumped in my lap, and it's consuming almost every waking moment of my existence. Literally.

But I was feeling guilty, so here are some things that are WTF and some things that are not so WTF.

WTF the first

(images taken from this post from Spinksville)

So it seems like a lot of the new MMOs are feeling threatened by TERAs effort to have the least-clothed women in MMO Land, because I'm seeing a lot of pornular women that really up the ante from other MMO companies. Case in point, here are male and female guards from the same area in the upcoming MMO Rift. Looks like their uniforms aren't all that... um... uniform.

WTF the second

Someone was kind enough to email me this ad that they spotted for Rappelz. I was intrigued because Rappelz was the very first game I ever lambasted, and this woman is even LESS clothed than the Rappelz women of six months ago! I think I'm going to have to hunt up a bunch of new Rappelz ads and see how they compare to the old ones...

WTF the third

Lastly, I wanted to link to an article about the upcoming Tomb Raider game. A lot of people have lauded the redesign of Lara, but perhaps there is a cause for trepidation. The feature on IGN seemed very enthusiastic about the realistic death animations and describes several ways in which Lara can die, including the gem:

All of which should keep you happy if you enjoy watching bad things happening to pretty ladies.

And this is why female gamers hate IGN. Still, I'm a bit nervous now for how the new and improved Lara will fare. Here's hoping she doesn't meet with the same fate as Samus in Other M.

Thankfully, I have something to get rid of the bad taste...

Awesome the first

(Image from the Tumblr of Michael Pawlak)

I stumbled across this on Ben Paddon's blog and thought it was amazing. I think the ladies at Fat, Ugly or Slutty could probably identify with this pretty well.

Awesome the second

Last but not least, I'll link to a video that a friend sent me the link to: an episode of Extra Credits by the Escapist about female video game characters. It's long, but it's well worth watching. Also, it makes fun of Other M and Ivy, which I support.

That's it for this week folks. Things will return to normal next week.

Monday, March 7, 2011

On the word slut: a rambling response long overdue

Okay. A quick summary before I dive into what is sure to be a long and rambling post of where this is coming from. Maverynthia and tekanji left some comments taking issue with my use of the word slut in a recent post. I was on vacation at the time, but didn't want to announce that to the interwebs; instead I wrote some super-quick (less than five minutes) and admittedly defensive comments. Tekanji responded with some comments... that Blogger's spam filter promptly ate.

I didn't catch this until much, much later (again, vacation) after she'd already written a post on I restored the comments and made a clarifying post, apologies were made by all and sundry for the misunderstanding, and I promised to write the response that I wanted to write several days ago and was too braindead to do until today.

Okay. That about covers everything for our readers who weren't following things across three different threads on two different blogs. So, to jump right into it...

The original context: two different usages of the word slut in two different contexts

Okay. So in my post about TERA Online, the word slut was used in the title: "TERA: competing with Bayonetta for the sluttiest women still wearing clothes?"

The second (chronologically) instance was in my post about gamer valentines:

... It seems like they might be using this as a chance to promote Chell's new design in the upcoming release. Chell in the first game was female, yes, but definitely was not a traditionally slutty female heroine. I'm a bit worried by the decision to glam her up. Here's hoping that we don't start seeing disgusting Chell fanart pop up like we did with post-Zero Suit Samus...

I'm actually going to talk about the second instance first, since I think it needs to be addressed before I can come back to the first.

Slut the second: All female heroes are not sluts

Okay. When I started this blog, I started it in a fit of rage about all of this bullshit I'd collected about sexism in gaming while doing research about my original article over on See Page XX. I was all angry and used language that was a lot more extreme than what I use when writing posts now. I know in the past I have referred to women in images as I've examined as "cleavagey skanks" and "slut-bags". And you know what, once I settled into a routine and started getting desensitized (at least to a certain extent) to this shit that I examine on a regular basis, I re-thought my stance somewhat. I backed off on language like "skank" and "slut-bag", though I continued to use the word "slut".

Still, here's where I say mea culpa. The language "traditionally slutty female heroine" is problematic, because it implies that most or all female heroes are sluts. That's certainly not what I meant to imply. What I was referring to, badly, was the fact that the outfits and designs of most female characters in video games are... well... slutty.

But wait! That's hypocritical, isn't it? Please allow me to explain...

Here's the thing. I wish I had better language to describe these things, language that isn't loaded. But the fact remains that English is not a perfect language, and sexism is pretty hard-coded. Gender neutral insults like "asshole" are almost always less "extreme" than gendered insults like "douchebag", "cunt", or "bitch". (You could make arguments on either side for most variations on "fuck____", but that's a different argument.)

Similarly, saying that these women are "scantily clad" or calling their clothes "skimpy" doesn't really do justice to how extreme the designs of these characters are. It goes beyond just the cut of their clothing - it extends to anatomy and posing as well. Often video game women have their secondary sex characteristics distorted in ways obviously meant to titillate the intended viewer (straight men). However, would I say that all of the women in the above image are sluts? No.

Here's the thing. Slut is a loaded word with a lot of baggage, but I feel like it can be an accurate word to use when used to describe the outfits and armor worn by fictional women in gaming, because often that harmful baggage is exactly the stereotypes that the character designers want to convey to their intended male audience! The awful slut stereotype is exactly what the game companies are using to sell their product to male gamers!

Was I sloppy in my use of the word by saying "traditionally slutty female heroines"? Absolutely. But because of the fact that companies use the baggage of the slut stereotype to make money, I feel it's important to understand that the word slut does have a place in the deconstruction of character design, as long as one is careful to use the word in reference to the design and not the character herself. At the end of the day, fictional gaming women do NOT have a choice about how they present themselves to the world, and I think that's an important thing to consider. But that lack of choice still doesn't make them sluts.

I can respect that slut can come with a lot of painful and terribly personal baggage, and absolutely not do I want to condone the real-world verbal abuse of women by men who call them sluts and other similar insults. But the slut stereotype is a very real part of what I'm trying to confront here, and I hope that what I've said makes sense as a case for the considered use of the word.

Should I have been more careful? Sure. And for that I apologize.

That said, moving on...

Slut the second: the messy dividing line

Okay. Coming back to the first instance of slut - my comparison of women from TERA Online and Bayonetta. So here's the thing. Sometimes women aren't just designed to look slutty, but they're also designed in such a way as to act... um... slutty.

The women in TERA are noted for their problematic animations. The castanic (demon) women run around bent over at the waist so that you can see up their skirts (if you can actually find one). What's worse, the idle combat animation looks like it wouldn't be out of place on the floor of a club and the actual spell casting animations involve hip thrusting gyrations.

That's not to say that real women who want to dress like castanic women and go dancing should be called sluts! But again, when you consider the animations in combination with the designs, the promo material, and the entire conversation surrounding TERA Online, again the word slut does seem to apply to some extent since the harmful baggage is again intended as promotion. The creators behind TERA Online are very purposefully aiming to make their designs more sexist than any other comparable game while still not crossing the line into "adult" like Kabod Online. (Though the fact that these characters are avatars makes me think that I should have said that the castanic women ACT slutty rather than saying they ARE sluts.)

Compare with Bayonetta... a character created by a noted misogynist as his "ideal woman", again we have a character who is problematic not just for her design but for the totality of what she represents. Bayonetta's attacks involve nudity and widespread legs combined with nudity, in Kamiya's words she uses her sexuality "as a weapon", and she kills angels for crying out loud. You couldn't possibly have a stronger example of a character who represents the female sexuality = slutty = eeeeeeeeeeevil stereotype any stronger than Bayonetta.

These are all screenshots, sadly.

Now it's super rare that you have an example as extreme as Bayonetta, sure. But that extreme exists. Bayonetta is the literal embodiment of almost every negative stereotype about women's sexuality that exists in Western culture, with a healthy dose of Japanese stereotypes thrown in. I honestly don't know how to talk about a figure like Bayonetta without saying that she has been explicitly created to perpetuate slut stereotypes.

But, to state the obvious, that doesn't make all fictional game women Bayonetta - thank god. There exists a spectrum, and a lot of the time the lines aren't as clear cut as they are with Bayonetta. The vast majority of fictional women aren't sluts, and it was sloppy of me to use language that implied that I thought they were. But I stand by the title of my post about TERA, because there is a mentality among certain game designers that in order to attract attention you have to be MORE sexist than anyone else out there because vanilla misogyny isn't cutting it anymore.

tl;dr: what's the upshot?

The upshot? I was sloppy and shouldn't have used the phrase "traditionally slutty female heroines". But it's my position that the word slut still has a place in discussions about harmful stereotypes in gaming and game design, as long as a distinction is made between the design of a character and what that character actually is.

I've done a lot of soul-searching in the last few days and I feel like this is a position I can stand by. It's a messy position, sure, but sexism and misogyny are messy issues. I'm bound to screw up from time to time, but I don't want to let that fear of screwing up silence me. That said, I understand it if you don't agree with me and am happy to continue having a conversation about it. And if you decide that my views on the matter make my blog not worth your time, I'll understand that too.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

On comments: a clarification

Okay folks, I'm keeping this short and sweet. I lost most of my day to airports and being on the road (it's good to be home), so the promised responses (esp. Maverynthia and tekanji) will happen tomorrow. I'm too tired to string complex thoughts together coherently right now. I just wanted to clarify quickly about my policy toward comments.

I noticed a traffic spike because of a post that tekanji wrote on the blog. Unfortunately Blogger ate tekanji's comment and it appeared like I had deleted it. I hadn't, but I didn't catch that it had been eaten for almost an entire day since I was on vacation. I restored the comment as soon as I caught it and also left a comment over on the post on And the misunderstanding has been acknowledged and no harm, no foul. But it led me to think that I might want to publicly state my comments policy, just for clarity. So here it is.

The only comments I delete are spam - and by spam I mean shit like "great blog, if you like this you should check out these great cosplay outfits". If the comment is by a human being, no matter the content, I will never delete it.

I don't want to get into the politics of who I will and will not allow to speak, so this blog is a place where everyone can speak. I can't guarantee you'll get listened to; if you post anonymously that I'm a fat slob who needs to get a life, it's not too likely that you will. But this will always be a place where you can speak.

That being said, please be aware that Blogger's spam filter is complete shit coded by crack-addled hamsters. It never catches ACTUAL SPAM and will often eat real comments. Frequently the post will show up and then vanish on refresh, which understandably does look like me deleting comments. I check comments once or twice a day, depending on how busy I am, so I'll restore it as soon as I catch it, but it might not be right away. (Please do feel free to write emails to the Blogger staff asking them to allow us to implement 3rd party spam filters.)

Okay. I'm going to go wrap myself around a mug of tea. More coming tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

But sadly, Seltyiel is pretty well in the minority for male characters in Wayne's art. Mostly Wayne's men tend to look like this:

...covered head to toe in armor and in poses that don't emphasize their sexy bits. (Okay, maybe not with quite that many weapons. I couldn't resist the opportunity for a bit of visual hyperbole...)

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

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

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

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

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

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

...makes Wayne's opinions on the importance of breasts in fantasy art pretty clear. Sure, none of these women are in cages, but it doesn't exactly feel very progressive to say "sure women can be adventurers" when the clear parenthetical is "as long as they show us (male gamers) their tits".

And most of these aren't even NICE tits, which is kind of bizarre given the fact that these figures are otherwise pretty undistorted. (They're all Barbie, sure, but not too distorted.) All of these women have bizarrely inflated sphere boobs that in some cases aren't even that appealing. I mean, the gnome and the hook fighter especially have boobs that just kind of freak me out - it looks like someone taped melons to their chests. How is that in any way appealing?

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

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

I mean, Christ, Wayne. Looking at these, I hate to think of what initial drafts of Seelah might have looked like. Did you honestly think that people wouldn't notice the random cleavage? It's especially frustrating on these characters because they come SO CLOSE to being every bit as awesome as the first set and then fall flat on her face. Is there ANY reason for us to see Imrijka's (far left) hugely inflated sphere boobs? No. Does being able to see Merisiel's (middle) tits somehow make her a better, more compelling avatar? No. Does being able to see the pirate's tits AND panties make us more able to believe in her strength? Um... no.

The worst part is that I can so clearly see what these characters could have been had they not been gratuitously sexualized. Please - can't we allow strong female characters to be strong AND female and not have to show their tits to the world? Why do we have to do this? Why do we have to continue to tell women that they can only expect to be strong and competent so long as they agree to dress for the titillation of their male counterparts?

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

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

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A belated look at gamer Valentines: the good, the questionable, the pathetic

Okay, so I know I'm about two weeks late with this. Since I'm including stuff from previous years' Valentine's Days, I'll call this a retrospective and pretend that I meant to be late. (Actually, I didn't start looking for most of this stuff until after I stumbled across a truly awful Valentine's Day feature on the FilePlanet FileBlog. That got me looking for other examples of gamer Valentines and Valentine's Day features on major gaming sites.)

What I found was a pretty mixed bag. There's a lot of genuinely funny stuff out there to be found. Then again, there's some pretty tasteless stuff too.

The good/funny

First up we have some Street Fighter valentines. These were done as a promo for last year's release of Street IV and were posted along with a trailer of Cammy, Juri, and Chun Li. And while the trailer is exactly what you'd expect for a promo trailer featuring fighting game women (SO MANY PANTY SHOTS), the valentines are actually pretty good:

I appreciate that "I'm head over heels for you" shows Juri knocking out Kratos, and that the pose isn't blatantly fanservice-y. (Considering that Juri wears a square of fabric strapped to her chest, it's impossible to avoid completely...) I also enjoy the number of male/male pairings. I realize that given how vastly the women in Street Fighter are outnumbered by the men, it's probably a function of not many women to choose from. But still, I'd like to think that they meant to have valentines with non-straight pairings. (I'd root for female/female pairings too, only that wouldn't end well given the design of all of the Street Fighter women.)

Valve got in on the act as well with a few different Valentine's themed promos for Portal 2. In particular, I loved the video that they produced as a message from Aperture Laboratories with Valetine's day "tips" like "women love diamonds for their wide variety of industrial applications. It was humorous and did a pretty good job of turning a few stereotypes on their head, albeit in bizarre fashion.

They also released a few more traditional valentines like these:

Overall I'm a fan, but I have to say I have mixed feelings about the first one. It seems like they might be using this as a chance to promote Chell's new design in the upcoming release. Chell in the first game was female, yes, but definitely was not a traditionally slutty female heroine. I'm a bit worried by the decision to glam her up. Here's hoping that we don't start seeing disgusting Chell fanart pop up like we did with post-Zero Suit Samus.

I also stumbled across this gem by the producers of The Misadventures of P. B. Winterbottom:

I love the retro styling, but what I love even more is the instruction at the bottom that starts with: "should feelings of love or desire overcome you, this clever card can be used to fan away such salacious vapors." It's always nice to see game studios treat gender stereotypes, even outdated ones, satirically. Lord knows it's far oftener the case that game studios are PERPETUATING gender stereotypes, yes even the outdated ones, rather than mocking them.

Some other gems I found that aren't gender/sexism related are:
* some Left4Dead valentines by the hugely talented Alexandria Neonakis (aka Beavotron).
* gamer valentines on IGN, including one by a horny Elcor (if you play Mass Effect it's hilarious, trust me)
* these NES valentines

They're worth checking out for a few chuckles at least.

The questionable

This is going back quite a while... Lion's Head, the studio behind the Fable series put out this Valentine in 2007:

Now, I'll admit that the one thing I have been arguing for here is a diversity of female body types in game art. That said, I think this is more of a negative than a positive. This woman is being presented as an object of ridicule, not as an object of beauty. She is clearly designed to disgust the intended male viewer, which is sad. It wouldn't have taken much to present such a character as beautiful, but clearly Lion's Head just wanted to get some cheap laughs.

Richard Mitchell, the author of the feature that ran this valentine on Joystiq, ended the piece by saying:

We're sure she has a great personality. Hopefully, this has nothing to do with the secret Fable 2 feature that Peter Molyneux will reveal at GDC.

Even more depressing are the comments left on the Joystiq feature:

Ew. Just ew. I wouldn't touch that chick with a 110 ft. pole.

Hard nipples...going to give me nightmares!

I'd hit it.
Yea, with a baseball bat :)

That's about what I expected. Still... yuck.

Then there's this valentine of questionable taste from Kotaku:

I dunno. I guess it's kind of funny. But then, it's yet another example of puerile sex humor coming out of Kotaku. What a shock! Not sure what to think of it, so in the end I'll roll my eyes and move onto this valentine from Destructoid:

Okay. This is actually pretty cute, and doesn't have some cleavagey piece of fanservice like I half expected from Destructoid. But they couldn't leave it there, could they? I mean, then they wouldn't be the Destructoid we know and... um... love.

Anyway, the feature ended with: "Now who's going to make a Destructoid card for Steak and BJ Day?"

...charming, guys. Real charming. So nice of you to "throw us women a bone" every once in a while. Now do you think you could refrain from practically in the same breath demanding that us women give you blow jobs? Christ.

The pathetic: FilePlanet's FileBlog

Surprisingly, Kotaku and Destructoid put in pretty half-hearted attempts to offend this year. But have no fear - FilePlanet has come to the rescue! Apparently this year is the third year that they have posted a selection of nude mods for Valentine's Day in a charming feature they call Valentine's Nudity.

Because really, what better way is there to celebrate Valentine's Day than by hacking video games to remove the clothes of video game women? That'll show those uppity bitches. How dare they have "empowerment" and "character arcs". Fuck character arcs - tits or gtfo, bitches!

And then of course there's the comments:

No males? All female. That’s refreshing.

Where did i stick my vaseline?

AVG Detected a virus in a file needed for the Mass Effect 2 nude skin to work. Oh well the miranda nude mod is better anyway

I liek wen day showda boobays

Wow… might consider making a lesbein sim just to take advantage of this…

So yet another example of how a subset of male gamers are determined to systematically dis-empower any female character who might have some degree of strength or agency. What kind of sick entitlement causes this sort of shit, anyway? Why can't they just do what normal people do and go find porn on the internet? God knows there's enough free porn out there that going to this much effort shouldn't be appealing.

So I guess thanks go to FilePlanet for making even Kotaku and Destructoid seem appealing. Then again, I guess they'll be needing the nude mods since some of those guys probably couldn't NOT offend a woman if their lives depended on it.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Gender swap! The Magna Carta edition

It's been too long since I've done any original art for this blog, and I've been itching to do more! I knew as soon as I started working on that post about Hyung Tae Kim that I wanted to do another gender swap using his artwork, but it took me a while to find the time to sit down and do one.

Choosing an image was difficult. A lot of HTK's art is heavily distorted, and I wanted to experiment with actually not correcting anatomy this time around to see what the effect would be. However, I also really wanted to see what would happen if I took on a figure with an unnecessarily detailed crotch. For some reason, I wasn't able to find an image that was both very, very distorted AND very crotchular, so I settled for something crotchular and still a little distorted:

So this is Celestin Roaa from the Magna Carta series. This presented a huge challenge with the crazy boob perspective, and also with the costume - but I think it turned out well:

The costume presented quite the challenge, in that there wasn't any real male equivalent of the clothing that she was wearing. I compromised and gave my gender-swapped version a codpiece and chaps. Amusingly, I didn't realize how phallic the design on the codpiece was until after I drew it. I did try to give him a bulge, since Ken-doll superheroes with no visible bulge have always irritated me, but I think it was a bit obscured by the crazy codpiece. Alas.

The figure is softer than I intended, but I think that's more a result of me attempting to change as few lines as possible; I changed as little as I could to have the figure still be interpreted as male. (I'll admit the beard was me hedging my bets.)

Anyhow, in all other regards I'm quite happy with how the ridiculousness comes through. The chaps + codpiece are a wonderfully ridiculous combination, and the codpiece especially draws attention to the "HEY EVERYBODY LOOK AT MY CROTCH"-ness of the original pose. I think the low cut of the codpiece also helps make the sexualization extreme enough that it actually reads as sexualization. Were he wearing pants, I don't think that even the bare chest would really read as extreme sexualization the way the mostly bare chest with bikini top does with the original figure.

I think next time I'll tackle something with more obvious figure distortion, just to see what happens. I suspect it won't translate well, since the parts of the female body that get distorted don't really have male equivalents. But that unknown is part of why I'm doing this. I enjoy highlighting the ridiculousness of the imagery, sure. But the experimentation of what works and what doesn't is neat too.

I'd also like to do more re-designed characters, but I was having trouble deciding which character I should take on next. Anyone have any suggestions?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

TERA: competing with Bayonetta for the sluttiest women still wearing clothes?

Before I get into today's post, I just want to refer your attention to a very interesting feature by Jonathan Holmes on Destructoid. It's a very excellent look at female characters in video games and the over-used sexy badgirl/chaste goodgirl dichotomy that dominates all video game writing ever. Also, do yourself a favor and watch the video. It's kind of long, but worth it - it's very funny.

I never thought I'd tell people on this blog to go read something on Destructoid, but there you go. I guess anything is possible.

And now for something completely different

A while ago during one of my WTF roundups, I posted a screenshot of a character model wearing nothing but crotch floss:

I'd forgotten to include the name of the game in the file name, so at the time I just posted the screenshot as a bit of trivia. My helpful commenters informed me that this was a screen from the upcoming kMMO TERA Online which is being released soon. I filed that information away and promptly forgot it amidst doing research for other posts. That is until someone mentioned TERA to me again and I decided to take a look. Surely anything with character models that tasteless would be totally easy to mock, right?

My expectations were pretty low when I followed a link to the European site for TERA Online. Still, I was pretty shocked when this is what I saw on the main page:

Does that curvy spine remind anyone else of Bayonetta?

Holy crap! I mean. Wow. That's... um. That's a lot of crotch. Like. Right there. On the main page. On second thought, it might be a little silly being surprised about these things, but usually they don't bust out the crotch right on the main page. They save it for screens of the character models on the race and class pages, but it's usually not so... blatant.

I was a bit hesitant as I clicked on the race page to check out the different races and was pretty surprised when the first race page (Amani) featured this image:

Whoa! That's, um. That's some crotch! Some male crotch! A lot of male crotch! So, okay, maybe this TERA game is just all about crotch. And that wouldn't be so bad, really - as long as it was equal opportunity crotch. Really, that's been my beef all along. If you're going to have tasteless nudity, at least have EQUAL OPPORTUNITY tasteless nudity. But wait, no. It looks like TERA isn't equal opportunity after all:

At least she's not taking a dump.

So it looks like just another case of a monstrous male character being suggestively depicted to make some sort of statement about his "monstrousness". Certainly we don't see any of that from our human male, who is also allowed to stand up straight. Unlike the female mage who is sticking out her ass and waving her tits in our faces. Why, oh why, is it that there is not a single female mage in all of MMO-land who is capable of casting spells without gyrations worthy of a pole dancer?

And it gets worse:

Ladybits! Attack!

In this image, the clothing dichotomy is even greater! The male character is wearing about fifty pounds of plate mail and the female character is wearing... even less clothing than the last one. Not that this is really anything new. This is the sort of thing you see from pretty much every MMO ever - and not just the free ones. Guild Wars, EverQuest, WoW - they're all just as bad.

And of course, what MMO promo would be complete without...

Lesbians! ...okay, they're not actual lesbians, but they're two hot, almost completely naked chicks in blatantly sexual poses. It's very hard for me to think that there's NOT some kind of lesbian subtext intended. Of course, this might be cynicism on my part. Maybe the artist wants the intended male audience to think of banging these chicks in serial instead of in parallel. (Ha. I'm such a nerd.)

The real nail in the coffin is when you start lining up male models and female models. Here for comparison are male and female human models:

The most exposure we see from any of the human males is a very shallow v-neck. Otherwise they're completely covered with multiple layers of clothing and armor, while the ladies are left to shiver with all their bits hanging out. Let's hope they control the thermostat, otherwise they're going to be pretty cold.

The outfit on the far right is the most ridiculous in my book. First of all, the design is actually quite ugly and doesn't really do flattering things to the figure. Second, the other two female humans at least get proper panties while she gets something that barely qualifies as crotch floss. It's practically a crotch decoration. I hope she used some body glue, because I don't see how those are staying on...

And of course, it's not just the humans. The high elves are just as bad:

Okay, maybe not QUITE as bad. The woman on the far right is wearing the most clothing I've seen on a female TERA model so far, which puts her ahead of her counterparts I suppose. Still, I'm getting awful tired of the stripper boots. Is there some kind of stripper boot outlet in the TERA world that causes them to be the most economic form of footwear?

Oh, and let's not forget another important bit of promotion. WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE WITHOUT THEIR CLOTHES?? Come on, people. Let's remember the important questions.

Why is it that in their underwear, their breasts are still more covered than in some of the "armor" sets that I've seen? Ditto for their crotches. What gives? Why is THEIR UNDERWEAR more modest than their actual clothing? Do people not understand how absurd that is? How is anyone supposed to fight anything in clothing that you're about to pop out of at any moment? Seriously, check out these action shots:

So the woman on top... What the hell is she thinking? Did she seriously think that it was a good idea to go fight monsters dressed like that? "Well, I've taped sea shells to my tits, so I think I've got everything important covered here". Really? This is about as likely as giving a stripper a sword and telling her to go kill some monsters. I'm not terribly likely to believe that someone dressed like that is capable of wielding a sword that large. Plus - WHY IS SHE ALL MOIST? What purpose does that serve besides making her even more fap-worthy? "Well, I don't have any armor, so I'd better grease up before I tackle that monster over there!" Come on, people. Now you're not even trying.

And then from our mage on the bottom, we have more spell casting pole dancing gyrations. Does the magical energy she's summoning come from her ladybits? Because if it doesn't, why is she standing like this?

The sad thing is that all of these screens took me maybe twenty minutes to round up, which means I didn't even have to look all that hard. I'm a little scared of what's out there that I DIDN'T find. Now I'll admit that the graphics are pretty impressive, but you can put lipstick on a pig and it's... still a pig. Graphics do not a good game make. Neither do tits, but tell that to the people eagerly awaiting the North America release of TERA. I guess they disagree.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Reaper Miniatures: still a fap-fest, even at 1 inch high

Okay. So last time I posted this teaser image for a post about Reaper Minis:

Dragon replacing alligator as a fashion accessory?

That's pretty representative of a lot of minis. As any woman who's tried to find a mini to represent her character in a D&D game can tell you, it can be really hard to find female minis that are A) wearing clothes AND B) not showing their breasts.

Now Reaper Minis have gotten pretty popular for fantasy minis lately. Partly because of the very high quality of their minis, and partly because of the product lines that they produce minis for. What caught my attention is their line of Pathfinder minis, which I hear sell pretty well. I will definitely admit that the minis I've seen that have been based on existing illustrations are impressively sculpted. And they do well enough for themselves to run a convention called Reaper Con every year, so apparently their product is pretty popular.

However, their catalog is pretty similar to pretty much any collection of minis I've ever browsed at a con in that it's light on females, heavy on males, and chock full of naked or mostly naked women. So I thought that I'd go through their catalog and pull out some particularly egregious examples.

So first of all, meet Sophie. Sophie is the Reaper mascot; there are special edition Sophie minis released for Christmas, sometimes Halloween, and each year for Reaper Con. These are concept sketches that were later turned into special edition minis. (Except for the top right - that's going to be the special mini for this upcoming Reaper Con.)

Riiight. So, instead of releasing special edition minis that are actually interesting they just decided to make a busty demon chick their mascot and make slutty special edition minis. Which are useful in what context other than fap-material? It seems to point out the dearth of women in gaming, and especially in minis-related gaming. I mean, what gamer DOESN'T love cleavagey hot girls?

...oh wait.

Speaking of cleavage... Some of the sculptors need serious anatomy lessons when it comes to the female torso. I found way too many examples of head-sized sphere-boobs - many of them on the same models that also had impossibly tiny waists and no rib cages:

I fail to see how any of these are attractive. Some of them, like The Little Please Have Buttsex With Me Mermaid, are downright freakish. And some of them are just stupid. What is it about the chicks with huge tits, no clothes, and a large weapon?

However, even the misshapen tits are better than the sheer preponderance of models I found that need to PUT ON SOME DAMN CLOTHES.

Half of these models are bare-breasted, and the other half might as well be. How edgy! And by edgy, I mean pathetic. Seriously, isn't this shit what the internet is for? Why do they need to produce fap material for guys who can just as easily find the real stuff online? It's especially silly when you consider the scale of these things.

And of course, some of them go beyond stupid and right into WTF:

"Ghostly summons" (top left) my ass. That's two lesbians having hot ladysex in a cloud of smoke. Don't try to claim it's all artistic - her head is in the other woman's crotch and you folks can't exactly claim the artistic high ground. And check out Miss Muffet (top right). WTF? Why is she showing that spider her tits?

Even that's less ridiculous than the witch (bottom left) and the ZOMBIE STRIPPER. I mean, for god's sake, people. Both of these are supposed to be gross and monstrous, and yet it's STILL tits or gtfo for these women? What if I don't WANT to see their tits? Cause that's kind of gross.

The worst, though, are the two middle images. The chained succubus (bottom) is bad enough, but the VICTIM ON A SPIT is naked folks. Because nothing says "awesome" like tying up a naked woman and hanging her on a spit. In what world is anything like this even remotely appropriate? Gah!

But wait! The WTF doesn't stop there!

... you've got to be fucking kidding me.

The figure on the left is actually a special edition figure, so another example of fanservice to reward their loyal (male) customers? The figure on the left... Gah. So she's described as a "naughty maid", but the expression on her face just makes me think she's surprised. "Holy shit, when did those get so big??"

Can the maid fetish please die now and forever? kthx

Anyway. Not all of the Reaper Minis are complete fail; there are some hidden gems if you look long enough, like this mini from the Pathfinder collection:

I have mixed feelings about this one. The deep cleavage made me roll my eyes at first, but then I re-considered. This is the rare example of a woman who is NOT Barbie and also not monstrous. I think she's quite attractively rendered. So I'm not sure if the cheesecake is ridiculous, or if I should be happy that they're presenting a non-standard body type as attractive. (Thoughts?)

And then there are a few that are totally awesome. Why can't they all be like this??

Okay, so yes, the middle figure has a little cleavage. But she's awesome! Her tits aren't huge, she has a waist, and she looks badass! And I love, love, LOVE the knight on the right. And the nun on the left - awesome! Another woman who's not Barbie, and so completely badass!

Why can't THIS be how Reaper depicts its women? All of these figures are totally awesome! But no, they'd rather continue to cater to their "safe" market of desperately horny young males, which is disappointing. The quality of their product is clearly pretty high. It's disappointing that for the amount of work that goes into each mini, there's a base level of contempt for women as potential customers that clearly isn't being addressed.