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The Aesthetics of Unique Video Game Characters
August 9, 2011 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Meet the Medic, the Heavy, and the Spy. All created by Shaylyn Hamm, who asked the question: Why are men allowed to have varied body types and personalities in video games, but women generally fit a narrow stereotype?

The Medic and Spy mods are available here.

Hamm also has a DeviantArt page that includes some other female character sketches.
posted by kmz (117 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've always maintained the pyro is a lady. A very angry lady.
posted by The Whelk at 8:46 AM on August 9, 2011 [20 favorites]


I like them. I'm not sure how varied I'd say men in videogames are (mainly unshaven, muscly dudes with gravely voices and terse demeanors) but probably the variation is at least more than for women, if not much on an absolute scale.
posted by DU at 8:48 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is great, especially because only a week or two I was talking online with some friends about how frustrating I find the bulk of the "female TF2" fanart links that pop up on fanboards and Kotaku. My exact words were "so are there ANY good fan concepts of female TF2 teams where 'female' does not translate into 'they fight in booty shorts and heels?'"

I've seen the mod kmz linked to in the FPP, but guess what shows up about twenty times more frequently in a Google Image Search for "female TF2", etc. Things like this.

Kotaku linked to this one a few weeks back and while I get that the idea is "pin up" it still seems mostly repetitive. The only ones I liked were the Scout because it looked practical- like what you would actually see your daughter wearing at a little league game- and the Pyro because it was just silly.

The biggest problem, and what has always existed since the 1930's way back to Daisy Duck, is that the (mostly male) producers look at a female character from the lens of "adapted from the male." in other words, it's the male character, plus hair, or breasts, or a dress. Maybe it's a latent Adam's Rib mentality or something, but it needs to stop. Women aren't an "adaptation" of men and when you based female characters that way that's only what you'll get.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:52 AM on August 9, 2011 [19 favorites]


I really like these sketches, and they definitely address something that's bothered me about gaming for a while. In particular, women warrior characters are invariably baring cleavage or midriffs that seem like obvious targets to, you know, stab with a sword or something. Disbelief suspended for a video game and all, but would a male character enter combat with his belly exposed? It always bugged me.

In particular, I liked how one of the medic sketches showed a woman who appears to be over thirty if not forty, and pissy. Exactly the kind of nurse you'd expect to whip out a cannon gun to blast someone as needed.
posted by motsque at 8:56 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


That is a very interesting article.
posted by bq at 8:58 AM on August 9, 2011


For what it's worth (approximately nothing), Valve refers to the Pyro interchangeably as male and female in the game.
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:59 AM on August 9, 2011


That was a really neat article; thanks!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:01 AM on August 9, 2011


I can't really get past the question fail. Men are not allowed varied body types. TF2 is just one of the rare exceptions. (Rare exceptions exist for women too, and yeah, they're probably even rarer than for men, but I think that interpreting this as a female issue is really overlooking the nature of the problem.)
posted by -harlequin- at 9:01 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The image on page 2 - Sonya from Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe - basically seems like a big 'fuck you' to women. I suppose that's just me.
posted by bq at 9:02 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's funny, I actually deal with the same problem in my own art; I feel like I'm good at producing a wide variety of builds and faces for men, but I really have to struggle to keep from using the same skull, face, and body for women. I'm not sure where this comes from, but I was really bummed out when I noticed it was a problem.
posted by COBRA! at 9:03 AM on August 9, 2011


What the stereotype problem says about game designers
- they think female characters exist only for the sexual gratification of male gamers
- they think men find only one female body type attractive

Depressing on both fronts
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:03 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


(that said, I'm loving her work!)
posted by -harlequin- at 9:04 AM on August 9, 2011


"It's funny, I actually deal with the same problem in my own art; I feel like I'm good at producing a wide variety of builds and faces for men, but I really have to struggle to keep from using the same skull, face, and body for women. I'm not sure where this comes from, but I was really bummed out when I noticed it was a problem."

That's one of those things that having a big reference (or swipe) file can help with. That and what one of my old drawing teachers said, that the biggest cues for "female" are eyelashes and lips, so you can kinda draw whatever and add those cues and it'll allow a broader variety than if you get hung up trying to make the whole thing look feminine, which can narrow your options (or at least was narrowing mine). Also, more life drawing helps.
posted by klangklangston at 9:07 AM on August 9, 2011


In particular, women warrior characters are invariably baring cleavage or midriffs that seem like obvious targets to, you know, stab with a sword or something.

Totally. Something I noted while rebooting Huntress on my blog recently was that if Batman's schtick regarding the big yellow bat-symbol on his chest was to divert attacks away from his relatively unprotected face, why the hell would Huntress be running around with a bared midriff?

(And the less said about the post-September Supergirl's "Kryptonian Battle Armor" the better. No wonder their planet exploded if that was the uniform for half their army.)

Looking at video games, there's the Female Shepard issue as well.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:07 AM on August 9, 2011


I never thought about it, but why the hell aren't there female characters in TF2? Valve, go fix this already.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:08 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


A short list of all the recent games I can think of with varied female body shapes (i.e. not every female is meant to be sexy):

- Bioshock (creepy little girls, non-sexy splicers of all types, helpful older female doctor)
- Left 4 Dead (especially 2! Female boomers! Female spitters even!)
- Zelda: Twilight Princess (has a tomboy explorer, a heavy barmaid, Midna, hell Zelda isn't really sexy, although she has a certain appeal as a warrior/queen)
- Portal (1 and 2, two female lead characters! Neither of them eye candy)
- The Metroid Prime series (cheating a bit since Nintendo keeps insisting on making Samus a pretty blonde, still 98% of the game she's more like an armored tank)

Is it a coincidence that that these all happen to be excellent and creative games, too?
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:12 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I never thought about it, but why the hell aren't there female characters in TF2?

Valve answered this at the game's beginning: they didn't want the violent nature of the game to fetishize violence against women and they didn't want their female characters to be sexualized. Which is a good reason.

That having been said, the demand for female TF2 characters is a lot more prominent now, and basically seems to be "let the girls in on the fun" rather than "I need a Hot Female Soldier to whom I can masturbate," so, yeah, time for female skins for all of the characters. Except the Pyro, because that's funny.
posted by mightygodking at 9:13 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


one of my old drawing teachers said, that the biggest cues for "female" are eyelashes and lips, so you can kinda draw whatever and add those cues and it'll allow a broader variety than if you get hung up trying to make the whole thing look feminine

That's interesting; I usually start out thinking of skull/jaw shape as the big signifier for the face, and then work down to the body from there. I'll have to spend lunch messing around with eyelashes and lips on different head shapes.
posted by COBRA! at 9:14 AM on August 9, 2011


Looking at video games, there's the Female Shepard issue as well.

Some interesting analysis of that whole situation (including the PA strip) here. I have to admit I'm apprehensive about ME3, but I'm not doom and gloom like a lot of folk seem to already be. I see a lot of marketing BS that's mostly the fault of EA PR. I'm still hopeful that the game itself will be good.

But then I also liked DA2, so clearly I'm defective.
posted by kmz at 9:14 AM on August 9, 2011


I never thought about it, but why the hell aren't there female characters in TF2? Valve, go fix this already.

Valve said early on that they had problems, especially in international regions, with the game depicting violent brutality against women. As far as a complete set of both genders, the game balance would almost mandate that the silhouettes remain the same for each character, which would require an extensive amount of extra design time to go from making one unique character to a second unique character that also looks like the first one. And Valve isn't exactly good with keeping a schedule to begin with.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:16 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metroid Prime

Until you get to Other M. Which just... ugh. No.
posted by kmz at 9:17 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why are men allowed to have varied body types and personalities in video games, but women generally fit a narrow stereotype?

Huh? Men in video games, 99% of the time, are sprung from the same Hunky Adonis® mold, just like in comic books--the type of body that is not only unattainable, but often anatomically impossible. Disproportionately giant gazongas are not nearly as ridiculous as 75" biceps.

But we're talking fantasy heroes here; these are the kind of characters that have been depicted as the Perfect Ideal for millennia. As ridiculous as the phenomenon is, I give it a pass.

Now, that isn't to say there's no place for realism and inclusiveness in games and comics. There really does need to be a lot more of it.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:19 AM on August 9, 2011


Men are not allowed varied body types.

Hmm. I think in most video games, men are either overmuscled, gravelly-voiced space marine types or, if their role calls for them to be smart or sneaky, tall and skinny. Women tend to be hourglass-model body types, with a degree of waifishness commensurate to whether they need rescuing or are doing the rescuing, but it's true that while there's slightly less variety available to women, there's not a lot of variety there either way.

I think a bigger concern is that in most video games, women aren't allowed to be player characters at all.
posted by mhoye at 9:19 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


When the Mass Effect 3 information started to trickle out, there was a video by one of the art staff discussing how they were having an incredibly frustrating time trying to conceptualize the female version of the alien races in the game. This blew my mind. They're aliens. They don't need to fall under a human concept of mammalian reproduction. This should be a gleeful softball to any artist with half a love for invention but it was an issue. When the professional artists of one of the more flexible developers in the industry are stuck in the "add tits and/or lipstick to equal a female character design" mindset, there's something troubling globally.

There's feminine cues and then there's not knowing how to communicate with anything but very particular stereotypes.
posted by cheap paper at 9:19 AM on August 9, 2011 [13 favorites]


Other M was never released, sadly an industrial fire melted every copy shortly before launch.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:20 AM on August 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


"add tits and/or lipstick to equal a female character design"

Bow in the hair! Bow in the hair! (See Ms. Pac-Man, Dixie Kong.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:24 AM on August 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


I want the female spy to be dressed like Emma Peel. Mostly because that's about the right look for that subgenre of spy.

And I completely parse the Pyro as female, even before an update started interchanging female pronouns with the male. I think it's the cute flowery handbag in the Pyro's cabinet in one of the locker rooms that did it for me. Plus, I'm a chick and I like fire, so there's some projection going on there.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:24 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Men are not allowed varied body types.

I think the author covered this quite nicely already. Look at Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat for a perfect example. There is a range of male body types and styles. All the female fighters are closer in build and height.

Or better yet, look at Batman: Arkham Asylum. The creators got to take amazing liberties with their depictions of the characters: Killer Croc became an 11-foot mutant. The Joker looked almost emaciated and corpse-like. Scarecrow got a gas mask and weapons on his hands. The penguin and his trademark dumpy body will be in the sequel, as will a gangly Riddler.

Harley Quinn had her pants taken off and her hair put in pigtails.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:28 AM on August 9, 2011 [22 favorites]


I completely parse the Pyro as female, even before an update started interchanging female pronouns with the male. I think it's the cute flowery handbag in the Pyro's cabinet in one of the locker rooms that did it for me.

And also this incident

Well ok, that was fan art, but of the sort that exceeds the original :)
posted by -harlequin- at 9:29 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Her character designs make me giggly-happy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:30 AM on August 9, 2011


Or better yet, look at Batman: Arkham Asylum.

To be fair, that's more of a failing of the comics industry than the videogame industry. Rocksteady created a faithful 3D transition of comic book art. Batman looks just as ridiculous in my opinion, I can't find a link, but someone made a "no suit" mod for Batman which is worth a few laughs.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:34 AM on August 9, 2011


Valve answered this at the game's beginning: they didn't want the violent nature of the game to fetishize violence against women and they didn't want their female characters to be sexualized. Which is a good reason.

Uh . . . excluding female characters seems like the wrong reaction. Why not just depict female characters who are not sexualized stereotypes/objects and instead are capable enactors of violence? Why not be careful about the way you animate violence against women to ensure that it's not fetishistic?

Oh, right, sorry, because it's too hard. Sorry, but I call bullshit. If they can have a bunch of different body shapes of male characters, there's no reason they couldn't have made some of those female (and an absence of, say, female medics just reinforces the idea that doctors are by default male).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:39 AM on August 9, 2011 [11 favorites]


Rocksteady created a faithful 3D transition of comic book art.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that Harley's new sexed-up costume was made specifically for that game. Was it in the comics before then?
posted by Greg Nog at 9:39 AM on August 9, 2011


Harley Quinn had her pants taken off and her hair put in pigtails.

This was so disappointing. I really enjoyed a lot of things about that game, but I cringed every time Harley came on screen.
posted by IAmUnaware at 9:40 AM on August 9, 2011


There's feminine cues and then there's not knowing how to communicate with anything but very particular stereotypes.

I had this problem with the aliens in Avatar. It just seems completely statistically unlikely that humans would be able to look at another two-sex race and tell which ones were male and which ones were female. I recognize the reasons for having essentially blue-humans, but it completely throws me every time it happens.
posted by muddgirl at 9:40 AM on August 9, 2011


Rocksteady created a faithful 3D transition of comic book art.

Harley Quinn in the comic book and animated series.

Harley Quinn in Arkham Asylum.

Look, I loved the game but the rendition of Harley wasn't faithful to any previous depiction of her. It wasn't like a "let's use the sexiest version of her" thing; they just pulled it out of thin air. It was faithful to the belief that showing her blonde hair, cleavage and thighs would make better promo art than a bodysuit.

And the worst part is, now they're going to redesign Harley Quinn in the new DC reboot to look like her model in the game's sequel. God damn it, everyone.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:42 AM on August 9, 2011 [13 favorites]


Seriously, Harley's new outfit should just be her wearing a giant sandwich board that reads MISSING THE POINT.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:45 AM on August 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure how varied I'd say men in videogames are (mainly unshaven, muscly dudes with gravely voices and terse demeanors)

I can't really get past the question fail. Men are not allowed varied body types. TF2 is just one of the rare exceptions

Huh? Men in video games, 99% of the time, are sprung from the same Hunky Adonis® mold, just like in comic books.


I think it depends on the games you're playing. If you're playing sports games or FPSs, you're probably going to have a bunch of strong, muscly dudes running around smashing stuff and/or carrying big guns. In these contexts, it makes a certain amount of sense that the male characters are going to be big musclebound guys. they would have to be somewhat fit to do what they're doing on the screen.

But some of the most successful games ever released involve characters who are fat Italian plumbers. Some of my faves from Valve involve a guy who we presume is a science nerd and can only really do heavy lifting when he puts on a powered suit. A lot of RPGs involve children or guys of slight build which often factors into the story. It's certainly not uncommon for male characters to be all kinds of different shapes and sizes.

Uh . . . excluding female characters seems like the wrong reaction. Why not just depict female characters who are not sexualized stereotypes/objects and instead are capable enactors of violence? Why not be careful about the way you animate violence against women to ensure that it's not fetishistic?

Out of curiosity, do you play much TF2? Half the time when I log in I have to hear racist, misogynist, homophobic nonsense coming out of the mouths of the idiot teenage boys playing these games. My own feeling is that no matter how you animate it, it would have very little to do whether it turns into a disturbing example of violence against women.
posted by Hoopo at 9:48 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can we get some male video game protagonists without shaved/buzzed haircuts now and then, please?
posted by ShutterBun at 9:50 AM on August 9, 2011


Can we get some male video game protagonists without shaved/buzzed haircuts now and then, please?

Certainly then. Wish it was now.
posted by NationalKato at 9:53 AM on August 9, 2011


Out of curiosity, do you play much TF2? Half the time when I log in I have to hear racist, misogynist, homophobic nonsense coming out of the mouths of the idiot teenage boys playing these games. My own feeling is that no matter how you animate it, it would have very little to do whether it turns into a disturbing example of violence against women.

No, I've never played. But honestly, when I do game, if I see that there are no options for playing female characters (or, er, Yoshi), I often won't, anyway. The character types have an absolute effect on whether or not I play a game, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. It's cyclical: offer only offensive models of women, or only models of men, and you're not going to get a lot of women playing--helps to reinforce that women aren't welcome, which is probably reflected in the behavior of the player base.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:54 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


And the worst part is, now they're going to redesign Harley Quinn in the new DC reboot to look like her model in the game's sequel. God damn it, everyone.

I wish she looked like the Arkham City version in the new reboot. And I never thought I'd say that.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:57 AM on August 9, 2011


one of my old drawing teachers said, that the biggest cues for "female" are eyelashes and lips, so you can kinda draw whatever and add those cues and it'll allow a broader variety than if you get hung up trying to make the whole thing look feminine

That's interesting; I usually start out thinking of skull/jaw shape as the big signifier for the face, and then work down to the body from there. I'll have to spend lunch messing around with eyelashes and lips on different head shapes.


Hmph, well, long eyelashes may signify "girly" because we want them to, but I don't believe they actually are; you meet many men who have them, in my experience. I don't know that that trait is actually sex-linked. And many dudes also have pouty lips and many women don't.

I always thought the biggest physical cues for actual female faces were smaller/rounder or narrower features and lighter eyebrows then most men would have. And if your marginally-female face is attached to a body with boobs (of whatever size), and is referred to as "she" you probably don't need long eyelashes or pouty lips or a sweeping mane of hair to get your point across.

Of course, I have a thing for androgynous/gender bending characters, so any ambiguity would actually be a plus in my book.
posted by emjaybee at 9:57 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


PhoBWanKenobi: It might be worth looking up the class introduction videos, "Meet the Soldier" will give you a good sense of the game.

You couldn't do what you're suggesting and still have Team Fortress 2 as it exists. TF2 is all about glorifying violence. All of the characters are exaggerated stereotypes and the entire point of the game is stylishly executed fast paced mayhem.
posted by Grimgrin at 10:01 AM on August 9, 2011


Can we get some male video game protagonists without shaved/buzzed haircuts now and then, please?

Nathan Drake, most of the the Street Fighter guys, John Marston, Mario and Luigi, Mordecai in Borderlands, Link, Solid Snake, etc etc.
posted by kmz at 10:02 AM on August 9, 2011


I can't really get past the question fail. Men are not allowed varied body types. TF2 is just one of the rare exceptions.

This is relative, but yes, they certainly are. The question is valid.

they didn't want the violent nature of the game to fetishize violence against women and they didn't want their female characters to be sexualized. Which is a good reason.

As a female and a gamer, this notion, frankly, is patronizing. This is like that LAN party in Texas for Battlefield 3 uninviting women to avoid men acting like jerks toward us instead of tackling the actual problem and/or policing it.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:02 AM on August 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


And Valve isn't exactly good with keeping a schedule to begin with.

Valve Time: Make an estimate on time to complete something. Double it and add six months. Make Half-Life Episode 3 joke. Repeat any above step as necessary.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:04 AM on August 9, 2011


I imagine it depends on what games you play. For example, for me personally, it doesn't ring true, because I'm used to Bethesda games, wherein there are exactly three body types (adult male, adult female, child), and everyone is bizarrely ugly.
posted by Flunkie at 10:04 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think a Female Scout would just be a recolor of Aeon Flux.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:11 AM on August 9, 2011


PhoBWanKenobi: It might be worth looking up the class introduction videos, "Meet the Soldier" will give you a good sense of the game.

You couldn't do what you're suggesting and still have Team Fortress 2 as it exists. TF2 is all about glorifying violence. All of the characters are exaggerated stereotypes and the entire point of the game is stylishly executed fast paced mayhem.


I still don't see why you couldn't do that video with female soldiers in place. For example, one of the ways video game deaths of women are fetishistic is through making sexualized death noises. But in this video, the voice acting is silly and neutral. This is what I meant by "making women capable enactors of violence"--don't have them flop down like orgasmic rag dolls when they die, and you're already well on your way to not glorifying violence against women. Make them look like capable doctors and soldiers and heavy weapons fighters and you're doing one better.

One of my favorites in high school was the dreamcast version of Soulcalibur. My female best friend and I never played Taki or Ivy because they were gross, but Seong Mi-na and Sophitia seemed capable and strong even if their outfits were kind of ridiculous.

I wouldn't play the series now. The designers have shown pretty clearly that women are to be regarded as nothing more than boobs with heads attached. That makes me sad. I really enjoyed kicking ass in that game, back in the day.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:11 AM on August 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


> Out of curiosity, do you play much TF2? Half the time when I log in I have to hear racist, misogynist, homophobic nonsense coming out of the mouths of the idiot teenage boys playing these games.

There are oases of rational, reasonable gameplay out there where such behaviour will earn a rapid banhammering. Our own MeFightClub Public Server, for example: aka The Pubbie. Feel free to join us for a good-natured slaughterfest.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 10:12 AM on August 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think a Female Scout would just be a recolor of Aeon Flux.

Not enough South Boston/Dot Rat attitude. Less Aeon Flux, more "Gone Baby Gone"... :)
"YAAAH! I'M WICKED PISSAH AND YOU'RE PRETTY CONCEITED FOR HOW MUCH YOU SUCK!"
posted by rmd1023 at 10:18 AM on August 9, 2011


In particular, women warrior characters are invariably baring cleavage or midriffs that seem like obvious targets to, you know, stab with a sword or something.
Others have noted that, too.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:20 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


"My female best friend and I never played Taki or Ivy because they were gross, but Seong Mi-na and Sophitia seemed capable and strong even if their outfits were kind of ridiculous."

That's a shame — Taki's probably the best character in the game (at least for how I play). Seong's too slow, and Sophita's just kinda average. Especially against Cervantes and Sigfried, who were favored by my button-mashing friends.
posted by klangklangston at 10:21 AM on August 9, 2011


The more pressing question is why there is no female Voldo. WE DEMAND VOLDINA.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 10:23 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's a shame — Taki's probably the best character in the game (at least for how I play). Seong's too slow, and Sophita's just kinda average. Especially against Cervantes and Sigfried, who were favored by my button-mashing friends.

I just couldn't get over the camel toe.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:24 AM on August 9, 2011


Maybe it's just me, but the "flaws" are usually the most attractive part on a person. At the very least, they (somewhat tautologically) are what makes them them. Seriously, most of the women I've known have hated whatever it was about themselves that I liked the most (because it makes them stand out). You're beautiful, just be you.

Normal is boring. Bland. You don't have to go outlandish with body mods or hair dye. Just be you, rather than working towards some unified ideal (your own ideal you is fine, just don't be a slave to conformity). I like real women (and men, but not in that way, dude).
posted by Eideteker at 10:24 AM on August 9, 2011


From what I can tell, it's not that men don't get different body types in video games, it's that protagonists don't, especially in single-player FPS games. If you're playing a first-person shooter, you're going to have a body type that ranges from "wiry" to "pro wrestler", whether you're a supersoldier or a shut-in hacker. You're also, with a few exceptions, going to be unrealistically young--my friend and I worked out once that Gordon Freeman would have had to have either gotten two college degrees, one of them a Ph.D., in at most seven years, or started tertiary education when he was about sixteen. All basically just because Valve seemed to have decided that their hero couldn't be over thirty.

Arkham Asylum was my go-to example for body ridiculousness (there are two female characters and their body types are almost exactly alike, while the male characters range tremendously), but most games, even the ones the author discussed above, seem to have both fewer female characters and less variation in the character's looks. Take Half-Life 2, for example: On the (named) female side you've got two relatively young, thin, conventionally attractive women (Alyx and Mossman), albeit of different races. On the male side you've got Eli (middle-aged, black, tall, medium build), Barney (white, stocky, young), Father Grigori (Eastern European, short, also stocky), the G-Man (tall, thin, possibly alien), and Dr. Breen (older, medium-build, white-haired). To their credit, they do a great job of differentiating Alyx and Mossman in things like dress and posture, but there's still demonstrably less variance in female characters than in male ones, and while many of the male characters wouldn't necessarily be described as attractive, all the female characters would.

It's not just that we want our protagonists to be idealized fantasy characters, although that's something that I'd like to see die out of games a bit. It's also a big ball of preconceptions about gender--predominantly the idea that men should be strong and women should be beautiful--and the idea that women, particularly in video games, are a combination of token and strategically-deployed Chekhov's Gun (even Alyx is ultimately a love interest). I could point to a lot of games that do good things (Bioshock 2, in particular, has a lot of women-as-real-characters), but non-fanservice and non-love interest women are still very much minorities in just about all media.
posted by Tubalcain at 10:25 AM on August 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


(And yes, that thing you hate about yourself? Often, it's your best feature.)
posted by Eideteker at 10:25 AM on August 9, 2011


My female best friend and I never played Taki or Ivy because they were gross, but Seong Mi-na and Sophitia seemed capable and strong even if their outfits were kind of ridiculous.

Honestly, Ivy is a really fun character to play. The outfits and giant impossibly constructed boobs are ridiculous, sure, but I personally weigh gameplay as a factor. Though my favorites to play were Voldo and Nightmare. I also enjoy Talim, Raphael, and Cervantes. This series (probably my favorite fighting series) has a variety of shapes for the men, and actually bits of diversity among the women too. Like the aforementioned Talim or Sophitia.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:28 AM on August 9, 2011


Of course, I have a thing for androgynous/gender bending characters, so any ambiguity would actually be a plus in my book.

Ash Crimson from the King of Fighters series. Male dresses/wears hair androgynous.

Bridget from the Guilty Gear series. Male that was raised and dresses like a female.

Birdo from the Mario series. Male that thinks she's female.

Poison from Final Fight series. Transsexual.

All Japanese designed.
posted by FJT at 10:37 AM on August 9, 2011


All Japanese designed.

There are a lot of characters like that who don't make it across the pond for fear of "offending American sensibilities" or whatever. They generally get changed into a straight, cis, white male--Why, yes, that's far less offensive! Ugh.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:41 AM on August 9, 2011


"I just couldn't get over the camel toe."

Hah! I never noticed!
posted by klangklangston at 10:42 AM on August 9, 2011


Who are you talking to, Eideteker?

Also, I wish there were more varied characters to choose from in video games. I'll usually go with the road less traveled when I have any option, if only because it's nice to have a little variety, so I'm often choosing female characters if they're available.

I've got a soft spot for Taki simply because she was the first character I beat Soul Calibur 2 with in the arcade. I don't remember her looking nearly as... unbalanced back then though.
posted by ODiV at 10:45 AM on August 9, 2011


(even Alyx is ultimately a love interest)

Wait, what? When did that happen? Did Episode 3 come out and I missed it?

I may have a crush on the capable Miss Vance, but I never saw Gordon Freeman love anything but crowbars, ventilation ducts, and SCIENCE.
posted by IAmUnaware at 10:47 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just thought of a couple more, and it's females that dress like males:

King from the King of Fighter series

Crimson Viper from the Street Fighter Series.

Jo Slade from Dead Rising.

Yes, fighting games like to do this ALOT. I don't know why.
posted by FJT at 10:48 AM on August 9, 2011


Oh wait, it was the original Soul Calibur in the arcade. I keep thinking it was Soul Calibur 2 because it was the sequel to Soul Edge.
posted by ODiV at 10:50 AM on August 9, 2011


my friend and I worked out once that Gordon Freeman would have had to have either gotten two college degrees, one of them a Ph.D., in at most seven years, or started tertiary education when he was about sixteen. All basically just because Valve seemed to have decided that their hero couldn't be over thirty

Buh? Someone hitting their educational milestones at standard ages would end up with a physical-sciences PhD at 26 or 27. And lots of people skip a year someone in their primary or secondary education, or only take 3 years in undergraduate because of AP credit, etc.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:59 AM on August 9, 2011


Men are not allowed varied body types.

I think the author covered this quite nicely already. Look at Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat for a perfect example. There is a range of male body types and styles. All the female fighters are closer in build and height.


Not sure which versions you're playing, but even your perfect examples disagree. Sheeva was usually depicted with a hulking body-builder's physique, for example.
This is as pointless as saying the problem doesn't exist because Q3A is a perfect example of how players do have a range of female body types.

The exceptions don't mean much, this problem is across the board and across the genders.

(I'll also point out that the wasp-waisted giant-DD-chested playboy-fantasy body is a different body type from the square-hips B-chest girlish figure - both are common in games, but people seem to be counting them as the same body type, probably because both of them are thin (in most places))
posted by -harlequin- at 11:00 AM on August 9, 2011


Honestly, Ivy is a really fun character to play. The outfits and giant impossibly constructed boobs are ridiculous, sure, but I personally weigh gameplay as a factor. Though my favorites to play were Voldo and Nightmare. I also enjoy Talim, Raphael, and Cervantes. This series (probably my favorite fighting series) has a variety of shapes for the men, and actually bits of diversity among the women too. Like the aforementioned Talim or Sophitia.

I forgot Xianghua. She's pretty okay, too.

I'm able to do that to an extent--and even willing to play as male characters if I identify with them in some way (I played quite a bit as Kilik), but I just think it sucks that female gamers always have to do that--to look past the impractical/impossible boobs and outfits, to identify with male characters, to very very rarely ever see women that look like themselves or the women around them in video games. It's alienating, even beyond what you normally see in our society. And even though I'm sure I would love the new games if I forced myself to adapt to all of that, I just can't bring myself to do it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:00 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Harley Quinn had her pants taken off and her hair put in pigtails.

To be fair, the pigtails are canon, and have been ever since the first time we saw her out of costume in Batman: The Animated Series. They fit into the two tails on her jester hat.
posted by baf at 11:01 AM on August 9, 2011


NiceGuyMike, I'm glad you have found a video game server that you like, but please don't use the term "banhammer", as a person told me that they mentally filter it to "banweener" and now I can't stop doing that either.

I am glad they didn't use Ivan the Space Biker for Gordon.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:02 AM on August 9, 2011


Not that I don't think the female form is is exploited a lot in gaming, but because of the long, difficult history of feminism and women's right's issues, it is harder to present a non-conformist image of a woman without being perceived as trying to making a political point, when many games try hard to be apolitical, for purposes of not reducing the size of their audience. If you try hard enough to be apolitical, you end up actually being conformist. And of course, much of that audience is less than enlightened concerning women's issues.

Regarding Ivy from Soul Calibur: The character started out as a generic dominatrix in fetishwear, which is like, impractical for combat but okay it's a vidyagaim. But like with Taki from the same series, the model has progressed to the point of grotesque parody, where she's not distracting to play because of the titillation factor (which I find has actually decreased as the character rockets away from even vague recognition of physical reality) but because one starts to wince while watching her. Taki has come to the point where they don't read as breasts any more; she's wearing balloons under that skin-tight outfit.
posted by JHarris at 11:04 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just wanna thank Volition for building a character creator in Saint's Row 2 that allows you to choose anywhere between emaciated to morbidly obese, with an additional dimension of muscliness. Not to mention letting you pick any male or female voice for any body you create, and letting you put anyone's hair or clothes on your creation.

Not that that matters because obviously the hot dog suit is the best clothes.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:09 AM on August 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's funny, I actually deal with the same problem in my own art; I feel like I'm good at producing a wide variety of builds and faces for men, but I really have to struggle to keep from using the same skull, face, and body for women. I'm not sure where this comes from, but I was really bummed out when I noticed it was a problem.
posted by COBRA!
One of my favorite comics series is The Preacher and even in that, amongst all of the amazingly drawn sceneries and characters, I noticed a lot of the women have the same faces. So it is not just you.

BUT! I've recently been reading Y: The Last Man and, well, they've needed a lot more differing women's faces in there (if it's not obvious enough from the title). I haven't been specifically looking for it, but I have not noticed any real duplicate faces. Maybe check it out to get some other ideas of people or do more life drawings like someone said above of the many types of women you see in the real world. :)

...

I have to say, in some video games, I have to laugh at how a person actually programmed the breast jiggle. If there's a fat barmaid, she has large breasts and, even if she barely moves much, her breasts jiggle when she talks. Do game programmers have to play rock/paper/scissors for who "gets" to develop the breast jiggle algorithm? What self-respecting adult decides the barmaid needs to jiggle?

...

I thought the character development for the medic was amazing in this post. I'm a little disappointed in the medic chosen, but only because some of the other ideas were just that much more fantastic.
posted by jillithd at 11:11 AM on August 9, 2011


Here are some screenshots for the original Soul Calibur on Dreamcast. I wonder if it was just the technology keeping them "back".
posted by ODiV at 11:15 AM on August 9, 2011


They want to look at modern day video game women and overlook, almost immediately, one of the things that makes TF2 amazingly good: The Announcer.

She's got a great voice, awesome lines, she has character, she looks stunning in comparison to most other bland (and by bland I mean by-the-numbers-attractive) video game women. And she's in charge! Of both teams!
posted by Slackermagee at 11:16 AM on August 9, 2011


Okay, so here's what we had worked out:

Gordon is 27 at the start of Half-Life. He's not fresh out of his Ph.D. at that point--it's mentioned that he's already done one post-doc (which usually last two years) in Austria, I think. Assuming he got the Black Mesa job basically right afterwards, and got the postdoc straight out of college, he was done with his Ph.D. at 25. This is doable, but pretty young--it means he went straight out of college to his Ph.D., then either did a combination Ph.D. and B.A. (which do exist--there's a six-year one at at least one school, although it's considered extremely difficult) or graduated high school quite early and went straight into both degrees. It's not like he's superhuman, but it's a weird foreshortening that's either meant to make Gordon out to be especially talented (nice job flipping that switch!) or was meant to push him down into the 20-something demographic.

And Alyx is pretty clearly shown as having a crush on Gordon, to the point where there's a section in her wiki character bio entitled "Relationship with Gordon Freeman" that claims a developer commentary has confirmed that an Alyx/Gordon relationship is intended. It's not like I don't love the character, and she certainly stands on her own, but she is a bit of a love interest.
posted by Tubalcain at 11:17 AM on August 9, 2011


I may have a crush on the capable Miss Vance, but I never saw Gordon Freeman love anything but crowbars, ventilation ducts, and SCIENCE.

Miss Vance was totally giving you the eyes, but Gordon cockblocked you for SCIENCE.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:18 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Throughout the diaspora of modern games...

This word does not mean what I think you think it means.
posted by zylocomotion at 11:20 AM on August 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


What the stereotype problem says about game designers
- they think female characters exist only for the sexual gratification of male gamers
- they think men find only one female body type attractive

Depressing on both fronts


At the risk of going slightly off topic...

This makes me so mad. Getting strong non-sexualized female characters in games is something most intelligent game developers want. I wish I could share the internal discussions and arguments on female characters between the designers, artists, programmers, audio, FX, producers... everyone pretty much saying how much they want them and why market research sucks and we should just ignore it and follow our creative impulses, money-be-damned!

(Arguments got so vocal last time that HR asked people to cool off. It makes me so proud.)

Game developers are a lot less one-dimensional than most people make them out to be. We're not all perfect - there's plenty of crappy misogynist dudes around making decisions - but the reason there's fewer (i.e. nearly none) female protagonists in popular, big-budget games is varied and complex, and tied directly to risk and financial cost rather than creative bankruptcy.

Which is why you all should support games that have good female protagonists by buying them. Preferably in bulk.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 11:33 AM on August 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


Don't worry, as soon as I complete my deal with EA for UCI Directeur Sportif 2013, everyone will get the same body type, regardless of gender: emaciated upper body, slightly hunched over, massive thighs.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:37 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


But, aren't a lot of the video games the equivalent of the BIG DUMB Michael Bay summer action type movies? They aren't really aiming for artistic quality or making a statement. Would Transformers have been better if they cast Ellen Page instead of Shia LeBouf?

And, I appreciate the TF2 designs, but it just seems like they're taking Lego minifigs and replacing the short hair with long hair and then saying, "Hey, gender problems solved!" I'd really like to see a more ground up game made to incorporate these design ideas.
posted by FJT at 11:38 AM on August 9, 2011


Would Transformers have been better if they cast Ellen Page instead of Shia LeBouf?

There'd be one less robot on the screen, that's for sure.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:40 AM on August 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


Post-vocabulary snark: excellent work. Pendulous 'toon breasts have always kind of freaked me out. Hyper-muscular male 'toons, too, but I guess it's better than having thin guys with increasingly massive, bouncy codpieces running around. Like, the size of one of catwoman's breasts in the linked article - that size of man-bulge. I'm gay and I shudder at the thought. Seriously, look at the size of her left breast. I bet it eats its own meals.

This woman's work is phenomenal, in terms of keeping true the original design aesthetic. Brilliant stuff.
posted by zylocomotion at 11:44 AM on August 9, 2011


The YouTube likes/dislikes:

Medic: 136/13 (91%)
Spy: 92/2 (98%)
Heavy: 73/45 (62%)

I didn't expect it to be so blatant, but I'm really not surprised.
posted by Who_Am_I at 11:50 AM on August 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


And, I appreciate the TF2 designs, but it just seems like they're taking Lego minifigs and replacing the short hair with long hair and then saying, "Hey, gender problems solved!" I'd really like to see a more ground up game made to incorporate these design ideas.

I'm not so sure a from-the-ground-up approach would be necessary in TF2. There's no story there, and you're not learning anything about the characters throughout the game other than what their weapons can do. The characters of TF2 are basically placeholders for a set of weapons with amusing cartoonish appearances and catch phrases. There's no reason you couldn't just re-skin a few of them as female in my mind; it would change nothing about the experience, and nothing about the experience requires the characters to be male.
posted by Hoopo at 11:52 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


or overwhelmingly white, come to think of it.
posted by ODiV at 11:53 AM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's so much a question of "X would be more artistic with women" so much as the fact that we're too used to women being invisible in basically everything that's not sex, romance, or childbearing-related. When most of the stories out there--even the big, dumb ones--implicitly exclude women as anything other than attractive set pieces, girlfriends/wives, mothers, or victims, we're really limiting the stories that we give people to frame their lives, and the things that people imagine themselves as or aspire to. Stories aren't everything, but they are something. The whole point is that if including women in something is seen as "making a statement", something is very wrong.

It's also not just a video game thing, or a Michael Bay thing, as this comic points out. See especially literary fiction of the twentieth century.
posted by Tubalcain at 12:03 PM on August 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


And Alyx is pretty clearly shown as having a crush on Gordon, to the point where there's a section in her wiki character bio entitled "Relationship with Gordon Freeman" that claims a developer commentary has confirmed that an Alyx/Gordon relationship is intended.

Well, I certainly don't remember any such commentary, but it's been long enough since I played through the commentary that I'll grant that my memory is as trustworthy as a wiki. However, no matter what some guy on the internet thinks or what a dev intended, there's no love interest stuff in the game. I mean, Gordon isn't even really a character in the classical sense during the period that you're playing him. He doesn't express emotions, have thoughts, or communicate with others except via gunfire and crowbar. Declaring her a love interest because she thinks Gordon Freeman is neato (WHICH HE IS) would be like declaring me her love interest based on my previously admitted crush.

Besides, every character in that universe that doesn't have a huge crush on Gordon Freeman is just a less realistic character. How could you not love that self-assured goatee?
posted by IAmUnaware at 12:06 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would Transformers have been better if they cast Ellen Page instead of Shia LeBouf?

Would it have been worse?

(Trick question: nothing could make the Transformers movies worse.)
posted by kmz at 12:07 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


zylocomotion: "Seriously, look at the size of her left breast. I bet it eats its own meals. "

o.O
posted by zarq at 12:07 PM on August 9, 2011


kmz: " (Trick question: nothing could make the Transformers movies worse.)"

"Directed by Uwe Boll"
posted by zarq at 12:08 PM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


IAmUnaware, you should read some HL fanfic. Crowbar communication seems to work just fine.
posted by Tubalcain at 12:12 PM on August 9, 2011


After chewing it over for a while, I can understand why people object to the ME3 default FemShep; the default ME/ME2 FemShep* had this inherent don't-fuck-with-me look that I liked, whereas the new FemShep just looks pissed that she put on too much mascara. I'll probably just be importing my FemShep from ME2, anyway.

*using that term for convenience's sake; I also get the inherent "othering", and will feel free to use MascShep when/where appropriate.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:14 PM on August 9, 2011


Ah, I... suppose it would.
posted by IAmUnaware at 12:14 PM on August 9, 2011


IAmUnaware: I think Alyx pretty clearly has something of a crush on Gordon. There's at least one instance, possibly a few - I don't recall exactly - when she gets kind of 'aww shucks' embarassed about it. Also, in Black Mesa East, Eli says "There is nothing Gordon cannot handle..with the possible exception of you." to her, which always struck me as having a 'friendly jab about a crush' quality to it given Alyx's response.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:28 PM on August 9, 2011


The bit about Birdo being male started as a joke in the manual to the American game Super Mario Bros 2 (released in Japan as Super Mario Bros USA). The character wasn't expected to show up again, but then Mario Kart came around and her gender became canonical.
posted by LogicalDash at 2:03 PM on August 9, 2011


(released in Japan as Super Mario Bros USA)

It was rereleased in Japan as Super Mario USA. It was originally released as Dream Factory: Doki Doki Panic.
posted by lumensimus at 2:12 PM on August 9, 2011


I'm not so sure a from-the-ground-up approach would be necessary in TF2. There's no story there, and you're not learning anything about the characters throughout the game other than what their weapons can do. The characters of TF2 are basically placeholders for a set of weapons with amusing cartoonish appearances and catch phrases. There's no reason you couldn't just re-skin a few of them as female in my mind; it would change nothing about the experience, and nothing about the experience requires the characters to be male.

But to say that TF2 is only the game would be false. There's a reason why Valve spent time with art design, character design, voice acting, dialogue writing, and other creative efforts. They've slowly been fleshing out a greater universe that includes the "Meet the Team" videos, online comics, and game updates that pull the "story" along (e.g., Spy vs. Sniper, Demoman vs. Soldier). So the character classes aren't just generic mooks.

I think TF2 is not a good example to use as a simple "A to B" gender swap that would work for a game. If Valve simply added female alternates and omitted them from all story related media, then it would be strange, as if the female classes were just added as an afterthought.

Personally, it would feel lazy if Valve just dropped a bunch of female skins that were simply gender swaps with everything else the same. It smacks too much of the whole Superwoman looks like Superman, except female kind of thing. If Valve did go through with it, I see it as an opportunity to make a whole new set of characters that go beyond just "female version of X".
posted by FJT at 2:31 PM on August 9, 2011


Valve, please hire this person.
posted by Miles Long at 2:53 PM on August 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


I realize that I'm a little late to the party but there were just a couple of things that I wanted to comment on as briefly as possible. First, those skins all look amazing. I particularly like the Heavy.

Second, in regards to Valve and TF2 I personally don't think they didn't include female characters because it would be "too hard". They have pretty clearly stated that they felt that violence against women on the scale that it would be depicted in TF2, would be inherently fetishistic, especially in "other markets" (not sure what that means). They were decided that - regardless of body structure - they did not want to portray violent gib-ings of women on that scale.

Third, the Harley Quinn redesign in Arkham Asylum is admittedly laughable, but I thought it was at least somewhat in line with her character. She seemed incredibly naive in her affection for the Joker and was totally incapable of realizing how he was just using her. I found that the Joker-ized school girl look sort of fit that personality. I also found her pitiable rather than sexual, but that's just me. (To be fair, they could've easily gone with a different personality for the character and then used a less ridiculous body-type/character design).

Finally (takes deep breath), I think it was pretty obvious that Alyx has a crush on Gordon Freeman in Half-Life 2, but I don't think that it was quite as simplistic or uninspired as the usual every-girl-loves-the-hero type of thing. Alyx has fond memories of Gordon from her childhood (and from before the world became a dystopia). Also, Gordon quite literally saved the planet and is in the process of doing it a second time. I would have a crush on Gordon Freeman, too, and I'm pretty sure I'd have a crush on Gordette Freeman as well.

TL;DR: Yikes, that was long. (1) Awesome skins; (2) Valve had other mitigating factors other than it was too hard to put females in TF2; (3) Harley Quinn was ridiculously designed but she just made me sad; (4) Everybody ♥s Gordon Freeman. He is the one Free Man, after all.
posted by redspraypaint at 3:19 PM on August 9, 2011


Valve, please hire this person.

She's working for Gearbox on Borderlands 2, so Valve will have to wait.
posted by kmz at 3:26 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I admittedly haven't played TF2, but it seems like splitting hairs to say there's a difference between "We can't think of a way to portray violence against women without fetishizing it" and "It's too hard to portray violence against women without fetishizing it." Honestly I don't understand either sentiment (again, I haven't played TF2). What countries are prone to fetishizing violence against women? Isn't there a reverse consideration, where allowing players to weild a female (but not necessarily feminine-encoded) avatar as an agent of lighthearted violence could be empowering to both male and female players? Why does the first consideration outweigh the second? (I don't expect TF2 creators or anyone else to answer these questions, by the way)

Personally, it would feel lazy if Valve just dropped a bunch of female skins that were simply gender swaps with everything else the same.

Isn't this presupposing that a male skin is the neutral or default skin and that a female skin would be deviant or alternate? Or that female characters would be inherently and fundamentally different than male characters in the same role?

I don't think anyone's arguing that there's a whole lot of gameplayer value in female skins at this point in TF2's lifecyle - I figured this was more of a creative thought experiment that will hopefully alter how game designers think of character design in the future.
posted by muddgirl at 3:53 PM on August 9, 2011


I admittedly haven't played TF2, but it seems like splitting hairs to say there's a difference between "We can't think of a way to portray violence against women without fetishizing it" and "It's too hard to portray violence against women without fetishizing it."

I'd guess that the argument (which I don't necessarily agree with, by the way, just trying to parse it) isn't so much that Valve is worried about their fetishizing violence against women as they are worried about enabling others to do so. That is to say, it makes them feel icky to think that people are gibbing women avatars and then shouting about bitches and two black eyes and all the shit that multiplayer gamers generally get up to.

I'm not sure it's a great argument, personally, if that is the argument. It's not like they can avoid enabling the fetishization of violence against, say, gay men in the same way with just male avatars, or racial minorities if they include nonwhite avatars, and we all know what kind of slurs get thrown around the chat server in any event. At some point gamers will put their own spin on the events of gameplay -- arguably that's the entire point, especially in an emergent style such as TF2. I think it was Raph Koster who famously said that the client is in the hands of the enemy. He was talking about MMO hacking, but he may as well have been talking about people reinterpreting your work to an end one finds abhorrent.

Isn't this presupposing that a male skin is the neutral or default skin and that a female skin would be deviant or alternate? Or that female characters would be inherently and fundamentally different than male characters in the same role?

I think it presupposes that the same skeletal frames could be used for men and women in terms of proportion and size, and that the specific look over that frame would be interchangeable. It's been a really long time since I played Quake 3, but I seem to recall that modelers and skinners did some similar things there. But it does presuppose that body shapes are the same between genders, which I'm not sure really solves the problem of representation. I think it implies the reverse of your question, though, that males and females are identical with only superficial variation. That might be better, but I don't think it's all that great.

But I tend to agree with your final thesis, that the benefit of generating multiple avenues of representation outweigh the downsides of assholes on the internet using your representation as a punching bag. There are a lot of assholes, though.
posted by Errant at 5:22 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


They have pretty clearly stated that they felt that violence against women on the scale that it would be depicted in TF2, would be inherently fetishistic, especially in "other markets" (not sure what that means). They were decided that - regardless of body structure - they did not want to portray violent gib-ings of women on that scale.

As I said above, this view is patronizing. It's also more than a bit oversimplified, because apparently they thought it was okay to portray violence against a black man (the Demoman), which could possibly be considered "fetishistic" to some people. There are holes.

Granted, I am not one who thinks it's lazy or exclusive. What Splash Damage did with Blink was lazy and exclusive. What Valve did just seemed shortsighted and like maybe they thought it was a nice effort, but maybe wasn't fully understood. To add female characters in there would've been a step. It's a well, people could fetishize or spin things a certain way, but that's not a reason to not do it. This is a game about shooting people. That in itself is problematic in real life but hey, it's included in the game.

Pixels don't really bleed, after all.
posted by cmgonzalez at 6:24 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Brink, not Blink.
posted by cmgonzalez at 6:24 PM on August 9, 2011


I finished playing the first Witcher game recently, and every time you get into a conversation with one of the "hot" women, the game cuts to a zoom and her boobs jiggle. This is especially obvious when talking to the naked dryad. The game zooms in and BAM, wobbling boobs, like you've snuck up on this woman, tapped her on the shoulder, and her lower half was already facing you but the top half had to spin around quick-smart and you get to her just as her tits are catching up. It was hilarious. Somebody spent hours programming that! Nothing else wobbles in the entire game, just the jubblies! Special jubblies codebase!
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:04 PM on August 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm going to get The Witcher 2 just to see if they've programmed in breeze-ruffled pubic hair and have used that Maya filter I'm pretty sure is called "labial glisten".
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:10 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


A lot of why you get distinctive, unique designs for male characters against generic females is because of the "I'm the only girl!" nature of that female character. Each character in a cast needs to be designed to be distinct from each other. When the default is "male" and you only have one token female, the the fact that she's a girl is enough to distinguish her from the rest of the cast, and a lazy designer can just phone her in with generic "hot babe" art. But each of those guys? They have to be individuals, distinguishable from each other. So they have to be more specific.

I've been working on a comic lately. I made a deliberate choice that the default gender would be female. So each of my female designs has to be a distinct, unique woman - gender is no longer enough as a signifier of character. A lot of comics and video games are very much a boy's club, with women on the periphery. Start doing anything that passes the Bechdel test and you're suddenly compelled to draw individual women...
posted by egypturnash at 9:36 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Once the past here on Metafilter I've spoken out in defense of the occaisional bit of video game cheesecake. I was somewhat derided at the time, and I can see where the people who were doing the deriding were coming from. Certainly, there is a problem with abundant objectification of women. But I still think it depends on the game.

Over on Adult Swim there is the weird Wizard of Wor clone Lesbian Spider Queens of Mars, which is itself rather exploitive at a glance, but hasn't attracted these kinds of complaints, perhaps because its creator, anna anthropy, is a girl and lesibian (I assume) herself. DISCLAIMER: I've conversed with her online in the past. But should that matter?

To ask it more plainly: why is LSQoM okay and Ivy's stripper-wear not? Or is LSQoM not okay? This is not a leading, rhetorical question -- I am actually asking this, for information purposes. Is it because LSQoM takes a kind of humorous, self-referential approach to it? Is it because LSQoM, despite its greater level of nudity, doesn't appear to exist for mere titillation? Is it because its female figures are relatively realistic (although the protagonist does have eight legs)?
posted by JHarris at 2:05 PM on August 10, 2011


The main place that creators of "female versions" of casts go wrong is that they always try and make the female characters attractive. None of the TF2 characters are classically attractive, except maybe the medic and possibly the scout if you're into teenagers with tiny heads. The rest of them all have emphasized angular features and crazy body types. That's where characterization comes from. As soon as people stop trying to make classically attractive female characters, they are free to make them interesting. It doesn't look like anybody's taking any major steps away from that route, though.
posted by tehloki at 6:32 PM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Related: here is a pretty good cosplay of the female medic, albeit with pumps instead of white nurse's shoes.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:48 PM on August 11, 2011


Conversations about gender representation are always awkward because of the fuzzy distinction between a specific problem with a specific person and/or product ("No female characters in Team Fortress 2!") and a general problem with the way a class of person and/or product presents it/her/himself ("Not enough female {protagonists|body types} in video games!"). When giving evidence for the latter, you have to talk about the former, and with every example thereof you run the risk of derailing the conversation ("Team Fortress 2 is a style parody of 60s spy flicks, so relegating the female characters to behind-the-scenes roles was a legitimate thematic choice!"). The derails are often interesting and legitimate conversations in themselves, even when they are presented by trolls, so talking about the general systemic-societal problem requires a lot of patience, and the people who stick around for that are usually involved in the academic study, making that conversation still more inaccessible to layfolk.

So anyway, adding female character options to the official game now would be awkward, because unless they come in the form of new classes (very difficult to implement), the new options would occupy the same role as the hats and accessories that are already in the game. That may not be an appropriate way to implement gender identity.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:57 AM on August 12, 2011


"Team Fortress 2 is a style parody of 60s spy flicks, so relegating the female characters to behind-the-scenes roles was a legitimate thematic choice!"

Someone forgot to play Nobody Lives Forever.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:39 AM on August 12, 2011


TF2 does have one female "character." The Administrator. The voice behind it all. Not the same thing, I know.

In addition to these, there is a female scout skin. Video.
posted by zarq at 7:46 AM on August 12, 2011


... short skirt complete with stripey panties and crotch shots of the skin? *facepalm*

I think I prefer Hamm's idea with the 1960's style shorts.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:57 AM on August 12, 2011


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