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Bar-sur-Loup Provence France

When the game industry gets it wrong.

A mailing list for game writers recently included links to the following two pages. They are images and artwork for two things; a box cover and a character. This is for a military strategy game, based on some very cool ideas and with a very good pedigree. Sadly, I get the feeling that I am the only person on the list whose mouth dropped open, wondering how the team came up with this stuff.

Let's start with the box cover. A Soviet 'soldier' in ... hot pants and bright red lipstick. And, because it's a video game, she has to have big tits. Elegant. Groundbreaking. Really pushing the envelope there, guys.

I shake my head in wonder. It's the logical outgrowth of the kind of "armor" that you see in the ads for World of Warcraft. The creators of those visuals, in turn, seem to have ceased emotional development at the moment in "Return of the Jedi" when Princess Leia showed up in a metal bikini.

Armor, and in fact any military battlefield uniform, in theory, has a protective function. Hot pants do not. But I guess I'm being picky.

And now, let's move to the Japanese female character, Yuriko Omega. This character design raises the following question: Is there no act of pandering too base for the game industry?

For crissakes, we're talking about a faction based on Japan, a nation with 1300 years of culture and history. You've got fascinating female archetypes from bunraku and kabuki, you've got the ku-no-ichi (female ninja) as well as legendary "female samurai" figures.

If you want to take a step outside Japan there are modern Asian female characters of glorious heroism and depth in movies like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" or "Hero." You could even slide in references to Hua Mulan, the character that the Disney film Mulan was based on.

But no, for us even the imitation of a disnified rip-off of Chinese culture is too high-brow. We have to stoop further; search for the lowest common intellectual denominator. We go for the pseudo-Japanese schoolgirl, the fervent fantasy of a socially inadequate one-handed surfer's dreams, outfitted in ludicrously brief clothing. Now there's a great step forward for the industry; let's all make sex objects out of children.

Great work, guys. One step forward with female characters in games like Starcraft or Heavenly Sword, five billion light-years back with crap like this. It's precisely the kind of image that embarrasses me when I say I'm a game writer; it's precisely the kind of image that I do not want my daughter to have of what a hero or a role model is. Sure, tell me that I don't get it, that it's all in fun, that it's a parody. I disagree. Crap is only crap, it is not a parody of crap.

WTF, kids. We can do better.


It's really a shame they continue to do that on many levels--unrealistic expectations for women on the part of both men and women, for instance.

But one could make the argument they are cutting their own (and your!) throats, because this is precisely the sort of thing that would keep someone like me from picking a game up. I'm not the target audience...they think teenage boys and young men will be playing these, right? They could win the disposable incomes of many young women if they would stop plastering the boxes with the blaring announcement that the game dehumanizes anyone with breasts.
Bar-sur-Loup Provence France

December 2011

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