Saturday, 26 February 2011

21st century games? Or just games for the boys?

I don’t bring gender politics into my blog – it’s about gaming, ok...  I’m rather of the opinion that if you feel strongly about equality, go and take some action in the real world, as opposed to a manufactured ‘fantasy’ one.  Go and volunteer on a helpline, in a refuge, take issue with your colleagues and mates over oppressive language, do something, ANYTHING that makes a difference. I’m aware that there is an issue to be taken here:  if you want ‘change’ then you address it on as many levels and in as many arenas as you can, and that’s fine.  I’ve avoided the many debates there have been in the blogsphere about sexism and equality on the basis that I describe above, but today I’m making an exception.

Whilst I’ve been away, packing up my house, Himself has had some belf-free time to play some 'headstart' Rift.  Last night, when we were out for a drink, he told me about it, and I was interested enough to want to see another MMO, with the thought that I might be a bit of a tourist and go and visit.  So when we got home today, he loaded up his game and started to explain it to me.  I am now going to rant.  Those of a delicate disposition may want to look away now.  Because I am so CROSS, I’m virtually frothing at the mouth.   I’m also aware that I’m probably not the first (nor hopefully will I be the last) to be chewing her (or, in an ideal world - HIS) nails to the quick with rage and frustration about how the gaming world appears not to have moved on AT ALL. There will be CAPITALS (you may have guessed.)  There will probably be swearing.  After I’ve written this, normal Pilf-like service will be resumed. 

So, as standard, you start by picking your side – loosely described to me by Himself as ‘either science or god’.  I pick science.  Yay – that was easy (and kinda cool, lore wise from the smidgen he told me.)  Then you pick a race as per usual, yada yada yada.  Himself is clicking on the male models, which is fine and dandy, but honey… I play female characters, c’mon, gimme a female character ok?  So then he clicked onto the female character and I stopped wanting to play the game right then and there.  No you are not getting a single fucking penny out of me, not now, not ever.  Job done – do not pass ‘go’ do not collect a subscription fee.  I guess you can imagine what is coming here?  The male characters are clothed in sensible trousers and tunics.  Legs covered, chest covered, arms mainly covered.  The female ones?  Oh for fucks sake, the female characters have a wrap skirt, fold-over-top (not quite knee high but a damn good approximation) boots and what might charitably be described as a ‘crop top’ on, i.e. a bit of fabric at the front and not a lot at the back.  No matter what race you pick, they’re all wearing just enough so you don’t see boobs, but it is JUST enough.  The sad thing is that they’re actually sensibly proportioned.  They don’t have gigantic boobs, yeah they go in at the waist, but not to a cartoonish degree.  They have sensible, reasonably well muscled legs.  All of which makes it even WORSE that they’re so… underdressed.  What?  You can actually get sensible proportions of the female form in pixel form and then to redress the balance and effectively reduce them to eye candy, you just HAD to go and give them ‘fuck me or protect me’ clothing?  Really?? And Himself did then go onto class choice and onto what I would describe as the bit that makes the game appealing to women (apologies for the generalisation) which is the insanely high level of customisation.  Which is gorgeous, and fun and something I want to play with (and would… for hours) but I cannot get over my instant ‘what the fuck?’ reaction.  Please refer to pictorial evidence below:

This is my character standing next to a quest giver.  Who is sensibly dressed.  She's still pretty, the clothing is still detailed, but she's COVERED UP. 

For the sake of fairness, here is another NPC.  Ok, there's a bit of 'slave girl' in the stereotypical sense going on here, but again, she's got some skin covered...

Now for complete fairness, here is a male quest giver.  Chest out, agreed.  But a serious, arguably even learned face, witness the beard and the frown lines.  Hardly eye candy?

These are IDENTICAL NPCs.  They're both Centurions (I think).  Whose armour do we think might be of more use?   Also, note Himself's strapping, awesome Amazonion character.  Who is now wearing quest gear.  Which consists of... basically a chain mail bikini.   

Now, I don’t pretend to have a grasp of stats, with regard to MMOs but I’m fairly sure that it’s accepted that the gender balance nowadays is as near to 50/50 as makes no odds.  Gamers are no longer the stereotype of teenage boys or sad men fantasizing in their basements. They haven't been for a long time (if ever).  They're a diverse range of often intelligent men and women. Why then, WHY would you potentially alienate 50% of your player base by being so overtly sexist and gratuitous?  Maybe there are female gamers out there who don't mind the utterly stereotypical clothing on offer, if you're out there, well /cast vicious sarcasm right on sister /end cast. But for the love of all things, PLEASE accept that there are many, many of us who DO NOT want our gender denigrated and objectified.  There are many of us who just want some equality.  Really, is it so much to ask?  Just give us armour that makes it as hard to disembowel us as our male counterparts.  Give us clothing that makes us look like we have a purpose.  Aside from eye candy.  

I really don't know what else to say.  Other than my twelve year old daughter initially thought Mum was over-reacting, "oh God, Muuuuuum, you're SUCH a feminist, it's a GAME".  She's now taken a closer look and has just said, "It's such a shame.  Because the graphics are amazing.  And they've used it to do that." I repeat:  she's TWELVE.  If she gets it, why the FUCK don't game designers?  Answers on a postcard, with suitable donations to a feminist organization of your choice.  Failing that, don't give Trion your hard earned cash (yeah, I said it.)  Do something fucking small to stop this sort of shit.  


  1. That. Absolutely that. Is the reason why I won't give Trion one single cent. That, and the appalling misogyny I encountered during the betas. Urgh.

    I even made a post on their forums about both points. I think you can guess the reactions I got. Also, the post was gone after half an hour. Yay, Trion. /sarcasm

  2. I'm glad it's not just me! Can you elaborate on the misogyny? Built into the game, or from players? And, if you have the energy, what you said on the forum and what the reactions were? Sorry to ask but I'm now very interested in exactly what is going on here!

  3. I have not played Rift at all, but you are right, the females are just there to look good, while the males are dressed in appropriate gear.

    I have ranted at Blizzard before about ridiculous clothing, 'bunny ear' achievements, and more recently, lewd quest names such as Camel Tow and Just the Tip(and no doubt there are others I am ignorant of), but it seems our complaints hold little weight, if any.

  4. It's sad that they've gone for the obvious mistakes yet again. I don't mind nice looking clothing for my characters - but there seems to be a misunderstanding between my idea of "nice looking clothing" and the designers' idea of "nice looking clothing".

    More skin does *not* necessarily mean nicer outfits.

    In fact, I love it when I get to dress my plate wearers in WoW because except for the odd plate bikinis you can look really badass wearing full plate armour (and in Cataclysm so far I've not seen any plate bikinis - but maybe I've just missed them).

  5. Hi there, sorry to answer so late, work sneaked up and CCed me during the last few days. ;) I am surprised how bothered I still am a few days after I logged off from RIFT for the last time. So, to exorcise that I wrote a little article on my blog. It doesn't offer much deep insight, just me letting off a bit steam.