Why women criticise sexualised character designs |OT2| I have no pants and I must scream (READ OP)

#1
By admin request, since the last thread was getting obscenely long and didn't show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

I want to get out of the way that I am a sex positive feminist, and when I criticise sexualized female character designs, it has nothing to do with prudishness or slut-shaming or anything like that; instead, it comes from a place of frustration, because how the hell are we supposed to combat sexism in gaming when one of the biggest examples of that--that serves to both reinforce and reflect sexist viewpoints--is consistently let slide?

Because yes, if you have a game where all the dudes are covered from head to toe and your one female character is running around in a trash bag bikini and looking thoroughly uncomfortable about it, it's sexist. It reinforces the (already widespread, particularly in gaming "culture") idea that women are objects who exist solely for male titillation and pleasure. It's not "puritanism", it's wanting to be treated like goddamn people.

There's nothing wrong with a female character wearing a bikini if, for example, a game is set on a beach, and the male characters are in their swimming trunks. Complaining about that would be prudishness, and a little ridiculous. But it often seems like developers are so desperate for boobs that they're willing to break the audience's suspension of disbelief and hurt their own narrative in the process, and it's like, wow, do you really want to objectify women that badly? Can't you just leave us alone for five fucking minutes? Because Quiet breathing through her skin is not a compelling reason for a trash bag bikini, within the narrative or outside of it. If you really, really want to stick with the skin-breathing, fuck, just dress her in a sports bra and running shorts. At least that would be practical, and not grossly out of character. Cindy is a mechanic in the fucking desert who walks around in hot pants and a bikini top, because she has grease-repelling skin that never burns, I guess. Meanwhile, Noctis and co. roll up in jeans and t-shirts. It's like, okay, we get it, this game is for dudes and the women are there for eye candy. Can we stop now, please? We're just so fucking tired of this. And then we get steamrolled by dudes who barge in and try to insist that this shit is actually empowering and we're just prudes, and, like, we get it, you don't want anyone to take your boobs away, stop pretending it's some righteous cause, thanks.

(I've talked about objectified female characters in gaming before, and I have received some amazing responses: I'm jealous because I'm a fat ugly loser; I have no idea what I'm talking about and Quiet wearing a trash bag bikini is actually empowering and feminist; "ohmygod why are you trying to take away my BEWBS"... you get the idea. Still, hopefully this time will go a little better.)

For those struck with sudden illiteracy when the topic of feminism in gaming comes up, a simple tl;dr:

  • Women get shit irl every goddamn day of our lives, we don't want it in our video games which are supposed to be fun escapism, not a constant reminder of how shitty being a woman is
  • If male characters are fully dressed and women are running around in assless chaps, that just makes us feel like shit because it makes it clear the devs (and presumably a not-insignificant part of the audience) don't view us as people but as objects of titillation
  • Sexist portrayals in media help to reinforce sexist notions irl! Not only are tittyninjas a giant kick in the teeth to female gamers, they also actively help make the real world even more fucking sexist garbage than it already is.
  • 99.9% of the time the sexualised designs don't make any sense, in universe or out, and in the end the devs are harming their own narrative and world for the sake of boobies.
And now, a pre-emptive rebuttal to the shitty counter-arguments I can see coming from miles away:

  • "lol i love teh bewbs" good for you. fuck off
  • "lmao dumb feminazis trying to censor games" it's not censoring. it's criticism. it's asking to be treated like goddamn people.
  • "you're a prude" i'm a sex-positive feminist. that means i support women's right to control over their own bodies without judgement. that does not extend to 1000 year old loli dragons designed by and for men to get their nasty rocks off.
  • "wHaT iF sHe ChOsE tO wEaR iT????????" she's not fucking real you drooling bottomfeeder, she can't decide anything because she's a fictional construct!!!! she's a bunch of pixels!!!! she has no agency!!!!
  • "men are sexualised too" call me when we get dick physics in video games, then we'll talk about male sexualisation.
  • "vote with your wallet" gee it's almost like this is an epidemic in gaming and finding games in the genre we like, with gameplay we like, a story we like, characters we like, and no bullshit designs anywhere to be found is a fucking sisyphean task. fucking great games have this problem. skyrim? dragon age origins? boob armour. boob armour everywhere. if we voted with our wallets we wouldn't be able to play fucking anything
  • "my wife/girlfriend/sister/daughter/gardener/friend's cousin's sister-in-law's mother's dog's walker's chemist doesn't think it's sexist!" then she can come on here and make an account and speak for her own damn self, can't she? assuming she actually exists, of course
  • "lmao typical prudish americans, in MY sexually liberated country we don't care about these things!!" i'm not american. a vast proportion of the women in this thread are not american. this is a universal problem
  • "you don't speak for all women!!!!11!1!" neither do you. now what?
And, in case you're in doubt as to whether any given female character design falls under "objectified bullshit", here's a handy bingo card to help you out.



If mods feel like I've missed anything, feel free to add to this post.
 
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#4
I have a question for this thread, can we extend it to all media or are we only supposed to talk about sexualized women in video games?
Well, the previous thread had a not insignificant number of posts discussing why (modern) anime sucks, so... I guess it won't really be frowned upon unless it really goes off topic after a while.
 
#5
I have a question for this thread, can we extend it to all media or are we only supposed to talk about sexualized women in video games?
Games tend to take after other media in both visual design, character tropes and narrative, so I don't think it would be out of the thread's scope to discuss other media. That happened a lot in the old thread too. Ultimately it's OP's call though.
 

Neoxon

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#8
On the topic of fan service, it’s interesting to see that Capcom Dev 1 is beginning to reign it in a bit with Devil May Cry 5 & the remake of Resident Evil 2. Claire’s new design looks great, & Nico’s look is alright (she also has sleeves & the bottom part of her coat-thing that she buttons on when working on Nero’s Devil Breakers or other weapons).
They also seem to be toning down the fan service for Lady’s design, as she seemingly has her shirt buttoned up more compared to her DMC4 design & is now wearing long black pants.
 
#9
I think one issue here is the video game industry is not one singular monolith cultural entity.

Movie business is mostly centered in the US. So is TV. Music business is the same deal. Everything basically LA/New York or occasionally London.

Video games are different because Japan is very culturally different on sex norms (like them or not) and Japan still has large sway on the types of gaming content.

You're not going to always get such easy consensus on things, Japan is a very different culture in many respects from the culture of LA or New York that tend to control most of the other pop media in other entertainment mediums. And it's not like the movie, TV, or especially the music business is asexual or sex-neutral either.
 
#10
Greatest forum thread pt2, electric boobaloo. Killer title, I don't contribute much but I'll be doing my best to read every page same as last time to stay informed.
 
#11
On the topic of fan service, it’s interesting to see that Capcom Dev 1 is beginning to reign it in a bit with Devil May Cry 5 & the remake of Resident Evil 2. Claire’s new design looks great, & Nico’s look is alright (she also has sleeves & the bottom part of her coat-thing that she buttons on when working on Nero’s Devil Breakers or other weapons).
They also seem to be toning down the fan service for Lady’s design, as she seemingly has her shirt buttoned up more compared to her DMC4 design & is now wearing long black pants.
To be fair, Resident Evil has always been great about its female representation, except when it comes to unlockable designs. The disparity between the regular and unlockable outfits is staggering, the former empowering and befitting of the setting, yet the latter the complete opposite. For that reason, I hope REmake 2 does away with that tradition.

DMC, on the other hand, has always been awful with its women, be that putting them in skimpy outfits or having them serve as a damsel in distress. I hope Nico is an indicator for them doing better moving forward. Lady and Trish have me nervous however.
Could you point me to the source regarding Lady's redesign? First I hear of it. Thank you.
 
#12
I know the thread regulars are very negative on Xenoblade 2 and for some very good reasons (hell Pyra kinda acted as a catalyst for the creation of the original thread, did she not?), but I'm actually kinda hopeful Torna will come out looking better than the main game in regards to sexualization.

Not that it's a particularly high bar, mind you.
 
#13
Not serious question: since boobplate doesn't generally exist in reality, would fictional boobplate be able to provide breast support? What I mean is: would a sufficiently advanced boobplate make the middle column of the bingo impossible?
Actually serious question: what are some examples of female power fantasies from the point of view of a woman? And by power fantasy I mean something different than simply empowering.
 

Neoxon

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#14
To be fair, Resident Evil has always been great about its female representation, except when it comes to unlockable designs. The disparity between the regular and unlockable outfits is staggering, the former empowering and befitting of the setting, yet the latter the complete opposite. For that reason, I hope REmake 2 does away with that tradition.

DMC, on the other hand, has always been awful with its women, be that putting them in skimpy outfits or having them serve as a damsel in distress. I hope Nico is an indicator for them doing better moving forward. Lady and Trish have me nervous however.
Could you point me to the source regarding Lady's redesign? First I hear of it. Thank you.
Capcom took down the video since it leaked the prologue, so I sadly can’t get an image.
 
#17
First page!
Lurked the hell out of the other thread, will probably do the same with these one but i really appreciate the discussion and the positive examples posted from time to time.
 
#19
I know the thread regulars are very negative on Xenoblade 2 and for some very good reasons (hell Pyra kinda acted as a catalyst for the creation of the original thread, did she not?), but I'm actually kinda hopeful Torna will come out looking better than the main game in regards to sexualization.

Not that it's a particularly high bar, mind you.
I don't think Xenoblade 2 or Pyra was the catalyst of this thread, it would have been made anyway.

Torna will have Mythra too and she looks like before. The other characters look like in Xenoblade 2 (blades and characters from flashbacks) too, but most of them have more decent clothes to begin with and there are less blades that could show something.

If you/or the regulars of this thread can live with Mythras and Brighids Designs: the rest seems to be pretty decently clothed (If i'm not forgetting someone) and you start playing with Lora as your maincharacter and Jin as your partner. Nomura is a pretty good character designer.
 
#20
Torna will have Mythra too and she looks like before. The other characters look like in Xenoblade 2 (blades and characters from flashbacks) too, but most of them have more decent clothes to begin with and there are less blades that could show something.
Yeah the main caveat design-wise is Mythra being Mythra, followed by Brighid (who is somehow tame compared to your average female blade in the main game, which says a lot haha).

There's also plenty of room for writing to have some problematic aspects. However, I'm confident that the stuff along the lines of blushy-crushy won't be present here. There shouldn't be much room for those kinds of scenes tonally.

Also no Tora with all his questionable baggage.
 
#21
Yeah the main caveat design-wise is Mythra being Mythra, followed by Brighid (who is somehow tame compared to your average female blade in the main game, which says a lot haha).

There's also plenty of room for writing to have some problematic aspects. However, I'm confident that the stuff along the lines of blushy-crushy won't be present here. There shouldn't be much room for those kinds of scenes tonally.

Also no Tora with all his questionable baggage.
Oh lordy I'm thankful for that. Normal Poppi I thought was fine - yeah it had that weird loyal-cute-female-servant thing going at first it seemed like they were almost mocking that sort of thing (and perhaps they should have had Tora regularly question what his father was thinking). Then you got the second and third forms and it became clear they were playing the subservient sexy maid thing straight and not as satire.

XC2 got so close to just sticking the landing on all the characters and instead did a faceplant with the designs of a lot of them, Tora in general, and the Rex/Pyra 'romance', plus
the Nia reveal with that wholly inappropriate outfit that ruined what could have been a great turn of Rex losing his childish crush on Pyra and maybe having a relationship with actually-his-age Nia. Of course they basically shelved that whole turn less than a chapter later and went back to crushville. ARG

Currently playing Octopath, and obviously while sexualized designs are kinda meaningless in a pixel art game like that, the character art for everyone is really good. The only one remotely sexualized in any way is Primrose, but despite her entire character being based around her using her dancing to hunt down her father's killers, her art is pretty tasteful and appropriate for a dancer and not a 'dancer' (eg stripper). The other three female PCs all have great designs. My only annoyance with Primrose is that giving her a subjob changes her combat appearance but not her world appearance. The do all retain her dancer look to a degree, but they all seem to make her more clothed to a certain degree rather than less.
 
#22
This may be controversial, I dunno, but:
If male characters are fully dressed and women are running around in assless chaps, that just makes us feel like shit because it makes it clear the devs (and presumably a not-insignificant part of the audience) don't view us as people but as objects of titillation
That's actually a well worded summary of my main gripe against sexualization.

Not that I don't care about women rights mind you. But even simply as a regular cis-gendered man it's fucking annoying to be treated like some horny teenager hungry for boobs. If I want boobs, I know where to find some, thank you.

And also of course the following is closely tied to that:
99.9% of the time the sexualised designs don't make any sense, in universe or out, and in the end the devs are harming their own narrative and world for the sake of boobies.
I mean I consider myself a feminist as in "someone who advocates for women's rights and gender equality", but even taking that out of the equation, it's problematic. I want to be treated like a sentient individual, not a walking dick.

Edit: Back on topic:
Normal Poppi I thought was fine
Child Hana is an Astro Boy ripoff. Her design is not without problems of course as she's still a freaking sex doll in-universe, but the visual design itself is great.
 

Neoxon

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#23
The talk of XB2 brings me to my next question. If Smash Ultimate gets DLC and adds Rex & Pyra/Mythra, would you guys be okay with the inclusion if Sakurai lengthened Pyra’s shorts & reduced her bust size to be more in line with her concept art?

 
#24
Not serious question: since boobplate doesn't generally exist in reality, would fictional boobplate be able to provide breast support? What I mean is: would a sufficiently advanced boobplate make the middle column of the bingo impossible?
Actually serious question: what are some examples of female power fantasies from the point of view of a woman? And by power fantasy I mean something different than simply empowering.
Speaking of armor. Pretty sure i forgot to link this gallery in the original OT:

Over 45 unique armor designs without boob armor.
 
#25
As a straight man I have to agree that constant sexualization can be a negative even outside the context of potential harmfulness.

It's not even about being insulted by being treated as a dumbass horndog, it just kinda becomes fucking lame when panty shots are thrown at you during a dramatic scene or whatever.

There's time and place for titillation you know.

As I said once before, shit's distracting
 
#26
The talk of XB2 brings me to my next question. If Smash Ultimate gets DLC and adds Rex & Pyra/Mythra, would you guys be okay with the inclusion if Sakurai lengthened Pyra’s shorts & reduced her bust size to be more in line with her concept art?

I don't really care about Smash but honestly that concept art is basically the same as the final design. And IMO even with longer shorts and smaller boobs the desig would still be pretty bad. (hip window, bare back and the overal mess that is the outfit even beyond the sexualized part).
 
#27
How do you feel about Freya from God of War portrayal?



I thought it was kind of refreshing in design and character. The game goes into great lengths to
show the similarity between her and her son vs kratos and his.
It's a game about cycles and to a degree, maybe even a large one, you can argue her as a tragic feminist icon in gaming. She was
horrifically violated by Odin. Her own son turned against her.
Yet she maintains dignity, is still powerful in her own right and a mother.
 
#28
As a straight man I have to agree that constant sexualization can be a negative even outside the context of potential harmfulness.

It's not even about being insulted by being treated as a dumbass horndog, it just kinda becomes fucking lame when panty shots are thrown at you during a dramatic scene or whatever.

There's time and place for titillation you know.

As I said once before, shit's distracting
I mean, yeah, even from an entirely self interested perspective, I don't want to play games where devs are pandering titillation to me. As you said it ruins camera shots, especially when it's intentional creepy camera movement. It breaks immersion, I can't avoid thinking about the people behind the work and target audience when there's some jarring fan service on screen. The sexualized character designs often clash hard with the actual characterisation which makes it feel like an incoherent mess. It all just feels cheap and lazy.

Anyways, nice OT2
 
#30
Nice OP, Persephone but I think you need to add a “But my wife/girlfriend thinks it’s okay therefore you’re wrong!” to the rebuttals.

That's actually a well worded summary of my main gripe against sexualization.

Not that I don't care about women rights mind you. But even simply as a regular cis-gendered man it's fucking annoying to be treated like some horny teenager hungry for boobs. If I want boobs, I know where to find some, thank you.
I’m in the same boat as you. Before this thread (well the first OT) I was starting to feel like some old man weirdo because I wasn’t fawning over every single “sexy” character and finding it more tacky than anything else. I usually don’t have much to add, but I love reading this thread and learning new perspectives. I can unintentially miss a lot of subtle stuff until it’s pointed out too.
 
#31
Thank you for OT2. Thank you for the thoughtful discussion in OT1. Thank you for the resources in the new first post. I am hear to listen and learn.
 
#33
I’m in the same boat as you. Before this thread (well the first OT) I was starting to feel like some old man weirdo because I wasn’t fawning over every single “sexy” character and finding it more tacky than anything else. I usually don’t have much to add, but I love reading this thread and learning new perspectives. I can unintentially miss a lot of subtle stuff until it’s pointed out too.
Yeah, it's always interesting to see the perspective of others. I mean there are stuff that I find gross that others might not care about, and other stuff that I barely notice that others might find offensive. Even if I may not agree with them (I mean in the sense that it still doesn't bother me), it's always interesting to see why other people might take issue with it. There's always some insight to be had in checking other people's viewpoints.

As for the bolded, the more I think about it, the more I realize who much I was desensitized despite being otherwise pretty aware of the phenomena. I mean it's like I developed some kind of "mind filter" so that I just unconsciously ignore those issues in order to be able to enjoy at least some games despite so many of them being problematic.

I think Xenoblade 2 was the first game where it actually actively bothered me, which is saying a lot about how desensitized one may be, no matter how aware they otherwise are.

What I'm trying to say is that yes, "tacky" is pretty accurate word to describe how I felt about some of those games.

But then again, heh, I guess it's easier to display a pair of melons than writing an interesting story.
 
#37
it just kinda becomes fucking lame when panty shots are thrown at you during a dramatic scene or whatever.

There's time and place for titillation you know.

As I said once before, shit's distracting
The sexualized character designs often clash hard with the actual characterisation which makes it feel like an incoherent mess. It all just feels cheap and lazy.
I am (unfairly?) assuming this mostly refers to Japanese games, and I'd say this is part of Japanese media's larger issues of tonal consistency. Obviously I'm generalising and there is much great Japanese art, but broadly speaking I find that they simply don't aim for a consistent tone in the same way that other regions' creators might do. So T&A thrown into a serious cutscene isn't seen as jarring from that perspective when all kinds of things going on are jarring anyway.
 
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#38
I'd say this is part of Japanese media's larger issues of tonal consistency. Obviously I'm generalising and there is much great Japanese art, but broadly speaking I find that they simply don't aim for a consistent tone in the same way that other regions' creators might do. So T&A thrown into a serious cutscene isn't as jarring from that perspective when all kinds of things going on are jarring anyway.
I can totally get behind that sentiment.

I think that's one of the reasons I enjoy Japanese media. They tend to not take themselves too seriously and seem to display some kind of self-awareness about how metaphors have their limits when you're trying to speak about serious issues in a world full of shapeshifter dragons and fireball-throwing staff-wielders.
 
#39
How do you feel about Freya from God of War portrayal?



I thought it was kind of refreshing in design and character. The game goes into great lengths to
show the similarity between her and her son vs kratos and his.
It's a game about cycles and to a degree, maybe even a large one, you can argue her as a tragic feminist icon in gaming. She was
horrifically violated by Odin. Her own son turned against her.
Yet she maintains dignity, is still powerful in her own right and a mother.
She basically became a shaman after Odin took her warrior spirit away and her design reflects that of someone who's basically retired and lives in isolation from the rest of the world. You notice during the final boss that her tattoos are renewed and her clothes change to be significantly less ragged It's signaling her reentry into society through her character design.
 
#40
I can totally get behind that sentiment.

I think that's one of the reasons I enjoy Japanese media. They tend to not take themselves too seriously and seem to display some kind of self-awareness about how metaphors have their limits when you're trying to speak about serious issues in a world full of shapeshifter dragons and fireball-throwing staff-wielders.
Yeah, to get off topic briefly (no longer taking about sexualisation here but tonal shifts) it can be fun in a throwabout wacky way depending on what we're watching or playing. And there's nothing wrong with some levity in an overall serious story; it can be blessed relief.

I'm thinking more how I was playing Xenoblade Chronicles X, not having played a JRPG for a long time, and really liking it and thinking wow I've been missing out, then in between scenes of my character getting involved in the missions and political machinations of the last group of humans alive who are colonising a hostile planet. Then a fucking Jar-Jar Binksian talking potato pipes up and everyone is just making corny and not even funny jokes about cooking him into a potato pie or whatever. The lack of finesse in this kind of tonal inconsistency is light years apart from something like Mass Effect's little humorous vignettes or in-jokes (Blasto the first Hanar Specter and so on).
 
#41
I'm thinking more how I was playing Xenoblade Chronicles X, not having played a JRPG for a long time, and really liking it and thinking wow I've been missing out, then in between scenes of my character getting involved in the missions and political machinations of the last group of humans alive who are colonising a hostile planet. Then a fucking Jar-Jar Binksian talking potato pipes up and everyone is just making corny and not even funny jokes about cooking him into a potato pie or whatever. The lack of finesse in this kind of tonal inconsistency is light years apart from something like Mass Effect's little humorous vignettes or in-jokes (Blasto the first Hanar Specter and so on).
Maybe an other point of comparison is with another Japanese series, Yakuza, which is largely self-serious and straight-faced in its main story but throws all that to the wind in the side content. It allows its narrative the gravity and self-respect it needs while not skimping out on the crazy stuff people want in the game, by making them distinct and mostly separate from one another.
 
#42
Then a fucking Jar-Jar Binksian talking potato pipes up and everyone is just making corny and not even funny jokes about cooking him into a potato pie or whatever.
I think the funny part here is that it's not funny. But that's quite off-topic.

I also think it's just a matter of how much writers allow themselves to diverge.

In your average in particular US media authors seem to limit themselves to the occasional sarcastic joke.

In Japanese media you can have a short "SD segment" with a character "punishing" another character using a giant hammer coming out of nowhere. And it's OK.
 

Neoxon

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#45
I don't really care about Smash but honestly that concept art is basically the same as the final design. And IMO even with longer shorts and smaller boobs the desig would still be pretty bad. (hip window, bare back and the overal mess that is the outfit even beyond the sexualized part).
Ultimately, I don’t think Sakurai would alter the design too much. Still, her & Rex likely won’t be in the base roster due to when the roster was selected, but I was curious about how you guys felt about the whole thing.
 

Neoxon

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#48
As an aside, I feel like Street Fighter is in an interesting position going forward. Right now, Street Fighter V is being managed by Capcom Division 2 & it has at least 2 more seasons of DLC left. And while it seems like they dialed it back a little (though not completely) with the fan service with the defaults (Example: Compare Rainbow Mika, a Day 1 character, to Menat, a Season 2 character), the DLC costumes still seem to go wild with the concept. Perhaps it was the Capcom Pro Tour that forced Capcom's hand on this front, but that's besides the point. In the case of Capcom Division 1, they've legit begun to reign in the fan service with the games I already mentioned (RE2's remake & DMC5). Does this mean that Capcom Division 2 will follow suit with Street Fighter VI in the next console generation, or would it take SFVI being made by Capcom Division 1 for such a change to happen? And would such a change go over well with the fanbase, FGC or otherwise (I know we'd be cool with it, but I fear that any division of Capcom dialing things back more would cause backlash not unlike DoA6)?

To be frank, I'm more curious about the default designs since that's how the character will be represented in other forms of media (barring an alternate costume becoming super-popular, such as Hot Ryu™). But I'm not trying to be rude when asking this. I'm legit curious about what you guys think on this front.


I mean, Rex & Pyra/Mythra are huge fan requests, plus Xenoblade 2 is the most successful game in the series so far. If we get DLC at all, I'd imagine that them & Spring Man will be at the top of Sakurai's list.
 

Neoxon

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#50
Instead of Rex/Pyra, can't we get Elma instead?
Nia/Dromarch maybe?
Anything else at all?
It's similar to asking for Twintelle over Spring Man. For better or worse, Sakurai usually goes for the main character first (& before you say Robin in Smash Wii U/3DS, he was just as much the main character of Awakening as Chrom was, if not more so). And like I said, Rex & Pyra/Mythra are already huge fan requests within the Nintendo community.

Either way, we probably won't get much Xenoblade 2 representation in the base roster beyond maybe music, & we don't even know if we're getting DLC for Smash Ultimate. If anything, this could be a net profit since Elma now has a feasible chance at being playable.


EDIT: You said Nia earlier, but edited it to Elma. My mistake.
 
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