So I started playing this in-beta card game/strategy game called Duelyst yesterday. And, uh, the female Generals (as the game calls faction leaders) are both kind of… hard to look at? Sorry for the image quality, since the game is still in beta it’s hard to find pictures of them where you can see the whole character.
This lady with a completely excessive gunsword is Faie Bloodwing, General of the Vanar faction. They’re vaguely Norse-themed, with lots of ice spells. This does not explain why Faie has chosen to eschew pants. (The blue color scheme is her canon one, afaik: the other one is presented to show the rest of the outfit.) Everything about this is crazy, from the giant fluff-decorated ponytail to the weird thigh armor to the straps-in-place-of-pants.
The other female General is Lilithe Blightchaser of the Abyssian faction. She has actually had her design modified a bit: the original contained some really painful-looking cleavage (to quote the great poet Bo Burnham, “pushin’ ‘em together like a titty Venn diagram”). Naturally, while trying to find a good enough image of her current design and not the unmodified one, I found a forum post complaining about the “nerf” to the character design and a mocking suggestion that her next outfit will be a niqab.
On their forums it appears someone started a thread about the general female designs being oversexualized, and some of the developers made these lovely posts promising to look at doing better etc… in April/May 2015. The thread was then locked to stop “other implications”.
The posts with the Muslim comments came out in a thread in December 2015, where the cleavage covers were added and various bros were outraged. The thread was unfortunately closed with no real response from than to say they don’t want racism on their boards (but didn’t do anything about posts with it in them). So the response is not ideal, but not what we’d really call terrible.
But, what’s really interesting is they also had a thread about general diversity in June 2015, and in December 2015 (same month they did the cleavage cover-up adjustment – which didn’t include the game sprite), they released this.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m really glad they’re at least trying to improve on the diversity, but I really think that they’ve more or less abandoned the attempts to depict women better (which is odd since I don’t think a single woman is featured in the tutorial of the game) and that “as an alternative skin” rather than as a new character is probably not the best way to go about it. Particularly since they then followed up with this:
Which is not to say that I don’t believe the developers want to improve on this, but rather that they seem to have Blizzard Syndrome (best illustrated by Overwatch)- where progress is a priority but it’s sadly a lower priority than sticking to the old marketing tropes. The new female characters are still @eschergirls candidates and where they are adding characters outside this type – they’re not getting the same service.
Rook for instance, doesn’t even seem to have promo art available but is cited by the developers as an example of them doing better. Lady Locke (another developer example) has promo art, but her name wasn’t put to it and it still dips into the “she’s still sexy!” trope. The closest they came a sexy man feature is apparently fan art (with no credit to the artist on the Facebook)
While I appreciate it’s kind of difficult and scary to adjust your imagery after you’ve used it to start your project and build enthusiasm, however if you really do want to make it a game for everyone and make diversity a high priority you have to commit to:
- Not putting out more designs that further re-enforce your problematic imagery (whether it’s objectifying, racist, whatever)
- Taking a definite stance when brats start screaming about how they don’t want you to “censor” yourself (by following your creative vision).
- Be ready to properly re-invent your looks, particularly when the old designs don’t fit with the new ones any more. That’s not to say that patching designs can’t be good, but you can only do so much.
Trying to achieve it by being fairly quiet about it, tossing in a few designs and then going back to business as usual. It just won’t work, it’ll just expose you to the brat outrage with no real gain.
Hopefully Duelyst will start making more direct steps toward real progress, the beta is currently at version 0.62.0 so there’s still a lot of opportunity to fix things.