SYAC – NSFW Context.
A lot of people who view my feminist leanings as an “act” always point to the fact that I used to draw fetish art a decade ago as some sort of hypocrisy. But the fact of the matter is that just because I don’t draw fetish art anymore and identify as a feminist now doesn’t mean I have some sort of vendetta against it. The problem that arises when feminists clash with comic/game/geek content is because the “context” for the “sexy artwork” either doesn’t exist or is so flimsy it might as well not exist. There is nothing wrong with NSFW artwork, providing the context makes sense (and that includes the WHERE and HOW it’s being published).
Sidenote: I CANNOT recommend “Sunstone” enough to y’all. It’s amazing and you should check it out! Here’s the link to it on AMAZON.
PS: I genuinely don’t care that Quiet is a mute and can’t talk (that’s problematic in and of itself). I just wanted to make a point.
Huh, who knew there is a time and place to make female characters sexy and that time is not “always”?
We’re also more than familiar with the accusation that we are just fun-hating killjoys who hate sexy women and want them always non-sexual and covered head to toe (extra fallacy points if something islamophobic is added to the last part). That’s why it’s a square on the rhetoric bingo:
TL; DR: CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING!
See also: When is it okay to have a female character in less than practical or protective armor? – a helpful presentation by @wincenworks
Time for a reminder that this “sexy women just because” is such a norm that many seasoned creators still want to promote the idea that doing other than is somehow at odds with making a quality product.
Cliff Bleszinski recently got roasted for an Instagram post where he framed putting diversity into LawBreakers as a factor in its collapse, specifically because it did not get the praise that Overwatch did:
Ever since the studio closed I’ve been wracking my brain what I could have done differently. Pivot HARD when the juggernaut of Overwatch was announced. Been less nice with my design ideas and more of a dictator with them.
One big epiphany I had was that I pushed my own personal political beliefs in a world that was increasingly divided.
Instead of the story being “this game looks neat” it became “this is the game with the ‘woke bro’ trying to push his hackey politics on us with gender neutral bathrooms.” Instead of “these characters seem fun” it was “this is the studio with the CEO who refuses to make his female characters sexier.” Instead of “who am I going to choose” it became “white dude shoehorns diversity in his game and then smells his own smug farts in interviews” instead of just letting the product … speak for itself.
It’s okay to be political when your company or studio is established for great product FIRST. But we were unproven and I regret doing it. (This will be quite the doozy of a chapter in the upcoming memoir.)
Now obviously there were the usual suspects chanting “Get Woke Go Broke” when the game closed, but largely (in places that are not boiling cesspits) it didn’t get a lot of discussion either way because of a wide variety of other, more pressing factors like gameplay, bugs, sever issues, graphical similarity to Overwatch, etc.
But the first thing that springs to mind is “I should have made the female characters sexier” because the conventional wisdom is somehow (despite society’s ongoing oppression of sex workers) female characters looking less than porny is a risky political statement.
It really shouldn’t be controversial to give female characters the same design considerations that male characters get.
(And also like, I can assure you – there is a demand for very, very sexy men)
The Best of 2019
Pretty good year for video games and other media in that more studios seem to be trending towards creating more equitable attire for characters to varying degrees. Even Games Workshop has released some new Sisters of Battle that look like formidable warriors (as opposed to well…), and have promised more. There are a few stand outs:
Captain Marvel by Marvel Entertainment
This movie was a great start to the year and addition to the dialogue regarding the Marvel movies. Representation of women and same-gender relationships were great discussions sparked by it, and it smashed a box office record in the process.
Control by Remedy Entertainment
Weird, compelling and a whole lot of destructive fun – the adventures for Jesse Faden warrant almost infinite exploration and interpretation – all without needing to engage in exploitation of women.
The iconic game of killing Nazis provided as with the new and exciting opportunity let the players co-operate as a pair sisters killing Nazis for themselves.
Apex Legends by Respawn Entertainment
Battle Royales are a big market right now, and it’s nice to see one that embraces diverse characters and provides the female characters with interesting roles and equipment (that is also practical looking)
And because I’m not too proud to admit to schadenfreude:
Amongst others we took great delight in that the attempts to use sex to sell by EM83R completely fall over, along with the release of the Kill la Kill video game going pretty much unnoticed.
The Worst of 2019
For simplicity I’ve limited this to major media and not the various groups of the worst people supporting the worst celebrities – because those people don’t need our platform and never change.
Mortal Kombat fanbase highlights general toxicity in gamer culture
So, Mortal Kombat 11 came out and it’s… well it’s a Mortal Kombat game, but a few changes to default designs and made a few female characters have less conventionally sexy outfits… and well, capital G gamers did not take it well:
League of Legends studio, Riot Games, confirmed as misogynistic cesspit
Throughout the year various details came out about the studio being a horrendous to female staff – to the point where a judge ruled they have to pay ten million dollars compensation to female employees. It’s good that they received some compensation, but it shows how the video game industry still has a long way and how if a studio’s products look like it doesn’t care about women… it probably doesn’t.
Media and platform capitulation to Nazis
If you’re wondering why you hadn’t seen more on Wolfenstein: Youngblood or Control, it’s because pretty much the vast majority of platforms such as Steam and rating services such as MetaCritic still want to take a hands-off approach to their communities because they just don’t care. Of course, there’s also the issue of how Kelly Marie Tran was all but written out of Rise of the Skywalker.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Well the game is out now and while it was celebrated for its nostalgic qualities, it sadly also carried along all the nostalgic ideas on how female character’s costumes should just be generically sexy without anything thought on… anything else at all… not even whether the clothes can even exist.
Of course, the comic industry remains a trash fire… for many years running now.
This whole thread is definitely worth reading for a better understanding of The Creepy Marketing Guy and why so many games, particularly in early campaigns, seem to rely on generic strategies like sex sells.
So the next time you see a promotion for a game that seems to focus entirely on boobs, butts and explosions then you can be sure that it’s because the marketing guys are getting paid for the campaign, not the sales of the game, and they probably got to interfere in the process of game development, messing with the original vision of the developers, to make that happen.
And since some iteration of “you just hate for women to be sexy!” continues to be an “argument” constantly brought up in defense of such advertising (and of in-game framing – just look at the predictable replies under our Tuesday reblog), let’s quote the closing tweet from the thread:
As we’ve been saying since the beginning of the sex sells tag, you won’t go far with “selling sex” unless sex is the actual product. And the Creepy Marketing Guy will laugh at you all the way to the bank.
This artwork by (nsfw-warning) @cutesexyrobutts2 (who explicitly is paid money for doing NSFW pics) is not just concept art: it’s an impressive self-own by Mark Kern (GamerGater & general terrible person) AND a great illustration of the folly of the “sex sells” myth. (Turns out sex doesn’t even get attention anymore)
(Before we continue – for the benefit of those about to frantically type a comment – the artwork is very much on brand for the artist, and would even be very suitable in an explicitly erotic game or just as softcore erotic art. The problem isn’t the art itself, it’s that it’s for a game about mechs vs kaiju)
This art was used heavily in a “buy now” promotion a few days prior to releasing the first playable demo* of the game that’s been in development for three years.
As of time of writing:
- The combined total for Mark’s three “check out the demo” tweets is 24 retweets and 115 likes
- Mark’s most popular Em8er tweet (according to Mark) has 82 retweets and 433 likes
- the artist’s tweet has 1,162 retweets and 8,006 likes, with the following hilarious disclaimer reply by Mark:
It’s probably good that the majority of people who like this art like it as a pinup and not as a promise of content to be in the game then.
If the most interesting thing about your game is a thing that isn’t central to the game or in even in it… a giant stop sign, clearly your game is going wrong. I mean at the very least, stop asking people to hand over their money for a product that’s guaranteed to disappoint. ***
This is of course, the most extreme example – but it’s probably something to consider the next time you see a game promoting itself with bizarrely incongruent sexual imagery, big promises and little substance.
* Playable in the absolute vaguest sense possible – there’s only movement mechanics so it’s not even an alpha release. Incidentally, from the second indiegogo (the first one was just for the site):
(Due to Mark’s forementioned affiliations – it is safe to say that a lot of these backers lost their shit at @femfreq for extending their deadline due to unforeseen support… I wonder what the difference could be…)
** The gameplay video has 5,681 views ** and 469 thumbs up but according to the site, “Em-8ER is a co-op game pitting hundreds of players against an invading NPC horde of aliens in a massive war.” So far he hasn’t clear 250 subs and is offering to maybe allow up to FIVE people people at a time on the same demo map. Good luck with match making.
*** To date Em8er as a product has had three indiegogos and is pitching for people to buy pre-order packages starting at $34.95 US and going up to…
Most popular content (the sexy lady) possibly not included.
Look, I’m not saying that this marketing strategy wouldn’t be effective at getting the attention of twelve year olds… but is this really the best way to market products supposedly suitable for pre- teens?
This week’s throwback: cover image that totally tells us what the game is about and is very definitely appropriate to tweens. Yup, totally.
Seriously though, while 12-year olds are not too young to begin understanding their own
sexuality interest in butts, how about we don’t make them internalize the idea of reducing women to body parts? And maybe consider what kind of message it sends to 12-year old girls?
So, a while ago the ever classy Soul Calibur announced that for #6, there’d be a couple of guest characters: 2B from Nier Automata who you can dress like Kaine and Geralt from The Witcher… who you can dress like generic Geralt.
Because it seems that the marketing at Soul Calibur are now so over invested in the generic myth that never pays off that even 2B was not sexy enough, so she doesn’t even get to make an appearance until 30 seconds into her own intro.
And the story is apparently… all about Ivy for some reason? None of it seems to fit with either game, and more importantly none of it explains why we don’t have a “just got out of the tub” Geralt costume.
Give the people what they want you cowards.
Gotta love the video ending on the classy note of a panty shot.
Thanks, I hate it!
if your female character doesn’t look like she has lived the life she leads and you can’t get a sense for her actual personality by looking at her because you’re too focused on making her pretty and perfect and palatable it’s bad character design and you should feel bad
It’s worth noting that, generally speaking – this is why concept artists want to be concept artists. They want to convey feelings, story and inspire the imagination. It’s not uncommon for concept artists to do staggering amounts of research in order to find ways to convey a type of character in a type of time period.
So, if you come across a product created by a major studio where they have extensive executive and production staff – it’s safe to say that any aggressively boring female character designs are done at the behest of a particular type of individual pushing a ridiculous myth to try to seem like a genius.
It is important to call out this kind of absurdity, not just to try to reduce the amount of gratuitous objectification in media – but to also spare these poor artists the indignity of having a guy try to convince them he invented anime tiddy.
I think I’m one of the few people to whom sex does not sell. It perplexes.
While Paula makes this assessment in regards to her asexuality, I’d say it rings true to more than a few people, not necessarily only aces.
As we said before, unless it’s sex that’s being sold, marketing that hinges on sexyfying everything is more bizarre and confusing than effective.
edit: We’ve been informed that Poundstone was at one point charged with (but not convicted of) child abuse. I’m sorry I failed to do research on her felony.