Feminist gaming blog with a heaping dash of science and politics

Brink: The Game with ‘Unlimited’ Customization

So, Bethesda has released some numbers that detail how absolutely amazing their new game, Brink, is at customizable avatars. And really, it is quite amazing that there is this level of detailed customization in a FPS. It’s ground breaking, truly, ground breaking. Apparently there will be 102,247,681,536,000,000 unique character possibilities. Yea, that’s 18 digits worth of hair, face shape, eye shape, clothing, etc options to make your avatar as unique and you-like (or not) as possible. 102,247,681,536,000,000 possible options, but not one of them, not a single one, is an option that lets you have a female avatar. That’s right, this game has no options to be a female character. 102,247,681,536,000,000 ways to be male, 0 ways to be female.

Quadrillions (yes, quad-rillion-s, multiples of quads of millions) of ways to be a male hero. Zero ways to be a female one. Zero, zip, nada, none, goose egg, not even one iota of a way to be female.

This is striking because most games that tout customization as one of their main features at least get the basics down of letting you customize whether you’re avatar is male or female. It’s usually seen as a big plus to female gamers because it gives them the same chance to play through an epic storyline with an avatar that more or less resembles them that male players tend to get by default. This is especially true in games that give you so much control over the way their character looks. So, why does Brink with it’s purported ‘unlimited’ customization only offer one gender for its avatars? Apparently its because it would cut into the customizability of the male characters. Oh, and also women move funny, are always smaller than men, and because it just takes waaaaay too much effort.

Talk about some sexist bullshit. 102,247,681,536,000,000 ways to customize male characters versus 255,000,000,000 ways to customize both male and female characters? That number, by the way, is less than a quarter of the original number, so even if they lose 75% of their customizability by introducing female avatars, that’s still a whole heck of  a lot of customization going on! And, this is a big bonus here, it doesn’t exclude half of your potential player base! How does that math work marketing guys? Oh, that’s right, woman-money isn’t worth nearly as much as man-money. As long as you’re pandering to your target audience *cough*male*cough*, you’re perfectly fine with saying ‘screw you’ to the rest of us.

Also, it doesn’t get much more blatantly sexist than saying it’s also because women are just so gosh darn weird and hard to model. Seriously. We’re different, but we’re not that different. We *gasp* can actually be the same height and size a lot of the time and we may walk/run differently but not so much that it requires a completely different set of animations… well unless of course this is you’re idea of the natural running posture for women. Or you insist on giving us giant racks to make sure everyone knows we’re appropriately feminine from 100 yards off. Ya know, perhaps it is a good thing they didn’t put women in, because there absolute befuddlement about female anatomy suggests that we would probably get something that more approximates boobs on stilts than an actual woman.

Female anatomy: only weird or hard to model if you think we look (or should look) like this. Here's a hint... boobs don't look like that and women actually have rib cages and spines that aren't made of spaghetti.

The whole thing reeks of such terribly bad logic. No, bad is not really the word, biased and sexist is. Ya know what’s also biased and sexist? Using the excuse that it would impinge on development or take away extra content from the release. This makes the people asking for something as basic as representation and inclusion look like nagging harpies who are just out to ruin everyone else’s fun and drag the game down into some ‘PC’ quagmire. In reality it is NOT that hard to put in female models for most games, it does NOT impinge on other content, and it has nothing to do with PC-ness and everything to do with not treating a large portion of your potential customers like they’re less than. The only time being inclusive takes a toll on development is when development started off being exclusionary. If you start making a game with the idea of having super customizable men AND women, then it will be just as easy as making a game that only has super customizable men, because you plan it into the development. It’s only when you get halfway thru and go, ‘Oh, damn, these womenz want to play too, gosh, should we really let them in the clubhouse?’ that you start running into issues. Which ya know, is also sexist. So basically, the lesson here is that sexism on the part of developers means a) a large part of the player base gets treated like shit, b) the entire player base loses out on content and options, and c) it usually leads to delays and poorly developed games and addons. Sexism = bad juju, which is pretty much what feminists have been saying all along.


7 responses to “Brink: The Game with ‘Unlimited’ Customization

  1. Vinney Gorman May 9, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    I agree Bethsada has always have female genders why not this one but I still can’t wait for it to come out they should make an add on atleast. Vinney.

  2. meerkat May 15, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    If they “couldn’t” put in female character options because of all the changes they would “need” to make to make them super sexxay, their excuse boils down to “We didn’t have time or resources to screw it up badly enough.” Ha ha ha.

    • Zaewen May 16, 2011 at 12:14 am

      Haha! Very true 🙂

      That’s definitely one of the messages you get when you read between the lines of their ‘We couldn’t get them to look right with our art style’.

  3. Samia June 7, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Oh God why did I watch that TERA video

  4. Noire sam June 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    it is possible to make female characters customization in games.

    Just look at Saints Row 2. Where you can even play as a muscular or fat female characters.

    Unlike other games where you can customization your female how much you want. But can only play as skinny female.

  5. erc November 29, 2011 at 8:33 am

    I’m a bit late to the game—but I have a feeling that females were not included within the gameplay aspect because they play a much larger role in the larger/long term plot of the game.

    Please watch the ending–which is narrated by whom…a woman. Calling the men “apes that pound their fists” etc.

    I don’t think this is the last we will see of Brink–there is quite a bit more story to thinks.

    • Zaewen November 29, 2011 at 9:12 am

      Actually we know exactly why women were not included in the game. The developers stated their reasons being either it taking too many resources or they just couldn’t figure out how to do it (women, such baffling creatures amiright?).

      As for the ending cut scenes, I have only vague knowledge of Brink’s plot so the clips don’t make perfect sense. However, I would like to point out that the woman is not calling the men “apes that pound their fists” in some misandric-battle-of-the-sexes-rawr-women-are-better way. In fact, she says, “We fight, we scream, we pound our fists. Apes returned to the sea.” As in, humanity fights, screams and pound their fists in their struggles to survive and eventually returns to the sea (which I’m guessing is some metaphorical remark about returning to our evolutionary beginnings after an apocalyptic destruction of society as we know it).

      Now, if Brink 2 does end up happening, I really do hope they include women in the game. But if its going to be at the cost of having this weird battle of the sexes plot line you seem to propose is being shown here, I think I’d take a pass on it (again). Pitting women and men against each other as some form of diametrically opposed forces (and especially if one is set up as ‘evil’ whilst the other is ‘good’) is not the best way to go. It may not be as sexist as pretending half of humanity don’t exist in your game world, but it’s still pretty damn sexist.

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