Zaewen

Feminist gaming blog with a heaping dash of science and politics

My Super LE3T Feminist E3 Review

E3, the gaming convention and showcase for gaming professionals, wrapped up late last week. I was a bit busy elsewhere, so this is going up a lil late, but hey it’s my blog and I do what I want ūüėÄ So here are my reactions and thoughts to some of the games I saw in the coverage of the convention.

First, though, a word about the convention itself. Having booth babes is not in any way professional and is both degrading and¬†alienating¬†to the women who attend the expo and to the women in the gaming audience looking on from home. Having them there is a very loud and clear signal from the game companies themselves that says women only matter to them as a pair of boobs they can dress up in skimpy little outfits to sell games to hetero-men. And to the game journalism sites that exert a huge amount of effort to take photos and write articles about these women, almost as if they were a game to be bought and played with like the merchandise they’re hocking…. way to stay classy. It’s no small wonder that there is still such an entrenched atmosphere of open sexism in the gaming community with professionals and journalists like y’all.

With that said, onto the games!

Fable: The Journey

Apparently its a rail shooter type game that sounds absolutely boring and counter-intutive to the idea behind an Action RPG. I’m getting really tired of the male as default character too. You see it in almost every game that gives you the option to have a male or female character. The gaming companies apparently think that no one will want to play a game that has a female hero as default/canonical, so we get stuck with the white dude being the hero for the umpteenthillion time. Also, they never seem to like really¬†advertising¬†that you have the option between male/female even though it would probably get them a much larger audience if they really pushed that edge. Add to that the decline in progressiveness from Fable 2 to 3, and I am not optimistic for this one at all.

Skyrim

Pretty dragons!!

OMG pretty. So pretty. They’ve pretty much done everything they needed to do to make Oblivion 100x better and then they introduced DRAGONS. So much win. Only thing I need to know now is how the female Khajitt look so I can be even more psyched about playing the game. Yes, I want to be a cat dragon-born hero, leave me be.

3DS games announced: Star Fox, Zelda, Mario Kart, Smash Bros

All my favorite Nintendo games on a 3d handheld to be played whenever/where ever I want? Yes please! Now I just need to get my hands on a 3DS…

Batman: Arkham City

Holy Cleavage, Batman!

I love Batman and I love the first game, but what they’ve done to Catwoman in this game borders on making me not want to play the game. Their outfits and body proportions are absurd. Seriously, how do you get a leather catsuit that is so tight it gives you butt cleavage, and how does she managed to keep her breasts in with that huge slit down the front? I’ll still end up playing this (just because I’m such a huge Batman fan) and enjoying all the awesome combat, but I can¬†guarantee¬†you that I will be fuming¬†every time¬†the camera strays over Catwoman’s butt. She’s not an object to be lusted at! She’s the most badass woman in the Batman universe!

Zelda Skyward Sword

This looks great, the windwaker art style but sans boat and wind. Though it does have bird riding in it…. so we’ll see. Can’t we just recapture the awesomeness that was Ocarnia of Time again? Ooh, maybe they should just totally redo that game in awesome graphics mode (I know they’re doing it over in 3d, but just think of it the game with the graphics of Skyrim or something, that’s going on my gamer wishlist)

Mass Effect 3 (Trigger Warning for talk of rape in this section)

I'm not sure why she's wearing a veil... or why she's a princess that needs rescue...

This series has only gotten worse with the more exposure I have to it. When I first played Mass Effect it was awesome in its scope and story… then I got into the details of the races and background cultures (the Asari and Salarians) and it was suddenly not as cool. Then I heard tell of all the ‘goodies’ tucked away in ME2 (Miranda’s butt cleavage, Samara’s chest cleavage, the Krogan breeding/rape camp, the rape city mission, just all sorts of not good stuff) and the game lost even more of its luster. Now, ME3’s coming out and I’m just really hesitant to get excited about it at all. Especially since there’s some hubub going around about a Krogran princess from the game demmo(lemme guess, a mushroom tells Shephard that his princess is in another castl…err…breeding camp?)

Kingdom of Amalur

This game looks and sounds like it could be either super awesome or super horrible. A game whose story is written by R.A. Salvatore, visuals done by Tod McFarlane, and the game dev behind Morrowind and Oblivion could be the most amazing game ever to grace our medium, or it could be one really polished and great looking piece of misogynist crap (niether Salvatore or McFarlane or particularly known for the feminist views). So far, I know that there’s the option for female avatars (not that they’re used in promotional material and not that this is specifically a problem with this game… like I said earlier, it plagues almost all games of this genre like Fable and Mass Effect), we’ll just have to see how it all works out. This is a game I will definitely be keeping tabs on.

SWTOR

When I first heard about the game I did an *eyeroll*, then after seeing some stuff about it I was a lil interested, then after seeing some more stuff about it I have reverted back to *eyeroll* status. The IP is not known for its progressive attitudes towards women in their universe. And tho Bioware has done some good things with the IP in the past, they’ve not been particularly good lately with their handling of gender, especially when it comes to character models or lore (just check out the huge racks and tiny waists on the women of DA2 or any of the backstories for the races of Mass Effect). None of the screenshots I’ve seen of the game give me a confidence that they’ll be giving us reasonable body proportions on the women, nor do the three¬†trailers they’ve released. It is amazingly, disturbingly sad that the aliens and people with half their faces blown away look more human and normal/right (i.e. not smack dab in the middle of the uncanny valley) than all of the women in the trailers. It’s something about their eyes, the facial features, the airbrushed skin, and heavy amounts of makeup that just make the women look like amateur renders compared to the detailed and realistic looks of the men’s faces. Also, the fact that in all 3 of the trailers there’s only like 4 women¬†compared¬†to the roughly 100 men in each trailer. Ok, yea, that’s a slight exageration, but seriously… the ratio is very skewed and the women are very much tokens (of the ‘oh crap, all the jedi are men, guess we’ll make the bounty hunter you see for half a second me a woman) or scenery for the oodles of men to leer at.

Neverwinter

The trailer for this looks pretty awesome but the same thing I said for Kingdoms of Amalur and SWOTOR hold up here. The IP and lore is not exaclty renowned for its feminist ideals, but it could either be great or horrible, depends on the route they took. It seems like it’s going to be good, both in the gameplay and the not causing me to *headdesk*

Saint’s Row The Third

I’ve always preferred these games to the GTA series, probably because I get the option to be a woman (which is such a big plus), they’re not so full of white guys, and I like their humor a bit more. We still have to put up with quite a lot of sexist crap from them (see the link up above with the car wash booth babes and the numerous panty and boob shots in the trailer) but they usually give us more options to subvert it than other games. In Saints Row 2 I was a gang leader who swaggered and cursed like a sailor, but had a posh voice and was overly fond of cleavage shirts.¬†Apparently, in this new game we get even more control over our character creation, and they add in a sex appeal slider. This, on women, is a boob slider all the immature boys in the audience can have huge boobs on their characters. This would usually get a gripe from me, but they went one step further, and made the slider on men affect how large their ‘package’ is. When I found this out, I could not stop laughing for a good 5 minutes. We usually only joke about this when people bring up boob sliders, the fact that it is now being given to us as an acknowledgement of the ridiculousness of boob sliders, is so¬†unbelievably¬†awesome.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

This trailer surprised the heck out of me when I saw it. I played Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune just recently (yay gamefly!) and loved it…. minus the zombie parts, that scared the crap out of me. The characters were great and even though she was the only woman, Elena kicked major butt and didn’t take any shit from the guys (not that the guys gave any shit, they treated her more or less like an equal). The third apparently has three women in it, one of which is the bad guy and the other is what appears to be an even more badass Elena. I’m definitely down with that, so I’m going to have to sneak Uncharted 2 up on our queue and try that out asap!

Tomb Raider

They really like beating her up in this game...

Ah, Tomb Raider. The *only* game with a female lead protagonist that I saw in all of the E3 coverage (if I missed some, please let me know, I’d love to be wrong about this), which is quite fucking sad. Pardon the cursing there, but seriously, that is some sad ass shit right there. We’re half of the population and 44% of the gaming audience, yet we only get one game that focuses on our stories out of a whole slew of games? Pathetic. Anyhoo, besides that BS, I’m not entirely sure that this reboot of the franschise will be a good thing. When watching the trailer and gameplay demo, I got a distinct Other M vibe from it. Maybe it was Lara simpering while she ran away from her chaser or the naive baby face they gave her, I dunno, but something about it is giving me the impression that this is not the badass Lara we all know and love. I know its a reboot and origin story for her, set in her first (mis)adventure. She’s just a kid, fresh out of college, and that what she goes through in the game are the events that make her into that badass we all know and love. I just can’t shake the feeling that this is going to be another Other M. I’m just going to have to hold off on making a judgement about it (again, would love to be wrong about this) till I play through the game.

Battlefield 3

Don’t have too much to say, other than this game is so realistic that its slightly disturbing to me as the wife of a combat vet. ¬†‘Course he thinks its bloody awesome and is eager to get his hands on it, but I keep getting this image in my head that he’s one of the soldiers getting gunned down. ¬†Also, when are they ever going to start adding in women soldiers to these military games that are set in the future like B3 (its set a couple years in the future, which at the rate things are going its quite possible we’d have them on the frontlines) is or MW3 will be (which is definitely set in the not-so-near future and has no excuse to not have women in them)? Come on, if Bungie could do it with Halo, certainly these games can manage it.

Assassin’s Creed 3

Love this series, can’t wait to try out this new one and the trailer is all sorts of epic. I’m kind of sad, though, that they decided to stick with Auditore’s tale throughout the last three iterations. I really liked the idea that the second game presented us with: that each new game would follow a different¬†assassin¬†from history, and thus that we’d get to see and be a female assassin, but alas that was not the case. Maybe after this one we’ll get to have the protagonist be a woman, pretty please Ubisoft? That would be totally awesome.

Rift Patch 1.3

The second to the left is plate... seriously, it is. Don't ask me how that's supposed to be good tanking armor. And yes, it actually completely covers men when they wear it.

Rift announced its 1.3 patch and I’m rather excited about it. We’re getting a new raid zone, guild banks, and a new type of rift event thing called slivers. The only thing I’m upset about is the new armor models that will be released with the patch (yes, I care more about the armors than class changes, class changes I can learn to deal with, sexist armor models I cannot). Apparently they either did not have the time to or decided not to take under advicsement the plethora of criticsms they got about the female armor models. The new male armor models cover the men head to toe in really badass looking armor. ¬†Meanwhile, the new female armors are all some form of bikini bottoms with chaps or leg warmers and tops that have some form of cleavage or belly windows involved. The female plate model has so many cut outs and is so short, I had trouble identifying it as plate armor at first *headdesk*. At least the designs on them still look pretty awesome, even though there is a whole lot less surface area for those designs to be displayed. It’s rather upsetting that there is the high probability that they saw the complaints about the female armor models (especially since they have been going on since the beta started back in December long before this patch was being developed) and decided to say ‘fuck you’ and made more of the same anyways. If they keep this up, the wardrobe function will not do us any good because there will be such a limited amount of non-revealing armors to choose from that the ability to choose becomes almost meaningless.

Dragon’s Crown

She's got a skeleton shoved into her bosom and her staff is nestled between her butt cheeks....

Yea, this game gets a seriuosly big WTF from me. Its an animated, side scrolling dungeon romper…. with BOOBS. Lots of boobs that jiggle… and, as Wundergeek pointed out¬†in her E3 review, because its aniamted the jiggle had to be drawn in…seriously WTF. And its not just a lil jiggle, the Amazon and Sorceress jiggle so much it made my chest hurt with sympathy. Also, talk about crazy ass proportions, they’ve both got hugely exaggereated body parts (butt on the Amazon and breasts on the Sorceress, although the Amazon still has quite a large rack and the Sorceress is well endowed in the rear too). Now, to be ‘fair’ the men are exaggerated too, but I’ll give you a guess as to whats not¬†exaggerated¬†on them…. that’s right it’s definitely not their penis or balls. No, its their biceps and shoulders which is tooootally equivalent to women having GG boobs or a butt the size on Montana. Men having exaggerated muscles != women having exagerated sexual body parts because the men are not being sexualized, they’re having their strength and power¬†exaggerated. The women are having their status as sexual objects to be lusted after exaggerated which is not the same. At. All.

So that concludes my E3 roundup. I didn’t cover everything, no where near in fact, and most of what I covered was sadly things that caught my eye for being *bad* or *not good* from a feminist standpoint. Trust me, I would really, really love to see the day where I can pick out the things that are doing great on that front.

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18 responses to “My Super LE3T Feminist E3 Review

  1. OUT51D3R June 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    On booth babes: I think the people most degraded by this are hetero male gamers. Pity most of us don’t seem to recognize what it says about how people view us.

    On Fable: Wow, that looks like a terrible game.
    On Skyrim: Looks pretty cool, and reminds me I should finish my Oblivion playthrough.
    On Batman: Due to my infatuation with the Julie Newmar Catwoman in my younger years, I’m unable to view the Catwoman character objectively. I guess what I can say is I don’t see this version as any more sexualized than most of the past portrayals of the character.
    On Mass Effect 3: Hmm. I guess my opinion on this is that the bad is balanced by the good. Not every female character in a game needs to be as strong as somebody like FemShep or Ashley, and the presence of sexualized female characters isn’t a problem as long as not all/most of them are sexualized. IMO.
    On Kingdom of Amulur: Hadn’t heard of this one, thanks for bringing it to my attention.
    On SWTOR: I hadn’t noticed the lack of women myself. I will say though that the token female bountyhunter feels extremely bad ass(for the short time we see her), and if I was going to play any of the characters in any of those trailers, it would be her.
    On Dragon’s Crown: That one image is all I need to know about the game. I’ll never play it.

    • Zaewen June 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm

      Yea, the booth babes and all the ‘sex sell’s bs is really degrading to men too. It’s just bad all around, treats women like sex objects and treats men like they’re brains live in their genitalia.

      My Batman love comes from watching BTAS way too much when I was younger. That’s the Catwoman I know and love to death, and she was plenty sexy (she was wearing a cat suit after all). Just don’t see why they need to take the sex appeal up to 11. And as for Mass Effect 3, you’re definitely right it’s about balance, I just don’t feel that what they have in the games is balance. Between the crappy lore and the way many of the female characters are handled, it’ s just doesn’t come across as overly good to me. Of course its loads better than a lot of games out there, but we can always expect more from our games.

      • OUT51D3R June 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm

        Yeah, with a character as old and cross media as Catwoman, there are so many different entry points that there’s many equally valid perspectives on the character. Coming from TAS, I can definitely see how you’d feel she got really sexed up.

        Mass Effect may not be as balanced as I think. It’s certainly more balanced than the average game, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to be done.

  2. Stratagerm June 16, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Nice to see your take on booth babes, and your take on the treatment of females in games.

    I wrote about the E3 booth babes on my blog.

    It may happen gradually, but with the gamer demographic including so many women now, the companies that admirably present women will succeed.

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  4. Noire sam June 17, 2011 at 4:57 am

    What did you think about Bioshock Infinite?

    • Zaewen June 17, 2011 at 12:40 pm

      Ooh, forgot to write about that one. The game looks pretty awesome, but I’m not overly fond of the way Elizabeth looks… she’s got some weird anatomy going on there.

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  6. Noire sam June 17, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    What did you think about Overstrike?

    http://www.insomniacgames.com/games/overstrike/

    (sorry for double post)

    • Zaewen June 17, 2011 at 1:21 pm

      I didn’t see Overstrike in E3 coverage, but I like that the team is made up of 2 women and 2 people of color. So much better than most games of that genre or most 4-person teams in games.

  7. Hong Hsien Yen July 14, 2011 at 2:08 am

    “Ah, Tomb Raider. The *only* game with a female lead protagonist that I saw in all of the E3 coverage (if I missed some, please let me know, I‚Äôd love to be wrong about this), which is quite fucking sad.”

    Then you must have missed out on Blades of Time.

    • Zaewen July 14, 2011 at 9:18 am

      I did miss that one (and Ms. Explosion Man that someone else pointed out).

      The point still stands though, that women’s stories are vastly under-represented in games. Also…. a female protagonist running around half-clothed in stilettos is not the best representation either. It places women in to the ‘you must be super-sexy if you want to be seen or heard at all’ role, which is definitely not good.

      • Weizi July 14, 2011 at 2:05 pm

        Yeah, you’re right. The thing was, whether the female protagonist was wearing little or alot of clothing. When I paid attention to the games shown in E3, I found that non of the games had a female protagonist to start with(obviously besides tomb raider). I found this to be really sad too. I was a little glad(but not too glad) to see that tomb raider was not the only the game that had a female protagonist.

        On the other hand, I also dislike female protagonist running around half naked for no apparant reason. I always go like “WTH with the clothes, nobody is going to dress like this in real life.” It’s as if the company do this just because they want to make money and nothing to do with the game’s story. To me, I believe games should have realism to some extent. Maybe, in very, very rare cases, would a women happen to be super-sexy that loves to be dressed half naked and beat up bad guys. I’m not saying they 100% don’t exist, but how about the majority of women that are dresses up normal and happen to be heroes?

        I’m not 100% sure about the story of Blades of Time since barely any infomation about the game is released, but judging by the way the company advertises the game, it is very likely that it’s yet another game that focuses on the women body instead of having a good story. Women’s stories are indeed vastly under-represented in games. When I pick up a game with a female protagonist, I usually feel like the game is missing something. Yes, the something is the story and the character herself. As you said earlier, perhaps the development team thinks that just by being a women itself is good enough to be the characteristic of the character. Therefore, the character simply progresses through the story by doing her mission instead of also developing the character itself.

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  9. Dissertation Structure December 4, 2011 at 6:18 am

    This is my Good luck that I found your post which is according to my search and topic, I think you are a great blogger, thanks for helping me outta my problem..

  10. Ethergeist June 12, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I cannot understand why there is always a complaint about how there is a lack of female protagonists – Here’s why: When game companies make female protagonists (as evidenced by your article above) there are complaints about how “sexist” or “scantily-clad” they are – are you “slut shaming?” – I doubt it – my point is this: EVEN MALE PROTAGONISTS look NOTHING like the males who play the games – their “best features” are also exaggerated – If we wanted to see things in video games that mirrored real life, we just wouldn’t play them. So, get over it, and if you think that there are not enough female protagonists, or that they are “over-sexualized” or whatever – Make some games with female protagonists that you want to see – it is easier, and more possible today than ever before. And above all, stop complaining.

    • Zaewen June 12, 2013 at 9:48 am

      *slow clap*

      Well done, Ethergeist, well done. You sure told me. And on a two year old post, too! Woo boy, let me tell you, past-me is so getting over it right now. Hot damn.

      In all seriousness though, who got your boxers all in a bunch? Was it this tweet by Feminist Frequency? I bet it was. Otherwise it’s kinda hard to imagine that someone of your estimable critical thinking skills would google “lack of female representation at E3” or the more likely and ever so classy “women be bitching about bitches at E3” and go back the however many pages it took to get to my lil corner of the backlog woods.

      But ya know what, I’ve been itching to write again and you just brought a whole bunch of what I’m going to call sexist dumbassery to my blog. So here is why you are wrong in bullet points:

      Bullet point 1: There’s a big difference between slut-shaming characters and critiquing a character’s design. Namely that a) I didn’t insinuate anything about their persons based on their clothing and b) those characters DID NOT CHOOSE THEIR CLOTHING, or their body types, or their poses, or their proclivity to shove their staff up their ass (in the case of Dragon’s Crown). You know who did? The game designers, who are almost certainly made of up of mostly men. In this case sexist straight, white, cis-men who are only thinking about what other sexist straight, white, cis-men want to see in the games they play. They don’t care about any other demographic (except for maybe straight, white cis-women who have bought into the sexist narrative that their only worth is through their tits).

      Bullet point 2: If we didn’t want to see video games that mirrored real life why would we have physics engines for water particles or for the way dead bodies fall down, or tech demos that showcase are ability make people look more realistic and less like citizens of the uncanny valley, or Battleduty 10 that puts you right there in the action of Afganaraq shooting terrorists. We want fantasy and escapism in our games, but we obviously want our fantasy and escapism to feel as real as possible when we’re shooting brown people or swimming through a jungle or kicking a ball through a net. The only times gamer’s don’t really seem to care about reality is when it comes to women’s tits and ass and personalities (or the complete lack thereof).
      Bullet points 3 through 7: You’re totally right male protagonists are all exaggerated walking penises – oh wait, they’re not. They’re ‘exaggerated features’ are strength, bravery, athletic ability, intelligence, etc. None of these things are sexualized body parts or are shown through sexualized body parts. And here’s the kicker: Kratos may have huge biceps and a tiny waist something that might traipse into the realm of sexy, but Mario is literally the exact opposite with tiny biceps and a large waist. Male protagonists in games get to be varied, they can be large or small, lanky or bulky, wiry or ripped or even completely unmuscled. And for the vast majority, completely clothed. If they were treated the same as the Sorceress up there they’d have a ball sack that drug on the ground behind them barely contained by a tiny strip of loin cloth. And he’s pose by holding it up and making a skull make kissy faces with it. That’s how absurd female portrayal in video games is. And if you don’t believe me: believe all of these people and their wise, wise words.

      Bullet point 8: Women, and non-sexist men, ARE trying to make their own games. But they have to go the indie or kickstarter route because, SURPRISE, the mainstream, male-dominated gaming industry thinks pretty much like you do. That women, or at least non-sex object women, aren’t a part of gaming. And that’s despite the proven fact that 47% of gamers are women and that more women over 18 are playing than teenage boys. These attitudes don’t just stay in the virtual world, they bleed over into our world and make it hard, if not impossible, for women to break into main stream game companies. And when they do they face belittlement, harassment, silencing, stalking, and rape and death threats.

      Bullet point 9: And last but not least, don’t tell me to stop complaining. I’m not complaining, I’m criticizing. I’m one of many that are shining a light on the dark side of the gaming community. What you are doing, when you so handily dismiss me and yell at me to shut up, is that you are attempting to silence me, to make me go away with stupid arguments and spitefulness. The real question here is why. Why do you feel so threatened by women wanting to have the same fun that men do? Why are you so threatened by women sharing your space and your toys? Why are you so threatened by the idea of change and progress? I think you know why, and I think it has more than a little bit do with how you view women and how you with the women in your life would act. Here’s a protip for you though, the vast majority of real women will not act like the Sorceress up there. Some may genuinely have her body type, and maybe even dress that way (albeit with the help of double sided tape), but ain’t none of them going to act that way because they’re actual people with actual wants and needs and likes and dislikes and personalities.

      And that’s the rub for you and people like you who complain when women want to have decent representation in video games. You hate when women act like people instead of objects and you demand that video games give you that escapist, sexist as fuck fantasy because you can’t deal with the real world and the real people in it.

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