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Gender Diversity / Politics in games (was Tropes Vs. Women)


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I really don't want to sound holier than thou or anything of the sort but it doesn't matter a jot if you've played the last few games or not, I've not played an MGS game since snake eater and despite the fact that might make me lose some hardcore gamer cred, in regards to this argument, it's completely irrelevant.

I'm as much of a massive perverted deviant as the next bloke (in fact, probably a bit more than the next bloke) but the thing is, I also know when things are gratuitous or not, very, very few games or any sort of media actually highlight this fact - beaver shot in loaded weapon is one of the last times I can actually think of one - so even if you can just take these camera angles or clothing as a bit of fun or a nice bit of eye candy alongside your escapist playing of a video game, that's all well and good but unfortunately there are a fuck load of people that don't perceive it as such and that is the issue that Sarkeesian has been talking about all along.

It's nothing to do with censorship, before that other trope is even brought up but there are certain things that are just undeniable and completely unnecessary (upskirt shots of Ashley in RE4 anyone?) which if a huge proportion of the audience wouldn't even perceive as 'titillation' just as something that is totally normal and acceptable.

That alone is the thing I have difficulty with - I'm all for seeing boobs and skimpy clothes but it's the difference between it being there as purely for sex purposes and being there as the only way you can possibly depict a woman. If you can see the difference then it's all good but an amazing amount of people can't.

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As previously stated I haven't played the last two games so can't talk on them and what they might encourage, but I don't think sexualized outfits or camera angles suggest it's ok to do anything, other than look at the breasts or bum of attractive women, and we all do that naturally anyway. The character might end up really being a horrible, backwards, sexist stereotype. But titillating character designs are nothing to be scared of, and are not responsible for the sexism and misogyny that exist in society.

Do you think there could conceivably be something more sinister than mere titillation in presenting female characters in incongrously sexualized outfits in a series where, among other things:

1. a woman is raped and has a bomb put in her genitals

2. another female character has her sexual desires manipulated psychically by a sadistic male character as a means of torture

3. There is sexulisation of a, for all intents and purposes, 14 year old girl.

Do you think the decision to have those incongrously sexualised female character designs could have been made entirely separately from the rest of that content?

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I assume you're meaning guys running around with their dongs out as Zok was saying earlier? But generally that wouldn't arouse women in the same way that women with their breasts would arouse a guy, so there would be no point in that. And MGS4 had some admirable angles of Snake's bum to be fair.

No, not dongs out. Just placing the male characters in an outfit and shot in a way where its primary function is to make the character more sexually arousing.

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Yeah, there's not exactly Thor and Captain America and the guy from the space skunk movie wandering around topless and sweaty in videogames. Because dudes would get all confused and sweaty and topless with that in games.

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I realise that I'm clearly more drunk than I thought as I essentially made my same point about three times and I proof read it for typos....

Still, I think I articulated it surprisingly well considering my initial reaction to seeing the defence of Kojima was more along the lines of "GNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN"

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Also, I think female characters who are "objectified" can still be great, strong and independent characters, not just purely stereotypes.

The problem is the strong, independent woman is as much of a stereotype as any you're thinking of. There was a great piece written on the problem with the strong femal character a while ago. A good make character isn't a "strong male" character, we'd never describe them as such they're multifaceted, complex but the best we can do for femal characters is a slightly less shit stereotype. Games are far from alone in this issue.

Edit: found it - http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2013/08/i-hate-strong-female-characters

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The "strong" in "strong female character" means "well written", mind. Or at least it's supposed to. A strong female character isn't a female character who exudes strength in her narrative arc, it's a female character who is who is well -- as opposed to weakly -- written. "Strong" female characters can be wretched.

I can't help thinking that anyone who has written an article railing against "strong" female characters might've done a bit of a derp. The term casts a spotlight upon their unfortunate relative rarity.

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No, not dongs out. Just placing the male characters in an outfit and shot in a way where its primary function is to make the character more sexually arousing.

Raiden probably had a few sexy moments in MGS 2 didn't he. But yeah I agree to an extent, and don't get me wrong, I don't particularly enjoy the ridiculous male gaze the series does have, but it's always been a part of the series and it's always worn it proudly on it's sleeve. And even if that stuff isn't for me and I don't agree with it all, I'd still rather the original intent of the creator be upheld for better or worse, and everything not get sanitized for fear of who it might offend. Especially when it's something as tame as Quiet's costume, because really, it is pretty tame.

The problem is the strong, independent woman is as much of a stereotype as any you're thinking of. There was a great piece written on the problem with the strong femal character a while ago. A good make character isn't a "strong male" character, we'd never describe them as such they're multifaceted, complex but the best we can do for femal characters is a slightly less shit stereotype. Games are far from alone in this issue.

Totally agree. Still think some of the ladies in the MGS games are pretty well written, at least in comparison to other games, personally.

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I actually had more of a problem with playing Yakuza 4 recently. Playing as a loan shark with a heart of gold, who just happens to coerce potentially vulnerable women into working in his hostess club in order to receive their loans, did strike me as pretty wrongful. Yakuza is absolutely full of that stuff though, and does also pretty much wear it's sleaziness on it's sleeve, so I should have expected it.

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The "strong" in "strong female character" means "well written", mind. Or at least it's supposed to. A strong female character isn't a female character who exudes strength in her narrative arc, it's a female character who is who is well -- as opposed to weakly -- written. "Strong" female characters can be wretched.

I can't help thinking that anyone who has written an article railing against "strong" female characters might've done a bit of a derp. The term casts a spotlight upon their unfortunate relative rarity.

The article covers the strong meaning well written angle, from their point of view.

I get that it's mean to mean well written in most uses, but in many it seems to mean well written in comparison to the usual dross which counts as female characters rather than compared to the male characters, especially in games. I'm not saying there aren't well written female characters there are, but they're the exception so much so we have a term to call it out. That alone says how far we've still to go, that we can't just take it for granted that female characters will be something more than a paper thin, one dimensional stereotype than we look back on in years to come with embarrassment. Hopefully we get to the point where "strong female character" isn't a selling point.

(Sorry I'm bouncing back and forth between the uses in different posts)

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The original intent of the creator can be upheld, and criticised at the same time.

true, but I get the feeling that a lot people would rather it wasn't upheld and changed to fit in with what they view as more acceptable, as someone earlier was saying about Kojima not fitting in with what's acceptable over here. And if everything went down that route with everything removing the slightest hint of anything potentially offensive, I think media would get would get incredibly bland . And I don't think a lot of it is really worth the uproar it gets. There's nothing hateful about these character designs, no matter how juvenile or silly they are.

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What you perceive as a lot of people rathering that Kojima be forced change content in order to not offend, is actually a lot of people feeling that things would be better if Kojima didn't feel the need to sexualise his characters for personal enjoyment or for fan service. That publically discussing the negative aspects of those portrayals leads to more creators being aware of what they're doing, rather than taking the default stance of servicing a primarily male audience with juvenile titillation.

Hey, if some guy, be it Kojima or anyone else, wants to specifically make a sexy game with sexy ladies, he can be my guest. You won't hear a cry for censorship from me. But if the medium at large wants to fail to consider the impact of perpetuating notions of women as disposable objects, sexy or otherwise, then there's going to be deserved criticism, and you don't get to brush it off as each and every one of those creators having full artistic freedom to make the very specific game they want. Because even if that were remotely true, it paints a very sad picture of a very exclusive industry indeed.

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If anything, I think we should have way more diversity in games in regards to different cultures, one thing I liked about Apotheon and that Inuit game recently, as they tapped into otherwise unrepresented cultures (although Apotheon slightly less so but it was still something different, which is nice) but there's a big difference in differing viewpoints being allowed and their not being the other viewpoint, which is the situation we have in video games even more so than in film.

I wouldn't want anyone to ever censor the mental out of Japanese games, it's a terrible shame that there isn't quite the same level of bonkers as there was in the 90's but that isn't and never was the argument. The mere fact that women are continually portrayed in very narrow terms by EVERYONE is the issue and the fact that there isn't a different viewpoint. Unfortunately, at the moment, if a different viewpoint is suggested, the GG-ers go insane and women (and various other under-represented people) aren't apparently allowed into the games industry to make games that might put forward a different viewpoint.

The crazy thing is, we live in such a patriachal society that even when women do make games, they make them for guys as that's the only audience that is believed to be out there as mentioned by that free running game a page or so ago.

On th general note of GG; no one in the Sarkeesian camp, or so called SJW's are advocating censorship, just that there could and should, be other ways of portraying people in games.

If more people get into games, then more games are made, if you don't like them, you don't play them but how any gamer could suggest anyone of any sort shouldn't make games is just bizarre.

EDIT: TL; DR What Fry Crayola said....

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Raiden probably had a few sexy moments in MGS 2 didn't he?

As far as I recall there was a bit near the end where he loses his clothes and is having to sneak around naked. That's all I remember. During this time the camera is never trying to sell him as a sex object, it's played out as a funny situation. Generally speaking, media often presents naked women as sexy and naked men as funny.

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Hey, if some guy, be it Kojima or anyone else, wants to specifically make a sexy game with sexy ladies, he can be my guest. You won't hear a cry for censorship from me. But if the medium at large wants to fail to consider the impact of perpetuating notions of women as disposable objects, sexy or otherwise, then there's going to be deserved criticism, and you don't get to brush it off as each and every one of those creators having full artistic freedom to make the very specific game they want. Because even if that were remotely true, it paints a very sad picture of a very exclusive industry indeed.

Does sexualizing a character automatically mean they become disposable objects though? I wouldn't say so. There are negative gender stereotypes that crop up in games and all other media that absolutely deserve to be lambasted to the fullest, but I just don't believe in feeling guilty for enjoying or creating sexualized characters, especially when it's as silly and harmless as the characters we are talking about here (rape subplots aside). So, in the end I just can't agree when I see an outcry over this or the latest Final Fantasy character having a "sexist" design, because I genuinely don't believe they are sexist. There's a line between things that are fun, silly and (to some) sexy, and things that are derogatory and disrespectful. Quiet's design, or the FF girl mechanic are not derogatory or disrespectful. It's that simple to me, I suppose.

I do agree that the balance is off, and there are too many games that provide for the male gaze and not the female in the west (and say what you want about it, but in Japan, there is more choice with the healthy Otome game genre providing for female end of the spectrum), but that's a separate issue. I think the design of Quiets costume is perfectly fine! It's not even a 7/10 on the risque scale, how prudish must we be!

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You seem to be unable to comprehend that you are still allowed to enjoy something and also be critical of it. No one is making you feel guilty for wanting to enjoy Metal Gear but you seem to be convinced that it is impossible to have it both ways, therefore you refuse to move on the position that there is nothing wrong with Quiet and that people are being oversensitive. I love the original metal gear solid, but I also think is it an incredibly sexist game and it deserves a lot of criticism it gets in that area.

You keep talking about a "line" between positives and negatives. That line does not exist, they blur, it is a grey area consisting of Kojima's creative freedom and the question of tasteful writing and art design.

And again stop thinking that people are complaining about a lack of female gaze, that has never been the objective and most western schools of feminism will straight up reject the female gaze as hard as they already disapprove of the male gaze. These games being a Japanese cultural product do not shield them from criticism, if criticising Kojima means criticising Japanese cultural concepts then so be it.

The female focused Japanese games you talk about are part of a problem in themselves, they are games being made with and defined by the gender bias behind their design, but that is a different topic altogether.

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There's nothing wrong with being sexy - that one to Spinal Tap - but the problem obviously isn't sexy outfits, it's that those sexy outfits only ever seem to appear on sexy women. Male characters' uniforms in Metal Gear games tend not to be cut down to the navel so that they can flaunt their curves, and this season are usually worn with trousers with lots of pockets, rather than PVC chaps. The action figures of male Metal Gear characters don't have mouldable plastic cocks that you can squeeze and arrange in their trousers as you wish, no matter how many anguished emails I send to Konami.

The female characters and the male characters are both designed to accommodate the male gaze, with the men existing as macho fantasies of power and aggression, and the female characters existing as male fantasies of sexually provocative women. The women in the game don't have any independent existence or purpose beyond fulfilment of male fantasy. And there's nothing wrong with that in itself, apart from the fact that this is all one-way. If Kojima wanted to subvert those kinds of ideas, or to explore them from different directions then that would be really interesting; as it is, it's just giving one perspective and one direction of gaze, which is coincidentally the same perspective and the same direction of gaze that the vast majority of mainstream games follow, which is just boring from my point of view, and must be positively toxic from the point of view of women who want to play the game.

Sexiness from a male and female perspective is the basis of a solid relationship; sexiness from the male perspective alone is the basis of a night in front of Youporn, or worse, the basis of all of Dapper Laughs' material.

I'm not saying you're wrong - because you're not - but I feel like the amount of time the camera in the later MGS games spends lingering on Snake's arse clad in skin-tight spandex (or maybe the near-future sci-fi equivalent of spandex) is a fact that is being ignored here.

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I'm not saying you're wrong - because you're not - but I feel like the amount of time the camera in the later MGS games spends lingering on Snake's arse clad in skin-tight spandex (or maybe the near-future sci-fi equivalent of spandex) is a fact that is being ignored here.

True, but IIRC a lot of that stuff (including forcing all the MGS fan-bros to play as effeminate Raiden in MGS2) doesn't really feel like the game is leering at Snake, it feels like it's deliberately undermining the kind of macho stereotype that Snake represents. The Quiet stuff - i.e. her wearing a PVC bikini on a battlefield, and her action figure's squishy tits - seems more like straight-up ogling.

Who knows - maybe Kojima's pulling some kind of world-class confidence trick, and that Quiet genuinely will subvert the videogame war-stripper cliche? He pretty much has said that he's doing that, so maybe it's unfair to criticise him before the game has actually come out, but it's also very, very easy to do so given the consistently dubious nature of everything we've seen to date. I don't think Kojima is that subtle.

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Well I haven't played Peace Walker or Ground Zeros, so I can't talk on them. But anyway, I was specifically talking about the reaction to Quiets outfit, which as I said, I think is harmless. I have no idea about any of these rape subplots you're talking about in the other games.

So you think people shouldn't take the game too seriously because it's just a bit of fun but you've not actually played a game from the series for seven years?

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And even if that stuff isn't for me and I don't agree with it all, I'd still rather the original intent of the creator be upheld for better or worse, and everything not get sanitized for fear of who it might offend.

Writing better characters and adding MORE to the wealth of characterisation in the medium of videogames, is NOT "sanitising".

There's nothing clever or unique about Quiet's visual design. It adds nothing to our culture other than reinforcing gender tropes that are already in abundance everywhere you look. Kojima has every right and freedom to do that but it's absolutely worthy of criticism. Criticism isn't censorship. You might as well be saying "I don't want him to try harder".

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Crisy, remember that when people criticise the character design of Quiet, or any other character they feel is overtly sexualised, they don't do so in isolation. The problem isn't that one specific character crosses a predefined threshold for what is acceptable, because such a thing doesn't really exist. Rather, that character exists as yet another example in a broad, negative picture. The picture is criticised, and the character is held up as one example among many.

So, looking at Quiet specifically, people aren't being prudish, saying she's too risqué. Instead, it appears to be yet another game with a female character created to appeal to adolescent male fantasy, thus contributing to a wider cultural problem with the representation of women in games.

In isolation, there is nothing wrong with Quiet's design (other than fishnets being rather inappropriate for a combat situation). But it doesn't exist in isolation.

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