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Editorial   

Dragon's Crown, Lightning Returns, and Becoming the Thing We Hate

I bet this discussion could actually go somewhere if we'd all just stop acting like children.

There's been a lot of controversy just about everywhere these days regarding how women are portrayed in video games. Frankly, I'm glad to see it. Controversy has a way of exposing us to new perspectives and fresh opinions in a way few other things can. It's given many women a platform to discuss how things like this make them feel sexualized, marginalized, and mistreated. It's also given others the chance to promote the radical idea that perhaps the size of a woman's bust shouldn't dictate how we perceive them; that big boobs don't necessarily mean a shallow character with a tiny brain. It's also indirectly fed Jenn Frank's idea (which has since garnered international attention) for a BoobJam: A call for the creative souls among us whose coding Kung Fu is strong, to create games about boobs, with the caveat that the content show breasts from a more practical or biological angle as opposed to the typical straight male gaze, or sexually gratifying perspective.

Obviously, this controversy has been used to promote many positive ideas and philosophies. Unfortunately, it has also been used as an excuse; a lame attempt by some to justify some of the most hateful, hurtful, and inappropriate things I've seen. 

"Well, welcome to the internet," you might say. "Pull up a lawn chair and enjoy the show!" In the past, perhaps I may have said the same things, but things are different now. I'm married, to an actual woman, with actual breasts. I have children who are learning how to interpret the world around them, and I now, however indirectly, understand a lot of what people are discussing. On one hand, I can completely understand why one would look at a character obviously crafted with titillation in mind and take offense. I also understand why others see Lightning's new cup size or the Sorceress' dimensions and defend them as art. I will never oppose such views. This editorial actually has very little to do with this actual controversy and everything to do with how we are handling it.

Frankly, there seems to be a real lack of effort for those on either side to understand the other. This extends far further than this debate of course (the political landscape these days, for example, is extremely polar) but this was the first time I became honestly and truly repulsed by it. Video games are, and always have been, a way for me to escape drama, and writing about them was always very therapeutic; but the times, as Bob Dylan once said, they are a changin'.

I talked about this briefly on the latest episode of Backloggers Anonymous, but I'd like to take some time and elaborate a little more if I may.

internet arguing

It began, unsurprisingly, at Kotaku, where one of their bloggers posted not one, but two pieces addressing the Sorceress' character design. "The sorceress was designed by a 14-year-old boy," he stated, at which the designer shot back by posting a picture on his Facebook page implying the Kotaku author was a homosexual. The Kotaku author promptly posted this on his site.

In other words, we witnessed two grown adults acting very much like two 3rd graders on the playground:

"Ewww, you draw girls weird."

"Yeah? Well you're gay."

"I'm telling on youuuuuuuuuuuuuu!"

The comments in these articles quickly turned into one side versus the other. "This is art! It's gorgeous! You have to let artists express themselves!" "His art is an affront to all women. He should be taken outside the city gates and stoned to death!" "The author insulted him!" "The artist is homophobic!"

Of course, since the gaming media is mostly run by adults these days, we quickly stepped in set things straight, both sides talked it out and realized we each had much to learn from the other. Some people bought Dragon's Crown, some didn't, but we all came to an understanding about how each other felt.

Sorceress is feminist

Yeah, that's a complete and utter lie. A lot of us are still spewing vitriol at each other depending on what side we're on. If you bought Dragon's Crown, you didn't buy a game for fun or to appreciate the fine craftsmanship that went into making it - you're a misogynist and a bigot who never developed past being a horny teenager. If you didn't buy it and voiced your opinion (even if you did so tactfully) you're a hater and a philistine. You're the reason we can't get nice, creative pieces that push the boundaries and why we keep getting Call of Duty games instead.

Anita Sarkeesian's video series has been equally polarizing. It's not generating thoughtful discussion as we all hoped it would, instead it's turned into an insipid boys vs. girls playground game of insult hurling. We're digging trenches instead of bridges. And the gaming media? Well they aren't helping much with gems like this:

 

Yes, that's a guy telling a girl that her thoughts and feelings about a woman's issue are wrong, and that she suffers from "internalized misogyny". He's somehow managed to be a misogynist and a Sarkeesian defender at the same time. The most disturbing part? His profile:

Games journalist. EIC at  reporter. I have a weakness for literature, tea, and videogames. Turbofeminist.

favstar.fm/users/stillgray

Let that sink in for a second...

OK, let me get to where the rubber meets the road here: I desperately, desperately want to be able to discuss these issues, but I feel like the situation is too toxic now. Yes, it's true, there are women I can speak to about this (Jenn Frank, who I mentioned earlier, is amazingly approachable and if you aren't following her on Twitter @Jennatar, you're doing yourself a disservice) but there's only so much time one person has. Additionally, her perspective seems pretty similar to my own. It's the same with my wife. We should be able be able to ask each other, un-ironically, why it's OK for an actress to get her breasts enhanced for the sole purpose of being more appealing, but a company doing that to a fictional character is horrible. Is boob jiggle ever ok? Why, or why not? Why is a sexualized female an atrocity in Dragon's Crown, but not in the renaissance art that so obviously inspired it?

Furthermore, I'd like to see us get away from judging each other. It seems like, on both sides, while we're very good at preaching tolerance, we're horrible at practicing it. The tweet I referenced above is an extreme example, but I've seen hundreds of lesser ones. We shouldn't be using phrases like "a fantasy-obsessed teenaged boy's dream" to describe a game, because it's judging its fans, and the creators, as juvenile (and also because it's teenage, not teenaged, but I digress). Likewise, we shouldn't group all dissenters into a bucket and label them as haters who want to censor art, because that's hardly fair either. People have a right to be offended, and much can be learned simply by honestly asking "why?"

I want to live in a world where people are allowed to speak, and where we can just simply talk to each other. I felt that perhaps my generation, the one that seemed to protest the loudest against judging and being judged would be the one to break this trend. Was I wrong? Will we forever shout and point fingers at each other? Or can we one day all have civil discourse like this.


 

Comments

Kayshire Cat

08/21/2013 at 03:18 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

I've actually wanted to type something like this myself just really havent had the motivation to do so. It is something that I should want to discuss, but god fucking dammit EVERYONE talking about is so fucking ignorant about everything I just want them to shut up, and if I'm not dealing with white knights I'm dealing with actual misogynists.

But anyways I don't want to spend the whole comment cussing, and I'd like to add something. Some Ys fans are complaining about this.

She's a character that was added to the Vita remake of Ys 4. People are bitching cause "she was only added to attract pedophiles and lolicons" :/ This whole thing about people thinking EVERY female character is put in games as a sex object needs to stop. I'm so tired of it. It's diluting the actual cause. People are using it to complain about anything these days.

btw I will get to listening to and commenting on the podcast sometime this week. Got distracted by SRIV today.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

08/22/2013 at 05:38 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

Yeah I've seen some of the garbage you deal with on Twitter. I didn't get a chance to discuss everything I wanted to in this piece, but I do feel that some forms of Misogyny do need to be aggressively perused and stopped, but when something is a grey area like this, it's much more effective to have rational discussion about it. I have zero sympathy for people who are sexually harassing others or using hate slurs. That's an entirely different thing.

BrokenH

09/06/2013 at 06:11 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

This character isn't even "racy",Kay. Trust me, I know racy characters! This lass isn't even at "soft hentai". lol.

Casey Curran Staff Writer

08/21/2013 at 03:55 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

This made me realize Pixlbit doesn't have a thumbs up bar because I was searching for it after reading this. Great write up. This is the real reason I love this site and the other forum I go to when I discuss games. There's never any arguments or real insults, at least to the degree you see on the internet. We discuss things and we do it well. 

Rangergirl

08/21/2013 at 08:45 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Well-written, Angelo. I have nothing to add and you have a bit of an idea what my take on things is, anyway.

Ryan Bunting Staff Alumnus

08/21/2013 at 09:08 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

I wasn't sure if I even wanted to get involved or not, purely because of the snowballing that this topic has garnered across the internet, but oh well, I'm a sucker for great discussion.

The first line argument people use is the art vs. not argument, whether it's artistic and tasteful or just filth. As for the Dragon's Crown sorceress, the artist (George Kamitani) gave her absurdly large breasts - "voluptuous" would be an understatement - but does that mean it deserves to be scrutinized to the point where it'd be considered Hentai? Or does it still count as artistic?

The thing we all need to realize is that there will never be a clear definition for this, there's so much interpretation involved on an individual level that there'd be no way to quantify and rate something like that that would line up with everyone's point of view. I grew up with art - whether it was watercolor, pastels, charcoal, pen and ink, acrylic, the whole nine yards - it was a big part of my life. Naturally, I developed an appreciation for the emotion that art can convey, the depth and complexity that can be created by shapes and brush strokes. With that said, I gained an appreciation for the female form - and not just what many people are taking issue with here - the "busty, skinny archetype," but all shapes, sizes, art styles, you name it. To me, the female form isn't appealing just because of my inherent natural desires, being a young man and apparently someone's target demographic, but to me the female form embodies power, life, and love, and it's something to be admired and cherished.

As for the idea that every single woman in a video game is sexualized and objectualized is somewhat of a gray area for me, because in my mind there are many titles that most certainly fit this description - the damsel in distress, the powerful hero sweeps in to save the day and they live happily ever after, but I think this goes back to early art - in early times (medieval specifically) male and female roles in life were very polarized, and that was reflected in the tales of the time, where the woman was a home maker, taking care of the children, things that (sadly) to this day are still accepted as the norm. Even until the 1950's, men were commonly the "bread winner," while the woman was steretypically thrown into the home maker role. Nowadays, there are tons of women making huge waves in their respective industries, and personally I think it's fantastic - to get that kind of diversity not just because they're women, but because they bring new perspectives, new ideals, new ways of thinking that I believe will benefit not just their respective fields, and eventually, civilization as a whole.

One thing I have a personal problem with - and I know for a fact people are going to take this the wrong way, and a flame war will probably ensue, but there are many cases where being offended is a choice. If I'm listening to "Disciple" by Slayer, and someone hears Tom Araya screaming "GOD HATES US ALL!" and they say to me "Hey! I'm a devout, god loving christian and that offends me!" I'd absolutely lose my shit.  If you're looking for something to offend you, you will find it - if you're looking for something about race, you will find it, if you're looking for something about religion, you will find it - and it's this endless ferreting for something to hang over someone's head that's making the issue worse. When major events of sexism happen, they get muddled in with the lesser, more, dare I say, nitpicky events? I think the real issue here is that the straight up douchebags (you know, the ones that send rape threats in online games and various other outlets) need to remove themselves from the discussion, and peferably from the gene pool, and we need to see all sides of the issue and learn something from it. It's 2013, mankind has been to the moon, we've developed cures and vaccines for illnesses, we've created computers that can perform unbelievable calculations, yet we still fight wars over race, religion, and sex.

Rangergirl

08/22/2013 at 11:28 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Thank you for putting words to what I've been thinking but hadn't come up a good way to say yet. Now I don't have to.

transmet2033

08/21/2013 at 11:41 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

I feel somewhat like an idiot by saying this, but I am not quite sure I understand what the real issue is anymore.  I understand that the sorceress from Dragon's Crown is part of it, but why now?

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

08/21/2013 at 12:07 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

From what I understand, she's an extremely sexual / titillating character. Some people find this offensive, and as far as I'm concerned, that's within their rights. To an extent I agree with them. Dragon's Crown isn't a game I'd play in front of my kids, which makes me kinda sad. I the other hand, being offended does not grant one instant license to be a judgmental jerk to people who aren't, or who find it entertaining. 

transmet2033

08/22/2013 at 02:13 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I just found this article on Dragon's Crown and found it interesting.

 

Dandichu

08/22/2013 at 08:01 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

"Can you play as a woman who’s stronger and more muscular than the men, where you aren’t penalized with weakness for choosing to play as a woman? The answer to those questions is also “yes,” and I think that’s more important."

Amen to this, and amen to your beautifully written piece!

Jonathan Drake

08/21/2013 at 10:16 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

This is one of the most intelligent pieces of writing I've seen about this issue, and this kinda makes me sad.  The lack of civilized discussion and surplus of hatred does a disservice to everyone.


Vice's Assistant

08/22/2013 at 12:53 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

Good work Angelo. I've kind of said my piece about this on the BA of Mirror's Edge. I sincerlly wish we could have more discussions over this, really discussions. Not one where it quickly devolves into groupthink or a meme picture battle. We can talk about important issues like this, race, LGBT issues, or other important issues  with out the crap. But its so rarely seen, I doubt anyone knows what said discussion looks like.

Coolsetzer

08/24/2013 at 07:04 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

That's wierd, I bought Dragon's Crown to have fun! But yes, I saw the click-bait articles on Kotaku, & I agree that it was ridiculous. I got a clearer picture of what a misogynist is thanks to this, too, so good job. I also saw a Sarkeesian video, and just don't agree with her opinion at all. But I don't go spreading hatemongering. There's just a lot of ignorance all over right now, but such is human behavior.

BrokenH

09/06/2013 at 12:19 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

When all this started I tried being balanced. Aka, I didn't want to see the other side as "evil" or even "slightly bad". However, I found I would begin debating with many who would automatically label me as "creepy" or "misogynistic". It's easy to say "Just be calm,rational,and understanding." but it's difficult to stay a pacifist when your opposition metaphorically paints you into a corner and throws you to the lions.

From my personal experience it hurt the most because deep down I knew I actually loved many women throghout my growth as a human-being yet people who didn't even know me in real life were trying to damage my reputation and make me come off as some sort of sexist monster.

Still,loved reading this Angelo! I wish more people would follow your advice because it seems even "professional game journalists" fall into childish traps and broad sweeping generalizations.

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