Feminism in Gaming: Queer Baiting in Elder Scrolls with Mod Loser!

Hey there, Nasties! It’s Mod Loser, Jackie, whatever you want to call me. And I’m going to discuss the Elder Scrolls franchise from a feminist perspective. Now, most people think of the Elder Scrolls series as being fairly feminist given that it has always had gender selection, the quests have never been blocked off for any identity and that the gameplay and story is rather unaffected by the choice of your race or gender identity.

Further still, many people reference same sex marriage in Skyrim as being amazing and inspirational at the time of release. That being said, while the Elder Scrolls franchise has a fairly good track record, there are some things that need to be discussed and understood. For starters, let’s tackle the approach to Gay Marriage in Skyrim.

To be honest, it is not at all as exciting or glamorous as anyone could imagine. This stems from the incredibly shallow marriage system that exists in the game. Any NPC that can be married can be married by either sex, yes; however, there is no real emotional connection to be made. You see, these characters are willing to marry you once you do specific, seemingly random quests that barely connect to their interests at all.

This means that rather than even trying for a more story driven approach to relationships and characters, like in games such as Fallout 3, this marriage system is used as a shallow attempt to draw in queer gamers. How do I know this? Well, that would be the Press on Skyrim when it released. There was a great deal of controversy and Bethesda supposedly defending the decision under a bastion of equal rights, but the mechanic instead of feeling as though it supported queer culture, was a simple marketing ploy about as deep as a puddle.

This is genuinely bad, because it set a precedent. Companies can now add in very shallow marriage or relationship options to allow for “Queer Couples,” and manipulate that in an effort to simply sell more games. Manipulating Queer People’s desires to feel welcomed and respected in shallow ways is a cruel, and shamelessly ridiculous insult to the community.

I bring this up because other games have followed in Skyrim’s footsteps. One such example is the Call of Duty Franchise, believe it or not. In Black Ops 3, you can choose to play as a woman, and there is a love interest in the story that is female. What matters though, is that the script was not altered whatsoever, the interactions are hollow, and it was an obvious attempt to say “look at this lesbian couple in our game!” Men tend to find gay female relationships sexy, and they “gave queer people representation.”

To the COD Team, that seemed like a win-win, but instead, they only baited the queer community into a cheap manipulation of our desire for basic rights and respect.

Thanks for reading today, Nasties. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! This has been Mod Loser, Jackie, whatever you want to call me, signing off!

Nasty Announcement: Mod Application Extension!

Mod Aria here to announce our Mod applications have been extended. Applications will now close July 20th at 11:59PM EST.

Please click this link to submit an application. More details to come!

Top 5: Most Annoying Anti-Feminist Game Tropes with Mod Zan!

Hey guys, gals, and non-binary pals! It’s Mod Zan, back with another article for you all to enjoy! In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the most irritating anti-feminist tropes in gaming. There are many, many more anti-feminist tropes in media and gaming than the 5 I’m going to mention in this list, but these are some that I see most frequently and that irritate me a bit more than the usual. Without further ado, here’s my list for you to enjoy!

5. Unrealistic Armor

This is one of the most discussed issues in feminist gaming that is commonly discussed in feminist gaming circles, and the fact that it’s still relevant enough to be put on the list today says everything that I could possibly say. Particularly relevant in fantasy games, armor that barely covers the female form in games is definitely a major distraction from a video game that might have many other merits to it. It detracts from both the design of the character and their story, and contributes to the prevalent issue of the sexualization of female characters in gaming that continually reappears no matter how far we progress socially. There are many culprits of this, including Quiet from Metal Gear, Morrigan from Dragon Age, any woman from Mortal Kombat, etc. This issue should have already been solved, and the fact that it still exists is what makes it so difficult.

4. The Chick (or One Token Girl)

I believe that this is also one of the most frequently discussed issues in feminist critique of games. There are quite a few games with a cast, or a team, that only has one girl and her only purpose appears to exist as her gender, and to take care of the rest of the team. This is slightly less prevalent than most other tropes in video games, but the existence of a single female character (unintentionally or not) is yet another trope that reduces the character to her gender identity and usually forces her into feminine or mother-like stereotypes. Even if she is an action girl.

3. Shallow Woman

I’m using the Shallow Woman for the purposes of this article to encompass a few different tropes that I tend to see frequently. She’s the trophy wife, the gold digger, the empty-headed adversary of the teenage girl and the evil stepmother. Any woman who is presented as having interests in things that are stereotypically feminine like shopping, makeup, acting, etc. is usually presented as being without purpose and existing to be shrill, catty, and an annoyance to the main character. Michael’s family in GTA V is the perfect example of this, as well as even some of the pre-made Sims (Dina Caliente, anyone?) in the Sims 2 and 3, and even 4.

2. Fridging

We certainly can’t talk about irritating tropes in games without talking about Fridging. Mod Knight wrote an entire article dedicated to breaking down this trope, which you should certainly check out if you have more to say about this! But regardless, fridging is something that we see far too often in video games. Women are constantly thrown under the metaphorical bus in order to further the development of the male characters in the game that are considered to be more important. Some examples of this are prevalent in many AAA games, such as in Arkham Knight with Barbara Gordon, Aerith in Final Fantasy 7, and Talion’s wife in Shadow of Mordor.

1. Prize to be Won (Also known as Standard Hero Reward)

There’s a lot of games that push this classic trope in ways that may not be obvious at first, but since this trope is older than time, it makes it harder to stomach now. Donkey Kong, Mario, and Legend of Zelda are some examples of the trope in its rawest sense, with princesses available for the protagonist to date or marry at the conclusion of the game. Unlockable outfits go back to the first trope that I discussed with unrealistic clothes, but also imply something more sinister about the female characters in games. It insinuates that their bodies are on display for the voyeuristic gaze of the player as an award, and thus that women’s bodies are an object to be earned with enough work.

Overall, these are all tropes that present harmful views about women, sexuality and their relationship to men. Objectification, sexualization, and in Anita Sarkeesian’s own words, trophisim is prevalent in all of the above discussed. The patriarchal nature of video games is what influences the existence of these tropes in the first place, and discussing them is integral to ensuring that we can make better games in the future that don’t involve these. Each trope I mentioned is likely to receive a full article about it in the future if it does not already have one, and I look forward to analyzing them all in greater detail with all of you!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!.

Tropes in Gaming: The Faux Action Girl with Mod Aria!

Hey there, Nasties! Mod Aria here for another thrilling installment of Tropes in Gaming. Today’s trope is a fairly simple one, but one that I personally find particularly detestable. It’s called the Faux Action Girl, and just buy it’s name, I’m sure you can tell what exactly this trope entails. So let’s get started.

The Faux Action Girl is the other side of the coin to the Action Girl. Both have pre-established roles for women: that they are bad-ass fighters who usually have some kind of high ranking position or rumored skill set. From the get go, the media in which they appear establishes their dominance over many people (sometimes even the main character). However, the difference between an Action Girl and a Faux Action Girl is night and day. I’ll talk more about the Action Girl later, but the Faux Action Girl usually doesn’t get the chance to really shine, as she is constantly defeated in battle or needs to be rescued by the main character.

Faux Action Girls are most notably seen in American spy thrillers. The girls that claim they’ve been taught to shoot by their “five brothers”, and therefore discards the “weak” part of their female identity. But they absolutely appear in video games as well. Some examples are Rebecca Chambers from Resident Evil, Amy Rose from Sonic (though not it a few of the 3-D Sonic games where she is a playable character) and Talia al Ghul from Batman: Arkham City. These girls are gun-wielding, hammer-toting ass kickers who spend most of their time either pining for the hero of their game or getting into trouble.

I don’t think I have to spell out why exactly this is frustrating, do I? Too often women in video games are placed in roles where they are supposedly formidable foes, but never really get the chance to prove that. Games or anime or movies that are riddled with Faux Action Girls claim that they are helping women have better representation, but in reality, it’s doing quite the opposite. It’s further cementing this idea that women involved in combat or special ops are there to be seen, not to participate. They are not meant to take an active role; that’s the job of the male characters. And it always will be unless we force a change.

The reason why this trope angers me so much is that, as a female gamer, we are often deceived by game developers who claim they want to have “better female representation”, but deliver a disappointing and false product. I play games and wait for the female character to shine, only to be heartbroken by seeing her in yet another support role that eventually turns into a forced heterosexual romance. We are being lied to, plain and simple. Yet again, these games are giving in to the idea of gender roles; I cannot begin to describe how outdated that mindset is. There is only so much we can take before we abandon the games that let us down over and over.

Games that allow you to create your own character have shot up in popularity for this reason. More and more women are gaming, and game companies that aren’t willing to acknowledge this will find that their revenues will crumble when they continually pump out video games with boring white male protagonists with his Faux Action Girl white partner who is there to be protected and to ogle her forced love interest. And I encourage all my readers to not give in. Do not support these game franchises that refuse to admit that they don’t know the first thing about representation.

When we can take a lead role and feel empowered by saving a galaxy or defeating a demon god, why would we settle for anything less? Do not get complacent. We are not Faux Action Girls. We can be anything we want to be; believe this with all your heart.


Thanks for reading this guys! Please continue to support NWG!

–Mod Aria/Sam

Feminism in Gaming: Jade Empire with Mod Knight!

Hey there, everyone! Mod Knight back with Feminism in Gaming! This time , I’m gonna dive into a game from my youth (that now that I look back on, has it’s ups and downs when it comes to feminism). The game I’m talking about today is Jade Empire, a game by BioWare released in 2007 for the Xbox.

Jade empire follows the story of a martial artist who is tasked with restoring a powerful guardian spirit of the world, the water dragon, in order to protect the cycle of life, death and rebirth. Along the way, the player can fight, talk, and romance their way through a rich cast of unique characters and fun, world building quests! The world of Jade Empire is certainly a vast and nuanced one, especially for it’s time!

Now, with so many characters, there’s a plethora of ways that we can see plenty of interesting representation. One notable feature of the game is that the characters are almost entirely Asian, which is appropriate for the setting. It’s nice to see that level of representation when so often characters from Asian countries and cultures end up getting white-washed.

Also! Not only does the game give us the option of playing as a female character, there are a several  female allies in the game, and each is an extremely interesting and well thought-out character! As well, we are given two options for homosexual romance in the game. However, I do have my issues with this, especially in the male romance with Sky, the only male romanceable character in the game. When the player first courts Sky, he is shown to be somewhat resistant to the idea, understandably needing time to think. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t so different from the female version of this romance.

When the two same sex relationships reach their resolution in game, instead of showing the complete scene as they would in the heterosexual versions, the game simply fades to black on the two characters, leaving it up to the player to infer what occurred. Of course, the very idea of having same sex romances at this point was pretty wild in gaming. However, looking back on it, the game treats them strangely, and simply has a difficult time providing satisfying scenes. Luckily, we know that BioWare has improved somewhat since then.

Speaking of romantic relationships, another folly of the game comes in the form of Henpecked Hou, a character whose entire identity is one big joke about how awful marriage is. In fact, the entire reason he stays with the player as a follower is because he finds it preferable to going back home to his wife, and he constantly reminds the player of his “dear wife, who has turned my life into a miserable cesspool devoid of humor and excitement. Bless her soul”, as he puts it.

While Jade Empire certainly has issues, it’s a game that attempted to touch on several serious topics, but may have gone a bit heavy or perhaps too lightly with them. In the end, it was a starting point for a lot of LGBT representation in gaming, and I, for one, am pretty grateful for that! While the problems with it pain me, I still find it to be a very fun and enjoyable game even years later!