Character Spotlight: Kairi from Kingdom Hearts with Mod Loser!

Hey there, Nasties! It’s Mod Loser, Jackie, whatever you want to call me. And this Character Spotlight will be discussing a character that really grinds my gears! That character is Kairi from Kingdom Hearts. I’m certain that the initial backlash to this statement will be great, but allow me to explain why Kairi’s character irks me so badly.

We’ve said it about multiple characters, and it applies here as well: Kairi is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She has barely any personality whatsoever other than smiling and wanting to see Sora and Riku, everything she does simply acts as motivation for the two boys, and her very existence is only to act as a plot point for Sora and Riku to chase after in the majority of the games.

A stellar example is Kingdom Hearts 1 where, quite literally, there is a scene where Sora sees Kairi in front of a portal. She calls out “Sora!” in a very melancholic, monotonous manner, before quickly being sucked into the portal, making Sora angry.  There was no actual dialogue, no evident threat, Kairi only appeared there in that very moment to motivate Sora and move the plot along.

Similar situations, unfortunately, occur in Kingdom Hearts 2. Once again, Kairi exists as a method to move the plot forward even near the end of the game when Riku makes his appearance. She approaches Riku, currently in a black cloak, and asks if it really is him. The hood of the cloak comes down to reveal Ansem’s face, yet clearly being controlled by Riku. Any character could have made that reveal, but Kairi had already been shoe horned into the love interest slot, and as such was used to create an “emotional moment.”

Kairi has potential, but ultimately it has been wasted. What do you think, Nasties? How do you feel like Square Enix could have taken better advantage of Kairi’s character to make her something great? Tell us in the comments below!

This has been Mod Loser–Jackie, whatever you want to call me–signing off!

Nasty Discussion: LGBT Representation vs Fanservice with Mod Knight!

Hey everyone! Mod Knight back with another Nasty Discussion! This time I’ll be taking on a topic that may seem a bit odd. Now, I’m very pro-LGBT representation in gaming! I myself am, in fact, gay; and it always makes me happy to find characters to whom I can relate as a result! However, sometimes the representation we end up getting is…well…to put it simply, it isn’t really representation, it’s fanservice. Fanservice in which two people of the same gender are put into a romantic or sexual situation for the pleasure of the player, usually geared toward heterosexual players, or as a simple way of trying to appear progressive.

More often than not, the fan service in these games tends to derive from female characters; generally with two women put into (often forced) awkward or sexually suggestive situations. Usually in such cases, they are quickly put off by the act or simply don’t take it seriously, thus allowing the (again) straight male viewer to feel more comfortable enjoying the action.

Now, I’d like to make one thing clear: I don’t hate fanservice as a whole. In the proper doses, and when done with the proper respect, it’s an enjoyable addition to games! Problems tend to arise, however, from the fact that almost all fanservice is universally female, as well as it becoming the major focus of certain characters in an otherwise fully serious story.

So, I’d like to look at two different examples of this sort of thing:

One of the first things that comes to mind when I think of an example of same-sex characters being used as fanservice is the Hyperdimension Neptunia Franchise. For those who are unfamiliar with the games, they are FILLED with fanservice. From the main character’s outfits to their movements, much of the game is centered around the male gaze. And there are numerous instances of the female cast members flirting, teasing and even kissing one another for…seemingly little reason aside from the fact that it’s something for the player to enjoy! These kinds of moments cant really be counted as representation because they often mean little outside of the moment they happen in.

Now then. An example of more positive representation can be found in Dragon Age: Inquisition. In which, there are several companions whom you can romance as a person of the same sex or sometimes exclusively as such! Now, these romance paths contain sexual and suggestive content as well. However, they go beyond that; even if the relationship never becomes truly romantic in some cases, there’s still mentions of the fact that these characters do acknowledge their sexualities. As well as emotional reactions and build up to such scenes! Not only that, but they’re meant to stimulate your emotions, not just your body.

So, overall, this is something I’ve felt strongly about. And I’m very glad I’ve had the chance to express it! While sexuality, fanservice, and enjoyment are all well and good, the proper respect needs to be shown to not only the characters themselves, but also the groups represented by them! After all, brushing aside the major implications on a character and their life regarding romance and sex can be rather disrespectful to those who live with it daily.

Thank you for reading! This has been Mod Knight!

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!

Feminism in Gaming: For Honor Beta

Hi, readers! It’s Kylie here, and today we’re going to have a discussion about the newest rage (figuratively and literally) sweeping consoles and computers across the world, specifically the predecessor to the big, finished product. The For Honor Beta is a 3rd person multiplayer action game based in a fictional world where three warring factions, the Samurai, Knights, and Vikings, struggle for power over land and resources. Duels, capture points, and deathmatches are among some of the activities available in the beta for players. But you aren’t here to listen to me wheel off the mechanics of the game, or delve into a detailed synopsis (Wikipedia is probably great for that)! We’re here to talk about FEMINISM.

First, a disclaimer: The full version of the game will have a story mode, and I have not been able to play it yet. 

BUT 

I did have a chance to play the beta (for longer than I’d like to admit). And I’m here to share with you what I observed, and whether or not I’ll be purchasing the game based on the free beta.
First, let’s talk about the positives of the game. 

  • Gender Diversity: Out of all nine playable warriors in the beta (the final version of the game has 12), 4 can switch genders, two are women only, and two are men only. 
  • Customization: You can adjust the skintone to be any shade you want, and every piece of armor can be painted individually and have symbols or crests applied, including your own personal crest that you get to create at the start of the game. 
  • Armor, and Animation, and body types: The female armor is mainly realistic, and the animations aren’t sexualized. Some of the women are large, and have huge arms and muscles that seem realistic to swinging a giant battleaxe on the field, avoiding the waify-model type body that we usually get with female characters. The customization of the characters is frankly amazing, and far beyond what one would normally expect of an action rpg. 
  • Racial diversity in customization: You can adjust the skin tone to be that of any shade you want for any character in any faction. 
  • Story mode sneak peak: The main villain of the series is a lady, a terrifying, bloodthirsty, destruction-bound woman who appears to be a force to be reckoned with. Time will tell if she’s a good villain or not!

    We have some really solid pros here in reference to diversity and a strong presence of feminist writing and design. Awesome! There’s a lot to love here, especially if you want a challenging game with a bit of a learning curve (it’s not all slicing and dicing- there’s legitimate skill involved if you want to crush the skulls of your enemies) that doesn’t give you bikini armor, or no option to be a woman at all. 

    But wait! There’s more!

I wouldn’t be doing the game or my readers justice if I didn’t address the negatives of the game as well. Despite its clear strengths and excellent mechanisms with a few faults in multiplayer matchmaking, there are some feminist faux paus in this beta. 

The dreaded negatives: 

  • Racial representation: The character customization may be excellent, but the promotional material for the game is very, very white. Like, milk-white. Like whiter than me dancing at a barbeque white. Customization is great, but it feels a bit hollow if the company doesn’t follow up with representation in their promotional material. It’s a bit of a cop-out, and makes this game’s score in diversity come up a little short. 
  • Armor: Yes, this is also a pro! Though there is a LOT of female armor in the game that is nothing short of excellent, there are a couple of models (like the female Raider, for example) that have a little bit to be desired. Boob plates are a guaranteed death sentence in battle, so their absence is appreciated but highlights the spots where they are present all the more. 
  • Gender representation: This is basically the same complaint as stated in 1. Almost all of the promotional material on the For Honor wiki, unless the character is a gender-locked woman, is men with no option to even look at the female model for the character. A little frustrating, especially when you’re trying to do research on the armor for an article. 

That about wraps up the major negatives for me, at least from the Beta. Obviously, the full game has three more characters that I haven’t written about, and may have solved some of the issues that I complained about. Overall, though the game has its flaws, I found it to be a really refreshing change from what I normally expect from action-online multiplayer games. I’m not often pleasantly surprised, so if you’re into action-type games, games that require legitimate skill and accuracy, historical fiction (with some clear flaws in historical accuracy), or just punching other people in the face on multiplayer, this game may be an awesome fit for you. Personally, I’m going to wait until the price goes down before I purchase it, but I believe that it will be joining my library in the near future! And for the record, this is coming from someone that almost exclusively plays RPG’s and avoids multiplayer like it’s the plague. 

I hope that this article was informative and gave you a new, feminist perspective on a pretty decent game. Let me know what your experience was with the beta, or even with the full game in the comments, because let’s face it: there’s nothing like varying perspectives to make for an awesome article. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you guys in my next piece!