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: Blizzard Games (with Mod Loser!)

Hey Nasties! This is Mod Loser, Jackie, whatever you want to call me. And in this FIG, I’m going to discuss Blizzard’s history with feminism in their video games. It has been a bit of a wild ride, so without any more waiting, let’s get started.

Obviously, the farther back you go, the more problematic you find the situation.  The original Diablo games locked certain classes to a gender (which made no sense), and the various other games released with more boring, white, male protagonists. And let’s not forget WoW, hmm? These games exist, and while they were good at the time, it is important to recognize why they were problematic.

However, Blizzard’s more recent games have shown a drastic shift towards a more inclusive goal, which is significant for representation. The primary contender would be Overwatch. As much as I absolutely despise the loot system in Overwatch, it is incredibly positive towards POC’s and members of the LGBTQA+ community.

The obvious example would be Tracer being in a lesbian relationship (which was confirmed), but let’s dig deeper. For example, Symmetra is a successful person of color who also has been confirmed to have autism. Further yet, she is a support character. This means that in any given match, she is beneficial. They specifically empowered Symmetra while making her an icon to gamers of color as well as gamers who have autism to encourage them to play. But who else?

Sombra is Hispanic and incredibly proud of her heritage. At first, I thought Sombra was a stereotype, but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered why it was so bad for a Hispanic woman to be proud of her culture? If anything, I’m glad Sombra was added in for that reason. Further, still, we have Mei who was the star of the Chinese New Year event. There’s Hanzo, Genji, Lucio, Pharah, Ana, Reaper,  and this list goes on. Almost half of the entire roster includes people of color, which is so very important.

You may have watched Mod Knight’s video regarding representation in gaming and why it is important (if not you can watch it here), but I’d like to reiterate. The point of seeing someone you can identify with, someone who clearly shares the same culture or background or struggles that you share, makes the player feel so much more invested. It validates us as players, it makes us feel more comfortable and we deserve these feelings.

Thanks for reading my little rant, Nasties! I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you have a stellar day! Mod Loser, signing off.

Feminism in Gaming: Overwatch with Mod Zan!

Hi guys, gals and non-binary pals; it’s Mod Zan, here to talk to you a little bit about feminism in my favorite first person shooter. So settle down and put on your reading glasses if you’re ready to talk about feminism in Overwatch!

Overwatch came out early in 2016, and took the gaming world by storm. As a first person shooter it acts a lot differently than most in that genre and provides the kind of character diversity in both gameplay and identity that we’re unused to seeing. Though it clearly means a lot to us gamers, we must ask: Does Blizzard make the cut when we look a little closer? For the purposes of this article, let’s break it down into three simple but distinct categories: Representation, Sexuality, and Story. 

Image result for overwatch women

Representation: Blizzard’s character roster, as of the addition of Orisa, has 24 playable heroes. Of those heroes, 11 are female and 13 are male. Out of these, 4 male characters are people of color, (not counting Zenyatta), and 6 women are people of color (not counting Orisa). I’m more inclined to count Orisa as a women of color, because of her creator, Efi, and her distinct South African Accent. Zenyatta is arguable, though his voice actor is a POC, but because of that, I’ll count him. Although this is honestly one of the best games for diversity that we’ve seen in some time, it isn’t flawless. Many of the women have outfits and character models that are overly revealing and/or sexualized (Looking at you, Widowmaker.) Additionally, a lot of the women don’t necessarily look their age despite being over forty (looking at you, Mercy!).

This isn’t to say that all women age in the same way, but there’s only one older woman that actually looks her age (though having an older woman of color is excellent!), it would be nice to see a little more. There are also no black women in the playable cast. Even though Orisa and Efi’s existence is amazing and creates an incredible opportunity for better game representation; we don’t get to see Efi in game, and if you don’t read up on the lore outside of the game, we wouldn’t know that she exists outside of Orisa’s sprays. I love having a game where I feel that I can relate to many of the characters, but Overwatch can do better, and they should! They’ve made great headway and hopefully, it will only get better despite its flaws.

Image result for overwatch widowmaker

Sexuality: Speaking of Widowmaker, the sexualization of the characters in this game is relatively important to talk about in this article. Despite the fact that we have plenty of women in Overwatch that aren’t sexualized, like Ana, Pharah, and Sombra, we also have a lack of proper outfitting; especially for battle with a few characters, like Widowmaker, Symmetra, and even Zarya! (Does she really need a titty-plate, guys? The armor would have been perfect otherwise…) These are amazing ladies, and having them in the game is fantastic. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that their armor doesn’t work functionally, and looks a little ridiculous. Especially when many of the male characters have armor that not only looks functional, but fantastic!

It’s kind of a fact that when a character, (no matter how dark, tortured, and badass) is sexualized to the degree that Widowmaker is, it becomes impossible to take them seriously. Overwatch is a game with rich characters and lore, but the ones that are sexualized suffer. They drag the feeling and story of the game down and interrupt the immersion for the player into their universe. Since the universe and world-building is arguably what makes Overwatch unique in the FPS genre, these problematic aspects are stains on an otherwise fascinating game.

Image result for overwatch uprising

Story: That being said, many of the characters in Overwatch are incredibly well made. The universe that the characters exist in is interesting and unique with the Omnic War, the Overwatch initiative and the respective factions, such as Blackwatch and Talon. All of the characters feel unique in gameplay as well as personality; so no two feel completely alike. The characters have different lines of dialogue with one another, changing depending on the location and team makeup, that adds even more depth to them and truly immerses the player. The POC characters have POC voice actors, and their backstory is relevant to them.

Ironically, my biggest complaint about the game as a whole is the lack of a story mode. As of a few weeks ago, we had the Uprising event that has expanded a bit on the story of Overwatch and some of its members (such as Tracer, Reaper, Soldier: 76, etc.). This has also brought in the addition of small character bios attached to skins that gives the player little tidbits about the characters. I genuinely adore this addition, but was slightly disappointed with some of the character’s information provided. While some people get a bit more of an in-depth look from the developers and writers, others are somewhat dismissed and given the most basic overview of what they are and the writing adds very little to their personality and backstory. In general, the game has a lot of depth to it and especially given that the story affects how the characters interact with one another. I would love to see a sequel with a story mode or the addition of a story mode in the future if possible.

Altogether, Overwatch is a great game. It has varied gameplay, modes, options, and lore that keep the player involved. It’s one of the most diverse casts that we’ve seen, possibly ever. (At least in AAA games). They have a lesbian as their posterchild and frankly, that’s a really great step forward. 

However, despite its fantastic points, we can’t ignore the flaws in both gameplay and representation. Critique is an essential part of any art form and in order to continue taking feminism and diversity in gaming into the future, we must continue to talk about the things that we want to change. 

Overwatch will hopefully set a precedent for even more diverse games to be made and promote representation for gamers that often don’t get to see people who look like them in their favorite media. I look forward to their future updates, and I hope that many other games will follow their lead in order to create a better future for all players, regardless of identity.

– Mod Zan

Feminism in Gaming: Skullgirls with Mod Knight!

Hey there everyone! Mod Knight here! Today I’m here to talk about Skullgirls. Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar, Skullgirls is an indie fighting game by Marvelous and Autumn Games. The story revolves around a mystical artifact (The Skull Heart) that has the power to grant a girl’s wishes, but in return, transforms her into a monster known as the “Skull Girl.” The story of Skullgirls is a surprisingly complicated one, centered around a conflict with multiple sides, such as the military, mafia, mad scientists, ancient monsters, the undead and even more! In feminist terms, I’d call this game…well, a bit of a mixed bag. While I have a lot of good things to say about gameplay, story, and presentation, my biggest concern with the game falls into character design.

Now don’t get me wrong! Every character in this game is incredibly well made; each one feels and looks unique (save for two who are actual copies of other characters in the roster). 

Not to mention that the game’s roster is 99% female, with only two male characters so far (and they’re both DLC characters, not core). 

Ultimately however, the problem comes down to the high sexualization of the female characters! Luckily, not every female character is highly sexed, as evidenced by characters such as Peacock and Squigly (shown Below). 

Peacock and Squigly

However, quite a large number of the female cast are quite sexualized in their designs, such as Valentine and Eliza.

Valentine&Eliza

Additionally, many of the game’s moves and cutscenes end up giving us lots of cleavage and panty shots throughout the game. Ultimately, my largest complaint is that these sexualized designs are exclusive to the female characters; despite there being two male characters and neither is showing any heavy fanservice.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, however, I’d like to talk about the good parts of this game. Because in my opinion, the good strongly outweighs the bad.

Yes, many of the female characters in this game are sexualized beyond belief. However, the characters are never treated badly by the story for the way they present themselves. Eliza and Valentine (the examples of the games oversexed designs that I brought up earlier) are not only sexual creatures, but masters of their sexuality. They are women who are always presented as being powerful and in control of any situation they step into. Valentine constantly plays a teasing role while she manipulates her enemies and allies alike, whereas Eliza’s the sheer brute force to take what she wants.

Not only that, but these girls are never portrayed as helpless. They are always shown to have the strength to deal with the problems they face; which, might I add, are quite varied! For instance, one of the first things that popped into mind when I decided to write this topic: in the opening cutscene of her story, Filia is attacked by a man who gropes her. What happens next? She curb-stomps him without even moving out of her seat. In another story, a character who has been subjected to horrific experimentation is able to break free of complete mental subjugation and lash out against her handlers, ultimately freeing herself.

Another good thing to mention: these characters are not just strong women, they are deep characters with interesting and varied stories. So often in fighting games we see female characters who are all just…homogeneous; they could easily be switched out and nobody would care. Not the case in Skullgirls! Each character has a strong motivation for seeking out The Skull Heart. Either for those they’ve lost, those they’re trying to protect, for their own gain, or because it’s their job; each character has a strong and well crafted story that really shows them for who they are.

Now, while I could continue on about this game for quite a bit, I think I’ve covered my main points! To sum it all up, Skullgirls is a game which on the surface might look a bit raunchy (with designs that might come off as offensive), however, underneath that is a game which is filled with strong, powerful, and complex women (and two doofy guys). Overall, I say the good outweighs the bad, and it seems that the devs have even decided to tone down the sexualization; a little while back they removed a few panty shots from the game. Maybe it isn’t much, but I personally appreciated that move on their behalf.


Thanks for reading and I hope that this gave you something to think about!

-Mod Knight

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!