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: 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.

Game Review: Tales from the Boarderlands (with Mod Zan!)

Hi readers, watchers, and listeners! It’s Mod Zan with a game review for your reading pleasure. I already talked about how my game of the month was Tales from the Borderlands, but since I’ve finally finished it up I felt that it was time to sit down and give it a thorough review so that you can decide whether or not it’s something that you want to pick up for yourselves!

In my review, I’ll cover Visual and Audio, Gameplay, Story, and then give you my final thoughts. All of these will be coming from a feminist perspective to give you the most accurate overview of the game.


Visual and Audio:  

This is a telltale game and a Borderlands game. Therefore, the graphics aren’t going to be mind-blowingly realistic and unrealistically beautiful. However, seeing the two games come together was incredible, particularly since their styles are so similar. The art style was a perfect combination and made me feel like the game I was playing really mattered in the scope of the Borderlands universe. The game also preserved the feeling of the Borderlands universe in its backgrounds and its character models, which worked well.

From a feminist perspective, the characters were all well-made and didn’t have a lot of the usual issues that often come with female characters. Borderlands is better than most about including well-made ladies but isn’t immune from the design flaws that often appear in their costumes.

In this game, the costumes all made sense and didn’t show a ton of skin just for the sake of it, though I might add that Moxxxi was absent from this game for the most part short of a brief voice-only cameo.

And speaking of audio, the soundtrack to this game was nothing short of excellent. I ended up downloading many of the songs that they played during the intro credits for me to listen to on my own time. Overall, they did really well with the design and graphics for this game and it all worked together really nicely with a few exceptions that I’ll mention later in the game.

Gameplay:

The gameplay is a classic for a telltale game. Choice based, occasional combat but mainly operates through quick time events and button mashing prompts. To go into some more technical aspects, I’d like to say right now that I started attempting to play this on my Xbox 360 with my roommate. The game glitched so intensely by episode 4 (and not to mention all of the glitches that skipped dialogue and exposition in earlier episodes) that it was completely unplayable. I was only able to play it on my PS4, where I didn’t have any issues. If you are going to buy this game, don’t get it for the last gen because you will be wasting your money.

Telltale historically has had problems with glitchy games before, and this one is not an exception if you’re purchasing for last gen. It’s pretty unacceptable, and I haven’t seen any attempt from their end to solve this problem, which is disconcerting at best. Regardless, the gameplay was well integrated with the story and made for an excellent experience when it worked.

Story:

And here we are, at the big player in this game. The story is integral to this game as it is with every telltale game. Borderlands and Borderlands 2, however, are usually not games that are renown for their epic storylines as standalones. When you put them together, along with the Pre-Sequel and all of the DLC you get an intense (but somewhat convoluted) epic story that spans multiple parties of people and even planets. Tales from the Borderlands is by far one of the best stories that I’ve seen so far out of all of the Borderlands games I’ve played. The characters are incredibly endearing and have distinct personalities that all work very well together.

Fiona and Rhys both being playable was a wonderful method to the game and gave you some variety in a story-based game that could be easy to stagnate. There was consistent action throughout each episode, and it was well-paced. I never wanted an episode to be over so that I could finally get to a new point in the story. I loved each character, and they never prioritized the male characters over the female characters. There is a canon gay relationship, and it’s two of the most dangerous/skilled women in the game. In intense emotional scenes, the relationship between two sisters is portrayed as the deepest.

It’s a perfect culmination of action, adventure, friendship, romance, and humor. That being said, the representation in this game from a feminist perspective has its good points and bad ones.

The main villains are (as always) Handsome Jack, a man with complete confidence in his moral and personal superiority regardless of how many horrific acts he commits, and Valerie, an older crime overlord who lugs around a giant rocket launcher and has no problem murdering whoever she needs to get what she wants. It’s nice to see an older woman represented in a game with her age, weight, and appearance never being mentioned in a negative light.

However, when it comes to racial representation the game is sorely lacking. One of the main characters who is white has dreads (and granted, she could be a black person with incredibly light skin, but I think that’s a bit of a long shot.) There are only two people of color that I can recall from the game, and one of them turns out to be a backstabber, and the other worked for an evil corporation and now lives in one of their derelict facilities in hiding.

Though the game has good gender representation and some representation in sexuality, its racial representation has a lot to be desired. Though I loved this game, I hope to see a lot more from Telltale in the future when it comes to representation as well as the mechanical functioning of their games.

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Overall, Tales from the Borderlands gets a 7/10 overall: a 10/10 on Story, 9/10 on Visual and Audio, and a 3.5/10 for Representation. If you can pick it up, you should while it’s still free. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!


– Mod Zan

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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