Tropes in Gaming: The Fanservice Pack with Mod Aria!

Mod Aria’s Back! This week I’m taking the reigns on our popular Tropes in Gaming segment, and I’ve decided to talk about a trope that everyone knows, but didn’t exactly know the name of it. This trope is dubbed “The Fanservice Pack”, and it is quite common in the video game industry. Particularly, this trope is quite common among fighting games, as you can tell by the flagship image of Soul Calibur’s most recent rendition of Sophitia. But what is The Fanservice Pack? I’ll tell you, but get ready to say an audible “Ohhhhhhh!”.

The name of this trope is a bit strange, but oddly appropriate. The Fanservice Pack, in essense, is the idea of characters becoming more and more attractive as a game goes on. However, this trope mainly centers around the progression of female character measurements. As a game series follows this female character, her secondary sex characteristics will change to make her appear more desirable. Sometimes it’s a chance it clothing, sometimes it’s not. Typically, it is denoted by a drastic, yet steady, increase in chest size. But enough beating around the bush, right? Video game companies just want these girls boobs to be bigger than they were.

Where can you see this? I counter with: where can’t you? Let’s look at Sophitia. Compare her Soul Calibur 2 sprite to her Soul Calibur 5; can you honestly say that nothing has changed? Oh yeah, there’s change. A couple cup sizes worth of it. Mortal Kombat, BlazeBlue and Tekken are also perpetrators of The Fanservice Pack. Because of the regular installments of the series, the excuse “Time is passing, a woman’s body changes” is easy to use as an excuse to up the fanservice for these female characters.

But fighting games aren’t the only victims. The Fanservice Pack can be seen in JRPGs like Final Fantasy X-2 and the Final Fantasy XIII installments as well as The Neptunia series and even Pokemon. Western games, like Mass Effect and The Elder Scrolls series, don’t dodge the The Fanservice pack either. Now, male characters can also be affected by The Fanservice Pack, but the effect is nowhere near as drastic or frequent. As I said earlier, The Fanservice Pack is not necessarily a change in body, but also a change in clothing or hair design. Male video game characters often see new outfits as a series goes on, and they can sometimes be more revealing than before. Whether or not this is actually fanservice is debatable, but that’s a topic for another time.

So this trope can be a bit of a toxic one for gamers; there are some obvious and some not so obvious reasons. At the center, the reason why this trope is toxic is that it is blatant hypersexualization of female video game characters. There is a stigma in gaming that we are only just now starting to move away from: in order to be a strong fighter, a woman must be physically appealing.

This argument falls apart in so many areas; the definition of physically appealing is dynamic, the phrase “physically appealing” usually comes along with an addendum of straight, cis males, and the argument itself is nonsensical. A woman’s beauty and sex appeal does no way correlate with her athletic prowess. Breast size does not equal a stronger punch. An hourglass figure does not mean she can dead lift a car.

Nevertheless, it is the true heart of this trope that forces sexist notions on gamers: that the kind of transition these games are showcasing is a natural one. This goes for women and men too. Bodies come in all different shapes, sizes and skin tones. We should accept that our bodies are wonderful things, and that they are wonderful no matter what they look like. Having women grow three cup sizes in a matter of two games that take place within a few years of each other is absolutely unrealistic. And no excuse can justify it.

Take our poster girl today, Sophitia. It’s easy for people to say that her breasts have steadily enlarged because she had children. People know that having children can increase a woman’s breast size. But that argument is weak at best. Enlarged breasts is not the only sign of former pregnancy, nor would the increase in size be so dramatic. Everyone knows why Sophita was changed. The same goes with men’s bodies and their musculature. You don’t get ripped just by practicing martial arts. There’s way more to bodybuilding than just working out.

The first step to recovering from this idea that excuses can justify sexualization in the media is acknowledging what is happening. These fictional characters are being hypersexualized in order to appeal to their audience. Some people like curvy women with large breasts, some people like beefcake men. And what I’m about to say might blow your mind, but follow me on this: to an extent, I don’t have a problem with that.

Let me explain: there’s nothing wrong with catering to your fans. There’s nothing wrong with embracing your sexuality. You’re attracted to what you’re attracted to. You should embrace that. If fanservice is harmless, then there’s nothing wrong with sexy girls in bikini’s or cute boys in suits. Does that mean fanservice can’t be harmful? No. Fanservice can be harmful in numerous ways.

Forcing others to partake in sexual gratification via sexy fictional characters is wrong. Destroy the idea that everything must be sexual. Secondly, fanservice can be harmful because of unrealistic expectations it enforces on human bodies. Remember that these bodies are fictional for a reason. Do not hold others to standards that they will never be able to meet. Thirdly, justifying one type of fanservice while condemning another is not fair. Claiming that Sophitia’s huge chest is acceptable but a topless Kilik is not makes you no better than a child who didn’t go to a birthday party because they didn’t like the cake. The world does not revolve around you.

The Fanservice Pack isn’t necessarily a trope I think should be completely eradicated from the media. However, I think that we as gamers and creators need to take a step back from fiction and learn what we need to do to make this right. Stop making excuses for fanservice, don’t force others to consume types of fanservice they detest, and realize that fanservice can be okay if it’s not appealing to you. And, most importantly, separate fiction from reality. The sooner we can do that, the sooner we can all learn to love our own bodies. And appreciate fictional ones, too.

Thanks for reading this article and please continue to support NWG! Until we meet again!

Tropes in Gaming: The Worf Effect with Mod Knight!

Hey there, everyone! Mod Knight back with another Tropes in Gaming! This time, I’ll be tacking what’s known as “The Worf Effect”

It’s named after the character Worf from Star Trek; TNG, a large, brutal and powerful klingon fighter. Arguably the toughest guy in the main crew, and he had the almost inexplicable tendency to be thrown around, taken down and knocked out in one hit whenever a new villain showed up! Why? Because (obviously), if this person could take down the toughest of the heroes, they must mean business right?

And that is more or less the idea of this trope! In which the toughest person in the group gets laid out by someone new to show just how much stronger they are.

And of course this is a common thing in gaming! After all, many games revolve around combat and fighting, so, when someone knocks out for best fighters without much effort, it’s a pretty intimidating thing. Of course, sometimes this can come off as silly, or overdone. Occasionally, there are battles in games that you’re forced to lose, even if in reality you could actually win them without much trouble; this may be accomplished by ridiculous time limits, cutscenes in the middle of the fight or simply by having an enemy whose health stops going down after a point.

There are a large number of great examples of this trope throughout gaming, but : thought I’d throw in some of my favorites! Warning: spoilers will follow.

In FFXV: Gladiolus, the obvious “Big Guy” of the party, is shown to be beaten repeatedly without much effort, often after having just defeated some form of huge enemy! Most infamously, right after clearing an enemy base, he (And the rest of the party) were rendered powerless by Imperial Commander Ravus with nothing but a rather slender sword.

In Kid Icarus: Uprising, Pit gathers the three sacred treasures during the first part of the game. They are powerful holy relics that possess the power to kill the big bad Medusa and save the world, which had been a constant for the series at the time! And using them feels great! They pack a lot of punch and levels that let you use them make you feel invincible even at higher difficulties! Then, once Medusa is defeated and the credits begin to roll…..then pops out Hades! The real bad guy of the game, who not only defeats Pit and the sacred treasures, he does so by BLOWING on them.

And a more humorous example in Mario Party 3 when Princess Daisy is introduced in story mode, Bowser, the huge, hulking villain comes up behind her, startling her. In response, she slaps him, hard enough to send him flying away into the sky! Obviously everyone was pretty intimidated afterwards, and she responds by saying “What? He was in my way”. 

This is a trope I can really appreciate in proper doses. Too much, and it becomes a bit silly; but thankfully, this is a trope that’s well spread out among characters! Anyone of sufficient toughness can become a victim of the Worf Effect, meaning that nobody is unfairly targeted by it! Overall, it’s a very good strategy to be used once or twice; though, preferably, between several characters.

This has been Mod Knight; thanks for reading! Why don’t you let us know what you think, what are some good examples of this trope? What are some bad examples? We hope to hear from you soon! Until then, I’ll be back 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

Tropes in Gaming: The Reluctant Fanservice Girl with Mod Aria!

Mod Aria’s here today for another installment of Tropes in Gaming! This week, I’d like to talk about a trope I don’t really see discussed very often, but has been deeply rooted into the media. Particularly, this trope is rampant in Anime and Anime-style video games. It’s called The Reluctant Fanservice Girl.

The definition of an RFG is pretty basic if you understand the term “fanservice”. In case you don’t, I’ll elaborate briefly: fanservice is the term for when characters in anime, video games, television, etc are put in particular situations to please the audience and nothing more. More often than not, this is when the characters in the particular media are naked or half naked for no reason. It can also apply to moments between characters who are in a relationship or for characters who are shipped together frequently by the majority of a fandom.

Once you understand what “fanservice” is, the definition of the Reluctant Fanservice Girl becomes a bit more clear. It’s that girl you always see who is often put in those fanservice-y situations, but she absolutely abhors being there. The most common situation the RFG finds herself is in a position of undesired nudity or half-nudity. She’ll be wearing a sexy costume or accidentally trip and show her underwear, but she will blush and complain about how uncomfortable she is.

As for examples in gaming, I’ve actually briefly mentioned this in my article about Persona 5.  Persona 5 is a feminist game, but as I said previously, this is one of the areas in which it underperforms. The heroine Ann Takamaki is absolutely a RFG. She herself experiences severe sexual harassment as an underaged girl from older men, but she is constantly placed in sexual situations that she does not enjoy. Her Phantom Thief costume is tight leather that exposes her cleavage, but she herself finds it a bit too sexy. When Yusuke asks her to pose nude for a painting, she is appalled and tries everything she can to get out of it.

Using her position as a model is also not something that absolved her from this. And that idea goes into what that trope can reinforce. I’m sure many people have heard of the joke “Why do women get upset when you see them in their underwear but not when they’re at the beach in a bikini”? I, too, agreed with this at first. But upon inspection, there is actually a reason why that idea is more logical than you might think.

The magic word here is consent. Most people consent to allowing their romantic/sexual partner to see them naked, but they certainly don’t want a random stranger to. The same applies to women and underwear vs bikinis, as well as Ann’s desire to model vs her desire to wear her Phantom Thief costume and pose nude for someone she barely knows. Just because what someone does and does not consent to might juxtapose each other does not make them a hypocrite, nor does it seem a non-sequitur. The difference in the situations, as well as the difference in viewer, can be a small enough change to solicit consent.

As a whole, the attraction to the RFG is somewhat disconcerting. Supporting the idea of having a woman in an uncomfortable situation just so the audience can enjoy her physically absolutely disregards the idea that consent is necessary. And when people start thinking that consent is not necessary, this can lead to some very toxic thinking. Victim blaming is rampant across the globe, and this trope does not help abate it.

If the RFG is a trope that plans on sticking around, we must teach those exposed to it the harmful behavior that it teaches. We must remind the viewers that a woman has the agency to consent and to deny consent in any situation she chooses, and that must be obeyed. I hope that you think about my words the next time you see a poor girl on the verge of tears because of the sexy cat costume she’s being forced to wear.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this article, and please stay tuned for more great NWG content!

— Mod Aria/Sam

Tropes in Gaming: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl with Mod Zan!

Hi readers! It’s Mod Zan coming at you with a new article for Tropes in Gaming. In today’s article, we’re discussing a classic trope that has been discussed frequently in many feminist circles: the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

The trope is often coined to describe the female leads in romantic comedy movies as well as any movie that has a male and female lead. As a general rule, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a woman who enters the life of the male lead through serendipity, and usually is extremely beautiful and “unique” despite having no substance and no personal goals outside of helping the main character acheive whatever it is that they are out to do throughout the course of their adventure.

This trope is one of the more popular ones that is discussed in feminist discourse, which means that video games are no exception.

To get us started, I think it’s important to recognize a few examples of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl in video games. A classic example would be Zelda from most of the Zelda games, particularly because she exists consistently to only improve Link’s life while he roams Hyrule, trying to save her. This overlaps with the Damsel in Distress trope that we discussed in a prior article, and is by no means the most expansive example of the trope.

Another good example of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is in the Shadow of Mordor games, through Lithariel. Tallion’s life implodes when he’s sacrificed and loses his family to the Black Hand, and spends his time roaming through Mordor trying to take revenge on every Uruk that he comes across while getting to know the Elven spirit that now shares his form. Lithariel only shows up to give him a quest in order to increase his power while seeming like a badass, only to slip up and need saving later on and becoming a romantic interest. This fufills many other tropes outside of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, such as the damsel in distress as well as the forced romantic interest as the only other female lead in the game aside from Tallion’s dead wife and her aging mother.

The harm in the Manic Pixie Dream Girl can be broken down in multiple layers. The first is in the insistence that the male protagonist’s life will never change without the help of an adorable, quirky girl to lead him into the metaphorical light from his world of grey. This places the responsibility for the male on the female lead and insists that she have no other purpose except to help him. This perpetuates the idea that women exist solely as an aid for men and don’t have their own desires and ambitions.

Another layer of it is the forced romanticism of a woman with a man regardless of their proximity to one another and how incompatible they are. This insinuates that regardless of compatibility, women and men are unable to be anything other than friends. This toxicity bleeds into the lives of real people as they interact with one another and reinforces the harmful treatment of women in our society even on a small scale. Therefore, the deconstruction of tropes is essential to both feminist discourse and societal progress.

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