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!

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 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 Damsel in Distress with Mod Knight!

The damsel in distress…where to even begin? This is a trope as old as…well, dirt, honestly. From ancient myths, to fairy tales, to the early days of gaming; we’ve seen this old story played over time and time again. A fair maiden, captured and taken prisoner, a brave (almost always male) hero rushing in to save the day, generally to be rewarded with the girl’s affections…I’m sure you just imagined at least 10 different stories that you know without even having to think about it.

But for how old, and dated (and honestly, just…boring) this storyline is, it still continues to flourish; especially in the game industry! When movies and books are learning to veer away from it, games only ever want to detour and continually find their way back into the mire of this archaic trope.

So, I guess the best question is…why? Why do we keep seeing this cycle of women being reduced to nothing more than an objective to be rescued? Why do we keep seeing girls who are useless aside from being someone for the hero to save? Let’s be honest with ourselves: this kind of thing almost always goes back to being a male ego booster. After all, if the guy is the one saving the girl, then guys can feel great about themselves when they play it! Right? Right? Well, yes.

After all, in our society, we use media for socialization, and the way we see others presented. And how we see those like us presented in media has a profound impact on how we look at ourselves and how we see others! So, when young girls see how those like them are so often treated like they’re useless, helpless, and only able to wait to be helped by a man, it weakens their confidence in themselves. And tells them that this is how they should be. And when boys see it, they take the assumption that all girls are that way and should behave as such. Ultimately, if you can’t already tell, the problem with this trope is representation! Something I plan on talking a lot more about in the future! But for now, this all ties into this trope.

Now, lets see if we can list some examples…now, I’m sure you’ve all be waiting for me to bring up Princess Peach; it’s kind of inevitable with this topic! After all, she’s been kidnapped more times than we can count…But, thankfully in more recent years, the princess has undergone some growth! Yes, she still gets kidnapped from time to time; however, she’s steadily become a strong, independent female character…at least in certain games…

Another example comes in the form of Princess Zelda, whom we’ve talked about repeatedly; somehow, no matter how competent, powerful, or skilled she is, she somehow almost always ends up in this role! No matter how out of character it ends up being for her.

At the end of the day, this trope is just plain and simple outdated. I always enjoy seeing it subverted, or used in ways that are clever however! After all, putting a character into a bad situation is a great way to show off their true strength! Hopefully, that’s the direction people will go when they decide to use this trope in the future! So, I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.