Tuesday 7 January 2014

Male feminist rantings: The bleak, existential horror of Wartune

Here are my vital organs, please stab one!
The two reasons I count myself as a feminist:

Reason one: I am, or believe myself to be, a decent human being and so want to treat the other human beings in a decent fashion. As I believe that gender should not be a barrier to this behaviour I classify myself as a feminist.

Reason two: I am a geek and what's more a geek who is mostly straight. Therefore the perception, both inside and outside the geek demographic, that some of our interests are for “men only” kind of pisses me off. It is an exclusionary mindset that does nothing more than create self-fulfilling prophecies:

Women don't buy comics!” Yes, they do, but they're turned away in droves by the big companies ignoring female talent and marketing their female characters as fetish objects.

Women don't play wargames!” Yes, they do, and there would be more of them doing so if the community at large didn't treat them as outsiders or as personifications of the “nerdy girl” fantasy, if they just treated them as (God help us) gamers.

Geeks don't get girls!” Yes, they do, in droves by just being decent human beings around the lady folk. However, if you're going to repeat this bloody stupid sentiment you will look like an entitled dick who thinks a woman should get in bed with you just to show social conscience rather than as a considered and consenting action based on things like attraction, friendship, mutual respect or some other interaction of your actual personalities.

Women don't play computer games!” Again, they do, but when the most iconic female protagonists are marketed purely on their sexual characteristics (Lara Croft, Bayonetta) you are losing more potential female customers than you gain.

It is a well known fact that nothing says "medieval
fantasy setting" quite like a latex bikini
And so we end up, finally, at Wartune: a free browser game whose adverts turn up on any games-based forum you care to name. The image at the top of this post is actually the most restrained one I could find with some simple Google-slinging. Yes, the woman is impractically dressed and you don't need my Red Cross training to notice the sheer number of vital organs and arteries her armour exposes.

Example number two gets “better”, completely dumping any sense of the game's ostensible fantasy setting to have a woman in a bikini (and anyone who thinks it's a Dead Or Alive character is probably right) and a strapline containing one of the worst erection gags I have ever heard and I have seen every episode of Up Pompeii.

So how does this all relate back to my point about the exclusionary aspects of fandom? Example number three:

She's Korean, on her artist's side
Here we have the full panoply of the problem: The character art, as with the last example (and doubtless the first, though I can't identify that one) is plagiarised. This is, I am told, a character from a Korean MMO called Forsaken World. This one says “Adult Gamers Only” twice but some versions of the ad have “Male Gamers Only”. One of the ads even has the strapline “You deserve an orgy.”.

What may not be plain from all this is that the game is not pornographic. Clicking on the link will not take you to dark, sybaritic pleasures of the binary code. Wartune is a Real Time Strategy Role Playing Game. There is some turn-based combat and even, I shit you not, a farming sim mechanic. What is consciously lacking in the player experience are titties of any kind (okay, there may be cow-milking, I didn't go too far in researching this particular aspect).

What this amounts to is a company creating an Age Of Empires-style RTS with some basic JRPG combat mechanics and marketing it through images of scantily clad women. And even worse they don't even go to the trouble of commissioning art of their own scantily clad women but steal them from all over the place. This company has made a conscious decision to lie about its product because expecting of men to follow a link promising them boobies is a surer bet than coming out and announcing a free to play RTS/RPG.

As a man, I am insulted by the idea that quality is unimportant to my consumer experience so long as some primitive sexual reflex is stimulated. Not even satisfied, just stimulated, this company literally thinks it can lead me by the cock towards its substandard product. As a straight(ish) man with quite a few female friends I am embarrassed that this is how the larger culture sees my relationship with them. As a geek whose female friends are by and large also geeks I am enraged that they should be consciously excluded and their custom tacitly declared worthless in favour of mine.

And what pisses me off the most? It bloody works for them! There is no worse aspect than that. These corporate behaviours continue and are repeated throughout the culture only because they produce positive results. That's how capitalism works in practice. If a large enough section of the gaming population looked at those ads and thought “Well, that's a load of sexist shite!” they would disappear but enough people have clicked on them, stayed to play this Age Of Empires knock-off and handed over money for the higher level benefits (and these don't include titties, either, before anyone thinks any element of honesty went into this marketing strategy).

So, yeah, a company has made enough money to maintain a free to play RTS/RPG by betting on male gamers being sexist and easy to please.



SallyP said...

James, You Rock.

James Ashelford said...

I really don't but it's kind of you to say, thank you.