Fantasy Service: Necessary “Evil”?

Wow. Look at the hit points on THAT one.

Wow. Look at the hit points on THAT one.

As all my characters are female, I’m a G.I.R.L. cross-player.

My avatars are all female for two reasons: One, because I appreciate the female form in DDO far more than the male form, especially if I have to stare at it for hours.

Second: I’m an old-school gamer that learned to take advantage of male arcade gamers who always chose the brawny male characters in combat games such as those in Street Fighter II.

Chun_LiI would pick Chun-Li or Charlotte and show them their error in underestimating a girl, as they will often subconsciously think that the girl character is a weaker one.

One player character voice, emitted automatically as you entered combat in the original Neverwinter Nights campaigns, summed my enjoyment nicely: “Prepare to be beaten by a girl.” It’s a clear visceral level of intimidation that no amount of points to an Intimidate score can compare.

A third subjective reason is that action girls kick ass in popular media.

MsTrinityWhen someone can pull off a look like this (Trinity) at a SF convention, you have to marry them (and so I did).

But how far should my obvious preference for the female form go in the game before it just gets weird, or worse?

So I wanted to chat a bit about fanservice in my beloved world of DDO.

Note that this isn’t going to be a scientific or even-handed analysis. Nor am I going to softball the beloved developers about what they’ve added or not added in the game over the years. The gaming industry is not ultimately run by the developers but their bosses, who approve, encourage or insist on adding or removing appearances and dialogue in a game to encourage one thing: Sales.

Thus, don’t take my criticisms as either chauvinist or puritanical. I’m just calling things out as I’m able to see them for you to think about.

Armor and Clothing

The easiest analysis of DDO’s fanservice begins with clothing and armor. Without deviation, the female characters are always lacking in coverage if one cared to go that far, while the male outerwear never quite “pumps up” what male attributes that a female gamer might care to see on their male avatars.

Bare midriffs abound for the females (Oooh! Belly buttons!) while nary a one armor appearance kit adds a male midriff with washboard abs and hardened pecs that would make even young Schwarzenegger or Ferrigno nod in approval, having become successfully pumped up.

BikiniSyn

Syn was going through a phase.

I fed into this imbalance myself back when armor appearance kits were available. Take a look at Syncletica herself in an earlier life, sporting the bikini look as she performed her monastic work.

The clear tendency to show more feminine sexuality also appears on the NPCs. Take busybody Eolynn Arva in Eveningstar, quest giver of “Overgrowth” in “The Druid’s Deep” chain.

She’s wearing clothes, sure. But her cleavage may require you to have a Jump of 30 to extricate yourself from it.

 

 

More clothing doesn’t help, either.

malicia-rb-614The poster child of this is Malicia, the senior succubus as seen in “Under the Big Top” and “Wrath of the Flame.”

One JPEG = 10K words.

 

 

 

 

 

Lack of Clothing and Armor

I’d point out some male examples here and in the previous section but I haven’t found any. This is obviously a bias since (1) I’m a guy that has pointed out his attention to female form and (2) being a guy, I’m not looking out for clear sexualization of male avatars.

A few NPCs stand out here.

DryadThe Dryads are relatively new with the “Menace of the Underdark” expansion. Kudos to the developers for their incredible animations that make them believable as defenders of the forest.

Dryads are like ballerinas, with graceful movements not only as they fight but as they die, curling up as if completing a dying-swan move.

So why does this graceful fey, clearly more plant than humanoid, possess boobs?

There’s also an audio aspect; the sounds of a struggling or dying dryad bring to mind some people who are aroused or attracted to female grunts, sighs and moans. There’s plenty of that in many games and media, as well as sports, and I will not sully my blog by adding links to this.

A rarely-seen example is found in “Wrath of the Flame.”

In your travels you rescue an Archon, a celestial being that is the other side of the eternal war on the plane of Shavarath.

archon

Frankly, the demons should just surrender.

This sole female example, as seen in this early game loading screen, has wings, very simple bikini armor, some headgear, a lot of glow and not much else.

We’ve never been shown a male example.

The devil hierarchy of Shavarath, to note, doesn’t show any real sexuality except a clear masculine sense of power by sheer physical force.

The demons seem to lack any feminine leaders save Malicia.

Arguably the most omnipresent NPC that dishes out high-quality fanservice as early as level 6 is the succubus.

Having recently received a new computer that can easily push the resolution of the game to the max, I was all-to0-distracted, even to the point of being dismayed, when a guildmate summoned one up during a quest chain.

succubusHoly crap on a cracker.

There’s also emotes to consider.

Sir Geoff of Hanna has completed an extensive look at the Dance emotes and how they differ in female and male. I’m fond of the Drow female’s second dance–and guilty as charged for why I prefer it. It’s the hips.

 

 

So What’s My Point?

I guess there isn’t one except to ask a few questions I’ve alluded to before.

  1. Why the disparity between female fanservice to male? Do abs and pecs not sell? Are all developers male and what few female developers there are were sent to the same place as female Ents and bearded dwarven women? To DDO’s credit, you can add scars to your avatar’s faces to ugly them up. But then, you can also add lipstick and more varieties of hairstyles to female characters.
  2. Is there a need (or lack) for more male sexualization in DDO from a profit or “balance” standpoint? I’m not suggesting or requesting such additions but only identifying their exclusion. Dances, to take a non-clothing example, show a more tavern-jig aspect for male avatars while half-elf and Drow dances play at the forbidden-fruit cheerleader and courtesan archetypes.

All things considered, I feel DDO has generally not crossed that moral event horizon point of no return of fanservice where the sexuality of either player character or NPC hasn’t some attempt of a message or purpose to it.

You might be wondering what games I have in my mind that do cross that moral event horizon level of gratuity. Since this can be quite the subjective, I’m purposefully not revealing what games I’m thinking of. Since I play fewer games where such content may appear, I’m clearly biased by what I’ve been told about such games, rather than what I’ve played. My religion and upbringing can also bring in a bias. I will leave it to you to generate counter-examples based on your personal experience.

One justified example are the dryads. As caretakers, their feminine appearance reflects the maternal and fertile aspects of keeping a forest alive and prospering.

Likewise, the succubi are sexualized for a reason. In truth, they aren’t humanoid, but demons. They weaponize sexuality to lure adventuring idiots like me to into underestimating their ability to get you killed, directly or indirectly.

Not even their leader, Malicia, is actually using sexual charms, but literal ones. In both of her adventures, she shows cunning by trying to kill you by manipulating others first (through charms or impersonation) before she’s forced to take you down by combat directly. In her own words (paraphrasing), “It’s all about control.” Her dominatrix fetish wear symbolizes domination–just not the type of domination a male player might be hoping to experience, albeit subconsciously.

As far as player appearances, does the “chainmail bikini” look sell more to G.I.R.L.s like me or to actual female players? I know I’ve bought more armor kits than not.

Being a bit conservative in terms of knowing where some lines should be drawn, I like DDO for what it is but always worry when I find myself enjoying the eye candy too much, forgetting that the game is the goal, not the titillation.

I know I’m meandering a bit in my analysis. What do you think?

I’m thinking that I’m going to have to spend a bit more time cleaning out WordPress’s spam catcher. I already adjusted the post’s title in hopes of avoiding a blitz of spam posts about icky stuff.

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shawn Wilson (@shawnvw)
    Jul 16, 2014 @ 14:05:44

    According to TV Tropes, you’re a CrossPlayer, not a G.I.R.L. (Well, maybe you were yesterday, but now that you’ve told everyone…)

  2. Saekee
    Jul 18, 2014 @ 13:30:25

    thoughtful post–consider, for example, how the picture above of the female warrior (the second one with the blue top and burgundy tights) is drawn in such a way as to show both her breasts AND buttocks.
    It would be great if DDO let you change your character’s look on the physical level as well, in the sense of muscularity etc. I would certainly make my twiggy drow female more knotty.
    I bet none of the males posting back to you on the DDO forums said, “Hey, what do the female players think?”

    Also worth considering is the concept of “Technomasculinity” – the use of hegemonic maleness or masculinity in the realm of (as it sounds) technology. So consider how players like to boast of DPS, video game prowess, strange bonding rituals by putting down authorities “The Paternal DEVS” and so forth. One gets the picture of a massive adolescent male population with unfortunate tendencies. Then, though, there are the generative or positive, mature males that post ideas, respect others’ thoughts, are not threatened by females or any minorities, and more.

    • teachersyn
      Jul 18, 2014 @ 14:39:06

      Quite so. I recall NWN having a body option. Basically, thin, stocky or fat. But there wasn’t much beyond that, although some facial options (what face to have) were there. It would add some joy to making your Conan look like the part.

      Yeah, it’s been a big bag of crickets on the forums with what few responses logically giving this the Captain Obvious treatment. I consider it an experiment of how men have really internalized sex in games to the point where they EXPECT to see it as part of the design. The unanswered question is if and why female gamers tolerate it or expect female fanservice and not any complementary male fanservice (or do).

    • teachersyn
      Jul 18, 2014 @ 14:41:44

      Yeah, Chun-Li from Street Fighter was one of the initial iconic bits of game fanservice in the mid-1980s (I forget sometimes how older I am). Her animation was always shapely, particularly her main weapon: her legs. As such, she also has “Hartman hips” to accentuate her legs.

    • teachersyn
      Jul 18, 2014 @ 14:47:38

      And one other thought to your reply: You’re right. We all get up here and start talking trash on the forums, how we get the high DPS and max this and max that. I didn’t think about that before–we men STILL try to do the “Biggest Dick” contest even here.

      Not so coincidentally, I don’t see many female forum posts joining in such flame wars of other male poster’s virtual prowess. Guess they don’t care much, just like in the real world. 🙂

  3. Saekee
    Jul 18, 2014 @ 16:01:08

    hah too true. Note this fact too that few think about: many of those sexualized images of women were made by some male designer behind-the-scenes. So it is a male creating a fantasy-sex image for other men. . .is this not rather. . .
    homoerotic?

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