BOWS ARE EASY AND ONLY FOR WOMEN - CLICHÉS TO HATE

Isn't it boring how almost every female warrior in fantasy settings is forced to use a bow?

Introduction
I love good storytelling and I love when an idea catches me completely off guard and creates a deep, emotional response. But because of this passion, I find most of the stories, especially in video games, repetitive and boring, not just “inspired” by great art, but rather lazily pushed forward by deadlines, limited to overused clichés in assumption that “if it worked before, it’s going to work for the 500th time, right”?

In this series I’m going to share some of my thoughts on story clichés that I don’t want to experience anymore. I know they won’t disappear from AAA industry, but maybe some of the indie storytellers are going to use different, more creative (and less dumbed down) approach?

Previous article in this series: Spread Diary Entries

And now...

Clichés To Hate:
Bows Are Easy And Only For Women



Common in: RPGs, strategy games, anything related to fantasy.

Description: Most popular in two cases:
A) You have to write an in-game lore or a story involving a group of heroes, but you don’t have a chance to give everyone you’re describing a unique personality or an interesting design. (Especially if these characters are not going to say anything/will disappear in a minute or two.) You already used the most convenient stereotypes, like a male-barbarian with an axe, a wizard in a pointy hat and so on, so to be more “inclusive” you put there a bonus sexy female archer (it’s easier to draw it than a rogue or a priestess anyway).

B) You need to make an archer unit for a fantasy strategy game, and since it’s one of the very few female-friendly archetypes in popular culture, you make all the archers from this group females just so they are easier to distinguish during action sequences.



Why it is useful: Portraying females as archers is something that will never disappear and has overwhelmed movies and novels, especially when an artist has to create female-elven characters. After all, females and elves are related to the same attractive features: agility, grace, cute and small bodies... Majority of players won’t question it, since a common person assumes that using a bow is something that requires little to no strength and is mostly related to accuracy, coordination and speed (especially when you look at the in-game stats).

After all, this cliché was not entirely made from nothing. It’s not historically accurate, but even the Greek goddess of hunting and wild nature, Artemis (also very close to the elven stereotype), was often portrayed with a bow, arrows and animal companions. And since, as I mentioned, portraying a stereotypical archer does not include drawing great muscles, huge body or heavy armor, it perfectly suits never dying need of making sexy fan-service-friendly chicks.


The problem: Not unlike the majority of gender stereotypes (both male- and female related), this cliché reached the point of being boring. Unfortunately, these stereotypical features lead to the portrayal of hundreds of “attractive female archers” without thinking this design through, what sometimes may hurt the coherence of portrayed world.

If you want more details about this topic, you can watch this cool video below:


But if you want just a very quick TL;DW, here it is:
• Bows, especially the ones used in battles, require A LOT of strength and are extremely fatiguing.
• Using a bow effectively requires months (if not years) of practice. A “casual” weapon for a person who is not a warrior, is not a bow, but rather a crossbow. The latter is basically like a bad, primitive gun – just point and shoot. Even a child can hit someone’s belly with a bit of luck. Majority of people CAN’T use a bow, though.

• Sure, average woman is weaker than an average man, but a true female warrior is probably much stronger than an average man anyway. In most cases, portraying her as a tiny, graceful sniper is not going to do to her much justice, since she can just as well break people skulls with a mace or an axe.
• And, as I already said – it became really boring because of repetitive nature of this cliché.

Alternatives: The two paths I think are the most convenient ones are very easy to figure out, and if used well, they may make the game’s setting much more interesting and logical, what for some players is going to be very valuable.

The first option is to resign from this cliché and to allow your female characters to use whatever weapon the artist finds interesting and suitable in the given context. In this case, a bow would be just one of many, many possibilities and you could offer your female characters an option to successfully engage in melee fight scenes, join an army as a soldier or to become a well-trained, adaptable warrior. In other words, you can just allow your female characters to do the same thing the male characters would do (although, if you want to stay realistic, less often – in most worlds women are not even close to being a 50% of fighting characters, but rather a minority – you can, of course, change it, but it doesn’t always make sense).



Just remember, that if a woman is a master of a bow, she probably can also be a master of every other type of combat.

The second way of solving this problem is to find a reason why an average woman would be interested in using a bow above any other weapon. It’s quite difficult to accomplish that without rising a next question: “so why is this weapon not more popular among men as well?”. But you can try – starting with religious/cultural reasons, or making a fictional type of wood which would make the bows much easier to use while requiring much less strength, or maybe it would be just a female-elf thing... I didn’t find a really creative example, but if you are determined to show nice girls standing with a bow just because other people made it in the past, well, I mean... You can.

Thank you for your attention. If you think I’m completely wrong or you would like to discuss this topic, let me know below!
See you next week!

Posts

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Nerf Peacekeeper and Valkyrie please.

Too OP.
Liberty
Am I doing this right?
20007
I had a bow for one of my female characters BECAUSE it requires strength and skill (she also had a hell of a strength stat in comparison to the other characters, to reflect that). Not because she was a woman, but because she had legit reasons to want to use the bow instead of other weapons (she wasn't a fan of engaging in the heat of battle itself, preferring to snipe from afar so that she was both safe but also not having to see what her actions caused. She was also quite squeamish, but determined to back up her friends. And learning archery allowed her to spend time away from everyone else (and gave her a set role in her town). Sometimes it's not about the gender but about the character.

In fact, in most games and media where there are archers I've noticed that it's the men using bows (especially long bows, which require a lot of strength to use). It's a rather recent thing to have women use bows in any great capacity (though there have been cases of them, such as Rosa or some of the female characters from the Dynasty Warriors games).

Whips, rods and staffs are the weapons that are used mostly for women in games. Sometimes swords and staves. Honestly, it would have been interesting if you'd delved into the nature of different weapons and their use in video games past and present, because there's been a lot of change in recent years as to the perception of female characters and how they engage the enemy.
author=Liberty
I had a bow for one of my female characters BECAUSE it requires strength and skill (she also had a hell of a strength stat in comparison to the other characters, to reflect that). Not because she was a woman, but because she had legit reasons to want to use the bow instead of other weapons (she wasn't a fan of engaging in the heat of battle itself, preferring to snipe from afar so that she was both safe but also not having to see what her actions caused. She was also quite squeamish, but determined to back up her friends. And learning archery allowed her to spend time away from everyone else (and gave her a set role in her town).

These sound like great reasons to make someone an archer/sniper. Thanks for sharing! - Aureus
Welp, I've only fallen into the cliche once so far, and that was more of an intentional Elf Cliche than anything.

I just give my characters whatever weapon makes sense and is fun to make skills for, sex and gender be damned. :P
kentona
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19648
I literally thought you meant this when I read the title:


And after reading the article, all I could think of were lazily designed mobile games, where all the archers are females (and all game icons are a male yelling)


I don't really have a point to this post.

E:
I guess to ask: don't bows vary greatly in draw strength?
Liberty
Am I doing this right?
20007
Yup!
Short bows, half-bows, long bows all have different draw strengths.
Great article. Indeed, bow requires strength and training to be used efficiently. Crossbow is a much better fit if you lack physical strength.


This one is hard work but a 900 pounds one my 7 years old daughter can load.


Both women and men need training to efficiently wield a weapon. So weapon choice should reflect character back story and be gender independent.
You can also force a woman to use a bow out of necessity. The one woman I gave a bow to was also bound to a wheelchair, so melee combat in general wasn't going to happen with her.

There was another woman I wanted to give a bow to in my current game, but I couldn't get the equipment mechanics to work the way I wanted to, so ended up scrapping the idea and gave her claws instead. So... a third way to breaking away from the cliche is... a lazy designer?
author=kentona
E:
I guess to ask: don't bows vary greatly in draw strength?

They do, but bows with low draw weight are of very low use in war. A bow that everyone (within reason) can use comfortable will not penetrate even cloth armor. 70 pound bows, which were probably commonly used as war bows, are not sufficient against mail. If the enemy is wearing plate armor, such as brigandine, you will need a bow with much more draw weight than that. Then there's the full plate armor that is even harder to penetrate, although that kind of top tier armor was only available for a small percentage of soldiers.

You can use a bow with low draw weight, but bows are probably the medieval weapons where strength plays the biggest factor. I don't think there is any other medieval weapon where strength provide as much of an advantage as with bows (strength provides some advantage with pretty much all medieval weapons though).
kentona
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19648
I would say any melee weapon would :/

A bow's "power" is limited by its draw weight and works by augmenting a person's strength with the bow's tension. A melee weapon, especially blunt ones, are pretty much pure strength.
Liberty
Am I doing this right?
20007
Hell, even bladed weapons require strength to use well, especially larger swords which require strength to even lift, let alone use effectively.

Spears. Now that's where it's at for weaker peeps. I don't know why mages get given maces and bludgeons and the like since usually mages are considered the weaker end of the hero classes yet they require decent strength to actually use. Give your mage a spear, though, especially if they don't require hand movements to case spells, and they'll be effective not only physically but also magically AND have a bit better defence against melee types as they won't have to close in. (There's a really easy move with a spear where you ground the butt into the dirt, stand on it and angle the point at the enemy. It's effective at stopping a charge.)

So yeah, sometimes weapon choices don't make much sense when you talk classes in RPGs.
Maces, bludgeons and blunt weapons in general have a great advantage over blade weapon for untrained fighters: they don't require edge alignment.



Edge alignment practice

As mages spend most of their time studying magic, they don't train edge alignment or other fencing techniques. Thus blunt weapons are a valid choice if you only consider training required. But, as Liberty pointed out, blunt weapons require strength.

At a LARP event, I played a mage and used a polearm. When I run out of mana, I can efficiently help my warriors companions for the second line. In the front line I would not stand a chance: mages wear no armor and have low HP. Moreover, some spells make reach weapon super effective: cast the spell "glue target feet to the ground for 15 seconds" on any warrior who doesn't wield a reach weapon and finish the job with your polearm. Even when casting requires one arm to point at the target and prevents you for using your polearm simultaneously, the spear/polearm is an excellent weapon for mages.
pianotm
The TM is for Tipsy Mouse.
11872
There was a video by Shadiversity that basically went on a rant about mages not being allowed to use more than a very select few type of weapons in games. The point he was making was that just because you don't know how to use a sword doesn't mean you CAN'T. If you're in a dangerous situation and your preferred weapon isn't there, you can still use whatever is available. It isn't like you don't have hands.

I've kind of taken that video to heart and have started considering instead of prohibiting characters from using weapons not meant for them, instead give them penalties for using weapons not suited to their classes. And you know, maybe even, the longer the character uses a certain type of weapon, gradually reduce the penalty.
Oh boy so many new comments! I want to just thank you fellows for keeping it civil. When I saw how many updates we got, I was afraid of some anti-female argument. You are officially more kindhearted than GDC's Youtube section. ; )

We'll upload the new part of the series tomorrow! (No promises it will be accepted by the admins instantly, though. They have a life outside of RMN after all. ; ))

- Aureus
Liberty
Am I doing this right?
20007
You won't have to worry about that here, bud~ We're very inclusive towards all genders/sexes on this site. In fact, we have rules against hate speech in general so any woman-bashing would be dealt with quite sternly as per our rules.

I have to admit to after reading this wanting to make an article myself based on weapons in games and how they can be spiced up - something along the lines of 'replacing the sword, a look at what else can be used' or 'class restrictions - yay or nay?', so this article has been pretty inspiring.
author=MoralAnxietyStudio
You are officially more kindhearted than GDC's Youtube section. ; )


Well that's your problem right there. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than the comment section on youtube. XD
Liberty
Am I doing this right?
20007
Eh, it does depend on the community, but for the most part, yeah. Even the better youtube communities have some rotten eggs. The issue with youtube is that anyone can stumble on a video and those anyones have the potential to be fuckwits, so... XD
author=Liberty
Hell, even bladed weapons require strength to use well, especially larger swords which require strength to even lift, let alone use effectively.

A greatsword intended for battle and not just for hanging on wall or ceremonial purposes, will weight less than the average adult cat. A small child can lift a cat, so large swords do not require anything above a tiny amount of strength to lift. However, actually handling them effectively does indeed require strength, although not a huge amount. An average man should be good to go with less than a months training.

Anyway:
author=kentona
A bow's "power" is limited by its draw weight and works by augmenting a person's strength with the bow's tension. A melee weapon, especially blunt ones, are pretty much pure strength.

It is true, a bow is limited by it's draw weight. If you have a 70 pound bow, but is perfectly capable of using a 120 pound bow, the extra strength will not let you loose more devastating arrows. However, a stronger archer would not use the same bow as a weaker one.

Blunt weapons are not pure strength by a long shot. Having a great technique is hugely helpful even with a mace. If someone with great strength, but poor technique fought someone with poor strength, but great technique, the latter would have the advantage. That said, someone with great strength and technique would have a big advantage over someone with just great technique.

I don't think even blunt weapons makes as much use of strength as bows though.
Liberty
Am I doing this right?
20007
...I do not believe for a second that a great sword, made of metal, will weigh less than a cat. At all. Metal weighs a lot. Unless that blade is hella thin OR the blade is really a metal cast around air, there's no way it's weighing less than this cat sitting next to me, even dead weight.

That said, while yes, skill is required for GREAT use of a melee weapon, to even swing the damn thing requires a decent amount of strength in and of itself, which is the point we're making. Not whether it is used effectively (that that is something to consider as ell), but whether it can be used at all.
kentona
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19648
"Two-handed sword, Scottish, mid 16th century, (IX.926). Weight: 5 lb 10oz."

Swords weren't as heavy as you might assume. mostly between 2lbs and 5lbs. Swinging even such a light weight for an extended amount of time is very tiring, so they were as light as possible while still remaining effective. And balanced, of course.

I don't know how much a typical cat weighs. Probably about 6 lbs?
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