OF GAMES, REPRESENTATION, AND WOMEN'S CHEEKBONES

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content warning: transmisogyny, slurs, symbolic violence

yesterday night, i got the opportunity to read a piece of news that had me very much mortified.

as some of you might now, riot games has recently made a rework of one of their characters, fiora. it had some much needed changes to her play patterns, and some less expected ones to her appearance, so to better match her new kit. and one of these aestethic changes were to her face, specifically to her overall bone structure and cheekbones, which has apparently summoned, from the depths of the forums, a vitriol storm on how she looks ugly and old, and a crone, and masculine, and a tranny - this last one, to be found, must be looked in the comments, rather than the news itself.

and, as much as i am aware of how vocal awful people are, and that this is a minority speaking, as a trans woman myself (and one that doesn't look like a cis woman in no way), this is frightening. aesthetically, fiora was, in the best possible evaluation, a sexy MOBA girl, her face a permanent sexy pout, her body a poor excuse at a rubber doll (and the fashion was atrocious at best). but as soon as she start looking less of one of zeronis bland designs, her face unique, her body structure a bit less similar to everything else in the game (her clothes finally coherent with what she does, despite the vacuum sealed parts), she is put under a blatantly transmisogynistic condemnation, one that furthers alienate both all women, but specifically trans women from the game, and all because she's not 'fuckable' anymore.

and here i was enjoying her new look because she reminded me of cassandra pentaghast, and i love her character.

so, for those who reached here, i have a question. how exactly do you deal with creating characters that defy expectations of how individuals should look and be in our media? do you go out of the way to create well fleshed, genuine characters who belong in one or more marginalised groups? here i'm thinking broadly, but for example, fat people, black people, american indigenous people, arab people, south and southeast asian people, aboriginal people, intersex people, trans people (specifically trans women), women in general, disabled people... is there a concern in creating characters that do not belong in our hegemonic cultural millieu? characters that would, and normally do, infuriate dudebros by being what they would describe as "politically correct", or, you know, people that exist and don't get the spotlight often? and, if you do, how do you manage the expectation of symbolic violence which, most probably, will follow their announcement and development? people who are marginalized themselves, i'm particularly interested in your answers - i'm yet to find a way to navigate this space without flaring my anxiety disorders.
Welcome to the internet. Where people are weird and creepy. I mean this attitude makes me wonder if NPC's that are old are even viable in games anymore or if every character in a modern video game needs to be "fuckable" as you put it. It really does concern me out to think that people judge FICTIONAL CHARACTERS IN THEIR GAMES by those standards.

To this day I think I enjoy the RPG maker games where you don't play the doll. I loved Illusions of Loyalty because no one was really "pretty" and rightly so. The author didn't go out of his way to make them girly and overly sexy. I'd like to also point out that Nsala liberation has an older woman as a character you play who already has a husband and child. I really do like these things a ton and applaud people who don't make me play a sexy young stud all the damn time. At least not without making him a true blue sexy young stud attitude and all. Because let's face it Three the Hard Way was hilarious.
before anything else: my internet coughed, and i accidently double posted. if any admin would be kind enough to erase the other thread, i'd be eternally grateful, even if in no way indebted to your service <3
There will nearly always be an outcry if you re-design how an established character looks. People complained that Diablo in Diablo 3 looks feminine, even though it makes a whole lot of fucking sense lore-wise. People complained when Knuckles was made to look more muscular in a recent Sonic game. Hell, it's not just characters; people complain every time Facebook moves something into a slightly different position. People don't tend to like change.
TehGuy
Resident Nonexistence
1827
author=Sated
There will nearly always be an outcry if you re-design how an established character looks. People complained that Diablo in Diablo 3 looks feminine, even though it makes a whole lot of fucking sense lore-wise. People complained when Knuckles was made to look more muscular in a recent Sonic game. Hell, it's not just characters; people complain every time Facebook moves something into a slightly different position. People don't tend to like change.


I feel Facebook is a bad example as they just seem to change shite without rhyme or reason

Diablos changing due to lore makes sense to me, they more or less have a reason to make the change; otherwise you get the new DmC

Or maybe imagine if Blizzard took all their lore to date and threw it out for no particular reason in their later expansions

That being said, I think the outcry over riot's decision is stupid as I don't think it falls under any of the above.
@tyranos

before anything else, the 'fuckable' line isn't mine. the quotes were there for a reason. people were actually using that word in their posts.

with that said, there are two things that i'd like to raise here. the first is about people in the internet. these are not people in the internet, these are people who are in the internet, and if i am to believe both the scientific evidence and anecdotal experience, these people are just as creepy and weird in real life. that's one of the reasons why i avoid game conferences while wanting to be work as a game designer. i've had very uncomfortable, not to say absolutely harmful encounters with gamers who were exactly what they are in the internet - which is to say, kindly, that they belonged in a garbage bin.
the second thing is that, while i understand where you are coming from (and i could have been clearer about that), what i'm questioning is less individual characters, and more broad tendences. for example, in the case of women characters, all of them are, more often than not, designed and written for the male gaze. this tendence is so pervasive that even in stories that would defy this genre you can identify those traces, since that's the only way we've been taught to think of these characters. so, when anita sarkeesian, merit of her criticism aside, raise that kind of vitriol for challenging, in a very mild way, these tropes and narratives, it's pretty much a sign that we have an issue. maybe not with all games, but the hegemonic narrative which surrounds it.

does that make sense? x'3

@sated

as much as i see your point, i think you may have missed mine. it's not about change, pure and simply - it's about games that are otherwise good or bad or excellent or awful or anything inbetween receiving an awful ammount of vitriol for attempting to portray narratives that aren't hegemonic, specially to broader audiences. it's about the way we reproduce hegemonic narratives without paying attention to their repercutions and impacts, and how there is a however small but very vocal community powerful enough to create public opinion and outright ostracize developers and players, who will push back at every single constestation of their power and entitlement. it's about how, among the many things that could be questioned in her design, people focused on how entitled they felt to her appearance, and how that repercusses in our creative process. it's about how i, as a trans woman, feel like never again playing league of legends because my very idea is abhorable, and how we as creators act in face of this.
Red_Nova
The all around prick
7663
When you change how an establish character is going to look, you don't run the risk of pissing off a part of your fanbase, because it's going to happen. You will piss at least a portion of them off. Hell, take a look at Dante from the DmC reboot. No matter how good the game was (it was awesome, by the way), people rate it 2/10 and 0/10 simply for Dante's new design.

I don't play LoL, so I can't pretend to understand the outrage of the community over this new design. From what an outsider like myself has read, very few people are actually giving valid reasons for hating the new design of Fiora. They're just saying things like, "she looks bad now," and photoshopping her new picture to look more like her old one. Judging from that, I don't think it's a sign of hating the new design or preference to the sexual design. It's just a discomfort of change.

Besides, isn't LoL played from a bird's eye perspective? It's not like you have time to actually admire/despise the design while you're in the game.

EDIT: Also, wasn't the scrapped design for Fiora paid for? Like, you had to buy that design to use it? If so, then I'd completely understand the annoyance that a design you paid for has been scrapped and replaced with something else. Even if it is an overall "better" design. (quotes because what's better or worse is all subjective)
author=TehGuy
author=Sated
There will nearly always be an outcry if you re-design how an established character looks. People complained that Diablo in Diablo 3 looks feminine, even though it makes a whole lot of fucking sense lore-wise. People complained when Knuckles was made to look more muscular in a recent Sonic game. Hell, it's not just characters; people complain every time Facebook moves something into a slightly different position. People don't tend to like change.
I feel Facebook is a bad example as they just seem to change shite without rhyme or reason

Diablos changing due to lore makes sense to me, they more or less have a reason to make the change; otherwise you get the new DmC

Or maybe imagine if Blizzard took all their lore to date and threw it out for no particular reason in their later expansions

That being said, I think the outcry over riot's decision is stupid as I don't think it falls under any of the above.

My point was that even when there's a good reason to make a change (as in the Diablo example), people are still going to be upset about it. In this case there isn't any particularly good reason for the change other than doing it for the sake of change, so I'm not even remotely surprised that people are upset.
TehGuy
Resident Nonexistence
1827
author=Sated
author=TehGuy
author=Sated
There will nearly always be an outcry if you re-design how an established character looks. People complained that Diablo in Diablo 3 looks feminine, even though it makes a whole lot of fucking sense lore-wise. People complained when Knuckles was made to look more muscular in a recent Sonic game. Hell, it's not just characters; people complain every time Facebook moves something into a slightly different position. People don't tend to like change.
I feel Facebook is a bad example as they just seem to change shite without rhyme or reason

Diablos changing due to lore makes sense to me, they more or less have a reason to make the change; otherwise you get the new DmC

Or maybe imagine if Blizzard took all their lore to date and threw it out for no particular reason in their later expansions

That being said, I think the outcry over riot's decision is stupid as I don't think it falls under any of the above.
My point was that even when there's a good reason to make a change (as in the Diablo example), people are still going to be upset about it. In this case there isn't any particularly good reason for the change other than doing it for the sake of change, so I'm not even remotely surprised that people are upset.


Ah, I see.. Neither am I, but I find it a bit ridiculous none the less on both ends

Just imagine the outcry if, say, they change Sona's look one day
author=WetMattos
@tyranos

before anything else, the 'fuckable' line isn't mine. the quotes were there for a reason. people were actually using that word in their posts.

with that said, there are two things that i'd like to raise here. the first is about people in the internet. these are not people in the internet, these are people who are in the internet, and if i am to believe both the scientific evidence and anecdotal experience, these people are just as creepy and weird in real life. that's one of the reasons why i avoid game conferences while wanting to be work as a game designer. i've had very uncomfortable, not to say absolutely harmful encounters with gamers who were exactly what they are in the internet - which is to say, kindly, that they belonged in a garbage bin.
the second thing is that, while i understand where you are coming from (and i could have been clearer about that), what i'm questioning is less individual characters, and more broad tendences. for example, in the case of women characters, all of them are, more often than not, designed and written for the male gaze. this tendence is so pervasive that even in stories that would defy this genre you can identify those traces, since that's the only way we've been taught to think of these characters. so, when anita sarkeesian, merit of her criticism aside, raise that kind of vitriol for challenging, in a very mild way, these tropes and narratives, it's pretty much a sign that we have an issue. maybe not with all games, but the hegemonic narrative which surrounds it.

does that make sense? x'3

That's my point. I appreciate games that don't do that. It's sort of tiring to be honest. Also note Anita is not the first to raise vitriol or the one who raised the most vitriol over this same issue.

As to gamers there is about as much you can do for that as there is for mechanics or anyone else who identifies with any group to be honest. I avoid them myself because I can only tolerate so much creepiness. White knights especially bother me because females are the ones directly responsible for perpetuating them. In fact Sarkeesian herself was defended by a guy who had no real reason defending her yet she ate that shit up and gave him praise for "standing up for the truth". Try again. You need to stand on your own two feet and when someone else offers to fight your battles for you, you need to tell them to butt out. White knighting feeds on that desire to see others fight for you. It's also the most irritating of mental health issues.

I guess you could say "give an inch and they take a mile" in regards to social behavior. To be quite honest I think people ought to not defend others simply because of what or who they are and voice their own opinions separately. No one needs the extra layer of defense and in a debate it makes the person who's actually the focus lose a bit of their persuasive power.

To date something that upsets me is the common portrayal in games of gays, trans, or anyone who would not be considered sexually normal by society is portrayed as a monster or is often a psychotic bad guy. It's a little disturbing to think that gamers are okay seeing this and like the idea of it. When those same characters are good or represented in a positive light they get negative feedback.
TehGuy
Resident Nonexistence
1827
author=Tyranos
author=WetMattos
@tyranos

before anything else, the 'fuckable' line isn't mine. the quotes were there for a reason. people were actually using that word in their posts.

with that said, there are two things that i'd like to raise here. the first is about people in the internet. these are not people in the internet, these are people who are in the internet, and if i am to believe both the scientific evidence and anecdotal experience, these people are just as creepy and weird in real life. that's one of the reasons why i avoid game conferences while wanting to be work as a game designer. i've had very uncomfortable, not to say absolutely harmful encounters with gamers who were exactly what they are in the internet - which is to say, kindly, that they belonged in a garbage bin.
the second thing is that, while i understand where you are coming from (and i could have been clearer about that), what i'm questioning is less individual characters, and more broad tendences. for example, in the case of women characters, all of them are, more often than not, designed and written for the male gaze. this tendence is so pervasive that even in stories that would defy this genre you can identify those traces, since that's the only way we've been taught to think of these characters. so, when anita sarkeesian, merit of her criticism aside, raise that kind of vitriol for challenging, in a very mild way, these tropes and narratives, it's pretty much a sign that we have an issue. maybe not with all games, but the hegemonic narrative which surrounds it.

does that make sense? x'3
That's my point. I appreciate games that don't do that. It's sort of tiring to be honest. Also note Anita is not the first to raise vitriol or the one who raised the most vitriol over this same issue.

As to gamers there is about as much you can do for that as there is for mechanics or anyone else who identifies with any group to be honest. I avoid them myself because I can only tolerate so much creepiness. White knights especially bother me because females are the ones directly responsible for perpetuating them. In fact Sarkeesian herself was defended by a guy who had no real reason defending her yet she ate that shit up and gave him praise for "standing up for the truth". Try again. You need to stand on your own two feet and when someone else offers to fight your battles for you, you need to tell them to butt out. White knighting feeds on that desire to see others fight for you. It's also the most irritating of mental health issues.

I guess you could say "give an inch and they take a mile" in regards to social behavior. To be quite honest I think people ought to not defend others simply because of what or who they are and voice their own opinions separately. No one needs the extra layer of defense and in a debate it makes the person who's actually the focus lose a bit of their persuasive power.

To date something that upsets me is the common portrayal in games of gays, trans, or anyone who would not be considered sexually normal by society is portrayed as a monster or is often a psychotic bad guy. It's a little disturbing to think that gamers are okay seeing this and like the idea of it. When those same characters are good or represented in a positive light they get negative feedback.


Response to that last bit, I can't crop it cause phone

From what I've gathered on that its partly due to how the trait is handled. Some are put off by it because it's either hamfisted in there or it's literally one of the only defining traits of the character

Someone who's all Master Chief or whatever levels of badass who so happens to be gay is one thing, if all the game's doing is "hey look at how gay this dude is, LOOK AT IT" for no particular reason other than just to point it out then I can understand some of the negative feedback

Then you just have the assholes of the internet being assholes on the internet
Well, LoL is an example of all female characters looking almost the same body-wise (bare the birdie and monsterlooking Rek'sai).

Thinking of fan art like this
. Granted, there are counterparts as well. Even if not as abundant.

Compared to the one roster I quote time and time again, for the lack of any other.

And all updated splash art getting weirder and weirder. Remember the time where Morgana's dress wasn't about to slip off? Good times.
More action, more butts and boobs in your face.

Given that art-direction and only very few backlashes (Sejuani coming to mind), it is half the fact that they are changing a preexisting character, and then the fact that it deviates from the established norm of any humanoid female character - being "fuckable".

It will calm down eventually. And perhaps Riot will introduce some more stylistic choices, I'd love seeing that.
either i was very, very bad at explaining my point, or i am the only one who is seeing systemic issues behind this seemingly common occurrence, and i'm almost certain that i was very clear in my exposition.

so let me try a different approach. fiora's criticism has being blatantly transmisogynistic in both content and means. being a trans woman for quite some time, trust me, i know. and i also know the outcry has been alienating marginalized players, me included, from both the game and the community, as it has been done in other situations where someone attempts to portray a non hegemonic character and/or narrative. this is a issue. do you folks see this issue? if so, how do you address it?

author=Tyranos
As to gamers there is about as much you can do for that as there is for mechanics or anyone else who identifies with any group to be honest. I avoid them myself because I can only tolerate so much creepiness. White knights especially bother me because females are the ones directly responsible for perpetuating them. In fact Sarkeesian herself was defended by a guy who had no real reason defending her yet she ate that shit up and gave him praise for "standing up for the truth". Try again. You need to stand on your own two feet and when someone else offers to fight your battles for you, you need to tell them to butt out. White knighting feeds on that desire to see others fight for you. It's also the most irritating of mental health issues.
this is one of the most obnoxious and frighteningly oblivious messages which i've ever seen. you severely lack the comprehension of power dynamics, and your use of females is, put bluntly, creepy as fuck. this is the kind of word we reserve for animals, not people. my suggestion? try to gain an inch or two of insight of how tilted the odds are, and how important it is for people who are part of the groups which systemically benefit from hegemonic narratives of supremacy to stand up against them - readings about goffman's stigma and black theory about race treason might be particularly useful here.

author=Tyranos
I guess you could say "give an inch and they take a mile" in regards to social behavior. To be quite honest I think people ought to not defend others simply because of what or who they are and voice their own opinions separately. No one needs the extra layer of defense and in a debate it makes the person who's actually the focus lose a bit of their persuasive power.
my previous point stand. this is not a balanced field, were under a system of supremacy, and my word alone, as a trans woman, weight shit in how things are handled, because we're taught that it has no value. supremacy systems, power dynamics, hegemony, media and cultural perceptions shift power among people, and marginalized groups are marginalized because they are less powerful. so it isn't simply a debate of ideas, it's about how social structures that benefit one group in detriment of others are being challenged, and how it's important that people in power join this challenge. bias is the keyword here.

author=Tyranos
To date something that upsets me is the common portrayal in games of gays, trans, or anyone who would not be considered sexually normal by society is portrayed as a monster or is often a psychotic bad guy. It's a little disturbing to think that gamers are okay seeing this and like the idea of it. When those same characters are good or represented in a positive light they get negative feedback.
if it does disturb you, i urge you to take a moment to read about power dynamics, supremacy, hegemony and related issues; specially, take a moment to confront your individualistic perspective on social relationships. this, specially where my questions stand, might be the most important thing to confront, since it directly prevents to see things as systems, which is fundamental to get my points.
author=TehGuy
From what I've gathered on that its partly due to how the trait is handled. Some are put off by it because it's either hamfisted in there or it's literally one of the only defining traits of the character

Someone who's all Master Chief or whatever levels of badass who so happens to be gay is one thing, if all the game's doing is "hey look at how gay this dude is, LOOK AT IT" for no particular reason other than just to point it out then I can understand some of the negative feedback

there is criticism about the portrayal of marginalized characters as stereotypical marginalized characters - it's called tokenism, look it up - and there is criticism about how tokenism is used as an excuse to pick characters up and devalue them. because, what is in question here is about how the narratives are done in such way that these characters are either an oddity, or non existent at all. even because, it seems that folks aren't taking into account how bias makes so that, unless it's obvious and 'in your face', people won't recognize character traits that are otherwise explictly put but are non hegemonic. the rue situation in hunger games rises to mind.

author=TehGuy
Then you just have the assholes of the internet being assholes on the internet

two important reminders: i've yet to find an asshole at the internet who isn't an asshole in physical spaces, and; assholes being assholes have consequences. ask me later about how even exposing myself as a trans woman who makes games is frightening, i might have some tales for you.
author=Kylaila
Well, LoL is an example of all female characters looking almost the same body-wise (bare the birdie and monsterlooking Rek'sai).

Thinking of fan art like this
. Granted, there are counterparts as well. Even if not as abundant.

Compared to the one roster I quote time and time again, for the lack of any other.

And all updated splash art getting weirder and weirder. Remember the time where Morgana's dress wasn't about to slip off? Good times.
More action, more butts and boobs in your face.

Given that art-direction and only very few backlashes (Sejuani coming to mind), it is half the fact that they are changing a preexisting character, and then the fact that it deviates from the established norm of any humanoid female character - being "fuckable".

It will calm down eventually. And perhaps Riot will introduce some more stylistic choices, I'd love seeing that.

yes, more or less, yes, i blame zeronis; i'd argue that more than just half of the backlash is sexism, or in this case specifically transmisogyny, yes, make ironstylus head of design.

all in all, yeah, but not my point. i'm more in a 'what have we been doing about this' than 'lets bash riot and players by their awful choices'. i've used the story more as an anedocte to contextualize my question than anything else.

EDIT: gosh, that tf2 cast is indeed amazing :3 thought i'm often not satisfied with this kind of contrast, for a number of reasons x3
@kylaila - you can add suikoden to your roster list if you need extra female characters that are different in design and size and race.

Keep in mind that games are wish/fantasy fulfilment - everyone is supposed to look fuckable because you're supposed to want to BE that person and most people, given the chance, would want to look like their pretty avatars than themselves. Thus why most characters are built to look like super models. It's not only for the male gaze (though there's a lot of that still around) but also for the female gaze (I'd play a sexy woman over a hulking male any time, even if both ran around semi-naked).

You're also going to catch heat changing up a characters' initial (and well-loved) design. It's elementary - people grow to love those characters and changing them leads to chaos. It's like when a character from a tv show is replaced by another actor - there are going to be people who are very loud to proclaim that they want the old actor/design/etc back (I still maintain that new Dumbledore is evil Dumbledore and the old one was the true Dumbles).

That aside, the people acting like assholes and bringing up hatred in saying the new look is ugly because she looks more like a transvestite is horrible and no-one here would excuse that kind of behaviour (I hope). Acting like that is not only pathetic but stupid and shows just how butt hurt people can be over something like a change in design.
Perhaps you shouldn't take everything personally. I can't see this being related in any possible way to trans people.
author=SnowOwl
Perhaps you shouldn't take everything personally. I can't see this being related in any possible way to trans people.


Don't be a bonehead, most of the criticism was targeted directly to the trans population.
From what I can gather, people got pissed by the change making the hero uglier. How is that related to trans people?
author=Liberty
Thus why most characters are built to look like super models. It's not only for the male gaze (though there's a lot of that still around) but also for the female gaze (I'd play a sexy woman over a hulking male any time, even if both ran around semi-naked).

I've never been really comfortable with this explanation, to be honest with you. from what I've seen personally, regardless of whether male and female characters both have a degree of wish fulfilment to them, the treatment and design philosophy a great many people use when approaching male and female characters isn't exactly balanced. men and women alike can be designed to be sexy, yeah -- but League of Legends itself demonstrates a problem wherein male characters can be so many other things, where female characters almost universally have 'sexy' as the main bullet point in their design write-up.

even Overwatch, a game made with a stated intention of better gender representation, makes this mistake; the male roster includes a traditionally attractive bowman, but also a gorilla, a stocky old welder, a robot, and another, larger robot. the female roster has a better variance of body types than League of Legends, or any of Blizzard's past projects, but at this point is still made up entirely of conventionally attractive young women (with the possible exclusion of Zarya, who has a more muscular build).

basically, the issue for me isn't that sexualized wish-fulfilment characters should stop entirely, but that a lot of the time female characters are pretty much restricted to that area of the buffet at the expense of variety and character agency.

if you're interested in what a game that shows true parity in its designs for male and female characters might look like, the upcoming game Gigantic might not be a bad thing to check out! the concepts here include a cool-as-hell wizzrobe grandma, a kid with a haunted sword who uses the ghost as her Stand, and the living embodiment of lightning cross-classed into Ninja. it's pretty cool!