Thursday, July 24, 2008

When the game industry gets it wrong.

A mailing list for game writers recently included links to the following two pages. They are images and artwork for two things; a box cover and a character. This is for a military strategy game, based on some very cool ideas and with a very good pedigree. Sadly, I get the feeling that I am the only person on the list whose mouth dropped open, wondering what emotionally-challenged art team came up with this stuff.

Let's start with the box cover. A Soviet 'soldier' in ... hot pants and bright red lipstick. And, because it's a video game, she has to have big tits. Elegant. Groundbreaking. Really pushing the envelope there, guys.

I shake my head in wonder. It's the logical outgrowth of the kind of "armor" that you see in the ads for World of Warcraft. The creators of those visuals, in turn, seem to have ceased emotional development at the moment in "Return of the Jedi" when Princess Leia showed up in a metal bikini.

Armor, and in fact any military battlefield uniform, in theory, has a protective function. Hot pants do not. But I guess I'm being picky.

And now, let's move to the Japanese female character, Yuriko Omega. This character design raises the following question: Dear God above, is there no act of craven pandering too base for the game industry?

For crissakes, we're talking about a faction based on Japan, a nation with 1300 years of culture and history. You've got fascinating female archetypes from bunraku and kabuki, you've got the ku-no-ichi (female ninja) as well as legendary "female samurai" figures like Hangaku Gozen and Tomoe Gozen.

If you're willing to take a step outside Japan there are modern Asian female characters of glorious heroism and depth in movies like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" or "Hero." You could even slide in references to Hua Mulan, the character that the Disney film Mulan was based on.

But no, for us folks in the game industry even the imitation of a disnified rip-off of Chinese culture is too high-brow. We have to stoop further; search for the lowest common denominator of exploitive sleaze. We go for the pseudo-Japanese schoolgirl, the fervent fantasy of your average pimple-faced one-handed surfer's dreams, outfitted in ridiculously inadequate clothing (bearing no relation of course to what those kids actually wear to school, as opposed to what the porn starlets wear on the set).

Great work, guys. One step forward with female characters in games like Starcraft or Heavenly Sword, five billion light-years back with crap like this. It's precisely the kind of image that embarrasses me when I say I'm a game writer; it's precisely the kind of image that I do not want my daughter to have of what a hero or role model is. Sure, tell me that I don't get it, that it's all in fun, that it's a parody. I disagree. Crap is only crap, it is not a parody of crap.

WTF, kids. We can do better.