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← Are Women Too Hard To Animate? Tropes vs Women in Video Games

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Showing Revision 7 created 07/27/2016 by eileenosaurus.

  1. At the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo,
  2. the game development company Ubisoft
  3. debuted a trailer showcasing the cooperative mode
  4. in their upcoming game Assassin’s Creed Unity.
  5. One thing viewers quickly noticed
  6. about the trailer was that all the assassins in it were male.
  7. When questioned about why female characters
  8. weren’t an option in this mode,
  9. the game’s creative director said that
  10. although there were originally plans to allow for female assassins,
  11. the development team couldn’t add them
  12. because it would require “double the animations,
  13. double the voices, and double the visual assets.”
  14. Meanwhile, a level designer on the game
  15. stated that including female assassins would have meant
  16. recreating 8000 animations on a new skeleton.
  17. These comments led to an explosion of controversy
  18. and criticism on Twitter, with many people using
  19. the sarcastic hashtag “women are too hard to animate.”
  20. A number of experienced game developers
  21. joined the chorus of voices
  22. calling out the absurdity of Ubisoft’s claims.
  23. Animator Jonathan Cooper,
  24. who had previously worked on Assassin’s Creed III
  25. for Ubisoft, tweeted,
  26. “I would estimate this to be a day or two’s work.
  27. Not a replacement of 8000 animations.”
  28. And Manveer Heir of Bioware summed up
  29. what Ubisoft was actually saying:
  30. “We don’t really care to put the effort in to make a woman assassin.”
  31. Ubisoft’s disregard for female character options
  32. didn’t stop with Unity.
  33. Also at E3 2014, the director of Far Cry 4
  34. admitted to a similar issue with that game’s online co-op mode,
  35. saying, “We were inches away from having you be able
  36. to select a girl or a guy as your co-op buddy.”
  37. Again, the excuse for why this option wasn’t available
  38. was that it would just be too much work.
  39. And yet again, what they were really saying
  40. was that they just couldn’t be bothered to do the work
  41. it would have taken to provide that option.
  42. Though it’s worth pointing out that in the two years
  43. since this controversy, Ubisoft has made clear efforts
  44. to improve the representation of women
  45. in the core Assassin’s Creed games,
  46. with the most recent entry, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate,
  47. giving the option to play as Evie Frye
  48. through much of the campaign.
  49. Of course, Ubisoft weren’t and aren’t the only ones
  50. with this apathetic attitude toward female inclusion.
  51. In fact, not doing the necessary work to include women
  52. has long been the norm in the video game industry.
  53. The FIFA soccer game series, which had its first entry
  54. in 1993, took over 20 years
  55. before finally introducing female teams in FIFA 16.
  56. “I’m in the game.”
  57. And it took ten years for Call of Duty to introduce
  58. female soldiers into its competitive multiplayer
  59. with 2013’s Call of Duty: Ghosts.
  60. The long-running Battlefield franchise,
  61. on the other hand, has still never allowed
  62. for playable female characters in its multiplayer modes.
  63. There’s an important conversation to be had
  64. about the ways in which military shooters
  65. work to glorify violence,
  66. but as long as we’re going to have such games,
  67. it’s actually better when they include female combatants in them.
  68. Now you might be asking yourself,
  69. “Doesn’t having female enemies in a game
  70. perpetuate violence against women?”
  71. And that’s a good, fair question.
  72. When we refer to depictions
  73. of violence against women,
  74. we’re generally discussing situations in which
  75. women are being attacked or victimized
  76. specifically because they are women,
  77. reinforcing a perception of women as victims.
  78. Such scenarios are very different from those in which
  79. women are presented as active participants.
  80. In the Street Fighter games, for instance,
  81. when Chun-Li and Ryu fight each other,
  82. this isn’t considered violence against women,
  83. because the two characters are presented as being on
  84. more or less equal footing,
  85. and because Chun-Li is an active participant
  86. who isn’t being targeted or attacked
  87. specifically because she’s a woman.
  88. Similarly, the waves of male attackers players face
  89. in so many games are typically not passive victims.
  90. They are active participants in the conflict,
  91. and importantly, the violence against them isn’t gendered.
  92. Players fight with them because they’re on the opposing side,
  93. not specifically because they are men.

  94. Unfortunately, when female combatants do appear in games,
  95. they are often presented in sexualized ways
  96. which inevitably lend the player’s attacks
  97. an air of gendered violence.
  98. In Saints Row The Third’s so-called
  99. “Whored Mode,” for instance,
  100. players must defeat waves of sexualized women,
  101. sometimes beating them to death
  102. with a large purple dildo.
  103. In the 2009 game Wolfenstein,
  104. the Elite Guard are a special all-female enemy unit
  105. whose absurd uniforms sexualize not only
  106. the female characters themselves
  107. but also player’s acts of violence against them.
  108. Similarly, in 2012’s Hitman Absolution,
  109. the Saints are a special unit of female assassins
  110. who wear latex fetish gear underneath nun’s habits.
  111. It’s a ludicrous design choice that is
  112. transparently intended to sexualize these enemies.
  113. And in Metal Gear Solid 4,
  114. the Beauty & the Beast unit is an enemy group
  115. made up of five female soldiers
  116. that players fight over the course of the game.
  117. At a certain point during these encounters,
  118. each boss sheds her armor and appears
  119. as a woman in form-fitting attire.
  120. “It’s all so funny.”
  121. If players then avoid the Beauty’s deadly embrace
  122. for several minutes without killing or neutralizing her,
  123. the game transports them to a white room
  124. where equipping the camera results
  125. in the character making sultry poses.
  126. Funny how that doesn’t happen
  127. with the male bosses in the game.
  128. Whenever female combatants are dressed
  129. in sexualizing attire, it sets them noticeably apart
  130. from other enemy units.
  131. It’s intended to make the player’s
  132. encounters with them sexually titillating
  133. and that’s particularly troubling considering
  134. that those encounters often involve fighting
  135. and killing those characters.
  136. Violence against female characters
  137. should never be presented as “sexy”.
  138. The way for games to handle female combatants
  139. is not to present them as sexualized treats
  140. for the player.
  141. Rather, it’s to present them simply as combatants
  142. who happen to be women fighting alongside
  143. their male counterparts on equal footing.
  144. For all of its many, many problems
  145. one thing Bioshock Infinite did right was to include
  146. non-sexualized female officers on Columbia’s police force.
  147. And in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate,
  148. both the player’s gang and the enemy gang
  149. have rank-and-file female members
  150. who fight alongside the men.
  151. Despite the presence of female combatants
  152. in games like these, there is still a tendency
  153. for game studios to treat female representation
  154. as some kind of extravagant goal,
  155. rather than simply treating it as standard
  156. in the same way they handle male representation.
  157. The excuse that I hear most often for the absence
  158. of female combatants in games is that players wouldn’t believe it.
  159. But games, even ones that draw on historical locations
  160. or events like the Assassin’s Creed series,
  161. create their own worlds and set the tone
  162. for what we will or won’t believe.
  163. To participate in the worlds games create,
  164. we happily accept time travel, superpowers,
  165. ancient alien civilizations,
  166. the ability to carry infinite items,
  167. the idea that eating a hot dog can instantly
  168. heal your wounds, and a million other fictions.
  169. It’s certainly not too much to ask that these
  170. fictional worlds give us believable female combatants too.
  171. The media we engage with has a powerful impact
  172. on our ideas of what’s believable and what’s not.
  173. Games like Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
  174. demonstrate that when the existence of female combatants
  175. is presented as straightforward, normal and believable,
  176. players have no problem believing it.
  177. And they shouldn’t, since,
  178. unlike those magical healing hot dogs I mentioned,
  179. female combatants actually exist.