The Wii U is available for purchase, the PS4 is well on its way, and now it’s Microsoft’s turn to show us what they’ve got in store for the oncoming next console generation. After months of rumors about always-online func...
Animal Crossing isn’t the only game that has real staying power in my Wii/Wii U… five years now after the release of Wii Fit (Seriously? Five years? That’s insane!), I still use it nearly every day. And as you can see from the chart...
So, if you’ve been on the internet recently, you’ve probably heard some of the controversy surrounding certain design choices made regarding the soon-to-be-released 2d fantasy action RPG from Vanillaware entitled Dragon’s Crown. And for those preciou...
The Game Developer’s Conference may have been just about a month ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to talk about some of the conference’s biggest stories while sipping mimosas. Join myself, David Edison, and special gue...
Nintendo’s Tomodachi Collection is a life simulation series only available in Japan. It can be best described as a mix between The Sims and Animal Crossing. Players control their Miis (which they can transfer over from their Wii consoles) as th...
Gay gaming documentary Gaming In Color has officially reached its Kickstarter goal, meaning that the project is fully funded and can begin production! It was a close race to the finish line, but this past Friday the film managed to reach its $50,000 ...
Well, I made the big move to Geneva this week. It was hard saying good-bye to my friends in Narnia (especially since I didn’t really have the ability to bid anyone farewell), but I’m ready to turn over a New Leaf (get it?) and...
So, if you’ve been on the internet recently, you’ve probably heard some of the controversy surrounding certain design choices made regarding the soon-to-be-released 2d fantasy action RPG from Vanillaware entitled Dragon’s Crown. And for those precious few of you that have only just recently returned from whatever magical kingdom you got drawn into and were forced to save with the power of friendship, let me acquaint you with the design decisions in question:
NSFW, I guess, or something.
Art Director George Kamitami, in a statement released long after the internet hordes had bared their teeth and set fire to all of the things, explained that his intent with the design of Sorceress and Amazon, two of six playable classes within the game (and two of three of the available female options), was to “exaggerate all of my character designs in a cartoonish fashion (so that they would) stand out amongst the many fantasy designs already in the video game/comic/movie/etc. space.” Which is an entirely reasonable justification for his decisions. Kamitami seems, on a whole, to be a pretty reasonable and intelligent individual, barring a casually homophobic joke or two. On the other side, Kamitami’s detractors have called the designs off-putting at best, and sexist at worst. And it’s not hard to see why.
For the record, before I go about getting to the point of why I’m writing this piece (and there is a point, I promise), I feel like I should clarify on my own position, regarding Kamitami’s art. I’ve loved Vanillaware’s games, Kamitami’s work in particular, in games before. Odin Sphere was jaw-dropping. Muramasa was gorgeous. And much of the art in Dragon’s Crown is equally stunning. But I have to admit – I do find some of the designs on the playable characters to be unsettling. They remind me of humanoid figures sculpted out of Play-Doh – all lumpy and wrongly proportioned. The emphasized characteristics are so emphasized as to be grotesque. And before you say it, let me clarify – I’m referring to male and female characters both.
Bioshock Infinite is taking me forever and a day to get through because, as an achievement whore, I’ve put the game’s difficulty on 1999 Mode. While Patriots are the bane of my existence, I can’t really complain as it’s something I’ve invited upon myself and if it were really such a big deal then I’d have started over long ago on an easier setting (1999 Mode doesn’t allow you to change difficulty mid-game). In between frustrated pouts at having lost to a Handyman yet again, the experience has caused me to reflect on the difficulty gamer culture has with difficulty settings, specifically easy modes.
Even though the first Bioshock was adored by virtually everyone, there was a contingent that felt it necessary to whinge about the VitaChambers which would resurrect the player consequence-free if s/he died. The complaints weren’t that if the VitaChambers worked as advertised then then splicers and Big Daddies should spawn endlessly, but rather that they made the game too easy, even though the things could be turned off by players seeking a greater challenge. Then a couple of years later Nintendo filed a patent for games that would play themselves if the player got stuck, bored, or frustrated. A large swath of gamers shat frisbees over this, not because it was yet another broad patent that would potentially stifle creativity and squash innovation, but because it made games too easy.
This attitude has perplexed me for quite some time; the difficult modes remain intact for those that want them, so why all hue and cry over super-easy modes for less-skilled or less-patient players? I think explanations can be found in two places: comic books and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. MORE >>
There seem to be a select number of titles that many straight gamers must keep in their back pocket as something to recommend to their gay counter-parts as being “of their ilk.” This isn’t necessarily a malevolent act, throwing the gay kid a bone and claiming that THIS should speak to you and your queerness, but almost as a matter of gamer achievement. “Not every grenade spammer on Xbox Live is at my level of industry know-how,” Boasts Mr. Straight Gamer Dude, “See? I even know of these gay games for you, aren’t I intellectually significant!”
Among these suggestions, as casually whipped out as a black AmEx at a bar, sits a little game franchise called Cho Aniki. Based on what I assume are screenshots alone, this series of Japanese import shoot-em-ups are often the first stop when the topic turns to eroticism in video games, often as a count-point to the sexual portrayals of straight women. The series’ mascots are two muscle-bound speedo-men, over-populating every minute of trailers and gameplay slices found in a casual search of the title, often in positions of high tension flexing or sensual reclining. “See?” proclaims Sir ChickLover, chest puffing proudly, “This turns you on, right?”
Connecting the dots between oiled-up beefcakes and the gay lifestyle may be a step up from the usual relationship straight gamers have with the perception of homosexuality, but are these games really “gay” in the sense they are prescribing? Can Cho Aniki and its sequels be held up as comparable titillation to Ivy’s breasts, let alone a beacon for homosexual representation in games?
A few hours into Cart Life I realized my character, a Ukrainian immigrant named Andrus, would not be able to make rent. We were going through the mundanities of selling newspapers and drinks from the plain little cart we’d leased next to a bar. Chat up customers. Adjust your prices if too many think they’re out of line. Cough; smoke a cigarette. Eat a granola bar because you don’t have time to step out for lunch. Worry about all the extra supplies that you bought earlier in the week that you just won’t be able to turn a profit on by the time rent is due.
How much is rent? How much am I making? I press the space bar and check, and my stomach sinks. There is no way we’ll make rent. I wonder if the landlord will give me some extra time to pay – but he’s the guy who goes out of his way to tell me that he wouldn’t buy one of my 99 cent newspapers because he gets the news for free on TV.
And it hits me: Why would I play a game about things I can worry about in real life when I could be blasting zombies in the face? I could just turn this thing off.
But I can’t. Andrus and I are in it together. I confuse “I” and “we” when I talk about the game with others, thinking of the tired, lonely, hopeful, brave man who found a place in my heart.
A little while ago, as part of my series on gay portrayals on the community blogs for Destructoid, I wrote a post lamenting the fact that developers seem all too content to provide plenty of reasoning and justification for who the player character might kill or wish to kill, but very rarely seem interested in actually providing reasoning or justification for whom the player might love. Gaming protagonists commit murder for reasons reaching from self-defense, to bloodlust, to revenge. They can be conflicted or gleeful in the violence they commit. But if the playable character has a love interest, it’s usually brushed away with “they are your love interest. You love them. Now save them from a monster or something, shit.” If the game includes some sort of romance mechanic, wherein the player chooses someone to love, the means of courtship and bonding will rarely extend beyond “buy them gifts and maybe let them follow you around if you want.” It invariably feels weightless, pointless, tacked on – which is a shame, as who we love and why tends to be such a large part of human identity. Not just that, but a lackluster romance system can negatively impact the way we view the rest of the story, our characters, or their place within it. Which brings me to the subject of Dragon’s Dogma.
In honor of the release of Dark Arisen, I’d like to share a story with all of you. A story about how half-assed game mechanics lead to the creation of something terrible. A cautionary tale about how freedom of romantic choice, without any substance to back up that freedom, made me into a monster. The story of how Dragon’s Dogma turned me into a pedophile.
I gotta say, I didn’t think I’d ever be paying attention to Dragon’s Crown again, but for better or for worse – mostly for worse – it’s staying in the news. A couple of weeks ago I did a write-up on the the game’s trailer and the utterly absurd hypersexualization of two of the female protagonists and a few other NPCs visible in the trailer. Kotaku’s Jason Schreier got word of the trailer and wrote his own condemnation as well, and because they’re a more notorious website the artist behind the game, George Kamitani actually took note of the criticism. His response was to pretty much call Schreier gay and draw a naked dwarf three-way for him.
“I mean, it’s not like I want to have sex with the guy. There’s just…something there, you know?”
The above is the paraphrased conclusion of many a conversation that started out normally with me and friends or acquaintances at conventions, conferences, or local area developer meet ups. The “guy” in question is the long running big bad of Nintendo’s trademarked plumber adventures, a reptile saurian with a penchant for abstract world construction and – apparently – a possessor of a subtle sexual prowess in the eyes of gay human dudes.
I don’t pretend to have enough of a sample size to venture into a scientifically valid study on the theory, but the sheer regularity of this two-drink-minimum confession is excuse enough for some unauthorized reverse engineering on a character that has more to him than eight world’s worth of contract negotiations. And to be clear, this character’s clout in the furry community is thoroughly established, but not our subject for today. I checked, re-affirmed the depths of Rule 34, and can no longer play Super Mario RPG because of it.
No, herein we shall dare to answer the question no one thought needed to be asked: why do so many people consider Bowser a sexualized character?