A few days ago, Kotaku’s Jason Schreier posted an excellent takedown of the absurd, ridiculous, embarrassing art from Vanillaware’s newest title, Dragon’s Crown. In case you’re not familiar, here’s some of the artwork:
In response to the criticism, Vanillaware’s lead artist called him a homosexual. So, yeah. That happened.
I won’t get into what a disgusting response that is. Suffice it to say it’s killed what little, tiny interest I had in playing the game based on their previous titles. I would like to address some of the response to the criticism. Well, one response in particular.
Whenever this shit comes up, it seems like Penny-Arcade has to jump to the rescue to defend the masses of sexist, ignorant gamerbros. One might say it’s their passion.
For the record, I’m a huge fan of Penny-Arcade. I’ve supported their Kickstarter, purchased their merchandise, read their comics and watched their videos. But every time they wade into the pool of gender issues or social justice, they come out blackened, like a little person carrying a cursed ring or a wizard touching the devil-tainted source of magic in one o’ them fantasy novels. I might suggest that they just stop making fools of themselves in this regard, but of course, that would be (GASP!) censorship! And I wouldn’t want to be accused of that.
Anyhoo, PA’s Jerry Holkins posted a screed of sorts, lambasting those with the gall to find Dragon Crown distasteful. Let’s unpack this, shall we?
You probably don’t have to guess how I feel about this latest round of compulsory swaying and fainting, so much like an old timey Tent Revival, complete with its hopping devil and its perpetually put upon holy warriors.
Hooray! We start out with the classic accusation: any discussion about sexism is done by prudish, weak-tempered Maude Lovejoys who swoon at the mere thought of revealed, supple flesh. Yawn. I don’t even really need to address this, other than to say I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. I haven’t been shocked by a depiction of sexuality in quite some time, possibly ever. And it’s not even about offense, really. As one of the Twitterati put it, this shit doesn’t offend me, it pisses me off. It pisses me off that this bullshit attracts legion of defenders.
You want to know why things like the attacks against Anita Sarkeesian happen? You want #1reasonwhy? Because art like this reduces women to flesh to be enjoyed by the male player. I guarantee you, I absolutely guarantee you that the character designer gave not one thought to a woman playing the game. By his response, it’s evident he gave not one thought to anyone other than a straight male playing the game.
everybody else is some fun-house exponent of strength or beauty stretched into some haunted sigil. Iconic isn’t even the word – they don’t evoke icons, they are icons. They’re humans as primal symbols.
Seriously, the “well, all the characters are exaggerated, so it’s okay” defense? Is there just a handbook of common, moronic defenses against sexism these people jump to? There must be, because they just keep coming up. Holkin’s half-page rant manages to hit at least half of the checkmarks on Cracked’s excellent 8 Stupidest Defenses Against Sexism Accusations article, which is, in a way, impressive.
These are not primal symbols of humanity. Or, rather, they are primal symbols reflecting a very specific human: a straight male human. The Sorceress does not reflect “beauty” — she reflects a juvenile male notion of sexuality. The Dwarf, who looks like a roided-out bodybuilder times a million, does not reflect anything a female would actually be attracted to. He represents a male idea of what power is — HUGE FUCKING MUSCLES. I don’t know what the fuck the barbarian woman is supposed to represent, with her 8-year-old-girl head/face, bodybuilder body, bikini and giant fucking tits, but whatever it is has some giant fucking problems.
It’s worth pointing out that those, like Holkins, who claim that these depictions aren’t sexist because the characters are morphed past the point of recognition are just lying through their teeth. Internet commenters galore have gleefully been waiting for the chance to play as the Sorceress. Just look at her! She’s wearing next to nothing, and her tits bounce! THEY BOUNCE!
Hell, even their comic makes this fucking point. Gabe (a thinly-veiled avatar for co-creator Mike Krahulik at this point) says he wants to play the Sorceress because she’s a big-titted, scantilly-clad object designed specifically for his lizard-brain enjoyment, but if the Dwarf had been exaggerated in the same way, with a giant, half-visible penis hanging out of his shorts, it would make him uncomfortable.
This is, of course, played for laughs. Way to almost get the point, fellas! You know how playing that Dwarf character would seem humorous at best, and strange and uncomfortable at worst? That’s exactly how a significant number of women and men feel playing as the sexed-up sorceress!
It’s very weird to pull up a story about a game with frankly visionary art and hear why it shouldn’t exist
Hahahahahaha. Yes. Visionary. Thank goodness someone is making fantasy/video game artwork featuring objectified women with giant breasts and little clothing. I was getting goddamn sick of all these copycats drawing empowered female characters.
It’s an incredible state of affairs. They’re not censors, though – oh, no no. You’ll understand it eventually; what you need to do is censor yourself.
This isn’t on the Cracked list, but it should be. Equating criticism with censorship is a classic rookie mistake, but not one too surprising, as we’ve heard it from these two before. Frankly, you’d think people who make part of their living criticizing games, movies, etc., would recognize the hypocrisy inherent in this. Why did you guys put down Aliens: Colonial Marines, huh? Why did you boot Contestant Y off of StripSearch? WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO CENSOR THEM?
So, no. Calling a piece of artwork terrible, sexist, lazy and juvenile (all of which fit Dragon’s Crown to a tee) is not a call for censorship. If Mike and Jerry want a second opinion on that, maybe they should ask their employee Ben Kuchera, who also criticizes the artwork (though for a different reason). Is he just a big ol’ censor, too?
I’ll end this by pointing out that not once in the newspost does Holkins mention one of the main points of this controversy, that the game designer defending himself by calling the accuser gay, as if that were both an insult and a conversation-ender. This omission is somewhat telling.