Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Cheesecake in RPGs!

Blueberry Cheesecake is my favorite.

  So this guy here wrote about being uncomfortable with sexuality in marketing RPGs and tabletop games and this guy here attacked him a lot about it, pointing out how Fantasy needs to be dangerous and shocking and all that.

  I agree with both in certain parts and disagree with both in certain others. It just depends which part of which post I'm at.

  I think what is being missed on both sides here is context. I'll be using examples outside RPGs to better illustrate my arguments, but I'll bring it back to our hobby. So yeah, context. Context of what the product is and who it's aimed at. I remember way back on another blog I once bashed this poster:


      I still think, years later, that it looks outright ridiculous. Yes, she's giving the sword a blowjob, we get it. But I don't have a problem with it anymore. Why? Because of context. This is who Red Sonja is:





  She's a bikini chainmail hottie whose goal is to be a fantasy for Conan readers. So, y'know, it's kind of natural to sexualize her. I'm not saying you can't tell good stories with her, I'm not saying she's not a valid character in fiction and I'm not saying women can't look up to her if they want to. A lot of female cosplayers seem to like dressing up as her so I imagine her appeal is not only for the male or lesbian gaze. But she's a very sexual character by nature, so her being sexualized should not be criticized, if anything it should be embraced.

  I do have a problem, however, when I see Wonder Woman like this:



  Look, I know Wonder Woman started as a bondage fetish character, and I am not saying she shouldn't be drawn sexy, or even busty. No problems there. It's the whole way she's positioned. If she had stayed that bondage fetish heroine from the Golden Age of comics, then fine. But she has grown to represent women in superhero comics, and I don't mean in an accidental way where people might tell me that a company should be able to do whatever they want with their characters anyway and that it's just the expectations of some readers who are off the mark. I mean in the sense that DC Comics themselves will point to her and say "Look, women are represented in comics! Wonder Woman is a role model for young girls!"
  So that's when context comes into play, in my opinion. Red Sonja is supposed to be hot and to be in lots of titillating positions. Wonder Woman is supposed to be a role model for young girls. And there she is, extremely sexualized in a creepy way. And I'm not saying Wonder Woman shouldn't be a character with a sex life, that she shouldn't date in her stories or whatever. I don't ask for superheroes, male or female, to be virgins. But there are ways of presenting your products and characters that are appropriate with what you are claiming your goals are.

  Raggi claims that with the internet it's no longer true that people will turn to their hobbies for sex, but I strongly disagree with him. I think a lot of people feel titillation from characters they 'know', which is why we so often get weird results while searching the names of fictional characters on the internet, even when we weren't trying to find anything weird. And I think a lot of people like having sex mixed with their hobbies. 

 That car has an amazing engine!

This will be an impressive display of martial arts skills!

  I myself once used a picture that prominently displayed cleavage for one of my posts and got some heat from it on Google +. I remember one woman overreacting about it and I complained that she hadn't even read the post. And she did overreact, but at the same time that picture had very little to do with what I discussed. Sure, I was discussing magic and the woman was a magic-user, but I chose an extremely sexual picture. And in the end, that does distract from an experience instead of adding to it unless you want to incorporate the sexual aspects into what you are doing.

  Anyone complaining that Heavy Metal magazine is too sexual is missing the point.


  Heavy Metal should be adult and sexual because that's the point of the magazine. And yes it should be kept out of the hands of children! But that said, I remember a childhood friend of mine from Spain reading El Vibora (an adult comic-book magazine that was more sexual than Heavy Metal!) during his early teenage years and he grew up not to be a screwed up human being and instead a well-balanced, successful person. It's true, in Europe people tend to freak out a lot less about that kind of stuff.

I Googled cover images of the magazine for an example and could only use this one. All the other ones were too explicit for this blog (which is not rated Adult). Which brings the question; What the hell is GON of all characters doing on the cover of El Vibora??? o__O

  Anyway. When it comes to RPGs, I apply the same logic. If I'm buying Machinations of the Space Princess then I expect trashy sci-fi. The cover will have naughty implications and there will be gratuitous, over-the-top stuff all over the place!


  If anyone were to complain about the sexuality in Machinations, I'd tell them that they are being stuck-up prudes and that they should find something better to do. However, if someone pointed out and complained about over-sexualized art in an official Dungeons & Dragons book, I might agree with them. Why? Because of context. Because D&D is supposed to be for everyone, and it's not an unfair expectation because it markets itself that way. Within that context it would be fair to complain it's a bit too sensual for people of all ages or that it could make some women uncomfortable.
  I don't mean that I'm particularly passionate about that sort of thing, because El Vibora. (Yes, I used the magazine title as an argument in itself.) I think that Castles & Crusades has some pretty cool art but all those butt-shots I find a bit embarrassing because in my opinion they do not belong there. (My lesbian friend Cindy who plays Torad the Barbarian in my game really liked one of those butt-shot pictures though, in the art's defense.) 
  I'm fine with the idea of owning books that I'd have to hide from my kids until they were adults if I ever have children. I will never ask a company, artist, writer or other to change what they do because of my own personal life, it is an unfair demand from the Gnome. That said, if a company does claim that you can bring a book to work, that you can let your kids flip through its pages, then you shouldn't have to feel worried or embarrassed about any of its material. But c'mon, that a cute girl in a sexy cosplay outfit is trying to sell you toys is not really a problem in our hobby. (That said, I'm sure that a lot of defenders of the bikini-clad girl at the Con would complain if a muscular dude wearing only a loincloth was trying to sell them a Conan tabletop game or something. :p )

  Context. Thanks to it, the bikini chainmail babe can co-exist in our hobby with the woman in practical armor.