Deconstructing possible plot excuses for not including playable female characters in Deep Down

So Capcom came out and said that there will be no playable female characters in their new MMO game Deep Down. I just finished reading the responses on this by Wundergeek and Brenna Hillier. After reading the above linked articles all I could think about was the various excuses the developers could give themselves and others for excluding the option for half the worlds population to be represented as playable characters in their MMO and how and why each of the excuses are wrong. So I am going to write each of the excuses I think the developers of Deep Down could use and then I will write why they are wrong.

If I understand what I have read of the plot of Deep Down so far the player character will either be time traveling back into the past of the city using their psychometry and playing trough the dungeon as one of the people who lived in the city back in the 15th century or will get stuck in the city after the prologue and have to rely on armor and weapons found in the city for survival.

Neither of these story options explain why they don’t have playable female characters for the dungeoncrawling sections. The excuses they could use to say no to playable female characters that I can think of are:

1)The dungeoncrawling is in the urban fantasy (circa 15th century Czech republic territory) style.

My answer to this is: Yeah OK you should then have more male characters then female characters doing the dungeon crawling, but even if you are going for historical realism of 15th century Czech republic territory but add magic in this one town thing that still does not justify not having playable female characters for the dungeon crawling. If a city in the 15th century Europe found itself under attack the troops stationed there to defend it would be primary male (most mercenary and military bands back then were always male with some having a couple of women warriors in them) and the militia of the city itself would have more men then women in its ranks, but it would have women in its ranks during a crisis if not in peace time as during a siege or other 15th century problems that required a city’s militia for resolution there would be an increase in women under arms if for no other reason then for their own safety.

Now since this is realistic 15th century city suffering an attack by magical beasts I take it you will also include the civil problems of the 15th century Czech territory as stuff like sexism, classism, rape culture, racism (it used to be between different kinds of Europeans back then, Jews and Roma usually got the worst of it, Roma still get some of the worst of it), city court intrigues, etc?

2)The dungeoncrawling is in full on fantastical 15th century Czech territory city.

My answer to this is the standard feminist response of then why are you not courting half of the human population by adding playable female characters in your fantasy setting?

3)The dungeoncrawling will be done by the member(s) of the Ravens that gets stuck in the city and has to rely on the equipment they find in the city to survive it.

My answer to that is: So is psychometry something only men can have because of biochemistry? You are aware that for the most part human biochemistry is gender neutral and that if for some reason psychometry is something that requires XY chromosome configuration then there are several different ways to write female characters that still have such abilities: write someone like Caster Semenya or some other intersex female (a person who is intersex biologically but identifies as having a female gender) or write an XX woman who finds a way to gain and maintain psychometry trough a regiment of drugs and/or full-body or neuro modding.

Also if you are writing only male characters because biochemistry is there at least going to be an option to play as an XX male who completed their own body transition and took up psychometry as it was something he was interested in?

If your reason for having an all male Ravens is that its the Ravens internal code to only accept male psychometers then can we have the Ravens as politically incorrect villains instead and get a group that accepts psychometers of all genders to be the hero faction then?

4) We did not think off adding female characters to the game in preproduction and now it is to expansive to do so.

My answer to this is: First of all fail faster. Then if you do not have character customization in Deep Down add a few female character options it will cost you the same amount to add a new female character as it will cost you to add a new male character. If you do have customization options for characters then why did you not add an option for female characters to begin with?

Also no it will not cost you twice as much to add female character options into the game now as you can just mod the existing armor models, movement and attack animations and apply them to female characters to keep the cost down, it will still add to the cost. Oh and if your answer that it will cost twice as much to add female characters to the game now because you have to make completely new armor models, movement and attack animations for female characters then my answer to that is a question of why? When it comes to combat in real life men and women use the same weapons and armors just adjusted for their body type. Also what kind of programmers do you have that cant mod a set of armor models or attack and movements animations?

So those are the excuses I can think of that the dev team of Deep Down could use and my responses that show why none of them are a good justification for excluding female characters. If I have missed something about the plot of Deep Down or statements about whether it will have playable female characters or if I have just built a strawman argument somewhere in this article point it out to me in the comments.

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Criticizing Feminist Frequency: Veronica Mars

So the next post on the Feminist Frequency website is called: Why we need you Veronica Mars!

So the first thing wrong with this post in my opinion is the fact that in the video Sarkeesian keeps experimenting with how zoomed in the camera is on her face and using her face being really close to the camera as a way to emphasize the statements she makes. Trying to emphasize your words by zooming in on your face can work for some people, but I’ve always found it just plain annoying.

Now the second thing Sarkeesian did wrong was saying that she would do a vlog about how horribly bad the show handled the themes of sexual violence that it tried to deal with and then she never did do an article or a vlog on that topic, in all fairness she does touch on the topic of sexual violence in popular culture in some of her later posts, but she never fully went into detail about everything that is wrong with the portrayal of sexual violence on Veronica Mars. That said she did leave links in the post itself to articles by other people that do deal with how the topic of sexual violence was handled in the show itself, but YMMV as to whether the articles do a good job of criticizing the show’s failing with the topic of sexual violence.

Sarkeesian does give a good and brief description of what she found good in the show and what she found bad in the show. As far as my own opinion she did give enough information about to show for people to know whether or not they are going to watch it. One last thing she failed to do however is give us an example of the bad parts of the show in the form of a clip (she did give example clips for the good parts).

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Criticizing Feminist Frequency: Dollhouse vs Terminator

So the first thing Anita Sarkeesian did under the Feminist Frequency banner that she still keeps on her Youtube channel and her website is called: Dollhouse renewed? Why not Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles? .Also a disclosure of bias: I have a bone to pick with Dollhouse because it took a good human horror concept and utterly failed to make good on its potential and I was also never very interested in the Terminator universe.

This post deals with the fact that back in 2009 Fox had chosen to renew Dollhouse: a show by Joss Whedon about a human horror scenario that involves the extraction, manipulation and implanting of memories into human subjects that are called dolls in-universe and are people who have signed over their bodies to this process for a set number of years (of course that is just the official version of how dolls are introduced into the dollhouse).  Considering that when you say Joss Whedon is making a human horror story most people actually familiar with this type of horror treat that as a red flag. You see Whedon can write a lot of things pretty good, but human horror is not one of them. In fact I can think of only one human horror story Whedon was involved with that had a level of competence: Beauty and the Beasts. And that was only because Whedon did not write or direct that episode of Buffy. You’ll also note that neither the writer nor the director of that episode can be found working on any of the Dollhouse episodes.The post also deals with the fact that Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles made by Josh Friedman was not renewed by Fox even though Sarkeesian considers it the better of the two shows because it had two strong female leads.

So what is there in this post to be critical about? Well for starters Sarkeesian is too vague: she barely describes anything about either of the shows.

With Dollhouse she describes that she feels that the show did not do a good job of portraying the people working for the Dollhouse and with the Dolls as evil, I would point out that that is one of the few things Dollhouse did get right: in human horror one of the ways you create an atmosphere of horror is by having the villains that are people you can sympathize and empathize with doing these horrific things to ordinary people and rationalizing their crimes against their fellow humans as just doing their job. The first season of Dollhouse fails as a human horror story because we do not have a Doll that has regained their freedom by some accident or a rare bug in the system that lets them in on the full nature of their existence and is on the run from the Dollhouse to contrast against the sympathetic people that work for the Dollhouse casually and without any empathy discussing resetting that runaway Doll to factory setting. Tell me that the idea of people who have ordinary lives you can sympathize and empathize casually treating another human being as a piece of hardware and nothing else would not send chills down your spine. So as Sarkeesian points to the characters working for the Dollhouse being too sympathetic and the main character Echo having too little agency, I would point to Dollhouse having a horrible sense of pacing as it does not start with the last day that Echo spends in the Dollhouse before she escapes from it or by having Echo already on the run, no it starts as just another day at work and goes on being another day at work for most of season one.

As for what Sarkeesian said about Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles it comes down to two things: There are two well done female lead characters and it is set in the Terminator universe. I honestly don’t know what to add to the topic of this show. Where Dollhouse pissed me off for running a good human horror story concept into the ground, Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles is a show I am only familiar with in passing and Sarkeesian did not say anything that would make me want to go and watch this show.

This oldest post under the Feminist Frequency banner shows just how inexperienced (no examples of things done right or wrong, links to articles that go a lot more in depth about the problems she mentions in her own video) Sarkeesian was when she started the feminist web series everybody loves to bash on these days and yet I have never heard her complain that people were twisting her words in her oldest videos to attack her these days. Strange that.

Update 1: I forgot to mention that Dollhouse works as a show on many other levels, but that because of its pacing, my own preference for human horror stories and the places the plot does not go to I have a bias against the show.

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Criticizing Feminist Frequency: Introduction

This is an introduction to a series of articles I will do that deal with criticizing the series of blog posts and videos known as Feminist Frequency.

So why am I doing a series of post that deal with criticizing one of the currently most famous feminist blogs? Because I need to exercise my skills in critical thinking on feminist topics and there is no way anything I say on the topic of Anita Sarkeesian’s work that will lead to her suddenly dropping of the internet and stopping production on her Feminist Frequency series. Sarkeesian has a good network of friends and family that support her, she has one tough backbone and has weathered one of the worst internet backdrafts in several years. So criticizing her work is safe for a beginner to do without causing a mess or damaging her ability to make her own content.

This is also the sad truth: many feminists will be driven of the internet trough insults and treating them like acceptable targets for rape and death threats. Many more will simply become tired of the constant fighting and go silent so that they can keep their own piece of mind. We live in a world where it is OK to wish rape and murder on someone just because of the things that they said and that is not something I would ever call a good thing.

I also have a desire to criticize sexist content for the misandry that is in it and I find that Sarkeesian does not focus on that part of the problem with sexism. So this series will not just serve as a criticism of Sarkeesian’s work but also a look at the damage that some of the  sexist stuff she has criticized does to men.

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Misandry and Misogyny, the divide and conquer tag team of privilige abuse

Privilege (social inequality) is a way of framing issues surrounding social inequality, focusing as much on the advantages that one group accrues from society as on disadvantages that another group experiences.

As a group role privilege differs from conditions of overt prejudice, in which a dominant group seeks to oppress or suppress another group for its own advantage. Instead, theories of privilege suggest that the privileged group views its social, cultural, and economic experiences as a norm that everyone should experience, rather than as an advantaged position that must be maintained at the expense of others. This normative assumption implicitly constrains discussions of social inequality within the dominant discourse: such explanations are limited to factors specific to disadvantaged groups – who are viewed as having failed to achieve the norm – and solutions focus on what can be done to help those groups achieve the ‘normal’ standards experienced by the dominant group.

In essence, theories of privilege assert that discourses on social inequality do not truly discuss differences between privileged and marginalized groups, but only discuss the failure of marginalized groups to achieve normal social status, effectively turning inequality into an issue that does not involve the dominant group. In this sense it is similar to confirmation biases and the fundamental attribution error in social psychology.

As far as framing of this definition of privilege goes: when steps are taken to reduce social inequality, those steps can be interpreted as two effects: reverse discrimination for one group, that is, as a loss of benefits that the group deserves to keep; and affirmative action for the other group, that is, as giving benefits to a group that may not deserve to have them.

Framing the issue in term of special rights highlights an author’s belief that the privileged group never deserved to have the benefits conferred on them to begin with. Thus, rather than the marginalized group unfairly gaining benefits at the privileged group expense, it is  interpreted as leveling the playing field, and as ultimately fair.

This part until now was just me transcribing the Wikipedia article (this transcription is from the time I first started writing this article if the Wikipedia entry has changed in the meantime you have this link) on the definition of privilege in the study of social inequality.

Now lets look at sexism and its stereotypes as products of patriarchal privilege: every sexist stereotype has a misogynistic and a mysandristic side to it.

What are the things that both misandry and misogyny have in common? The belief in the privilege that a person is born into with their gender: Men are born with a duty of leadership of their families/societies and protection and women are born with a duty of child care (bearing and rearing children) and being the support pillars of their own homes/communities.

So what is wrong with men and women having the privilege of being the breadwinner/housekeeper and protectors/caregivers? What is wrong is that those are the only two options given to either gender and picking only one of the two is not an option.

Some of the criticism I know of for the statement above goes like this:

You can not say that your statement is true because there are single men and women who do not have families and are not interested in family life. My response to this criticism goes like this: Then why is shipping such a large subsection of fanfiction  and gossip? Why are we so interested in pairing up our favorite characters and peoples into families and then writing and they lived happily ever after at the end of the pairing story?

You can not say that your statement is true because there are men who are stay at home dads and there are women who go to work to earn money. OK here is a mental exercise that I want you to try and do and that I believe will be a valid response to this criticism: Try and find an example of a husband/wife who was a housekeeper, caregiver, protector and breadwinner or at least actively participates in all of those activities. And no I am not asking for examples that are single parents or people who live alone but did not chose to be alone as they do all those functions out of necessity, not because they chose to do them and they also look for people to do at least some of those duties with or for them (or as everybody calls those people: roommates and/or servants). Also if you know someone who does do all of the 4 above mentioned duties for themselves, please answer this question for me: how large a part of your society do you think these self-sufficient people and the parents who share all of their duties between themselves belong to?

You can not say that your statement is true because people can chose something other then being a breadwinner, protector, housekeeper and caregiver. This is true, but let me ask you this: can a person chose not to take either the male (protection/breadwinner) or the female (housekeeper/caregiver) package without social stigma?

I could try and list a few more criticism on my statement above but I am tired and I have been trying to write this article for almost a year now, so I will just put it out now and ask that whoever is reading this to offer criticism if you have so we can talk about this topic.

In conclusion such as it is for now:

The purpose of both misogyny and misandry in our society is to put women/men into easily recognizable boxes that are fully defined and without any mystery, unpredictability or complexity.

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The division and current issues with the RPG genre

OK so a while back I watched two episodes of Extra Credits that were called Western & Japanese RPGs where they explained the differences between these two types of RPG stemming from the different cultural traits of American and Japanese culture respectively.

Then this week I read an article on Gaming as Women and something clicked in my head.

So here goes that something: The Extra Credits episodes talk about how it was the parallel development of the RPG genre in both the US and Japan that made the Japanese and Western RPGs so different in both narrative and game play and that these two types of RPG should be viewed as two separate genres. In the comments section of the above mentioned GaW article someone asked about a French tabletop game called Agone and why it failed to get a good enough market in the US. And my own conclusion from these two statements and several questions I already had in my head is that what most people call ,,Western” RPGs are in fact American RPG and that Europe has its own RPG narrative that is ready to start showing up in both video games and in the tabletop international community.

OK so the basic difference brought up in the Extra Credits episodes: the narrative structure of the RPG. The Japanese narrative focuses on picking a group of companions that will grow and develop trough the game and following and shaping their adventures. The American narrative focuses on crating your own character and guiding him/her and their companions trough their epic quest(s). The European narrative focuses on the exploration of the structure of the setting: its magic, social structure, justice and injustice, power and political intrigues, its various nations and the differences and similarities between them………; and does so by making the protagonist(s) people who are in the position to see all (or most of) the above mentioned characteristics of their world trough their work and/or goals and quests.

And sadly after two days of thinking of an example I can just toss out there for comparison that I am well versed in I came up with nothing. The only comparison I can even make is between an American RPG and an European one. And I have not played both of these so I could make a complete comparison between the two, but here is the best I can think of right now: Dragon Age (American) and The Witcher (European).

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Fanservice in video games: an example of doing it right and doing it wrong

OK so after I watched the April DmC trailer and an old preview for Bayonetta on The Angry Joe Show something occurred to me: I finally had an example I could point to to explain that fanservice is not a bad thing in and of itself.

So let me just give an explanation on that: Kari Byron from MythBusters is just an effective member of team as Tory Belleci and Grant Imahara and yet she still qualifies as fanservice for every fan of the show that likes women because she is serious about her job, does not start crying or running away from her work when something squicks her out and she is a capable and valuable member of the junior MythBuster team. For the same reasons I listed for Kari, Grant and Tory also qualify as fanservice, but for people who like men. So in other words the junior MythBuster team serve as fanservice for the viewers. Why does this work? Because it is unintended. They needed another team to expand the program and shoot more episodes in the same amount of time, an unexpected side effect was that they had given a piece of their viewers fanservice and had given another part of their viewers (the two parts are separate but they do most likely overlap) role models.

Now in video games when it comes to sexism the makers of the games get a lot of flak for having a lot of fanservice in the games because of the whole sex sells thing. Except that ,as the newest DmC trailer shows us sexy can be done in good taste. If instead of Dante there was a young woman, only a few thing would change: the sheets on the bed would cover the chest of the female character, the camera would be focused in on her face from the moment she exited the trailer, there would be another scenery censor for the woman’s chest before she would put on her shirt, the shirt would have a higher neckline and some of the lines spoken by characters would have to be changed to be gender appropriate. That is all that would change.

Now think about the changes I listed for the video and tell me would they make the video itself less awesome? In my opinion it would not.

Or would a woman doing the same things Dante does in this video make her less of a badass just because she is female? Again in my opinion no it would not, although it could make her more badass then Dante just because we have not seen a female character doing such awesome things, even Lara Croft uses a bed sheet cover and always gets a chance to put on her clothes. Why is it that badass men get to dress in the middle of a combat situation and show us their skills at the same time, but badass women are always either fully clothed or dress themselves off screen?

Which brings us to Bayonetta. Most people will tell you she is a female Dante. She is not. Her movements and powers all serve the same thing: ,,to make men ring their bells” as Joe put it. Also Bayonetta does not display the same attitude as Dante does: where Dante is laid back and calm and full of snark in every battle, Bayonetta is sensual and sexy and always strutting her stuff and of course the freaking gun stilettos. Why stilettos? Why not gun combat boots? For the same reasons she wears a spy catsuit made of her hair: for the sexy, the game even tells you that. Making an outfit out of hair does not mean it has to cling to you skin like spandex, you could make regular clothes out of your own hair, the skintight thing is (again) for the sexy. Also where Dante looks like a regular guy (with white hair in earlier installments) who does a lot of exercises and is in top form, Bayonetta looks like the ,,ideal” supermodel walking down the runway or doing a routine on the strip pole.

In the end it comes down to which is more intimidating: the Taught By Experience Badass Longcoat who shrugs off anything the enemy trows at him (why is there not a female version of such a character out there) or the Hot Librarian in a Spy Catsuit made of her hair with Gun Stilettos?

Also worth noting is that Dante is the owner of his powers, while Bayonetta is owned by hers and is more of a targeting system for them then a user.

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