10 August 2013

I wanted to write about this for a while. In fact, this very topic was the main reason I wanted to open a blog. I initially decided to wait a bit, but a friend of mine sent me a very interesting article the other day. So, without further ado, let’s talk about fan service (the use of sex appeal to drive sales) in video games, more specifically in League of Legends.

Let’s look at Katarina and Nidalee, two of League of Legends’ champions (click on the images to enlarge them).

Katarina, the Sinister Blade Katarina, the Bestial Huntress

What do you notice? Nothing? How about Ahri and Miss Fortune?

Sona, the Nine-Tailed Fox Miss Fortune, the Bounty Hunter

Yeah, they’re all busty as hell. And don’t think it’s just these fours: it’s shorter to list the female champions that are not well endowed. And it’s not just their proportions, it’s also their clothing. What’s going on?

According to Guinsoo, game designer for Riot Games (developer of League of Legends’): > One other note is that it’s hard to make attractive female champions that look female in our engine unless the boobs are noticable. > Unless the boobs are big, you won’t see them in game, and if you don’t see them in game, it will look more masculine.

So, they made them curvy to made them easily distinguishable from male champions. Fair enough. Although that does not make a lot of sense when you think about it. In game, you don’t really care if a champion is male or female, because each champion is easily distinguishable from each other thanks to his body shape, clothing and body language. As such, when Miss Fortune comes down the lane, you know it’s her, not because of her breasts, but because she looks and moves like Miss Fortune, and you know she’s female because she sure as hell looks female on the loading screen. So, making them busty is a purely artistic decision. That begs the question: why have they chosen busty females as their art direction? A possible explanation can be found in stats Riot has released several months ago: 90% of their player base is male, and 85% is between the age of 16 and 30. So it pretty much looks like standard issue fan service to me.

So, where am I going with this?

Now, before you go all neckbeard on me, keep in mind that I don’t really mind the tits. Although it does raise a few questions. For instance, does that imply that combat prowess, for women, in the universe of League of Legends, is directly proportional with breast size? That’s a rather interesting case of elitism. Also, as far as feminism go, in Runeterra, women are just as likely to kick ass as men. In LoL, there is no such thing as a damsel in distress. And anyway, male champions are almost all incredibly muscular monstrosities, so it goes both ways. Although one could argue that sexy women are a sexual fantasy for men while muscular men are a power fantasy for men. So, in a sense, it’s still all about men. Considering most game designers are male, and most players (at least in the hardcore gaming market) are male, that is hardly surprising.

That brings me to that article I was talking about earler. It’s up on Gamasutra, and you should read it (after you’re finished with this article of course). It’s a bit on the long side, but in short, it’s about how Unknown Worlds, developers of Natural Selection 2, added a female character in the game, one that wasn’t scantily clad or sporting ridiculous assets, and how it sparked a huge (positive) discussion on their forums. If you’re quick on the TL;DR, just scroll down and look at the first image that crosses your field of vision. What I’m saying is that you don’t need to ramp up the sex appeal to appeal to men: they’ll come anyway. To be fair, NS2’s player base is incredibly less douchebaggy than LoL’s, so maybe there’s a correlation there.

As a whole, that kind of art direction is becoming rarer. I mean, sure, we still have things like Dragon’s Crown’s sorceress, but it’s mostly an exception nowadays (and anyway, Japan isn’t known for its forward treatment of women), mostly because of games becoming more realistic (for most AAAs anyway), as well as the result of the medium both hitting the mainstream and maturing as an art form (and therefore no longer required to pander to horny teenage boys). Even the boobaliscious female type is no longer the norm at Riot (for instance, the two most recent female characters are Lissandra and Quinn). I guess being the most played game in the world will do that to your art design.

I guess what I’m saying is that huge tits are too cliché.

Although we’re still not out of the woods yet. I came across Smite recently, and I was a bit disappointed to see that it was still about buff dudes and busty chicks killing each other (to be fair, since the characters are all gods, it’s somewhat makes sense). Come on guys, I know you can do better than that. Kudos for the third person camera angle, though. Looks cool.

Bring the women!

I still believe there are not enough women playing non casual games, and I guess that maybe thinking about them when designing a game is a step in the right direction. But that’s a subject for another article (because this one is getting long winded).

So, yeah. Don’t whine about the tits, just carry harder. Preferably with a female champion. But stay polite, and don’t act like a douchebag.




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