Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hot Babes

I love Frank Frazetta's women.

I love their generous, often muscular curves, their powerful sexuality, their gratuitous lack of clothing.

I also understand why some people find them to be objectional, objectified charicatures.

And I'm okay with that.

Four months ago, a Whizbros art director published a short essay on sexism in fantasy art and soliciting opinions on the future art direction of the brand. A couple of weeks ago, a poster at RPG.net called for signatures on a petition to be sent to Whizbros, asking that D&D artwork be more inclusive with respect to women and people of color.

This week, a blogger, forum administrator - of a forum on which I post regularly, I should mention - game designer, and paid consultant for the development of 'D&D Next' decided to stir the pot, calling for a petition to Whizbros to include "hot babes" in their future artwork. Tweaking the progressive gaming community's noses, like his rants about "feminazis" and "political correctness," is this guy's signature style, and honestly, it should be taken with a grain fifty-pound bag of salt and seen for exactly the sort of childish taunting it is, because while this guy thrives on creating a dickish persona, he's really not an idiot.

That said, this blogger's screed speaks to those roleplaying gamers who feel put-upon when the things they like - such as stripper ninja artwork - are pointed out as problematic by others. I don't feel the need to recount their defensiveness here - they're easy enough to find for those who are interested - because their denials and false equivalences completely and utterly miss the point.

No one's telling them they can't like what they like.

All that's being asked is, could a wider range of images be offered so that other people can see what they like, also?

You want a picture of a naked witch summoning a demon? Sounds cool, but could we also have some pictures of women warriors dressed less like bikini models and more like Jeanne d'Arc, too? Does every paladin have to look like Saint George, or could we have more who look like Saint Maurice as well?

Is it really such a bad thing for gamers to want to see themselves in the artwork for roleplaying games?

And nothing about increasing the depth and breadth of represenation in game-art requires sacrificing the quality or originalty or excitement, of course.

I've thought about this subject quite a bit, actually, as there are problematic elements in cape-and-sword roleplaying games.

Running a campaign set in the early 17th century, I'm acutely conscious of the impact of discrimination associated with the period and neither do I soft-peddle it nor use it to severely - and ahistorically - limit player choices. I've read forum posts by gamers who believe that this does a disservice to women, LGBT, and gamers of color by putting them in a situation where the discrimination they feel in real life becomes part of the campaign. While I'm sympathetic to the argument, I accept that it's problematic for some gamers but integral to playing a historical roleplaying campaign for others. My response is to make clear from the outset what the campaign is like, so that anyone interested in playing can make an informed choice about whether or nor to participate.

The source literature which I try to emulate isn't always sensitive to the roles of women and others, either. Consider that d'Artagnan is a rapist and that the most important recurring female character in the Alatriste saga is a murderous racist.

And I do struggle to represent the diverse non-player characters in the game-world, as both period and contemporary artwork is short of swashbucklers of color and I'm not flush enough to commission the art myself for the campaign. But I do the best I can with what I can find.

So I accept that there are elements of my campaign which are problematic, and I acknowledge them as such, without feeling the need to dramatically change them to suit moral and ethical convictions, my own or anyone else's. There is sexism in the setting, but there are also powerful women who overcome, or at least work around, it. There is racism and intolerance, but 'Portuguese merchants' - Jews - and Moors and Turks are among those whom the adventurers may count as allies and rivals. I'm comfortable with the notion that adults can separate what happens in the game-world from the real one, that playing at intolerance doesn't reinforce it in our behavior and attitudes toward real-life human beings - and that to believe otherwise is to crawl down the Jack Chick rathole.

So bring on the naked, curvy Frazetta women, and the women in sensible armor, too - they're all hot babes to me.

4 comments:

  1. This is so close to how I feel that it's scary (and it's also surprisingly well-timed since I just put a Frazetta homage on my blog). Thanks for putting this into words!

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  2. Speaking as an old, fat gamer, no one (including me) wants to see myself represented in a game product. I'll take the hot babes, of whatever ethnicity, and wearing sensible armor (or not) as a much preferred alternative.

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