Chainmail Bikinis For All

Do me a favour and read this:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/experienced-points/9568-The-Half-Naked-Elf-Problem

Also, watch this:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/the-big-picture/4719-Gender-Games

But, if you haven’t got the time for that, the issue presented in both of those can be summed up by this:

The above article and movie detail with the discrepancy in fiction, especially in video games and especially in Fantasy between male and female armour. Dudes get actual armour, women get stuck in iron underpants. Notably, in certain scenarios (like in World of Warcraft for example, refer to the two Elves at the top of the rightmost column in the picture), male and female characters will get different versions of the same item. Those two Elves are wearing the exact same piece of chest: on him, it’s an entirely sensible cuirass, on her, it’s pretty much a metal (except probably not metal, ’cause it’s supposed to be made from the shell of a sort of spider-person) bra. Various people, for various reasons, think this is kind of a problem. Here’s my take on the issue.

First and foremost, wading into battle in a bikini isn’t especially prudent. The whole point of armour to protect you from horrible, horrible death. Even if it’s made of something like adamantium, armour that only cover’s 25% of you fails on the most fundamental level. Especially when one of the things it doesn’t cover is your freakin’ torso (which is where your heart, lungs, spine, stomach, intestines and various other important bits live). It doesn’t make sense for the stats of actual armour and a bikini to be the same. Of course, coding two different versions of the same item isn’t very feasible. Of course, the obvious solution is to just give the men and women the same armour. It’s not even that ridiculous to make practical female armour – games like Dragon Age, Oblivion/Skyrim and Mass Effect are pretty good about this, male and female are essentially the same and offer the same amount of protection, except for that the female armour makes certain accommodations (mostly in the chest).

On the other hand, I think that, to a certain degree, unrealistic, impractical armour is justifiable. Video games (and movies, TV and comics) are a visual medium, which means that the people designing how everything looks have certain aesthetic considerations to … consider. Real-world armour is kind of boring. It’s bad to have boring visuals, since these visuals will be what your audience will be looking at for hours and hours. Characters need to look interesting and being decked out in realistic-style armour will have your characters looking like tin cans with legs. That’s not exciting. Bright colours, spikes and glowing are decidely more so. I think that the chainmail bikini phenomenon is a symptom of this. A ludicrously sexy, bespiked bodice is admittedly a lot more interesting that actual, practical armour.

There’s also the fact that a woman in real, practical armour isn’t necessarily recognisable as a woman – full steel plate doesn’t really flatter the figure. This could be deliberately used for dramatic effect/shocking twists (for example, that Samus is a woman). But I think it’s reasonable for the character designers to want to make their women obviously women. Or their men obviously women (that was a joke about how dudes in JRPGS look like women, something that doesn’t actually particularly other me).

I think that chainmail bikinis can also be justified by the fact that there are some characters who do benefit from being naked. Some characters are fast and agile, moving quickly to attack quickly and avoid being attacked themselves. Cammy from Street Fighter wears a leotard, which is kind of ridiculous (and hot), but makes sense because most of her attacks are flying kicks, something that calls for being unrestricted and weighed down by too much armour. Hell, Vega (also from Street Fighter) is a male example of a character who’s justified in being naked. He’s a matador ninja with a ridiculously fast fighting style. Because of this, the only actual armour he wears is his mask (to protect is beautiful, beautiful face). Also, Judith from Tales of Vesperia doesn’t wear any armour (or much clothes) and has a quick fighting style with lots of jumping around. She’s also a gigantic flirt, so the skimpy clothes is actually pretty consistent with her personality.

This leads me to the second possible justification I can find for barely-dressed female characters. There are some female characters who use sex appeal as a weapon or who benefit from being as sexy as possible. Morrigan (and also Lilith) from Darkstalkers is a succubus, i.e. a sex-vampire demon, she pretty much eats the souls of the men she seduces, which means she has a vested interest in being as seductive as possible. Catherine from … Catherine is also a succubus, so, again, she has a vested interested in being naked.

Of course, given that this whole issue is about the fact that guys in video games get actual armour while the women have to parade around naked, this obviously raises the issue of sexism. It’s not something I can really comment on, as I am not a woman. I have no sense of womanhood to be offended by this. I can, however, fully understand why actual women might be offended by this. I get it and I sympathise, even if I’m not particularly upset myself. I can’t, however, really do anything about it, as I am not in a position to really influence the character design in any video game anywhere. Unfortunately.

One of the solutions I’ve heard for this is one I find particular interesting. What I’ve heard suggested is an in-game system that either lets you combine two pieces of your equipment to have the stats of one, but the appearance of another (i.e. your armour has the awesome stats of the +5 Bespiked Bodice of Nuxinor, but looks like the Sensible Skirt-Blouse Combination of the Crystal Caves). The second solution is a variation of this, giving your character one set of equipment to determine your stats and one that does nothing but appears on your character. I actually really like this idea, and not just because it will restore the dignity of the female characters. Admitttedly, I would love for my character to have a Sweet Hat that acted like some top-tier helmet. What I like about these ideas is that it gives the players a greater degree of choice. The players don’t have to have chainmail bikinis forced onto their characters, any characters whose sensibilities would be offended can wear something else, but anyone who doesn’t mind having their Elf venture to the Seventh Nether Hell in a G-string (and is therefore probably a guy) can do so. And course, anyone who wants their character to keep their characters Sweet Hat (and is probably me) can.

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~ by My Core Beliefs on April 29, 2012.

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