#011 Press X to make sandwich – A complete guide to gender design in games

This long blog post essay is now archived as a pdf. You can download the full pdf here (19mb).

Thanks to volumes of constructive comments by the community, contents of this essay are currently in revision for a later publication. The linked document serves as a backup of the original version of the essay and contains some outdated concepts.

I left all the comments up below. You are welcome to continue the conversation and I hope I can give you the updated publication of this project soon.

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79 thoughts on “#011 Press X to make sandwich – A complete guide to gender design in games

  1. (follow up to below comment)

    I would really like to think that this is just a linguistic oversight as the conflation of the two is far more common than the distinction, what I fear is that there’s a deliberate lack of consideration because these people (adults who find children attractive) are largely viewed as tainted if not outright immoral for existing alone.

    The condition (attraction to minors) isn’t separated from a terrible act that most do not commit and we suffer horribly for that

    • Hey K.

      This is a really important comment. For me personally you pointed me to a huge screw up in my choice of words, since I personally don’t conflate the condition of pedophilia with the act of child molestation, and I also kinda hate that common conflation myself.

      The condition is already horrible enough for those who suffer from it and there should be much more access to help for those people. However the public conflation of the condition with the act adds a layer of social and physical violence to it. Not cool.

      I will change the wording soon, to reflect my actual opinions, since the current wording is quite harmful. Thanks for speaking up. :)

      • Thank you *so* much, that response means the world to me. Whenever I raise thisissue, I always have to build up that layer of emotional armour in case it’s a hostile rejection (which was the norm even from people who campaigned against bigotry) but in the past two years it’s gradually turned and this is still hard to believe!

        There’s only so long that something illogical (such as maligning people for unchosen characteristics regardless of behaviour) can be perpetuated so bless you for that.

      • (ctd) On a less related note, this article was brilliant and the fact that THIS is what elicits so much fear and resentment from the rabidly “anti-feminism” people is so absurd. Even mentioning these issues provokes outrage and it beggars belief; I think/hope that it’s that panicked backlash that comes after “they laugh at you” and before “then you win”.

        I say “win” but nobody loses, except I suppose someone who doesn’t want to share their toys because any less than 100% is them being robbed.

  2. Very eye opening article, some of the photos in the violence/sex section were quite stomach turning.

    One huge thing issue is that when you listed the hedonistic pleasures engaged in by Cassus, you listed “pedophilia” as opposed to “child molestation” or “sex with children”. Within this context it was an ironic oversight as you even listed “bestiality” instead of “zoophilia”. Paedophilia used interchangeable with child sex causes immense issues for innocent non child abusing paedophiles.

  3. beautiful but not wanting to move away from natural beauty or at least from natural state towards deformation.

  4. photos that feature pubic hair and armpit hair. Currently most of such photos have removed hair. Similarly various other alternations of bodies are going in and out of fashion. The same with clothes – lots of clothes stop being fashionable or become fashionable.
    When one is unplugged from the “mind control system” all that stuff that is going on looks pretty mind-boggling.
    In this case, choosing to not do these things to ones body is motivated not by not wanting to put effort into being

  5. Regarding the part of looking good in chapter 4.2, one thing that is worth mentioning is the ongoing unfortunate implication that people who do certain things to their bodies are the ones looking good and those who don’t do these things don’t do them because they don’t care or because they are lazy or busy with something else.
    Personally, I find shaved legs on women as beautiful as a shaved dog. Things done to ones body or clothing selection are temporary. For example I have many old erotic

  6. Haha. That article is like a mass murderer’s manifesto. Hard to read it without experiencing intense misanthropy. Genderists always pissed me off with their absurd attribution of masculinity/feminity to most ridiculous of things. I remember quiting one forum after being accused of being “gay” because I find women who wear practical boots instead of “feminine” footbreaker shoes attractive.
    Couldn’t take the idiocy. It’s like some people are sex-blind and can’t function without signifiers.

  7. “There are men with vaginas and women with penises”
    Here’s something I don’t understand. Since apparently you also reject biological sex, could you define the following terms:
    -man
    -woman
    Because after reading that chapter I have no idea what they are supposed to mean.

    • man = a person who identifies himself as man
      woman = a person who identifies herself as woman

      … as soon as you use any criteria to define the gender of others, you engage in bigoted behavior. A person identifies as they identify and that should be respected, no matter how they look or dress or how they are physically equipped.

      Pretty simple actually.

  8. Do “pedophilia, pleasure in violence, cannibalism and bestiality” really belong in the same category? Pedophilia is a sexual orientation, for example, while cannibalism is not.

    • Culturally they do. They all carry the same connotations and themes of immoral acts, consumption of others, all are sexually charged culturally and all are when acted upon acts of violence…

      In reality these things are often more complex. Pedophilia is not an act, cannibalism is. So yeah, as with most things, culture has a way of throwing things together, which actually are more complicated.

      • I gather from your response that you think that all sex between people of a some certain age is rape. Is it problematic to tell huge groups of people that any time they have sex they are being raped? I met some people who told me that all penetrative sex is rape, but that does not seem to be a mainstream opinion. Why do we need to decide on the behalf of other people whether or not they are being raped?

        • I struggled with myself about even publishing your response and I want you to know that this conversation will end here, since I think the direction you are arguing towards is very very dangerous.

          It’s about informed and enthusiastic consent. If people are not able to give that kind of consent then sleeping with them is rape, plain and simple. Any other definition is empowering abusers and rapists to such a degree that it is irresponsible. Especially in the case of pedophilia – which was your point of contention, you are promoting super harmful ideas, framed as liberalism. Kids are not able to give informed consent, so ANY sexual encounter they have is sexual abuse or rape.

          It’s the responsibility of grown ups to respect their age as a boundary and not burden children with the responsibility of consent or not consenting to sex. Any attempt of “empowering” children to decide for they own if the sex is/was consensual is a preparation for victim blaming and to enable abusers to be in denial about what “signals” children gave.

          This is disgusting. And dangerous. And this no more replies to this topic or in the vain of your argument will be published.

  9. Hey, Anjin here.

    I’m copy-pasting a comment from an anonymous user here, which was submitted via the ask page. It belongs here, so I post it here:

    “So I read your gender article, and I really enjoyed it, sent it to my friends who are interested in getting into game design, thinking about it in regards to character creation for my own creative works, really stellar stuff. There is just one problem. I think it should be more clear that penises aren’t “male parts” and vaginas aren’t “female parts.” You do well in pointing out that a lady can have a penis, which is super cool, but still referring to those kinds of things as having gender in and of themselves is a bit transphobic. In addition, and I know this is like super beyond where game design is now, but you didn’t address people with non-binary genders. I’m not sure if you have much knowledge on that front, but if you don’t feel free to email me about it. [email redacted] I don’t have a tumblr or anything like that so this would be the best place to reach me. Trans* issues are huge so I hope you take this seriously.

    Also, lastly, the point you made with how being sexualized by queer characters is supposed to make players angry and how that connects to sexualizing other characters was a great point and something Im going to try and bring up more in conversation. It really gave me some words to talk about stuff that I didn’t have the words for before.

  10. Reading your article was great.
    But I have to disagree with you in one specific point, when it comes to
    “gender signifiers”. You said they are either male coded or female coded. I
    disagree with you because as far as I experienced they are either “female”
    or “neutral”.
    The femlae-coded stuff says: “look, im female-exclusive!”, while the other
    is labeled “it’s okay for males and females…” Just some examples: Combat
    Boots, Sneakers, Camouflage, Trousers in general, Short Hair, not wearing
    make up, i think you get it… they all are totally okay for any kind of
    females as they are for any kind of males.
    Bikini, Pink, lacey, ribbons, high heels, lipstick, nail polish… they all
    scream “i’m female exclusive!!! not for boys!”
    There is a reason why there is “kinder überraschung” and “kinder
    überraschung – the pink edition”. There is a reason why there are outdoor
    jackets… and outdoor jackets with butterflies on it. How many girls or
    women do you see day by day wearing convenient flat sneakers, jeans or cargo
    pants, hoodies, outdoor backpacks, camouflage patterns, blue, black,
    whatever coloured stuff, that could easily be worn by a male without looking
    “female”? How many women do you see in every day life having short hair and
    no lipstick, And what does this make you think about their possible
    sexuality? Probably nothing, because you won’t even notice them? Would
    seeing a woman without make up make you think “oh… she’s got gender
    issues… or probably she’s a lesbian…”…

    And how many male persons do you see in every day life wearing make up,
    wearing skirts, wearing pretty but inconvenient high heeled shoes, or
    pantyhose… not talking about all those little details that turns stuff
    from “neutral” to “female exclusive”. Would you “not-notice” them like you
    “not-notice” the neutral dressed? Could you avoid thinking “oh… a
    trans-vestite-sexual-whatever! Or maybe gay…”.

    I hope I could somehow figure out how, from my prerscpective (somehow
    most-time male, somehow sometimes transvestite male, somehow straight,
    somehow gay, somehow lesbian sexuality), those signifiers work. Not only in
    games, but also in the world outside.

    Excuse my funny english.
    And again, your article was one of the best things I have read during the
    last weeks.

    M.

    (And I loved GTA 1 as much as I hate the latest versions. Not my game
    anymore. I bet you can figure out why…)

    • Hey M

      Sorry for the late response.

      Anyways, I think you are conflating two connected but still individual issues:

      1. male default
      2. misogynistic gender policing

      Male default is when no male coded signifiers are needed to signify male. See many toilet figure pictograms or robot designs for example. This makes female coded figures feel exclusively female or as I called it “women-themed”. This creates the impression them men are humans and women are a specific kind of human.

      What your observations are really getting at however is misogynistic gender policing.

      In a society that values male over female it is shunned for men to wear female coded signifiers. To “run like a girl” or to “be a pussy” or related homophobic insults are frequently used to shame men into acting more manly.

      This is why men are shunned for wearing make-up. In our patriarchal society it is treated at least as shameful for a man to be like a women as it is for him to be like a small boy. That’s why female coded signifiers are a taboo for men.

      on the flipside male-coded siginifers are a-ok for women, because it “upgrades” them to a man-like entity.

      This has nothing to do with male coded signifiers being neutral. They are not neutral, they are treated as superior and therefore are accepted for everybody, while female coded signifiers are treated as inferior and only women are asked to basically mark themselves as inferior with them.

      I hope that clears some things up.

  11. (sorry for the multiple posts: char limits…)
    Also, if I ever get kidnapped, I do hope the world jumps to the conclusion that I might want to get saved. And they will, even though I’m male and of low descent. Because the common response to kidnapping is gender neutral. Of course the princess trope (nobles as hostages, women as objects that get stolen) reinforces all that. But it’s important to consider the possibility it’s not always about gender.

    • Kidnapping is also never mentioned in the text of the game. So your whole diversion into what “kidnapping” as a storytelling tool does is completely pointless.

  12. Good, interesting article in general, but:
    Is it possible to make games without making a statement rabout gender, given the sexism in game culture? Yes, it absolutely is. I’m making a game about geometric shapes and patterns (with no symbolism). I’m not “ignoring” gender/sexism and thus quietly contributing to it. Sometimes not saying anything really isn’t a statement in itself, and reading something into it says more about the reader than the “author” (” “s because it’s a non-statement).

    • Hey David…

      Sexism in games is not a theoretical issue or an intellectual exercise. It’s a real ongoing situation with consequences. And making a game without any gender in it is still making a statement about gender because that piece of media decided to be a bystander in an ongoing conflict.

      So, your game about geometric shapes and patterns is a bystander in that ongoing conflict and standing at the sidelines without contributing to the argument is a political act. It is not necessarily contributing to sexism, but it is also not helping out.

      “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

      • Hi
        Of course sexism isn’t a theoretical issue. Neither is it an all-eclipsing and -encompassing one, though. I reject these absolutist false dichotomies, all that “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”-BS, however only implied it is. I can understand the theoretical argument for it, but I consider it a somewhat fundamentalist one and don’t subscribe to it. With that definition of non-statement = statement, everything is a statement about everything, and it becomes very shallow and empty.

        • Whatever let’s you comfortably slip out of facing your responsibilities as a contributor to games culture. :/

          • Yes. I will have to live with it, along with not curing cancer every day and not ending world hunger ;) Not being sarcastic now, though: can you sleep at night when you have such a wide definition of human responsability? Surely, by those standards it could be argued that most of us are just wasting our time on this earth on absolutely trivial matters? (it’s more of a rhetorical question, don’t want to go on and on here, so feel free to just ignore it or not, as you please. I won’t keep going).

            • There is a difference between understanding your own responsibility and acting on it.

              It’s totally fine to reject acting on your responsibilities, just so you don’t go crazy.
              There is literally so much unethical shit we do everyday – from buying technology and clothing that is made on the back of slavery in 3rd world countries, to exploiting and harming people in southamerica because of how much water it costs to bring a single banana to germany, over pollution with each plastic wrapped product we buy, to the abuse of animals for our food and on and on and on…

              …including perpetuating sexism through our purchasing decisions or design decisions.

              You cant act on all these moral obligations as a 1st world nation citizen – it’s technically impossible. I’m also a proponent of artistic freedom, so I wouldn’t even demand that you make a statement about gender in your game. It’s your game, you do what you want.

              HOWEVER…

              I wont stand for denial. This site is about understanding what’s going on, so I wont let arguments stand which aim to make responsibility a none issue, irrelevant or non-existent. The responsibility exists and you choose what to do with it. And so do I.

              Denying how stuff works or what stuff means to sleep better is not what this side is about.

              • U know, I can agree with so much of what you say. What irritiates is that you often comes across so accusatory, absolutist and aggressive (e.g. “whatever lets you comfortably slip out of facing your responsibilities as a contributor to games culture. :/”) You might say that is my problem but it just discourages me from engaging in discussion with you. Maybe your message might reach more people, if you modified your discussion habits somewhat. Feedback, do with it what you will…have a nice WE.

  13. Minor nitpicking:

    The game manual clearly states she has been kidnapped. The definition of the word “kidnapped” is that it’s against the kidnappees will. While we don’t know for sure if she wants or needs to be SAVED, it’s not a horrible sexist assumption for Mario to make and the gender is in fact irrelevant to his heroism.
    Bad example.

    • Hey David…

      Information in the manual is information from a second source. In media criticism, one can not use text from a one piece of media to evaluate the text from another. Text is text is text. And in the text of SMBros the game there is no mentioning of a princess wanting to be saved.

      Also the part of my text you are referring to is not in any way framed as “horribly sexist”. Please don’t correct me on straw man arguments, please correct me on what I say. The point about reading gender as a shorthand is actually in a chapter on benefits of using gender in storytelling.

      The princess as a to-be-rescued character is a common trope and it is specifically gendered, since male princes are not commonly used as to-be-saved characters. This has a background in classical storytelling as well as human history, since princesses have been treated as property of kingdoms for trade.

      So, nope, perfect example. But thanks for bringing those points on the table so that I can address them.

      • Hi Anjin
        Disagree: dismissing the manual is not correct: back in that time game manuals were an integral part of the text, among other things due to technical limitations. You claim that “because princess” is used as a call to action. There’s no denying the trope, but you attribute things to gender that can at least just as well be attributed to “kidnapping” (e.g. kids, presidents…). Disregarding the manual deliberately distorts evaluation of this text (c.f. confirmation bias).

  14. Hallo Anjin,

    ich habe mir soeben die Freiheit genommen diesen wunderbaren Beitrag unter http://www.gamestar.de/news/vermischtes/3059458/gaymerx.html#comments in den Kommentaren auf Seite 3 zu verlinken, in meinem Kommentar.
    Ich habe vor einigen Tagen Deinen Blogartikel gelesen und habe einige sehr interessante Erkenntnisse daraus bezogen.
    Ich hoffe das gelingt ein paar der Gamestar-Leser.

    Beste Grüße von einem Möchte-Gern-Illustrator-sein ebenfalls aus Berlin,

    Jan

  15. How very tedious. Some people just suck the life out of everything. Finding discrimination or bias or sexism in a game like Spelunky? Really? You need to get a life, and stop whining about it.

    • I really considered not publishing this comment like I do with similar comments often. It’s a very typical response by someone who has no perception of the world around him, except when it comes to people who look like him or who managed to behave in a way he finds respectable. These responses go around a lot and there is nothing special about this one above. Sometimes I still feel like presenting people like “David” here as a case study for why these articles need to be written.

      Oh, but what about my fun? I just wanna enjoy my games! …while we talk about transgender people getting assaulted no matter which public restroom they use. Sure. Get a life! Yeah, sure let’s totally do that. Let’s just care about my personal pleasure and how I feel and how the world is treating me, me, me. And let’s go online and spent our “precious life time” to whine about people who whine about my video games. Because that’s what having a life means, right? Sure.

      These people will get educated away. As our culture becomes smarter and more empathetic, their dominance will become smaller. Language will change, game content will change, community policies will change, advertising will change… maybe not much, maybe not soon, but enough to scare the fuck out of David right now. Whatever games he likes or spaces he enjoys, they still will be there. It’s just that there will be room for people who are not him and he will no longer be the arbiter of games culture, but just one voice in it. Poor, baby.

  16. But, this is not saying that you should stop talking about any of these things. It’s definitely a great article, so comprehensive and I learned a lot. Thanks for putting your efforts into such a difficult subject. As a gaming female I have felt separate from the community and never could articulate why… but you did.

    It also makes me realise where the “I’m a nice guy and deserve you, hot girl, just cuz I was nice to you, and if you don’t you’re a slut!” bullshit came from. Clear proof here.

  17. I would really, really like to see you do a race-themed article, Anjin. Are any of these characters non whites, except the token black/middle-east/etc. characters whose whole existence is whatever racial stereotype they are? And isn’t it true dark skin brings negative connotations? Racism is just as bad as sexism in media. When I play a game or watch an anime I wonder what a (gay/bi) non-white female must be feeling. I know many who simply adopt “whiter” identities to fit in to the community.

    • Material on race is definitely in the works.

      I’m currently still in the research phase, reading up on issues and the history of racial stereotyping… But most importantly I listen to people of color and their perspective. When it comes to feminism I just dashed in because I felt I knew it all – being a smart ass – and ended up needing a lot of corrections from women and LGBATIQ folks. Not doing this again that badly prepared.

      Now is a time for me to ask questions about race and media, rather then write my view on things.

      Cheers.

  18. Very complete and insightful.

    Just 2 pet peeves of mine about feminism in game critics:

    1) Do you realize that the original designs of many classic characters were dictated not by sexism but by the limitations of the hardware platforms of past times?

    2) Why equality of representation is always formulated in a restrictive sense? Why not instead of, by example, suppressing booth babes, adding booth boys? Why not to add eye candy for women and LGBTQIAs instead of removing eye candy for men?

  19. I was reading your misogyny articles and wanted to point out a trend in the comments. I might just be fanning the flames, but I’d like to respectfully ask everyone to remember one thing before they answer.
    1.) This is an opinion. You have every right to disagree with it just as I have a right to express it.
    That said, why fight on this? More types of female role models would be nice, that’s all. All girls are not the same, just as all boys are not the same. We don’t want to take away, just add.

  20. Hey,

    Just to say I loved the text, the vocabulary was on point. I have just one little concern you seem to have glossed over : asexuals. I didn’t knew that the intersex claimed for their letter in the acronyms, but Aces do : LGBTQA. Because people can have romantic interests in people and have no desire for sexual intimacy. If we want to include everyone, we have to include them; just throwing that out there.

    Thank you for the document I hope I can refer to it in my Media Classes

    Toodles ~

    • Thanks for pointing that out and you are not the first to do so.

      I reworked big parts of the article and fixed the initialism to be inclusive of asexuals.

      Cheers.

  21. However I must disagree in that intersex is a scarce minority and transgender is not biological thus not a sex but rather something else. I mean down to the basics the words Men and Women exist because sexual dimorphism, so I would see a Transgender as a different Take on a given sex. I mean our bodies arent clay, we have a given form. Of course is not like we cant operate above that form to have multiple identities, a man/woman can be transgender. I think the answer lies in sociobiology

  22. People are afraid of equality because they think It means to take their privileges away. Im a straight man and I enjoy sexy women, Im aroused by objetified women but I dont use that as an excuse to be an asshole in real life. I dont think Is bad for me to look at this games and like them. But I think is unfair that women are excluded for the priviledge of indulging in their own fantasies, and thats fixed by giving room to women in videogames.

    • That assumes that women aren’t already writing games and mods for their own sexual/romantic needs. Have you ever played A Dance With Rogues? It’s one of the most famous mod for Neverwinter Nights that was made by a female developers for other women.
      It starts with the female protagonist getting BRUTALLY RAPED and then forced into prostitution. Then the protagonist has an option of ROMANCING HER RAPIST which also happens to be be the MOST FLESHED OUT CHARACTER in the mod.

  23. I like the way you wrote this. I believe I caught a typo, though: on 4.2. the second image, about Spelunky , reads “hommage”. I believe that should be homage.

    The images are fantastic. Are they based on an existing meme? If not, they should become one.

  24. This article is bullshit, you think you are helping by discriminating people?!

    People should be different!
    People have right to be different!

    People have right to ware bikini, pink or be weird – their sex or sexuality is not important!
    You are discriminating many people by thinking you are protecting discriminated!

    For you its sexism. For many women and _men_ it’s power
    For you its homophobia. For many people it’s power and freedom to be what they want to

    What we need in games is diversity!

    • “People should be different!
      People have right to be different!”

      Absolutely, yes. I have no idea what made you think this article argues for something else.

      “People have right to ware bikini, pink or be weird”
      Totally, again why you think you eed to point that out?

      “their sex or sexuality is not important!”
      This is decided by the people for themselves. Not me or you.

      “For you its sexism. For many women and _men_ it’s power
      For you its homophobia. For many people it’s power and freedom to be what they want to”

      There is something you fundamentally misunderstand about this article. I just can’t point to what that is.

      “What we need in games is diversity!”
      Yes, this article is exactly advocating for that.
      This article is advocating for games as an industry and culture that allows everybody express themselves and to be represented.

      I’m really confused by your responses. Please elaborate on what made you trip. Thanks.

      • My problem with this article is that it want everything to be the same.

        All characters should look as they “should”, like “no police officers with visible breasts”. Why? This is fantasy! Games are not reality! You can’t have it in real life! Don’t make this character a victim! It’s freedom!
        Games should enable us to do what we can’t do in real life!
        Victimizing women or gay is as bad, as being hostile towards them.

        • Ah, okay.
          You are confusing commentary about character design with commentary about human self-expression.

          Nowhere in this article is anything said about how people should look. No comment is about what it means if people wear pink or if actual police officers show breasts. This is article is not about how people are, it’s about how game designers create characters…

          …to be specific it’s about male game designers creating female characters.
          …cisgender designers creating transgender characters.
          … straight designers creating gay characters.

          It’s not criticising how people present themselves.

          Please, read this: http://howtonotsuckatgamedesign.com/2013/10/autonomy-question/

          You got the whole thing about feminist criticism of media representation completely wrong, not just in my article. Seriously, you got your heart at the right place, but you need to get on the next level here.

      • “Pink knight is bad”. Why? There are two types of gay. That look girly and they want to look like this and the ones that you would not know they are gay until they will say so.
        Both types should exist, this is a choice they make.

        Why showing sexuality of victims is bad? It should create whole range of fillings. From hate towards hostile individual and some not comfortable sexual excitement. Fantasy!

        Why women in distress are bad? All women have to be strong? No! They have right to be weak.

        • In fairness, I don’t think it actually said pink-knight is bad. The article seemed to be asking why a pink-knight is automatically seen as humorous.

      • It’s hard to write anything with 500 chars limit…

        What is my problem? You showed many different games, that should be different and you tell everybody that it is bad that they are different.

        There should be place for homophobic and non homophobic games.
        There should be place for very sexualized games and non sexualized games.

        We need MORE diversity! Not new “only good solution, make everything the same and equal” like yours!

        It would hurt women and gay as much as the other half of society!

        • Oh yeah and that…

          “There should be place for homophobic and non homophobic games.
          There should be place for very sexualized games and non sexualized games.
          We need MORE diversity! Not new “only good solution, make everything the same and equal” like yours!”

          There is no need to defend homophobic games or sexualized games… …because they rule the place. They are not threatened.
          Nobody advocates for cencorship, only for more thoughtful design. If this is seriously concerning for you, you definitely need to do more homework.

    • I know that feminists and other “we want better world” people think they are helping people, but it’s only HALF right!
      They help only HALF of women and gay people, other half they forget about because they don’t want them to exist!

      I know that life in world where homophobes, chauvinist, gay, feminist, other women and man live together seems horrible because all of this war between them.
      But it is BETTER than life in ONE PARTY WORLD, where you have to be politically correct or you can’t be you!

      • Sorry, but you just don’t know what feminism is.
        Or what political correctness is.
        …because none of these things in any way infringed on rights or freedoms.

        Since, you don’t even accept the most fundamental premisses of feminism and make a strawman out of me instead of addressing what I actually say, I will no longer publish any further comment from you.
        Bye.

  25. And on sexualization, I have wondered if spreading it in an equal manner along the genders can be considered inclusive design. From my perspective, if for any reason the creator includes some form of titillation aimed at the male gaze, then it seems fair to also include the same amount of titillation aimed at the female gaze. I remember an article on FFXIV highlighting how the skimpy armor typical of a MMO is available to both female and male characters with both being just as equally revealing.

  26. Very comprehensive article. I’m not a game designer, just a gamer and geek, but I have reflected lately on this topic. As a heterosexual cis male, the current landscape certainly favors me and I can’t deny I take advantage of the privilege. Yet I have become aware of many of these problematic elements and how they exclude, hurt and drive away women and LGBT minorities. It’s certainly something that needs to be addressed for the sake of the medium to grow and for society to become more inclusive.

  27. It might help if there were more examples of instances that support your argument, that is, characters or symbolism that defy such extreme stereotypes. Currently the article is rather flooded with androcentric examples and although in my (female, bi) head I can think of examples that attempt to challenge that stereotype, a “normal” straight male like yourself may not because you just haven’t been exposed to them. It would also balance out the negativity in the article.

    • Hey there..

      It would be helpful if you could provide the examples for my readers, since you seem to already have some on your mind.

      Thanks.

      • Ok I actually had to look these up because I’m horrible with names. Just to clarify, I’m not trying to discredit your article in any way, but if the goal is to educate those to steer away from androcentrism in game design that they themselves might not personally be aware that they are doing (which you noted that it is because that’s all they know), it might help to have these examples. And as I noted previously, they are attempts in that direction…

        • …anyone can argue “well, they STILL show their tits” but it is not exactly a black and white scenario. I like looking at hot girls too, really that’s the only reason why I purchased Bayonetta. But anyways…

          Chell from Portal is female but really her character is not even really in the picture and her gender is completely irrelevant to any aspect of the game. Likewise Glados has an effeminate voice but that’s about it.

          Lara Croft with all her boobs is still portrayed as an intelligent and…

          • …capable woman, hardly a damsel in distress. Same goes for Jill in the Resident Evil series.

            King of Fighters has a pretty diverse cast of both genders, with characters like Elizabeth, Mature, and Vice who are fully clothed with slight sex appeal but not remotely close to being a sex symbol such as Mai. Ash in KOF xiii is also the main villain who is quite an effeminate looking male, complete with no manly muscles and bright nail polish and long flippy blonde hair.

            Hilde in Soul Calibur is..

            • …definitely female but compared with Ivy is a far cry from being a sexual object.

              BlazBlue series has a running joke throughout its story mode of how Jin is madly in love with his brother Ragna with a plethora of sexual innuendo, thus crossing two taboo lines. Likewise the oddball character Taokaka is obsessed with groping other female characters’ boobs, basically making the game make fun of itself for creating sexual objects (the game makes fun of itself and by association makes fun…

              • …of games in general).

                In terms of fan reception, FFXIII’s Lightning and Fang were accepted as strong female characters with not too much sexualization. In terms of playability it’s also not uncommon to hear of people supporting the “all girl team” because of their superior abilities to their male counterparts.

                I’m sure I’m missing on a lot of other key characters here but like I said I’m horrible with names.

                • To clarify on the “all girl team”, the team is supported because of their battle capabilities which can be viewed as superior to their male counterparts and not because they want to see hot ass on the screen all the time.

                  • Oh, let’s not forget the adorable moment when Cloud in FFVII dresses in drag to pretend to be a potential hooker and his sprite definitely changes to that of a female, and he is accepted as one damn hot chick by both the female and male characters.

                    In FFV Faris is a female who pretends to be male which is not discovered until partway through the game.

                    Mog in FFVI (and others) is a cute thing with pink wings and a pink puffball attached at the head but is widely accepted as a male character.

  28. Treating people’s bodily features as essentially gendered is fucked up. Just because a shitty game designer thought of a woman’s body hair as male, doesn’t make it less transphobic for you to call it such.

    And if you actually want to be inclusive of nonbinary people, cut out this “both genders” bullshit in the rest of the article.

    • Hey Shaed,…

      Your comment is a bit confusing, since we both are in violent agreement about gender and I thought I was explicit enough about that in the article. Obviously I wasn’t, so I apologize.

      To clarify:

      Treating people’s bodily features as essentially gendered is fucked up.

      Yes, absolutely. Bodily features are not actually related to gender. …but they are gender-coded, people read gender into them. It’s fucked up, yeah. I wrote all that. What am I missing?

      Just because a shitty game designer thought of a woman’s body hair as male, doesn’t make it less transphobic for you to call it such.

      I labelled it cis normative, hetero normative and later cisgenderist and heterosexist to think of features like a body hair as male or female. Was that not explicit enough?

      And if you actually want to be inclusive of nonbinary people, cut out this “both genders” bullshit in the rest of the article.

      Gender signifiers are either male coded or female coded. They are either read as male or female or at least masculine and feminine. Gender signifiers – our means to articulate gender – just come in those two pretty binary categories.

      Gender comes in all sorts of ways – a spectrum – which can be represented by having a character come with all sorts of different combinations of male coded or female coded signifiers or by having the character come with a significant lack of gender coded signifiers.

      There is no such thing as a gender non-conforming signifier. There is only gender non-conforming combinations of gender signifiers. That’s why it’s kinda mandatory to talk about gendering design features in this binary way. So I don’t see how I could change that or what is missing to make it “actually inclusive”.

      Any tips?

    • Hey again…

      I edited the chapter “2.1 Gender Indexes” to more explicitly comment on the transphobic nature of gender indexes and how they work.

      Thanks for your input.

      • You still refer to chest hair as male rather than male coded, and still constantly speak as though there were two genders. (refering to “both genders” “the other gender” refering to an unspecified person as “he or she”) You act like treating men and women equally would mean gender equality, like it is acceptable for nonbinary people to be an afterthought.

        • Hey shaed,

          thanks for coming back. BTW you can check a box to get notified when people reply to your comments if you enter a comment. You might wanna try it out.

          To your point:
          Yes, I see how my language frequently frames nonbinary people as an afterthought or frames visual signals as inherently related to one of two binary genders. I will go through my wording in the next couple of days (weekend maybe) and try to edit the passages to be more gender spectrum inclusive.

          I hope I catch everything. We’ll see.

          Cheers.

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