Badass is the new Sexy! That Female Armor Blargh

In context of the dinosaur-debate that is female armor and character representation in videogames, there have been several tumblrs I’ve been wanting to share with you for a while now. However, as these things go, something always came up and so I didn’t – so in case all these links are old news to you, I apologize. They’re really good though!

It’s no secret that I enjoy armor in MMOs and playing around with cosmetics. I’m a sucker for immersion in games and when it comes to my avatars, I treat them as virtual representations of myself. I also have a very clear idea of what’s proper armor in combat-centric games and MMOs are that. I’m happy to suspend disbelief where dragons and fireballs are concerned, but if you were to try convince me that my female fighter is fine with bare stomach and thighs (while her male counterparts are not), you’re going to have a very hard time.

Alas, that is my personal view. I realize that some people (women included) are quite happy with the way things are and never mind the boob and ass flaunting that is often part of the ‘female aesthetic’ in videogames. That’s good for you. Me, I like some serious armor on my chars that serves my personal escapism and power fantasies (as it usually does for male characters) rather than to delight others, usually male gamers. All I ask for is variety, especially in genres with customization sliders. That said, I draw a big line between what’s attractive and what is blunt objectification/sexualization of female characters. I too, like my characters to look good. I just don’t like them to be all about their nekidness and sexual availability – that perpetual stereotype.

“Badass is the new sexy” – Three links that make it visual so you can’t claim otherwise

 1) The Hawkeye Initiative
Quite often when you try to make the point about how female and male character representation in video games differ, you’ll face issues explaining the concept of skewed gender equivalence or “why male body proportions and gear serve power fantasies and female ones do not” – not seldomly when talking to men uneducated on the subject. This is also popularly known as the “…but what about the menz??”- debate. Lucky for us, The Hawkeye Initiative has taken this exact subject to heart not too long ago, showing audiences just how exactly male characters in game and comic culture would have to look and be presented like (body language, oh my) in order to create “sexy equilibrium” between genders. I know a fair amount of men gamers; I can say for certain none of them would be thrilled if all their male character choices in games looked like a doe-eyed batman in transparent thighs. Do I need say more?

2) Repair her Armor
I would very much like to believe that if you were to browse all the amazing female armor over at Repair her Armor, such as illustrated on this Guild Wars 2 concept art sheet, you would nod in agreement that this is some good-looking and adequate gear you’d have your female toons wear in a heartbeat. Page after page does this newly started project illustrate just how easily and effectively female armor could be adjusted and brought on par with male models, while looking every inch as shiny and aesthetically pleasing as before.

Of course, none of the “amended” armor on this website is the real one – just like that concept art sheet wasn’t. So, here I raise my question: who does truly think the fixed armor versions are worse / less attractive than their originals while being a lot less skimpy? Who indeed?

armorz

3) Badass Lady Armor
The Badass Lady Armor gallery is a project I started myself and that simply collects various game-related (mostly MMOs with some fantasy card- and boardgames in the mix) female armor I think looks fabulous. Criteria to be met are similar to the well-known Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor tumblr, although that one serves much wider a focus and also includes real life shots. I’ve always had an extensive videogame concept and fan art database on my personal PC, so this is an attempt at bringing together women’s armor I’d love to wear in MMOs.

And yes, boob plate is still represented in an overwhelming majority of all these pictures (as opposed to this); but I’d say this is a pretty stellar array of high quality images that was quite a journey to collect. Believe me when I say these picks are a stark minority among all MMO fan and concept art out there. However, I was still able to beat my goal of getting a 100 pictures to pass the test (also in terms of body language which spoils at least two thirds of all otherwise passable images), so yay for more badass armor in videogames! Let nobody claim more realistic female armor can’t also be good-looking or similar nonsense. Now if only developers / designers caught up with this soon!

17 comments

  1. All true but it begs what is to me a more important omission in most MMOs: ordinariness. Makes no difference whether my characters are male or female, I just like them to look ordinary. I don’t like flashy armor, particle effects, cutaways, any of that stuff. I like the fantasy equivalent of jeans and a tee-shirt. Maybe with a motorcycle-jacket.

    I can’t count how many MMOs start off with my characters looking pretty much like I want them to look and progressively strip all believability away. What’s wrong with a plain set of banded armor or a leather greatcoat?

    The Secret World probably is my current favorite for offering true choice in how you dress, male or female. If you want to do end-game content in basketball boots, blue jeans and a hoodie no-one can stop you.

    1. Oh I agree. it would be nice to get more ordinary choices – more choices in general. in a way I understand how the whole ‘escapism’ idea is part of all the idealized character models in MMOs, but they perpetuate the social pressure that is already omnipresent in real life. anyone who thinks that VGs don’t have that power or aren’t part of popculture by now, is frankly wrong. so the whole forced idealization backfires completely imo if that’s the one choice you’re giving your players (who are also normal people).

      I love the armor and generally more rugged look in the Elder Scrolls games. the character customization options are somewhat limiting towards the other, very ugly extreme at times, but in terms of overall aesthetic and armor models they’re my turn-to in the fantasy genre. and /SHOO @ hoodies!!! :P

  2. That guy’s butt looks weird and his calves are barely even there. Also, he appears to be frightened by a mouse. Contrast him with the much stronger and better-drawn female counterpart and it’s clear which direction the sexism goes. She’s just killed a man, and her sword appears to big for the scabbard, meaning that she is never not holding a sword, ready to kill someone.

    1. I don’t know so much about frightened but yes, I give you that the Hawkeye equivalents aren’t always qualitatively on par with their originals. one may try and forgive that fans and amateurs aren’t quite as skilled at sketching as professional artists. ;)

      And yeah, she’s very badass with her big, bloody sword and big butt cheeks making the focal point. the message is totally “I pwn stuff”. maybe we got it wrong all along: the more naked = the more powerful! women are wearing nothing because they are stronger than men – they don’t need the armor! she cannot only kill with ease, she can do it naked! how badass is that??

  3. For those who complain that “a nearly naked guy balances things out”, the thing is, a nearly naked buff man –ala the old Frank Frazetta paintings– is also a male fantasy. It’s a male fantasy of being buff and muscular and badass and filled with testosterone. Not exactly the same thing as the a reversal of the sexualized female toon.

    You can have some sexualized armor out there –boob plate and all– but you have to give people the option to not wear that stuff. When my daughter, playing a Smuggler, is running around Coruscant with a bare midriff because she hasn’t gotten her orange Smuggler torso to drop yet, that’s kind of disturbing. But until that orange gear drops, she’s kind of stuck waiting in a glorified tube top.

    1. Jep – hence the reference to the false equivalence comic. I think that strip really illustrates this beautifully. Duke Nukem is no more of a female sex fantasy than bugs bunny is (…I think!). These kinda male heroes are projection screens for male gamers; strong, assertive and capable figures (alternatively popular, rich or wanted by all) to fantasize over or identify with. all I ask for is the same chance for myself with female heroines and alternatively, a lot more flawed (not victimized!) but interesting characters altogether, rather than the uber-achiever type. the side-effect of all the heroic escapism is that as human beings we cannot truly connect to perfection. there is only so much identification with perfect characters.

      1. I can identify more with a lead dressed along the lines of the Assassin’s Creed protag, only with fewer muscles and jutting jaw. A group of wandering PCs aren’t going to necessarily look that pretty –think of the Pathfinder Iconic Valeros with the notch above his nose– but they’re going to get the job done.

      2. I looove the entire Ezio Auditore style! that’s my kinda armor and overall look – a mix between medieval elegance and a ruggedness à la Strider.
        When it comes to level gender equivalence in MMOs, it’s the Asian games that usually succeed most. I don’t exactly encourage the “if we cannot not sexualize women, let’s sexualize everyone”-approach (see some male chars and armor in Tera for instance), but you’ll also find a lot more variety in terms of male body types there, more “beautiful”/effeminate or boyish men and what would qualify as eye candy for women. my favorite example are FF14’s male Elezen – if you check the Elezen character customization on youtube sometime, you’ll know what I mean. ;)

  4. Side note on “boob plate”: The only way around it is to be flat chested. Armor, plate in particular, is heavy and restricts movement quite a bit. So in order to minimize that, it was made to fit the wearer fairly closely. In the case of a woman, this would mean allowing space for the boobs, which is where you get the “boob plate” effect from.

    1. Actually, you assume that wrong. I see where you’re coming from about movement but that’s not what real heavy plate armor was created for and it was never capable of anything resembling longer close or melee combat. plate armor was designed to be a fortress of protection, worn ideally from horseback by cavalry entering combat long after the fodder. once unhorsed, the wearer was essentially pretty screwed – not even strong men could move about for long. plate armor was made to fit around weak spots and to close openings, such as around the neck or where arm pieces meet the shoulders. other than that it was hardly ever ‘made to fit’ any one individual perfectly because armor was expensive and the type of craftsmanship and materials we see in movies weren’t available in the middle ages.

      Now for the boob plate: that is a technical error and no serious smith would ever create one – I do have this on good authority :) the very last thing you would do is draw attention to boobs or create bumps in armor plate. chest armor was specifically designed flat and in fact slightly convex in the middle to deflect arrows and sword strikes. never ever would you put bumps in it to stand out – never would you add weakness to any part of the plate like that (also nothing resembling extra rims, seams etc. because that is where armor always breaks first).

      also – boobs aren’t really that big ;) even large chested women would wear several layers of cloth underneath armor (nobody wears it naked…) after which the chest essentially becomes flat (you ever seen a woman wearing two sweaters and still having large boobs stand out horizontally?). if there was any ‘room to be filled’, you would amend this by adding extra layers UNDERNEATH the armor plate.

      boob plate makes no “sense” whatsoever, cosmetics aside.

    2. Er, I’m sure you’ve heard of sports bras and it seems you’re another guy who doesn’t realise what they do. ;) For a demonstration, this video shall enlighten (warning, NSFW language):

      http://youtu.be/Ag4C0MFRnmE

      So yeah, boob plate makes no sense except for it to be something pleasing for men to look at.

      My female warrior in GW2 actually has some decent badass lady armor (that site is awesome!) .. but of course has the boob plate thing going on. But I noticed something pretty annoying about it: her boobs still bounce and move when she’s running. -_- So ridiculous.

      1. I actually have 3 sets of pretty badass armor in GW2 but they took me a while to assemble. it’s not the worst MMO for variety although the newer armor skins from events are all pretty lousy where female humanoids are concerned. looking great on some of the beastlier races and men, silly on the women. -.-

    3. What little armor worn by women in combat (yes it exists) actually survived until today shows that there were never any boob plates. Real armor for women is almost identical to that for men.

      Heck, check kendo armor, there’s virtually no difference between male and female versions, other than the size.

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