Female Representation in Desktop Dungeons

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Re: Female Representation in Desktop Dungeons

Postby Alweth on Sat Jun 21, 2014 5:19 am

Preface: I am only discussing this topic here because I value and appreciate QCF's effort and progress in taking portrayal of women in computer games to the next level. I think everyone here is interested in this goal, and therefore I am bringing up a point that I think is minor, but ultimately significant to the issue of portraying women in a non-sexist way.

Sidestepper wrote:I'm not sure I completely follow your argument, but QCF has never claimed that their attempt was perfect or that they had somehow solved the problem of sexism. The most critical remarks about their engagement of gender have been from themselves, from the very beginning.


It's true that they have been critical about their engagement of gender, and that's great. They've also given me the impression from time to time that they see portrayal of men and women as identical other than in how they look (and what they're named) as somehow an improvement in the portrayal of women in video games (when in fact it's exactly what's done frequently for years). Maybe I'm misreading that, but that's what I'm reading.

Sidestepper wrote:
I had previously understood QCF to be claiming that the fact that they only made cosmetic differences between the sexes was somehow a step ahead in non-sexist portrayal of women. What I had said was that that's what the gaming industry has generally done, for understandable reasons


I disagree with this. Your standard action game shows women wearing chain mail bikini briefs and their dialogue is mostly them purring about how sexy they are (random example: Starcraft II had Kerrigan with permanent high-heel feet). Showing women in practical gear and portraying them as grizzled veterans is definitely a step ahead of the industry standard. This should be the baseline, and maybe that's your point, but it isn't the baseline, and that's my point.


I completely agree with you here. I don't really have any issue with how women are portrayed in DD. What I take issue with is the insinuation that QCF's conscious decision to randomly make half of the heroes "female" in look and name only is somehow part of their better portrayal of women, when that feature alone is an absolutely traditional way of portraying women in computer games. (And given the male-focused history and content of computer games and RPGs, I think a good argument can be made that it's sexist. However, it's easier to identify what's wrong than it is to identify what's right, so I am not faulting QCF on the design decision they made, just their portrayal of the significance of that decision.)

Sidestepper wrote:As for women in DDT being men in disguise, I don't understand what you are saying. The women don't conceptualize or experience things differently from the men because none of the adventurers have opinions or personalities to begin with.


Right, and many many computer games have been doing just that for years and not saying that they're making a statement. As dislekcia said:

dislekcia wrote:In fact we're adding a lot of extra art to the game for no gameplay difference whatsoever, simply so that we can have gender be randomly assigned every time you play, because that's something we feel is important. That's what makes it a statement, if we didn't care, we'd just not do it at all.


QCF could have varied the frequency at which different race/class combinations were different sexes. They could followed or inverted stereotypes or they could have tried to do it according to "realism" instead of stereotypes. I am not commending this course of action, I am just giving it as an example of something that would have been a statement without creating balancing issues.

Hopefully this answers dislekcia's questions too.

In summary: I am not criticizing how women were portrayed in DD, but I am criticizing QCF's framing of one specific design decision. That one specific decision was reasonable and understandable, but it was not a statement.
Were you expecting a coherent message? Alweth does not deal with such trifles. Ignore him or watch the thread get locked!
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Re: Female Representation in Desktop Dungeons

Postby Lujo on Sat Jun 21, 2014 1:01 pm

I'm not sure you answered the question. Games have been giving boys and girls the same job (or even power at it) for years, this is true, but there's nothing really sexist about that in and off itself. DD in particular doesn't really go too deeply into the psychology of it's adventurers, you mostly get to handle them in their professional environment, so there's no reason to go into even specualting about how their malenss or femaleness would work out, and in the end they'd certainly step into any of the million pitfalls of trying to mechanically define a woman (or even a man), not to mention one of a whole entire species.

Because most of those really are, for the most part, cultural. My country, for example, is rather small, but contains vastly different people, and I've interacted with women of different cultural backgrounds (all kinda authotitarian with a strong drive to shape all their members into presentable member of their particular tribe/region/religion/whatever). You could simply not draw any conclusion about woomanhood from all these people! They were shaped by different things, sometimes completely different things and while guys from their hometowns or villages could very assuredly tell you what you can expect of "a woman", I can quite assuredly tell you what's likely to have shaped a woman... from that particular town or village. What happens startlingly often is that when people go to a larger centre to study they get drawn to women from completely different backgrounds simply because they're sick of the baggagge women in their hometown get saddled wih and they are thrilled by the discovery that there are women in the world which are completyl different than what they've been thaught a woman is.

Because a woman is, really, a completely blank slate which differs from guys for most practical puroses by having a menses cycle and a bit more hyperactive hormones on a monthly basis. That's it. Painting them as anything more mechanicaly specific than that is painting a member of a society or an individual, not a more athentic woman.

What IS groundbreaking in the DD approach to portraying women is the same thing that's kinda great about portraying guys. They're more grotesques than idealizations, which puts them visualy closer to realism or naturalism than you usually (or even ever) get in videogames. And they're empathicaly not oversexualized, which is great - giving boys and girls equal stats for being of a certian profession is something that's been done before, but it's the way thigs ought to be done, having boys and girls look like having those skills/stats at the same time makes sense wasn't.
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Re: Female Representation in Desktop Dungeons

Postby dislekcia on Sat Jun 21, 2014 6:02 pm

Alweth wrote:In summary: I am not criticizing how women were portrayed in DD, but I am criticizing QCF's framing of one specific design decision. That one specific decision was reasonable and understandable, but it was not a statement.


The whole reason we wrote about what happened was because it was really surprising to us how difficult it was to not portray women as sexually attractive - that was the default lens that women were all drawn with, there was little to no variation between characters all of a sudden, just because they were ostensibly "female". It took ages to explain what the problem even WAS to the portrait artist.

We talked about it because that's worth talking about. I mean, just compare the representations of genders in this article about Wildstar. These are devs that clearly don't understand that as a problem...

It seems to me that the issue you have with this is that we spoke about something and got a little bit of attention and positive regard for a thing you don't consider important. Um, okay. Sorry, I guess... I'm still going to talk about this stuff though, not because I (or anyone else that worked on DD) demand "recognition of our efforts", but because this is a topic that seriously matters to me and there's a lot of figuring out that I still need to do about this.
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Re: Female Representation in Desktop Dungeons

Postby Bloggorus on Mon Jun 23, 2014 12:01 am

+1 to dislekcia for doing the right thing, then doing the right thing again in not feeding trolls trying to turn statements about not making a statement into a statement about gender.
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Re: Female Representation in Desktop Dungeons

Postby dislekcia on Mon Jun 23, 2014 10:23 am

Bloggorus wrote:+1 to dislekcia for doing the right thing, then doing the right thing again in not feeding trolls trying to turn statements about not making a statement into a statement about gender.


Oh no, Alweth's most definitely not a troll! He's been an awesome community member since the beta days. I think it's just a matter of mis-attribution: We wrote a blog post about a strangely pernicious thing that kept happening while we were making this game, he seemed to think we were demanding recognition for saving the industry single-handedly (which would indeed be a laughable concept).

People can totally think different things and react to events differently without being trolls and still deserving respect :)
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