Journey to Northpass

Journey to Northpass is a short RPG Maker game parodying gender roles. It’s a standard fantasy setup, but all the gender roles are completely flipped. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have much else going for it. The battle system is essentially “press confirm to win”, and though there are sidequests, they’re basically all just simple fetch quests. The story doesn’t take itself seriously at all; the gods of the setting are literally called “Pretentious” and “Apostro’Phe”, in just one example. Cute, but it kinda makes it hard to get emotionally invested in anything.

I feel like the patriarchy flip isn’t as incisive as it could be, which is unfortunate when that seems to be the game’s main draw. It tends to focus on the most extreme misogynistic cliches — there’s a point where the Prince in Distress is told to shut up because “the women are talking” and that “men just don’t understand money”, for instance. The main villain is also a gender-flipped temptress archetype, and his motivation ends up being because HIS CHILDRENNNN etc. It got a chuckle out of me, but it didn’t feel terribly challenging or brave social commentary. Maybe I’m just in a dreary mood, but more than anything it just reminded me of real misogyny. Part of it is perhaps just that it’s too compressed, and I think to be effective satire needs room to breathe. For instance, there’s one Strong Male Character — and while, like all Strong Male Characters, he is hilarious, there being only one of him means the game dumps every single Strong Female Character trope on him at once, which just ends up feeling rushed. Strong Female Characters have kinda evolved with the times, to the point that there are a lot of different takes on the concept now. I think it would have been stronger to have multiple characters to lampoon those different facets — in particular, a calling-out of “morality pet” characters like The Last of Us’ Ellie and Bioshock Infinite’s Elizabeth would have been both more timely and immensely cutting. The problem is no longer so much that women aren’t included at all, I think, but that they’re relegated to support and satellite roles.

Overall, the parody here felt a bit too… I dunno, easy? I mean, people have been making fun of scantily-clad Warrior Women for years now, and I don’t think “women are seen and not heard” has been seriously pushed in popular media for decades. It’s too easy to feel smugly enlightened and say, well of course I’m not like that… It doesn’t get into the more subtle misogyny that’s more common in modern video games now. And I do have to say, the absurdity of everything else rather sent the wrong message to me — it just reinforces the idea that haha, women being the default is so CRAZY and WACKY that we can only have this in a game where nothing at all is taken seriously! It would have been much more effective to be completely straight-faced about it, I think.

Also, mmh…

While giving the male characters feminine appearances feels like a natural extension of the patriarchy flip, I’m rather on the fence about it. It feels a bit like it’s reinforcing the concept of feminine traits being weak and inferior. It might have been a more effective parody to have the objectified characters still look distinctly masculine. Granted, the female characters do still look feminine too, so the artist may have just wanted to try out a setting where femininity was the default appearance.

I liked the plant people, though. Holly was very cute.

So, good intentions overall, but it’s still very rough around the edges. I found it more a proof of concept than a finished product.

69 Comments

  1. Act says:

    Yeah, having the punchline be a man in women’s clothing is horribly tone-deaf, and suggests the dev doesn’t really get why those outfits are problematic in the first place (ie, it’s not that women’s clothing is inherently degrading). Also, there’s no shortage of Sexy Male Empowerment costume designs out there to draw inspiration from, so the decision seems as lazy as it is offensive. But then, this all seems incredibly low-hanging-fruity. It smacks of bandwagon jumping to me.

    1. In fairness, the Strong Male Character does have a Sexy Male Empowerment costume, though I did still find his pose and body type feminine in a way I can’t fully articulate. (I believe he had the Lesbian Haircut, which is… problematic, as you say.) I should try going back and getting a screenshot.

      Edit: Added. Looking at it… his pose just looks bizarre. He actually does have a masculine body type with narrow hips, but he’s doing a pose that accentuates hourglass figures. Questionable.

      1. Act says:

        TBH this just looks like they had shitty art direction. His hips are thin, but then for some reason he has very round thighs, and the pecs are drawn like protruding breasts except the mipples placed like pecs, and he doesn’t seem to have a penis. The result is a female silhouette which, as you pointed out, is further exacerbated by the pose. It’s like no one on the team could figure out how to sexualize a male body so they just drew a woman with no top and slightly lower nipples instead of doing basic research (or, like, asking someone male-attracted how that would look?).

        Also that’s literally my haircut and I don’t know how to feel about that.

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        1. CrazyEd says:

          This is actually a pretty common problem with this sort of endeavour, I find. This is the first post on the Hawkeye Intiative website as of the making of this post. All this shows me is that it looks weird to sexualize men by emphasizing their bodies in the exact same way you’d sexually emphasize a woman’s. Not that Lady Death’s costume is in any way inherently ridiculous. Because… it’s just a bikini, thighhighs, and opera gloves. It’s not suitable for doing action stuff in, but… it’s just a bikini.

          Surprise surprise, men look ridiculous when they’re thrusting out their pecs like tits and have half their balls hanging out of a speedo. You know who does look good in his costume? Starfire’s brother, Ryand’r. And his costume is basically just a pair of purple briefs and calf-boots. Or Colossus’s classic costume, which exposes the entirety of his sides and thighs and also comes with knee-boots. Conan’s stereotypical costume is Red Sonja’s, minus the bikini top, and made out of a material that makes for even worse armour than Sonja’s scalemail.

          I’ve never liked that Shortpacked comic, personally. Not only does it ignore the fact that many male-attracted people absolutely do find the stereotypical male power fantasy build attractive (hell, the last time I found out a male friend of mine was bisexual was when he professed an attraction to Naked Snake), but it doesn’t make him uncomfortable just because he’s got an ectomorphic bodytype (which many superheroes actually have). And on top of all that, it ignores the fact that like eighty percent of the male power fantasy is the idea of being a woman’s sexual fantasy.

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          1. Act says:

            I am way too tired of like, life, to deal with this comment.

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          2. Ash says:
            There is significant overlap between the ways to sexualize male characters that straight men could generally feel comfortable with, and the ways to sexualize male characters that straight women could find attractive. There’s also significant overlap between the ways to sexualize male characters that straight women could generally feel comfortable with, and the ways to sexualize female characters that straight men could find attractive. The problem is that general audience media, instead of aiming for those zones of overlap in their depictions of sexy characters, vastly prioritizes what straight men find attractive when depicting sexy women and vastly prioritizes what straight men are comfortable with when depicting sexy men. It does this so much that when general audience media actually does aim for those zones of overlap, it can be alienating to some straight male audience members because it looks like it’s prioritizing them notably less than usual.

            Also, it definitely feels like you’re confusing human anatomy with social constructs around human anatomy. Why is an enticing glimpse of a man’s junk hanging out of his underwear seen as inherently silly while an enticing glimpse of a woman’s junk hanging out of her underwear is not? It’s not like either of the parts in question don’t appeal to straight members of the opposite binary gender, or couldn’t at least be eroticized due to proximity to more interesting things. But it’s specifically a depiction of a sexually passive display (“look, I’m an appealing thing to be acted upon!”), and while there’s no anatomical reason that a straight cis man couldn’t be sexually passive, it’s culturally seen as a thing that women do and men don’t do because men act and women are acted upon, and that very likely has a lot to do with why that pose looks ridiculous.

            Also, “a lot of hot people like me and want to have sex with me” is a popular fantasy among all genders, not just men. Media aimed towards straight women is more aware of the risk of sexual violence than media aimed towards straight men, but being surrounded by a lot of hot guys who all like you is still generally portrayed as an appealing situation. 

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            1. CrazyEd says:

              Why is an enticing glimpse of a man’s junk hanging out of his underwear seen as inherently silly while an enticing glimpse of a woman’s junk hanging out of her underwear is not?

              Because the swimsuit is specifically designed to display that woman’s breasts in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible and accentuates the lines of her body; whereas that man’s testicle isn’t supposed to be hanging out like that, the suit is suited for a completely different bodytype (IE: Her’s), and (unlike the Lady Death art) it was drawn with the explicit intent of looking ridiculous rather than sexy (which is why they added poorly managed body hair). It’s entirely a matter of intent. Context is key.

              But it’s specifically a depiction of a sexually passive display

              … Doesn’t look particularly passive to me? The pose itself is actually the least ridiculous part of it, for me, honestly. Pretty much all of the ridiculousness is in the morphology of Hawkeye’s body. I don’t find the fact that he’s in a hip-emphasizing pose nearly as silly as the ridiculously wide hips the artist gave him.

               and that very likely has a lot to do with why that pose looks ridiculous

              It’s a pose designed to emphasize the curve of her hips and prominantly display her tits. They entirely removed the tits, and rather than narrowing the hips, they made them even wider. Hawkeye should not have an hourglass figure. That’s why it looks ridiculous.

              It’s the same reason why a saggy old man doing a bodybuilder pose looks ridiculous. Is it the inherent ridiculousness or the pose, or the saggy old man’s complete lack of traits that its supposed to emphasize? A body in a pose designed to emphasize something that it does not have will look ridiculous no matter what that body is and what the thing it lacks is. Hell, the Front Lat Spread, the bodybuilding pose designed specifically to emphasize the chest, is rarely performed by female bodybuilders in competition compared to men.

              In fact, the reason why that art looks ridiculous is the same reason Act described in the post I first responded to (about replacing the tits with pecs and calling it a day) now that I look at it again. Hell, going back up to the original review… the positioning of the grey dude’s chest, hips, and thighs is almost identical to that picture of Hawkeye and pretty much everything I’ve said about that picture of Hawkeye also applies to that guy.

              Also, “a lot of hot people like me and want to have sex with me” is a popular fantasy among all genders, not just men. 

              The difference is, again, context. Just compare a male-focused harem series to a female-focused one. Very rarely will the men in those shows act even one-tenth as sexually agressive as the women in your typical harem will. If they did, it’d look more like a horrible nightmarish rape world than a sexual fantasy. Because the sexual fantasy is different.

              But that’s sexual fantasies. It isn’t power fantasies. When you do put a woman in a typical male power fantasy role, you get something like Red Sonja… who is typically described as a male sexual fantasy. And that’s because she is one hundred percent definitely a male sexual fantasy! Because one of the major defining elements of that particular power fantasy is being a sexual fantasy.

              Red Sonja is presented as being as sexually desireable to men as Conan is to women, even at the hands of an author of Gail Simone. The main difference between the power fantasy of Conan and Red Sonja are how they react to the opposite sex throwing themselves at them.

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            2. Farla says:

              In Red Sonja’s case in particular, I’d say that the fact she can’t fuck anyone who doesn’t beat her up completely overwhelms the rest of the Conan bits. Conan is powerful in his own right, doesn’t have a god looking over his shoulder judging who he bangs ready to yoink away that power, and generally runs around assuming his own awesomeness instead of seeking one more awesome than he is. Also, he doesn’t get raped.

              A huge part of what makes her classed specifically a male fantasy is the obsession with her sex life and the reassurance that her current state is temporary because somewhere out there is a guy who’s better than her.

              I haven’t read the Gail Simone comics but given it involves 100% less rape and overbearing god issues it sounds like that’s more promising for crossover appeal.

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          3. SpoonyViking says:

            Surprise surprise, men look ridiculous when they’re thrusting out their pecs like tits and have half their balls hanging out of a speedo.

             What makes you think female characters look any less ridiculous when they’re somehow sticking out both their breasts and their asses and looking seductively at the reader, to mention just one common pose in which they’re often drawn? We’re just too used to seeing those poses and thus tend to consider them normal.

            And no, Lady Death’s costume isn’t just a bikini, it’s very definitely fetish gear. Even if it were just a bikini, that she wears it even during action scenes while, say, Hawkeye gets a proper costume or uniform is exactly the point of the Hawkeye Initiative.

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            1. CrazyEd says:

               What makes you think female characters look any less ridiculous when they’re somehow sticking out both their breasts and their asses and looking seductively at the reader

              Assuming you mean a pose like this, the answer is again, intent. Even people attracted to men are not intended to be attracted to that picture of Hawkeye.

              Even if it were just a bikini, that she wears it even during action scenes while, say, Hawkeye gets a proper costume or uniform is exactly the point of the Hawkeye Initiative.

              And it fails utterly at making that point, because the takeaway from it isn’t “this is an impractical pose/outfit”, it’s “a (usually) poorly drawn and (almost always) overly femininized man in a pose designed to emphasize femininine body parts that he completely lacks looks silly”.

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            2. SpoonyViking says:

              The point is that the poses are also ridiculous when done by female characters:

              BUT, because they’re being done by female characters, this is somehow less egregious than if done by Hawkeye? Are you seriously arguing that?

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            3. SpoonyViking says:

              Argh, I hate not being able to edit posts after a certain point! Anyway, here’s another pose which should look absolutely ridiculous whether or not it’s being done by Hawkeye:

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            4. CrazyEd says:

              No, I am arguing that if you draw a parody of a piece of art in an attempt to show how ridiculous the pose of the character in it is, and the person looking at it thinks to himself, “Wow, you’re right, Hawkeye does look ridiciulous when you give him a narrow waist, wide hips, a giant round ass, more leg hair than Wolverine, and a pouty-lipped kissy face expression” (and absolutely nothing about the pose itself), then you have failed to properly make your point.

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          4. Farla says:

            I LIVE and bring you a picture:

            That’s actually milder than what I was trying to find, but despite a now very disturbing search history, I can’t find the site I was once linked to that was a mixture of the exact limit of public indecency laws (apparently you just have to cover the head of your dick?) and a bunch of stuff based around the idea of sticking balls into fabric pockets to mimic labia. Point is, the gay community absolutely finds flashes of junk sexy.

            I think the general rule for male/female gaze is that women tend toward a more holistic view while men prefer exaggerated individual traits, but I don’t think there’s any way to tell if this is innate preference or that everyone’s just numb to female bodies from oversaturation and boobs are only noticable if they have their own gravitational pull.

            There’s also the issue that so many men have no idea what women find sexy, so their power fantasy of a sexy male character is their own conception of what women find sexy. There’s a silly webcomic I read with a fanservice male drow to match the fanservice female drow. The author did cheesecake of him, and a big component of it was “hey, he’s got a huge dick!!! ;D” when women generally don’t want an actual third leg jammed up there. And a lot of “sexy” behavior is actually treated as “gay” when connected to a guy and simultaneously scary and weak (just caring about looking attractive is so gay we had to make up a new word for “looks into mirror occasionally but is into ladies”), so it isn’t included in their idea.

            1. CrazyEd says:

              Point is, the gay community absolutely finds flashes of junk sexy.

              I dunno, a lot of that stuff is intended for, like… pride parade displays of outrageousness. It’s for, as you say, skirting the rules of decency, and society. Case in point, the labia thing. I don’t claim to be an expert in the tastes of gay men, but… I’m pretty sure gay men typically aren’t attracted to labias.

              It’s about making a statement. Like those nipple stickers you can buy for topfreedom rallies. It’s legal to walk around with nothing covering your nipples but a sticker with pictures of a nipple on them. The point of that sort of things is the spectacle.

              There’s also the issue that so many men have no idea what women find sexy, so their power fantasy of a sexy male character is their own conception of what women find sexy. 

              That’s what I was getting at when I said “like eighty percent of the male power fantasy is the idea of being a woman’s sexual fantasy”. Men want to be something they think will be wanted. Obviously. They still want to be a woman’s sexual fantasy… they just don’t know what that is. Which is probably an entirely different sociological problem, so let’s just put that aside for now. (As I’m writing this, it occurs to me that most gay male porn for gay men is typically just two really fit straight dudes fucking, or Bara Manga, which… I’m not sure how, but it feels like that’s relevant. Incidentally, if anyone remembers where I wrote that huge essay on The Difference Between Yaoi Manga And Yuri Manga, please tell me where it is because I need it for something else.)

              But there definitely are women who like imagining dudes with massive porn wangs (remember, we are talking about sexual fantasies), the same as there are women who like the Conan type, and women who like the Batman picture from that comic. The kind of people who make arguments like that comic generally seem to discount that possibility entirely, generally in favour of the more bishounen mold: Superheroes can’t be a female sexual fantasy because absolutely no women are actually attracted to that bodytype. Which is just wrong.

              And then, to completely ignore that, a bunch of MASS GENERALIZATIONS.

              I think part of it is that society treats every woman as having a completely indidivual Ideal Man look that doesn’t remotely match up with any other woman’s Ideal Man look, but every man is attracted to the Heroic Ideal that superheroes typically fall into. Personally, I’ve found the (sort of) opposite to be true… to a point. There seems to be a general middle-ground that people who like men can all say is okay (they guess) even if it’s not their absolute favourite (that seems to be more built than Spider-man and less than Superman). Even with that comic, I think pretty much all straight men who are offput by that picture are offput by the the overfeminized aspects (the doe-eyes and beesting lips) rather than the lithe build. Meanwhile, people who like women…

              Well, just go on an anime forum and start a thread about flat chests being a status symbol of justice. Or Boobs versus Butts. That sort of stuff. You’ve always gotta set the sliders to one extreme end of the bar. Hell, a lot of men don’t even care which extreme end of the bar the slider’s on, so long as it’s not in the middle!

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            2. SpoonyViking says:

              Do you see the irony at all in you talking about massive generalisations while also telling at least two actual women “But actually, this is what women like”?

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            3. ? says:
              Most gay porn aimed at gay men is straight dudes fucking? What? 
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            4. CrazyEd says:

              Do you see the irony at all in you talking about massive generalisations while also telling at least two actual women “But actually, this is what women like”?

              What SOME women like. And also what SOME women DON’T like. Because some women DO like giant porn wangs. Many don’t, but SOME do.

              Most gay porn aimed at gay men is straight dudes fucking? What? 

              Gay For Pay is pretty much the assumption when it comes to male gay porn stars. Somewhat less so for female porn stars, though it’s still ridiculously common (you start doing lesbian porn and then make a boatload of cash a few years in doing your first boy-girl scene because all your male fans want to see you fucking a dude now), because you get more money for fucking the same gender than the opposite one (especially if you’re a dude fucking a dude).

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            5. ? says:
              Ah, I see. I guess it just sounded confusing to me without being familiar with that about the porn industry. I apologise for coming at it incredulously.
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            6. No! says:
              The kind of people who make arguments like that comic generally seem to discount that possibility entirely, generally in favour of the more bishounen mold: Superheroes can’t be a female sexual fantasy because absolutely no women are actually attracted to that bodytype. Which is just wrong.

              Except that is explicitly not the argument that Ash was making when they talked about the difference being the overlap between what people are attracted to and what people are comfortable being portrayed as, but you went ahead and talked over them anyway. But, sure, dig out the strawman, just in case there were any doubt left about whether you’ve even been trying to listen to what anyone on the other side of this argument is actually saying.

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            7. Farla says:

              Okay, I sadly can’t link to the massive wangs gay porn I remember – apparently it was on the Scans Daily That Was. But, basically there’s a difference between big dick and third leg and I mean, literally, a third leg. At times bigger that the other two, even. I do remember and could google up this retrospective: http://comicsalliance.com/celebrating-happy-hunks-of-tom-of-finland/ which, while SFW, does show a pretty clear distinction between the type of masculine body we see in the average comic and the type getting produced for porn, and further, I think there’s a lot of overlap with what you see at https://coecretsquid.tumblr.com which is a woman who’s into buff guys, compared to teh yaoiz. (There’s also the fact that the totally jacked bodybuilder look, which superhero comics are an even further exaggeration of, is considered sexually unappealing by pretty much everyone, to the point that the movement toward extreme muscles was partly justified as being about de-gaying it.)

              I can also link you to those swimsuits showing up outside of Pride, because that’s how I found it through a google about bad male swimsuits: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/06/09/towie-cast-marbella-bobby-norris-harry-derbidge-swimwear-pictures_n_5472407.html

              Also, the site I am sad I can’t remember had the guy explaining he wore all of them to beaches all the time.

              (As to why gay men wanted ball-labia for the pool? Dunno! But it’s not that far off crossdressing/feminization that pop up in a porn context so I’m guessing somewhere in that ballpark. It’s also possible, since this was old, that it was actually for trans reasons but people didn’t view them as a distinct group.)

              Anyway, in conclusion, everything is someone’s fetish but almost nobody likes superhero bodies sexually. I’m not 100% sure even the absurd cartoon muscle fetishists are into it exactly, since absurd cartoon muscle shows up as a humiliation thing.

              I think part of it is that society treats every woman as having a completely indidivual Ideal Man look that doesn’t remotely match up with any other woman’s Ideal Man look, but every man is attracted to the Heroic Ideal that superheroes typically fall into.

              I think it’s a matter of it being a way to sidestep the question – if society says no two women agree on what they want in a guy, guys have no obligation to think about what women want, and in fact have no choice but to wait until the one who already thinks they’re hot shows up.

              Meanwhile, gay panic means that men really aren’t allowed to be “attracted”, so you have to find something that’s appealing (including the idea women want to have sex with them) yet sexless to a guy.

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            8. SpoonyViking says:

              ! Is that tumblr by Coelasquid?

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  2. Nerem says:
    You know, you’ve been playing all of these RPGs lately. Have you ever played Soul Nomad & The World Eaters? It’s a surprisingly good game by NIS, part of their Grim Grimoire (probably one of the few mainstream RPGs with a LGBT ending) and Phantom Brave.
    1. Act says:

      This is tangetial, but Grim Grimoire is on my to-do! It’s a tough game to find.

    2. LOL you think I can afford console games. Maybe if we ever get a PS4 I can try it on PSN.

      1. Hyatt says:
        It’s an old game, so it doesn’t cost AAA money… But it’s also a rare game, which jacks up the price.
    3. Hyatt says:
      Soul Nomad! I find playing on a console to be too much of a hassle, and I haven’t been able to find a game like it elsewhere. I miss it.
      1. Nerem says:
        Emulators can fix that…

         

        I do agree, too.

  3. Nerem says:
    This is where emulation is king, since it’s from the era where they made like 20 copies of each of their games.
  4. Cosmogone says:
    Agreed on many aspects of commentary of this kind being questionable. Tbh, I personally dislike these gender roles flips in general; it’s not new, intelligent or even controversial. I’d rather see authors explore these issues by creating either societies where genders are absolutely equal or ones where gender roles (and possibly the very concept of gender) are fundamentally different from our own, not just mindlessly swapped.

    >>in particular, a calling-out of “morality pet” characters like The Last of Us’ Ellie and Bioshock Infinite’s Elizabeth would have been both more timely and immensely cutting.

    Wh… what? Ellie is absolutely not a morality pet. TLoU and morality pets don’t even exist in the same universe. Also, Elizabeth isn’t one either; I think your’re confusing her with Eleanor? But she’s not a straight example either.

    Like, I agree with what you suggest, but these are all bad examples, because they’re already subversions or deconstructions.

    1. Maybe “morality pet” is the wrong term, but a lot of feminists were pretty unhappy about both of them. There was a post on it I can’t find now, but basically it seems like it’s an evolution of the “save the princess” concept. As the male gaming audience has gotten older, the focus has shifted from viewing women as girlfriends to viewing them as daughters. It’s seeing them as something to be protected/molded rather than a trophy, but that’s still a kind of objectification.

      1. Nerem says:
        Morality Pet is more a character who causes someone who wouldn’t ordinarily do good in this situation to do good. Or at least, be kinda good.

        A very nerdy example would be that Vegeta’s family from Dragonball is his Morality Pet. He largely does good because of them.
         

      2. Cosmogone says:
        Nerem’s definition of the concept is more exact, actually. Also, this is… an extremely cynical way to view plots about father-daughter relationships. Especially in the context of games like TLoU where the full implications of singleminded devotion to a single person are explored critically. And, if you don’t mind this off-topic discussion, what would you say if it was mother-daughter or mother-son dichotomy instead?
        1. And, if you don’t mind this off-topic discussion, what would you say if it was mother-daughter or mother-son dichotomy instead?

          I’d say that if you can name any examples, I’d be very interested in them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this, at least not in video games.

          What this comes down to, for me, is that the narratives are still male-dominated and from a male perspective. TLoU opens with a fridging, and that’s the context Ellie comes into. It’s all about how Joel sees her and how he uses her to work through his manpain. And just… I’m still hung up on that “a real woman is a killer” exchange in Bioshock Infinite. “A real man is a killer” is just the apotheosis of testosterone-poisoned military culture, and I just cannot see a woman in Fitzroy’s position buying into that. It ties into that “honorary man” thing we talked about in the Terry Pratchett discussion: It’s about co-opting women into male narratives and male fantasies.

          Edit: Ah, perhaps “manic pixie dream girl” is closer to what I was talking about. This is sort of the GRITTY RUGGED FOR REAL MEN flavor of manic pixie dream girl.

          1. Nerem says:
            Actually thinking about it, it’s not entirely uncommon in the Original Generation series. The mother-daughter examples, I mean. All non-related ones too. I can think of four good examples:  The first one is probably a rare villianous example. Ouka Nagisa’s entire goal is to find her ‘little sister’ Latooni, who she is more or less in love with. Of course, she’s been long brainwashed by the villians into believing that the good guys have brainwashed LATOONI and are abusing her, and will do anything to free and protect her. Has some interesting gameplay ties in that she’ll only use her weakest weapons against Latooni in battle, because she only wants to disable Latooni’s unit so she can rescue her.

            Then there’s Ibis and Kusuha towards Irui, a mysterious girl they met and became more or less adoptive parents over and protect.

            And finally Aya Kobayashi and her adoptive little sister Mai. They aren’t related in any way but do treat each other like true sisters and Aya spends OG1 wishing to find Mai again, who disappeared years ago.

            As for ‘manic pixie dream girl’… Maybe.
             

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          2. Cosmogone says:
            Sorry for my late response and possible shitty English.

            >>I’d say that if you can name any examples, I’d be very interested in them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this, at least not in video games.

            See, but here’s the thing: you’re actually right. I’m probably just an idiot who’s forgetting some titles, but the only works that fit this trope precisely are Aliens and Yennefer’s part in Witcher, though I’d say the latter example is not a perfect one, since Ciri (the daughter) is largely independent from her parents. And, uh, Bayonetta? I’m sure there are a bunch of Japanese media with similar themes.

            You can see what I’m getting at: imo, the problem is not that there are too many stories about fathers, it’s there are too few about mothers. In part, as you say, it’s because creators default to male characters but I’ve been asking for people’s opinions on the potrayal of parenthood in fiction and there seem to be more worrying reasons. The main lines of thought, as I gathered, are these: 1) stories about good mothers are boring (because that’s just What Women Do) stories about good fathers are exceptional (because normally men are violent animals who eat their offspring); 2) stories about motherhood are inherently disempowering even if you present being child-free as equally valid; society expects women to push out babies, so you should do a 180; 3) my favorite, honestly – men who form emotional attachments to their children are horrible fathers and probably pedophiles.

            ^ Can you believe this shit? The last one is confined to USA, thankfully, but it’s part of the reason I’m so opposed to making fun of men for liking this kind of plots and assuming they just view the daughter character as a trophy. If a guy comes from this sort of cultural context, even a rather flat child character may mean a lot to them. In the end, since we’re talking mainly about video games, which are an interactive medium, I think we must examine players’ reactions before drawing hasty conclusions.

            >>TLoU opens with a fridging, and that’s the context Ellie comes into. It’s all about how Joel sees her and how he uses her to work through his manpain.

            Eh, I have to disagree with both parts of this. While a discussion of what does and doesn’t constitute fridging would be too lengthy, I still must point out that we use the term “manpain” way too easily. It’s supposed to indicate situations where male characters angst about something ridiculously minor and/or make a woman’s suffering all about themselves. As it’s used now, manpain just means any instance a man is emotionally hurt. This shit is way too close to tradcon nonesense for my tastes.

            Also, Joel doesn’t use Ellie to work through his trauma. Or rather, he tries, but the game shows that’s not how this works. Ultimately, while he means well, it’s shown that his selfishness in the treatment of Ellie drives a wedge between them. I’d say we need to see where the second game goes with this before condemning TLoU.

            What I agree with you about 100%, though, is that Bioshock Infinite was a dumb mess. I give it credit for going a way I didn’t expect with Elizabeth but, all considered, yeah, the game was a miss.

            Also, hm. You give a somewhat unorthodox definition of Manic Pixie Dream Girl but i think it works very well.

            1. Aha! Found the post I was looking for. I can see how one could disagree with its interpretations of the works cited, but I do agree with the overall point it’s making. That’s what I mean when I say these narratives are male-dominated.

              In particular, I would argue the really important component of “manpain” is a man who makes it all about himself. This was the basis of my concept of Qualstio as a Pokemon OC — even when your emotional hurt is legitimate, it’s wrong to ignore other peoples’ pain and insist no one has suffered as you have suffered.

              Reply
            2. Cosmogone says:
              Thanks for the link; I don’t agree with the post 100% but it offers some interesting thoughts.

              >>I think there is this problem where nerdy dudes lack an acceptable societal outlet for feelings and emotions.

              This, imo, is not completely true but it’s possible that many guys do feel like they can’t express themselves freely. I kinda think this suggests why creators would go for plots about… let’s call it accidental adoption, specifically.

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            3. I kinda think this suggests why creators would go for plots about… let’s call it accidental adoption, specifically.

              Oh, certainly. I agree that it’s not inherently bad that men are trying to express new avenues of emotion with these narratives. But I think it’s still worth analyzing the missteps they make and what that tells us about greater gender problems. In particular, I brought it up here because it’s the sexism I’ve seen most commonly in modern video games, as opposed to the sexism this game was lampooning, which I think has been on the way out for some time now.

              Reply
        2. Nerem says:
          Do mothers really get that kind of plot-line much? Parent searching for distressed child is common but it’s generally the dad.

           

          Though in this case, they aren’t literal daughters. … Sort of. Elizabeth I think would get a pass but Ellie is totally what he’s talking about. She’s not the protagonist’s daughter, but more or less a non-related substitute.

          Though she might be given a pass to as it turns out she’s gay and not a love interest at all.

          Though maybe not. I own the game but I haven’t gotten a chance to play it so I only have some knowledge.

           

          Also fair warning: Like a dozen bot posts went up simultaneously.

          1. Cosmogone says:
            >>Do mothers really get that kind of plot-line much? Parent searching for distressed child is common but it’s generally the dad.

            Yep, that’s what I was getting at. Though there are Ripley, Yennefer and Bayonetta, to my memory.

            Ellie, as far as I understand, is supposed to be gay or bisexual, but AAA games are famously coy about this sort of stuff, so I’m not really sure. Still, it’s kind of messed up to assume that adopted daughter = love interest, tbh.

            1. Nerem says:
              She’s gay. The devs were asked and they said they wrote the DLC with Ripley with her being gay in mind.
               
              Reply
            2. Cosmogone says:
              I haven’t played the DLC and huh, so they confirmed this outright? I wonder what the reactions were (but I’m kinda afraid to look them up because my interactions with the fandom so far have been so positive and I don’t want to be disappointed. gah).
              Reply
            3. Nerem says:
              I didn’t see the reactions, but they were asked and outright said that she was gay. Refreshingly clear.

              Honestly, I can’t think of many games where it’s super clear like that unless it’s a focus.

              Super Robot Wars V is just about it. The female protag has a relationship with her ‘younger’ combat partner (who is an AI in a robot body designed to be very female in order to make human interaction easier) that is very romantic, to the point that at one point another woman pretty bluntly suggests she should become her partner’s girlfriend when it’s VERY clear she’s jealous of men paying attention to her partner.
               The partner gets very blushy and said woman just wonders to herself how things will change when the AI discovers romantic love.
               

              Reply
            4. Cosmogone says:
              >>they were asked and outright said that she was gay

              Huh, that’s neat.

              >>Honestly, I can’t think of many games where it’s super clear like that unless it’s a focus.

              i assume you’re talking about LGBT characters being prominent, rather than background tokens? Well, it happens in indie games, but yeah, big titles usually don’t risk it. Two clear examples I can think of are Witcher 3 and Bioware games (though, tbh, I find Bioware’s idea of representation is so cringy I’d rather they only wrote about straight people).

              >>The female protag has a relationship with her ‘younger’ combat partner (who is an AI in a robot body designed to be very female in order to make human interaction easier) that is very romantic

              This is kind of… adorable, I might give it a try.

              Reply
            5. Nerem says:
              Yeah, major characters instead of background tokens.

              https://youtu.be/Nsa1GNrFEaw?t=172 It’s pretty adorable, yeah.

              What’s it like in Witcher 3?
               

              Reply
            6. Cosmogone says:
              >>What’s it like in Witcher 3?

              Ciri, the game’s deuteragonist (DAUGHTERagonist, hah) is bisexual; it was relevant in the books but has no bearing on the plot of the game, actually, so the game’s mention of her sexuality probably comes out of nowhere for the new fans. What I’m more worried about is how they’ll handle her romantic life in her own (hypothetical) game the devs keep promising us.

              Reply
            7. SpoonyViking says:

              She’s bisexual? So far, her only romantic relationship of note has been with another woman.

              Reply
            8. Nerem says:
              I need to actually play the Witcher games sometime. Is it one of those series where I definitely need to start at the beginning?
               
               
              Reply
            9. Cosmogone says:
              >>So far, her only romantic relationship of note has been with another woman.

              Yeah, it’s kind of puzzling. The fandom has always though of Ciri as a lesbian but the wiki says she’s bi. I think she does mention being attracted to guys as well in the passing and we just collectively forgot?

              Reply
            10. Cosmogone says:
              >>Is it one of those series where I definitely need to start at the beginning?

              Absolutely not! The first game is both terrible and isn’t really connected to the rest and I’d advise you to skip it outright. The other two have their failings because, well, the games are basically a really fancy AU fanfic for the book series, but at least they steadily improve.

              Reply
            11. SpoonyViking says:

              There was a scene in one of the novels during which a wounded man (I forget his name) and her try to have sex, but, if I recall it correctly, she didn’t seem very much into it; it seemed like she was doing it more out of curiosity and compassion for a dying man.

              Well, I still haven’t finished the series, I’m waiting for The Lady of the Lake to be released. I’d take any assertion that she’s bisexual with a grain of salt, though.

              Reply
            12. EC says:

              You don’t need to wait, it’s been out for a year. 

              Reply
            13. SpoonyViking says:

              Oh, awesome! Thanks for telling me!

              Reply
    2. Tbh, I personally dislike these gender roles flips in general; it’s not new, intelligent or even controversial. I’d rather see authors explore these issues by creating either societies where genders are absolutely equal or ones where gender roles (and possibly the very concept of gender) are fundamentally different from our own, not just mindlessly swapped.

      You know what actually does a good job of this? An imageboard quest, of all things. AsteroidQuest, which I sort-of recced in my webcomics post, follows an alien species that’s egalitarian-leaning-matriarchial but just doesn’t do gender drama, and I thought it did a great job of following through. The men and women both have really varied roles and personalities, and almost all the major characters are women. I found it to be really refreshing. It’s a shame I can’t think of any other examples at the moment. (Unsounded sorta does this with Cresce, but it’s counterbalanced by also having an extremely misogynistic country, and we’re just now having an arc about how the other countries are all ruled by men who hate the Crescian queen, complete with gendered slurs just in case you thought their motives were purely political.)

      1. illhousen says:

        Well, there is also Digger webcomic with the hyena tribe. I thought they were done well enough.

        1
      2. Cosmogone says:
        Hey, thanks for your suggestion. Asteroid Quest actually sounds like something I’d like to check out. <3

        Unsounded, though… Don’t take me wrong, I don’t think there are plots and settings that shouldn’t be used or can never be done efficiently, but the plot about a lone badass woman fighting against mustache-twirling patriarchy feels so, so overdone.

        1. Socordya says:

          That’s not really the plot of Unsounded, though?

          1. Cosmogone says:
            I haven’t actually read Unsounded. What I was referencing is this part:

            the other countries are all ruled by men who hate the Crescian queen, complete with gendered slurs just in case you thought their motives were purely political

            That’s not necessarily what St. Elmo’s Fire meant, of course, but it made me think of hundred of stories with a similar premise that were executed so badly or simply so samey I now immediately start picturing all the ways these types of settings can go wrong.

            1. illhousen says:

              Unsounded is about a zombie mage and a thief kid traveling across the land and semi-accidentally going against human traffickers. The politics stuff is background.

              It’s been a while since I followed the comic, though, so can’t really comment on how well or badly the elements in question were done.

              Reply
            2. Cosmogone says:
              OH that does make it sound much more appealing that what I was picturing. My bad. I might check this one out as well some time.
              Reply
            3. Socordya says:

              @illhousen

              The politics stuff is more and more important these days. Though the gender politics is the least of anyone’s problem, it’s more about the nationalistic/religious conflict.

              Reply
            4. Yeah as a whole Unsounded is not really about what I said. The focus is on the main characters who are tengentially involved in the rest of it, and they are mostly guys. >_> That’s the other consideration here: even if there’s good background worldbuilding, if that’s not reflected in the makeup of the main cast the story probably still isn’t going to be enjoyable from a feminist perspective. (In particular, if you want to read Unsounded, you should know there’s a looot of violence against women, sexual and otherwise.) What’s cool about AsteroidQuest is that the background is reflected in the cast makeup.

              1
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  5. Dude says:
    Kinda reminds of the latest Fire Emblem games, since Awakening, always give the female class outfits, no pants or even thongs. Even when the class is all about armor.
    1. Nerem says:
      I’m still 100% mad that if you get the character reference classes in Fates, two of the three are male only. One is female-only (Witch), and the one that is gender neutral is the one girl being reference’s class. (Namely, Great Lord. Doesn’t sound gender-specific, but neither does Vanguard [Hero] or Lodestar [Lord].)

      It’s extra annoying if you’re on the Hoshidan route where the equivilant generic classes are all woman-dominated.

      1. SameDude says:
        Worse was Awakening DLC giving male characters a popular class with established history in the series. Females got Bride, a worthless class with no history in the series and whose real function was for players to “show off their waifu.”
  6. Hi there! Dev of Journey to Northpass here!

    Just wanted to leave a comment to clear up a few things because– wow, this thread is super long, and it’s the most discussion of my game i’ve seen, well, ever! In fact I’ve got zero exposure so far apart from like, five or six plays, so I want to make sure my project doesn’t only get negative exposure before it got up off the ground.

    The first thing I want to clear up is i’ve seen a few people refer to me as a ‘dev team’ in the thread– I think it would benefit the critique to read that i’m actually just one 18 year old (16 year old when i started this game) who makes games in my bedroom, and this wasn’t a team, or a studio at all, and it had absolutely zero budget. Not that that absolves it of every possible flaw but, you get me. I think that was lost in translation and the fact that it’s one person’s pet project they made in their spare time rather than a dev team’s back breaking teamwork could give some perspective on the writing.

    I don’t want to argue with any of your points on the presentation of the gender flips, sexism in media, etc etc as that’s completely your right to critique. I think a lot of the points were fair, so I won’t debate them. I value that input.

    As for the hawkeye initiative stuff, I want to state that my intentions with having the feminine-posed men was (as you stated) more pushing for a feminine standard of beauty and making men ornamental than trying to make a transphobic or homophobic joke about guys in womens’ clothing. However, intentions are not always everything and I sincerely apologize that anything hit that uncomfortable note, I’ll take it on board for the future and think about how I present that sort of thing. (Again, I did start this game two years ago so I probably would have written some things differently now than then.)

    As for the comedy aspects- The reason I made the rest of the game so ‘wacky’ was absolutely not to ridicule women. It was to give the game another leg to stand on, some enjoyable story aspect that people who weren’t that into the gender flip aspect to chuckle about. Same with the lore, the storyline- It was to make sure it wasn’t a one-trick pony. A lot of people who’ve played it so far really enjoyed this extra aspect so I don’t think I would take that out, particularly. But again, like before- intentions aren’t everything and I’m sorry that any of my writing was disrespectful. I value this sort of input, even if I don’t particularly agree with it.

    Thanks for your time playing and reviewing my game! I hope this clears some stuff up and I hope y’all have a good day.

    2
    1. It was to give the game another leg to stand on, some enjoyable story aspect that people who weren’t that into the gender flip aspect to chuckle about.

      Ah. I can see your motivation there. However, I will say that generally, that kind of “see what sticks” approach can actually have the opposite effect. People generally don’t enjoy works that are only something they like part of the time. If they don’t like the rest, they’ll feel like it’s a slog to get to the parts they like; and the people who do enjoy the main premise are likely to find the contingencies intrusive and distracting. In my experience, it’s much better to have a strong central theme and stick to it, especially in small projects like this where you have limited real estate to begin with. I find those kinds of works much more authentic and interesting, and they give me a clearer insight into the artist’s intentions. If you’re not doing this for money, you don’t have to worry yourself about appeal — just be yourself, and like-minded individuals will enjoy it.

    2. CrazyEd says:

      I only skimmed this post for now, so I can’t comment on the whole thing, but I will say this at least: I was criticising the Hawkeye Initiative stuff with regards to how it attempts to demonstrate sexism and how it fails to properly convey its message more in a general sense, and responding to what Act said, than specifically in regards to this game. I haven’t played the game, so I can’t say if I thought it was sexist or homophobic, but it definitely seems like I wouldn’t so I wouldn’t worry about it.

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