NSFW: Clothing damage being exported to North America?

Wundergeek is a straight, cis white woman who recently was asked to write an article about sexism in gaming and found she couldn’t shut up about it once the article was done. She’s since started Go Make Me a Sandwich, a blog mostly devoted to ranting about sexist imagery in all areas of gaming. In addition to being a cranky feminist blogger, she is an artist, photographer, and somewhat half-assed writer living in the wilds of Canada with a wonderful spouse and two slightly broken cats.

While I wouldn’t exactly call clothing damage a hallmark of Japanese/Asian games, it’s something that is common enough that (for the most part) it doesn’t raise any eyebrows. However, it’s not exactly something that’s been too common in North American games. Unfortunately, it looks as if that trend may be changing, thanks to games originally made by Asian companies and translated for North American players.

So here for your, um, edification are screens from Kabod Online, Soul Calibur IV: Broken Destiny, and Parasite Eve: the 3rd Birthday. I wanted to confine this post to titles that have gotten more hype than others – but there are certainly smaller titles featuring clothing damage as a key feature that are being translated as well: Ikki Tousen Xross and Queen’s Blade: Spiral Chaos are just two that I’ve stumbled across recently. I’m sure there’s more.

Kabod Online

Kabod Online is a translated Korean MMO from Kabod Entertainment. As far as fanservice-y models go, they seem to be pretty standard as far as free Asian MMOs go:

Fully armored dude? Check. Standing next to a chick in cheesecake armor? Check. Le sigh. (A man in full plate mail stands next to a woman in platemail that leaves her cleavage, side, and upper thigh exposed)

When you go to Kabod’s website, there are apparently only three character classes to choose from, with only two specializations for each class – so it doesn’t look like there’s a whole lot of gameplay diversity. K-MMOs are pretty infamous for not even trying to disguise the treadmill, but this seems perhaps more egregious than most.

 

But Kabod Entertainment doesn’t seem too worried about that. They’ve got a sure-fire plan. Sell their game with breasts! Only, since that’s what ALL of the free Asian MMOs are doing, they had to take it to eleven – hence the introduction of clothing damage. In Kabod, both players and monsters take clothing damage as they engage in combat. There’s a base level where clothing/armor is undamaged, a middle level where it’s mostly off, and a bottom level where you’re in your skivvies and, if the character is female, your gazongas are hanging out:

So Kabod has this neat combat simulation feature called clothing da... BOOBIES!! (Images showing three different female models - a cat-girl, a succubus, and a cheesecake-y knight - at the three levels of clothing damage. At no clothing damage, none of them are wearing that much. Two of the three figures are bare-breasted at max clothing damage.)

Unsurprisingly, the clothing damage feature is what has gotten the most attention and what Kabod Entertainment has been advertisingmost heavily. Way to pander to the lowest common denominator guys. From what I read while searching for screenshots, it’s pretty common to play a rogue (one of the least clothed classes) and let her get down to mostly naked just so you can ogle her while you play. I mean, check this out:

 

LEFT: One breast in, one breast out? That's gotta be uncomfortable. (A mostly naked female fighter fights next to a rogue who appears to be entirely nude except for some gauntlets.) RIGHT: Oh god. They modeled ladybits, didn't they? That's just gross. (An "upskirt" screen shot of a female figure from behind who is wearing some kind of micro-mini skirt. Her ladybits are blurred out.)

Will this be the game that launches a thousand faps? (A female fighter (clothed) stands facing a winged woman (demon?) who is wearing nothing more than a G-string and thigh-high stockings/boots.)

So. Moving on. Shame on you, Kabod. Etc, etc, etc.

Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny

The studio behind Soul Calibur is apparently having a competition with Dead or Alive to see who can make the skeeviest game – it’s the only explanation I can think of. Soul Calibur IV is yet another game by an Asian studio that has – you guessed it – clothing damage! Because, really, we weren’t seeing ENOUGH of these ladies, amirite?

Also, Broken Destiny – the upcoming PSP version of SCIV – has is a character creator that will not only let you create new characters, but will also let you customize existing characters, in case you’re feeling like some of your wimminz are too covered up.

Anyway. I’ve ranted enough about Soul Calibur here, so here’s some screens:

FLAWLESS... um... nudality? (Two screens - Xiang Hua and Hilde both in the same pose as they fly backward through the air toward the camera while their clothing explodes.)

Parasite Eve: the 3rd Birthday

So we have yet another entry in a series of female characters who used to be mildly positive strong characters and who have been turned into walking fapfests designed to please male gamers. Poor Aya. I’m not saying that Aya Brea was ever on the level of Samus, but she’s a far cry from Princess Peach!

It should be noted that there was a fair amount of buzz about the fact that the beginning of 3rd Birthday features a shower scene. OMG! Color me excited!

So the shower scene is bad enough, but series creator Nomura decided from the outset that there would be clothing damage in this title, and that Aya would take more damage as her clothing got damaged further. This would make sense if Aya was walking around in plate mail, but since she’s wearing just normal clothes, the only possible explanation is “sex sells”. So here’s the progression that Aya goes through:

 

LEFT: Very slightly damaged (jeans start out distressed, Aya is wearing a sleeveless top.) MIDDLE: Medium damage (jeans cover to mid-thigh with midriff and side portions of buttock showing) RIGHT: Max damage (Aya is basically wearing a raggedy bikini)

Now, Aya can get changes of clothing to cover herself up again by going back to base – but it doesn’t really seem like that’s a feature that’s being heavily encouraged, since Nomura has said in an interview (unfortunately, I can’t find the link anymore) that you can get Aya to max clothing damage quickly by dropping a few grenades nearby. “Not that anyone should play that way” – he hastened to add.

Even worse is that the clothing damage is, again, pretty much how they’re promoting the game. I mean, check out this promotional art.

Official promo image: Aya in a seductive pose. She is show at about medium clothing damage with a large portion of rear end clearly on display for the viewer.

Look at that! Half her ass is just hanging out there! Oh Squeenix. I know that you can be pretty sexist, but why do you have to do shit like this? You want to give me well written female characters with no pants and very little clothing? Fine. I’ll roll my eyes and pony up. But this? This is not okay.

Perhaps the most depressing thing of all is that you can switch Aya’s costumes. There’s a loooong list of options, including a Lightning costume aaaaannnd…

Aya in a skimpy maid outfit complete with miniskirt and thigh-high stockings.

Fetish wear! Because who doesn’t want to watch a maid get her clothes torn off while fighting monsters and stuff?

/headdesk

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24 Responses to NSFW: Clothing damage being exported to North America?

  1. Please imagine some blank rageface, as that is what I am making in real life but lack emoticon skills to express here in VIRTUAL REALITY.

  2. Aaron says:

    That’s some fucking bullshit right there. I don’t have anything actually useful to say, but God damn.

  3. Stacey says:

    The worst part about The 3rd Birthday is that Square Enix NA is trying to market it as a women-friendly game despite the fact that the costume damage, fetish outfits, shower scene, and other horrible things are included in the North American version (as evident in the ESRB description). The copy in Square NA’s first press release glosses over the fetishized violence and instead goes out of its way to declare that The 3rd Birthday stars a “strong, complex female protagonist.” Square followed up this initial press release by sending out an e-mail to registered users that invited them to play as the “indomitable” female protagonist. Even the voice actor interviews attempted to push Aya’s alleged status as a “strong” female protagonist as one of its primary USPs. The only words I’ve been able to come up with to describe my feelings towards this latest development are “sick” and “disgusted.” Square lost a customer over this ordeal, and I hope it loses more.

  4. Deviija says:

    Clothing damage is something I have been disturbed by. The more it gets utilized, the more disturbed and alienated I get. While having both men and women destroy each other’s armor during battle is not necessarily a lurid and lecherous thing in itself, the above with Aya and Kabod goes far beyond the extreme and panders to the lowest common denominator. It’s disgusting.

    Vindictus is another free MMO that has clothing damage. However, both male and female characters are still very well covered when their armor and clothing gets tattered. What’s more is that the default “inner” (underwear/undershirt) for both men and women covers a vast area of skin. Ladies have a short sleeve shirt type of top and shorts. I quite appreciated that.

    Now, I’m not throwing my support behind clothing damage as a game feature, but I will say that I’d accept it a lot easier if both women and men were getting equal damage and skin time. I mean, it’s not like the men are getting damaged to the point where their dangly bits are hanging out and bouncing gratuitously to specially designed physics (which is what we’re seeing here with overly idealized women and breasts).

    Sidenote: This is why I have not been excited over Lara Croft’s new game and character redesign. They have mentioned in interviews that Lara is going to sustain clothing damage (‘tearing’). So between that and their line about ‘Lara’s sexiness comes in the form of her surviving her dangerous trials and being vulnerable,’ it all makes me worry that it may veer toward some kind of slasher movie’s sexualized violence.

    • Jayle Enn says:

      What the hell is it with making strong, successful female protagonists ‘vulnerable’ these days? First Samus Aran, now Lara Croft and Aya Brea. I’m imagining aging developers suffering from some sort of crisis of self-confidence, or a General Ripper-style misogynistic paranoia, and going on to turn these characters into delicate, wilting flowers that require them/the hand of the (male) player to guide them toward success.

      Oh, and to provide some fapworthy screenshots, too.

      • Now that the graphics let them look real, they’re just a bit too much like a realistic self-posessed adult female, and thus must be taken down a peg?

        :/ :/ :/

      • Ikkin says:

        I think that, in Aya Brea and Lara Croft’s case, it’s hard to separate the “survival [horror/action] protagonist must be vulnerable” bit from the “women must be vulnerable” bit — Parasite Eve has always been survival horror, and “survival action” is apparently the direction the Tomb Raider team apparently wanted to go in, so that’s probably going to have at least some influence. (For comparison, Silent Hill always has vulnerable protagonists, regardless of gender, Dead Space gave its protagonist PTSD, and Resident Evil’s current lack of vulnerable protagonists seems to have brought its survival horror status into question) They definitely went about it the wrong way with Aya Brea, and we don’t know what the final outcome will be with Lara Croft, but I don’t think it’s completely unworkable in that framework (as long as the characters overcome their obstacles on their own and female protagonists are given non- survival roles, too).

        Samus really has no excuse, though, because she’s never been anything less than a force of nature in gameplay.

  5. Jayle Enn says:

    I like battle damage on my spaceships, my battlemechs, and my cars: anything that has a propensity to scream, bleed, or suffer a wardrobe malfunction is right the hell out.

  6. Korva says:

    Yeah, you answered your own question pretty well there. Plus: “We get to feel risque and progressive for having a chick protagonist — but fear not! Our male privilege is not threatened after all. See how sexy and vulnerable and needs she is, like any real woman she knows her proper place and purpose in the end. What is that? It is to service you, of course — yes YOU, you macho hulk of a straight manly he-man player. And if (heh heh heh!) she must be forcefully PUT in her place first, all the better. She had it coming don’t you agree?”

    This applies to both “vulnerable” female characters, especially to the rape background/plot that seems to be so bloody popular, and clothing damage, and it makes me sick.

    • Korva says:

      Oops. Quite failure sorry, that was in reply to Jayle Enn’s “What the hell is it with making strong, successful female protagonists ‘vulnerable’ these days?”

    • Deviija says:

      Ugh. Yes. The rape background/backstory for female characters in games is something that bothers me beyond words. Especially since rape/sexual assault/attempted abuse seems to be used so often. It also seems like a tactic to undercut a woman’s empowerment, that she’s still ‘vulnerable’ to such things, or that — like you said — ‘she had it coming.’ When used as a story plotpoint, say, as a means to give the character a motivation (like revenge), I find it to be the sloppiest and poorest of writing tricks.

      This is actually why I disliked how the Origin story for the City Elf in Dragon Age was set-up. Women (including your female protagonist) get kidnapped and attempted raped/murdered/abused, but the men (and male protagonist) get to play out the hero scenario by rushing in to save the women. Sure, the female protagonist can go on a ‘Kill Bill’ rampage, but that’s small consolation, IMO, to how the Origin was divided up with a clear male/female path. If we’re going to have a kidnapping and attempted rape scenario in an Origin story, I’d rather have it occur with both the male and female protagonists. Or not at all, because, really, who wants to sit down to enjoy a game after a day in the real world only to be accosted by such things that may hit close to home? Meh.

      • Korva says:

        Sexual violence is the FIRST thing that springs to mind for me when a female character is described as “vulnerable” — either as something that has happened in her past or is about to happen. I can barely begin to express how sick it is in my mind.

        And yes, I will never touch the city elf origin nor understand why it is so awfully popular with female players. Rape is something I simply do not want to have rammed in my face as part of “entertainment”. To hell with “but it’s a dark and gritty and realistic setting, such things happen”. There are usually 101 other things in a game that are unrealistic. Besides, it can happen to men too, but is the male city elf threatened with it? Of course not … As you said, it should have been an equal opportunity trauma, or better, left out altogether.

        • Jayle Enn says:

          Yeesh. To heck with the ‘realism’ argument. Being struck by a wagon is just as realistic. Losing an extremity to a minor infection is even more realistic. Marrying early and dying young is vastly more realistic. Rape in the context of these games and their literary parents is just ham-fisted mathematics: violence is mature, and sex is mature, so sexual violence must be mature^2.

          • I want more games where you can fall down the stairs, break a leg, and then die from the resulting infection.

            As far as realism goes, this clothing damage looks extremely unrealistic. Because apparently clothing and armor is extremely fragile, but skin is immune to marking. Seriously if something tears your pants there’s a good chance it’ll tear your skin too.

            But of course bleeding and the like distract from the sexualization ._.

  7. Hirvox says:

    I wonder whether clothing damage could be used to subvert the stripperrific clothing trope: Sure, you could pick the fetish maid outfit, but it would be accompanied with a massive drop in the defense stat, making the game all but impossible to complete.

  8. Rakaziel says:

    It depends on the game imo. More precisely it depends on wheter the fighting is consensual. In a paintball shooter (one or two of which of that kind I have seen in a local pc game store some time ago) it is a very funny aspect and also in a catfight wrestling game linke Rumbe Roses it would fit well.

    But when it is combined with nonconsensual violence and fighting it nothing other than a rape metaphor, or, even in the least case, stripping the character of their air of confindence and often their dignity. Linking violence with the intent to kill to sexual gratification in a game is something that deeply worries me. Simply because it has quite some similarities to operant conditioning aka creating a fetish. And a fetish for what in that case? Violently stripping someone attractive of all cover, the more so if the do not want, and then rape as the next step? Nonconsensual sadism? Maybe even snuff? Women as game to be hunted?
    – Exactly what we want in the heads and hearts (gaming is emotinonal and for that reason creates emotional connections) of the next generation!!! Sorry, I am getting a bit caustic here.

    As for rape as character entrance, the only way to make that look empowering would be if she rips the would-be rapist into little bloody pieces or at least his parts off before he can so much as grab her.

  9. Champagne Ivy says:

    Ugh. I remember sometime after RE5 came out they released a costume pack with a ‘sexy’ Red Riding Hood outfit for Sheva, and the promotional video showed endless shots of her getting hit/bitten/knocked down by zombies and zombie dogs. My first thought was that it looked like violent fetish porn. I find it seriously shocking that it doesn’t ping more people as just being fucking weird.

    I cannot think that ‘rewarding’ the player with nudity when a woman is getting injured does any favors for the subconscious, especially when it’s going to be played by kids just going through puberty.

  10. Jargo says:

    Destructible armor could actually be a great thing. Its a very nice game-play element that shows damage on enemies or player characters without using any gore or boring health bars.
    Normal fighters wear some sort of clothing or padded armor under their armor so it don’t have to turn into some wired mini strip game. Sadly i cant remember a single game with female characters where this is handled that way.

  11. Fantastic article. It’s chilling to think of the subconscious message fanboys are getting: “Wanna see a girl naked? Just smack her around enough times and you can!”

    One minor thought to ponder:
    >>They modeled ladybits, didn’t they? That’s just gross…Her ladybits are blurred out.<<

    I cringed a little at the word "gross" used in this photo description. I hope you mean that the game designers' depravity is gross, not the character's vulva.

    I know word choice is purely at the author's discretion, but a feminist blog is one of the few places that pussy shouldn't have to be a tidied-up taboo. I think it would be cool if writers felt comfortable using words like pussy/labia/vulva instead of yet another euphemism like 'ladybits.'

  12. Lara says:

    Ugh, this reminds me of the poster for the 2010 remake of I Spit On Your Grave, which oh-so-male-gazingly depicts a woman from behind, wearing torn clothing that reveals her bruised back and most of her butt in a decidedly sexualized way. The woman has, per the “plot” (I use that term loosely), recently been brutally gang-raped.

    Wow, who would have thought that “clothing damage” would find a common element with hateful, misogynist torture porn? (Wait, I mean “rape revenge,” which is totally feminist you guys.)

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