Tuesday, December 21, 2010

« Linden Dollars Are Like Union Dues (Least According to My Credit Card Company) | Main | SL Music Videos for David Lynch, Vote on Them Today! »

Ophelia's Gaze: DC Online Has Infinite Options for Stylish Superheroes -- But Superheroines Always Get Superboobs

DCUO7
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of virtual world and MMO fashion

Although DC Universe Online is still in beta, there's plenty to be said about its avatar fashions. I've also played City of Heroes and Champions Online extensively (and even applied their styles to Second Life), and in all these superhero games, I spend much more time developing a vision for my avatar than I would in a standard fantasy MMORPG. That’s because superheroes embody ideals and personalities, and every element of their costume is a part of their identity. And while DCUO has many strengths in that area, it also has a glaring weakness: the exaggeratedly buxom shapes that are forced on female avatars.

What's worse, DCUO's tagline is "The next legend is you."  That perfectly crystallizes why my standards are so high for character creation in superhero games: You're not just creating a random mercenary or a rogue or a warrior, you're supposed to be creating a modern mythological figure.  DCUO tries to fulfill this need, while also forcing female heroes into a very restrictive form.  Here's how:

DCUO8

To test the different power sets and customization options available, I made three heroes and three villains. Clockwise from top left we have Prospera, a summoning magician inspired by Julie Taymor's adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest; Blanche Neige, an ice-powered archer heroine inspired by Snow White; Hadaly, a mind-controlling robot I've also made in City of Heroes and Champions, who takes her name from a gynoid in Fritz Lang's Metropolis; The Stenographer, a devious villain who employs guns and gadgets; Rose Red, the nature-powered, axe-wielding, forest-inspired villain counterpart of Blanche Neige; and finally, Divine Comedy, a character I created in the complete absence of a good idea for a fire-powered villain in cahoots with The Joker. All these women are -- despite my preference otherwise -- very well endowed in the breast department. Because of this, I can't say that I'm 100% happy with any of these characters, and that's not something I'm used to experiencing in hero MMOs.

DCUO4
While the costume content in DCUO is very expansive, the biggest character design shortcomings are the severely limited body types, especially for women. As a female superheroine, your choices are:

  • Tall and busty
  • Medium-sized and busty
  • Preteen and (you guessed it) rather busty.

If you think I'm exaggerating, take a look over my screenshots again. Every woman in this game is more or less forced to have the proportions of Power Girl, a character whose modern incarnation was designed to see how big a heroine's chest could get before censors would step in. She's supposed to be an exception, not a rule.

DCUO2There is a glaring problem with this if you simply follow the game's world and backstory: the whole premise of DCUO is that Lex Luthor has turned average people into superhumans. So shouldn't an average person's body still at least be an option -- or do my supernatural powers come with free and mandatory breast implants?

The argument could certainly be made that the available female body types simply reflect the standard silhouette of women in mainstream Western comics, like the DC Universe. For me, however, that argument went out the window when I stood next to Batwoman (pictured on the right) and realized that her chest looked one to two cup sizes smaller than my avatars. And DCUO has an an army of female NPCs wearing jackets, suits, minidresses (see below left), and even police uniforms, who have completely average builds. Only the player-controlled female avatars seem to be subject to these particularly ridiculous breast proportions. Given the option, I don't think any of my characters would have large breasts; none of them seem to have a personality or concept to match them.

DCGameUnfortunately, it's not just the girls suffering from DCUO's narrowminded view of canon body types. Male heroes also get a limited choice of beefy, beefier, and preteen bodies. According to the beta user forums, both male and female athletic body types were developed, but have been excluded from the current release, because developers didn't have the time to fit the equipment and costume pieces to these different body types.

As breathtaking the worlds of Gotham City and Metropolis are, and as clever as some of the gimmicks of this game can be, the limitations placed on female avatars have really put me off. Avatar adjustment slliders would be a blessing, but even a more modest or acrobatic build would be an improvement. I'm hoping that the developers will see the light (and hear the many complaints on the forums) and make the introduction of more varied body models a priority.  Then I can finally enjoy a leisurely stroll on the streets of Metropolis without worrying about popping out of my spandex.

Mixed_reality_iris2010 Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341bf74053ef0148c6d2039b970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Ophelia's Gaze: DC Online Has Infinite Options for Stylish Superheroes -- But Superheroines Always Get Superboobs:

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Arcadian Vanalten

It's called "Armor of Distraction," Ophelia. XD

Arcadia Codesmith

Agree 100%. The best artists of the genre are eschewing sexist tradition and drawing female heroes with more realistic, athletic builds. Games should follow suit, at least as an option.

I want to like DCUO. But I've got serious reservations about a lot of their design choices.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

DC Comics...ugh. I hope the game is better than the DC "universe." Give me Might Marvel any time with divorces, insanity, bankruptcy, aging, betrayals...etc.

Except for Batman, I just never got into DC at all. Too many goody-two-shoe heroes.

As for boobs, well, in comics land, they are all as big as Galactus' head. Get used to that.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

Should have been "Mighty Marvel." I proofread about as well as The Hulk.

F.O.O.M. (if you know that, you are a Marvel old-timer) since 1966....Iggy :)

Arcadia Codesmith

Yeah, yeah, excelsior from the bullpen, true believer. It's possible to love DC AND Marvel (as most of the writers and artists clearly do).

Janet Van Dyne is the first (adult) superheroine I can recall who wasn't gratuitously overendowed. Of course, since she was an inch tall most of the time, it was hard to tell.

Melissa Yeuxdoux

Sigh... now I have an old Donovan song going through my head.

Arcadia Codesmith

Superman and Green Lantern ain't got nothin' on me?

CyFishy Traveler

This is rather to be expected if you're dealing in comic book superheroes.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MostCommonSuperPower

Or, as a friend of mine once put it, "With great power comes great tits."

Melissa Yeuxdoux

Actually, a more obscure Donovan song, titled "Superlungs My Supergirl".

Arcadia Codesmith

My musical horizons are expanded. Thanks, Melissa :)

Iris Ophelia

I did acknowledge that boobs are pretty plentiful in most comic boob artwork, but what I didn't mention is that the recent trend in comic book art seems to be backing off from the giant cup sizes in favour of slightly more natural (albeit still stacked) figures. The evolution of Wonder Woman's costume is a good example of this.

Iris Ophelia

Whoops, comic BOOK artwork. Zing.

Devilot

Beyond the obvious sexism, this is just really limiting. Even the "preteen" you mention looks more like an incredibly short adult than a child or teen. CoH/CoV and Champions Online weren't really designed for child or teen characters, but at least you could simulate it decently. But the mandatory giant breasts make that much harder, if not outright impossible, in DC Universe Online.

A.S.

Just because you can't adjust the boob size doesn't mean that the developers should make your whimsical desires "a priority," much less consider your directive for even a fraction of a second.

Do you even understand what kind of effort is involved in game development to make such features work? You have no idea about the details of their underlying system architecture, what resources they have available to them, and what compromises they would have to make to satisfy your whimsy.

Ultimately, even if we assume they can just flip a switch as you assumed... so the big boobs are stereotypical or archetypal... to what end beyond your personal wants is that a problem?

You are not entitled to be 100% happy with the way things are in a video game, nobody is. This is the same tired and hysterical position heard constantly on forums when the prepubescent boys whine about not getting to drive their favorite car or use their favorite weapon. You just used bigger words and more exposition.

Tinklewithers

A.S. - this isn't really an issue of "oh, boo, my personal desires for x game were not satisfied." This is representative of a societal trend towards unrealistic (and male-appeasing) characterizations and portrayals of women.

Just think, with all that effort and design work, they didn't end up with somewhat exaggerated, but ultimately realistic character models. They came up with uniformly absurd feminine meshes, not even considering models with smaller breasts.

This isn't about wanting to play a small-breasted character, or "not getting to drive my favorite car". This is about the statement that games make about reality. After a long and engaged effort by several character artists, 3d modelers, and designers, we come up with a singular view of femininity - and a dysmorphic one at that. Don't try to dismiss a legitimate concern as petty or self-interested.

CarloAntonio Negulesco

Oh, come on now! Where's the outrage at all the male super heroes having massive pecks and biceps and washboard abs? Or, is it only females that are the victims of sexist artists?

Devilot

Carlo: There's a slight problem with that. Yes, it is sexist and objectifying to make all the men unrealistically perfect... but it doesn't nearly have the same history or cultural significance behind it. Women have a long history of being seen as simply sexual objects rather than people. Men don't.

Devilot

I have to amend my first comment, as I looked at it again more recently, and the Small body type looks more like a little girl than I remembered. Just an impossibly busty one. Which is problematic for a whole number of reasons. Still, it's not only sexist, but limiting.

Ordinal Malaprop

Well, that's two of the standard dimwit responses to these issues. Shall we try to make it a hat trick with, perhaps, an "it's just a GAME!", or maybe "freedom of speech!"?

pelagato

hm... boobs lol... I bet I am not the only one who likes spherical shapes lol!!!!

Schala

I'm glad that City of Heroes/Vilains and Champions Online have more customizarion, as is typical of Cryptic Studios (they dominate the customization part, for all character stuff, ever since their first game).

I even heard that many people who tried the game (DCUO) in beta and found it having nice game mechanics and content, were put off by the lack of customization, to the point of just not-playing-at-all once it goes live.

Personally, I'm much more a fan of Marvel than DC, and hope Gazillion (or any other company) makes a Marvel Universe Online soon enough. Champions Online will do until then, since Cryptic Studios have proven they could make a solid capes game before.

I'd agree that in MMO with character customization you can actually see (later than UO/EQ1, and preferably 3D), that females generally have big breasts, though males are also always big muscled and tall.

WoW Blood Elves character creation: Keep everything in the middle slider-wise...and you end up with a 5'0" super slender with big breasts Blood Elf female, who seems to weight no more than 80 lbs. Do the same for a male, and you'll end up with Arnold, except larger, 6'6", with shoulders so wide they're out of this world, who seems to weight more than 250 lbs (while being thin, imagine that).

Sure those characters are supposed to be heroes, who 'save the world', but they don't need to be clones of each other. And I'm not sure how having a super light big-breasted female avatar helps beat ancient demons or whatever is plaguing the world. Or how being Arnold himself would help with magic.

In City of Heroes, I made my female avatars have 5'6" (my height) slender (I am), and I'd say B cup breasts (what I hope I had instead of A), and going for rather cute styles (clothes-wise), with a kitty on her shoulder often. It truly represents how I am or wish I would be, without being straight out of porn.

My brother made a 8 feet tall guy with a very large build (maximum for both), who looks more like a part of a wall than a human. But it was a parody to him. He looked like a gorilla-sized club bouncer...who happens to use tons of guns and such, and who can superjump despite his weight being estimated at over 500 lbs. He also looked especially cool reading a newspaper. His other characters resembled him more (he sure isn't 8'0" tall).

ErinJennifer

Don't knock the boobs! They are actually smaller in the game than they are in the comic books. Wonder Woman looks like she got a breast reduction! Superhero's are supposed to be fantasy, MMORPG's are fantasy. Who would want to see a lardy ass superhero save the day? We all have our own self image issues, but for goodness sakes, it's a game. As a female gamer, with extremely small boobs, I enjoy playing a character that is busty and attractive. It isn't about the tits, they are just a part of the character design. Muscular hero figures, also part of the game. Superman has raging thighs and a tiny dong, it's just how they are drawn. Don't hate, celebrate!

Personally, I think this game is the best MMORPG to hit the market, it is way more fun than World of Warcraft, (their avatars have some serious boobage too.) and it's easier to navigate and level. I say we should liberate those super heroines and super villainesses by staging a bra burning, and then get on with our damn game play. Will that work for you Ms. Ophelia?

Hugh Hefner has got it right, "The major civilizing force in the world is not religion, it is sex." So get over yourselves ladies, liberate your minds, accept the boobs, and get that stick out of your ass. You just might have some fun.

XOXO
-EJ

Gray64

It's perhaps noteworthy, and goes quite a distance towards demonstrating your point, really, that of all the features present in DCU Online, you chose to focus in on the female avatars' anatomy.
I found the male figures somewhat limited, too.I couldn't really envision a Flash or Nightwing type character with the "medium" build the game offers. Your choices seem to be Robin, Superman, or Bane. I imagine that will change in future versions of the game. I imagine they wanted to get the game out as soon as possible, though, and so didn't have time to include a "build slide" in the initial release. That argument is more pragmatic than political, though, so I imagine noone will like it much.
As far as idealization and sexualization go, I do have to be one of the folks who point out that yes, the vast majority of men are NOT built like Superman or Batman. You might counter with "yes, but that's about power, not sexuality," and I would counter with "that depends on who's looking." Ever here of Tom of Finland? Trust me; homosexual men find that look VERY sexual, and have for, oh, centuries. You might argue as well that, for women, sexuality IS a kind of power. One could go on like this for days.
I personally think that the prediliction for comic book artists to draw exaggerated anatomy stems from working long hours in more or less isolation. It's just more fun to draw big muscles and big breasts than it is to draw ordinary people. I read an interview with a Japanese animator once who said that "it's just more fun to draw cute girls than old men."
In the end, though, I do see your point. I just think you're fighting a lost cause.

Gray64

Completely different point: you have two of your characters in long skirts. That's as ridiculous, in its own way, as having a super heroine in a bikini.

giogio

Well, I am not sure that female superheroes boobs size are an issue. Certainly, the impossibility of obtaining a plain, 'normal' (ugly word) female (as well as a man) in a mmorpg is bad. Of course is just a drop in the tsunami of sexist s**t that society is throwing us back after some years of light. (I know what I am talking about, I am Italian)

I am gay, never played this, I wonder how the role of gay male sheroes (and worst female lesbian) is lived there.

Of course everything is made for younger users, but in 2011 still having to think of pre/puberal twinks looking boobs (and pecs) onscreen as they did in the fifties with penmags as always, well is at least sad (but I haven't seen so many ugly male/female avatars in SL also,umph).

Cheers, ciao.

big pogo

seriously what do you have against hipps and breasts? do you want females having male bodies so badly?

all those hero girls are loking more like guys and not female. also i am not sure those clothes are looking the same in SL when you arent used uber-highend computer with all grafic preferences up to the sky level.

still, amazing work Ophelia.

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.