Video games have a history of turning off women worldwide, and for good reason: like television and movies, gaming tends to embrace certain regressive ideals -- though on a level unmatched by other forms of entertainment. As production costs escalate, you'd think developers would take a stab at inclusiveness, rather than alienating potential female customers with characters who will later be described by their "assets" in terrible Internet writing near you. But no, in the futuristic sounding year of 2012, gaming for women still exists in a segregated ghetto, while most of the industry is content to continue distributing the low-hanging fruit their audience loves.
Giving up gaming for a hobby that doesn't induce feelings of ickiness would make for a surefire solution, though a bit drastic; instead, why don't we try out the time-tested practice of public shaming to examine the most misogynistic gaming offenses this month?
Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 Continues Bringing the "Reclusive Pervert" Genre Westward
If you read our TGS 2011-related feature on the changing face of Japanese game development, you'd know that Eastern gaming has gone through a significant transformation over the past decade. As Japanese consumers spend less time with traditional game systems and more time with smartphones, certain developers have taken it upon themselves to appease the devoted pervert demographic for the sake of profits. This undercurrent of sleaze has always existed within Japanese gaming, though mostly in the form of shameful PC titles with suggestive names like "Sexy Beach" and not-so-suggestive names like "Battle Raper 2." These days, we have Square-Enix of all companies directly addressing their audience on the status of panties in Final Fantasy Type-0. What a time to be alive, when a developer must seriously take into consideration the player's desire to see cotton underthings.
More than any other publisher, Nippon Ichi has embraced Japanese gaming's turn to the dark side with a series of embarrassments designed to appeal to their audience's inner sex offender. It's important to note that not every Japanese company sinks so low; the combined efforts of developers Nippon Ichi, Idea Factory, and Compile Heart can be held responsible for tainting the reputation of modern Japanese gaming. Most of their titles have stayed overseas, for reasons that should be obvious; for instance, 2010's Criminal Girls features a cast of buxom lasses forced to undergo the trials of an otherworldly sex dungeon. And in the stomach-churning tradition of this very specific type of game, Criminal Girls depicts its characters in the "they're drawn to look like children but they're actually adults" moe style.
It's important to note that these "mainstream" pervy games rarely come close to being sexually explicit; rather, heavy layers of innuendo insulate the ribaldry in a protective shell -- almost as if someone at Nippon Ichi realized it might be a Bad Thing if someone thought the company endorsed pedophilia. In order to reject such claims, games like Criminal Girls focus on teasing the player with what could be regarded as harmless fun under the cloudiest of apologist lenses.
Nippon Ichi's Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 marks the second release of this series in the US, which makes me wonder where the Tipper Gores of the world have gone when two of these games could make it to the States without attracting the attention of a single hypersensitive watchdog group. Regardless, the game actually features an interesting premise; it adapts the console wars to an actual conflict, with thinly-veiled allusions to real systems (like "Lastation") serving as substitutions for the real thing. Apparently, mk2 ages its protagonists down a bit from Neptunia 1 -- a fact that should be apparent after reluctantly watching the opening cinema, which depicts a cast of undeveloped girls in humiliating costumes. The first game looks just as vile, but at least the adult women in that one have secondary sex characteristics -- regardless of their ridiculous proportions (and the child characters seem to possess a healthy amount of shame). The intro to mk2 obviously wants to pose the question "Are you ready for these sexy tweens?" Clearly, the specific fanbase for Neptunia has an immediate answer. We all hope they keep it to themselves.
And if Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 lends too much legitimacy to your thinly veiled child pornography, feast your eyes on developer Compile Heart's latest monstrosity, Mugen Souls, in which the player is tasked with soaping up a stable of frisky adolescents so they perform better in battle. Note: clicking the above link may fire you from jobs you might not even work at.
Microprose's Girl Fight: Are We Really this Desperate?
It may be unfair to judge a book before it's fully covered, but Girl Fight already looks like a Tijuana Bible. Recently announced as a joint venture between the reanimated corpse of Microprose and Supremacy MMA developer Kung Fu Factory, Girl Fight promises to bring girls and fighting together in ways that haven't been seen since someone accidentally let Zach Snyder make Sucker Punch. Really, there's not much more to this announcement, which is why it's so irritating; the idea of girls in games won't win any awards for originality, so Microprose is obviously hedging their bets on a gimmick that -- based on the content of the game's Facebook page -- seems to revolve around Suicide Girls locked in mortal combat (with sexy results). Just check out the curiously capitalized intro from the official press release:
Get Ready to Lick the Competition with Girl Fight, Coming Soon to Xbox LIVE Arcade and PSN.
Fellas, they're not lying; female humans often lick things, mostly in the process of food consumption -- I've seen it! Could they possibly lick things in this very game -- perhaps even each other? Put between 10 and 15 dollars aside for the future, which, over time, will appreciate into a large enough sum to pay for a solid kick to the head. Repeat the process if interest in Girl Fight still persists.
Congrats to Devil Survivor 2, 2012 Winner of Most Unrealistic Depiction of the Female Form
Being a 2012 DS JRPG doesn't exclude you from scrutiny, Devil Survivor 2. The below image is of female character Io, who will undoubtedly be relegated to a wheelchair after the age of 21 thanks to her unfortunate physical deformity. These are not breasts, Atlus; Io clearly has an advanced case of elephantiasis that needs immediate treatment.
Anyone who's looked at a television more than once in their lives can tell you that it's not uncommon for the female (and male) form to be idealized to the point where only those with personal trainers and healthy plastic surgery budgets can meet unrealistic Hollywood standards. But with Io, we've gone far beyond idealization to a strange, alien anatomy that no woman on Earth could possibly match -- if any human female carried Io's 45-degree angle flesh shelf on her torso, she would be tranqued, tagged, and studied by scientists. Maybe the futile search for such unrealistic proportions is why over a third of Japanese youths have no interest in sex? Whatever the case, keep your portables primed for the future of the Devil Survivor series, which will inevitably feature at least one female character with two matching rows of breasts, quadruped-style.