Scarlet Blade – a giant leap backwards for video game sexism?

Scarlet Blade MMORPG

Yes, this image pretty much says it all.

Video Gaming has come a long way with regards to sexism in its games; the days where Duke Nukem was the embodiment of typical gamer attitudes are long behind us. Sure, we’re still juvenile, and the stereotype isn’t completely quashed; but for the most part, gamers in general are more mature when it comes to sexism in games.

Apparently, no one gave Aria Games that memo on sexism. Their latest delve into MMO games is Scarlet Blade. I’d heard a few concerning things about this game already. The premise as I understood it was that in the far future, earth was invaded, almost all the men were killed, and all that remained to re-claim the surface of the planet were bio-mechanically enhanced women warriors… that are constantly wearing very little. With very bouncy breasts. And all have the tight, fit bodies of anime super-heroines  This, in and of itself, seemed pretty sexist, but I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and try the beta. Sure enough, all 6 classes are scantily clad ladies. But that wasn’t the part that rustled my jimmies.

The dialog has to be, by far, the most sexist dialog I have ever seen in an MMO. It was downright insulting, to both male AND female gamers. The dialog has been written from the perspective that the player is not their character, but rather a human survivor counterpart in some kind of cybernetic symbiosis with the character that they control. Apparently, every female NPC you come across all assume all players are oggling their lady-bits and have the one-track mind of a prepubescent teenage boy. Even your own character that you control. Combine that with the ridiculously bland cookie-cutter gameplay and you have a F2P game that is nothing but sexist fan-service for hentai addicts.

I honestly don't know how I feel about this armor... Or anything else in this game...

I honestly don’t know how I feel about this armor… Or anything else in this game…

Now, I fully admit, I enjoy the female form as much as the next heterosexual guy. I do admit that I oggle female sprites in games from time to time. But I consider those icing on the game’s cake; if there’s no good story, solid gameplay, etc. then it’s not enough for me to call it a good game. This game blatantly accuses all it’s players of being perverts only interested in sex with disproportionately sexy anime-styled ladies.

But does it take that sexism so far that it flips around and becomes a farce? I have to admit, when I was reading a lot of the dialog, I could not decide whether to be insulted or laugh. The artwork for the game is colourful and vibrant, with a lot of creative details in a decidedly anime style. The gameplay is cookie-cutter simple, but I saw few to no gameplay bugs beyond some minor auto-pathfinding issues and some balance issues in mob location. For a F2P game, it’s not bad. It’s not great, but it’s not bad. The fact that it is drowning in sexism towards women AND towards male gamers is the biggest and only real point of contention I see coming out of it. The developers are shooting for an M rating on the ESRB, and I can definitely see them getting it.

This game actually brings to light the whole topic of sex, nudity, and adult content in MMO games. I really feel these guys were the prepubescent teen males that the dialog assumes all players are, and they just never grew up. But is there a place for adult content like sex and nudity in MMO games? There’s a place for blood and violence, as many games before have shown. But can sex and nudity be depicted in a tasteful manner?

Well, I am in college learning to make video games, right? Maybe we’ll find out.

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