Entertainment Games Gaming Nintendo Switch RPG Sexism

Retrograde sexism in a shiny new game

Retrograde sexism in a shiny new game

This publish consists of spoilers for Octopath Traveler’s story, however who cares? It sucks.

Octopath Traveler may be purposefully retro in its aesthetic and gameplay, however the game’s most backward high quality of all is by far the blatant misogyny.

The pixelated artwork fashion of this new beloved JRPG seems to be positively trendy in comparability to the way it unnecessarily sexualizes, infantilizes, patronizes, and exploits the abuse of almost each certainly one of its ladies characters.

The widespread success and recognition of Octopath Traveler took writer Sq. Enix by complete shock, promoting out so quick in Japan that the corporate publicly apologized twice. When it made its strategy to America on the Change in July, it was to rave evaluations that earned it a Metacritic rating of 84. 

Critics showered it with reward for its mix of nostalgia and innovation, whereas admitting that the tales of it eight totally different most important characters have been little greater than juvenile cliches.

However few appeared involved with which of these characters suffered most from its trope-y mess of a script, giving it a move on the sexism it resurrects from a bygone period in video games.

I wish I could believe this was a self aware criticism

I want I might consider this was a self conscious criticism

There’s a clear, gendered distinction between how the female and male protagonists storylines play out. We have seen this in the style earlier than, although JRPGs typically get a move, maybe as a result of American writers use “cultural differences” as an excuse or just do not hassle taking these tales very significantly. 

However I am uninterested in excuses for why we should always ignore this bullshit.

To its credit score, Octopath Traveler does have a fair gender cut up amongst its eight heroes. However the portrayal of the ladies is a noticeable regression from the JRPGs with strong ladies protagonists (think about Ultimate Fantasy VI’s Terra and Celes, Trails in the Sky, or Valkyrie Profile).

It’s maybe the wasted potential of Octopath’s feminine protagonists — whose tales one way or the other all the time handle to revolve across the males in their lives — that makes the game’s informal misogyny really feel like such a slap in the face. 

Let’s run via the very primary plot parts from Primrose’s opening chapter.

This is only one of two townsfolk who giggle at rape

This is just one of two townsfolk who giggle at rape

Primrose’s origin story begins with shades of Arya Stark — if Arya selected to turn out to be a intercourse employee as an alternative of an murderer, and her complete character revolved round a) being like rly scorching, and b) whoring for Daddy.

After surviving her noble father’s assassination, Woman Primrose went into hiding as a tavern’s prized dancer. She and the opposite dancers are frequently crushed, starved, and raped by their “master.” But Primrose solely motivated into leaving these abhorrently abusive circumstances when one of many males who killed her father occurs to stroll in.

Inexplicably, the townsfolk make jokes concerning the dancers getting raped, lusting for the “private viewings” that their grasp forces them to do for him at night time, if you realize what I imply ;))) 

All these ordeals do not appear to hinder Primrose in any respect as she flirtatiously makes use of her “special skill” of seducing individuals into following her with a dance. Actually, the trauma of the place that taught her to bop seems utterly divorced from all of the enjoyable she has utilizing her sexuality as her fundamental weapon and contribution to the workforce.

The prevalence of creepy, paternal infantilization is astounding

The prevalence of creepy, paternal infantilization is astounding

This outcomes is jarring scenes the place, one minute, her grasp is thrashing her, calling pet names like “kitten,” telling her the place she ought to put her mouth, threatening to rape and kill her until she finds extra patrons — just for Primrose to saunter outdoors and obey by performing an lovable, winky, coy dance animation for a man on the road.

I am all for sexual empowerment, or reclaiming what was as soon as traumatizing for your self. However this is not what that appears like. 

This type of careless mishandling of Primrose is a results of writers who need to use ladies’s trauma  to provide a skinny character some semblance of character or depth. However her trauma is conveniently forgotten about for lighthearted moments, when Primrose must be The Enjoyable Attractive One. 

At one level in Chapter 2 of her story, she provides a little “hehe” giggle whereas speaking concerning the issues that used to occur on the tavern. Noooope. 

Youthful magnificence and male masters appear to be conditions for the ladies heroes

All through Octopath, intercourse staff and intercourse slaves are routinely murdered and used as background props. A creepy undercurrent of daddy-daughter dynamics runs via most of them. 

One scene encapsulates the weirdly fetishistic vibes embedded into Octopath’s depictions of fathers and daughters: A father goes to a pimp with the sob story of how his daughter killed herself after being raped. However he is not grieving for her. He is grieving for himself, for the lack of having a little woman to decorate up like his dwelling, incestuous intercourse doll.

He is elated to be given a intercourse slave in direct alternative for his “sullied,” lifeless daughter. 

I imply, what the precise fuck, Octopath Traveler? 

Someone needs to answer for the crime of subjecting me to this scene

Somebody must reply for the crime of subjecting me to this scene

This absurd scene goes utterly unaddressed, as if it isn’t probably the most tousled shit you’ve got ever seen in your goddamn life. Nevertheless it tracks with the numerous different inexplicable situations of infantilizing, sexually charged scenes between father figures and younger women. 

And it is exhausting to even justify this portrayal of trauma as lazy world-building to convey Octopath’s gritty, merciless imaginative and prescient of society. As a result of it is just about unique to Primrose’s story, and completely inconsistent with the comparatively rosy world skilled by each different character.

I can already hear the “well, actually!” excuse that each one of that is the game making an attempt to point out how solely dangerous, evil males objectify ladies, or scale back them to a madonna/whore dichotomy, or worth them based mostly on their purity, look, or relationships with males. I might be extra prepared to droop my disbelief if the game did not do all these issues to its different feminine characters.

I only wish this story treated your trauma as more than a plot horse, Arianna

I solely want this story handled your trauma as greater than a plot horse, Arianna

Whether or not or not it is aware of it, Octopath Traveler perpetuates the identical vile remedy of girls because the villains it tries to sentence. The notion that ladies would somewhat die than stay with the disgrace of rape or intercourse work is a sentiment put into the mouth of so-called “ruined” ladies. And no one contradicts these characters. The game does little to disavow its viewers of the assumption that, on some degree, it is true.

Octopath Traveler perpetuates the identical vile remedy of girls because the villains it tries to sentence

The bodily great thing about three (out of 4) of the ladies protagonists is referenced all through. It is remarked on every time Primrose is on display; Tressa’s captain savior focuses on it once they meet, regardless that she’s a baby; the spiritual Ophelia’s personal father determine feels the necessity to reward it in his daughters.

On the Daddy entrance: There are simply a few too many situations of girls’s fathers serving as a alternative for their very own character motivation. Except for Primrose, Ophelia and Lianna’s story is so ludicrously centered round their paternal determine that Lianna betrays Ophelia on the off probability that some dude may deliver him again from the lifeless.

Or, to summarize the sentiment handed between them in the screenshot under, ladies be loopy! And silly!

Lol same

Lol similar

Perhaps this give attention to their youth, appearances, and fathers wouldn’t really feel so gross — if it occurred to actually any of the male characters. Nevertheless it doesn’t. Youthful magnificence and male masters solely appear to be conditions for the ladies heroes of Octopath Traveler. 

Infantilization, frailty, and male superiors are traits so ubiquitous to the ladies of Octopath Traveler that it goes past simply protagonists. Even Cyrus’ story begins with two feminine college students preventing one another over his consideration. He is pressured to go away the varsity to spare the princess concerned any social destitution from the mere trace that she may be impure.

We do not hear something about how that princess feels about all of it, since Octopath is in no approach involved with how ladies really feel in basic. However it’s emblematic of one other humorous attribute all the ladies in this game share: Feminine friendships finish with demise, despair, or schisms born from their obsession with a man.

Then there’s the gender divide embedded into the fight mechanics, particularly the job courses and particular expertise attributed to every character.

Although you’ll ultimately unlock secondary courses, by default the lads are: a warrior, apothecary, scholar, and a thief. The ladies are: a dancer (or because the game describes, a “whore”), cleric (the image of pure, virginal female servitute), and a service provider. 

Probably the most empowering feminine character is by far the hunter. Although notably, even H’aanit falls into the lure of getting her motivations tied solely to discovering her lacking “master” — a man clearly much less competent than her, but someway nonetheless her superior. 

I see what you did there, Captain

I see what you probably did there, Captain

Primrose and Ophelia are the one two characters whose predominant particular talent is to name in somebody extra highly effective than them for help in battle. Tressa additionally has a summoning capacity tied to her job, and H’aanit’s hunter talent lets her summon animals.

Once more, I might be prepared to miss this, if any of the male characters’ particular expertise have been in any respect tied to summoning others for assist. However their talents are all markedly extra self-sufficient and grounded in uncooked energy, competence, and intelligence. The lads get to: problem individuals to sword battles, gleam helpful info, steal priceless gadgets, and concoct potions.

Do not get me flawed: these points do not originate with and will not be unique to Octopath Traveler. They’re grounded in the mechanics and tales of many role-playing video games of the previous, in addition to a deep seeded misogyny buried in us all.

However that does not imply the shitty sidelining of girls is inherent to the style. We have heard the arguments justifying these reductive depictions of girls in these type of video games already, they usually principally come right down to historic accuracy or the excuse of archetypal characters.

He calls her "kitten" in the identical breath that he threatens to kill her

He calls her “kitten” in the identical breath that he threatens to kill her

So far as “historical accuracy” goes, it is odd that the fantasy style — actually outlined by its deviation from actuality — necessitates treating ladies like rubbish in order to make worlds with magic and dragons extra plausible. The archetypal protection may need extra grounds, if it did not appears to conflate “archetypes” with “tropes.” 

Archetypes are prototypical traits and traits that date again to the traditions of oral storytelling. A trope, however, is a cliche inherited by popular culture that writers fall again on as an alternative of making something remotely nuanced or unique. 

To be truthful, most of Octopath’s characters and tales are unoriginal, with fewer dimensions than its pixelated artwork type. However the male cliches are infinitely extra empowering and at the very least tied to their very own particular person pursuits, wishes, and passions quite than perpetuated by a father determine.

By the top of Primrose’s story, the game appears oddly self conscious that it gave her completely zero character motivation or character outdoors her father. (By the best way, her mother’s barely talked about, as regular.) She climatically goes to her father’s grave, and all however shrugs as a result of now that Daddy’s been avenged, she has no concept who she is or what she even needs.

I was asking myself the same question, Primrose

I used to be asking myself the identical query, Primrose

However positive, for the sake of argument, as an example this bullshit is simply how fantasy works, and examine Octopath Traveler to a different trendy fantasy story that dives into a multitude of various characters’ views. 

The TV adaptation of Game of Thrones may additionally get criticized for utilizing rape as a plot gadget whereas negating the trauma of girls. However the books do not, as an alternative bringing readers into the minds of archetypal ladies as they search energy and survival inside an oppressive patriarchal society. And low and behold, it outcomes in ladies handled as precise individuals moderately than somebody’s idea of a lady.

Ladies do not should be portrayed this manner, in Octopath or some other game and fantasy setting. We simply should care sufficient to demand higher, after which do higher.

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