Dote Night: The Monstrous Regiment Of Mobas

Rek'Sai

Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart.

For about as long as I’ve been playing MOBAs I’ve been aware of how monsters are portrayed in their game art. I love a good monster, just as I really like playing characters which fit different moods so when games seem to be holding back or skewing one particular direction I try to work out why and how I would change that. Here’s one of my ideas, plus some context.

Idea:

A Discworld MOBA would be a great idea, especially in terms of introducing more varied body types under the pronoun “she”. The point is not about losing busty ladies, but adding more diversity.

Context:

I spent the weekend at the Smite World Championship. It was a fantastic event, the scale and atmosphere of which reminded me of The International 3 – probably my favourite .

But one thing which was mentioned several times, both in article comments and by people attending was the prominence of busty ladies in the pool of playable gods. With Smite this then leads to another conversation about representations of gender in mythology and religion and how that plays out over the history of art – that’s something I’ll try to do properly at another time. But none of that nullifies the general adherence to the MOBA model which offers a reduced variety of body types when it comes to characters referred to as “she”.

At this juncture I’d like to point out that I tend to notice any emphasis when it comes to the artwork and animations you get in between games or as marketing assets but not when I’m playing. At that point the god or hero or champion sort of fades from my conscious view and becomes a vessel through which abilities and actions are dealt or felt.

Nu Wa

There was a blog post in 2012 on Obligatory Spider Queen about how the female characters in League of Legends shake out. At that point 33 of the 103 champions were female with 25 of those being humanoid, 4 as cutesy critters and 4 as monsters (monstrous in this instance meant anything with marked animal characteristics or which was entirely machine). Riot has added 20 heroes since and I think it alters the split to 42 female out of 123. 4 are cute critters, 7 are monsters and the remaining 31 humanoid.

Obviously one person’s definition of monstrous or revealing might be different from another but I’m going to use the definitions from that blog post just to make the results broadly comparable and to get the basic shape of the situation across.

Looking at how the humanoid male and female characters were dressed, the survey then checked whose costumes were revealing (revealing was defined as skin exposure on the torso between the top of the bust and the top of the thighs). 64% of the female humanoid characters are in revealing outfits as compared with 37% of the male humanoid characters (the numbers are 58% and 39% now).

There are several other charts which look at the options provided by character skins but they shore up the general thesis that the majority of League’s female characters are humanoid women with revealing outfits or revealing outfit options, “And all that imbalance is before we get into the general uniformity of the women’s similarly beautiful, youthful faces contrasted against a mix of men that run a gamut of age and coarseness.”

I’d also add that, at this point, 46 LoL characters would be defined as monsters by the Obligatory Spider Queen criteria but only 7 of those monsters are female. To put that another way, 47% of LoL’s male roster is made up of monsters, its female roster offers 14%.

Of Smite’s 61 gods 17 are female (28%) which is similar to League’s breakdown (33% female). Of that 17, using the monster categorisation from before, I’d say 5 are monsters although to clarify: that includes characters like Bastet and Serqet just because they have animal tails.

Actually, 16 of the 17 conform to a very similar busty, svelte body type. The one which doesn’t is Scylla, Horror of the Deep who takes the form of a little girl in a long dress from which dog headed tentacles can zoom out and murder you. Characters such as Kali, Arachne and Serqet offer some points of difference, but not many. Kali’s many arms, Serqet’s venomous tail, Arachne’s spidery bottom half – they’re all interesting but the base model is definitely a busty, svelte lady. In terms of male characters, I think the traditional frequently humanoid depictions of the various gods keep the male monster ratio relatively low at a little over 30%.

Broodmother

Dota is the lowest of the three games in terms of basic gender breakdown with 17 female heroes out of a current roster of 109. That’s about 16%. As with Smite, 5 are monsters – although the spider lady in Dota is just a big spider rather than a sort of booby spider mermaid. Medusa is more mermaidy in that she has a typical body shape fading into a snake tail but it pairs with a wizened monster face and snakes. Of the remaining 12, 8 have revealing basic outfits. Having gone through the male Dota heroes, I think the classification breaks down as about 70% being monstrous.

You get the idea. “She” ends up predominantly referring to a svelte, busty, humanoid body.

Considering why this happens I’d say there’s definitely a business case for it. Valve, Riot and Hi-Rez are all developers who need to stay in business and make money. My own experience of working at big businesses is that they’ll tend to stick with strategies which have been proven to be successful or which they feel are common sense. From that, I’d say that if the current gender division and level of monstrosity is making money then it would be seen as a business risk to change that so they don’t.

Current and desired audience plays a huge part in how companies market their game. I’m looking at that infographic Riot distributed in 2012 and it puts the game’s playerbase at over 90% male with 85% of players aged 16-30. There’s nothing in that graphic about sexual orientation but it’s tempting to look at the preponderance of a particular female body type as at also being driven by or a response to that audience. Possibly both. Obviously Riot could change their approach but the success of their game while using the current strategy, I suspect, makes that change unpalatable.]

There would also be an argument for some body types being more logical when you’re creating characters who run and punch and dash but it becomes hard to make that argument when you look at some of the corpulent or elderly male options.

Syndra

I was also thinking about that NPR news segment where Geena Davis mentions a study which looked at gender ratios in groups: “And they found that if there’s 17 percent women, the men in the group think it’s 50-50. And if there’s 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.”

I don’t actually know which study she’s referring to. I can’t seem to find anything online, so if you know more can you email me? But if you take that stat in good faith then Dota 2’s gender breakdown is almost exactly at the point at which gender representation is considered equal while Smite and League hover just under the “more women” threshold. It’s an interesting idea (if that initial research point is accurate) – that developers looking at their rosters might not see a disparity or an inequality of number.

In terms of variety of age and size in these humanoid female characters, that’s also likely tied up in a number of prejudices and preferences coming in from wider society. Aging comes with a number of negative stereotypes, as does being particularly large, skeletally thin or unusually proportioned in some other way. Perhaps these female characters are thrown out at the ideas stage as less aspirational, less able to fulfil the remit of a champion or a hero because that’s not generally how we view those forms outside the games.

Then within that we have the monsters. Reiterating the basic numbers, they comprise almost half the male roster in LoL and more than two thirds in Dota 2 (give or take a few). When you look at the female rosters in both games, they’re less than a third monstrous. With Smite the ratios at about 30% on each side. I’d say that’s likely because of how the source material functions in relation to the game but I’d also add that there are degrees of monstrousness there which make the percentages a little deceptive. The male pool has a beefy ice giant, a ferocious monkey and a dude made out of big lumps of rock. On the ladies side the closest you’ll get to non-human is the mermaidy spider.

It often feels like MOBA characters take that Mean Girls Hallowe’en costume approach to female monstrousness. “The hardcore girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears.”

I’m a spider, DUH.

Obv

“Pip, you’ve been talking for a while now. When is Discworld going to be relevant?”

Ah yes, Discworld.

In pondering the lack of monsters and the ratio of revealing outfits to functional armour I started wondering whether starting with source material outside a game and the MOBA industry’s attendant traditions and business precedents/assumptions would provide a more diverse cast in terms of bodies. I don’t want to lose busty ladies, I want to rebalance so there’s more visual diversity.

Discworld is my suggestion because there are female characters of all ages and body types who are fantastic. Here are the ones which sprang to my mind along with a few of their personality and physical characteristics which could be useful in MOBA character creation.
(potential spoilers)

Granny Weatherwax: a personal favourite – confident, powerful, elderly, hard as balls

Nanny Ogg: hard drinking, much-married, personable, overweight, fantastic healer

Magrat: into new-age witchery, flat-chested, practical, great with potions

Mrs Cake: short, able to communicate with the dead

Angua von Uberwald: a werewolf, hugely capable, strong

Cheery Littlebottom: one of the first openly female dwarves, bearded, smart

Eskarina Smith: born a wizard, old and young at the same time, capable of time travel,

Lady T’Malia: assassin, heavily made up and corseted, capable of poisoning whole towns

Agnes Nitt: two personalities, overweight, great hair, talent for magic

Lady Felmet: power hungry, cunning, skilled at inflicting pain

I stopped reading the books a while ago so I’m not sure which characters have cropped up in the meantime. There are some problems with this idea as in there are still fewer main female characters than male ones and that at times the portrayals aren’t perfect, but the ones I’ve mentioned above would already provide far more diversity than exists in any of the three games I’ve been poking at.

72 Comments

  1. Artiforg says:

    “Hard as balls”, I’m assuming you don’t mean balls of the hanging from gentlemen variety as any male can attest are not hard in the slightest (except if you boil them in vinegar – or am I thinking about conkers?)

    One thing that irks me about Dota is that no-one wears footwear of any kind yet everyone buys boots as one of their early game items! Are all the Dota artists foot fetishists or something?

    Oh, and Pip, can you please tell us the story of you bumping into Dendi at the buffet because it’s driving me mad every week reading your Dote Night column and seeing it in the intro! Please, I beg you!

    • nmarebfly says:

      > One thing that irks me about Dota is that no-one wears footwear of any kind yet everyone buys boots as one of their early game items!

      You answered your own question. They don’t start with shoes, so they gotta get a fresh pair every game!

      • Nevard says:

        You have to wonder what the characters with no legs (or four) do with the things though, maybe they just buy them because everyone else is doing it?

      • Artiforg says:

        But when they buy those boots they still don’t wear them!

        • Hieronymusgoa says:

          With Demigod it is even weirder. You could buy more than one pair (amirememberingthatright?) and it is quite debatable how the Rook used them. (Or the ever-floating vampire might need them). But then again it might be more of a Boot/Sneaker-Fetish thingy with them sneakers in MOBAs.

    • piedpiper says:

      Footfetishist in me enjoys watching Lina, Miranna or Windranger a lot but i can’t remember any more shoeless heroines. And in case of Lina and Windranger it is logically sane thing to draw them shoeless. Though why Miranna wears no boots i honestly don’t know.

    • jmtd says:

      Some kind of sports ball perhaps? Cricket and golf balls are very hard. While we’re at it, can anyone explain “balls to the wall” to me?

  2. RedViv says:

    The thing I have been yelling for for years in the SAUSAGES space is a crone-type character. It would be such an easy archetype to fill, one would think. Just a badass old lady. It can’t possibly be that Baba Yaga in the… off-looking Arena of Fate is the first, can it? Did I miss anything?

    • vivlo says:

      if dota’s Necrophos were a girl of similar age and fate, it would look nice i think

      but indeed it’s true – if mobas (and game in general ?) would dare to portray not-first-prize-top-model bodies as engaging playable characters, it’d be cool. There’s a whole unexplored realm of cool new designs awaiting

    • Arathain says:

      Playable elderly women are mostly entirely absent from gaming. Kreia for KOTOR 2 stands pretty much on her own. The powerful, wise, cruel crone is, indeed, a gaping hole. We’ve met Flemmeth and Ravel, but never had them in our party.

      • Rwlyra says:

        Wot about Wynne (in the same game?). Other than that yeah, no elder womyn in gaming that I know of.

      • Chrysomore says:

        Yeah, I’m coming up blank too and that’s a pretty decent database to be drawing on for this sort of thing. There are a few more glimmers of hope in the adaptable properties department though.

        Olenna Tyrell, Game of Thrones: Charming, empathetic, and absolutely positively not to be fucked with, not if you like breathing. Bit limited as a fighter but could take a prominent role in strategy and story driven games.

        The Beifongs, Legend of Korra – A whole badass family trio, for heaven’s sake. How nobody has produced a whole range of great games with a universe like Avatar’s to draw on is utterly baffling to me. I digress, but fuck you, Nickelodeon!

        Aaand that’s pretty much all I can think of, which is pretty sad.

      • piedpiper says:

        I thought about Kreia first of all when I read about elderly characters. Avellone wrote this character really good. Like real elderly wisdom, not just cool granny or evil witch.

        • Kaeoschassis says:

          Kreia was wonderful. Easily one of my favourite SW characters.

      • Geewhizbatman says:

        Well, they do exist–Wretched Hag in Heroes of Newerth, Prime World has gender swap for most characters including the old man characters.. However, I think they represent the same issue in their own right. Part of the problem is that there are really only four major archetypes women are allowed to fall into when it comes to character design: Child, Maiden, Crone, Birth Mother (sometimes plain old monstrous but, usually sexy monstrous)

        Part of the fact is that all of those are characters designed around age and appearance.

        We view all spawning/duplicating characters as intriguing when they are made subversively female. Spider queens, zombie matrons, demon queens, “breeders.” The “mommy issues” trope turned into a character that can be heightened by adding obvious sexualized elements.

        A child’s innocence, be it as a “pure” character or to underscore their “corruption,” as an evil character, is heightened when represented as female because there is a cultural bias to say that female children are inherently more gentle or docile than their male counterparts. This is why the “Alice” character is easily moved between a fancifully innocent and darkly unsettling character that a “Huckleberry Finn” character would

        The witch, baba yaga, and crone characters are sprinkled throughout every culture’s myths as a general archetype. When turning it into a character it still implies that part of the character’s power and intrigue comes from her being old. Merlin and Wizards aren’t considered interesting because they’re old, they’re interesting because they shoot fireballs out of their hands. Crones and witches are seen as mystical because they’ve exited out of the traditional space of women as maiden/mother.

        That really only leaves the maiden space–which is why all these characters get shoehorned in as young, svelte, glowy, busty lasses. Because we still connect a female’s body with her personality. Male characters are allowed to be all sorts of stocky. Using LoL as a frame of reference–the difference between Braum and Gragas. Their body types do stand in for personality type but as male characters they are allowed to have that range. There is no portly, chunky lady in LoL. There is no China, the lady wrestler body type.

        The issue there is then in that if one were to push for that character, somewhere along the line the character designers would most likely try to hitch those characters onto an archetype that unfairly gets placed on female characters. The portly, chunky lady would either be jolly Ms. Clause/Cooking Mama or her weight would be seen as a reason she is evil (similar to how many male villains gets portrayed as exceedingly skinny and frail when the heroes are strapping and muscular.) The muscular woman almost always gets hyper-masculinized because many people view something as comical about a muscular woman presenting as feminine.

        Blah blah blah, the overall point is that much of this is an issue with character design as an area of study and an art form. We all recognize now that just slapping a headdress and a loincloth on a character made people understand that was an “Indian” and no one had an issue with it. Now things are changing. The point is to try and get that for women. That designers should feel free to design female characters and also not need to add “design elements” that are directly connected to their gender–or, as is more likely, starting a character with its first distinguishing feature being “It’s A Woman.” They could just be a character, who also happens to be female.

  3. nmarebfly says:

    I always wonder why, like, Bane couldn’t be a lady. Or Necrophos. Or Gyro. When you have a character that is a manifestation of the concept of entropy in the universe like Enigma, why is it necessarily a dude?

    At some point we’ll get winter wyvern, so that’s +1 for monster ladies I guess.

    • Nevard says:

      I’m glad that Puck and Io from dota, IIRC, just don’t have genders at all. To be honest, I think that should probably be true of more characters (many of which, as you say, have just been sort of “defaulted” to male).

      • piedpiper says:

        Is puck really genderless? It seem it is a child with a gender. But I don’t know which.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Wyvern was male in WC3 dota, too, so they’re definitely making small steps. I think the conservative approach when porting the earlier characters probably came from the fear of backlash from what was a very dedicated fanbase. A profit-driven motive, but an understandable enough one.

    • Rwlyra says:

      Probably because of Valve’s limited number of contracted voice actors (out of which only one can pull off gender neutral beings). Even Warcraft 3 had more people doing voices (I think).

    • PedroTheHutt says:

      I think a lot of this comes back to Dota’s roots as a Warcraft 3 mod, with for the most part them being resticted to character models that came with said game. And said game had mostly male characters. So I applaud that in recent years they found the courage to deviate more and more from the original designs for the sake of diversity, most noteworthy being Legion Commander, but I don’t think we’ll see them taking huge steps towards diversifying the roster until the point where they’ve ported all heroes and Valve will finally get to design their own heroes from scratch. Which will potentially happen some time this year as only three or so of the old heroes still need porting.

      I just wish that Valve had started sooner with having the courage to genderswap old heroes to balance out the roster, WC3 Dota fans with an adversity towards change be damned.

    • Ashrand says:

      Well Faceless Void is getting a re-work soon, so….maybe that?

      (I’m grasping, but it would be nice to see a hero so commonly seen in the professional pool get a makeover, and hey the option is on the table for them)

  4. Nevard says:

    I think it’s often the case that designers working for these companies would list “woman” alongside “skeletal”, “particularly large”, “old”, or even “monstrous” as a “defining trait” all by itself, albeit probably subconciously.
    See Pacman vs Ms. Pacman. Ms Pacman is a girl because she has a bow, whereas the “unmodified” pacman defaults to being male. When a designer has already made something a girl, adding anything else might (wrongly) then seem like too many traits.

    • Martel says:

      I think that’s the key problem (most likely). Women are part of “other” and not the default in their own right.

  5. Oracizan says:

    (As in the original post, potential spoilers)
    Dsicworld is ripe for the picking of diverse (at least in terms of age, size, and general demeanor) women. Granny Weatherwax is far and away my favorite as well, but here are a few other female characters off the top of my head:

    Susan Sto Helit, the gothic, no-nonsense granddaughter of Death. (Runner-up for favorite)
    Sally von Humpeding, a vampire member of the Watch.
    Tiffany Aching, a young, prodigious witch who is handy with a frying pan.
    Lady Sybil Vimes, an affluent dragon breeder.
    Conina the Barbarian, whose name says it all.

    I don’t know if you’d be able to scrounge up enough viable characters for a proper Discworld MOBA, though.

    • Nevard says:

      Adora Belle von Lipwig with a pair of golem bodyguards, perhaps.

      • nmarebfly says:

        Wasn’t there a golem that identified as female? Can’t remember the name.

        • Oracizan says:

          Gladys. That illustrates my last point – you’d have to really dig down into the C-list for viable female characters.

      • rusty5pork says:

        I actually think that Spike kept her last name. So, Adora Belle Dearheart. I may need to go back and read the last Moist-centered book.

        Anyway, she’s pretty much the best thing ever.

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          Phasma Felis says:

          I believe you are correct. IIRC, Moist asked her to marry him and she declined, but did consent to allow him to marry her.

          • Nevard says:

            I wasn’t sure myself when I was making the post and couldn’t be bothered to go find the book, so I looked it up online. The Discworld wiki lists her as “Adora Belle von Lipwig (née Dearheart)” but could be entirely wrong about it.

    • Jerkzilla says:

      Or they could just ask him to help out and come up with a few characters and short backstories.

    • cederic says:

      I decry any suggestion that Susan isn’t by far the best person of female gender in Discworld.

      There are well created female characters in all of the books, but the major one you did miss out is Time. Although.. now you’ve made me think about excessively old male characters alongside excessive old female ones (i.e. the witches) and if you leave aside the obvious (i.e. the wizards) you end up with: Lu-Tze.

      Now I really really want to see Lu-Tze meet Granny Weatherwax. It’ll be love at first sight. She’ll loathe and detest him and yet be unable not to admire him, and she’s definitely his sort.

      • Premium User Badge

        Phasma Felis says:

        I would have thought Cohen and the Silver Horde were the obvious first choice. :)

    • Jackablade says:

      While a Discworld MOBA isn’t a horrible idea, I think I might be a little disappointed if that was the first thing they did with the game license since Noir way back in 1999. Lord knows why no one’s had a crack an an RPG yet.

      • Nevard says:

        Telltale’s taking a crack at everyone else’s IPs right now right?
        Lord Vetinari will remember that.

      • Llewyn says:

        It’s not just disappointing, it’s very surprising that we don’t get regular DW games of various types. The combination of the books’ consistent sales figures, a reasonable overlap between his readers and gamers, and Pterry’s own long-standing interest in games would seem the perfect basis for a gaming franchise.

        Still, there’ll always be the Discworld MUD.

    • Hillbert says:

      Well, they could also have Ruby (female troll from Moving Pictures) but they’d probably just objectify her by covering her in layer upon layer of clothes.

    • arisian says:

      Given the title of the post, I’m amazed nobody has suggested any of the characters from “Monsterous Regiment,” since the whole point of the book was the gender-issues surrounding warriors, and the entire eponymous regiment was female. Some of them make better MOBA candidates than others, but certainly Polly, Jackram, Jade, and Maledicta were all quite combat efficient, and all have clear and distinctive visual styles and combat traits (the others weren’t really direct fighters, though I suppose the prophet or the Igor could be a healer and the pyro could…blow stuff up).

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      You forgot Ruby the Troll but of the books I have read (everything up to and including Night Watch) Susan Sto Helit is my favourite with Angua & Cheery being close seconds (probably because my favourite books are the ones centered around either The Watch or Death).

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Sybil and Susan are tied for second place for me, because cmon, Granny wins by default, glad someone already mentioned ’em.

  6. Jerkzilla says:

    Tbh if someone asked me to do concept art for a female character in a high fantasy, over-the-top setting, I’d probably have a lot more trouble than I would with a male character. It also feels a lot more difficult to stay away from laughable, caricature like unattractiveness hence the nubile young women with huge tits.

    • pepperfez says:

      It may feel that way, but it shouldn’t take much reflection to realize it isn’t that way. In cases like this, I think a gender quota would actually be liberating for designers: 45% male, 45% female, 10% monstrous/other. Then they don’t need to do the psychologizing of, “Why is this character female?”

  7. sicanshu says:

    I’d play the hell out of some Discworld. What about Tiffany Aching?!?

  8. Jamesworkshop says:

    I don’t think you get much variation in humans, two arms, two legs, two eyes, hands, feet,

    if you counted you’d have a much bigger list of similarities than dissimilarities between any pair of people

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      You worked really hard to ignore the entire explaination of what was being talked about here, didn’t you?

  9. The Courier1988 says:

    Nice to see Discworld getting some love
    Some other good MOBA females are Ayla and Raelynn from Awesomenauts. Ayla is a psychotic little girl with psychokinetic abilities in a prison vest and cape and Raelynn is a dispassionate Space sniper in a modest combat jumpsuit.

  10. SteelAngel says:

    Huh. Heroes of the Storm is only at 33 heroes right now but has around the one third female rate with 10 heroes being female or seeming female. (I don’t know if Zerg actually have sexes though the intelligent ones do seem to have genders they identify with.)

    Of these 10, Valla, Nova, Jaina, and Tyrande are fairly traditional slim women.
    Kerrigan also possesses a slim build but also has scales, spikes, giant bone wings, tendrils instead of hair, etc. and so is pretty monstrous.
    Sonya has a large build and thick muscles. Her arms are comparable to the leg width of many Diablo or Starcraft heroes in the game and she’s one of my favorite character models in the game.
    Hammer also has a larger frame but spends most of her time inside a siege tank so you don’t see it often.
    Lili is an anthropomorphic panda that probably hasn’t hit bear puberty yet.
    Brightwing is a faerie dragon with no humanoid features.
    Zagara is a zerg . . . thing. Starts very alien on the bottom, has a humanoid torso covered in chitin, and ends with a head like the queen from Aliens.

    The next known female hero is Sylvanas who will be another conventional slim woman. It’s hard to say who comes next after that but it’s interesting that it already has a similar overall gender ratio to more established MOBAs.

  11. Monggerel says:

    Fortunately for everyone, League has Jax.
    You must learn the legend of Jax to appreciate the legend of Jax.
    LETS DO THIS

    As a child of limited intellect, Jax was good at fights.
    As a teenager of limited intellect and little care for the world, Jax was good at fights.
    As an adult of limited intellect and zero fucks to give, Jax was good at fights.
    And so it came to pass that one day Jax showed up at the door of the League with limited intellect and a lifetime devoid of fucks given, and was good at fights.
    And the League looked upon Jax of limited intellect who was good at fights and decided Jax was too good at fights. So they took away the weapons of Jax.
    So Jax of limited intellect who was good at fights uprooted a streetlight and was good at fights forever. None could take away the streetlight for it shone with a brilliance so shiny, and brilliant, and was so good at fights that any who dared approach it simply dropped to their knees in lament.
    Thus ends the story of Jax, posessing limited intellect, good at fights.

  12. gadalia says:

    Although Artemis doesn’t break from the mold too much she’s completely covered and isn’t flaunting her chest around. But that’s still only 2.

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    artrexdenthur says:

    A Discworld MOBA? All of the yes please! Someone seriously needs to make that; given the lighthearted nature of the series, it would make a whole lot better setting for a goofy concept like a MOBA, than certain other properties that have been MOBA’d. Lord of the Rings, for example, has a MOBA (which just feels weird, since it’s a venerable and fairly serious property) and Discworld’s got way more characters that have featured heavily in a story; you wouldn’t need to make up characters or dig deep into a relatively uncharacterized lore.

    And of course, as was the point of the article, awesome and not-necessarily-eye-candy females galore.
    Susan Sto Helit OP please nerf!

  14. Makaze says:

    For Smite especially I’d say you can partially blame the source material. To a large degree the others as well as they all tend to take their queues from the same common mythological tropes at least to some degree. You’re taking 1000’s of years of culture that had fairly rigid gender roles and consequently based their stories, myths, and religions on it. You’re then comparing that to the relative (please note I said relative before the standard RPS frothing at the mouth commences…) gender equality that modern western society has and complaining that it comes up short.

    Like it or not most goddesses were either hot or monstrous. Any that weren’t have largely fallen out of common knowledge. I mean who remembers Hera when compared to Zeus, Aphrodite, or Medusa? Beyond which she hardly fits the action combat vibe of these types of games. What exactly is the goddess of maternity and marriage going to throw down in a team brawl…?

    Having said that I do think that the crone is an underused archetype. We have no problem with elderly but mystically powerful men, Merlin or Odin for example. Likewise Baba Yaga or Atropos (or better yet a Clotho/Lachesis/Atropos character that ages as she levels up) are templates ripe for inclusion in these games

    • HyenaGrin says:

      It is probably worth noting that Medusa was not a goddess, she was a gorgon. A most dreadful creature as far as the Greeks were concerned, but not a goddess.

      There were no monstrous goddesses, they were all nebulous ideals that shifted with the one doing the imagining, as one might expect of a fictional deity with no set physical visage.

  15. No Excuse says:

    It’s bizarre isn’t it? I used to battle reenact (17th century), and knew plenty of female battle reenactors: archers, musketeers, dragoones, pikemen, vikings, artillery, cavalry, the lot. And it didn’t seem in any way strange.

    Obviously it’s anachronistic, but the fact that they weren’t being asked to get their tits out or wear some improbably skimpy ‘armour’ or something counteracted that – the gear that people wear in war generally (surprisingly) covers quite a bit up and so your gender just isn’t really that apparent or significant. So if it isn’t a problem when historical realism is important, why does it seem to be an issue in a fantasy setting where it’s all about escapeism and everything is up for grabs?

    I think many of the comments above are right – the people who write these characters just can’t get past the idea that being a woman is the character’s ‘thing’. You could only get rid of this if the characters were basically totally written and designed and then at the end they just rolled a dice or something to allocate the gender. Then you might actually get more variety and (possibly) some more interesting characters – both male and female.

  16. maakeet says:

    Firstly I have to say a Discworld MOBA would be a pants-wetting-ly great idea and I would be first in line to jump on that bandwagon.

    However I have to say that for me a long-ish time LOL-er the idea of the representation of female avatars in Mobas is a non-issue I would have to say the most important thing to me and my friends who I play with, this includes several females people from several different ethnic backgrounds and 3 continents coincidently, is having fun crushing our lane and winning.

    As to the issue of the archetypes displayed being poor in themselves or in NEED of change because they have negative impact well that’s another thing but I can honestly looking at a girl in a bikini has never made me be sexist.

  17. Mechorpheus says:

    I love the hell out of DOTA (maybe even play it too much, shockingly), but even I struggle to defend the recent Phantom Assasin Arcana they released. Original PA did fit the ‘svelte, busty humanoid’ model as Pip put it, but was wearing reasonably effective, non-revealing armour. With the Arcana equipped, unless you combine it with one of a couple of other chest items, yea you don’t have to reach far to figure out what they were going for. They practically poke your eye out….

  18. Kerihk says:

    Thanks for writing this article. A lot of pieces in similar veins choose to focus on the negatives and the statistics without attempting to address any solutions. So thanks for taking positive steps.

    Personally I’m bored of busty svelte lady archetype – i’d love to see more variation for the same reason i like to see it in males characters – it enables me to have more fun!

  19. Kaeoschassis says:

    Well written article that got a couple grins out of me and really got me pondering, but really I’m just here because you’re preaching two of my favourite truths – that we need more variety in character designs – in all cases, but especially female – and that Discworld is something many, if not all creators could learn something from. While it’s absolutely not perfect, its cast of (often inhuman) characters feel far, far more human that the vast majority of folk from the vast majority of fiction. They’re more believable, more relatable, and yes, far more diverse.

    Aside from anything else, variety is just more FUN. You can take aside how weird or worrying it is that women are so same-y in games when men aren’t (as much), but at the end of the day, seeing and playing as the same goddamned cardboard cutout over and over again gets really old, really fast. As an artist myself, I’m willing to bet a lot of the designers coming up with these characters are getting frustrated too.

    If I could make a minor nitpick though? Don’t shy away from the word “fat”. There’s nothing wrong with it. There’s a lot less wrong with it than “overweight”. It’s an adjective, that’s all. It might have negative connotations in some cultures, but they aren’t going to go away if everyone treats it like the worst of forbidden insults.
    Real minor thing, but it stuck out to me.