Lovely friend and colleague at Unwinnable Jenn Frank is not only one of my favourite writers about games, but she is also compassionate and intelligent and has come up with a great idea. Instead of complaining about the portrayal of breasts in games, why don't we make more games about them? Specifically, why don't we make games about all the different ways that we encounter them, and not just as some jiggle physics in Dead or Alive?
Read on for more details on the Boob Jam.
Yesterday, Jenn Frank accidentally got deodorant all over her left boob before an appointment, and as she earnestly blotted, she thought: why don't I make a game called 'Final Reality' where this was the reality of being in possession of boobs? Thinking further, she wondered what it would be like to be a 'sexy' videogame character who had to go and shop for bras, only to cry because nothing was in her size? Many women who have large breasts have this problem. Large breasts can give you back problems, and often people like Drew Barrymore opt to have them reduced. Breasts are a fact of life, and are a bodily part that belongs to someone, and aren't just for visual pleasure. I like to think that Boob Jam would be a way for women (and men) to portray boobs as not an extraordinary service to straight men , but as something that affects people and their relationships in many different ways.
What if a video game promoted breast health, narrated the terror of illness, or described the process of developing breasts, especially from a transwoman’s perspective? What if a game simply described bra-shopping? (It’s tough! It’s expensive!)
I remember when I first started actually getting a rack, and thinking, this is terrifying. And it was! Men started viewing me as something different than they did before. They started to feel like they could comment on my body. I started to feel like my body wasn't for myself any more, my own tool to make things happen. I started to feel like my body was for other people. Because my body was visually interpreted as being sexual from that moment onwards, I did absolutely everything in my power to try to deal with that. I wore giant jumpers to hide from the sexual interpretation: people criticized me for being frumpy or like a man. I wore tighter jumpers, people would make unwelcome comments. Jenn Frank wrote in her own very great piece 'I Was A Teenage Sexist' "First, I had to make peace with being a woman. Next, I had to make peace with being terrible at being a woman." I think every woman has to make peace with being a woman, because we are constantly corrected for all of our behaviour and looks, no matter what we do, and our not conforming is often used to discredit us in public arenas, even in politics, as has been the case with Julia Gillard, Australia's previous Prime Minister. It will be interesting to play games where boobs... well... have something to say.
What do boobs mean to a new mother, or to a new woman? To a person in actual, physical pain? What might they mean to a real superhero or armor-clad warrior? Or, if boobs really are sexual objects, who, besides straight dudes, can sexualize them?
No one is claiming that a great rack doesn’t have its place in gaming canon. But instead of having the same conversation over and over, why not try having a new discussion altogether?
Let’s demystify boobs!
- Jenn Frank
[Boob courtesy of Ted DiNola, from a concept by Ian Miles Cheong.]