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Author Topic: Well armed, large breasted women put people off games?  (Read 34350 times)
Clay
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« on: July 22, 2001, 12:36:00 PM »

I'm interested in taking up this thread about how women are depicted in gaming.  In particular, I want to assert that it may at times be appropriate to show some cheesecake.

1. Some women (and men) are quite capable of exercising power through their sexuality.  Think of Madame Mertuile from Dangerous Liasons as a fictional example, or Mata Harri for a historical example.

2. Appealing to the fantasies of gamers is not only acceptable, but essential to the concept of gaming--we don't game to portray Bob (or Julie) the Janitor, after all.

3. Stocking books with pictures of ugly people isn't going to do anything for sales.

4. I personally take offense to the idea that it's unrealistic or unflattering to portray large breasted, well-armed women as sensual.  The world is full of bossomy women and women who are well armed.  I can not only produce examples of both varieties, but the confluence of the two attributes.  I can also produce the men (all gamers) who can speak to the sensuality and sexual approachability of these women.

5. In the event that I ever get my own game to the point that I can use some art, I hope to illustrate it with photographs of the women mentioned in item 4 above.

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[ This Message was edited by: Clay on 2001-07-22 16:41 ]
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Clay Dowling
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Damocles
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« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2001, 01:21:00 PM »

If I were to discuss this with you, is there any chance that anything anybody might say could change your mind on any part of your position in the slightest?
I am asking because, from the above post, I am getting the strong impression that this is not the case. If so, I would not see a point in waste my and your time.
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greyorm
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« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2001, 02:24:00 PM »

Quote

If I were to discuss this with you, is there any chance that anything anybody might say could change your mind on any part of your position in the slightest?

The only way to change someone's mind is to present your case, and then you'll only be able to do so if it is a good case.
Painting someone out to be a fanatic because they've stated their beliefs with conviction is simply ridiculous.  You're being unfairly judgemental, as if worthwhile discussion can only occur with someone who isn't certain where they stand.

Honestly, if the above is the way you feel, why say anything at all?  It's a jab; it's essentially, "I disagree, but you might be a fanatic, so I won't waste my time besides saying I disagree.  (Ha-ha, neener!  Deal with that!)"

If you can't speak out on your reasons for your position, don't bother speaking out at all.  Either present your case or just don't say anything, because no one can respond to "You're wrong."  "Why?"  "I won't discuss it, you just are."  There is no socially polite in-between for this situation.

And conversely, if you want others to be open to changing their minds based on your presentation, you had best be willing to have your mind changed as well.

So, in my case, what would convince me would be hard, solid, scientific evidence based on a variety of reputable studies that explains why and how your position is accurate, and also equally and accurately explains my own experiences with the issue (as detailed in the other thread) without belittlement or legedermain of those experiences.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Clay
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« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2001, 03:14:00 PM »

It isn't entirely untrue to say that I'm a fanatic, since I intend to marry one of the women that I described.

That said, I am really interested in hearing an argument that can successfully refute the first four of my points.  It's also worth pointing out that I'm not necessarily supporting cheesecake for the sake of cheesecake.  But I do appreciate the art of Raphael Vargas, Boris Valejo, Julie Bell and other fantasy artists who seem to have captured what it is about the human form that intrigues us.  To put it more plainly, I like the photography in Playboy, and don't care for Penthouse.



[ This Message was edited by: Clay on 2001-07-22 19:24 ]
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Clay Dowling
RPG-Campaign.com - Online Campaign Planning and Management
James V. West
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« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2001, 04:44:00 PM »

This is a topic that gets heated up fast, but maybe we can all handle it like adults.

I understand your position. I agree with some of what you say. For example, I love the art of Luis Royo. Its very cheesecake, but very evocative of passion, of fantasy, of horror...etc..

In most rpgs, a woman without the proper weaponry wouldn't get far. Neither would a guy. Thus the "well-armed" part. The big-breasted part is a totally different story. That's purely cosmetic. In reality, women come in all shapes and sizes. But a fantasy game is not reality. You don't HAVE to depict people realistically in the art, nor in the rules. So, for my 2 cents, do what you want. Make a total cheesecake rpg if you like. Nothing wrong with it.

I do disagree with you about the idea that "filling a book with ugly people won't sell games". First of all, not everyone finds the same things appealing. Thus, a picture of a warrior woman weighing 150 lbs (and not all in muscle) would be very appealing to some. Empowering to others.

I'm a guy. I buy games (occasionally). I like ALL types of fantasy art, and all types of fantasy-art women included. I would actually be impressed as hell with a game that had the fortitude to depict non-supermodel looking women.

Now, I'm not railing against your claims. Like I said, do what you like. We all will anyway. I'd probably even look at your game and enjoy it. But if it really did look like Playboy models with swords and guns, I'd cringe a little and put it back. Its just not my taste.

The bottom line is, sexist depictions of women, especially in the fantasy arena (games, comix, movies) are overdone. They are often done with no more passion or reason than "put a chick there, it'll sell". That aspect of it disgusts me.

But you can like cheesecake, draw it, support it. Its all cool. No problem. I think what most people have a problem with is that many people use sex to sell, and they don't recognize, or refuse to accept, that they are indeed perpetuating a dangerous social imbalance.

But like I said, I like Luis Royo.

James V. West

P.S. jeesh this sounded rantish, didn't it? sorry about that.



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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2001, 08:33:00 PM »

cheesecake, and beefcake can be a useful tool in gaming marketing or in just the game in general...if it's appropriate.

Somehow I'm reminded of something Roger Ebert said about the movie Erin Brockovich.  SOmething to the effect of with what Julia Roberts is wearing, the last thing on his mind was tainted water.

I saw the movie and while I did indeed notice Julia's rack, I liked the movie because of the story it told.

There's this thing called taste.  A little done right is OK.  But too much or just a little done wrong is cheesy.  The secret is know how much is too much.
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Uncle Dark
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« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2001, 12:11:00 AM »

The thing about  Erin Brockovich it that the real life E.B. dressed that way.  It was a realism thing, not a cheesecake thing.

Clay-

Let me start off by saying I share your enthusiasm for well armed and well endowed women, in real life or fantasy.

While there are those who would rail against the art you mention just 'cause it's there, they are actually a (very) vocal minority among those who seriously think about critiques of the representation of women in commercial art (gaming or otherwise).  Most of us (by "us," I generally mean feminists) would not want to ban such art.  Hell, many of us enjoy it as much as the next sexually-attracted-to-women person.

That said, I would respond to all the points you intially raised with two of my own:

1) While I do not think that presenting women in fantasy art as buxom and powerful is demeaning or unrealistic, I do think that populating an entire world (or game) with only women who are both is unrealistic and exclusionary.   Where are the short, the scarred, the deformed?  Oh, I forgot - they get to be evil, the bad guys everyone wants dead.

The demeaning part comes in when you look at the subtext implied by limiting portrayals of women to only the sexy ones: You're only worth looking at if you look like this.  It isn't nescesarily demeaning to the women who really look like this, ibut it can be a subtle (and usually unintended) insult to the women who don't.

2) Setting aside for the moment the question of what such a limited protrayal of women says about our society and what we value in women, what does it say about the female characters in the game and what players of the game are expected to value about them?

After all, one of the reasons why art is included in games is to convey a visual sense of the setting and the situations to be expected.  If the heroines are big-breasted (usually) white women, and the young girls, old women, and not-quite-centerfold-material women are almost always victims, comic relief, or villians, what does that say about the game and the way the producers of that game feel about women?  What expectations about how women are treated in the game does it set up?

Granted, most adult (in age and in emotion) role-players aren't going to be brainwashed by the art in the manual.  But an informal survey of female role-players would (if it matches the sample of female gamers I know) probably turn up a disturbing number whose characters had bad experiences with the characters of male gamers who were perfect gentlemen in real life.  They must have gotten the idea that such behavior was acceptable of their characters somewhere.

Lon
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2001, 12:32:00 AM »

Right, taking these points one by one:

> 1. Some women (and men) are quite capable of exercising
> power through their sexuality. Think of Madame Mertuile
> from Dangerous Liasons as a fictional example, or Mata
> Harri for a historical example.

http://writetools.com/women/stories/mata_hari.html

Did Mata Hari exercise and exploit her sexuality becuase she CHOSE to, or becuase doing so was one of the few "valid" ways a woman could behave in a patriarchal society?  Thus, I consider the question mis-posed.

That said, Feminism is NOT a critiquer of exploitation of sex and sex appeal by women; it is a critique of the FREQUENCY that this is considered important (in circusmtances where it is usually irrelevant) in male-dominated society, and the relegation of women (such as Mata Hari) to a primarily sexual role.

> 2. Appealing to the fantasies of gamers is not only
> acceptable, but essential to the concept of gaming--we

It is most certainly not central to gaming; a fgame is an exchange, usually formalised, of action and response, and nothing about its nature suggests that it should be fantastic.  We usually address the sub-genre of "fantasy gaming", however, and it might be argued that some element of fantasy is obligatory.  True, but why should it be MALE fantasies, ane better, male fantasies about women?  If this is an attempt at fantasy for all, then why does so much of the art speak directly to male fantasy alone?  And why would, for example, the fantasy of experiencing a world in which you are MOT judged primarily by sexual grounds not be a legitimate fantasy for a female gamer?

Conflating "cheesecake" and "fantasy" does not get us very far.  The question remains: why this TYPE of fanatasy.

> don't game to portray Bob (or Julie) the Janitor, after
> all.

I bet if we did, Julie would have a more revealing janitors uniform than Bob.

> 3. Stocking books with pictures of ugly people isn't
> going to do anything for sales.

Really?  I have seen thousands of ugly men in RPG books.  Scarred, pimply, missing teeth, corrupted by Ancient Evil, mutated by Things Man Was Not Meant To Know... RPG's are full of ugly people - just male ones.  This is becuase the male role is not seen as beeing primarily sexual; men are introduced for all sorts of reasons, but women largely as objects of male sexual fantasy.  So we return to the original question: why is this double standard applied?

> 4. I personally take offense to the idea that it's
> unrealistic or unflattering to portray large breasted,
> well-armed women as sensual. The world is full of bossomy

That is a misrepresentation of the point.  The criticism is that when this is the DOMINANT form of the protrayal of women, it expresses a profoundly unhealthy, oppressive form of social behaviour.

> attributes. I can also produce the men (all gamers) who
> can speak to the sensuality and sexual approachability of > these women.

That is hardly surprising.  But then it would also be hardly surprising if this hobby failed to attract female players in any significant proportion, if you are comfortable with RPG's having as part of their function an appeal to the sexual proclivities of these male gamers.  After all, you can purchaxse the cunninglyu-named Swank Mag from the top shelf, why do these sorts of depictions need to appear in a hobby game?

> 5. In the event that I ever get my own game to the point > that I can use some art, I hope to illustrate it with
> photographs of the women mentioned in item 4 above.

In which case it is unlikely I shall purchase it.
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2001, 12:40:00 AM »

> The only way to change someone's mind is to present your > case, and then you'll only be able to do so if it is a
> good case.

Indeed.  The feminist case has been put in manymmedia and fora; "The Femal Eunuch" by Germaine Greer still being an excellent analysis of the oppression of female gender and sexuality.

> Painting someone out to be a fanatic because they've
> stated their beliefs with conviction is simply

It is a valid question.  I think if myself as taking a risk presenting this argument - I am likely to be accused of "political correctness gone maaaaaaaad" (Spitting Image), a critique I consider both an ad hominem and terribly ill informed.  But we shall soldier on.

> And conversely, if you want others to be open to changing > their minds based on your presentation, you had best be
> willing to have your mind changed as well.

In my experience, those who who object to attempts to rectify the clear and apparent gender balance in our society have already abandonded the evidence route - there is plenty of compelling information available - I was won to the argument myself, after all.

> So, in my case, what would convince me would be hard,
> solid, scientific evidence based on a variety of
> reputable studies that explains why and how your position

Well, depends what we class as reputable.  Have you ever read any of the feminist critique, by feminist authors?

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Fletch
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« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2001, 06:21:00 AM »

It is most certainly not central to gaming; a game is an exchange, usually formalised, of action and response, and nothing about its nature suggests that it should be fantastic.

You're right, nothing about games innately requires them to have anything to do with "the fantastic", BUT in practice those games which deal with "the fantastic" are far more widely played and far more commerically successful than those which don't. (ie: Cyberpunk 2020 vs. Shadowrun, Boot Hill vs. Deadlands, L5R vs. Sengoku)and therefore more germane to this discussion.

True, but why should it be MALE fantasies, and better, male fantasies about women?  If this is an attempt at fantasy for all, then why does so much of the art speak directly to male fantasy alone?

Because this is primarily a male dominated hobby and publishers are going to create a product aimed at their primary audience. But even games with a higher percentage of female players (esp Vampire) contain a large volume of artwork of "sensual" portrayals of women, so it would appear that those offended by that sort of artwork are an extremely small group.

 And why would, for example, the fantasy of experiencing a world in which you are NOT judged primarily by sexual grounds not be a legitimate fantasy for a female gamer?

It would be completely legitimate, and I can't imagine anyone arguing otherwise. But based on the buying habits of both men and women currently in the hobby, I doubt such a game based on such a premise would sell terribly well.

Conflating "cheesecake" and "fantasy" does not get us very far.  The question remains: why this TYPE of fanatasy.

And the answer remains: because people BUY it. The artwork will change just a soon as changing it will make a difference to a company's profits.

Fletch
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GreatWolf
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« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2001, 08:37:00 AM »

Quote

Conflating "cheesecake" and "fantasy" does not get us very far. The question remains: why this TYPE of fanatasy.

And the answer remains: because people BUY it. The artwork will change just a soon as changing it will make a difference to a company's profits.


However, should we be driven merely by the bottom line?  Aren't there moral and ethical considerations that take precedence?  I certainly agree that "people buy it" is the reason that cheesecake is used in many RPGs, but is that a good enough reason?

I think that we have a responsibility to evaluate these matters with a critical eye.  The indie RPG movement especially has no excuse for adopting the commercial behavior of the larger companies.  For example, we lambast companies like White Wolf or Pinnacle for their metaplots.  Why do these companies (and others) include these metaplots?  Because people buy them.  However, this argument has failed to satisfy many people, especially those here at the Forge.  Why is that?  Quite simply, there are certain principles that we see being violated by these metaplots.  Are there no principles at stake here?

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Seth Ben-Ezra
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joshua neff
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« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2001, 09:11:00 AM »

Quote
Conflating "cheesecake" and "fantasy" does not get us very far. The question remains: why this TYPE of fanatasy. And the answer remains: because people BUY it. The artwork will change just a soon as changing it will make a difference to a company's profits.


Here's what's problematic with that: the profits (& demographics that are the source of those profits) are unlikely to change much until the attitude & art changes, because the same "cheesecake-lovin'" people will continue to buy the games, & people who might otherwise be interested in RPGs, but are turned off by the amazons-in-chainmail-bikinis, will continue to stay away.

Personally, I will avoid a game that has lots of cheesecake art. As Lon said, I like "sexy" women as much as the next guy (although chesty women in chainmain bikinis is pretty far from my definition of sexy). But it symbolizes an attitude that I find pretty abhorent, & I do feel it marginalizes women who don't look like that (& men & women who aren't into that kind of art). I avoid beefcake art for the same reason.
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--josh

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2001, 09:25:00 AM »

Hello,

Warning: the following point is guaranteed to annoy.

Ethics are not policies. Ethics are about what *I* am going to do, or do habitually. Policies (and politics, the making of policy) are about what *others,* that is , *groups* are enforced to do.

So. If this thread is about ethics, then we can each take a little card and write down (1) what games I will buy based on their art/etc, and (2) what art/etc I will publish (should I ever) in an RPG. Then we will all have our little cards and show them to one another.

If, however, this thread is about politics, or some kind of RPG policy to be shared among us, then I have to ask, "Who is 'us'?" We are not a company, a government, a special-interest group, or frankly, anything but a bunch of hobbyists.

Even if, here on this forum, an amazing thing happens and we come up with a policy to adopt about "how to depict women in our games," so what? It's not enforced on anyone else. There is no actual "body politic" upon which it is activated. It would remain an expression of an individual ethic which (in this mythical instance) was shared among several people.

I do think each of us has to make some choices about what to depict in the games we publish and what to publish ourselves. I don't think we should make the mistake on inflating our views into policy-level pronouncements, and even worse, debating the matter as if we were setting policy.

On the first thread about these matters, I asked where the big "should" was coming from. "Should" women be drawn like this in games. "Should" we buy such a game. And so on.

My claim is that, in this case, the "should" remains an expression of a personal ethic. As there is neither body politic, economic control, nor any means of enforcement, it cannot be considered a transitive, policy-level "should."

Best,
Ron

P.S. My above argument cannot be analogized to issues that ARE at the "body politic" level. For instance, a person who claims that policies regarding prosecuting crimes of rape is "an individual ethic" is a moron. I'd appreciate it if no one were to ascribe such a view to me.
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Dav
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« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2001, 10:41:00 AM »

Echoing the opinions of others, I am asking if this thread is about a) what art sells best (and under what circumstances) or b) what art is the "ethical high-ground"?  We all know what the high-ground is, even if we don't like to admit it.  

However, while cheesecake art may help sell product, I am interested to know if lack of cheesecake art will have any perceived impact on the sales of the same game.  Is cheesecake art a general want/need for marketing, or is it as justifiably appropriate as other art in terms of a business persepctive.  I admit to a lack of interest on a personal level regarding art.  The walls of my apartment are white and I like it that way.  Just my opinion, and I know it won't fly in a design sense for RPGs, so Obsidian is chock-full of art.

However, aside from the beautiful cover that ideally depicts both male and female overtones (if not the figures themselves) with a full-color, high gloss quality, what else is needed inside?  Covers sell books.  Yes.  But does interior art do anything pro or con for sales?  And keep in mind, that, with the consumer pool being a conglomerate of both distributor *and* end consumer (as most sell to both on a direct basis nowadays), does the art of a game help one or both of these market segments?

My position, as if you asked, is that interior art sells to the end consumer, whereas the cover sells to both (but primarily the distributor).  Interior cheesecake art does support a "geek-culture" trend in gaming, but as business people (as you are when you have a product to market and sell, no matter what your position during the creation process), that geek-culture helps lend reliability to a very hit-or-miss industry.  

Ethically (and basing business ethic on the maxim of "it is the ethical position of any business to increase profits"), it is apporpriate to have some mixture of cheesecake to action to pinup art within a RPG book.  That is where it stands.  This bases itself on the realization that a) I have never encountered people that don't buy the book based on art that is "cheesecake" (more later), b) I have seen people not buy books due to lack of art (not a specific type being mentioned, just art), c) it is a general rule of marketing that sex sells.

Now, in regard to point a) above, I will say that I have encountered many people *online* that say they won't buy a book with gratuitous art, but I have never seen them when actually pushing product.  Thus, I take the online comment with a grain of salt.  This is not to say that they cannot exist, merely that they must (and by must I mean just that: 100%) be the minority, and a very specifically targeted market segment that most gaming companies are either unwilling or financially incapable of reaching.  It is a risk to produce games with no art, and also to produce games with no gratuitous art.  Half of business is narrowing risk.  Therefore, it is favorable to include buxom babes with spears held at suggestive angles.

Um, there is my 2 cents.

Dav
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Clay
Member

Posts: 550


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« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2001, 10:50:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-07-23 04:32, contracycle wrote:
And why would, for example, the fantasy of experiencing a world in which you are MOT judged primarily by sexual grounds not be a legitimate fantasy for a female gamer?


It might be perfectly legitimate for either gender.  I don't particularly enjoy being thought of as self-mobile genitalia myself.

You argued that fantasy is not an essential part of gaming.  If the game is chess, pinochle, or strictly a competition based on a set of rules, that statement is true.  I have trouble accepting that statement in terms of role playing.

Take as an example the two cat games being developed by Forge members.  If you live with an outdoor cat, you may well have had fantasies about living in their life for a while.  They live very dramatic lives without going further than the back yard, involving mass murder of small animals, bold challenges of the neighborhood dogs and late-night liasons under the pines--and that's just what my cat lets me see.  

The Double Standard

You rightly pointed out that it's very rare to portray ugly women, but fairly common to portray ugly men.  I agree that game publishers would do well to rectify this, and in my own game I will certainly deviate from this norm.  

Ugly pictures of models are going to be right out.  A decent photographer can take any model and bring out their beauty.  This same model which is the subject of a jaw-dropping photograph very frequently won't turn any heads walking down the street.  I intend to make use of this for both male and female models.  It's also a good chance for me to make sure that lots of people get to see me in evening wear.

As for the models I have in mind, there's a good deal more about them than their sexuality, and I hope that shows in the final artwork.  The desired models include a trainer of guard dogs, a veterinarian, a computer programmer, a school teacher, and a financial advisor.  Hopefully including this information in the artwork will make them more interesting.

Those Oppressive Beautiful Women

Quote

That is a misrepresentation of the point.  The criticism is that when this is the DOMINANT form of the protrayal of women, it expresses a profoundly unhealthy, oppressive form of social behaviour.


Could you explain how this is unhealthy or opressive, and who is being harmed?  It's also a feature of the very same escapist literature that good men are handsome, always consider the desires and needs of their wife/girlfriend/female colleague over their own needs, tender yet passionate lovers, and good providers.  Should we get rid of this concept as well?  As someone whose economic situation is currently precarious, I feel opressed by this expectation.

Judging the Book Before Its Cover

Quote

> 5. In the event that I ever get my own game to the point > that I can use some art, I hope to illustrate it with
> photographs of the women mentioned in item 4 above.

In which case it is unlikely I shall purchase it.


You'd rule out the validity of a game based on the bra size of the cover model?  Would you purchase it instead if I put a scrawny and unattractive male on the cover?  How about an attractive man in evening wear?  Or an unattractive woman?
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Clay Dowling
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