I don’t play MOBAs, but if I did, I wouldn’t play Nival’s Prime World. “But why’s that?” asks Nival’s hypothetical marketing guy, Mr Hypothetical Marketing-Guy. “We’re even offering big incentives to female players, like cheaper DLC female characters!”
I’ll get to that in a bit, but in the meantime, there’s the game itself. Or, somewhat more specifically, at least for the moment, the game’s art direction.
Over on Nival’s official website, there’s an image of a female character that’s overwhelmingly dominated by lightning bolts an improbably proportioned sword the bum sliding out of her panties. Which are only visible, of course, because some magical gust of wind has lifted her skirt. Not that it matters, though, because that skirt isn’t long enough to cover her bum anyway. I’m not even going to get started on that wedgie.
Now, admittedly, I’ve not (yet) fought on either side of a post-apocalyptic war for a dying world’s last precious resources, but if I did, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t go in my undies. Especially not when the men are apparently all being issued full plate armour. I mean, where do I sign up for some of that because I’m catching my death of cold in this stuff, and we’re not even chucking axes at each other yet.
Nival’s mistake is assuming that the genre – and maybe, by extension, gaming in its entirety – doesn’t appeal, as creative producer Larisa Nuretdinova puts it, to “sisters and girlfriends” for some reason that has nothing to do with, you know, everything about it.
Because, honestly, this is a genre best known for its exceedingly hostile, verbally abusive, adolescent (both literally and figuratively) male community. Also, tits and ass. I wonder why “sisters and girlfriends” aren’t interested in it. Wait, no, I don’t.
I’m not sure which is worse, either – that developers are still stuck on the outrageously over-sexualised female character model as the default, or that they think women are too stupid to realise it.
Yes, yes, it’s all pretend-pretend. So why aren’t we pretend-pretending the men in bulging hot pants? Because it doesn’t work like that. Even though, statistically, loads of gamers are women, games are still mostly made for men. Because when games are made for men, women don’t complain, but when games are made not even necessarily for but just to include not-men, men complain.
The big idea with Prime World is that men and women are given some bonuses for playing characters of their own gender, as well as discounts on those characters. As Nival’s Sergey Galyonkin explained, “It just we often see female players being harassed by hardcore community, so they often have to hide the fact that they’re female.”
So close, but he totally didn’t think this one all the way through, did he?
Nival’s plan here is to appeal to women not by making a game women want to play, but by making a game that points out to everybody else that “HEY, THIS IS PROBABLY A WOMAN OVER HERE, EVERYBODY”. That’s not the same thing at all, and if anything, it’s only going to make harassing women even easier. And they’re not helping to change any of that with character designs that only reinforce the perception that women are just things to look at.