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An open letter to game publishers: Please stop trying to make me feel like a Sleaze.

Dear game publishers,

Listen, I get it: sex sells. And I know we’re in this enlightened age where no one cares what anyone is into and no one is ashamed of their body (or at least those statements SHOULD be true and we’re working on it), but I belong to the gender that’s often accused of primarily thinking with their gonads and I’d prefer not to foster the image that that’s true.

One of the most egregious examples that springs readily to mind. [1]So the thought of buying products that look like porn makes me uncomfortable because even if I know that I bought it because it’s a great product, I know that anyone who sees me in the checkout line waiting to buy something that looks like porn “knows” that I’m just shelling out my cash because of the eye candy, which makes me look like a sleaze and like an unsavvy consumer who will throw money at anything with a hot girl on the cover.  Sure, none of their business, but that doesn’t stop me from being worried about what everyone is thinking.

You may say: “So what? Who buys stuff in a retail store with people looking at you anymore? Buy it online.” And sure that works, unless you want to support your FLGS, or you have friends who come over to game, or you have a family. Especially if you have a family. It’s one thing if total strangers think I’m a dirty old man, it’s definitely another for my family to think that, even if I know they know better (I hope).

It’s worse as I get older too. As a teenager and in my twenties, it wasn’t that big of a deal if people thought I enjoyed some softcore with my gaming. As I age, I fall into the decidedly different and much less favorable stereotype of “dirty old man”, so I’m a lot more careful about what I buy. This may be correlated with the family factor, or any number of other things, but the fact remains the older I get the less likely I am to pick up these sort of products.

And it’s not just products that are too sexualized for me either. Let me tell you a story about GenCon 2012: I was on my way to a game in the miniature hall, so I was craning my neck about both to find the right table and to see everything on display. I leaned close to a table as I walked by, saw it was a historical tactical miniature wargame about tanks and kept walking (If your thing is historical tank games, help yourself but they are Not My ThingTM). However, one of their staff had noted my interest and smelled a sale, so she interposed herself in front of me and started in on her spiel. It’s my own fault, but I am not the kind of guy who can quickly say “No thank you” and brush past someone, so I ended up standing in the middle of the convention hall trying to politely disengage from a salesperson. Now, to her credit, she was completely professional and an excellent salesperson, and if I didn’t hate parting with my money even more than I hate saying no, I probably would have ended up with a bright shiny copy of their game instead of a flyer and a promise to stop by their website. Here, however is the point: I know it’s kind of part of the con experience to drool over the women manning the booths, but it very much made me feel uncomfortable and desperate to get away standing there listening to a pitch from a lady half my age evidently cosplaying “Allied officer who lost half of her uniform jacket fighting the good fight”. While it’s true I was talking to her because she wanted to sell me something, to an outside observer I’m sure I looked like just one more of those guys who refuse to take the hint and leave the “booth babes” alone. Now maybe she was just a regular employee who just liked to cosplay (she seemed knowledgeable enough) and if I knew that was the case it actually wouldn’t have bothered me as much, but I suspect in the majority of cases these are “marketing event consultants”, hired for the event and talking to them just makes me feel creepy.

Now, in a rare moment of self awareness, I will admit that the frequency and degree with which this issue impacts me is fairly small and that certainly my demographic is not the one most impacted by these practices. The real reasons to cut this shit out, are the reasons that others will give you, but I’m of the opinion that all viewpoints, even the lesser ones can probably help lend weight to this problem. After all, the common argument goes “Sure it’s objectifying women but Money!!!” and I would like to point out: not only “Not MY Money!!!” for the correct morally highgrounded reasons, all of which I hope everyone has heard before, but also “Not MY Money!!!” because it makes me uncomfortable to be around.

I’d also like to point out that because these products are making an appeal to my gonads, the default assumption is that they’re lacking in other departments. “After all”, the thinking goes, “if these products were able to stand on their own merits, they wouldn’t have to resort to cheap tricks and try to fool me with dopamine.” Thus, product that prominently displays objectifying material is usually assumed to be poor quality or deficient in other areas. This may not really be fair. It’s hard to stand out on a bookshelf next to dozens of other titles, but no one says the same thing about epic battles, bright colors, or giant dragons, so why use the “notice me!” tactic that’s associated fairly or not with lower quality.

I actually owned this one. My wife bought it. No really. [2]Here’s an example of how this hurts gaming companies: This book with the fairy on it? I owned that. My wife wanted to run a Celtic themed campaign and she bought both the company’s award winning Celtic setting book and the fairy supplement. Turns out it’s not a bad book. Granted, I read it years ago, but I recall it being better than a lot of the glut of d20 material of the day, porn cover aside, and not only would I never have bought it in a million years because it’s obviously poor quality trash and I wouldn’t want to be associated with it, but I never would have even given it a cursory browse in the store to find out that it wasn’t as bad as it looked because if someone saw me browsing it I would have looked like some sort of pervert. This one-two punch keeps a lot of books firmly out of my hands. In this case, I very much did judge a book (an entire book line in fact) by it’s cover, and that judgment was not charitable. Maybe all the other books in that line were just as good as this one. I’ll probably never know.

I will also admit that (from my anecdotal experience) this issue has been improving. Both the examples above are over a decade old (which is by design. I wanted to grab some “iconic” offenders and I didn’t have the heart to go looking for modern examples and depress myself). But that doesn’t mean that things are perfect. There are plenty of game products with a high “squick factor” and even game companies with logos that are objectionable. There’s even a few products from a particular company on my shelf that appear fairly innocuous from the cover, and once you open them up, every woman in the book is lounging naked in a tree or is wearing a shirt open to the navel. In my opinion, in our role as GM, and thus in some capacity as de facto leader of our groups, we have a responsibility to step up and help cut back this kind of thing (mostly for the ideal reasons, but hey also because every book that we’re NOT uncomfortable to hold up in front of our group is a book we can use at the table).

From my standpoint, this means not buying these kinds of products, but it also means being open to disallowing sources in your game that one of your players is uncomfortable with, and it might even mean letting a gaming company know if you don’t care for their products. While some products are so obviously porn that no one is going to claim plausible deniability, other products may just be unintentional and a decent ratio of comments to sales might make a difference.

I’d also like to hear from everyone else. Are there products you haven’t bought, companies you haven’t patronized because they were too racy? Have you ever been or had a player be uncomfortable with a product that you or someone else brought to the table? Have any anecdotes or interesting experiences to share? Thoughts on effective strategies to deal with problems this causes?

99 Comments (Open | Close)

99 Comments To "An open letter to game publishers: Please stop trying to make me feel like a Sleaze."

#1 Comment By David Maple On February 18, 2015 @ 4:28 am

Perhaps you should go looking for some modern offenders, I can’t think of any off the top of my head. Even back in 2003 Avalanche Press’ covers were an notorious exception to the norm. It was a style they went with because it echoed back to the early days of RPG’s like the Runequest cover and some of Elmore’s more provocative pieces. It wasn’t common in the early 2000’s and it certainly isn’t much of an issue today.

Is there anything published recently that you’ve not bought because of the art direction on the cover or inside?

#2 Comment By Angela Murray On February 18, 2015 @ 1:42 pm

As jasales mentions below, there are Savage Worlds books with some unnecessarily scantily clad women on the covers for some of their splat books. The Horror Companion book from just a couple years ago is a good example: [3].

I’m sure plenty of people will give Savage Worlds a pass because it’s known to be a good product, but this is the type of ubiquitous ‘sex sells’ type of marketing that is the problem. Maybe their books aren’t as bad as the examples Matthew shared above, but they are a problem.

I do think modern trends are moving away from the out-and-out porn style covers, but there is still a long way to go in the presentation of women in genre materials. While they may be more covered, the sexualized poses are just as present as ever. [4].

#3 Comment By Patrick Benson On February 18, 2015 @ 4:15 pm

I think SW is one of the best game systems out there, and I hate the covers of the companion books. You have this great product line, and then these creatively lazy covers placed on them.

Editor – “What should we put on the horror book?”
Art Director – “Sexy female vampire?”
Editor – “Okay. The Supers?”
Art Director – “Sexy female superhuman?”
Editor – “Okay. The Fantasy?”
Art Director – “Sexy female warrior?”
Editor – “How do we tie all three together?”
Art Director – “Have them all be scantily clad sexy females?”
Editor – “Brilliant! No one has ever done something like that before!”

#4 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 4:33 pm

I’m running a Deadlands game soon and that horror companion is on my wish list. Herein lies the problem: Pinnacle’s Savage World line is generally well known and high quality enough that I can justify the purchase with “Well, you KNOW it’s better than it looks”, but why should I have to either not buy it or justify it? Why not just sell it with a vampires WITH clothes on on the cover?

#5 Comment By David Maple On February 18, 2015 @ 5:01 pm

A woman who’s chest area is completely covered by a cloak and groin by the the title, is too revealing? Wow, and that’s too much for modern standards. I think you might have been better picking the Fantasy Companion as an example.

Still do we want all the female characters dressed in burcas or something. If you look at the cover of the Delux rules the woman there is wearing far more than the man. If anything he’s wearing a similar amount of clothing as the Fantasy Companion character, yet I doubt anyone is going to complain about his state of dress.

#6 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 5:33 pm

Are we looking at the same picture? I see a woman “almost” dressed in body paint from just under her chest to her knees.

The Deluxe rules I think are a good example of how to do it right. The woman is attractive and has curves, but is, and this is important… wearing clothes.

#7 Comment By David Viars On February 19, 2015 @ 10:51 am

That is literally the mascot for Savage Worlds now. She appears on the cover of all of their products, and I think it’s a stretch to call her as being super “sexualized” on the cover.

She is appearing as a Vampire there. Vampires are beings known for their sexuality and are a staple of the horror genre. Given they used her on the cover of several of the other companions, it would have been remiss to not use her again on the Horror companion.

Is she meant to be attractive? Yes she is. Is there anything wrong with this? Not really. She’s positively tame, and I know for a fact, the Pinnacle Entertainment is not a company that’s big on sexualizing things.

This is really reaching.

#8 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 4:22 pm

Confession time: I told a little fib. I DO have some modern stuff in mind. I will say that it’s NO WHERE near as bad as the old avalanche stuff (to their credit avalanche has buried that line WAY on the back of their web age) or that WW cover.
I was hesitant to name names because there’s nothing AS EGREGIOUS as some of the older stuff, like I said it IS getting better, plus I knew that commenters would do the dirty work for me, and they have. Cowardly on my part, yes.

#9 Comment By zaq.hack On February 18, 2015 @ 6:32 am

Thank you.

Look, I wouldn’t mind plopping down some money for a book of scantily clad fantasy ladies. But when I’m confronted with some of these images in other settings, it is jarring and distracting. Especially around a table in the middle of a game, I’m looking for spell whatsitcalled or rule wherewasit, and I don’t need the hormonal distraction of “bewbz” in the middle of thumbing through the book.

#10 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 4:28 pm

There was one of these in the 2e 1st printing player’s handbook, wizard summoning a nearly naked girl with a lizard tail right next to the spell lists, right?

I have noticed a trend to make the covers tamer and put racier material INSIDE the book, as if to hide it from your parents.

#11 Comment By David Maple On February 18, 2015 @ 5:06 pm

It was still there by the 11th printing (my edition). Admittedly she has her back to the viewer, but the wizard seems very happy with his view.

Still a book from pre-2000 is hardly a good example of a modern trend to put racier material inside the book.

#12 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 5:26 pm

Two separate statements.

But check out SW Ex edition pg 23 for a modern example, where a literally completely nude elf is crawling around on a tree branch.

#13 Comment By David Maple On February 19, 2015 @ 3:43 am

To be fair that looks more like some sort of tree spirit that is emerging from the tree, since it could crawl under the moss growing over the leg.

Like the vampire you can’t actually see anything, except a bare backside in profile, thanks to the lighting.

Dryad’s are a pretty established fantasy creature, that probably shouldn’t be wearing clothes.

Certainly nothing there that is going to warp the minds of any children that might come across it, and lets be honest RPGs aren’t targeted at little children, but adolescents. Who probably appreciate a bit of titillation. Okay so nowadays, they can probably get access to hardcore porn on the internet (no matter what we try to delay that), but why should we deny kids the pretty innocent views of a woman’s midrift or thigh?

#14 Comment By John Robey On February 18, 2015 @ 6:39 am

What I feel is actually the most relevant point is buried at the bottom of this article: I also tend to assume that a sleazy cover means a poorly-written book.

There’s a similar ratio in film: the more heavily a movie is advertised, the more likely it is to be terrible. Quality products sell themselves.

#15 Comment By Scott Martin On February 18, 2015 @ 12:25 pm

In many ways, that’s my concern too. I assume, shallowly, that a company that’s trolling so hard that they’re resorting to porn isn’t concentrating on turning out a great book.

It’s not impossible to overcome; ebooks don’t really have covers that I pay attention to, so they often get by. And a strong recommendation, or hearing generally positive praise will get me to pick up any game. Without that though… I’ll pick up a game that seems to be a game, sold as a game.

#16 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 4:29 pm

Scott, I’m going to put you on the spot here. Feel free to ignore me. Is this your personal opinion, your opinion as a game store owner, or both?

#17 Comment By Scott Martin On February 20, 2015 @ 10:34 am

That’s my personal opinion as a gamer.

As a game store owner, we stock what we think will sell. Jennifer has moved good games to be less prominent locations (like Apocalypse World or the board game Tanto Cuore) though that’s not just a cover issue; Under my Skin isn’t a racy cover, but it’s less prominently placed due to the subject matter.

There are a number of products, like racy playmats, that we don’t stock and keep on the floor. We’ll special order it for you, but you have to already know what you want.

#18 Comment By jasales On February 18, 2015 @ 7:01 am

I love me my Savage Worlds but I don’t like the covers of the various companion books, so I don’t buy them. They are all T & A.

#19 Comment By Macona On February 18, 2015 @ 7:13 am

I agree, but I also fapped to the pictures you attached.

I feel like such a hypocrite 🙁

#20 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 4:33 pm

That is what we call “Too Much Information”.

#21 Comment By DarkTemplar On February 18, 2015 @ 7:22 pm

And, yet, somehow, I think that the target audience has been reached with a fraction of the intended effect — would someone consider this successful marketing?

#22 Comment By Craig On February 18, 2015 @ 7:18 am

Can you copy the Comic Book industry on this letter? My daughter loves superhero movies and games, but I feel terrible bringing her into the local comic shop (also the game store) because of all the titillating artwork on the covers of 3/4 of the comics on display.

#23 Comment By Angela Murray On February 18, 2015 @ 1:45 pm


I got into this hobby back in the late 80’s and was into comic books even before that. The sexism was just something I dealt with because I enjoyed other aspects of the entertainment. But now that I have friends with little girls starting to get into nerdy pastimes, I wish it weren’t still an issue.

#24 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 4:34 pm

And the video game industry too, am I right?

#25 Comment By Jeff M On February 18, 2015 @ 9:19 am

How do you feel about gore drenched undead on the covers of game books? or psychotic villains wielding Blood drenched swords and chainsaws? are those okay? How about an angry gnome with a meat cleaver? Are they more acceptable than a girl in a schoolgirl outfit holding a katana? or a red head in a chainmail bikini? As far as the gals at the conventions strutting around dressed like Vampirella and Chun Li, I have no problem admiring their efforts. I didn’t dress them like that. They did it themselves knowing full well they would be stared at. In fact, there are plenty of guys with toned bodies strutting around in Conan and Thor outfits at SD comic con as well. As far as gaming books, I’ve never been a fan of censorship or the hypocrisy that often goes with it. We can have dead people, pentagrams and demons on book covers and thats okay but, if there is a nipple protruding too far in the spandex, people get all riled up? If you dont like it then move along, show your distaste with your wallet.

#26 Comment By Alan De Smet On February 18, 2015 @ 10:36 am

Why is Matthew’s opinion on gory covers relevant? Maybe he doesn’t like them either. Maybe he sees an important difference between sex and gore. Maybe he, like me, sees at Gen Con few banners full of gore, few professional staff dressed gorily, few covers full of gore, what gory imagery is present is largely relatively tame, and no zombie cosplayers being creepily hit upon.

It’s nice to know you have no problem with cosplayers costuming as sexy characters, but completely irrelevant. Matthew at no point called for the end to them, nor did he say anything at all about hobbyist cosplayers.

I’m against censorship as well, and I’m going to go out on a limb that Matthew is as well. Thankfully no censorship is going on here at all. If Matthew engaging in criticism and asking for change to better serve him as a customer is “censorship,” so is your comment. Given the many complex factors in a product selling or not selling, I’d think publishers would appreciate getting feedback from their target audience about what they like and dislike.

Why are you so worried about this? Why are you so keen to discourage these conversations? Do you really fear that a post on a gaming blog is going to make a major change to what is produced? Hardly. Or perhaps your real concern is that lots of people actually dislike this sort of tacky advertising and posts like this are revealing that preference in the customer base. Perhaps you worry about a shift in society as a whole, and you worry that the market might adjust to better serve its audience, and that might lead to less of this sort of tacky advertising. If so, don’t worry about it. Society has been having this conversation about movies for decades and there remains no shortage of nudity and near nudity in film. And even if it does, I know for a fact you have internet access. I hear that there is no shortage of imagery of attractive women in various states of undress on the internet.

#27 Comment By zaq.hack On February 18, 2015 @ 11:00 am

I don’t think anyone is asking for censorship, just greater separation.

#28 Comment By Patrick Benson On February 18, 2015 @ 11:31 am

You posted that Matt should show his distaste with his wallet, and I agree with that point. Your comment implies to me that Matt should not have posted a blog article though, and also that this post was somehow related to advocating censorship.

I don’t see the connection to censorship in someone stating their beliefs and advocating for a change to be made. A private industry responding to a consumer’s request is not censorship. Government prohibiting free press and personal expression is censorship. Matt never mentioned anything along those lines, and he has a right to express his beliefs via a blog post like this one. Just like you can counter his points with your comment.

I just don’t see the merit in mentioning censorship here, nor do I feel that there is anything wrong with Matt trying to bring attention to this issue.

#29 Comment By Jeff M On February 18, 2015 @ 11:43 am

To respond to Patrick Benson: I never meant to imply that Matt should not have posted. If you got that from my comment then let me assure you that is not the case. I do feel the post could touch on issues of censorship, thats my opinion. But by all means, Matt has the right to post whatever he pleases.

#30 Comment By Patrick Benson On February 18, 2015 @ 11:52 am

Thank you for clarifying your position.

#31 Comment By Clawfoot On February 18, 2015 @ 1:36 pm

You didn’t ask, but MY opinion on having zombies and gore on covers instead of softcore porn is that hey, at least zombies and gore don’t make me feel objectified and devalued as a human being.

I mean, zombies may well want to consume me, but that doesn’t mean I’m okay with my whole gender being treated like a consumable.

#32 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 4:42 pm

Hey Jeff, good question. Sorry you got a little hazed for it. That’s why this is labeled “Hot Button” after all.

Anyway, regarding gore, I think we’re looking at something different. I don’t like gore much. I’ve got a bit of a weak stomach and it gives me the willies. But here’s the difference: If I stand in a gaming store with a gory book, or I have one sitting on my coffee table when company shows up, no one judges me. If I’m looking at “porny” stuff they do. Normally I’m all for telling people who are judgy about stuff to shove it (in fact I have a relative or two who offers to burn all my RPG stuff to help save my soul every now and then even AFTER I explain Pat Pulling to them and they don’t bother me) but in this case I think the judgy people are right. Unlike gore, this kind of material objectifies women, and I’m not getting judged for liking pornography I’m getting judged for actively or passively participating in and supporting that objectification and that’s something I don’t want to be doing.

#33 Comment By Jeff M On February 18, 2015 @ 5:36 pm

No problem man, I guess I see it as much ado about nothing- bigger fish to fry and all that. But thats just me – and I would never try and discourage civil discussion of any kind.

#34 Comment By Patrick Benson On February 18, 2015 @ 10:45 am

Here, here! I wrote about this on my own blog a few years ago: [5]

This isn’t about censorship. It is about how a product is packaged in order to set the consumer’s expectations.

#35 Comment By Jeff M On February 18, 2015 @ 10:59 am

To answer Alan De Smet, I’m not worried about this subject and I’m not keen on discouraging any type of dialogue. the Author posted his opinion and I commented on his post. My opinion may differ on the subject but it’s not worrisome to me. Relax.

#36 Comment By Clawfoot On February 18, 2015 @ 1:47 pm

I’m glad to hear this. From another perspective, if a book or product has something on the cover that is obviously and blatantly meant to titillate men, that comes across to me as a big neon flashing sign that says “THIS IS NOT MEANT FOR YOU,” even if it’s something I would otherwise find fascinating and wonderful.

I have no problem with eye candy, I really don’t. I have to admit that my love of Conan the Barbarian isn’t wholly based on the excellent writing and engaging plot lines. But eye candy, when used like this, can be really, really exclusionary.

It’s like a “no girls allowed” sign on the treehouse.

Well, I guess we are allowed, but only if we’re built like a barbie doll and don’t mind the chafing that comes with chainmail bikinis. And don’t have our own opinions on stuff.

#37 Comment By DarkTemplar On February 18, 2015 @ 6:45 pm

The same “THIS IS NOT MEANT FOR YOU” bell also goes off within the minds of “gaymers”, too.

As the main article stated, when something’s selling point is either the packaging (cover) or content relies on attempting to sell sexy women, the stereotype is quietly reinforced that the product is lacking in quality — or worse, that the content is geared specifically to a heterosexual male audience, particularly to those who lack a partner and/or need fantasy fodder. Most of us have an imagination, it would be nice to leave something to it.

I actually read this article when it came in my e-mail and I didn’t see the attached image. When I came to the website, I saw the image and went “whoa, they really put that on a cover?!”

As also stated in the main article, sometimes the judgement by a book’s cover is unfair — as in, such a book may indeed have quality content.

But, because most of us use our eyes primarily for almost everything we consume in sight, even if we don’t consciously judge, that mechanism just happens subconsciously.

For a gaymer, such material is saying “scan past me, someone who wanted to sell female sex was responsible for advertising this”.

We are on the verge of becoming really, truly aware of just how much women are objectified in our modern culture.

I wonder how many games wouldn’t sell if they juxtaposed a male figure with similar pose, attire, and such in the art pieces for their covers.

If you came across one of those yaoi bishounen pretty boys (and I know some girl gamers who absolutely would go nuts for it) on a cover, selling himself all sultry, I’m sure a number of males wouldn’t buy it at Barnes & Noble or carry it around with them (without covering it) without preparing a “well, it came like this” defensive statement.

And if that were the case, then it would be a “shoe on the other foot” situation, because people will justify “well, there’s no demand for it, so nobody produces anything with that sort of cover”.

Well, why not? As a social experiment, I think some amazing fangirl (or gaymer, or other open-minede male) with a passion for creating game mechanics and classes and such SHOULD consider creating something with a cover/package that uses that juxtaposition — or, better yet, create two: one with such a male, and one with such a female. Then, see which one sells more than the other. Or, if they only made a male one, see just how much it does (or doesn’t) really get popularity, and how much exposure it gets on the book racks at their local bookstore.

If there is even a single iota of rejection or debate to this comment, I think such reactions to these ideas say something about the fact that sexuality IS being intertwined in the advertisement and packaging/covers for game materials in our current age.

#38 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 6:56 pm

In our age of print on demand and PDF publishing, it actually doesn’t seem all that unthinkable for companies to produce multiple art variants of products to appeal to different player bases, although iirc there were jokes about “collectible rule books” in KODT in the 90s and I recall seeing message boards and forums where people, despite no company actually attempting to do it, got very upset over it.

#39 Comment By DarkTemplar On February 18, 2015 @ 7:03 pm

I think it would be more effective if conducted not for marketing’s sake, but as a social experiment.

PDFs are easy to make and make multiple versions of.

But if you have to open up the one PDF that you have for an excellent rules book, and upon the opener, every time, you have a giant, scantily-clad bloke with legs spread (kind of like that picture above on the faerie book, but male) and holding a sword suggestively…

…then, eventually, people will either get offended (and try to do something about it, like give feedback), get annoyed (if they can’t do anything about it), print out the rest of the document (so they don’t have to see it), or edit the PDF to get rid of the page (so they don’t have to see it).

#40 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 7:13 pm

With the right data set we could actually do some regression analysis on existing books and see the impact of such things, but we’d need sales numbers. Maybe someone from One Book Shelf could do it.

#41 Comment By randite On February 19, 2015 @ 12:34 pm

So the presence/implication of a sexuality beyond your own, makes you feel a product is not for you?

#42 Comment By Alice Gardner-Bates On February 19, 2015 @ 5:10 pm


#43 Comment By DarkTemplar On February 22, 2015 @ 7:03 pm

I think that the choices in art for covers, and content…

This renders such materials something that you don’t want out on your coffee table when your young children, sons, daughters, nephews and nieces are around.

I don’t personally feel offended for it from one standpoint — it doesn’t hurt me personally.

But, I do feel for those who do feel it, and why — logically, socially, etc.

The commenter who quoted that any statements made in, and any discussions provoked by this ‘hot button’ topic, about feminism are enough to invoke and support its cause, I believe that quote holds true.

The -ism is invoked because we must stand up when ground is given up, and there are endless -isms and ideologies in this world to find and stand in support of. Silence does not always mean we condone something, in contrast to Euripides — but that silence manifests in other ways.

It’s good to see the topic is getting discussion and highlight elsewhere.

Where do we want this attempt at discovering a better path to go?

#44 Comment By Konrad Zielinski On February 18, 2015 @ 3:10 pm

I’m a dad, I want to share the hobby with my kids. So yea there is a bunch of systems that I won’t go near because of the overly explicit illustrations. Now some of it is warranted, granted not all games have to be kid accesible. but in others its just thrown in there for no particular reason.

#45 Comment By Darthriordan On February 18, 2015 @ 3:15 pm

Actually that very book “The Little People” is one I refused to pick up and flip through. I’ve refused to use miniatures at my table because the female character was over sexualized. I run a game with at least one woman (my wife) every time and am raising a daughter. The last thing I want or need is to be ashamed of my hobby.
We are all judged by how others view our hobby, I am not going to be the one dragging the roleplaying game players down by clinging to outdated opinions and attitudes. I think a lot of gamers are with me in wanting to be seen as mature and inclusive hobbyists, unfortunately there are a few vocal people who just want to be jerks.

#46 Comment By Brian Bentley On February 18, 2015 @ 3:51 pm

This brings to mind the cover of Apocalypse World. If you have not seen it before, go do a google search. (NSFW) I think it is one of the few examples of a suggestive or sexual cover that is appropriate. Sex, desperation, weirdness and darkness are all strong themes in the game. It also sends a clear message that this game is not for kids. Vincent basically sells this out of his living room so it is not going to be on your average FLGS shelf.

#47 Comment By Patrick Benson On February 18, 2015 @ 4:08 pm

Good point and great example. Apocalypse World has a cover that I do not look at and think that it is sexually objectifying anyone. The cover is just too creepy to have that effect. Yes, she is a scantily clad woman on the cover but not for the purpose of being erotic. The cover is disturbing, and it sets my expectations correctly for what the game is about.

The Avalanche Press books though have covers that are at the core issue Matt is addressing with this post.

#48 Comment By Joe Johnston On February 18, 2015 @ 4:39 pm

Hey, you got your porn in my RPG!

No, you got your RPG in my porn!

Roll for initiative.

I strongly favor toning down the porn in RPG illos, or perhaps just having an “adult RPG” category. I got started in RPGs when I was 6-7. I wouldn’t have if the books feature giant yonis or phalluses on the cover.

#49 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 4:58 pm

iirc, there was a white wolf book that had a giant yoni on the cover, though it wasn’t exactly sexual.

#50 Comment By jaderpggm On February 18, 2015 @ 6:35 pm

Way to go! As a woman who’s been gaming since 1980, I agree with you completely, Matt. (And if you think people judge you for it, imagine the looks I get.

Sexualizing is much more than how much clothing a woman wears. It’s also in how she’s posed. You could have a fully-clothed woman, but if she’s posed like Penthouse Playmate, it’s still sexual. It’s still using women’s bodies to sell product. That’s what makes it objectifying: it uses sex to sell something totally unrelated to sex. I feel the same way about using male bodies posed sexually. (Then I get looks of pity).

But there’s also the other damage: it drives away potential customers. I’ve brought many women into the RPG hobby. Most of them tell me that they would’ve loved to have started gaming sooner except for one of two reasons: a) their local group didn’t allow girls (a separate issue) or b) they saw the covers of the books and assumed they wouldn’t enjoy the game, since it was obviously for guys. I can’t count the number of times I’ve looked at something with a highly sexualized woman on it and thrown it away or passed it by in the store. Why? Because I obviously wasn’t the target audience.

With more RPG products than ever and less gaming dollars to go around, companies can’t really afford to turn off a good percentage of potential customers. It’s true that big-name products have gotten better in terms of clothing coverage, but I still see a lot of illustrations that obviously used a Victoria Secret catalog as their pose models. (Note to all future or current illustrators: a woman cannot stick her hip out and turn half-way around at the waist to look back at you). Comic-book and computer gaming producers, I’m pointing at you too.

This problem is pervasive among all SF/F media. But that’s not a reason for RPG products to continue the “tradition”. Here’s a quick way for determining a “good” pose: if you swap out the woman for Aragorn does it still look okay? If it looks utter silly, then your picture is probably sexualized, no matter how much clothing the woman is wearing.

Some people have taken up this issue in a humorous way. Please support their work at [6], [7], and my favorite, [8], where Jim Hines tries to reproduce some poses.

#51 Comment By zaq.hack On February 18, 2015 @ 7:04 pm

Sexualizing is about context. A naked breast need not be sexual (feeding a baby, for example). Clearly, the examples on the original post above are intended for sexual appeal.

#52 Comment By Alice Gardner-Bates On February 19, 2015 @ 5:20 pm

all of this!

Don’t forget ESCHER GIRLS

#53 Comment By Tomcollective On February 20, 2015 @ 11:58 am

Those links are all really funny! I love when the internet does collections like this. It’s perfect at highlighting the absurdity in a lot of these poses. While we’re at it, let’s also give a well earned stink eye to anything Rob Liefeld touches, man and woman alike:



#54 Comment By randite On February 18, 2015 @ 6:39 pm

Ok, Matthew, so the crux of your article seems to be, _I don’t like covers like this because: feels. I am not going to spend my money on your stuff, if you have this loosely connoted “eye candy” in it. I don’t think I’m alone in this._

Which that would be alright, I guess. However, that kind of attitude results in ultra-bland, middle-of-the-road, empty-of-emotion covers on things, which I find offensive. (Actually just annoying, which still means I don’t buy that stuff.)

But here’s something shitty: Not buying this stuff because of “correct morally highgrounded reasons.” That’s condescending as fuck. Not everybody will have your particular views of human sexuality. Many people will just think, “she’s pretty” or “that’s hot” and then go look to see if the content inside is any good.

(And I personally see nothing wrong with the human form displayed in a sexual manner. Though seeing a somebody in heels in a dungeon is a bit dissonant and unapealing to me simply because that’s really impractical, and I like a lot of grit and verisimilitude in my worlds. Again, this is MY taste, and it ought to be irrelevant as fuck to those producing content.)

And the idea that sexualised images somehow taint nerdly pastimes and drives people away is also condescending as fuck. Human sexuality is vast and varied. It is not demeaning, nor morally wrong, until someone is being exploited or abused. A pretty, mostly naked person is neither exploitation nor abuse.

If it bothers you, don’t buy that stuff, talk about it bothering you if you must, create your own spaces in which to not have that stuff. However, when you start telling others that they should not make a thing the way that they want to make a thing, that is shitty.

#55 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 6:49 pm

Well, I suppose I should clarify that a bit. As I was writing this article I was worried that I was taking this issue that’s really about objectifying women, and making it about ME and how I feel, and that to me, seems like the epitome of male privilege. This issue does impact me but how it feels to me is really a very minor issue. What I meant by “correct morally highgrounded reasons.” is, the reasons that the demographic being objectified, ie: women (see several comments above where that is mentioned) will give you, whereas I consider MY personal reasons that impact me and how I feel rather small and petty by comparison, though not so small and petty that they didn’t bear airing.

So I’m not trying to say you’re bad for enjoying the female form, I’m saying that my discomfort is perhaps not the primary issue here. Sorry that I didn’t communicate that well.

#56 Comment By DarkTemplar On February 18, 2015 @ 6:53 pm

“Male privilege.”

I think this is an accurate nomer for this.

And based on current events, the correct reaction to ‘privilege’ is:

Look at what you are doing, acknowledge it, and then stop doing it.

I think this was a well-written and thought-provoking article, which encourages us to see what has been done, it acknowledges it, and now you left us with a final question:

How does one (or a community) deal with the problems (both seen and unseen, as noted by female commenters above who wrote about how ‘at a glance’, it looks like a game that wouldn’t appeal to them, based on the appearance and judgement thereof) that this causes?

What can we do about it?

#57 Comment By randite On February 18, 2015 @ 6:58 pm

So are the feelings of those that are bothered by this stuff more important than the feelings of those that wanted to make their product that way?

#58 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 7:05 pm

I’m largely unconcerned with the feelings of producers because if they are smart producers their feelings are “I feel I would like to make a metric butt-ton of money off this product. I also feel that to do that I should maximize my profit curve”

By expressing my opinions on this matter I’m hoping that it helps shift their estimation of the profit curve towards what I prefer.

#59 Comment By randite On February 18, 2015 @ 7:12 pm

Creating RPG stuff is, well a creative endeavor. Assuming a creator is motivated entirely by revenue seems insulting, and from everyone I’ve corresponded with and read in this industry not at all true.

#60 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 7:20 pm

I will agree that sometimes any creative endeavor is about more than profit, but given two options, neither of which are intricately tied to your creation but are merely “flavor” do you choose the one that leads to more or less payoff?

Obviously this does not apply if the cover art in question IS tied to your creation, but I think you would be hard pressed to explain how most of these pieces of art are integral to the creator’s vision.

#61 Comment By randite On February 18, 2015 @ 7:28 pm

Every piece of art should be tied directly to your work. Visual art is a huge part of conveying tone and emotional texture. If your art is at all unrelated to what you’re doing, I think you’ve done a bad job. Decry it for bad design, perhaps, but I don’t think you’ve got moral reasons to decry it.

#62 Comment By DarkTemplar On February 18, 2015 @ 9:28 pm

I think a good “moral” reason to consider the merits and demerits of such art being so prominent is as stated above — the visuals prove to be barriers to introducing young children (female, especially) and drawing in female gamers.

I agree 100% — visual art is so important, and it should have a direct bearing on the content.

If you put the sexy ladies (and perhaps fellows?) on the cover of “The Book of Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”, then it’s perfect — but there are places where more “tasteful” and clever fantasy art could be done and commissioned, which would be more relevant to the content.

I also think that, sometimes, as stated, some creators in the game industry aren’t making a serious profit, so they want to do -something- to increase profits.

Some game creators have to double as their own marketing and advertising — and it’s understandable that these choices are made, but there is a subtle, subconscious impact these artistic choices have on society at large.

It really is an artistic choice — and I think it’s safe to say that not everyone who works on mechanics and content for games is aware of how art truly has an influence.

Artists, also, are a sorely underpaid lot who don’t get a lot of pay, either. So, as much as they might understand the broader implications and effects of their art, those who need a paycheck are more likely to produce art-on-demand (as a “commercial” artist might — an artist who works for commerce AKA money).

Game creators who have to double as artists or their own advertising/marketing department probably haven’t had the education about the influences of art on society-at-large, and this could be a place where some intelligent discussions could start.

There IS a shift going on, though.

In the comic book industry, gay characters are being introduced.

In the most recent Final Fantasy series, one of the games features a strong female lead character who doesn’t sacrifice her womanhood. Even though you can play dress-up, and she does have a few revealing garbs, you have to earn them — and the game isn’t sold on that as a feature nor on her cover.

The dialogue has opened up, and some companies are on board with trying to be more forward-thinking in what they produce, without trying to water it down or make it bland, and also without trying to make it saucy.

#63 Comment By randite On February 19, 2015 @ 12:33 pm

The problem is that this type of art is NOT a barrier to young women/men/etc; it is a barrier to those with certain mores. Further, it is a barrier only to those specific products, not the hobby as a whole.

No creator has any responsibility to not offend you or anyone. No creator should feel a responsibility to anything beyond his/her own vision. (Of course making sure what you are doing actually conveys this vision is incredibly important. That’s where honest dialogue/discourse comes in.)

#64 Comment By DarkTemplar On February 18, 2015 @ 7:09 pm

That’s a great question.

And it’s really not for me to answer, either.

It should be for those objectified and those who turned away from buying the products because of such reasons, as the author stated — the silent voices of those who voted with their feet, those objectified and silenced by things such as “Gamergate”.

We can’t hear their opinions, because a majority current has said “we don’t care about your opinion”, and those who are outspoken don’t easily reach those who don’t want to listen to it, much less have a meaningful discussion about it.

If we could ask those responsible, and get an honest (rather than dodgy and evasive) answer, I think it would say a lot.

What do you think the people in charge of advertising and marketing (who choose what the cover and packaging looks like) would say?

#65 Comment By randite On February 18, 2015 @ 7:20 pm

If they have created their book for any reason beyond making the best possible book (from their perspective obviously), then their book is bound to be shitty, watered down, lowest common denominator bull-shit.

It appears as though, since you don’t agree with some choices in art, that you assume the only thing game makers care about is $$. If that were true, I am certain they would all be in another line of work. Nobody is getting rich off of this hobby. (And even if they were, it would be because other people have different taste than you.)

Show me an example of art in an RPG promoting exploitation or abuse, and I will decry from every avenue available to me. Show me some tits or dick in painting of a dungeon, and I may think that’s a bit silly, but I wont find moral trangressions in it. I wouldn’t tell anybody not to do it, either.

#66 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 7:30 pm

I think there are nigh infinite decisions that go into making any product and I think the impact each one has on the quality of the final product varies, so I don’t think it follows to say that any product created with secondary concerns in mind will automatically be garbage.

I’m also not sure of concept of “best possible product” even existing. So many of those options either don’t matter at all, or have many equal options, that there are an infinite possibility area of “best options”

This means that for many non-core decisions there are plenty of good valid options and you can choose from them based on secondary concerns.

#67 Comment By randite On February 18, 2015 @ 7:37 pm

I was hyperbolic, certainly. Unusefully so. Apologies.

I’m not certain there are ever a bevy of exactly equal options, but perhaps we approach design differently. Again, it comes down to taste.

#68 Comment By DarkTemplar On February 18, 2015 @ 9:58 pm

I feel a bit sad that even though “feministfrequency” on YouTube created the “Tropes vs Women in Video Games” series, I think it has been hated upon unfairly.

She does attempt to find the smallest instances and references, but this is where I think that the subconscious pervasiveness of historical maltreatment of women is literally just that: subconscious. It has become second-nature to promote those tropes.

I have seen many people consider “Grand Theft Auto” to be a Role-Playing Game (RPG) — and although it is not the classical definition (a *tabletop* RPG), it enables the game player to assume the role and attempt to play it within the confines of the game.

And once immersed, the little clues and hints are absorbed without many people thinking about it — it’s just there, it’s something you take for granted, and “it is what it is”.

But it could be something else.

It could be something more, something different.

Static art doesn’t have the same immersive quality and can’t “promote” abuse or exploitation.

There is a thing in art I’ve learned called the “gaze” and the default, assumed audience is a straight male.

By putting the female body on display through a cover (and content hidden behind it) or advertising/packaging, it assumes the viewer’s gaze is a heterosexual male.

Putting a male body on display would be to “flip the script” and in film, it usually ends up that the male being near-naked and objectified usually is either because he has been stripped of his privileges (a prisoner, etc) or because he is in contest with another male.

It then becomes “safe” to put the male body on display, because he is engaged in contest for his masculinity.

To depict the male body sensually would dissuade the (assumed) default male audience from wanting to watch it.

This seems to be applied equally effectively, though, to covers and content of the RPG books we visually consume.

You don’t want to alienate your audience, right?

So, to do this to the female body invokes a totally different set of standards.

It’s been done since a century ago, when we finally could create films — the male body only goes on display when he’s in contest for his masculinity, and the female body goes on display for… I can’t even list the number of potential reasons you could finish this with, but “to titillate” [the assumed/default audience/gaze] comes to mind.

I think some of these concepts apply outside of just film, and I am introducing them here because I think awareness of these automatic assumptions will help to bring potential solutions to light.

We cannot solve these problems in the same frame of mind in which they originated.

#69 Comment By Jeff M On February 18, 2015 @ 8:52 pm

One must also consider the people who enjoy this type of art, “Cheesecake” whether its the male or female form has its fans. and whether anyone wants to admit it, the sales figures show that this type of art has an audience otherwise comic, video game and rpg companies wouldn’t use it. It isn’t just males who find this type of marketing appealing. there are women who enjoy expressing their sexuality, who enjoy the chainmail bikini or exposed mid riff fatigues. They may not be posting on this forum but they are out there. I know of several.

#70 Comment By randite On February 18, 2015 @ 6:56 pm

How does a naked broad with a sword objectify her? Or for that matter, that mostly naked ripped dude on the cover of the 2e second printing? I read the above comments, and they too were essentially “I feel this way about this”.

#71 Comment By DarkTemplar On February 18, 2015 @ 6:59 pm

If the immediate word that came to one’s mind to describe a lady was “broad”, then I think that the subconscious bombardment of objectification has become so proliferant that one has been desensitized to being sensitive to the fairer gender.

#72 Comment By randite On February 18, 2015 @ 7:06 pm

Broad pairs well with dude in tone and sonic texture.

But I used a word you do not like so obviously I am oblivious to the travails of women.

And you answered my question by telling me I am incapable of understanding the problem. That is a markedly unuseful way to communicate.

#73 Comment By DarkTemplar On February 18, 2015 @ 7:19 pm

Connotation is everything.

I did catch myself once I saw “dude”, and agree with you about tone and sonic texture. It’s not often, though, that I hear the word “dude” used to disparage a male, whereas it seems the connotation of “broad” historically downplays the class of the woman in reference.

I attempted to avoid targeting you, specifically (I attempted to say “one” because I am sure others probably thought similar to you, and think in much cruder terms), because due to desensitization (pervasive in modern society), it seems more “acceptable” to use such language.

I left it open to offer anyone reading it to choose to put themselves in the shoes of “one”, and see how it felt to think of themselves in that position.

I didn’t attempt at all to say that you were incapable of understanding the problem. In fact, posting on here is an indication that you are able to understand and confront this problem in your own psyche, and look at it from a broader viewpoint (as society and culture).

But what about people who are much more closed-minded, who won’t even dare hear more viewpoints than just their own?

The quality of discourse on this topic, posted publicly, is an open attempt to get those people, especially the ones in the advertising and marketing of games, who may not be aware of how they are affecting entire subsets of people.

What can be done about it, though?

#74 Comment By randite On February 18, 2015 @ 7:25 pm

People who are afraid of other viewpoints have got know their own is flawed or weak (I may be wrong but I cannot conceive of another reason for it). I tend to discount them as unimportant.

I had noticed you used one, but it was in direct response to my statement so I felt it needed to be addressed.

The only thing to do? Cotinue to have a discourse as directly and honestly as possible.

#75 Comment By DarkTemplar On February 18, 2015 @ 10:08 pm

Some people aren’t necessarily afraid of other viewpoints, but, rather, just haven’t been intelligently exposed to them.

Ignorance can be both willful or unintentional.

Other people justify their viewpoints with fallacies that they truly believe — and it takes an incredible amount of logical argument to persuade them otherwise.

Some don’t even realize the fallacy they are using, and would need a solid lecture and class in logic in order to understand things such as “ad hominem” and so forth — and perhaps only after that, they might understand “ah, my argument is flawed!” — but you won’t be able to get them to understand or admit that straight out of the gate.

There are a variety of people out there in the roles of choosing the art that goes into product, and each one has a different viewpoint, education, and belief.

And it is difficult to get some of the more rigid (even if well-intentioned) minds to try on a viewpoint they just aren’t used to (and keep conscious of it as they go about their jobs).

As Douglas Adams said, trying to see things from others’ point of view without proper training can be dangerous.

These discourses we have here must “set the example” and not degenerate into lower-quality arguments.

Likewise, those in positions of power that can direct the art for a project must also “set the example” without degenerating to appeal to the more ‘base’ senses and desires.

#76 Comment By FrugalGnome On February 18, 2015 @ 8:00 pm

Hear, hear. My stepson and I were recently doing a lot of Google searches for character images for a game we’re starting; it was disheartening how quickly every search trailed off into cheesecake when you added the tag “female”. Not all, but many, of these images were from professional publishers.

My stepson’s pretty awesome, though, and proposed that our world was no place for women who weren’t smart enough to wear armor over their thighs and cleavage.

#77 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 18, 2015 @ 8:08 pm

Try this site:

#78 Comment By FrugalGnome On February 18, 2015 @ 8:09 pm

Ha, thanks! Exactly what we need.

#79 Comment By Cassandra On February 18, 2015 @ 10:16 pm

My husband had a similar issue several years ago. He got involved in a pirate-themed game, and the GM gave him a copy of the book (“Black Flag”) as a gift. He took one look at the cover and said, “I can’t take that home to my wife!” Yet he said the content inside was good. That content (of all the books) is the reason Tabletop Adventures bought the rights to the line.

Matthew wrote, “Maybe all the other books in that line were just as good as this one. I’ll probably never know.” So, if you had the chance now, would you take a look? If the books were updated with less-suggestive artwork, might you give them a go?

#80 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 19, 2015 @ 6:19 am

Based on my experience with the line and your endorsement I would feel comfortable buying or recommending them if they were de-cheesecaked.

#81 Comment By Tomcollective On February 19, 2015 @ 8:09 am

Now that I’ve gone and gotten my popcorn…

I’ve been seeing a lot of these type of complaints on my facebook feed lately. The type being “This gives me bad feels, so I’ll post a link to an article and SOCIAL JUSTICE that shit”!!

People leave comments. Many times they argue, badly and unfairly. Words like “patriarchy” or, as seen here, “privilege” get used. Everyone leaves feeling just and enlightened.

Meanwhile, nothing actually changes.

With regards to “privilege”, “patriarchy”, and all that, let us please remember that while we’re arguing over what pictures of warrior princesses we do and do not like, women elsewhere are being bought and sold, sexually mutilated, and must live under the oppression of ACTUAL patriarchies. Educated women are being intimidated and killed for the crime of having their own opinions.

Some of this is happening with far more regularity, and much closer proximity, than we might be comfortable admitting.

Some of it is happening somewhere else in the world.

But I do hope all involved will forgive me, and my language, when I say that I really don’t give two barbie shaped shits about naked ladies on a book about elves and wizards when –

– no girls, none, have ever been brought back (#bringbackourgirls).

– when the US military is the last one stupid and backward enough to deny women the right to officially serve in combat units.

– when that same military has what actually does qualify as “rape culture”, and silently condones and encourages violence against the women who serve.

– when it also remains statistically so hard to secure a rape conviction in civilian life that it is in fact quite possible for a sick individual to commit the crime with impunity.

– when sex slavery is still booming, at all, anywhere.

– when female circumcision is still a thing, at all, anywhere.

– when actual violence is dismissed as an artifact of a culture or an institution.

Someone else here said that if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. But for several reasons, many also stated here, I don’t quite believe in “voting with dollars” if one truly has a problem like this. Writing and posting the article to a prominent industry site is a step better, but still in my mind a bit too close to the “post a link and SOCIAL JUSTICE THIS SHIT” instinct that seems to pervade.

I have two problems with this instinct: 1) Proportion. Is this REALLY a problem, like, for the world? Do we honestly believe we’re doing our part for [CAUSE] by making a ruckus over…this? 2) Effectiveness. Is initiating a long thread in web comments REALLY causing an actual ruckus, one that will get the attention we want it to get? Do we really have that much faith in our ability to bitch on the internet??

Has anyone thought to contact the publishers and ASK THEM about their covers? They probably have a web site. And people interested in the opinion of those who, by most accounts, want to spend money on their books.

My point is not that anyone is wrong for having an opinion. I happen to agree that high heels and chain mail bikinis are dumb. I think that manga thing in the first image barely qualifies as human, much less sexy. But really, who cares what I think? And who cares that I just shared my opinion here? If we want to be the agents of social change that the internet is convincing us we are, we need to do more than post comments or even articles. And we need to care about more, much more, than this. We need to remember where to actually aim our efforts. We need to engage. We need to deal with these things at their source. Start these conversations at their source. Take action by taking actual action.

My glass is raised to the participants here for keeping this thread civil, and the author for gathering this peanut gallery. And for my contribution to this topic I ask that we all remember the true enemies and evils in the world, and that we do have the power to overthrow them.

It just might take more than an open letter about fairy pictures. (Ack! I say that with all possible kindness and respect!!)

#82 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 19, 2015 @ 7:56 pm

So I will agree that those things are worse than my complaints, but I don’t see why the fact that there are multiple items that need to be addressed means we can not look at all of them. That seems to me (note I am not an expert here) to be a common fallacy that we will address the lesser issues when the big over-arcing issues are solved. I also think it warrants mentioning that our society’s objectification of women my be a contributing cause to those other issues.

I also get that this is low on the actionable line item scale. Honestly I was hoping that with a large enough soap box and consensus that that would be enough. Perhaps naive as hell of me.

#83 Comment By Tomcollective On February 20, 2015 @ 11:44 am

My personal question is which is the symptom and which is the disease? Still, one can never fault any attempt to promote social justice, so even if one’s efforts are imperfect, the fact that the effort is made is commendable, and ultimately helpful.

I find the consensus here that such covers are annoying/distracting/not helpful very interesting, and perhaps indicative of a disconnect between publishers and the buying public. Makes me wonder how much the sex is actually selling.

#84 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 20, 2015 @ 3:53 pm

When you get into causality, the science gets murky as hell. and to make it worse there are variables which have a cyclical impact. ie: objectification causes more violence, causes more objectification, causes more violence. The math involved can get very tricky.

#85 Comment By Tomcollective On February 19, 2015 @ 8:10 am

PS – Love the tumblr link.

#86 Comment By randite On February 19, 2015 @ 12:37 pm

Matthew, your article is being discussed further in other venues. I thought you might like to be aware of this:


#87 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 19, 2015 @ 5:22 pm

Thanks! we’ve got a system that picks up pingbacks. It’s got some kind of algorithm that filters out things like Facebook posts. I have no idea why it didn’t return those two. I’ll notify our tinker gnome and see if he can figure it out.

#88 Pingback By Thoughts on Game Book Art | Cirsova On February 19, 2015 @ 1:29 pm

[…] not going to spend a lot of time weighing in on the latest hubbub stirred up in a pot of Gnome Stew, but did want to note a few […]

#89 Comment By Yora On February 19, 2015 @ 1:41 pm

I run the site D&D Demotivators, which is simply a big collection of RPG memes. The posts which both got by far the most notes both fall under the [14] category. People have strong oppinions about it.

#boobplategate ?

#90 Comment By Smon On February 19, 2015 @ 1:55 pm

If the thought of being spoken to by attractive underdressed women truly horrifies you, I hear there is a new startup in the Middle East between Iraq and the Levant that’s looking for recruits.

#91 Comment By randite On February 19, 2015 @ 1:59 pm

That is a vicious and uncalled for thing to propose.

#92 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 19, 2015 @ 5:19 pm

I appreciate your attempt at snark, but I’m not sure the proper response to my failure to buy into a cultural aspect that objectifies women, is to move to a culture with aspects that objectifies women in the other extreme.

#93 Comment By FrugalGnome On February 19, 2015 @ 9:26 pm

Lewis’ law: “Comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.”

Whether or not you’d tag this article with that -ism, the incredible defensiveness it’s provoking (comparisons to ISIL, or the blog post Randite linked above) is itself a good demonstration of why this article was needed. Hopefully someday it won’t be such a toys-out-of-pram situation for male hobbyists when a co-hobbyist calls for less cheesecake in the artwork. But we’re clearly not there yet.

#94 Comment By Smon On February 20, 2015 @ 2:15 pm

Well, I was talking about his reaction to the cosplayer. The 12 year old sexploitation artwork he brings up is indeed pretty crap. Might have been worth an article in 2003.

#95 Comment By Sabrina On February 19, 2015 @ 11:38 pm

THANK YOU! As a female, this has scared me away from many systems, especially because I’ve got young kids in my house. I have a copy of the Mystic Game Master Emulator where I’ve colored over all the scantily clad women with a black pen so that I could have that book open at the table.

Things are getting better for some comic book females. Ms. Marvel (or Captain Marvel now, because I’m talking about Carol Danvers) got a costume redesign that actually makes her look powerful instead of like a prostitute. Spider Women is getting a redesign as well. Emma Frost is, well… still Emma Frost. But from what I’ve seen her costumes are actually physically possible now, which is a huge improvement. Now if DC could just give Wonder Woman some sleeves to hold her costume up, I could start believing that these girls actually intend to fight with their fists and not the rest of their bodies.

It’s articles like this that are going to make the difference. We need to let publishing companies know that we don’t agree with this. I’m not saying that this isn’t perhaps appropriate for sales in some sort of genre. (Thankfully a genre I don’t play.) But why does it have to interfere with the fun of all the other genres as well?

#96 Comment By Angela Murray On February 20, 2015 @ 11:32 am

I don’t have a problem with an occasional Emma Frost. She’s the type of character who would wield her sexuality as another weapon at her disposal and she has never (or rarely) made to seem weak because of it. But that only works if she’s differentiated from the other characters. Having the heroes (I guess Emma is a bit of an anti-hero now) dress equally sexified defeats the purpose of a character like Emma.

I really do appreciate what they’ve been doing with Captain Marvel, though. I have high hopes for her movie. 🙂

#97 Pingback By This Week In Roleplaying – February 20th, 2015 – RPG Alchemy On February 20, 2015 @ 1:01 pm

[…] An open letter to game publishers: Please stop trying to make me feel like a Sleaze. (Gnome Stew) – My initial reaction to this was I agree, but then I really thought about it.  […]

#98 Pingback By Invulnerablog » Article » A Thought On March 1, 2015 @ 10:53 pm

[…] Is the perfect answer to this: [15]; […]

#99 Comment By Richard Ferguson On March 16, 2015 @ 5:49 pm

As a Christian (yes, we do play RPGs too), I feel that I have a responsibility to not buy or peruse things that would make the casual observer say, “Dude, is that porn?” So, yes, companies who insist on doing the pseudopornographic art does lose customers. I explicitly did not buy The Little People book because of the art.

#100 Comment By DrGerm On March 16, 2015 @ 5:50 pm

I (maybe for one?) don’t like this recent movement for political correctness in fantasy gaming. I fully admit that scantily clad females are fully welcome in my fantasy RPG world. This is fantasy, which by definition includes all the cool (and sexy) things that don’t exist in the “real world”. So, lay off my cliche ‘chicks in chainmail’. Unlike the OP, I’m fully comfortable with my manhood and gladly willing to buy your products in public, thank you.

#101 Comment By Shelby Dawg On February 15, 2017 @ 11:07 am

Having known a few of the writers, publishers and artists being reviled in the article and responses, I posit a paraphrase of an Elmore answer at DragonCon a dozen years back. It sells. If nobody BUYS it, it doesn’t get done again. Elmore has made a living off bare skin and nubile elf-babes for decades and the same SJW BS was said back in the 80s. He keeps selling and his more PC competitors are stocking shelves in Omaha (true, he went bust and is back in NE, but not Elmore) or shifted to the same philosophy.

Do I want to take an Avalanche Press book to church? No more than a Victoria’s Secret catalog! Have you seen some of the comics that are current? Carl’s Jr ads? American Girl has a ‘lingerie’ section in their DOLL catalog! Find a real car show that doesn’t have swimsuited hotties lounging on cars. Even the guys at the Atlanta show were picked for buff and beautiful. Ernest Borgnine did a commercial a decade back, remember? Hannah Davis Jeter sells something on TV, but for the life of me, I can’t remember What! Probably too far the other way.

Like it or not, entry into rpgs is still primarily young, white males with weak social skills and they will SEE long before they read. Same reason Wonder Woman comics sell (I just read them for the story! …yeah). I’m not going to put a Lena Dunham lookalike on a book that I barely had the coin to publish. Granted, I wouldn’t use a smut queen either, but there is a pic out there of a young Winona Ryder-esque as a vampire that would sell a thousand copies on a book of rejected crap. Not even a plunging neckline (A girl wore her version to DragonCon a few years back, awesome in black velvet!). Our hobby has changed a lot, my favorite GM is the wife of a longtime friend who only started playing after their last child went off to college and nearly half the table is female most nights. I know of two all girl tables at local colleges and a group meets in a back room of a local gay bar on Tuesday nights and blacks sit at each game. A far cry from a dozen pasty white faces with a Latin GM (still the best GM I’ve ever had).

As for age appropriateness, I’ve seen sharpie solutions and had books banned from tables for similar reasons. But the same goes for pets, kids, crying babies, nursing babies, cats, booze, drugs, failure to bathe, political shirts (by the candidate’s wife!), cats and more. There are several games I do not feel comfortable with and avoid for numerous reasons. If you feel uncomfortable, bring it up out of game. If the ‘so-called dm’ won’t address the problem, leave. Your blood pressure will thank you. Mine dropped almost 20 pts leaving one game. Let the other players know and they may agree and join you.

In the above game, a female player refused to play a Cha based race/class to not give an excuse for the male PCs and NPCs to hit on her in game. She bailed a few games after me.

#102 Comment By Jorge On November 10, 2018 @ 1:41 pm

Hey, mister, it’s not the 80s any more. Sexatanic Panic only makes you look like a man who expects to be patted in the back by naively like-minded people.