Friday Flame Wars: Dragon’s Crown Boobs & Review Scores

Friday Flame Wars is a recurring feature on Game Front. We present a hot-button issue and then encourage a no-holds-barred commenting battle royale healthy debate within our community.


The early reviews of Dragon’s Crown have spawned a number of conversations this past week. Notably, is the game sexist? And if so, should game reviews take that into consideration? How well does levying the accusation of the game’s sexism hold up to scrutiny against the quality of the game itself? Should the entire game be judged on a single element, or should the criteria be broadened?

Polygon opened up a can of worms with their review of Dragon’s Crown, awarding it a middling 6.5 out of 10. While it would be unfair to say that the review was entirely focused on the sexist content within the game, it certainly held sway.

Here’s a snippet from their review:

Dragon’s Crown’s serious liberties with female anatomy are distracting. Two player characters — the Amazon and the Sorceress — are explicitly sexualized, with breasts literally bigger than their heads with rear ends to match, and plenty of the screen real estate is dedicated to their respective jiggles and sashays. But at least these characters are powerful women, with agency and a penchant for destroying rooms full of bad guys.

The same can’t be said for the female NPCs that fill Dragon’s Crown’s dungeons and other environments. Most of the women in the game are barely clothed, with heaving chests, backs twisted into suggestive positions, some with their legs spread almost as wide as the screen. They’re presented as helpless objects, usually in need of rescue. It’s obvious, one-sided and gross.

Was the reviewer fair to give the game a mediocre score, or is that allowing subjective bias to creep into an otherwise objective review?

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34 Comments on Friday Flame Wars: Dragon’s Crown Boobs & Review Scores

Nodding God

On August 2, 2013 at 11:14 am

Biased review. Letting your personal taste dictate what is supposed to be a fair and objective review undermines the credibility of the site. Readers were right to take the reviewer to task. However, GameFront did the exact same thing with Far Cry 3 as well as several other non-stories where the only gender issue was that someone involved happened to be female, so it takes a real brass neck to hold another site to account for this.

This obsession with sexism is beyond a joke now. The problem is clearly far larger than that – it’s a complete lack of fundamental understanding of character and storytelling within the games industry, seeing it as an afterthought, coupled with an over-reliance on violence as a gameplay crutch. The issue facing games today is not to do with misogyny, no matter how many times you try to tell us otherwise. The issue is that there are not enough creative or pragmatic minds in gaming, and those who are tasked with dictating the direction this industry takes are inevitably taking it in completely the wrong direction because they’re listening to people that they themselves admit they have absolutely no respect for. That’s what’s killing creativity in games, not some tenuous outdated view of the gender balance that’s based on condescension and self-loathing.

People judge and stereotype other people, they always have done and always will do. Get over it and focus on something important.

Ian Miles Cheong

On August 2, 2013 at 11:17 am

@NoddingGod, But I would argue that sexism IS an important topic. The fact that these inequalities exist as a part of the status quo gives us all the more reason to challenge it.

Saying “get over it” (which is what you’re saying, correct me if I’m wrong) doesn’t solve problems.

Mark Burnham

On August 2, 2013 at 11:56 am

@Nodding God I don’t think anyone is being “held to account.” We’re asking a question about a contentious review and inviting a discussion about it. No one is being accused.

Here’s what I think–it is perfectly within every game reviewer’s right to take whatever the hell they want into account when they review a game. ‘Objective’ review scores don’t exist. Reviews are opinions, plain and simple. If you don’t like the opinion of the reviewer, that’s ok.

Stranger2Night

On August 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm

I like how no one had a complaint when this gem hit the 3DS last year

http://forums.naughtydog.com/t5/image/serverpage/image-id/90727iB5F45056277D68DD/image-size/original?v=mpbl-1&px=-1

Anywho the game is looking to be a good solid game with art that harkens back to such fantasy art like that of Frank Frazetta

http://www.luisescobarblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/frank-frazetta-fire-and-ice.jpg

Dan Miller

On August 2, 2013 at 1:56 pm

If a game’s content is offensive to the reviewer, and it detracts from the experience, I would feel cheated if the reviewer didn’t mention that and account for it in the score.

Reviews should be entirely subjective in my opinion. I want to know what that reviewer thought, that’s why I’m reading the review. I’ve got metacritic to see what the broad consensus is, I don’t need a single reviewer to whitewash their opinion for fear of being called “subjective”. Objective reviews by individuals are unnecessary in a world where I have access to the aggregate ratings of dozens of reviewers.

To dip into the sexism for a second; I’d personally like games to have a broader audience. I make an effort to convince my girlfriend to try various games, and games that assume they will only be played by men typically fulfill that destiny. There is gratuitous sex and unsavory depictions of women in all mainstream media (movies, TV, books, music) and those examples are taken to task by critics. Video games shouldn’t be above reproach for senseless design choices that pander to a single demographic. No other form of media would escape criticism for what Dragon’s Crown chose to do in designing their women, and I’m happy to see reviewers hold video games to the same standard.

It's Shafs

On August 2, 2013 at 1:59 pm

I don’t normally post, but felt the need to add my 3 cents (inflation) to this topic that seems to be coming up TOO MUCH lately in my opinion. I’m tired of people pointing fingers at developers, film makers, etc. for including things that they deem sexist towards women specifically. Now I will agree that yes, it is somewhat sexist towards women having these characters in this game all hyper sexualized. But let me ask you all this: who is this game’s core demographic for a side scrolling beat ‘em up with beating the crud out of giant beasts and the like? I’m thinking it’s going to favor the 18-40 heterosexual males. And last time I checked, that group likes some sexy women. I know I do BIG TIME and I fall into that demo. Now is it necessary for them to insert this “smut?” Nope. But I think they somewhat chose to make the Amazon and Sorceress sexy, because otherwise, the general demographic probably wouldn’t really want to play them as much. Heck they could of just made them all dudes and called it a day. No females leads what-so-ever outside of that Archer.

But women stuff is guilty of sexualizing men just as much. Have you seen chick flicks where it, for no major propose, shows a guy’s body? I’ve been subjected to it not by choice, mind you. But was I so mad at this that I call out a huge “FOUL” and start protesting chick flicks? Nope, because I know who the demographic for that film was and honestly it doesn’t bother me. And apparently that goes for most of the men walking around in this world since I hardly hear a case of it. But even “guy” movies and things of that nature are guilty of sexualizing men too. Superhero costumes, huge buff dudes, whatever are shown all over the place. Have you seen a Calvin Klein underwear advertisement lately?

I think people need to CHILL OUT! Look, as long as they aren’t showing how weak women are, showing them as ONLY sex objects (seen but not to be heard), or any anti-feminist idea, what’s the big issue? At least this game has these characters as women that can hold their own and are main characters saving the fictional world. I think that says something a little.

wynams

On August 2, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Someone was probably offended by Michelangelo’s David and gave it a 6.5/10

Mike

On August 2, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Actually, the sorceress (a necromancer) follows the typical art direction for Vanilliaware games with their necromancers having large breasts since they’re based off of mythological fertility goddesses and they’re “giving life” to the undead. That’s neither here nor there however, since Danielle gave a terrible review. To quote Doctor Benway in the comments section of the Polygon review, “Neither politics nor religion and personal beliefs should be amongst the critics’ toolbag. Who watches the watchmen? Nevermind that: who criticizes the critics?” She had a single paragraph about “repetitive gameplay” and then goes on a tirade about the depiction of women. Concerning the art direction, (from comment by guiltygears) “This game takes far greater care to advance video games as an artistic medium than 99% of triple A games (which hold much greater sway over how the masses perceive videogames). The ENTIRE POINT is to recapture the fantasy created by Frazetta in the 70s-80s. That was the vision and that’s what they did. It can be gross and it can be gorgeous but they did what they wanted. Its niche and they know that.”

wynams

On August 2, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Everyone here is familiar with Danielle Riendeau’s review from Polygon which gave Dragon’s Crown a 6.5 out of 10? If not, she deducted from her score based on the objectivity of women in game.

I was browsing twitter, and saw where she was quite outspoken (gushing) over Hugh Jackman’s bod:
https://twitter.com/tigresaa/status/363177488886665217

Hypocrisy much?

John from ATLUS

On August 2, 2013 at 5:33 pm

It absolutely, 100% was fair. Games are individual experiences and reviews are about an individual’s experience with the game. Danielle admitted that the Amazon and the Sorceress, while drawn in a manner that she objects to, were still powerful characters, every bit as powerful as their male counterparts. Her issue with the artwork came from the other female characters that were drawn equally as provocative and shown as helpless or needing rescue. that’s a true statement, and a fair assessment from her perspective.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I don’t disagree with her review. It’s her opinion of the game, she didn’t get anything factually wrong about the game, and I know for a fact she put many, MANY hours into it, which is all any game publisher/developer should ever ask of a reviewer.

She didn’t like the game. That’s all, and it’s ok she didn’t like it. Just as you’re free to like or not like the game, but hopefully after you’ve at least tried to play it first.

Mark Burnham

On August 2, 2013 at 5:58 pm

@John Hardin Thanks for dropping a comment!

I happen to agree. A reviewer brings their personal opinion to the table. That’s all this was.

Kyle MacGregor

On August 2, 2013 at 6:36 pm

While I think Dragon’s Crown is a fantastic game (one of my favorite releases of the year thus far), I totally agree with Danielle that some of the content is definitely problematic. However, aside from the occasional eye-roll, it didn’t really impact my enjoyment of the game. I’m having a blast with it and think it’s possibly Vanillaware’s best effort yet.

Stealth

On August 2, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Everyone has different opinions, enough

Stealth

On August 2, 2013 at 6:42 pm

A review is an opinion. Its never wrong

Mark Burnham

On August 2, 2013 at 6:46 pm

@Wynams I fail to see the hypocrisy.

wynams

On August 2, 2013 at 7:15 pm

FWIW, my 2nd comment here I also posted at Polygon which resulted in my ban.

I appreciate GameFront allowing legitimate conversations to occur and not to moderate anything remotely controversial.

Your mileage may vary if you see any hypocrisy in Danielle’s review and her public drooling over Hugh Jackman,

wynams

On August 2, 2013 at 7:18 pm

@Mark … to each their own I suppose. How you cannot see “YESS” and “HEYOH!” as responses to a shirtless man’s picture not being objectification is not logical to me. No judgement though. I believe in the individual

pooleboy87

On August 2, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Umm…Hugh Jackman wasn’t portrays as having a massive dong much larger than is reasonable, or even an impossibly shaped body. Generally, people don’t have any problem with the inclusion of attractive people in media. I doubt she would have cared if you had said “man, the main character in this game is very attractive”.

I’m sorry you can’t see the difference between being OK with a male with an attainable body being heroic vs. women with boobs larger than watermelon, wastes the size of my wrist, and butts roughly twice the circumference of their shoulders being generally portrayed as totally helpless and inept.

Jay

On August 3, 2013 at 2:03 am

I expect reviewers to give there honest opinion, but I think that in this case the person was letting there personal bias get in the way to a degree. I also agree that the artistic style is a bit to much, and I love a well endowed woman’s body just as much as the next guy.

Jay

On August 3, 2013 at 2:52 am

I enjoy an attractive & well-endowed woman’s body as much as any man, but even with artistic license Dragons Crown takes it to far. It really does come off as juvenile and flat out gross at times. I’ve played a LOT of games with sexualized woman (DOA anyone?), this is too much.

Given that I feel that the reviewer got hung up on that aspect of the game to much.

Tigerza

On August 3, 2013 at 3:50 am

So it’s sexist to portray woman with big breast but it’s not sexist to portray men with six packs and bulging muscles like a steroid induced bull. Double standard much?

Zimzallabim

On August 3, 2013 at 7:27 am

I think the issue is a fair one, and that many of the characters in the game are grotesque, and as such, the game suffers as whole and does not live entirely up to it’s potential. However- I can’t abide by docking that many points based on something that is an element of the game’s style. Stepping back a bit- hot button issue or not, I really don’t care how you “feel” politically about a game’s representation of anything.

Does it play well?
Is it fun?

These are the things I find most important. I can look at the graphics of the game, having never played it, and see what they’re about. When I read a review, I want insight. My problem arises with the perception of a 6.5 game. Those games are usually lacking in some way that dulls the gameplay experience well beyond choices of style. From Danielle’s review, this is not the case. It’s purely an aesthetic thing. I don’t think I’ve seen very many games that are considered very good to great (gameplay wise) get dinged that hard for graphics. It’s the inconsistency of standards, not a double standard which irks me.

That said, I completely agree that the over-sexualization is a distraction and a negative one. It leaves me shaking my head wondering about George Kamitani, his team, and what could have been. It’s a sahme really, because without it, the game could have been perfection.

wynams

On August 3, 2013 at 8:37 am

One last comment … Apparently Danielle DID see some double standards going on as she deleted her comments on Hugh Jackman.

thedog

On August 3, 2013 at 8:55 am

@pooleboy87 No offence but where the heck are you from? Your statement was just plain ignorant ( not an insult, just not knowing). Number one, was her V stretched out so far a mac truck could drive through? Who cares. They aren’t trying to enlarge all…… sexual parts. Women don’t care about seen a giant bulge on a guy. Women look at guys differently than guys look at girls. Granted it will vary from person to person, but most like looking at shoulders, chest, bu-ts, eyes, and arms. They don’t go straight for the crotch, so that wouldn’t be important to a game designer unless the person is a total moron.
So yes, if your talking about what women actually look at. I’m sorry if you can’t see that or don’t know what women like.
Personally I know women who feel the same way about themselves. They feel bigger boobs are sexy and they want them. It’s sad but true. A lot of women feel they would look better with bigger boobs. That my friend is why boob jobs are so popular and so many girls have them.

Dan Miller

On August 3, 2013 at 11:29 am

@Wynam

1. you get banned from sites because you seem to just post, like, a dozen comments before anybody responds to them. And reposting screenshots of other people’s comments is often considered creepy, will get you reported, etc.

2. What you are failing to see in the comparison of Dragon’s Crown’s women and Wolverine is that in the former, women are sex objects who are hopeless to protect themselves (Danielle’s critique was centered on the NPC women, not the main characters). In the latter, Wolverine is a dominant force with agency who shapes the world around him to his whims and is literally unkillable, and happens to have nice abs as well. He’s also the protagonist (and I believe he “gets the girl” in the movie as well). Depictions of sexually attractive members of either gender isn’t, in and of itself, a problem. The problem lies with the depiction of attractive women as helpless and weak, whereas sexualized men are typically powerful and dominant. The reality that women have historically been disenfranchised and subjected to a large extent of our culture’s sexual violence is the driving factor in the distinction.

Preparetogame

On August 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Where to start….

first off, Arthur Gies hires an ACLU writing feminist to review a fantasy RPG from Japan that just so happens to be Sony exclusive. Microsoft supposedly funded and endorsed Polygon, so it serves them
to get sites to score Sony exclusives low, Dragon’s Crown (65), The Last of Us (75) and Ni No Kuni (65). That is at least 20% points lower than the average, there is a reason for that.

The only reviewers I have seen objecting to this are from the LGBT community, not sure about Danielle but she has written articles for the ACLU in favor of LGBT rights. I have nothing against the LGBT community, I have relatives who are LGBT and I love them just the same. I feel that is not fair to stamp out all sexuality in gaming just because they feel that LGBT content is lacking.

Kevin VanOrd (who is ) made the comment on twitter about the Gamespot Everquest review

“Kevin VanOrd ‏@fiddlecub 1 Aug
Reading @kasavin’s review of the original EverQuest and noted several sentences about the sexualized appearance of its female characters.”

the section of Greg Kasavin’s review I believe Kevin is referring to:

“t should also be mentioned that the game’s look – from the come-hither high elf on the box to the overly endowed female characters within – seems aimed at a male audience, which is unfortunate considering online RPGs needn’t confine themselves to specific types of gamers. ”

I replied to Kevin’s post that Greg was referring to the marketing of the game, no response.

I bring up Matt Lees (who is ) recent attack on Suda 51 found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqVpD31LAfs

My tweets to Matt (who does not work for Polygon), again no response

Matt I believe it all stems back to the whole Jack Thompson ordeal. Not feminism specifically but activism. Gamers were spooked by his “war” on violence and sex in games & they’ve pretty much set up this barrier to protect. I believe it would highly unfair to expect one culture’s artists to conform to another’s beliefs/morality.

There is a time coming when Arthur Gies and others are going to have to decide whether they want to be social activists or game reviewers because the results will play out again just like last time, ask Jack Thompson about that.

There is much, much more behind the Dragon’s Crown Polygon review than just a review and a score.

Mark Burnham

On August 3, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Deleted a couple of the Twitter links in here, redundant and unnecessary. Just to close the loop on this point (let’s move on…):

None of those tweets have been deleted, either. They’re still live, and honestly they’re harmless and in no way betray any sort of hypocrisy.

There’s a huge gulf between admiring someone’s physique, and objectification. When someone is objectified, they are stripped of their value as an individual, and treated as a mere sexual object. It is a perfectly reasonable, human thing to find other people attractive, and to say so. When you do that, you’re not objectifying anyone, not even close. But when you portray women in a game as big-boobed princesses whose only purpose is to look pretty and be rescued, different story

For my part I’m not offended by that, as it’s presented within the context of the game and in the end that’s kind of the point of the art. It may not be politically correct art that’s progressive in its portrayal of women, but there it is. It set out to do something in a specific tradition and it did it.

Stop This, Now

On August 3, 2013 at 4:34 pm

*Yawn* Another gynocentric egotist looking for reasons to be offended.

Most of the men and women who cry sexism at anything in which women are objectified are usually massively sexist themselves against men, for they don’t bother complaining about the way that men are constantly depicted as being boarish testosterone-fuelled lantern-jawed jocks who play videogames with their ‘bros’ and want to play a vapid meathead who treats women like crap. That’s just a given, right? If a victim of sexism or abuse is male and the perpetrator is female it’s laughed off or not even acknowledged. If it’s the other way around, it’s expected.

I’m sick of this patronising nonsense constantly trying to portray men as the oppressors and women as the perennial victim (that of course needs to be protected by white, middle class, guilt-fuelled men), it’s complete and utter rubbish. The amount of stuff women can get away with on the grounds of being ‘feminists’ – e.g. forcing mens magazines to be placed in ‘modesty bags’ while womens mags that are often far more offensive and objectifying of both men and women are not targeted – is unbelievable. There’s nothing wrong with being pro-female, which I would like to assume most people are. But when you start shoving your often disgusting, vile, bigoted opinions on people using freedom of speech and expression as your crutch, yet you try to deny both men and women the EXACT SAME FREEDOM when you don’t like their message, that’s a big sodding problem. It’s a bigger problem when you force it through legislature by crying about discrimination when it’s usually nothing of the sort.

Believe it or not, not every woman wants an all-male staff constantly jumping to its aid on stories that are at most only borderline gender-related. They can actually defend themselves on this. In fact I know a good many women, strong and independent ones with good jobs, who would absolutely cringe at the sick way you and others are exploiting gender issues to make yourselves appear progressive. They want to be treated equally, not constantly put on a pedestal whereby they can never be criticised and are always praised no matter what they say or do. And, funnily enough, they accept and often enjoy the fact that they are judged to some degree on how they look, so long as that’s not the only thing they’re judged on and it doesn’t affect how they’re treated as human beings. You know why? Because they judge men in the exact same way. It’s human nature.

Oh, and not one of these women has ever stated that they consider themselves to be feminists. In fact a couple have stated that they actively loath this term because of the way it’s been hijacked by sexists women trying to justify their misandry. So you’re not even representing women when you pedal stuff like this – you’re merely making yourselves feel superior for jumping on a bandwagon.

Women have tits. If you can’t accept that, leave society to the grown ups and stick to your sixth-form level understanding of psychology and politics in private so the rest of us don’t have to constantly tiptoe around your warped idealism.

pooleboy87

On August 3, 2013 at 7:27 pm

@thedog: “They feel bigger boobs are sexy and they want them. It’s sad but true. A lot of women feel they would look better with bigger boobs. That my friend is why boob jobs are so popular and so many girls have them.”

Where are YOU from? Never-never land? Gee, it’s sure not like there are ever ads at 3:00 A.M. that target the same insecurities held by men, right? No, your “Mac truck” comment was totally sensible. You can only compare parts of the human anatomy if they’re both genetalia…I’m sorry I forgot that rule.

Seriously, the reason behind the analogy is staring you right in the fact in this picture. If you don’t think attacking the insecurities of women is equivalent…then the only “ignorant” person would be you.

Have a nice day, and in the future I hope you are able to do more than just take a literal comparison between men and women.

Terra Rysen

On August 4, 2013 at 2:59 am

Not only was the review not fair, but the reviewer in question should have immediately been fired and blackballed. It’s hard enough to take reviews seriously as it is without some smug wanker abusing his or her position to further their political agenda. Useless, non-constructive ramblings.

thedog

On August 4, 2013 at 1:37 pm

@pooleboy87 Either you’re young or you don’t meet women much. Like I said, women don’t look down there like guys look at boobs. If you don’t believe me, go ask your female friends just how often they try to check out a guys crotch. So no, the comparisons you made were uneducated. Women look at the areas I mentioned before. Live and learn. I guess to you, a guys package should be as large as a woman’s boobs, or maybe just his balls. Yeah, truly a sexy sight to behold. That’s why doctors are scrambling to become nut doctors specializing in sack enlargements, and guys are lined up for peck enlargements as well. Duh!!! You should really learn what it is women like before you look foolish (oops. Too late).
I’m sure we’ll be talking again. Until then, have a great day.

csm5687

On August 5, 2013 at 1:49 am

Feminism = sexism. Clue’s in the name. Next.

Lee

On August 5, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Look I am all for gender equality however things like this should not be blown out of proportion. I have seen a great many offensive things on television, movies, and video games for both genders. Bottom line is this sexism is always going to bring its nasty head up from time to time. The best thing we can do is to bring it out into the light and show how wrong it is. I have done this plenty of times and it seems to help. Look I like my big breasted women as much as the next guy but I know video games, movies, and even anime is just fantasy. People who do not know the difference are idiots.

R.J.

On August 7, 2013 at 3:35 pm

If anything, this highlights the importance of reviews that go into more depth than simply assigning a score. The scores are largely arbitrary, and on their own don’t mean much. When you have a written review, then you can tell whether that person’s opinion is something that you agree with. I’d say that if something is included in a game/show/movie/ whatever, it counts as a valid point for an opinion. Sure, it’s possible for a reviewer to get hung up on a small matter, but again, a well written opinion will let you know if that is the case. I remember a few months back, a reviewer was catching some flak for placing a lot of weighting the fact that he didn’t like the humor in Borderlands 2 more than the gameplay. Since his opinion was written out, I knew why he didn’t like the game and I knew that my opinion differed from his.

In this instance, I know why the reviewer lowered her opinion, and I know that I don’t really care about what she found objectionable about the game, so I know that I should probably look elsewhere for reviews of this particular game. I’d find it far more damaging if the score was low, and the reviewer withheld the reasons for the lower score. As such, I would say it’s a valid opinion that I happen to disagree with.