Why haven't I played Arkham City yet? Sluts.


So we're hitting the end of November, and these last couple months have been overloaded with blockbuster titles. Most of them are pretty damn good, and although I haven't played it yet, I assume Batman: Arkham City is one of those "damn good" games. Many friends have already told me as much, including Heath (kik36), who reviewed the game for us (read it here).

So why the hell haven't I played this game yet? I mean, I loved Arkham Asylum to death, and I consider myself a long-time Batman fan. I grew up on the old animated series and Michael Keaton movies, and some of my favorite comics star ol' Bats, including Grant Morrison's Batman R.I.P. Yeah, you should read that too, by the way.

Back on the subject. I've been thinking long and hard, trying to figure out how Arkham City wound up at the bottom of my "to play" list. I know it's a good game, so why is it sitting below everything else that came out after it? I think I've got an answer: sluts.

Yeah, sluts, of the female variety. Since I write for Neoseeker, I'm constantly being bombarded by screenshots, artwork, and trailers -- every piece of media intended to generate more hype among the masses. Unfortunately, this sort of thing can backfire, and I can't tell you how many times I've thought, "Goddammit, I am seriously sick of this game and it's not even out yet!" Still, if it's just a case of overexposure, I can actually get over it pretty easily. Assets mostly seem to say, "Look how fun this game is!" or "Look at how gorgeous these graphics are!" But then you get something like Arkham City, which says all that and, "Breasts! Boobies! Tits! Bazongas!"


Honestly, Catwoman is usually portrayed with her suit zipped all the way up. She's sleek, sexy, and I usually love her as a character. And then I saw her in Arkham City assets, her suit zipped way down to expose her sternum and ample cleavage. Uh, really? You know those cupcakes tend to flop around with movement, and that's super painful. This isn't Soul Calibur, goddammit! Zip up that suit or prepare to experience unparalleled agony!


Hey, look, they even defy gravity!

Okay, fine, at least Catwoman still looks like Catwoman, just with more skin. Thank God they didn't shove her in a leather fetish outfit with weird belts and buckles and-... Oh, right, forgot that's what happened to Harley Quinn. You remember Harley, right? She used to have that cute red-and-black spandex outfit?

I know you guys found it sexy as hell, because enough folks have told me as much. It wasn't exactly a classy getup, her '90s costume, but it suited her as an accurate reflection of her bubbly personality mixed with a touch of sex appeal. So when she popped up in Arkham Asylum looking like this, my brows were immediately raised. I didn't wholly disapprove, because the mask was still there, and her outfit was still a blend of cute and sexy, just with a greater emphasis on the "sexy" half. That was my desperate attempt to justify it, anyway.

When Arkham City took that even further, a part of me died inside. As more trailers and screenshots popped up, that part continued to shrivel and decompose. I slowly began to wonder if, maybe, this just wasn't meant for me. "Well," I thought, "A lot of gamers seem more than okay with this, so who am I to complain? No one is forcing me to play it."

Honestly, it could have been worse, as I realized after seeing this concept art. In that context, the final Harley we ended up with is quite subdued. Doesn't really make the game any less appealing on that front, though.


"Yeah, I don't know how I manage to breathe in this thing either. Miracle of science?"

Ironically, Bruce is probably the biggest slut in the actual game (short of Poison Ivy), but you don't see him wearing that on his sleeve. Oops, I guess he is actually a "playboy," since he's a dude.

After being fed this consistent stream of breast 'n' butt shots over the course of several months, it began to really stand out. Instead of thinking about how fun the new gameplay looks, all I end up with is an unshakable belief that the game is not catered toward me as a gamer. The same issue has come up again and again in the comic book community, especially with the fairly recent drama surrounding sex-bot-Starfire. I won't get into that here, but the gist of the argument is social reform within an entertainment industry.

While reading about the Starfire problem and discussing it with some fellow geeks over the Internets, I argued that video games, unlike mainstream comics, were actually moving forward in this manner, as major titles like Halo and Gears of War work female characters into the mix, making them just as bad as the boys without taking their femininity. Anya and Sam may have curvier forms than Marcus and Dom, but they wear the same armor as the bros, because contrary to what we're led to believe, breasts do not make us impervious to bullets/sharp objects -- appropriate protection is required in combat.

Unfortunately, this portrayal of women in video games is not yet widely accepted, so for the time being, I consider it a much-appreciated luxury that I hope will one day become the norm. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to Skyrim, where I can equip Leather Armor and not wind up in a bikini.

I'll get to Arkham City eventually, just not any time soon.

gaming related arkham city batman arkham asylum feminism

Responses (28)

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SPAZwazza Nov 20, 11
Sums it up pretty nicely.
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Celes Leonhart Nov 20, 11
Have you read the recent Catwoman run? It basically consists of Catwoman sleeping with Batman and being hot. And that's about it.

As much as I think sexualisation of Harley might be going overboard (which I personally don't think it does) Catwoman has always been a sexualised character. If you look at the likes of Year One even then she's a prostitute who uses her allure as power, but even with this portrayal she still remains one of the most important characters of the Bat family. While the looks are a huge part of a character, looking no further than recent Detective Comics runs show how integral she is to the canon: Batman ends up torturing Scarecrow in the Heart of Hush storyline to save her, and while it may seem a 'damsel in distress' like role, she's clearly a huge factor.

Yes, Catwoman has her zip undone in the game. I get that, and it should be done up. But the game offers you a choice whether (with Catwoman) to be the hero, or to walk away from things, and leads to an interesting game decision if you pick the latter; but the importance is that Catwoman is both DLC, and not integral to your gaming experience if you so wish, and two, the person that saves Batman (whether you thought it was well done or not). Yes it's over the top, but it's not discrediting in the slightest.

If you want to avoid titles that are caught in right-wings positions, I'd more gladly point you towards the likes of The Witcher that makes a mockery of women, but with Arkham City it's moreso sticking to the foundations of a character that are already set. Even Talia throws that on its head, despite, again, her sexualisation.
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RabidChinaGirl Nov 20, 11
Celes Leonhart Not a fan of the new Catwoman either.

If you're okay with Arkham City (or comic books) as is, I'm not objecting. But the main point is, this portrayal is the main reason I don't play the game, especially after being exposed to is day after day, month after month. After a while, I got this feeling that this game is geared toward a different audience. Anyway, that's all in the long-winded blog post above.

And I'm not saying Arkham City is the only game to portray women in a manner that I'm not fond of. Just happens to be the main focus of this post because it's the game everyone's bugging me to play!
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Celes Leonhart Nov 20, 11
In all honest RabidChinaGirl, I love Catwoman and I'm still enjoying the run. Maybe you can credit me as simply being a man and the sexualisation being a key factor, or maybe it's down to Judd Winick being one of my favourite Batman writers following Under the Hood; but at the end of the day, I do enjoy it, and I still completely value Catwoman as one of the most important characters in Bat-lore.

With the likes of Arkham City, with my wholesome truths I'll tell you it's not as coherent a story as Arkham Asylum, and experience wise, it probably won't meet it. But the but is, the gameplay is improved on every single level, and it's still a great experience (and arguably the greatest superhero game ever made.)

If the Catwoman characterisation is really an issue, I'd honestly recommend skipping the DLC altogether - it's not that great anyway!

Regardless though, great blog, I have no idea how I stumbled here (Twitter I think) but it's great to see something interesting!
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Celes Leonhart Nov 20, 11
Ignore the typos haha, 5am typing ftl
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RabidChinaGirl Nov 20, 11
Not a problem. Insightful comments much appreciated, even with typos.
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RazielX947 Nov 21, 11
It's video game alterations like this that always dissapoint me. I known that thhey don't intend to make it seem bad, but come on. Can't they at least keep Batman characters from looking like sluts? I agree that Catwoman and Harley's original costumes were better.
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kik36 Nov 21, 11
Very interesting take on the Batman T&A approach. To be honest, I never thought about it. Just saw Catwoman and Harley, let out a small whistle and went about my way. The more I talk to you, the more I think I'm nothing more than a sexist pig. LMAO

I love women's curves....though I'm more into the realistic women. Plastic women don't appeal to me. While Catwoman may be flaunting quite a bit of skin, at least her breasts are much more realistic. Since I enjoy women as much as I do, it's very simple to dismiss how it might affect female fans. It does suck to have to apologize for my desires and sexuality, as I feel comfortable enjoying those treats.

Perhaps the devs are just as me, and find it hard to see why anyone would object to seeing sexy shots of beautiful women. I'd love to see your idea of how to market something with sexuality that would appeal to women as well. It may be the developers don't fully understand the alienation they are causing. Maybe they need to see it from someone's perspective such as yours.

I got your back, as long as you still allow me a glimpse of a curve or two.
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RabidChinaGirl Nov 21, 11
TBH I'm not totally against the unzipped suit thing (unrealistic though it may be) so much as the way she's been flaunted. From the beginning, WB has marketed the game using Catwoman and her assets, when it turns out she's not even a large part of the game, and her playable portions are actually DLC! So why exactly did they keep shoving her in our faces? Because they figure T&A sells.

They could have released different shots of her from other angles, but instead, that full-frontal view became her default image. The only totally neutral official screenshot that I remember having of her during the promotional period is one from behind, where Bruce is holding her by the shoulders.

And the devs/PR do it intentionally. Not to offend anyone, but to attract folks like yourself. I'm okay with sexy (though some games like Ninja Gaiden and Soul Calibur take it a bit far), but the way it's presented by some video games (and comics) can be frustrating, because the way it's used speaks to a very specific demographic and tells everyone else "This game/comic isn't meant for you."

I like looking at attractive women (not as much as you, probably) and attractive male characters are a real bonus. But since when is a male character's sexuality the focal point of an ad campaign? It's usually more along the lines of "Look how badass I am! Oh, and I happen to pretty hot, if you're into that sort of thing."

Just look at the back of the Arkham City box. Why is there an image of Catwoman, with her butt so finely rendered? Couldn't they have just used Batman? And if you argue that Batman is already on the cover, what about his nemesis, the Joker? I could tell you, but I think you already know the answer.
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Celes Leonhart Nov 21, 11
RabidChinaGirl if you don't mind, what is preferable to you: a highly sexualised woman with a lot of publicity and relevance as a character (despite not being the main), or a highly sexualised woman with little depth or recognition other than assets? Genuine, curious question.
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Celes Leonhart Nov 21, 11
I meant to say who's NOT so in-your-face with much less focus for the latter part there!
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RabidChinaGirl Nov 22, 11
Had to think about this a while. I find both acceptable, depending on the context.
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RazielX947 Nov 22, 11
as a word to kik36, i agree that the costumes are sexy but even i, with much interest in womens curves, noticed the deviation from the original costumes.
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kik36 Nov 22, 11
Sorry, I'm not up to speed on the current canon. I stopped reading comic books in the late 90's when I spent $600 on alternate covers for Fathom, Witchblade, The Darkness, and whatever else I was reading at the time. The original costumes were developed in the 40's, so I don't mind the changes. LOL

I think the fact Rocksteady made Catwoman optional (even as far as making it a DLC code to access) shows they understood she wasn't there for everyone and gives the player the option to choose if they want to be exposed to that. It may be in your face in the ads (those damn PR guys!), but at least she's not forced onto you in the game.
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Celes Leonhart Nov 22, 11
It's not far from canon at all imo. It's a completely different universe anyway; like the Nolanverse meets the current comics.
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kik36 Nov 22, 11
For the record, do NOT google "sex-bot-Starfire" at work with safe search off. Trust me.
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RazielX947 Nov 22, 11
Wow. tell me u didnt do that dude
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Storm Nov 23, 11
This can go both ways. Take a look at Arkham Asylum again. There was Harley and Poison Ivy for sex appeal, okay. But now...the guys. Just about every inmate had their shirt off, and were built like tanks. Flawless brutes. Look at how buff characters like Gordon looked, or the police officers, it's truly something else.

Yes there's flaunting with Catwoman in Arkham City, and yes it's been marketed like it's a big deal, but eh, that's just going back to the old 'sex sells' bit. Like kik36 said, it's not forced upon us. The option's there to use her and that's that. And the best part, the challenge maps, you can change Catwoman's costume to something better, like her Animated Series variant. Looks pretty damn amazing if I do say so myself.

Harley in this game looks more subtle than in Asylum in my opinion, with the short skirt and such. Plus she's not hovering over people she's captures like she did with the warden...ugh creepy.

I did notice the inmates being creeps...like wow. Other than that, though, I'd say, besides the marketing, it's overall handled well as when compared to other games.
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RabidChinaGirl Nov 23, 11
Being buff or gorgeous is one thing; it's really about how you present it. Like those inmates? Yeah, they're built like tanks, but while I'm sure SOMEONE out there finds them... attractive, they aren't presented in a desirable manner. Same idea behind Bruce -- he's hot, but is he being flaunted and defined by his sexuality? Naw. Not to mention Harley is on that hand-painted laptop NVIDIA was promoting with the Arkham City PC bundle... and she's drawn reaching down her belt, presumably to touch herself. Made me roll my eyes pretty hard.

As I mentioned to Celes Leonhart, I'm quite aware there are worst offenders out there. But Arkham City is the focus of this post because it's the one folks have been bothering me to play. I know it's good, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it (mostly), but I simply haven't felt compelled to start. This is just a revelation-turned-rant. I feel like some of you aren't quite getting the point here. The main issue I have with the game is not the fact that it has sexually amped-up women, but how they were presented during the marketing phase. Arkham Asylum had Harley, but they didn't flaunt her or Poison Ivy nearly as much as Harl and Catwoman were for Arkham City's advertising. The problem with this, as with mainstream comics and other video games, is that while you're attracting one group, you're potentially alienating others. I know you don't see these women and get turned off, but for some folks, the message is clearly "This game isn't made with you in mind."

Edit: Also, it kind of was forced on me, just due to my job. xD That's how I got so damn sick of it.
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Storm Nov 23, 11
Well...I mean guys don't really flaunt, so I assume them just being there showing skin and looking perfect is good enough. xD And yeah them being inmates and having clown faces didn't help matters. Games don't usually show off the guys, but comics, films, and such, certainly do.

The marketing phase is like this for most games, they'll use whatever they can to get the sales up. That job is consistent with each new passing title, it hasn't changed for any form of viewing pleasure, be it a film trailer, a video game preview, or even art on a music CD or book. I honestly don't pay too much attention to anything being marketed, no previews or anything, as I feel it'd ruin my own experience with the game. I know you can't really do that with your job, though.

But that is what "works." And it's been going on for god knows how long. Truth be told, though, as much as these marketers showed off Catwoman and Harley, they aren't major aspects in the game. I certainly don't pay attention to them. With Catwoman, it's actually to be expected, hell the reason she was created in the first place all those years ago was sex appeal. I get the need for the rant, it's just a shame that Batman is the prime target. I wish more people were telling you to play one of the many fighting games instead, so that Batman wouldn't be punished!
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RabidChinaGirl Nov 23, 11
Just because Batman isn't the worst offender doesn't let it off the hook. One could argue that it should set a better example, like certain other major franchises have been doing.

The fact that it's such a great game makes it even a bigger issue for me, really. After all, it doesn't need that overt sex appeal, like most fighting games do, and yet, there it is.

Edit: Man, don't even get me started on comics and the whole male gaze thing.
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Storm Nov 23, 11
Like what, Call of Duty?

I say cease this rant and go play as Nightwing in the challenge maps! <3

It really sucks. This sex appeal in the game is nowhere near on the level that it's been marketed. It's subtle if anything, if you ask me.

Haha yeah, the comics do go off into it's own little world.
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RabidChinaGirl Nov 23, 11
quote Storm
Like what, Call of Duty?
That came off a bit condescending. ><

But no, I mean games WITH actual women, of course, such as Halo and Gears of War. Epic and other major studios offered their two cents on designing games to also accommodate the surprisingly large female demographic -- in an article I read maybe a couple years ago. CliffyB pointed out something that is quite true about the issue, which is balancing femininity with equality. Hence, Anya still has a cleaner face than Marcus, but she wears the same armor as the bros. The female Spartan model in Reach has more defined curves (DAT ASS), but again, same armor.

And no, I'm not buying half-assed DLC where the main character doesn't even get a voice.
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Storm Nov 23, 11
That is quite disappointing. I <3 Nightwing too much so I had to get the DLC, but damn, not even one line.

Haha, I know what you meant, I was kidding. You mentioned Anya earlier, and I agree with that. Her and Sam's roles were handled well in Gears 3, they held their own, they were equals. All I'll say is...Zoey came before them!
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RazielX947 Nov 23, 11
I agree with RabidChinaGirl. The inmates aren't there to look pleasing but the way they present Harley and Catwoman in this game are put out alot during the marketing phase for their sexy looks to try and get attention. If i'm goin off RabidChinaGirl, feel free to tell me. But what i'd like to say is that like she said, with all of that being put it does make me less interested in playing Arkham City. I mean come on i know theres nothin wrong with a couple of hot girls but the way theyr presented is annoying.
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RabidChinaGirl Nov 23, 11
RazielX947 More or less. People are saying they're not a huge part of the game, but that's the impression Warner Bros. gave during promotion. Hence a lot of people were surprised when Catwoman wasn't playable except with DLC.
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RazielX947 Nov 23, 11
Yah i get it.
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Shadic Hearts Jan 23, 13
I should stop the over-femineness of video games.One man CAN start the revolt,right?I doubt people will listen anyway,too busy drooling at Tifa Lockheart and Catwoman,damn it.
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