What? Surprised this one isn't by Sean Ridgeley? Yes, I admit he is quite a Mirror's Edge fanboy, and I truly feel for him as he waits patiently for the PC version. While my fandom passion lies with Gears of War, I feel considerable closeness to DICE's first person parkour title after sitting through it for 14 hours straight just so Neoseeker would have its review published on time.
To be honest, my initial interest in Mirror's Edge came from the first trailer, in which we get to see Faith in all her glory. I exclaimed, "Wow! She looks amazing! Totally different!"
She is beautiful, I thought. And so I fell in love with Faith Conners before I even knew her. Truly, and it's a strange kind of love that I doubt most of you could possibly understand. Some of that love might have been for DICE as well, the very people who dreamed this woman into existence.
Over time, as we learned more about the game, Faith continued to evolve into a true protagonist, but I still saw brilliance in her design. Imagine my chagrin upon reading about a Korean gamer who pointed out that her design was distinctly Western and promptly presented his own interpretation of Faith, one that Eastern Asians might be more appreciative of.
Behold, as Faith undergoes cosmetic surgery and gets one hell of a boob job:
While I am Chinese by descent, I've spent the majority of my life in the United States, and my own aesthetic preferences are distinctly Western, most would say. I like to say I maintain a healthy balance, resting comfortably in the middle, but that's really beyond the point. No doubt many of you have already seen these the images floating around the glorious yet treacherous vastness that is the Internet. Over a month later, the topic reemerges as Mirror's Edge producer Tim Farrer shared his thoughts on this debate over their work.
“I remember when I first had that image sent to me. To be honest, I found it kind of sad. We’ve spent time in developing Faith. And the important thing for us was that she was human, that she was more real.
We really wanted to get away from the typical portrayal of women in games, that they’re all just kind of tits and ass in a steel bikini. We wanted her to look athletic and fit and strong [enough] that she could do the things that she’s doing.
We wanted her to be attractive, but we didn’t want her to be a supermodel... It was just kind of depressing that someone thinks it would be better if Faith was a 12-year-old with a boob job."
I am clearly a biased party here, but Farrer's lamentations are not unwarranted. Scouring the various sites that featured the comparison images, I attained a better idea of what outspoken gamers were interested in. While many comments were crudely shallow and clearly testosterone driven, there were others that managed to shed some light on the reasoning behind that modified image.
Aside from the usual "Hrr hrr, nipples!" remarks, many seemed to think Faith's original appearance is too masculine, given the chiseled contours of her face and narrow eyes. Her expression is determined and even threatening (nevermind she's punching out a cop), which people found off-putting. So instead, they look to the younger, rounded cheeks of a wide-eyed bishoujo. Forgive the anime reference, but there is something distinctly otaku-esque about the busty Faith, and one can argue that is closer to what Eastern Asians may like.
To be fair, she's still kicking ass in the second image, but I would argue that the level of threat is lowered by the altered features. With larger eyes comes the implication of innocence, and the arc of her eyebrows have lessened, reducing tension in the upper facial region. The impression given is not a worthy opponent who can punch out armored and armed SWAT units -- no, her status has been lowered. She is no longer the man's equal, and though she's given him a proper thrashing, Faith is demoted to the status of "victim."
Nevermind her freaking chest size. Look at those things. I mean, what the hell happened?!
I'm not asking you to compare them with Ivy Valentine's two best friends because that would be utterly ridiculous. Instead, I direct you back to Farrer's reaction and DICE's intentions. While Faith is by no means a carbon copy of reality, the studio did they best to remind us of the game's intentions. Keith Stuart at the Guardian wrote that game reviewers may have missed the innovation behind Mirror's Edge, and in turn, I believe those who criticize her appearance are missing the point of her design.
Saying she has a difficult profession would be a gross understatement, and anyone with any sense should already recognize her slim yet toned frame as that of an athlete. Actually, real life athletes are often more streamlined than Faith. Gentlemen, I give you four exhibits who need no introduction: Stokke, May, Walsh, and Jones.
I know most of you have been spoiled by the nauseating breast physics plaguing video games across generations, and I'm sorry to inform you that real breasts simply don't move that way. In fact, bouncing during athletic acitivies can be quite painful, which is why God invented sports bras and spandex. What, you thought we jog in tight tops because they're comfortable? Please.
Faith was never meant to be a hypersexualized idol regardless of cultural boundaries. Sure, we're supposed to find her easy on the eyes, but our Runner protagonist is an attempt as something more real. Her eyes reflect her inner conflict and a will to survive against all odds, and that firm outline of her body is honed by an lifestyle not for the faint of heart. Variety is the spice of life -- how boring would we be if our tastes were exactly the same? However, the argument over Faith's looks has offended her creators and provides a dismal reality check for feminist gamers like myself.
Yes, I just used the dirty F word. Note I referred to myself as a "feminist gamer" and not a "gaming feminist." There is a difference.
Of course I'm not terribly shocked by all of this, just tremedously disappointed. Here, this brings me little comfort but some of you may find it suitable for your own purposes...
I know what you're thinking and no, I will not point the melons forward for anatomical accuracy.