Selling games by selling bodies
Edit to add: Welcome, readers from the Paizo boards. Flame-free comments are welcome. Some important points to keep in mind to avoid saying clueless things: I understand that you're protective of your iconics, but they're fair game for social criticism. Please don't confuse "exploitive" with "offensive"—they're different words. Having a female friend/being a woman who doesn't see any problem doesn't necessarily mean there's no problem, just that that woman doesn't think there's one. There's a difference between criticising an example of a cultural phenomenon and "speaking for all women"—I'm doing the first, not the latter. A female CEO doesn't give a free pass on exploitation or sexism: see Jenna Jameson or Sarah Palin. For context you might want to read my first post on this blog, White privilege in fantasy fiction and gaming, and consider whether the comment you have in mind will get any traction here.
I made an account at Paizo's online store when I wanted to take a look at their Pathfinder RPG beta, so I'm on their mailing list. I got a promotional email from Paizo yesterday that I was compelled to answer.
Some of you might have gotten the email I'm talking about. It's a "Season's greetings, have a discount coupon" sort of promo email. It's one of those emails that's nearly all image. Since my mail reader doesn't load external images until I say it should (for security reasons), it initially just looked like:
Dear D7: [have a big-ass image]
Minus the editorialised replacement text, of course.
The image is of a big-breasted, skimpily-dressed, White woman fondling an enormous candy-cane with a come-hither look, sitting inside a wreath against a snowy background. (She must be cold. Or maybe she just has DR/fire.) The wreath is topped by "Season's Greetings", and the words "from your friends at Paizo" sit just beneath her coyly-crossed feet and elaborately-impractical costume. Curiously, her ears are hidden so she's of indeterminate species. Maybe they didn't want to be on the wrong side of that all-important elf fetish divide.
Yes, I'm being slightly caustic. Here's the non-caustic email I sent them in reply:
Thank you for the discount coupon and well-wishing. However, I have to take exception to the image. I imagine many of your customers appreciate being shown random cheesecake, but it's not terribly professional or respectful to your female customers. I do hope you had something less exploitive of women for your female customers. Even if so (and especially if not!) this is a good time to stop and consider how this kind of careless skin-selling from a major publisher sets back gamers' attempts to make roleplaying less of a horny-boys' club. FYI, the group I run games for is more than half women.
If none of that made any sense, you're welcome to ask what I'm on about. Part of the problem is that this kind of image is considered normal in the industry, so people don't have much of a handle on what might be problematic about it.
I'm curious what their reply, if any, will be. Paizo is known for this kind of cheesecake and fanservice, and I can only imagine the company culture that must hold sway when that's their public face. I'm not expecting much. If only they'd realise (and care) how hostile to women gamers this kind of thing is.