Female Armor BINGO (downloadable PDF) by OzzieScribbler (yours truly)
As a special present for Bikini Armor Battle Damage first anniversary, I present to you: Female Armor BINGO!
Feel free to use as a reference to quantify how ridiculous any female armor is.
edit: Updated the link into downloadable PDF!
Breakdown of all the squares under the cut.
This is pretty amusing. The most concise collection of tropes and cliches used in female character design that I’ve seen yet.
But it also got me thinking. Tropes and cliches are like knives: if you’re naive you’ll only hurt yourself and others, avoid them entirely and you’ll be safe but limited, OR learn how and when to use them to your advantage. Ignorance and prohibition are two paths to ruin.
Looking at this chart, I honestly think there’s a good chance that throughout my career I’ll use most of these (and many more that aren’t represented here). In fact, just reading through the list gave me a few design ideas. Of course if I’m doing my job right it should ALWAYS be in service of the story and character (not at their expense).
This issue raises a small red flag for me. As an artist, the one thing I dare not do is declare: I shan’t use this or that design element as long as I live, so help me God!
Edit: I’m going to expand on my thoughts here, as a response to some of the comments I’ve received. Over the past 10 years as a concept artist I’ve been able to see that the difference between a lasting design and a forgettable one is how much it respects the audience and the character. My unique position has afforded me a lot of face time with gamers and fans (and would-be-fans) and their desires echo my own: give us more character designs we can believe in. And now, as a father of two daughters I am more invested than ever in the fight for inclusivity and creating designs that inspire and invite EVERYONE to join in.
Let me be perfectly clear: I firmly believe we will win that fight by attacking imbedded mentalities, not specific aesthetic choices. We should certainly treat the symptoms, but I don’t want that to distract from fighting the disease.
For example, the chart mentions boob cups, helmetless armor and armor with holes with skin showing through. I’m watching through Game of Thrones again, so I think of Cersei Lannister’s armored gown with boob cups, Brienne of Tarth’s lack of helmet and the incredible design language used in the desert armor of Qarth (more holes than metal, with minimal fabric beneath). They are all done tastefully and in support of character and setting. Their respect for the characters and the audience led them to create unique and story-supporting designs despite checking 3 bingo boxes.
I understand that this list was created out of a frustration that, frankly, I will likely never fully experience. I know that it’s targeting the worst, most flagrant examples of these tropes, and to that I say “swing away”. Concept artists/art directors/producers who perpetuate this insidious atmosphere should ABSOLUTELY be taken down a peg. But saying “we will never draw these specific things again” basically just gives the sexist mentality more power. At that point they own those aesthetics and they have no right to. I have to believe that there are a hundred ways to design backless armor that don’t insult or alienate half the audience. A smart designer could take back “armored gloves and feet but no armor on the midsection”. That could look really cool and imply a totally different fighting technique. I will (very likely) never design a battle thong, but some day an artist better than me will design an army of men and women in battle thongs and nipple armor, and will handle it with dignity and respect to the characters and the audience, and we’ll thank them for it.
I’ll just chime in and say that Matt’s portfolio, and in particular his work on Inquisition, speaks for itself on this subject.
Context is important. Naturally there is also a context of the industry at large, and the reason this graphic was created in the first place, and thus a reason some folks are upset…but I’ll just say, for whatever it’s worth, that Matt Rhodes is easily the artist most sensitive to this issue, and most compassionate regarding it, that I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. If there was anyone who I’d trust to know the difference between “sexy” and “sexualized”, it’s him, and I think his record attests to that.
That’s going to be meaningless to some, particularly for those who will wrap Matt up in the larger (and very valid) issue, but as someone who’s rolled his own eyes at many a design poked at by the graphic, I think it’s important to remember that Matt feels it’s valid as well.
Feeling the need to deconstruct this.
1. Never really an excuse.
2. Can be excused, depending what you mean by “random”. Perhaps it’s battle damage, perhaps it’s jury rigged or created from multiple sets of armour. Perhaps it just suits the purpose.
3. Never really an excuse.
4. This is the same for guys, too. It’s not because it’s sexual, it’s to show you the character’s facial features/hair. Usually mooks of both genders will have headgear, whilst important characters lack it. I like when games allow you to turn off the visuals of the helmet even whilst wearing it, or at least have it removed during cutscenes, especially in games like Mass Effect where the helm completely covers the face.
5. Can be excused (in the sense that different body types will require different armour), but usually isn’t (as in, the majority of the time it’s just done for sex appeal).
6. How is this a bad thing, in any way? Unless you mean it pierces the wearer’s skin, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that.
7. Not usually excusable, but it could just be a fashion thing, especially if the character isn’t wearing a uniform but customised armour. Contrary to popular belief, women do actually like to flaunt their breasts. A good number of my female friends like to show off their cleavage, so it’s not like it’s “unexpected” of a female character to have that preference.
8. Not entirely sure about this one, so I’ll leave it out.
9. Definitely not excusable. It CAN be justified as a fashion statement, but in this case it really is just stupid. Unlike cleavage, high heels WILL hinder you severely in battle.
10. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any armour without underwear. Were you playing a hentai game or something?
11. Not entirely sure how you mean but I’ll try to go about this. Isabella’s outfit in DA2 had an armoured corset type thing that stops below her breasts. It’s not really a boob window, but the armour does stop before her breasts. In any case, it suited her design and it suited her combat role (rogue). So I can see it being justified.
12. If it’s sci-fi I can see it being justified. Well, skin-tight armour in general. Maybe it’s made from carbon nanotubes or something.
13. I’ve no problem with this one. Armour that is crafted to your figure isn’t that uncommon, except - again - perhaps in a uniform, although even then it can be justified in that they’re all made for each soldier (especially in elite units). It’s not like it offers any less protection (even if I think epic breastplates look better, personally).
14. No problem with this, either, even if I’m not a fan of thigh-highs.
15. This isn’t really excusable.
16. This isn’t really excusable for say platemail, but for rogues or mages I can see why it would be (especially druidic mages and such, or seduction-based characters. Hell, even just rogues/mages who wanna be sexy).
17. Can’t really think of any justification.
18. Can be justified in that wearing only greaves and/or boots increases mobility.
19. Can be justified with people wearing light armour and/or are druids.
20. Not really sure this can be justified.
21. I’d say this is more of a design oversight than anything else. I’ve seen games where they did this for the males too. Ouch.
22. Usually stupid, but can occasionally be justified.
23. Can be justified if the armour’s intended to be light, but the wearer is intending to keep their feet and hands protected for melee combat.
24. Not usually justifiable.
25. Not usually justifiable, except in instances of druids, mages, some thiefs (especially thiefs that specialise in seduction or distraction), etc.
I’ve used “not USUALLY justifiable” because there always can be exceptions to the rule. Perhaps the character just wants to look sexy and is willing to forego protection for it. To say NO ONE would ever think that way is incredible naive.