Covers that make me say, "I want to play that!"

Covers Women Want to See

Over at Yudhishthira’s Dice, Brand poses the question:

Ladies, what RPG covers (or interiors) have you seen that involve a woman in the art that make you say, “I want to play that” or, just as good “I want to play her.” Or that make you feel like it is a game you could like, or be included in by a group of guys you’d never met and whose maturity you didn’t neccisarily know?

I decided that, rather than clutter up the comment thread, that I’d take the question over here. So, after the jump you’ll find some covers that sucked me in and explanations of why I liked them. To help Brand get as wide a sample size as possible (and, really, because I think it’s a great idea), I’ve decided to turn it into a meme. Go see this post for more information.

Meme Rules:

  1. Copy the text of the original challenge from Yudhishthira’s Dice and give a proper link attribution.
  2. Copy these rules exactly (including any links).
  3. Find images of game covers (interiors are okay, too) that make you want to play the game. Any kind of game — video game, card game, tabletop RPG, etc — is fine. Post them and include a short (or long) explanation on why the image makes/made you want to play the game.
  4. The original challenge is about finding out what women think about how game art is marketed and therefore it is targeted at women. I’d like to keep it that way, please.
  5. You can tag as many or as few people as you want. You do not need to be tagged to participate in the meme.
  6. When you make your post, please post the link on this thread so we can all see what others have said.

I tag Lake Desire, One Hundred Little Dolls, and merrua.

I. My Selections

Kyrandia 2: The Hand of Fate
Kyrandia 2: The Hand of Fate

We’ll start with a cover that did, in fact, cause me to buy and play the game. Truth be told, I didn’t play the original Kyranida until I had already played 2 and 3. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth I was a young gamer, women as subjects of a video game cover (as opposed to being absent or being objects) was pretty darn rare. And usually when they were on there it was in addition to or secondary to the male heroes.

Zanthia, who is in fact the main character of the game, is the clear focus here: size, frame, and even the lines of the drawing all point to her. This cover stuck out like a sore thumb among the other games at EB and that’s why I made a B-line to it. I bought this game because I was so damn happy that I had found a game with a main character who I could relate to… that she was an alchemist and the art was cutting edge for the time didn’t hurt either, of course.

I was kind of put out when I realized that the newer cover art no longer featured Zanthia.

Heretic Kingdoms: The Inquisition
Heretic Kingdoms: The Inquisition

The game art for the cover and on the ads was, again, something that lead me to purchase the game. I actually read a feature on it in some magazine or another, was impressed by an RPG featuring what appeared to be a hero who just happened to be female, was further impressed by the accompanying art which wasn’t exploitative, and the icing on the cake was when I was in the store and saw the cover.

In my Girls & Game Ads series, I contrasted typical portrayals of women in video game advertisements with men. One of my observations was that the women depicted tend to have poses and clothing that focuses on their breasts, while the men depicted often have facial closeups and emphasis on their cool armor. So you can probably imagine my intense pleasure at seeing box art that depicted a woman in this traditionally masculine way. Of course, it fit perfectly with the type of hero they had created.

The Longest Journey & TLJ: Dreamfall
The Longest Journey & TLJ: Dreamfall

Like Kyrandia, The Longest Journey is a game that I hadn’t heard about before I found it in EB. The cover certainly drew me, though looking at it now it seems a bit cluttered. I much rather like the clean white background contrasted with the bright pink shirt of Dreamfall‘s box art, even if Zoe’s pose is closer to the typical portrayal of women than I’m strictly comfortable with.

For TLJ, I’d say that featuring April’s face on the box art was a plus and is most likely a factor in leading me to look at the game itself. Dreamfall was already mine before I ever saw the cover art (I made my father buy it and bring it to me when he came to visit), but I was happy to see Zoe, the main protagonist, front and center with April in the back along with the other supporting character. It is clear here that, contrary to most games where women are almost always outnumbered by men, the characters aren’t there to fill the gender quotient.

Beyond Good & Evil
Beyond Good & Evil

And, of course, I can’t exclude one of my all-time favourite games: Beyond Good and Evil. The cover isn’t what drew me to the game (my cousin introduced me to it, actually) but the quality displayed here I think reflected the quality of the representation of women in the game.

Here again the depiction of Jade isn’t what’s typical of women in covers and other game-related art. She’s in an active pose (looking back as if wary of an attack, holding her camera in her hand), her torso is mostly seen from the back rather than a chest shot, and she has a costume that doesn’t highlight her sexual attributes. The lines of the shot also go pretty much to her face, which is also highlighted by being lighted and contrasted to her outfit.

II. Conclusion: What I like to see

I play games for escapism, to have fun, and to relax. Heroes who don’t represent me have to work that much harder to interest me. Covers that conform to the low standards of characterization and plotlines are not going to grab me. Covers that objectify my gender, and therefore that show me that the game makers view their female characters primarily as sexual fantasy fulfillment rather than characters worthy of development, are not going to grab me. Actually, unless you’re marketing a pornographic game, as a general rule I don’t think it’s appropriate to sexualize women on the covers of games.

If a cover has a woman featured on the cover I am more likely to go to it because I like playing games with female protagonists. If you give the women on the cover the same varied portrayal as men typically get, then I am more likely to assume the protagonist is a well-rounded hero who happens to be female, rather than a token woman or a woman who’s a hero in order to fulfill the stereotypical male fantasy. If you show the woman as active, or otherwise highlight her strength (putting emphasis on her armor or something) I am more likely to think that she is someone who I can relate to, and therefore am more likely to pick up the box and read about the game. And, not gender related, but good, clean design always helps!

In short, what do I want? I want to play a game with a character that I can imagine myself being and if a cover shows that to me then I’m much more likely to give that game a chance.

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11 thoughts on “Covers that make me say, "I want to play that!"

  1. Will you please ask Brand what he thinks about posting pictures that are “almost perfect?” For example, “Like this–just reverse the genders but keep the poses” from a board game. (I read in Packaging Girlhood that the cover of The Game of LIFE is mixed sex but with the boys/men going crazy or playing while the girls/women watch.)

  2. Will you please ask Brand what he thinks about posting pictures that are “almost perfect?”

    Um, I don’t actually know Brand ^^;; But I’m sure if you ask on his comment thread he (or someone) will answer.

    For the meme, though, anything you want goes. The point is to talk about what we want to see, and if that means taking a cover and saying, “Like this, but change this and this!” then that’s fine in my book.

  3. I fully endorse doing whatever you want in the meme. The point isn’t to do what I want to see, but to say what you want to say. That’s the most important thing I can think of.

    Plus, I’m a boy, and so what I want should count for all of jack and crap in this conversation. 😉

    Also, awesome for making it a meme.

  4. LD: Haha, the hardest thing for me was picking only a few covers. And now I want to do the opposite — pick out parts of covers I don’t like. If I do decide to do it, I have The Sims 2 cover lined up, bwahahahaha.


    The point isn’t to do what I want to see, but to say what you want to say. That’s the most important thing I can think of.

    You just have a knack for putting things the best way possible, don’t you? 😛

    And, anyway, thanks for inspiring the meme. Creating and participating in it is the most game-related fun without actually gaming that I’ve had in months. 🙂

  5. Mo: Isn’t it, though? I liked it so much that I finally created a “feminist gamer” icon for my LJ.

    As per the game itself, I thought it was pretty fun. It was a pretty standard Fallout-style RPG with several different paths for your character to develop, though not enough endings to keep me playing it more than a couple times. I was pretty impressed overall by the gender portrayal, but I’d have to go over it again with a stricter lens to make a real judgment on how good it was (definitely not bad, but perhaps not as good as I’m remembering).

    If I recall correctly, it was pretty cheap. If you can find it for about the equivalent of 20 USD and have the money to spare, I would definitely say get it.

  6. I’m wondering if it’s sad that I can’t think of any game art that made me want to play a game other than that one promo pic of the villains from NWN2. While the one barbarian (?) woman did have the ta-ta triangle to her art, I was just excited to see a female character that was not traditionally attractive. Butch even! I’m heartily sick of femme fatale villains and cookie cutter sex-kitten PCs. I’m still waiting to play NWN2, but I’m hoping the in-game customization gives me enough control to make my own androgynous and butch characters. Yeah, I said that before.

    Most of my difficulty seems to be coming from the fact that I like simulations, and also that I throw the boxes away as soon as I get them home. I’m going to look closer at the box art now though, to see if there’s something positive out there, instead of just gagging a little at all the negatives.

  7. Tekanji – Nice selection of covers here! The PC version that I have of Beyond Good and Evil is not as nice as the PS2 one you show – it is interesting to me that they are so different from one another (you can see the PC version cover listed on Amazon).

    As for picking covers you don’t like, be sure to let me know when that meme goes live! Again, great post and great meme – Thanks! – GL

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