Important Stuff!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Lessons from Games (SMITE) #1: All Goddesses wore heels

Apparently I am on a bit of a feminist kick but the topic was too good to pass up. Today's lesson comes from SMITE, Hi-Rez's (of Global Agenda and Tribes: Ascend fame) foray into the MOBA genre. For this they decided to use various gods, spirits, and heroes from religions worldwide (though not from Judeo-Christian religions, we wouldn't want to offend anyone....that we might know). Unflapped by the potential risk of offending the billions of Hindus, Taoists, or Greek polytheists (and others) out there, Hi-Rez has given its art department the monumental task of making every single female god a "10/10, would bang". I've mocked League of Legends before, but I admit, even Riot is making improvements (reworking Sejuani, adding Quinn, etc)...while Hi-Rez is setting new lows.

In all fairness, overall, while they have altered appearances of most gods to suit a modern artist, they can at least point to the Wikipedia pages of said gods and point out art that at least has a connection to some form of reference art. Some to almost comical degree; such as Hercules' glimmering smile and general "Wonder boy" attitude. Others, like Apollo, toe the offensive line but simultaneously poke fun at the antics of modern rock stars. There is of course the issue of MASSIVE ETHNOCENTRISM and co-opting other people's religious imagery and adapting it to appeal to a Western eye...but as that topic would take decades, I'll stick to the original and focus on the female gods. I take it back, most of the female gods are discus throw away from their reference material; in fact, Kali is among the BEST of them...and she's strayed from her original path.

So as the title suggests, apparently in "ye olde" times (and modern ones in some cases) high heels were common fare for the lady deity. Inspiring stuff given that the first real high heel didn't show up until Europe.

For example, here is Kali...destroyer, consort of Shiva. Aside from missing the skirt made of severed arms the depiction is at least reasonably consistent with the existing art (albeit with swimsuit model proportions), until you get down to her feet.
And so we pray to Prada, god of footwear...
Yup, the destroyer has adopted not just a high heel, but a 4-inch heel that she charges happily into battle wearing. To me it would be like seeing a group of knights charging each other while one wears a baseball cap. It sticks out in a way that rips you right back to reality. I cannot overstate how jarring it is, in the game she adopts a sort of spy-crab looking battle pose that makes her footwear look especially limiting and precarious.

Kali is not alone though...(*queue Benny Hill theme*)

Athena, Goddess of WISDOM, knows its wise to wear unstable footwear in battle
Goddess of the Hunt? More like goddess of style!
I have no words (Hel)
Neith is a special case...aside from the weaver goddess having no clothes (which she jokes about in game), she also has heels! In all seriousness, she is basically nude, her "clothes" in game are mainly just textures. She also has the voice of an anime cheerleader...
Getting the picture yet?
Actually Aphrodite I can almost forgive...almost.
With the exceptions of Bastet and Arachne, that is all of the female characters in the game...oh and Bastet's feet are like a cat's, so LOOK like she is wearing a heel, and Arachne has 8 spider legs. This is why playing SMITE is a guilty pleasure for me at this point, I love the gameplay more than any other MOBA, and yet the art direction is...well lets go with "Tactless".

I should point out that I am not the first to notice this, it's actually become something of an inside joke amidst the SMITE community, but Hi-Rez, in their finite wisdom, has made it clear that they have a "Zero fucks given" policy about it.


A commenter pointed out that I forgot Freya, an oversight and mistake on my part. Further recollection was that I didn't think of her because she is one of the better options, and it's fair to fix.

A basic vetruvian render
Now, Freya is not wearing heels, this is true; she is wearing a chainmail bikini which is objectionable in its own right (not to mention that one of her idle stances involves seductively drawing her hand down her chest and causing some Dead or Alive-esque jiggle) but was not the topic of the post. So of the eight (soon 9) female champions with actual feet, Freya is wearing more fitting footwear for the battlefield.


  1. I think perhaps you should calm down a bit. Every game offends someone, and it sucks that this one offends you. Deal with it.

    Yeah, It's a bit of a joke for many f the people that play smite, but you know what? High heels aside, the artists actually aren't that far off (Neith aside. Dear lord, they screwed that one up).

    I'd love to go through them all one by one, but I can't in the character limit. Allow me to paraphrase my original (essay length) comment that I was unable to publish.

    -You have taken all these images out of context. That isn't fair to the artists.

    -The artists actually aren't that far off on the designs (Except Neith). Lots of classic godesses looked like whore, and frankly I'm impressed with Hi-Rez for showing as much restraint as they did. Lets face it: Aphrodite and Kali are going to lok rather whore-ish no matter what yu do, and most of the other goddesses aren't that much better.

    -Artemis doesn't look like a slut, nor does she look like the "Queen of style," or whatever. That image uses an alternate skin, and the pose is mid animation. It's not like she struts her catwalk everywhere, or something.

    -Be complete: Freya wasn't mentioned here, and I'm highly dissapointed in that. She doesn't wear high heels, has no animal limbs that prevent dev's from sticking them on her, and she isn't wearing nothing but a chain-mail bikini. That tends to indicate you have a considerable bias here. It seems almost as if you WANT the dev's to look perverted.

    -High heels came from europe. Yep. So what? Plenty of other raised heel footwear (assorted platform shoes, mainly) came from ancient cultures generally stemming from gods.

    -Calm down, yeah? You don't need to make a big fuss about it. They don't all look like Lara Croft, so you shouldn't act like it. Show a bit of restraint.

    I don't expect you to go and re-write you whole post (although I'd be bloody impressed if you did), but maybe next time you go on a rant, you should be a bit more level headed and reasonable.

    1. The omission of Freya was an oversight actually, not an intended choice, and you are absolutely right, she has no heels! So 1 out 8 (not counting Bastet or Arachne). I play SMITE and enjoy it, the post was written with tongue-in-cheek, not frothing at the mouth.

      As for the other points...Artemis is wearing heels which was the point, she's a goddess of the hunt I would more imagine runs through forests shooting deer, and heels are a poor choice for that.

      While other cultures did invent platform shoes, the heel as we know it (and is depicted in SMITE) is based on the European version (though if you can show me a source stating otherwise I will be happy to add that).

      A fuss would be an angry post on Hi-Rez's forums, this is just my blog that i write for fun. And the relative clothing amount is rather low; and the jiggle factor is at the Dead or Alive level.

      I do believe in fairness though, and I will add the Freya section!

      The big issues is the uncharacteristic heels. I've seen the art of Kali that comes from India, and if they had stuck to that (essentially, what they did without the heels) I'd not be mocking it. Aphrodite I could have see it on, but for others its out of place.

      And I don't see how the images are out of context given that they are basically just clips or distributed art; no one in the game transforms or adds more clothing in-game, so it's representative of their depiction.

  2. Oh, and I just thought I'd quickly add - I don't want to start a fight here. I probably should have prefaced my last post with that (sorry).

    I am a feminist, though not an extreme one. I'm not some creep who thinks that every female in a video game should look like something out of a lady gaga music video (ew). What upsets me even more than misogynists and boors, is feminists who are extremists and have a "All men are scum" attitude. You clearly aren't one of those (Thank god for that), but perhaps you should consider more carefully the subject matter of your rants (I hate to bring it up, but prostitution is literally the oldest profession in the world, and one of the most degrading. Go rant about something like that instead). If you are going to complain, then do it about something that is important. How characters look in a video game really doesn't matter. It's not like it's interactive porn, or something that is really degrading to women. If (and I'm guessing you aren't) You are personally offended that your deity appears in this game in a way that misrepresents your religion, or belittles your religion, the by all means complain. Hi-rez took down an image of Kali after a Hindu activist group complained. Unlike what you have stated here, they had good reason. Giving some of the goddesses high heels is not a cause for complaint (Again, we are agreed here: they screwed up Neith. By all means, complain to them about that).

    Obviously no critic can ever be unbiased, and I don't fault you for that. A good critic, though, acknowledges his / her biases and makes them clearly known. You haven't really done that here, and the omission of Freya really does disappoint me. Perhaps next time you write an article like this, a little more research, and an effort to give context to your images would be great.

    1. I certainly don't think men are scum (I'd have a bad case of self-loathing in that case). As for subject matter; I write what I care about or what I can think up more than a paragraph for. SMITE happened to hand that to me on a silver platter. There are certainly other issues out there, but I am passionate about video games, so that's my main focus. As for prostitution...kind of a different topic.

      I disagree that how characters look in a video game matters; it sends a message about how the artists and developers perceive the world. They can offend people who might otherwise want to play the game; and pointing it out doesn't hurt, if the Developers choose to act on that, it's their choice.

      As for depiction of religions; I am not personally offended, I was raised judeo-christian...and I would actually love to see some of that mythos included.

      The omission of Freya I will correct, but I am not sure what other biases you refer to; most of this is just opinion; the same with "context to the images".

  3. Well. It's been a while since i checking in on this, but whatever.

    I must say, I am seriously pleased to see that you added Freya to your list, and I happen to agree that the chain-bikini thing is stupid.

    To re-address the high heel issue: This game is loosely inspired by the traditional pantheons. Key word here is loosely.

    I mean, more than half the gods in this game NEVER fought in any sort of battlefield, so I think we can forgive the dev's for some high heels. Do I think the heels are stupid and impractical? Sure do. Do I think they could have done a much worse job of depicting the gods, turning smite into a ridiculous cross-mythos orgy? Yep. Would plenty of other game developers have made said orgy? Quite possibly.
    I mean, This doesn't excuse some of what smite have done. If they had made Artemis look like a slut, for instance, THAT is totally inexcusable. Giving her boots with heels? Call it artistic interpretation. It's still a bit daft, but I see no reason to complain about it.

    Is Freya's chain bikini daft? Sure is. Is her mostly transparent silk / gauze mix dress that she traditionally wears daft? You bet it is. Is the chain bikini the worse of the two? Well, yes and no. That's for each individual to decide.

    Do Neith and Isis look underdressed? Well, Neith sure as hell does, and Isis is better but not "good." If they had stuck true to form, though, all the Egyptian gods would be orange beige and blue shapes that only vaguely look like a humanoid.
    Could they have done a better job of it? Yes. You could say that of any god in SMITE, not just the goddesses mentioned here.

    As for what I said about context, Obviously I didn't make tht very clear. The images you have here, with the exception of Freya, Kali and Hel, are all taken from the middle of an animation, that isn't truly representative of their style in game.

    Artemis hardly plays as "The goddess of style." That image was taken from a victory animation, with a skin, no less. She doesn't strut around on a catwalk, bow in the air, waving at the photographers. Yeah, Neith is pretty awful no matter how you look at it, but she doesn't act like a total whore for the majority of the time (But she totally looks like one), but the image you picked makes it look like he does.

    Fair's fair, the image you picked for Aphrodite sums her up pretty well, except for the fact that she can't really deal damage. At all.

    I'm mightily impressed that you included Freya (As I have already said), but what impresses me more is that you used a neutral T pose. That image doesn't connote in any way that she acts like a stereotypical drunk cheerleader (Which is just as well, because she doesn't). I don't expect you to drag this all out further and change the images (I wouldn't bother, if I were you), but remember that whilst carefully picking your images to back up your points is an important technique, it can also somewhat detract from the overall effectiveness of the article if they don't show any balance or consideration for other views. If you showed T poses for everyone, or used poses (like Kali) that appear in advertising media, that shows the image from a fairly objective standpoint, and still gets your point across. Alternatively, use images that are mid animation, or whatever, but actually include in the article the fact that "This image ha been taken from a taunt animation" or "This image uses an alternate skin" etc.

    As a closing point, I am really impressed at what you have going on here. Many other bloggers and writers don't address issues raised by readers, or tend to whine incomprehensibly when someone disagrees with what they say. Even though I still disagree with some of your ideas, I now have considerable respect for your opinion now that I've seen you openly and calmly address my issues (Well, kind of addressed them).

    I'll certainly be watching this blog with interest.