Whatever your opinions on the subject, it's hard to ignore the amount of discussion that gender issues in gaming have been provoking recently.
The most notorious incident recently came following the release of some Japanese media interviews which appeared to pay a disproportionately large amount of attention to the size of Lightning's breasts in the upcoming new Final Fantasy game -- and, oddly, her armpit. (I am assured by people in the know that armpit fetishes are A Thing in Japan. I can't think of anything worse, personally.)
But the issues surrounding the depiction of women in video games -- and the treatment of women in the industry in general -- are not what we're here to talk about. No, instead I want to tell you about Boob Jam, which was set up partly in response to these issues, and partly as a Twitter joke that got a bit out of hand.
Boob Jam is the brainchild of Jenn Frank, a former 1up writer, member of Team Unwinnable and the owner of the voice that taunts you so in Terry Cavanagh's infuriatingly addictive Super Hexagon.
"Earlier today I had a sudden thought," explains Frank on the site. "It wasn't really a joke, but I thought it was kind of topical and funny anyway."
Frank's "sudden thought" was a tweet in which she pondered "what if you had to watch a sexy video game character also buy bras, cry softly when she can't find one that fits, and go in for mammograms?"
The suggestion quickly snowballed. A jokey "#BoobJam" hashtag quickly started filling up with people who said they'd be actually quite interested to experience the sort of things Frank was talking about -- because they were things that video games tend not to deal with -- and developers who were interested in exploring these topics through their work.
"What would happen if we collectively took a 'boob' out of the normative, mainstream view -- which is to say, as a sexual object for straight cisgender [where an individual's self-perceived gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth] men -- and instead described our own relationships, sometimes sexual and often not, with our own racks?" muses Frank on the Boob Jam site. "And as a game, could that be fun to play?"
The idea behind Boob Jam is to bring in players of all genders and sexualities to explore the different things that breasts mean to different people. The question of whether or not something like this can be "fun" is an interesting one, and one often posed by other game jams with more mundane stimuli.
"What do boobs mean to a new mother, or to a new woman?" asks Frank. "To a person in actual, physical pain? What might they mean to a real superhero or armor-clad warrior? Or, if boobs really are sexual objects, who, besides straight dudes, can sexualize them?"
Frank is keen to stress that "no-one is claiming that a great rack doesn't have its place in gaming canon" and that the Boob Jam is an attempt to start a completely new discussion on the subject rather than the same old objectification arguments being repeated over and over again. It's a positive spin on a hot-button topic at present, and it has the potential to throw out some very interesting creative works.
Frank hasn't set a date for the Boob Jam to take place yet, but if you're interested in participating -- or just following the interesting discussion on the topic -- you can check out the freshly-made website for the project right here.
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