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Admiring Breasts from Another Angle

Following several recent breast-related controversies, indie devs are pulling together for a "Boob Jam."

By Pete Davison. Published 8 months ago

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.

Yes, this is the official art for the Boob Jam.

"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.

The best community comments so far 3 comments

  • skylarw 8 months ago

    I was hoping this would be an attempt to diminish the click-grabbing manufactured controversies about character design, but I guess that's not quite the case.

    I remember reading something by Jenn Frank in the 1up days and enjoying it, but I hadn't followed her since then. It's unfortunate to see that she's using the word "cisgender", though. Can we please avoid the Tumblrization of game journalism?

    At any rate, I'm looking forward to seeing what comes out of the jam. Here's hoping for another highlights post like the one for MolyJam.

  • Lightning Paw 8 months ago

    @skylarw Gender issues are so complicated, the discussion around them has naturally created a language that's appropriate. It's important to have a word for someone whose gender matches their identity, for simple clarity reasons. The whole "cis" thing is just an attempt at brevity and clarity of expression. That's how words are invented, and always have been.

  • kellyoverholser43 8 months ago

    Actually, the prefix "cis" has the same Latin roots as the prefix "trans". So it's not just "some new internet slang" (although no one actually merged the two terms to make "cisgender" until relatively recently, around 1994), it's a legitimate term.

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