True or false: does hot chick art helps sell more games?

And a followup: is the goal of selling more games adequate for going heavy on the hot chick art?

Lord knows, I’ve got some iffy games on my shelf. This one doesn’t feel like it approaches the holy-wow excesses of, say, Tanto Cuore or some of the Parente art in Dust Tactics. Or the all-hottie clan in Blood Rage I just unpacked a couple weeks back. There’s even a (NSFW) thread at boardgamegeek about this:

So: prudery? Maybe. I don’t think of myself as prude but there are boxes I already own that I’d hesitate to put in front of my daughter, or strangers at a convention. But that’s also true of movies and books I own, too.

Free speech? Oh god please no. No. I cannot think of a game that isn’t Tit Grab (yes that’s a real game) that requires tits to express its ideas.

So this Tavern Masters game, right? I totally get that it’s playing directly into fantasy tavern tropes. Tropes that were created by dudes fantasizing, Trump-like I suppose, about being serviced by bar wenches, whores, and fellow travelers who also happen to be hotties.

And never mind the whole alcoholism angle! Looking through the Kickstarter, you apparently achieve levels of drunkenness like “sloshed” and “wasted.” I guess, man, I guess. I have alcoholism running through both sides of my family so maybe I’m dialed up to notice that sort of thing more.

What I’m not saying:

* …that sexy art is bad per se. I like looking! Women like looking!

* …that anyone should, you know, boycott or scream to high heaven about the presentation here.

What I am saying:

* There are a hell of a lot of baked in assumptions loaded into every aspect of this: the dude-intensive history of fantasy tavern tropes, the assumption that boobs sell, the assumption that it’s cishet dudes who are the only audience for this sort of thing, the attitude that overdrinking is high comedy.

* Is it healthy to leave those assumptions unexamined? Like…I’m certain there are women who find the game’s theme and play appealing. Soooo why not level the playing field? Looking through the sample art, there’s not a single washboard ab or devastating cheekbone to be seen. Plenty of beefy beardy heavyset dudes, though. I mean if the women are going to be presented as uniformly hot, why not the guys too? (I did see there’s a “pit fighter” card, and that single card is pretty equal-opportunity.)

Dunno…maybe I’m just getting old, but this sort of thing jumps out at me these days as lazy at best and actively alienating at worst.

31 thoughts on “Boobs”

  1. As someone who regularly tries to make my gaming table more inviting to women and people who otherwise aren’t me, I have definitely passed on products that I would otherwise be into because of casual sexism and other noninclusive tropes.

  2. It’s funny. When I saw the initial post about this game, the first thing that came to my mind was “Gee, I wonder what they’re trying to market here? Obvious breast shot and ridiculous mini-skirt that belongs in modern times not in old taverns.”

    The game will obviously sell well, probably based on the box cover alone. If there is minis included, it’s a sure-fire insta-buy for many people. It holds not interest to me. No war, so no interest.

  3. “True or false: does hot chick art helps sell more games?”

    False…. unless you’re what? 15 and don’t have access to the internet?

    But then again, I’ve no data, just an opinion. This type of art actively discourages me from purchasing the game. It would make me uncomfortable to display this in public.

    “So: prudery? Maybe. I don’t think of myself as prude but there are boxes I already own that I’d hesitate to put in front of my daughter, or strangers at a convention. But that’s also true of movies and books I own, too.”

    I think I’m on this boat too. Make the art you want, buy what you want. It’s none of my business, but I don’t really look for this in any games or books.

  4. Ok, I’m a lady who is into ladies as well as dudes, before anyone out there can accuse me of not liking boobs. But I would not in a million years buy this game, because to my way of thinking the sexy art is probably a substitute for quality mechanics and rules.

    I mean, really, Cataan, Dominion, Bohnanza, how many other really excellent games can you think of that don’t have to rely on cheesecake to sell?

  5. Speaking for myself only: A sexypic will make me look directly at the cover, which increases the odds of the cover text grabbing me, even though I am aware that sexypics are often used to make crap content appear more desireable.  So.  If the cover text of a book or game grabs me (sexypics or not), I will pick it up and examine it more closely.  But by this point, a sexypic will have no effect on whether or not I actually buy the thing.  That job will be done by the content.  I will leave it to others to discuss the effect of the sexypic on those sitting at the table, because Adam raises a good point.

  6. I’m neutral on the art. It doesn’t make me curious nor drive me away. If I saw it on the shelf I’d probably flip it over just to see what the game is about. But I’d do that regardless of the girl on the cover. If I had to choose I’d leave the girl on the cover as that’s a pretty good divide between making this look like a more serious game and something that’s just for laughs.

  7. I have the same thoughts as Adam. There have been several games that I have passed over because of the images. It seems like a board game should not need sexual images to sell. The life of many prostitutes is horrible. They die at young ages from abuse and disease and nobody cares about them. They become property, something to use and abuse for pleasure. Why would board game makers want to make that sort of lifestyle look good? (I realize that not all prostitutes live like this, however, many sadly do) In the end, women are so much more than objects of lust. Seeing them as such is wrong. Thus, I do not support games like Tavern Masters because of the lifestyle and mindset towards women it supports.

  8. How did you jump from barmaid to prostitute? That’s a huge leap also kind of insulting with the assumption that the girl is a pro just because she’s dressed to get tips.

  9. It’s just taking advantage of the wiring of your brain, like any advertisement wants to do.  It will definitely make me look, though.  A nice pair of boobs can make me crash my fucking car.  But that doesn’t mean I value crashing my car. 

    On the other hand, I’ll tell you this: I tend to make my cover art very abstract; so abstract it often doesn’t even have humans in it.  If you’re looking for a get-rich approach, that’s not it. 🙂

  10. Mickey and Chris, Paul used the words “wench” and “whore” to describe the women in the game. A synonym for whore is prostitute, so that is why I made the assumption I did in my post. Also, many bar maids that dressed like that were prostitutes in that time period. While this is definitely not the case today, it was back then. The idea that I was trying to convey in my post was that women are more than things to be looked at for pleasure. Most women that I play board games with want to be seen as something more than a sex object. The board game makes women look this way however, that is why I would never buy it.

  11. It’s true, I did drop the word “whore” in the OP.

    I have no idea at all if there are actual sex workers in Tavern Masters. But it’s also a pretty common dude-trope that fantasy bars are where you go to find sex workers.

  12. Andrew McMillan I will in fact need a citation that most barmaids in “medieval” times were whores. Because I suspect that’s just a dudely fantasy more than anything else.

    That being said, there is no way I would buy this game because as I said before, I’m pretty sure all the sexy pics are substituting for actual content and substance.

  13. Looking at the games on my shelves, no it doesn’t work on me. I’m sure it did to some extent when I was a teen, but I did not have the internet back then. :-/

    Today they’re more likely to put me off them, for several reasons, not all of them good.

  14. I have no idea about the market in general. I generally don’t care about art, cover, or inside. However, obviously gratuitous sexy stuff like this will drive me away from the game – it’s not promising anything good to me about the content, or the abilities of the authors.

  15. I’m pan and dislike games that only depict women as being sexy (because it sends a signal that women are just there for the sexual benefit of a male player, and are not protagonists in their own right) and it is also usually an indicator of extreme laziness in game design because the designer all too often thinks we will be distracted by bewbs. Whereas inclusively sexy games for all gazes like Xxxenophile actually put work into being good games as well as making me feel like a legit player who has a gaze of my own. (Parody games like Macho Women With Guns also work for me, because there’s hella agency for the characters.)

  16. (I also tend to find sexy art sexier if it’s depicted as being with agency or consent; while Hooters style barmaids are presumably consenting to that role, a game that only depicts women as being sexy is presenting some assumptions about women that are really agency undermining, and which tend to bleed over into really gross player behavior.)

  17. Sex doesn’t sell anything but sex.

    Pretty sure plenty of dudes would not have the same reaction if there were banana hammocks all over the boxes of games on the shelf.

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