A recent post on Bell of Lost Souls was brought to my attention and I was asked for my opinion. Unsurprisingly, I have a few. There's three parts to address: the BOLS post, the Save vs. Sexism post BOLS responded to, and the Kingdom Death Kickstarter that prompted the original post. The easiest thing to do is to start with Kingdom Death and work chronologically.
Kingdom Death ran a Kickstarter campaign called Monster
that was successfully funded earlier this month to the tune of over 2
million dollars, with over 5,000 people who backed it. Sounds pretty
great, right? I'd seen people posting about supporting it and heard talk
about how nice the sculpts were for a while before I actually saw the
But when I did, I was pretty floored. I've
never seen a set of miniatures that so enthusiastically degrades women.
If you want to see them, go on over to Kingdom Death's website and look
at their gallery (do not do this at work). I'm not posting them here.
a technical standpoint- they're fantastic. The models are incredibly
detailed, and I have to say, you need to be pretty creative to have lots
of details on a model when the person is 85% naked. But the skill is
undeniable. Some of the sculpts I might have
considered buying if it wasn't for the overly sexualized women in the
range (I say range as some models are for the game and some aren't).
of the female models on their web shop suffer from the problems that
plague so many female miniatures across all major miniature ranges- nude
or barely clothed, ones with just enough armor to cover nipples and
crotch, and cheesecake poses.
This is not a problem that
suddenly arose when Kingdom Death came along, but it's a problem that
they turned to 11 with the ridiculously sexualized "pinup" minis they
included in their Kickstarter solely to entice people to spend more
money. The pinup options have absolutely no other purpose. It's the
lowest common denominator of advertising and while it worked, their
success doesn't make it any less objectifying.
It's unsurprisingly that their choice of promotional materials created some backlash. Lillian Cohen-Moore with Bitchmedia wrote Save vs. Sexism
in response, and while I agree with most of what she wrote, it created a
bit of a backlash of its own. She took the time to respond to most of
it in a follow up under her original post.
Cohen-Moore, I don't care for the theme behind the Wet Nurse, but it's a
horror monster and if they want to make "ballsack-breast monsters"
that's their prerogative. It's not degrading anyone, it's just kind of
weird. Same goes for their other genitalia-related monsters. Weird, but
not offensive and the aesthetic is in line with the horror theme of the
game they're trying to create.
That's what makes the
female models so unnecessary- they don't fit with the aesthetic. She
articulated one point particularly well, saying it's upsetting they
prioritizes making quality figurines (and) chose to make those same
figurines out of astoundingly sexist material." As I mentioned above,
the quality and talent is clearly there. Why spend the time and talent
on something degrading? It's completely unrelated to the product they're
trying to sell, their only purpose is to be sexual.
If you're making a horror themed game and gave it a
title like "Monsters,"
where are the actual monsters? There are currently only 3-4 monsters on
their website (some not even for the game). The last thing the miniature
world needs is more
generic, scantily-clad female models. There are thousands of those
readily available. It's a horror game, perhaps some horrific models are
order? We can never have enough imaginative, scary monsters.
All of this, though is lost on Larry Vela, author of the Bell of Lost Souls
post that I was originally linked to. He opens by
stating "No, we aren't pigs, and we don't live in our parent's
basements. Still, its nice to see the old tropes are alive and well."
His point is a bit of a straw man argument, as no one ever suggested
this was the case. Cohen-Moore certainly never even insinuated such a
thing in her post and the rest of his complaints about her article are
He laments that "All
the standard complaints are" in Cohen-Moore's article. These "standard
complaints" exist, have even become standard for a a very good reason-
because these problems aren't getting any better. The mere fact that
these complaints are considered standard says poor things about the
hobby's ability to grow up and merely pointing out that these are
"standard complaints" as a means of disparaging critics is upsetting.
Cohen-Moore makes several points including that KD's Kickstarter success "is a clear reminder that women remain outside
the target audience of many game designers." This is the crux of her
argument, not, as Vela postulates, that "women customers are overtly
shunned" but rather that women are simply not thought of at all because
the target audience is male.
I find it particularly sad that someone posting on BOLS, a site that not infrequently posts despairingly that more women
don't play wargames, tries so hard to completely shut her down for the way these miniatures make her feel. He does precisely what
he (falsely) accuses her of, by simply dismissing her arguments "with
the flick of the wrist." He addresses none of her points with
a counter arguement,
but instead badmouths her for a perceived "lack of understanding of the
tabletop wargaming industry." Trying to make her seem less credible is a
weak tactic and does nothing to refute the arguments she makes.
his conclusion, he writes that "...these types of arguments have been
thrown around at various
other industries for decades... Perhaps
having them hurled at wargaming is a sign that we merit the attention
these days". The very last thing this signals is any "merit" on behalf
of wargaming- it's a signal that
wargaming is still woefully behind the times in treating women like
people rather than sexual objects.
The problem here
isn't specifically Kingdom Death, the miniatures they produced are just
indicative of a larger problem. Yes, it can be considered a "niche"
game, but they're still part of our hobby and this situation works as a microcosm of the miniatures industry. Those models enforce and encourage
the issues that the entire industry has with its depiction of women.
It's important to remember that it's
not just looking at the individual models, but also how they reflect our
culture. These figures don't exist in a vacuum. There is a
larger issue of female miniatures being
incredibly sexualized and, while that doesn't make a particular model or game
inherently sexist, it does reflect the sexist tendencies of our hobby
culture (and the culture at large). But sometimes these issues can be hard to see.
I've encountered an argument stating that "you don't see men getting upset over all the over-muscled
male models that dominate miniature games." Of course you don't,
because there are thousands of available alternatives! Muscly men do
have the lion's share of the miniature market, but they are by no means
the only male miniatures available, and very few of them are sexually
exploitative. So, when miniatures like those in KD stop being a problem? When we have alternatives!
This can easily be solved by having more than a handful of miniatures
that depict women in positive ways. If there were more miniatures that
featured fully armored or clothed women in poses that do not exploit
their sexuality, then cheesecakey models like those featured in KD wouldn't
be a big deal. They'd be in the minority and KD's miniatures would
truly be a niche in the market rather than the rule.