HotS and Bothered: Making sex appeal work in Heroes
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Generally speaking, I find gratuitous sexualization in video games (and other forms of media) silly. That doesn’t mean I’m opposed to sexual content, because sexuality is a part of personhood — it’s an aspect of what it is to be a living thing. I refer moreso to sexualization of characters and scenarios for no reason other than to titillate; reducing your heroes and heroines to glistening pecs and bouncy boobs in ways that contribute nothing to your story, your gameplay, or your characters’ personality. I’m talking low-angle butt shots in the middle of dramatic cutscenes which add nothing to a scene’s tone or narrative other than flashing your players a little cheek. Often, that bit o’ booty detracts from the gravitas of a narrative. You wanted a boner so bad, you affected your whole production.
Here’s my conditional statement: If you must employ gratuitous sexualization of your characters, whether it be because sex sells or you simply want to get your jollies off, you should at least do it well. How sexuality is employed should be given the same level of thought and consideration as any other aspect of the game.
To make your character sexy, you need to ask yourself why they’re sexy. It’s essential to understand where your character’s sex appeal comes from. You can’t put every single one of them in a low-cut top or a chain mail bikini and call it a day. You can do better than that. If you take pride in your work, you should do better than that. More, if sex sells is your goal, then you’ll get more bang for your buck the more your consumer wants to bang your buck. When sexuality takes the other aspects of your character into consideration, you’ll achieve a better result.
Today, Anna Bell and I discuss the science of sex in Heroes of the Storm. We’ll be picking out a handful of our favorite heroes and discussing their unique sex appeal — where Blizzard got it right, and where they got it wrong.
Alex: Star Queen Li-Ming is actually the cause of this discussion. Star Princess Li-Ming is an older skin and certainly one of her more popular skins. The Heroes 2.0 beta also includes the new Star Queen Li-Ming. Yeah, there are a variety of differences between the skins, but let’s look at it from a sex appeal standpoint: Star Queen has more boob on display. Rather than the star-shaped boob window, we have topboob, innerboob, and underboob. There’s no universe in which Blizzard made this skin for reasons other than sex appeal.
The problem is boobs aren’t what gives Li-Ming her appeal. First of all, her personality is genuinely appealing. She has cocky confidence and you can tell she wants to have fun. She’s a party girl. When talking Li-Ming’s body, she has a booty so fine it makes me cry. It’s the kind of butt you want to bite into like an apple. Li-Ming is the kind of person who knows this and would flaunt it.
Space Queen Li-Ming tries to draw too much attention to her chest as if only cleavage can be sexy. Striker Li-Ming got it right. The focus is completely on the booty. Li-Ming even does a booty /dance! You need to play that up. Space Princess Li-Ming did it in a really subtle way: her skirt was a gossamer material. You could see her glorious buns right through it if you looked hard enough. Space Queen hides her best asset completely.
Anna: I agree Li Ming’s ass just won’t quit, but in context, I can see why Blizzard is putting such a focus on her boobs. Many of the original female heroes in the game have boobs which are just plain strange. Tyrande’s in particular look like a boob job with an oversized circular implant above the muscle. There’s a half dome glued to her chest. Hers are the most out of control, but lots of them need help. So I understand why, when they finally rigged some titties that look like you could actually squeeze them, they went all in for Li-Ming and her boob skins.
Alex: Obviously, Blizzard needs to go back and fix everyone else’s breasts. Though, I gotta admit, I dig Tyrande’s Heroes body, implants or not. She got that “fertility goddess” aesthetic.
Anna: I don’t think I’ve ever been shy about disliking Malfurion as a character. To be honest, part of it has to do with the whole Malfurion/Illidan dyad. Illidan is the bad boy who refuses to wear a shirt, contrasted with his stoic, boring twin who also refuses to wear a shirt. Basically, Illidan is the guy you want to date, but Malfurion is the guy your mother wants you to date. He has a ton of assets for the kind of stable, healthy relationship she’d like for you. Malfurion is kind to animals and literally a support character. Things would be pretty great outside the bedroom, but you’d probably wind up having a whole lot of either pity or rage sex. Probably both. He needs to clip his fingernails and wash his hands before foreplay starts though. All that romping in nature does great things for his rugged nature but less so in terms of yeast infections.
As a sexy skin though, this doesn’t leave a ton to work with. His inability to keep a shirt on is a good start. His huge muscles are a bit intimidating, but this does leave access to a bare chest and strong forearms. For Malfurion, I’d like to see him in a very common item elsewhere: an oxford shirt. He could roll up the sleeves to show his forearms and unbutton it to show his muscular chest. I’d even go one step further. He could go with a common roleplaying scenario, add a stethoscope or lab coat and be Doctor Malfurion. If nothing else, it opens the door for Nurse Tyrande, so that alone is a win.
Alex: With Malfurion specifically, I think Blizzard has done a good job trimming his beard in his alternate skins. His beard in his basic skin completely covers his chest which makes his shirtlessness pointless. By trimming back his beard, you reveal his sculpted chest. For Malfurion’s sex appeal, they need to embrace his wild side, but within reason. Everyone likes the fantasy of the sweaty, ripped man of the wilds, right? It has its own dedicated erotica subgenre. But nobody likes the reality of the wildman: They’re covered in dirt and smell like rancid butts. Basic Malfurion leans into the rancid butts, but they need to lean into that ideal wildman instead. Musclebound, but with limits. Wild facial hair, but not the kind of beard that’d accumulate bird doodie.
Anna: A shower and trim goes a long way toward making Malfurion more appealing, for sure. He’s the total package, as long as some soap is involved.
Can you believe we made it to the end of this one without making a ‘horny’ pun?
Alex: Jaina in Heroes of the Storm is almost the idealized Jaina. She’s a Jaina who was allowed to be happy. She’s a Jaina who was given actual respect for once. She’s powerful and compassionate and won’t back down from a fight even though she’d rather be studying. The thought of curling up in bed with a nice girl and a good book is a genuine part of her appeal.
I’m conflicted on how they’ve made her sexy. Through her Lunar Festival Jaina skin, they made her a leggy blonde. That skin alone makes people forever hot and bothered by her perfect legs. It’s good! It’s really good! Now that they’ve done it, they should keep doing it. Something about bared thigh riding side saddle is delightful. But it’s also a bit typical, right? The leggy blonde?
It’s too late now, but if they could go back in time, I’d encourage the artists to give Jaina a bigger bust. Way bigger. Listen: I have an actual justification for this. It’s basically canon that Human Females in World of Warcraft are seriously stacked. The character models are pretty topheavy relative to most others. And even though I know the painting in Dalaran is a reference to Tifa from Final Fantasy VII, I still say it’s indicative of human women in Azeroth when combined with their character model. She could be Tifa, but she could be your average level 1 human in starter gear, too. She’s the Azerothian everywoman.
Unless I’m forgetting someone, Jaina is the only representative of human women who hail from Azeroth. She should represent all they have to offer, and what physically sets humans apart from the more fantastical races of Azeroth: massive mammaries. That’s what humanity brings to the table. Jaina should be the cleavage queen, not Li-Ming. Ah, well. Legs’ll do. As long as Jaina is the leggy one, they need to keep her on the leggy throne with more skins like that.
Anna: Given what I said about Li Ming, can you imagine how many sudden Jaina boob skins we’d get if she had some bigger boobs that weren’t jacked up? I’m so on board.
Alex: You have no idea how happy I am to know you agree with me on that.
Anna: Throughout Blizzard’s storyline, Lucio is the boyfriend any girl would be lucky to land. He’s an international superstar grounded enough to be concerned about the welfare of the people in his old neighborhood. Then you look at what the team did with his official art, and now he has kind eyes, gorgeous lips, and a pretty decent package. I mean, he’s not hung like a Terran marine, but that’s another quirk to discuss with Blizzard’s cartoonishly outsized character designs.
A larger bust may make sex with some of their women awkward, but you could still bury your face in them at the end of the day. However, a bigger package leads to real mechanical difficulties. I do yoga five days a week and I’m definitely not prepared for all the stretching the codpiece on Raynor’s combat suit implies. Some people are into being split in half, but that’s not my idea of fun. By contrast, Lucio’s design is just right. Given the whole attentive boyfriend vibe, Lucio would make up for any shortcomings downstairs with that pouty mouth anyway. And then, breakfast in bed and antiquing.
However, instead of playing up any kind of sexy aesthetic Lucio may have, with his muscular exposed arms, they put him in a frog head. Much like the whole Raynor thing, I know that does it for some people, but it’s not for me. Y’all have Chen and Monkey Brightwing anyway. Lucio would be way better served in tight jeans and a t-shirt I would steal when he spends the night at my place, but that doesn’t seem like a very good game skin. The soccer skin he has in Overwatch would be a nice start though, and still shows off those forearms with his athletic physique.
Alex: I definitely think Lucio’s demeanor is a big part of his sex appeal. He’s the kind of guy who would support you through anything. He’d tell you that you look pretty unprompted. He’d tell you he’s proud of you. I agree entirely on his body/musculature, too. Women who dig the Incredible Hulk aesthetic must feel right at home among Blizzard’s roster, but there isn’t much variation. Anyone who prefers anything else in men are getting the shaft. Or not getting it, as it were. Lucio has a more realistic, but still idealized body.
Heroes of the Storm needs more men who aren’t Hulkish and they’ll probably all come from Overwatch. Genji will help. The game needs Hanzo, too. Or maybe the male wizard from Diablo 3 to be another svelte bad boy.
Anna: To be fair, Lucio is roughly as jacked as John Cena, so calling him an alternative for people who like their men ‘slimmed down’ a bit seems a little silly. Wait, John Cena is also a superstar who does a ton of charity work. Is Lucio just John Cena? Let’s move on before I think too hard about this.
Alex: “How can a big ol’ bug what poops eggs out of her butt be sexy?” I hear you ask. I’ll tell you: There’s a fetish for everything. In the grand scheme of things, this one isn’t even that uncommon. Reading the word broodmother set a fire off in someone’s loins just now. Some people dig a bulbous abdomen. Nothin’ wrong with that. When it comes down to raw sex appeal, Blizzard has handled Zagara exactly right: it’s about the abdomen in every anatomical definition of the word.
In one sense, Zagara is the ultimate fat-bottomed girl (who makes the world go ’round.) She embodies those fantasy insectoid things that inspire the internal conflict of horrifying and arousing. Spider legs make us recoil in terror, but also stir feelings in us we don’t want to admit. There’s a reason we tend to equate spiders with predatory sexiness. Black Widow. Widowmaker. Cydaea, Mistress of Pain. Elise, the Spider Queen.
Zagara, at a basic level, is probably only sexy to a few people. It would be easy to ramp up her sex appeal, though. Blizzard has already done it once with Desert Queen Zagara. They humanize her torso, but maintain the bug booty. The shape of her body lends itself well to being sexy: She arches her back to keep her torso upright, emphasizing a beautiful, feminine stomach. Zagara might be niche, but it’s a niche waiting to be filled. Black Widow Zagara. Queen Bee Zagara. An onyx drider accented in gold. Draw attention to the bug butt, chitinous legs, and the human stomach, and you’re going to print money.
Anna: Zagara also has that whole forbidden, alien thing going on. She’s be right at home on Star Trek as the girl Shatner kissed passionately that week.
Alex: I’ve never been a Star Trek kind of guy, but for Zagara, I would be.
Anna: Uther is completely on point for every part of a hot dad fetish. He’s got the beard, a little salt and pepper in his hair, a stern but kind demeanor, and plenty of experience. Hell, he’s even the one telling you what to do in the tutorial so he’s canonically ready to show you how to please him in bed. He doesn’t show a ton of skin, but as a daddy figure he doesn’t have to, and too much skin would be contrary to what makes him sexy. All he needs is the beard, which probably smells like Old Spice, and a demeanor that says how disappointed he is in you for even reading this post, and if you’re lucky, yes, you’ll be spanked for it later.
The Lumberjack skin was a good start. It fits the rugged aesthetic every dad needs, and gives him a chance to show off his forearms and a little bit of chest hair. I want this to go so much further, though. While Uther the BSDM leather daddy might be a bit far for Rated T For Teen, there are plenty of other outfits that could fit the bill, lots of them stereotypical for the bedroom. Cop Uther seems like a natural fit. The authority implicit with a daddy fetish just increases here. The mirrored aviators and a button-down shirt are really just an excuse to hand him a pair of handcuffs, which he’ll definitely be using during that spanking.
Alex: I’m straight as an arrow, but Uther’s luminous blue eyes still have me knuckle-biting. I definitely see the allure here. I want to bite his chest in the same way I want to bite Li-Ming’s bottom. He’s the older man people will judge you for being with, but you don’t care. He’s not old. He’s mature. Maturity has serious appeal. I want Lumberjack Uther to bend me over a stump and chop me in half if you know what I’m sayin’. A Biker Uther skin would fulfill that leather daddy desire while still flying under the radar. Anyone attracted to men will totally get the leather daddy thing while everyone else will think they’re cosplaying a member of Hells Angels.
That’s enough of that for now, I think. I hope we made our point: If you’re going to sexualize your characters, you should do it right. Every character, no matter how outlandish, is appealing to someone. It’s a matter of finding what it is that appeals rather than applying the same approach to every single character. A character can be sexy without wearing a bikini and bending over in front of a camera. Men, women, anything in between, or whatever it may be. Blatant, gratuitous sexualization is stupid. But if your character brings a unique sexiness to the table that fits the character, you’re going to get more mileage out of that — and your players won’t find it so egregious. Sex deserves the same care and attention as anything else.
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