Last week there was some online rage about the rework of the rAge mascot Roxy. rAge is the massive local gaming expo that happens once a year in Johannesburg. It’s turned into a huge geek culture event that showcases video games but also includes Cosplay, incredible artwork displays and just an opportunity for a bunch of people with similar interests to get together and have a darn good time.
A few things: NAG (a gaming magazine) is involved in the promotion and coverage of the event. rAge has always had a “mascot” called Roxy. My interpretation is that she is some sort of “gamer girl”. NAG released an updated version of Roxy and the rage about a mascot began.
Initially I wasn’t going to weigh in. I watched from the outskirts and kept my thoughts to myself. HTXT published a fantastic piece by Matt Benic (a local game developer) that succinctly highlighted my thoughts on the matter (you can read that here). Lazygamer followed up with their views, which for the most part, were much the same as those of Benic in his HTXT piece (you can read the Lazygamer piece here). You’ll note both pieces highlight that the gaming industry is in the throes of changing their perspective. Close to half of gamers the world over are now female and the drive to increase women in gaming development, as well as some ugly smudges in their ledger including the recent gamergate, has forced the industry to re-examine. There’s still a long way to go but as an example of positive change it is good to note that both those pieces were written by men in the industry and both men said “not cool”.
So why am I now writing this?
I don’t speak for serious female gamers or game developers. I’m a casual gamer that loses her temper after 20 minutes of struggling to get to the next level. What I am though? One of the girls that frequents rAge (and there are far more of us then you might be mistaken for thinking there are). The gaming stands are fun but so are the tech ones… so are the comic book related ones and so are the artist stands. I love checking out the Cosplay and catching up with friends.
My thoughts on “new Roxy”
I think an artist (Caroline Vos designed the “mascot”, but her gender really isn’t relevant here) was presented with a brief to produce “Roxy with a classic retro space pinup feel”. I think she did just that. I love the vibrant colours. I love retro pin up designs. I love the implied (intended or not) sexuality of the tentacle wrapping around her leg. I love how strong and sexy the character looks. I love this piece of art and would hang it on my wall. But….
I hate this as a mascot for rAge.
While you probably know me as the silly girl who writes tongue in cheek blog posts about consumer tech I have an honours degree in Communication Science. I also have a “day job”. That day job is managing the product development and marketing for Africa’s only fixed fire engineering solutions manufacturer. I’d love to now go on about some of the incredible award winning innovative products we’ve sent to market or tell you about the 4 pick and place machines that run in one of our 3 factories and how we print our own circuit boards. Instead I’m going to put my marketing hat on for a minute.
My understanding of a mascot is a symbol used to communicate an idea, build a connection and become a relatable figure for a company or product. I think a good mascot embodies the characteristics or attitude that you want to assign to the product/company/brand. A mascot provides that link or connection to the product/company/brand.
So what is the idea that Roxy embodies? What is the message she is trying to portray? What relatable characteristics does she embody that communicate a particular group’s message to the target audience?
I couldn’t answer any of those questions. I’d like to hope NAG can but I wonder if, rather than developing a mascot revamp around a marketing strategy, a bunch of folk sat around a table and decided to commission an artist whose work they loved to create something beautiful to look at.
rAge is marketed as a gaming expo for the whole family. Those child unfriendly games on display have special areas to stop little ones from coming into contact with the material but there are kids’ games showcasing as well. I’m not a mom but I do have three younger siblings all under the age of 12. Would I want my 11 year old sister to see this image? For her to subconsciously associate that image with video games? How would I answer my little 4 year old brother when he asks me why she isn’t wearing pants? And he will because he is at that stage where mentioning body parts like bums make him giggle hysterically.
But are we flogging a dead sexist horse?
Many an argument will start by telling us that there is no way to not offend everyone. Male characters are just as likely to portray an unattainable body image. There is nothing wrong with appreciating a beautiful woman or the depiction of one. I don’t actually disagree. I admit that sometimes the feminist brigade can take something to the point of overkill.
The thing that sits uneasily with me when I look at this “mascot” is not how women are depicted but how gamers are depicted. For me it feeds the stereotype that gamers are creepy strangely porportioned men sitting in their mom’s basement perving over women whose image they have blazoned on their T-shirt, never seeing the sun and terrifying other humans with their pasty skin and inability to handle themselves in normal social situations.
Gamers aren’t like that (well, except maybe Dave). However, it was how video game enthusiasts were stereotyped for a long time. Despite the obvious stereotypical female references that this new Roxy feeds I think she feeds the male ones too.
And that’s not cool.
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