R P G A M E R . C O M   -   E D I T O R I A L S

Isolating the "Squee!"

Erica Kudisch

It amused me to no end the first time I entered the command for Flik, Grenseal, and Alen to brush the hair out of their eyes and rain pretty boy Hell down on the unsuspecting unicorn. A good commentary on the general aesthetic appeal of the aesthetically appealing is in good conscience; this is especially the case if one not only finds the aesthetically appealing to be aesthetically appealing, but one wonders why.

If Suikoden's "Bishounen Attack" amused me, the presence of three pretty boys willing to call themselves pretty boys within the Hundred and Eight Stars fascinated me; in our hip-hugger and FCUK society, it is usually an insult to call a boy by such a feminine adjective. "Pretty" is a term best reserved for girls, cars, sunsets, flowers, and (in some of the current vernacular) large, rapidly moving accumulations of fire. Young men in our culture prefer to be called "hot" or "handsome", if they want people to acknowledge their appearances at all. Even the majority of the gay men that I know look on "pretty" as a feminizing adjective to be used only in jest when describing one of their sex. But here, in this make-believe empire, we have two Lieutenant Generals and one blue-caped rebel that seem to take pride in their prettiness.

I don't exactly mind. I mean, at least in relation to the Suikoden series, I was kind of starved for smooth features and hauntning eyes when Gremio's picture stopped gracing the text windo--

Ahem. Sorry.

--Spoilers aside, this invasion of men who advertise their own physical attractiveness seems to be contributing to the influx of female gamers. Considering that appeal to the female demographic has been a goal of "alternative media" for the better part of this last decade, it was only logical that the gaming companies borrow a card that anime has been playing for so much longer. Perhaps, back in the day, the producers actually saw the Sephiroth fanart, passed by a harajuku Sigfried, or read the Kyle/Nash doujinshi, and decided that the design staff was doing something right.

Or perhaps Tetsuya Nomura started sharing his crack.

Either way, whether or not the character designers actually are doing something right is the subject of debate. In this debate, I am on both sides.

Let me put it bluntly; given favorable conditions, one of which is sufficient motivation and another of which is caffeine, I can be a fangirl. Oh, yes I can. I can squeal with the best of them, I can glomp with the worst of them, I can artfully describe the sheen of the gratuitously polished pixilation that forms Albert Silverberg's immaculate jawline. I got down on my knees in front of a Yuber cosplayer at this year's Otakon and worshipped the biseinen harbinger of chaos when the character he represented would probably have beheaded me before I managed to produce the first of the necessary phonemes of the word in question.

And of course my standard fangirl tendencies do not apply to Suikoden alone. I have a wall in my dormitory positively caked with so-called pretty boys and aesthetically pleasing men, most of whom are lovingly remastered by CRPG fanartists into compromising positions. Krelian, Setzer, Nicolai, Sydney Losstarot, Magus, Glenn, the other Glenn, Auron (when younger and less dead), Sydney Losstarot, Gilder, Delita, Grissom, Sydney Losstarot, every Chiki and Chimou Star that ever lived including Miklotov, Londo Mollari, Sydney Losstarot...

...Ehe, Londo is kind of a long story. Nothing to see here. Move along.

So yes, I confess it: I am part of Squeenix's new target demographic. I am among the reasons they continue to provide us with apparent pansies like Vaan and other forms of sky-pirate. I am among the reasons Konami wasted inordinate amounts of money and time on Suikoden IV's models when they could have spent it on actually exposing the backstory relegated to Rhapsodia. I am among the sources of the misinterpretations that RPG headwaiters are having about their audiences; that because we appreciate style, they can afford to skim on substance.

I am also a firm believer that they cannot. When I read of people complaining about this cut corner in the battle system, or that character that never got the backstory she deserved, or a certain smorgasboard of fanservicey CGI masquerading as storyline expansion, it makes my heart sink. To think! because I appreciate the aesthetically appealing, I am somehow to blame for the gameplay grievances of so many!

Perhaps I am merely flattering myself. But it is difficult to deny that it's chicks like me that put the squee in Squeenix, and that squee may or may not be impugning the credibility of the industry.

The real trouble seems to be that the gaming industry has discovered it is, in fact, an industry. Its primary function is not to create high art, but to allow its legions of Salarymen to continue purchasing monthly tickets on the Shinkansen. When pretty boys pay the mortgage on one's Tokyo apartment, it is only logical that one encourage the implementation of further pretty boys follows.

Furthermore, there is no refuting that gaming is a hedonist pursuit. While nearly any given game can serve a lucrative end, we play any game of any medium first and foremost to be entertained. If a pastime becomes a chore, it has failed in its intent. While I observe that individual games possess a tedium that outweighs their stimulation, the industry itself is thriving. It's produced a grove of lemons, to be sure, but then, so have the fangirls.

I find myself, in my role as a fangirl, part of both the problem and the solution.

But what is the solution? Need those of us who desire the groundbreaking innovations of the past--myself included--elect to eschew the hedonism, so that we might encourage the designers to look beyond their skins and visuals? Shall we offer them an endless streamload of tirades, and hope that we may breach the language barrier? Or need we only let them hear that we are squealing--like stuck pigs, mind you--at more than their models?

As it was aptly put by a certain Trekkie Monster, The Internet is really, really, great for porn. Binary is a universal language, and perhaps when those little ones and zeroes materialize in the form of Fair Use -unfettered fanart and fanfiction, that is what the bigwigs see. Authors such as J.K. Rowling are abiding by the same logic as the game designers--they see a fanbase willing to fill in the holes (with anything from Hot Coffee to Hawt Yaoi), and so they leave those holes gaping. What was once a story ambiguity may now be an actual invitation for the fans to actively impress upon the canon work.

I apologize for the ensuing triteness.

Ye detractors? What you have to do to drown out the squee is simply be louder than it. It's hard, I know, and fandom is scary. It stalks you in the shadows and occasionally plummets smack onto your head like a final dungeon. But if you want to be the plucky young heroes that save the field of CRPGs from the squealing demon hordes, you have to speak louder than we do. And by that, I mean you must breach the safety of your chats and friendslocked journals. Take a hint from us fangirls and sacrifice your dignity for the sake of the medium!

Or...well, you could get a pair of earmuffs and turtle.

It is unfortunate, but these days--when a search for Lord of the Rings turns up more real-person-slash than actual canon--she who squees loudest is heard in Japan. The prolific have always been more public than the profound, which is why cult hits exist in the first place. One can trust the cult hits to continue being made by the artists within any given industry, and such is the logic behind Indie and avant-garde. But the mainstream is the mainstream, and abides by the rules of supply and demand. And right now, those who speak loudest are demanding the Adonis Attack.

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