The Thoughts Behind Miranda's Behind In Mass Effect 2

Aside from the lack of homosexual characters, I had the chance to ask Mass Effect 2 project lead Casey Hudson at last month's GDC about one thing my friends (both male and female) and I have noticed when we first got the game: Miranda's ridiculously tight outfit.

Here's part of our conversation from the brief game demo...

Me: I have to ask about Miranda's super-tight outfit and Jack's lack of a shirt. Can you talk about their character designs and what went into their clothing, or um, lack thereof?

Hudson: I think people will look at the initial view of the characters and say oh, they're going after "this market," especially with Jack. With Jack, people were like, "Oh, it's a marketing thing. They're going after this audience." Of course we don't do that. What we do is, "We're going to create 10 to 12 characters, and we want each of them to be really different." The other thing is there are so many different kinds of players. We like to create all different kinds of characters so that all different kinds of personalities of players that play our game are able to identify differently.

That's one thing we tried with Jack and that's why we make a character like that. A lot of people are repelled by that kind of character. There are other people that see what she's about. That's what we want. The other thing is though that there's always more to that character. So in the case of Jack for example, she becomes someone you care about when you don't initially. Her story makes you kind of care about her and her love interest is intriguing at a superficial level, but the superficial level prevents you from getting to know her. But if you ignore that and try to get to know her, there's so much more there.

Likewise with Miranda. She's genetically engineered to be perfect and beautiful, and she uses that. That's why her outfit is sexy and tight and everything. But, again, it's something she struggles with. She uses it, it's been her gift, but it's also the thing that she feels she's stuck with. That becomes part of it.

Me: I'm not trying to be antagonistic because I love the game, but can you talk about this shot?

Welcome to Ass Effect 2. "Shepard, my face is up here."

Me: The camera angle is an interesting choice...

Hudson: It is an interesting choice. It's also not a transient shot, when you see it there that long (as a dialogue option)...

Me: When you were making the game, did you notice this shot?

Hudson: Oh, of course... Can I ask why was that picture so important to you? I guarantee we've got shots like that of Jacob as well.

Me: Maybe it's because I'm a woman, or I'm a female Shepard, but my other friends - both male and female - also noticed that shot and found it be to be gratuitous. I did notice that Jacob's uniform is pretty tight too, but you can only tell when you stand behind him, and these shots of Miranda just could not be missed. So why...

Hudson: That's part of her character design, she's the femme fatale. It's part of her character and the fact that she's beautiful and this beauty is part of what helps her. As you get to know her, you realise there's more to her.

***

I understand the idea of Miranda's character, who was made to look the way she did (based on the ideal standards of female beauty) by her creepy dad in order to give her an advantage as an expert Cerberus agent; she even has personal conflicts about being made as the "perfect" woman, which she expresses in the game. However, through the course of my playthrough, I never saw Miranda use her appearance to give her this alleged advantage as a "femme fatale." I like the idea that Miranda could have ambivalence about her appearance and how it's being used, but aside from a few complaints to Shepard about it, there isn't much to show for it except her skintight outfit.

Hudson also makes a point about how pretty Miranda is, as if to explain that's why the camera is on her all the time. But I noticed a lot of shots within the cut scenes that obviously featured Miranda's chest and backside moreso than the other characters, not to mention the ostentatious shot shown above; Jacob's outfit might be tight, but there are no lingering shots of his behind, and he's not sexualised by the camera angles. If Miranda is so self-aware, and if she is such a deep character, why do the camera angles emphasise her appearance so often? While many gamers who play Mass Effect 2 are males, it's instances like these that remind me that the game was not made with female gamers in mind, even though many women may play it.

Also see:

BioWare Explains Why There's No Homosexuality in Mass Effect 2

BioWare: We've Got 'Tricks Up Our Sleeves' for Mass Effect 3

BioWare Talks Collaboration Among MMOs, Warhammer Expansions

BioWare Doctors Talk DLC Strategy, How DLC Is Not 'Lunch Meat'

Reprinted with permission from Tracey John.

Tracey John has written about video games for MTV Multiplayer, Wired, Time, Massively and ToyFare, and is currently an editor at UGO Entertainment.


Comments

    Referring to the last paragraph of this post mainly:

    There's an interesting double-standard that a lot of people fail to acknowledge, let alone compensate for. That a 'perfect woman' is a sexual object where a 'perfect man' is either an athlete or a killing machine. Miranda, as an example, can't avoid being sexualised because it is so deeply engrained into our (western) society and media that a perfect woman is a sexually attractive woman, rather than being strong, smart, good with weapons, gifted with magical powers--all of which Miranda also is.

    What if her father (aka Bioware) had instead engineered her to be a super bad-ass fighting soldier? She would have to be heavily muscled and a lot less feminine. Could that character claim to be a perfect 'woman' ? I don't think anyone would buy that--we associate women with sex too strongly. Conversely, Kratos (as an example of an uber-man) doesn't walk around with an enormous erection all the time, which is the closest physical/sexual analogy to large breasts and curvy hips on a woman. Jacob's cod piece isn't unreasonably large either.

    I don't really have a solution to this, except to ponder the possibility of using 'human' instead of man or woman. A perfect 'human' might be more or less a-sexual, strong, fast smart etc. But can you be perfectly human without being gendered and capable of producing perfect babies? Not good for the survival of the species, if you can't, regardless of how perfect you are!

    Personal note: I found Miranda far more compelling than Jacob as a character anyway. Of course, I am male and don't pretend to dislike an idealised curve, BUT was there any conflict at all in Jacob's character? Any depth? Also his facial animations seemed poor compared to Miranda's. His irises often disappeared into his brow and his lips didn't animate very well.

    I think it might have been better if the camera angles depended on the sex of your avatar.
    Players with a male Shepard get the gratuitous shots of Miranda because that's where Shepard's attention is, and female avatars get shots of Jacob or Thane.
    They could even depend on how close Shepard is to certain characters, although, with Miranda as a femme fatale, it might be appropriate that the shots are always there for a male Shepard.

      Spot on! As a female who played the game through twice (male and female characters) while playing my female character it was completely out of context to have excessive ass shots of Miranda. However, for a male character who is pursuing Miranda as a love interest it is completely understandable.

      I'm really tired of the prude and get over it comments that come from men when women mention these logical points. Yes Miranda is meant to have this perfect body with nice butt. We get it you've made that plainly obvious! I have no issue with her outfit either (although it makes me constantly want to check if I have a wedgie). But women when they talk to other women they DO NOT show off their bits and pieces. It's all about context. Get my point?!

      If I'm not pursuing Miranda as a love interest I really don't want to see close ups of her ass 30+ times.

      When people say gaming is a male dominated industry and there are games for men and women and those two cannot meet or women have to put up with oversexualisation you make men sound like one dimensions creatures incapable of higher thought.

    Ya well maybe they should spend all their time with stopwatches timing out how long each character's ass is on the screen and making sure that each individual character has the exact same amount of....

    Oh right, most people just play games and don't spend their time obsessing over stupid shit like this.

      Minus the bluntness, I'd second this opinion.

      While I do remember laughing a touch when the gratuitous ass shots of Miranda were shown, It's definitely not something I'd ever pondered.

      Over-sexualised female characters in a third-person shooter-RPG, i.e a game that screams male demographic, isn't something to be surprised about.

      Furthermore, males represent a larger demographic of gamers, so it's only natural to pander to the larger market, despite what justifications Mr. Hudson makes. Whether or not this is a conscious decision, and not bias created by western culture altogether is another issue.

      While not meaning to degrade/ignore our female gamers, of whom are an ever increasing amount out there, the fact remains that in "manly" games, "manly" things take priority, if you'll forgive the lack of better phrasing.

      As pointed out by Adam Ruch above, Jacob is clearly given lack of attention with minimal facial expressions and facial glitches. Conversely, Miranda and Jack suffer from neither of these, both being highly expressive.

      By extension, however, this is a purely isolated case. Whether Jacob was given less attention, and implying that the female audience were given less

      Thane, for instance, has an enormous amount of expression and detail, the way he speaks was clearly given a great amount of detail, likewise with Mordin and his brief speech structure, grunts dialogue and reactions to Shepard, and introduction to the team. None of these male characters, while I'd certainly not argue are designed to be the male equivalent of Miranda, have as many facial glitches as Jacob.

      All are interesting characters on different levels, Jacob just happens to be the two dimensional character.

      Just my two cents.

      Ass?? I don't see no donkey in that picture or an equine of any nature. Oh you meant ARSE. Next thing you'll be calling it a fanny. >.<

    Some people just go on and on and on don't they? It's those people that make this world such a dull place. The people that write into their local newspaper complaining about something and those people who have absolutely no life and send in complaints about a TV advert.

    Anyway, Jack was annoying. I did not care for her one bit. I cared MORE for that Quarian Tali than Jack and i hate Tali. Jack was just "there" unfortunately. She was upstaged by Samara in looks and powers - she was definitely useless. I mean she kinda deserved everything Cerberus did to her in the end.

    Eh, she may have an awesome booty but her legs are disproportionately thin. They look near-anorexic from side on, it's weird. The model designers should have increased the thigh and calf depth a bit.

    I'd tap that ;)

    I thought both Jack and Miranda were done perfectly. No problems with the outfits, all the characters had body hugging suits on, not just miranda.

    There were a few over-the-top moments, like the picture above, but i just found them amusing, much like Mordin when he bursts into song.

    Please don't complain too much to them, as a man with a crazy girlfriend this is the only thing I live for.

    This article is ridiculous, and I honestly can't believe you wasted yours and Casey Hudsons times to point this out, like they didn't know what they were doing.

    They make a massive game that spans the entire universe with multiple races, set pieces and planets, and all you can do is complain about how they leave the camera on a characters butt for too long, and then spin it in to some kind of feminine bullshit.

    "it’s instances like these that remind me that the game was not made with female gamers in mind, even though many women may play it."

    Wow. Get over yourself. The game was made with science fiction in mind, and one of the characters in this story is a strong and sexualized warrior. For every "butt shot" they have there are about 50 other moments where Miranda is a fucking bad-ass soldier.

    And on top of that, what game IS made with female gamers in mind. Would you care to elaborate? Seriously, it's people like you, separating things into gender differences, that start such fucking ridiculous debates in the first place.

    There is no face in the world large enough to palm for this article.

    What hope has gaming got of receiving the 'serious' tag it so yearns for when one of the most self-serious games out there portrays *some* women in a way that would make Deviantart squirm?

    I think we have gotten in a Political Correctness rut where the journalists are daring a straight and honest answer from the people who know exactly what they are doing, and why, when they exploit sexuality in media. Though the creators of said media can't give the real answer that we all know anyway, because they have been brow beaten into thinking that answer is wrong.

    I am pretty much over the male versus female demographic thing, I think of it somewhat like shaving products. Some are manly and sci-fi looking, 5 blades and makes you a tough-rugged hero just by watching there advertising, the Cream/Gel is manly-scented and appeals to the ladies as shown by the lovely lady stroking the man's chin after a Mach 18 has been over it. Some products are pink and have curved handles with names like "Venus Divine" and there shaving creams/gels have pretty smells. They all work the same in the end. Different wrappers, or in a game's case, different "accentuated assets" tailored for a perceived audience.

    Sex sells, welcome to humanity, get over it, enjoy the endorphins.

    'Maybe it’s because I’m a woman'. It just sounds like Tracey has a personal problem with a woman (that isn't her or even real) being seen from one angle and not another. Unfortunately Tracy, you don't have the right not to be offended but I respect your right to question. I personally except guys being used in some media as provocative objects for woman and just get on with my life. Even though it may feel uncomfortable, I urge you to do the same.

    Both Miranda and Jacob have physical assets and they are all quite well exhibited in Mass Effect 2.

    The belief that "any focus on humans as sexual beings turns them into sex objects" is fundamentally false. Humans are as much sexual creatures as they are creatures of intellect (and since when are the two things disconnected?!?). All our capacities and aspects are parts of us.

    And yes, Miranda is the femme fatale, she will use her 'wiles' to achieve her goals. Jacob's ass (and in sex scene, his abs) get a lot of attention from the camera as well. No one argues this makes him "an object to be used."

    I can see the argument on both sides and im on the fence on this one. I will stay seated on the fence while i have a laugh at the fighting that goes on around me :P

    Seriously - I have no problem with it and i think that it actually creates character, empathizing that she is meant to be THE perfect woman - and lets face it - guys like women and guys check out arses. Dosen't take a genius to figure out where this is going. If she is the perfect woman of course male shep is going to check it out (you are playing as shepard so you get a camera angle to see it), if you are fem shep you still want that angle and see what all this fuss about being "perfect" is about...

    Now my comments can be VERY generalized and i think this one takes the cake but that is how i see it, even though i said i would sit on the fence :P

    And yet, the game as a whole is less gratuitous. There is no nudity.

      yeah i know. bugger isn't it...

    Miranda's arse seemed to have its own lock-on camera at times... and as much as I liked that, I didn't take to it's owner. I found the other female characters more compelling.

    notice in the shot that miranda's left butt cheek is bigger than her right?

    I think all this tight clothing you see in video games and clothing is because the artists involved are too lazy to put an effort into drapery.

    +1. Nicely said.

    Who gives a flying rats arse? Seriously now.

    Obviously you haven't romanced Jacob and seen the gratuitous New Moon-esque topless stripping to reveal his ridiculously toned abs.

    He's just as bad as Miranda, if you went for a female Shepard.

    You know why people like the developers wont admit that it is the reason the shots are there. Because the media today overblows every little thing. Had they admitted it then somehow they would have been promoting chauvinism or contributing to health problems in young women and then they would have to do some sort of ridiculous apology. Look at the blowup in the media from the minute amount of sexualised imagery in the first game. Mass effect one was getting called a sex simulator in the media for that one scene.

    The questions being asked here were leading towards attacking the guy so he got defensive. Big surprise. A few lingering shots on miranda and you are claiming that the game was not developed with female gamers in mind. Does there need to be a scoreboard that coutns tthe number of gratuitous shots of each of the sexes in order to be assured that it is exactly even. I am sick and tired of this overly politically correct rubbish. Everyone constantly trying to force their morals and standards on everyone else they get canned for being insensitive.

    It saddens me to see the community reaction to this article. Evidently I'm one of the few who cares about the cultural direction that games are moving in, and although I generally loved Mass Effect 2, Miranda's blatantly sexualised nature really detracted from the overall experience for me.

    A few responses:
    ribs - "most people just play games and don’t spend their time obsessing over stupid shit like this"
    Possibly true, but that's an argument for putting more effort into exploring issues such as this one - the fact that most people passively absorb the messages and values being conveyed in instances of gameplay like this is compelling evidence for the fact that we should actively examine and criticise it. If we use the fact that "most people" do one thing or another as the basis for making decisions, innovation and unconventional critical analysis would be dead, and human intellect would cease to advance.

    Calling it "stupid shit" is shallow and dismissive, and ultimately detracts from the weight of your opinion. This is stuff that some people care about because it has had an adverse impact on their experience of a game they otherwise thoroughly enjoyed - it's not "stupid shit", it's just "shit that you can't relate to or don't understand the significance of".

    Cheezel - "Over-sexualised female characters in a third-person shooter-RPG, i.e a game that screams male demographic, isn’t something to be surprised about.

    Furthermore, males represent a larger demographic of gamers, so it’s only natural to pander to the larger market, despite what justifications Mr. Hudson makes."

    True, it's nothing to be surprised about, but it's also not surprising that humans are constantly at war, that there are millions of people living in poverty, that people generally don't enjoy their jobs, etc. The fact that something isn't surprising doesn't say anything about it beyond the fact that it's not unexpected. It's not an argument for it to be accepted, supported or perpetuated.

    A game like ME2, which goes to great lengths to be believable, to create a deep and evocative gameplay experience, should be criticised all the more for aberrations such as the gratuitous arse shots that the article focuses on.

    Also, it's "natural to pander to the larger market" only if you consider the players as a "market", i.e., if you make decisions about the game and its content from a marketing perspective. True, games are highly expensive to produce, and there's a lot of pressure from the marketing peeps to make games that pander to a particular type of player, but my feeling is that the kind of incongruous thinking that resulted in the Miranda arse shots is all the more offensive in the case of such a thoughtful game as ME2. It has merits aplenty without lowering itself to this kind of base sexual gratification. The arse is, IMO, a cynical marketing exercise, and I wouldn't be surprised if BioWare were pressured into including it.

    Simon Tanner - "I am sick and tired of this overly politically correct rubbish"

    If you look into the origins of the term "political correctness" you'll find that it was a term manufactured by conservatives in order to make the progressive movement - who were fighting for equality and sensitivity - look ridiculous. Unfortunately it worked, and now making a stand about inequality is immediately subject to ridicule and all too easily relegated to the "overly sensitive wanker" bin.

    Without people thinking about and criticising issues such as this, the world would be more racist, more bigot-filled, more inhumane. By using the term "political correctness" you are implicitly supporting inequality.

    Bringing it back to the subject of Miranda and her portrayal in Mass Effect 2 - the issue is basically that this character has been specifically and obviously made into a sex object. If that were borne out by her actions, or, even better, exemplified by her actions and not by the camera angles (show, don't tell), then she as a character would be objectifying herself, and the incongruity would not detract from the experience.

    Game developers monitor the community reaction to a game and the decisions made in its development, and if they put something out that features cheap, careless content, and no-one says anything about it, then they won't have a reason to do otherwise. That's the reason articles like this are important - they serve to further games as an artform, and they function as the art critic. Thanks, Tracey, for giving a shit, and for having the initiative to give your shit to the source.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now