OWTK Gaming

Why There Are No Girl Swap Force Skylanders

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Vicarious Visions David Nathanielsz and OWTK’s The Bear discuss SWAP FORCE females.

Move over McKayla Maroney, the Bear is not impressed.

My oldest gal traveled with me to New York City last week specifically to ask a Skylanders Swap Force game developer why there are no Swappable Swap Force girls. She and we love the new female characters — Roller Brawl, Smolderdash, Star Strike — we totally do, but there are no swappable ladies out now or in the pipeline. What gives. Why is this, she wondered, when there was one girl Giant (Ninjini)? Why would Activision/Vicarious Visions/Skylanders take a step back in time with twice as crappy a batting average for Swap Force, going 0 for 16 vs. 1 for 8 in Giants?

When the opportunity presented itself to speak not just to a game developer but to David Nathanielsz, the Executive Producer of Vicarious Visions, the company who built & designed Skylanders Swap Force for Activision, she threw down her XBOX 360 controller, abandoning her Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle game (played with the turtles!) to run over to where he was seated.

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TMNT’s Mikey and the Bear.

Should I have recorded the 10 minute interaction that followed between the two? Probably, as DaDa Rocks’ Adam Cohen pointed out…several times during and after the exchange. But I’m of another age still, in some ways, despite my Instagram love, and so I let the conversation happen organically and sat back to enjoy watching my usually-timid girl not beat around the bush with Mr. Nathanielsz.

The thing is, I’m not sure either of us are buying the explanation.

Nathanielsz said that because the height and width of the Swappable characters needs to be within a certain range of each other, especially at the waist where the top and bottom of the figures are connected, for the magnetism to function properly and the game to recognize the swapping, that they designed an all male lineup. But that Freeze Blade, an icy wolf type character yet to be released, is thought of by him and his team as neither male nor female. Okay, cool, we’ll check him/her/it out whenever he/she/it makes his/her/its way to a Toys-R-Us peg. But this relative size thing raised more questions, questions that unfortunately weren’t asked because the Bear was a bit slow on the follow-up thought process, and she was clearly nervous and distracted by the sheer volume of gaming activity going on around her, and I didn’t want to cut in and make a scene, because, frankly, I’ve got some issues with the reasoning. And I am known to make a scene.

Here’s what seems fishy, to us and to Gill Grunt:

1) The implication in those remarks are that a female Skylander would need to have a slimmer midsection and possibly be more petite in stature to be outwardly recognized as a female, and thus, couldn’t be made because she’d not connect with the tops or bottoms of her male Swap Force counterparts. We’re getting into female body image stuff here which agitates me greatly, as a modern man and a dad of daughters. Granted, and happily, the Skylander girls are not at all demure on screen, but they are a bit tinier, overall, so their line of thinking does seem to jive with what they’ve done with their regular lineup of girls since the first game, Spyro’s Adventure. See: Stealth Elf, Sprocket, Whirlwind, Star Strike, and so on. They are skinner for sure and a teensy bit shorter than standard male characters, with few exceptions (Trigger Happy, Boomer, Wrecking Ball) but those exceptions usually involve stocky males. Ninjini, clearly, is a gigantic Giant, and she has very small waistline. This is a troubling female/male perception issue but it is not the main problem with the explanation the Bear received. The main problem is that the waistline of the Swappable Swap Force Skylanders is narrow already. Take a look:

In looking at the make-up of the Swappable fellas, it doesn’t seem that there would be an issue with making a slim-at-the-waist girl Swappable Skylander (if they must make all girl characters slim) because the Swappable Swap Force troupe is already wearing a size 30 men’s trousers, with a mix of sleek/slim and short/beefy tops and bottoms. So yeah, we ain’t exactly buying it.

‘Tis possible that Mr. Nathanielsz wasn’t prepared to answer this question. A possibility I find strange, but, well, possible. An alternative explanation of “we didn’t want to have gamers mixing girl tops with boy bottoms, and vice versa, from an anatomy standpoint” would’ve been somewhat more palatable and understandable. Still, he was very gracious and kind in speaking with the Bear. He also took time to show her and talk at length about the other girls still to come in the Swap Force line, including Scratch, of the air element. He expressed his excitement about her abilities and that got the Bear psyched to look for her in stores as more characters are released later this year.

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And, as an aside, props to David Nathanielsz for knowing about kindie music, specifically Jon Coulton’s “Princess Who Saved Herself” (to which he said “that’s a great song”), The Verve Pipe, and Chris Ballew. He’s a fine fella who helped make a very fine game. A game that’d be significantly finer with a few more feisty gals like my Bear.

What do you think about the explanation for why there are no girl Swappable Swap Force characters? You buying it? If not, what else could be the explanation?

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One Comment

  1. I still think that it is the anatomy thing. They didn’t want to get into a transgender issue. So they avoid that all together by making all the swappable characters of one single gender. They could have done 8 and 8 and not made them swappable with each other but that would have just confused and enraged parents who have no clue about the game. I’m not buying the slimmer waist explanation myself.

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