A few weeks ago a female friend of mine was describing her experiences with Duke Nukem Forever. She was familiar with the chauvenist nature of the game and the bad ratings it received, but as a fan of the older releases and first person shooters in general, she decided to give it a try.
For a good part of the game she thought it wasn’t actually that awful, and still relatively playable. The turning point game upon reaching a particular segment that takes place in a strip club. That part of the game doesn’t involve any shooting, platforming or puzzles. It’s a series of fetch quests, with no form of gameplay challenge and is made purely for the player to ogle virtual naked ladies and comic value of gathering items to pleasure one of the strippers.
My friend described getting really fed up with the game at that point, mostly because it so clearly pointed out: “This is not for you.” This game was made with an audience in mind of (young) men with a juvenile sense of humour or teens who’d get horny of the depicted imagery. (And we agreed that the latter group could just get access to quality porn just as easy).
Of course this is (sadly) a familiar topic. Eventhough there are wonderful exceptions, a lot of video games still cater towards heterosexual men. In a way that women are merely wank fodder; used as reward and decoration instead of realistic characters that we can relate to and enjoy on a deeper level. While the (potential) audience is so much more diverse. I have written about this topic before, and the resistance against this tendency in the game world is something I wholeheartedly support.
I do consider myself an alley in this thing. As predominantly straight, white male, I don’t feel I’m a victim of this stigmata and I will advocate for diverse games primarely because as priviliged person I want to support the marginalised folks. However a tweet I stumbled on recently, shed a different light on it though. Or let’s say, a broader light, because it didn’t change my original stance. It merely broadened its focus.
I had to think about it for a second, but it’s so true. And I realised this before, but never processed the tought. “This is not for me either.” – It’s deravative and boring, and not only it excludes and ignores a large part of its players, it also excludes a good part of its supposed target audience. I’m 31, married, I went to college: I don’t need this cheap excuse for pornography. I want a mature, intelligent story and diverse, fleshed out characters.
Game developers assume I get titilated by the chance of virtually getting laid, or unlocking revealing outfits for female characters. While in reality it mostly derogates the narrative merits of the game and harms its credability as serious medium. Dating sims, porny flashgames and lewd comedy have their own place, but we don’t need this in a medium that so desperately wants to be takens serious.
I think the most recognisable moment for me was the booty call feature in Grand Theft Auto 5. I remember complaining about this in a review I wrote for the game too. Certain random encounters, or interaction with women in the strip club, can result in a “booty call”. Said woman appears as a contact in your phone and you can call her to go to her house and have (off screen) sex. And the woman will occasionally send you sexy pictures of herself. That’s it. A blatant infantilisation of the player and a waste of potential. Random events and encounters in GTA’s enormous open world offer so much storytelling tools. But instead they went for the quick pleaser.
Even if you are not directly affected by sexism in games, don’t let it insult your intelligence.