These are but a few of the comments that graced Matt Lees’ video about Killer is Dead’s Gigolo mode.
They won’t fuck you no matter how badly you defend them, Matt.
“Whydon’t you actually talk to these ladies” It’s gigolo mode, not feminism mode
god what a fag
Ew, fuck you. Suda 51 rules.
Matt Lees can suck 100 dicks. I dunno why you want to play feminist now.
It’s not all bad, there are even a few balanced comments since the first onslaught, but there is still an abundance of hugely aggressive comments and argument on the page. This is nothing new. It shouldn’t really be surprising, after this long, that the wider video game community can be horrifically defensive when it comes to sex and gender.
Anita Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter and Damsel in Distress videos have become infamous among the gaming community for the shocking reactions to them, including death threats, and a game where you could beat her up. She describes more thoroughly what happened to her in the Ted talk below.
It’s tempting to say this is just ‘internet culture’ but there is something more than just typical internet rage about this intersection of gaming and gender discourse. There’s a naïve part of me that hopes the general reaction to something online that broaches the subject, or dares to criticise some of the practices will be met with reflection, if not agreement. But no. When Anita Sarkeesian decides to make a series of videos about some of the prevailing sexist trends in video games the war drums start banging. And now Matt Lees, who made a funny video to call time on Suda 51′s retrograde nonsense has got the Internet aflame once more. Everyone expects a few trolls, but this is just depressing.
These responses seem to come from a large group who don’t actually want content about video games to involve discussion or critique, but rather be a validation of their hobby and tastes. The urge to shout and whine about videos which point to the lazily sexist or blatantly offensive feels remarkably similar to the hate expressed when a review comes out with a score of 8 or lower for an eagerly anticipated title. There’s seemingly a need to shield games from any sort of criticism, lest that sour the cherished memories of games past, or ruin the excitement for a game that will be bought regardless of what a review says.
This desire to outright defend any criticism I sort of understand. We put so much into this hobby. For many, including myself, video games are a defining part of our lives. We’re already used to the wider media misunderstanding video games and making cheap controversial arguments about them, so for someone within the industry to say there’s something deeply, pervasively wrong with games, it can be taken, if not thought about, as an attack. An attack which apparently warrants knee jerk reactions, lame arguments, appeals to tradition, distractions, and all manner of other furiously typed responses which amount to putting one’s finger in their ears and shouting ‘lalala, not listening!’ It’s sad, because its so unnecessary.
There are many games which I love which are nevertheless based on a sexist premise. I adore Shadow of the Colossus. Love it. Will talk about it endlessly if given the chance. The fact that it can be seen as part of a trend of games in which, you, as a male protagonist, go on a adventure for the purpose of saving a pretty lady, a lady which is portrayed so simply as to be functionally identical to a pot of gold, doesn’t stop it from being one of the best games ever. It’s possible to see that stuff, call it out, hope that games continue to become more varied and representative without it diminishing your opinion of a game or love of the industry.
There’s also a fear of change. That if some of this stuff is challenged games might lose something, they might become homogenised, or boring, or not stray into interesting areas because of the (non-existent) censorship brigade. This is particularly relevant to Suda 51′s game. He’s rightly thought of as an auteur, so the fear is that by daring to point out that Gigolo mode is ridiculously crass it might somehow in the long term limit his or others’ work. It’s just not true. No one would say he can’t release this, but pretending that it’s auteur work, and not adolescent pandering is just an act of denial.
Most games aren’t challenged anyway, as people within the industry are mostly able to differentiate between games with some sexualised imagery and those with genuinely problematic representation. Take Bayonetta. There is no question that Bayonetta was intended, at least in part, to arouse. But there’s clearly more to it than just cheap titillation. All the other details; the butterfly wings when she double jumps, her animal transformations, the HUD elements, the music, the story, it’s all so joyful. It’s an incredibly camp game, beautifully so. This is not to say the game is unproblematic, but there is a world’s difference between it and Gigolo mode where there is no point to it other than reducing a woman to a sexualised prize, with interactions that are creepy and insidious.
The points raised in Matt Lees and Anita Sarkeesian’s videos aren’t about whether a game has boobs, they’re about how women are framed overall. It’s this subtlety that’s lost when the well intentioned videos criticising video games are taken as attacks. The arguments and anger towards Anita Sarkesian and Matt Lees have almost nothing to do with the subjects they’re talking about. They’re about clinging onto a nostalgic, precious vision of games. The sooner it stops and valid criticisms about representation are taken on board, the sooner creators like Suda 51 might actually think about the implications of the content they’re creating.