Trenched – for men, manly men! (no girls allowed)

A screenshot from Trenched. It shows a large robot attacking an equally large blue creature.


A new game has been announced from Double Fine.  In this game you can control huge robots against what appears to be a science fiction type  alien menace. A large variety of gigantic robots can be controlled by the player. Not much information is available about the game yet but that premise sure sounds fun to me! Robots? Sci-fi aliens/creatures? I am interested!! So I checked out the trailer:



Double Fine (ominous laughter)

They are coming. Coming for your freedom. .. for your family… for your children. (shows aliens attacking)

(image of an alien screaming) The Monovision menace has destroyed our army, our navy, our air force. Who is left to fight?

(image of a huge robot commanded by a male soldier rises up from the ground) The mobile trench brigade! (image of men doing one armed push-ups) An elite force of experienced soldiers trained to command a revolutionary breed of weaponry.  A combination of mobile firepower and stationary defenses that will turn the tide of war in our favor.

(a fast scrolling gallery of images that always show a male soldier standing in front of a different robot) Handle cutting edge weaponry designed specifically for mobile trench warfare. March side by side with allies from around the world. You can join us, or just stay home and wait for Vlad to knock on your door.


Turn no man’s land into REAL MAN’S LAND!

Did I just hear that correctly? This game is for MEN! MANLY MEN!! No girls allowed, because war is for MEN!!

I do not know if the game will include playable female soldiers. It may or it may not. But even if the game itself only includes male soldiers, it could still be appealing to female and male gamers. Yet the advertising strongly states that women gamers are not welcome. It yells that this is “REAL MAN’S LAND”! Why, oh why, do we still see this kind of advertising? In one line, my excitement diminished and my anger rose. Here is a game that interested me when I heard the premise but the trailer specifically screams that it is FOR MEN; it is not for me. That line was unnecessary and did nothing but exclude part of the potential audience. The way I see it, it is a sign of bad advertising when I go from excited about a game to feeling angry and excluded in less than 2 minutes.

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21 Responses to Trenched – for men, manly men! (no girls allowed)

  1. TK says:

    Yeah well, I’m a man, and after watching/reading that, I don’t think it’s for me either. “Real man’s land”? Seriously?

  2. I had a conversation with about this just after the award ceremony.

    Over all, the award ceremony was chock-full of disgusting sexism and chauvinistic crap and at first, I thought this was very consistent with that.

    But as as friend pointed out to me, this game is by Double FIne, and I think it’s safe to assume (at least, I hope it is) that this game is meant entirely satirical. I mean, it’s Tim Schafer! I don’t think he is saying this is a game that only men can play but rather lampooning the many, many games that do seem to imply that.

    Which is not to in anyway say you shouldn’t be offended by it. Clearly, if it is indeed satirical, doing so in the first announcement trailer when no one is familiar with the IP yet was a poor choice.

    But also, it’s worht pointing out Schafer’s AWESOME slam-down of Penny Arcade during the awards. That was amazing!

    • Gunthera1 says:

      I love Double Fine games. I own several of their games and am still excited about this premise of this one. The game itself may prove to be wonderful when it comes out. But, I am not blasting the game in this post. I have not played the game. My problem is with the last line of the ad/trailer. We could assume that Double Fine meant it ironically. Maybe the game will be very humorous and mock the trope of war = manly. BUT the ad does not confirm that assumption. Gamers that doesn’t know anything about Tim Schafer or Double Fine are going to see this ad. I see nothing in that trailer that would give them cause to think that line was meant jokingly.

    • Sif says:

      What award ceremony was Tim Schaefer at?

    • FarisScherwiz says:

      What did Schafer say about PA? I missed the whole thing :(

  3. Jayle Enn says:

    The impression I’m getting from this is an invocation of the Giant Atomic Alien Invaders(!) (in 3D!) movies from the Fifties– or rather, the sort of propaganda an army in those worlds might put out, given that the day was usually won by plucky young people. Propaganda calling out to square-jawed, manly men with no necks, like the Soldier from Team Fortress 2 if he didn’t have conflicting contractual obligations.

    The language is exclusionary (and ridiculous), but the question is will the viewer take it as a work of genre parody, or take it to heart? I’d like to say the former, but people never cease to surprise me. Even more, I’d like to see that language undermined by visuals of female mech-jockey sharpshooters or Rosie the Riveter-like engineers, even if the game’s narrative assumption is that your avatar is built like a brick outhouse and hasn’t seen his chest for all the medals and hair since the day he walked into the recruiting station.

    …most of all, I’d like to see this not be a glorified tower defense game, but that’s not really germane to the topic at hand.

  4. Lucas says:

    The ad simply turns me off from the game. Anything telling me what a “real man” is (i.e. 99% of advertising) just pisses me off. If the ad is meant to be satirical, then it does a poor job of it by just repeating all the manly man crap.

    Is it ironic that the aliens are called “Monovision”? As in correcting vision and its social metaphors? Maybe that’s where the potential satire is.

  5. I think it’s meant to be satirical; however, I agree that it’s not conveyed well, and this is the first DoubleFine game I find myself with next to no interest in. Many, many hypermasculinized games claim to be satirical, all the way back to Duke Nukem; it’s easier to fall back on those tropes and claim satire than to actually productively demonstrate an alternative, and it seems like that may well be what’s going on here–even the art style seems lazy, which is what’s really strange for a DoubleFine title, which are otherwise defined in large part by their art direction. Which is tremendously unfortunate, because it’s DoubleFine. They’re brilliant and better than this. (Psychonauts!)

    It’s worth noting, in that sense, that this is the product of a small team within DoubleFine rather than the whole company itself: while Schafer is peripherally involved, this, along with Stacking and Costume Quest, have been produced by smaller divisions within the company (hence their quick production and short running time).

  6. Kaonashi says:

    I’m quite sure it’s satirical. I enjoy satire of macho maleness, even when it’s stupidly over the top. It can be a good way to poke fun at certain aspects of masculinity.

    But just because the satire is inclusive for me doesn’t mean it can’t feel excluding for women. I can definitely see that here and it seems completely unnecessary. There really isn’t any good reason for it. I’m sorry to see it from a company like Double Fine and I just hope the final game is different.

  7. FarisScherwiz says:

    Since this is Double Fine, it probably is satirical.. but it just doesn’t come off that way, especially if you aren’t familiar with DF and Tim Schafer. It’s a rather unfortunate choice for them and hopefully they rectify it at some point.

  8. If this trailer is meant as satire, it’s an excellent example of how to fail at creating satire. There’s no critique, just manliness presented as the ideal.

  9. Nezumi says:

    It’d work a lot better as satire if there were any indication not to take it seriously beyond the fact that it’s very obviously structured like a military recruitment film rather than a standard game trailer.

    • And it’s not even particularly ridiculous. Which the amount of over-the-top going on here (ie none) there’s absolutely no indication that it isn’t meant seriously, if in character.

  10. wererogue says:

    The problem with/best thing about parody is that it is almost always up to the audience to decide whether you’re replicating something about the original(s) because they were stupid and deserve mocking, or because they were awesome. Unless you’re very explicit or do something to subvert the part that you’re reproducing, it’s not clear at all, and people will just pick whichever one suits them.

    In my opinion the worst offender for being a Manly Man Game is Team Fortress 2. It’s *such* a good game, in terms of game design and mechanics, and yet they started without any women (the pyro is debatable, but since they won’t be explicit it doesn’t really matter), they took it even further with the spy ad which mocks the scout’s Mom, and they sort of went off the rails with sparks flying when they introduced the in-game “Mann Co.” store, and started throwing around the word “Mann” wherever they felt they could get away with it. It really felt to me like instead of listening to feedback from the people they were excluding, they doubled-down and said, “no, we *really* don’t want you.”

    The silver lining on TF2 is community members like ChemicalAlia who are doing their best to mod the game to be more inclusive. CA has made three exceptional-quality skins to replace male characters with female ones that feel right at home in the game. You can find them here:

    • FarisScherwiz says:

      I loove ChemicalAlia’s work. It would be so awesome if Valve would implement her stuff instead of a new round of hats, clearly a lot of people like them and it would go a long way in making the game more inclusive.

      I still love playing TF2, the places I play at have a really respectful community.. but it does feel like the game wants me to go away sometimes :/

  11. Ohma says:

    Knowing that people at Double Fine are behind this I can’t accept that it isn’t intended to be at *least* poking fun at macho jingoism. I don’t begrudge anyone getting squicked out by the tagline but I do think it wasn’t intended to insinuate anything about what the people making the game think.

    Honestly I got a very Verhoeven Starship Troopers vibe from the trailer, which coincidentally and a little humorously is also frequently mistaken as a serious adaptation of the original book due to the obviously satirical bits being *just* close enough to Heinlein’s actual in book ramblings for some people to miss things like the fact that it’s all but flat out stated in the movie that the war was engineered for propaganda purposes.

    uh…i think my point is that this may be coming off badly due to the majority of video games already failing at having any subtlety or nuance, so big burly mustachioed men in funny hats driving walking robot trenches to fight monsters who are part tv and may or may not be the result of communism!? doesn’t immediately strike a lot of us as absurd even though it patently is

  12. Trodamus says:

    When too much of the industry is focused on macho bullshit, a parody or a satire — they’re not the same thing — of macho bullshit isn’t as welcome as a genuine attempt at a meaningful narrative.

    Which should serve as a reminder for everyone to go out and get Beyond Good & Evil on Xbox Live Arcade in hopes that we’ll actually see the sequel come to fruition.

  13. Carl Thuringer says:

    I would say that the impression most people will get is one of satire. Broken down, the trailer is full of ludicrous, over-the-top macho imagery. The steady progression of the trench-walker in the bay growing bigger and getting bigger and bigger guns, what looks like the hull of a walking battleship, the men doing fist (or finger?) push-ups, the historical setting, the aliens that, as a commenter mentioned, looked like part-television part squid monsters and may or may not have communist connections…
    C’mon, ‘mobile trench warfare’? That’s an oxymoron to chuckle at.

    Historically the role of women in american warfare hasn’t been equal opportunity, and since this is a period game, it would be acceptable for them to follow with an all-male soldier cast.

    However, I wouldn’t put it past Schaefer to give women a strong role in the game.

    To the point, I admit that “no man’s land,” a term used in military context to describe “Land under dispute by two opposing parties, especially the field of battle between the lines of two opposing entrenched armies.” (There’s ‘trench’ again) wordplayed into the phrase “Real Man’s Land” is probably off-putting to those sensitive to male-centric vocabulary (of which English has plenty).

    But in its defense, the idea of a “Real Man” is quite laughable to me. Especially in the above context. I can’t think of any recent communication, commercial or otherwise, in which “Real Man/men” was used in any form other than that of mockery.

    • Lucas says:

      The impression that people here are getting is that it might maybe possibly be meant as satire, but is falling far short of it. You’re right that it’s ludicrous and the exaggerated masculinity is derisory, but the trailer’s just regurgitating the same old crap.

      It would not be “acceptable for them to follow with an all-male soldier cast.” Just because women weren’t always the ones shooting and being shot at doesn’t mean we should accept that their contribution is ignored by games that portray war as an exchange of lead. If our collective memory relegates women to the backstage of war, and if games haven’t found a way to include women’s non-combat accomplishments yet, there’s no excuse to ignore them completely.

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