Brendan over at Critical Damage has an excellent article (TW: discussion of sexual violence and rape) about the implicit and complicit participation of video games in rape culture. It was sparked by a video trailer for Hitman: Absolution that is a complete sexist mess. The trailer is painful to watch unless the viewer instantly dehumanizes the women, seeing them as the sexed-up objects they are coded to be through lingering shots of disembodied high heels and crotches. If, just maybe, the viewer identifies with the women instead of the middle-aged white man slaughtering them, it becomes horrifying. I simply can not understand how one would watch this video and fail to see the misogyny, fail to grasp that that level of hatred might be scary when directed at people like you.
And yet, some people do. People on Twitter are complaining that the problem isn’t sexism, it’s that it misrepresents the gameplay! It’s not really that bad; stop overreacting! We shouldn’t complain, other video games are just as bad! Why are we generalizing from this game to all video games!?! If we criticize it we just want the government to regulate video games!
I don’t care about the government: I want people to stop giving money to companies that make first-person participatory hate speech. If they do so anyway, I am going to judge them for that individually. It baffles me that we might want government regulation, because I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect people to not do things like this in public without having anyone tell them they have to. It’s basic empathy here.
There may always be some population that would like to play this sort of game, but it’s not that hard to make it not worth the huge budget that went into this game. As an industry, we don’t have to spend millions to cater to assholes. Chances are, all it would take to get people to stop doing stuff like this is to stop giving them positive feedback for doing stuff like this! I am disappointed that it makes economic sense for this game to be advertised with this video. Apparently, holding out a giant poster saying “Our Game Hypersexualizes Women And Then Lets The Player Brutally Kill Them, Which He (because he is the same straight white male protagonist as almost always) Will Enjoy Because He Is Scared Of Agency Among People He Might Like To Have Sex With” is a winning strategy. The least I can do is point out that I don’t think we should be validating that world view.
There is another article I’ll write at some point about nuns and how they are employed in popular culture to represent men’s ultimate fears of an equal society, but this isn’t it. I’m writing this article to note that while we may assume these things are obvious, especially when they are as blatant as they are in this trailer, to many people they aren’t obvious at all. There is an entire media industry devoted to obscuring these issues so they can keep selling misogyny to misogynists. We keep pointing out what assumptions these games make about the player, their audience and the world in which we live because otherwise some people will keep thinking that the real problem isn’t the sexualized violence towards women, it’s the misrepresentation of the gameplay.
 We here at Border House have deconstructed sexism in many of the other games, as well as explaining the generalized social dynamics being employed. We’ve missed some for sure, but that’s because we don’t spend all day doing nothing but playing terrible games in order to certify how sexist, racist, ablist, transphobic, gender-essentialist and generally awful they are. Luckily, we don’t have to criticize every single game in order to make an impact: tell someone a game is sexist and they’ll be disturbed by that game. Teach someone to recognize when a game is sexist and they’ll be disturbed for the rest of their life!