Link Roundup: Hitman: Absolution Trailer

A screengrab of the Hitman trailer. Nuns walk with their heads down toward the viewer.

Screengrab from the Hitman trailer

This week has seen another round of discussion of rape culture in video games, prompted primarily by the release of a trailer for the upcoming Hitman: Absolution, which I will not link. Instead, I will offer a round-up of some great and some not-so-great (to say the least) articles written this week, both about it and about rape culture in general. Trigger warnings apply to everything below.

A good place to start is Opinion: What the Hell is With That Hitman Trailer? by Keza MacDonald at IGN, which has a description of the trailer in question and has a great explanation of the problems with it.

Next is Can’t We Discuss This Like Adults?, by Rob Fahey at GamesIndustry International, pointing out that the backlash against critics of the Hitman trailer is childish and ridiculous, and that it probably stems from the history of video games being attacked, as a medium, by cynical politicians and other outsiders. Fahey asks gamers to stop having that knee-jerk reaction to criticism and, well, discuss things like adults.

Brendan Keogh at Critical Damage demands that gamers Quit Pretending There Isn’t a Videogame Rape Culture. This is a great post, and some of the comments are quite great as well (some of them are not, though, so tread carefully). Blake linked this one in her post earlier today.

The next two posts are not related to the trailer specifically, but they are posts about rape culture that were published this week, so they are still part of the conversation. At Kotaku, Patricia Hernandez wrote a very personal and powerful piece titled Three Words I Said to the Man I Defeated in Gears of War That I’ll Never Say Again, about the true insidiousness of rape culture. And Taylor Cocke wrote In Response to “Three Words” at his blog, about his experiences of personal growth from being part of rape culture to criticizing it.

On to the not-so-great portion of our roundup… Michael Thomsen at Kill Screen has an utterly ill-informed piece with a ridiculous headline: What is “rape culture” and do videogames have one? Scare quotes alert! The comments on this one are quite worth reading.

And finally we have an irritating blog post accompanied by a completely nonsensical comic strip from Penny Arcade. There are so many things wrong with this post: the assumption that people criticizing the trailer are video game outsiders condemning the entire medium (Fahey was right!), that the criticism is somehow “compulsory” or being leveled by pearl-clutchers who have nothing to do but get hysterical about something they don’t understand, that the problem is that the women being killed are nuns, that instead of criticizing, people should just shut up and make their own games (that last one I’ll address in its own post). Way to miss the point by a mile; my only surprise here is that it was Tycho and not Gabe who was committing it this time.

Update: I forgot to link this great piece about empathy from Alexis at the Betterblog (Failbetter Games).

If you’ve seen other articles that should be included, please link them in the comments.

About Alex

Alex posts some of her sewing projects and cosplays on her Tumblr; you can also find her babbling about sewing and games and Parks and Recreation on Twitter.
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14 Responses to Link Roundup: Hitman: Absolution Trailer

  1. Maverynthia says:

    I think it needs to be stated again about Penny Arcade that Brendan Keogh only brought up the Dickwolves thing, is the Tentacle-Bento game. I didn’t see any of it mentioned, maybe it was dismissed because it’s a card game and thus of the non-electric variety. However Penny Arcade FUNDED a game about raping women. If that isn’t funding of rape culture I don’t know what is. They put money they received from their endeavors like PAX and such and put that money onto a game about raping women. They VERY MUCH wanted to see a game about women getting raped be produced and sold both online and at a gaming convention near you. Maybe even in brick and mortar stores.

    In those links above I read… I didn’t see one mention about it and the fact that Penny Arcade did this and they are NOW criticizing and trying to silence people who are calling out the rape culture in the Hitman trailer. Yet these two things haven’t been linked when they are. Then you get articles like the Kill Screen Mag who feel justified because people like Penny Arcade have their backs.

    • Maverynthia,

      Do you happen to have a link to a good article discussing why Tentacle-Bento is obviously terrible? I had never heard of it before I wrote this post when people started telling me about it. I pretty much stopped paying any attention whatsoever to PA after Dickwolves. So I would love to add it to the list right next to dickwolves if I can put a hyperlink with it. (



    • Never mind. I did what should’ve been obvious and just searched Tentacle Bento on Border House. Link is now in the original article with an appropriate level of disbelief that this is even a thing that exists.

  2. Thank you for the round up, Alex, and for including my angry little rant among these excellent and thoughtful pieces.

    Could I just say, too, that I find it utterly infuriating that the responses to my own piece have been incredibly civil, even when disagreeing. Only one commenter (which I deleted) called me names, and no one has threatened my safety or my life since I wrote it. You just know that wouldn’t the case (and never is the case) whenever a someone other than a cis straight white male speaks up about this.

    Thanks again,


  3. The Penny Arcade piece is weird. Not as directly abhorrent as some of the things they’ve done, but still downright stupid.

    The worst part for me is that he’s implying that without a trailer full of sexual violence, Hitman would not have an advertisement at all. (The answer is always “more art”, never “less art”.) If that isn’t his implication, then the only other possible implication is that something without sexual violence is somehow not art.

    • Ermoss says:

      I assume he’s arguing against people who oppose Hitman: Absolution (or even those who have renounced gaming in general) rather than just against people who find the ad distasteful. (As far as I know, Hitman the game is not expected to be very problematic.)

    • Ms. Sunlight says:

      Hmm. That’s because the PA guys are effing idiots who have repeatedly shown they don’t get that criticism is not the same as censorship.

  4. Jargo says:

    Thanks for this great collection of links. It is great that there are so many intelligent and furious responses which go far beyond that creepy trailer.

    I am a huge Hitman fanboy, and Absolution was the only game i was really really exited about.
    Creating a technically excellent trailer for this game and filling it with everything that i deeply hate about our industry really hurts.

    I understand that the Hitman games were not a pinnacle of great female characters. But at least the games were never misogynistic. But sacrificing my suspension of disbelief and the integrity of the series for Nunsploitation ? Is that’s the thing what everybody was missing in a contract killer simulator ? Seriously ?

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  9. tahrey says:

    The weirdest thing is how “rape”, at one time, wasn’t a sexual – or at least exclusively sexual – term, but was an overall more diverse term of robbery, sacking and violation; overall domination of your foe. I wonder how many of the mentally stunted types yelling it into their headset have little real concept of what it means in modern term and are actually, if unintentionally, using it more in the classical sense?

    I’m not meaning to belittle the problem in any way, it’s nastier even than the continual use of Gay et al. It’s just an idle thought as to how it got this way. Other than these things being the preserve of 13 year olds (of both sexes…) and people who think like them.

    The early to middle years of high school are one part of my life I would not happily re-live. Early teenagers are horrible little shits when put into comptetitive social situations, vindictive and borderline autistic (in the most over simplified sense of the word) in their sheer disregard of others’ feelings or how much of an asshole they’re being. I experienced far too much of it, and worse, by the end of it all I was giving at least half as good as I got – and also not caring how much it hurt, despite having had an early lesson in not acting that way when I was six and took it upon myself to verbally abuse a classmate with a particular birth condition. Lots of fallout and an introduction to reflecting on what it’s like on the other side (ah, the unexpected benefits of a catholic education). Evaporated by the time I was 15. I like to think I’ve recovered somewhat. Many people just don’t :-(

    The trailer, and the description of the early parts of the new tomb raider… Just… I don’t even know any more. Maybe they are trying to make a serious point (with TR, anyway). Perhaps it’s just uncaring and exploitative. It’s certainly making me flinch inside, which is one of the intended results either way.

    But I wonder if either of them would have the guts to release a version of either game, or trailer, with the female characters turned into men (…the men turned into women, optional, and only if there was then a gaybashing accusation; it’d work for Hitman, maybe not so much Tomb Raider, unless a selection of toys were provided for Mr. Croft’s violation). I think it would probably only fly in Japan. And therein lies the largest problem with it – if you can’t turn things on their head and have it work at least a little bit with the same audience, you’ve probably crossed an exploitative line.

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