Tag Archives: marketing

The Narrow-Mindedness of the ‘Accepted Wisdom’

Today’s guest post is by Sarah Argodale, a young student who is getting ready to start her Master’s degree in Public Policy/Administration. In her spare time, she likes to write about feminism and video games. You can follow her here.

A recent Rock Paper Shotgun interview with the lead writer of Dragon Age III tackles the issue of accepted sexism in the gaming industry. The whole interview is worth a read, but the crux of the argument is that the gaming industry makes excuses for not pursuing boarder gender representation, because it ‘doesn’t sell.’ I see this flawed argument come up a lot in the games industry and community; it’s absolutely infuriating. It is little more than an excuse to keep operating inside a very narrow and limiting idea of who buys and plays video games.

As a female gamer, it’s incredibly disheartening to see female characters being purposefully downplayed in the marketing of a video game, because developers fear that the presence of a woman might negatively impact their sales. It’s even more disheartening when the developers who are erasing women from their advertisements are ones you usually respect and admire. Bioshock Infinite provides a perfect example.

A well dressed white man with a gun slung over his shoulder, standing before a slowly burning American flag.

Bioshock Infinite’s cover.

Most people are probably already familiar with the dust up that occurred when Irrational Games released the cover art for their much-anticipated game that would, among many other things, feature a prominent female character named Elizabeth. Instead of alluding to any of the interesting aspects of the new Bioshock universe, the cover merely featured a generic picture of the male protagonist Booker DeWitt, with Elizabeth completely absent.

Ken Levine, the creative director of Irrational Games, defended the decision to choose a less than thrilling cover and, after some residual grumbling, the ‘controversy’ faded away. Even I wasn’t that bothered by it, and it was quickly forgotten.

Sadly, the issue of marketing video games and women came roaring back this year during the PAX East convention, when I attended Levine’s Bioshock panel. One of the female audience members directly questioned Irrational’s decision to not include Elizabeth—a female character that the Irrational panel had just spent an hour praising—on the game’s cover. Levine shared the same story I’ve seen him mention in other interviews: that he initially did not buy System Shock 1—a game that obviously had a huge impact on his life—because he was turned off by the cover, and that if fans of the Bioshock franchise wanted it to keep existing, they would have to accept that the game needed to sell. He ended by saying to not worry about the cover, but instead to just “play the fucking game,” which was met with raucous cheers from the crowd (mostly men) sitting around me. I sat there and listened as people happily applauded a woman being shot down for expressing her discomfort over how her gender is marginalized in a community she loves.

In Levine’s defense, he quickly apologized on Twitter after the panel. I know that he’d been fielding variations on this same question for months at this point, and a PAX panel was probably not the best forum to restart this discussion. I don’t want to lay all the blame for how women marketed in games at Levine and Irrational’s feet—that would be unfair. But, his defense props up the ‘accepted wisdom’ that so many other game devs tout when they explain why they can’t put their female characters in any prominent advertising. It’s an incredibly insulting idea that women in games mean the game won’t sell; not only to women, but to men as well. Because, seriously, what kind of troglodyte is incapable of enjoying something because it has a female protagonist? Who are these people and why does the gaming industry continue to defer to them? If the success of your game depends on appealing to a group whose worldview will not allow them to accept a prominent female presence in their media, then maybe you should develop a more nuanced, less regressive marketing strategy.

How a game is marketed is incredibly important, because it heavily influences what types of games get made. If devs unquestioningly accept that a female character is unmarketable, then why would they even try and diverge from the homogenous male character standard that exists in most games? It’s clear that considerations like this do happen and have an actual impact on what games are developed. Just look at the development history of Remember Me—a game that features a female protagonist; publishers rejected it out of hand because they did not believe that a female character could sell. Irrational may have not have gone as far as to completely cut their female character from the game, but by not including Elizabeth on the cover, they certainly helped to perpetuate the same status quo that almost stopped Remember Me from even getting made.

I’m glad that people like the Dragon Age team are standing up to the conventional wisdom and refusing to submit to marketing canards that may have been true 15 years ago, but have absolutely no place today, when half of the games community is made up of women. I really believe that the industry is heading in a better, more egalitarian direction and that in ten years this hesitation over marketing female characters will be laughable. But for now, it’s important that men and women in the industry and the community continue to vocally and financially support the idea that a female presence is not going to completely tank sales. That’s the only way we’ll ever be able to prove how utterly wrong this ‘accepted wisdom’ really is.

Assassin’s Creed 3 Multiplayer Trailer Makes Me Cringe

Last week, Ubisoft posted a trailer for the multiplayer mode of upcoming game Assassin’s Creed 3. Predictably, it features whites and Native Americans, both men and women, killing each other with rifles, hammers, daggers and the like. Standard procedure for a multiplayer.

But my coworker and I both agreed that there was something ‘off’ about the trailer. Something that made it hard to watch. At first I thought it was the violence, and then I told myself to get a grip, because violent combat is pretty par for the course in videogames, and I’ve certainly cheered my share of vicious takedowns in the first two Assassin’s Creed games. But I forced myself to watch the video again, and then I realized: it wasn’t the violence that makes the AC3 multiplayer trailer hard to watch. It’s the gender ratio of the violence. Continue reading

Hey E3, It’s Time to Have a “No Booth Babes” Policy

Two women wearing short shorts and tight shirts pose in front of a red sports car, advertising the new Forza Horizons game at E3 2012.

 

E3 might be a wonderful conference to attend if you’re a straight, white, privileged male interested in getting your photo taken by scantily-clad women at video game booths.  But the women (and their allies) in and around the game industry are getting fed up with it.  This year, a lot of focus of conversation on Twitter is surrounding the fact that you can’t look in any direction on the show floor without running into the cheap marketing method of having barely-clothed women acting as eye candy to entice one particular segment of the video gaming audience.  It’s offensive, exhausting, and gamers are starting to get fed up with it.

Brenda Garno Brathwaite, longtime game industry veteran and co-founder at Loot Drop, had the following to say on Twitter:

 

A tweet from Brenda stating "I dread heading off to work at E3 today. The show is a constant assault on the female self esteem no matter which direction I look."

 

Another tweet from brenda: "I am in good shape, yet it is impossible not to compare. I feel uncomfortable. It is as if I walked into a strip club w/o intending to."

 

A final tweet from Brenda: "These are the policies of @e3expo and @RichatESA. I feel uncomfortable in an industry I helped found."

 

She’s certainly not alone.  Many people have replied to her, newcomers to the industry who say that they no longer feel welcome.  Gamers wondering how it got this far, saying it’s a “dinosaur that should be extinct”.  Women saying that they’re embarrassed to love video games because of how the industry portrays them.  There are many reasons to disagree with the shallow marketing tactic: discomfort about how it makes a woman feel about her own body, disgust at using women’s bodies as sex objects to sell products, making women feel as if they’re not the target demographic for games, and so on.  Whatever your personal reason for disagreeing with this antiquated and offensive marketing method, it’s time to speak up.  We’re tired of seeing news sites running stories where they ask people to “get their scorecards out” and rate booth babes at E3.

Guest contributor and longtime friend of  The Border House, Kate Cox, wrote up an honest article on this subject over at Kotaku.

I’ve been walking through the halls, observing the beckons of a legion of carefully-coiffed young women wearing the same t-shirts or polo shirts as their male peers, but with booty shorts or miniskirts and six-inch heels. (Their male counterparts are generally in baggy jeans and ancient sneakers.) They’re not beckoning to me, of course. I am not their target audience or demographic. And a booth that wants to attract my attention by waving the promise of women at me is, in fact, saying loud and clear that they don’t want my attention at all.

 

At one demo, I had to fight my way through a mob to get to the booth’s front desk, only to find that actually, there was no line at reception — the throng around me had assembled to snap photos of the two women in ill-fitting, barely-there elf costumes as they posed provocatively by the booth’s entrance.

 

For all of the vitriol we have thrown at Penny Arcade over the years, at least they have made strides to improve the culture at PAX by instantiating and enforcing a “no booth babes” policy.  I don’t want to attend game conventions if it means that it will feel like I’m walking into the misogynistic Spike Video Game Awards.  I want women to feel comfortable and part of the industry, both in consuming and creating content for it.  It’s crucial that the very industry that cultivates games should not perpetuate what has been an escalating problem.

[Edit: Here is a list of publishers and developers who brought booth babes to E3 this year, thanks to @SimoRoth.]

A brown skinned woman with an asymmetrical bob with a red streak stares intently forward. She is dressed in full body armor with an N7 symbol on the breast and carries a pistol in one hand and a glowing "omniblade" in the other.

FemShep Steps Forward, But for How Long?

On the final day of the San Diego Comic Con, I sat in a hotel lobby completely exhausted, but still unable to stop grinning as I watched two little girls carry on a protracted and energetic pretend battle with a pair of inflatable omniblades. This felt a perfectly fitting way to close out the week as Bioware spent SDCC 2011 actually putting some promotional resources into acknowledging the existence of the female version of Commander Shepard for the first time since the Mass Effect series began in 2007.

A brown skinned woman with an asymmetrical bob with a red streak stares intently forward. She is dressed in full body armor with an N7 symbol on the breast and carries a pistol in one hand and a glowing "omniblade" in the other.

Looks iconic to me.

It was over a month ago that Bioware marketing director, David Silverman, announced on twitter that the company would be producing a Mass Effect 3 trailer featuring FemShep. This deviation from their slavish adherence to the conceit of a single “iconic” Shepard — in the form of a suitably rugged yet suitably handsome but utterly banal white dude — was credited to the massive amount of support and love for FemShep amongst vocal fans, particularly communicated to the devs through social media. Of course, the announcement was made too close to E3 for anything at all to materialize by then and, outside of a few tweets requesting design input from the masses, FemShep fans were left to wait.

Left to wait until this past Saturday, when a much touted Big Announcement turned out to be that Bioware would let the fans choose which of the six versions of FemShep that they’d developed would be utilized in the trailer (and possible future marketing material). Now there’s probably something to be examined in how much of this FemShep push has revolved around the minutiae of her appearance, but I cannot describe how gratifying it was, as a huge fan of Mass Effect, of action heroines in general and Commander Shepard in particular, to walk through the Bioware headquarters at SDCC and see it decked out in high resolution person-sized posters of FemShep designs — more than one of which were visibly women of color.

Of course the probable winner (leading by a hefty margin as of the writing of this article) is the blondest, blue-est eyed option with the longest hair, but a FemShep appealing so stringently to Western beauty standards is still miles better than no FemShep at all. And just the fleeting opportunity — the outside chance — of having official Mass Effect promotional material that features a female Commander Shepard of color is a heady feeling.

Six headshots of women dressed in armor with a rifle on their back. They have varying hairstyles and hair colors and the three women on bottom appear to be of African, East Asian, and possibly Hispanic descent.

Look, Ma! They're not ALL white!

However, this long-awaited triumph only increases the dissonance when considering the other big bit of Mass Effect business taking place at SDCC 2011.

On Friday, one day before the FemShep reveals and announcements began, Mass Effect executive producer, Casey Hudson, and screenwriter, Mark Protosevich, were featured in a segment during the Legendary Pictures panel where they discussed the Mass Effect movie currently in development. Very little of substance was said, both men relying largely on rehearsed sound bytes about the depth and breadth and richness of the Mass Effect universe. (The sole exception to this was when Protosevich wandered off message into an analogy about other video game movies failing because the source material was like a beautiful but stupid woman, at which I and many others in room vocalized our disgust. I say he wandered off message only because I have to hope no one in media training fed him that line.)

The one piece of news that came from this was that the movie will focus on the events of the first Mass Effect game, contrary to fan speculation that it would tell an original story set in the universe in order to avoid presenting a version of the events of the game that could be considered “canon.”

The power of choice has always been a huge talking point in Mass Effect marketing. All of the statements in the wake of  this FemShep push revolve around the developers acknowledging the significance and importance of the character because of that element of choice. Even as they spent years plastering everything available with images of the same grizzled white dude space marine indistinguishable from the other grizzled white dude space marines fronting 95% of the shooters on the market, everything ever said was about how your choices define the Mass Effect universe.

The first choice, the fundamental choice, is who your Shepard is.

For a Mass Effect film, they could cast a person of literally any gender and any racial background as Commander Shepard. There is, by their own insistence, no set appearance, no immutable look. Iconic DudeShep isn’t canon, they’ve declared again and again. He isn’t the Shepard; he’s just a marketing tool.

Canonically speaking, Commander Shepard needs to be athletic; Commander Shepard needs to be charismatic; Commander Shepard needs to be the baddest badass in the galaxy.

Commander Shepard does not need to be a rugged-yet-handsome-but-banal white guy. Bioware has just now taken tiny steps away from the rugged-yet-handsome-but-banal white guy being the single, enduring image of Commander Shepard that they show to the world at large. It seems almost perverse, in light of that, to go charging right back towards that when it comes to something as high profile as a feature film that will introduce Mass Effect to millions of new people.

Yet, I’m just not optimistic enough to honestly think that anyone involved will take the time to seriously consider the infinite amount of options they have, even if they’ve been actively in the process of exploring them in another context.

All I can do is I hope that I’m wrong and that, just once, this isn’t a choice that’s already been made.

FemShep Will Be on CE Box Art, Get Her Own Trailer Thanks to Fans

Shepard, a light-skinned woman with short red hair standing with one arm forward, aiming a heavy pistol, and Thane, a green amphibious-looking humanoid alien standing slightly behind her and to the left.

Shepard and Thane.

Fans of the female version of Mass Effect‘s Commander Shepard rejoice: BioWare Marketing Director David Silverman has confirmed on Twitter that not only is the company working on a trailer featuring FemShep, but she will be included on the box art of the Collector’s Edition of Mass Effect 3. Silverman also took an informal Twitter survey for input on what the trailer-FemShep will look like.

What’s remarkable about this story is how this is possible because of the persistance of passionate fans of FemShep. Before the release of Mass Effect 2, fan pressure convinced BioWare to release screenshots of a couple of different versions of FemShep in action, despite all of the marketing and screenshots released to that point had only contained the default version of BroShep. Fans have also taken it upon themselves to create trailers celebrating FemShep to fill the void left by official marketing, including this version of the ME2 launch trailer, and this awesome fanvid called “The Many Faces of FemShep.” One trailer and appearing on the box art for just the CE are small things, but it’s still great to see BioWare recognizing Jennifer Hale’s great work as well as how meaningful the character is to so many Mass Effect fans.

For more, check out this post at Your Critic is in Another Castle.

RamaCity: Manly casual game for men

Bigpoint, an online game publisher, has just announced a press release about their new game, RamaCity.  This city-building game is their “first casual game targeted specifically towards men”.  Is there any game more masculine than one in which players carefully craft a city, growing from a small trailer park to a massive bustling metropolis?  I mean, really.  Women just hate playing city-building games. *eye roll*  I wanted to know what was so male-focused about this game, so I read on:

In RamaCity, building your dream city is just the beginning: Starting off small with a few trailer homes, players slowly expand their cities, eventually turning them into booming urban metropolises. Gamers will not only have a good time building homes in RamaCity, they’ll be able to bring their cities to life with city planning, daily quests and social game functions, with adorable, fun-loving citizens.

 

….

 

Games like RamaCity are closing the gap between gaming newcomers and seasoned gaming veterans,” says Tobias Reisberger, Chief Games Officer at Bigpoint. “After the success of Farmerama and Zoomumba, RamaCity is our chance to incorporate male target audiences into our casual game portfolio and combine visually stunning graphics and sophisticated gameplay with a casual game that is easy to start playing.

So apparently what brings men in to this game is visually stunning graphics and sophisticated gameplay.  Women need their games simplistic, both in looks and mechanics.  Women need games that are cute and cuddly, and men like to build things and create masterpieces.  It’s a fucking simplified SimCity in a browser. I personally know many women (including myself) who played the shit out of that game.

We’re constantly bombarded with advertisements for traditional console games featuring male protagonists, shallow over-sexualized female throwaway characters, guns, action, boobs, violence, edginess, grittyness as the basic standard for male-targeted gaming.  And don’t get me wrong, that offends the heck out of me.  However, I would like someone to tell me why a city-building casual game is being spun as a game for men.

For those interested in seeing this incredibly manly city game, it will be in open beta soon.  Sign up here.

Duke Nukem Forever – Wallowing in sexism

 

Cover for Duke Nukem Forever. Shows a burly, blond man leaning back holding a large golden gun in his hand. Near his crotch there is a woman's hand but the woman is not pictured. Behind Duke is a city with a bomb blast, some aliens, and a large neon sign in the shape of a woman.

In some games we find sexism buried within plot points or seen through the stereotyped portrayals of female characters. Duke Nukem Forever is not one of those games. There is no need to look deeply into gameplay or storyline to find issues.  Duke Nukem Forever is simply a game that wallows in sexism.  It revels in creating a main character that has a complete disregard for women. Duke Nukem sees women as sexual objects existing solely for his amusement. It is clearly not a game geared for a diverse demographic. I know that this franchise is not meant for me. When looking at everything surrounding the game (the advertisement, the hype, the cover art, the interviews) it becomes apparent that Duke Nukem Forever is capitalizing on sexism and gleefully enjoys that role.

 

Game preview event

Back in February of 2011 Gearbox hosted a preview event for Duke Nukem Forever in Las Vegas. They rented out a strip club, renamed it Titty City for the day, and invited gaming reporters for the event. Inside the club they had women dressed in short plaid skirts, white shirts that were tied above their waists, white thigh high stockings, and high heels. It was the “naughty school girl” look we may all know from Halloween costumes. Of course, these outfits would not be allowed under any school dress codes I have ever seen. The urinals had signs on them that said “Duke Nukem’s Wizzle Tits” which is a joke that I fail to understand. Pictures from the event can be found here and here for those interested. Amid all this pageantry they had demo stations for the game. So why host the event in such a way? They could have invited people to the Gearbox studios for the demo. If Gearbox is a poor choice, then why not rent out another facility to host these demo units? This strip club theme was gleefully celebrated by Gearbox. This is not to say that strip clubs are inherently bad. They can be entertainment venues for men or women and much of the atmosphere is dependent on how the employees are treated. But, in this specific scenario the strip club was not meant as entertainment for both male and female games journalists. It played right into the stereotype of gamers  as heterosexual males that would want to visit strip clubs and treated it as though the only people that write or care about games must also fit into that category. Any number of venues would have been better suited for the variety of journalists in the gaming industry. This preview location just adds to the hyper masculine image of this media as a whole.  It screams “games are made by men and for men only” when preview events are held at strip clubs.

 

The cover art

The cover art on a box indicates the theme of the game. Looking at Duke Nukem Forever‘s box art we get a clear picture of what is meant to be appealing about the game. Duke Nukem’s crotch is front and center. He is leaning back and looking content with a cigar dangling in his mouth. Near his crotch is a disembodied, manicured, female hand. I suppose an artist assumed it unnecessary to show a full female character when all they need for the sexual connotation is a hand. This image shows women as nothing more than body parts existing solely for a man’s pleasure in an eerily literal manner. The large smoking gun at Duke’s crotch just adds to the  sexual *wink wink nudge nudge*. This game is not subtle.

 

PAX East booth babes

Part of Duke Nukem Forever's booth at this year's PAX East. There is a throne on stage next to which are 2 female models dressed in short plaid skirts, white thigh high leggings, black high heels, and white shirts that are low cut and tied at bra level. This photo was posted by Gearbox on their official Twitter http://yfrog.com/h0jd5baj

PAX, the Penny Arcade gaming fan convention, has a policy against booth babes on their show floor. This is a policy instituted in part to make the convention more welcoming and friendly for all gamers. At this year’s PAX East in March Duke Nukem Forever decided to test this policy. They had models dressed similarly to the the outfits used in the strip club during their preview event. When the twitter account for PAX @Official_PAX was questioned about these models they said that

“Our bb [booth babe] policy is cosplay of ingame chars is ok. We checked it out and asked DNF to cover up a bit but otherwise it’s within our guidelines.”

But I argue that calling this cosplay is wrong. Cosplay is something done by fans. It is something done to show appreciation and admiration of a gaming charcater or franchise. These models are not dressed up to show personal appreciation of a character in Duke Nukem Forever. In an attempt by Gearbox to promote their game, they paid female models to dress a specific way for their job at PAX East. That is a very different situation than fans recreating costumes and cosplaying characters from their favorites games.

 

“Capture the babe” mode

[Trigger warning: ableism, physical abuse]

More information has recently come out about the multiplayer modes for this game. The one that has raised the most questions is titled “Capture the Babe”. This mode is similar to a game of capture the flag but instead of flags, teams fight to capture women. When captured, these women may get upset and to calm them down the player will be required to slap their butts. I am surprised that articles have not called the captured women hysterical but I am unsure how the game refers to these captured “babes”. This mode contains many problematic themes:

  • The use of women as objects to be captured by men
  • Women as unreasonably emotional creatures
  • Hitting a person as a method of calming them or controlling their behavior

This is what we get for video game? Misogyny and physical abuse being used as jokes is another way to create an immature culture that is specifically pushing away many gamers. This is not welcoming; this is exclusionary and this is harmful.

 

Randy Pitchford interviews

The CEO of Gearbox has conducted many interviews about the reboot of his beloved Duke Nukem. In one interview he explains his impression of Duke:

“I don’t know if he’s sexist but he’s certainly narcissistic… to him, it’s not just girls but everyone else on the planet that exists for his entertainment and pleasure, whether it’s a man or a woman.

I find that statement remarkable. To me it reads as if Duke’s sexism is irrelevant because he is also a horrific character toward other people. That fact that a character is hurtful towards more than just women does not erase their sexism. In another interview he describes Duke as an awesome character:

Duke is something that’s gone on for so long that even though it’s something where the subject is an absurd and ridiculous (if awesome) hero, the game has a real human story beneath it. This is all very real for all of us. I think that’s become part of the story.

Duke as an awesome hero? I suppose that wielding humongous guns and blowing up aliens is could be considered awesome. But what about the misogyny though? Is that also equally awesome? As Randy Pitchford explains of Duke:

Many imagine that Duke began as a cliche or amalgamation of the prima-facie heroes during a great era for action heroes. Since then, we’ve sort of witnessed a pussification of our heroes in action movies. They have become complex, emotional characters. Duke, being incredibly one-sided and super badass, now stands out, not as a cliche, but as a unique and fresh character rising through a tide of emo. Haha.

Complexity and emotion are seen as worthy of sexist slurs. Well, does Randy Pitchford think we will be pleasantly surprised by this game?

Surprise is a good word. There is a lot of that. Other good words: Shock, Astonish, Engage, Amuse, Entertain, Entertain, Entertain.

Remember, this is all fun and games. Wallowing in sexism is apparently enjoyable; it is entertainment!


Isn’t it ironic?

Is this all satire, irony, or a simple joke? Each of these are different issues. Starting with satire: for something to be satire it must mock it’s subject matter in an attempt at social criticism. Nothing about the game information so far shows this criticism. This game does not ridicule sexism. Instead Duke Nukem Forever revels in misogyny. It finds it funny and nostalgic. The premise of the relaunch is that this gameplay was fun and edgy in the early 90s and we should enthusiastically bring that bit of video game history to the present. Duke is a hyper masculine, chauvinist, caricature that we are meant to enjoy. It is that enjoyment of the character that makes me believe this isn’t satire. We are not meant to pity Duke. We are told to laugh at Duke Nukem’s antics and meant to enjoy his outlandish behavior. Deirdra Kiai also addresses this idea of satire in regards to this game.

If it isn’t satire then perhaps, this game is ironic or simply a joke. If that is the case I point to the fabulous Feminist Frequency post and video regarding over the top uber ironic commercials. There is a transcript of the video on the Feminist Frequency website. The idea is that these campaigns use extremely over the top and ridiculous sexist imagery and we are all supposed to laugh at these images. This discussion can also apply to Duke Nukem.  As Anita Sarkeesianso eloquently states in the video:

Some people might try to defend these ads by saying they’re ‘making fun of sexism’ ironically… somehow. Advertisers must believe that the use of irony distances themselves from male chauvinism but that isn’t the case. While we think we are in on the joke, the reality is they aren’t making fun of or pointing out sexism, they’re doing it.

Remember advertisers have one goal and one goal only and that’s to sell you a product. Everything else, all the jokes, humour and imagery and everything else is to get you to buy it. The easiest way to do this is to use sexist representations that replicates the status quo and doesn’t challenge anything. Marketers love the uber ironic sexist style of advertising because they can use all the racist, sexist misogynist imagery they want and simultaneously distance themselves from it with a little wink and a node.

I recognize that this game will sell. In fact, it will likely sell many copies and make Gearbox a lot of money. But we must realize that it will do so by capitalizing on sexist humor. It banks on people wanting a game that is juvenile and sexist. It expects gamers to enjoy the world of Duke Nukem.

 

Teaching tool

The CEO of Gearbox, Randy Pitchford, is enjoying this attention. He says he welcomes feminist anger. Pitchford WANTS us to talk about Duke Nukem Forever and use it as a teaching tool. If the game itself was actually satire then it would be a great tool. Why should we do the work here? We should not have to show all the failures of this game (the misogyny, the homophobia, the hyper masculine ideal) and then be required to explain these issues. If Gearbox was serious about squashing sexism they could do so within the game. Asking others to do this work while making money by glorifying sexism and hyper masculinity in gaming is not a progressive idea. Making money off sexist tropes has been the norm for decades and I would like for us to move forward, mature, and tell some new stories. Let these overused narratives stay in the past and move forward. Please show us some new, interesting stories and not just more Duke Nukem.

*NSFW* Top Spin 4: Selling female athletes and gamers as sex symbols

 

Top Spin 4 is the latest installment of 2KGames’ tennis series featuring playable character depictions of actual tennis stars.  This latest promotional video features professional tennis champion Serena Williams and the “world’s sexiest tennis gamer” Rileah Vanderbilt, and it definitely doesn’t focus on either of their talent or skill.  The video features both of the women in scantily clad outfits with gratuitous shots of their breasts and asses, and slows down their athletic grunts to sound like something right out of a porno.  How sad is it that someone like Serena, who at one point was the top woman tennis player in the world, who has won two Olympic gold metals, who is considered one of the best tennis players of all time, isn’t enough to sell a game about tennis without removing most of her clothes?

This video also focuses very little on the actual video game that it is promoting.  Kotaku states “…maybe this is what it takes to get people (or just horny dudes) to notice 2K Sports’ latest Top Spin game, a title that’s not known for its titillation, sweaty cleavage and spurts of flame.”

It’s a completely overdone way of advertising games that have little in the way of decent gameplay. It’s basically like putting a big sign on the game saying “Our game sucks, and it is so uninteresting to play that we have to resort to sex to sell it.”  Although it does do us a favor by showing us exactly which games to avoid purchasing.

(via Kotaku)

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.

Trenched!

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.

Ad Copy Done Wrong: BTO Online’s sexism, racism, & classism

Wundergeek is a straight, cis white woman who recently was asked to write an article about sexism in gaming and found she couldn’t shut up about in once the article was done. She’s since started Go Make Me a Sandwich, a blog mostly devoted to ranting about sexist imagery in all areas of gaming. In addition to being a cranky feminist blogger, she is an artist, photographer, and somewhat half-assed writer living in the wilds of Canada with a wonderful spouse and two slightly broken cats.

BTO (or Business Tycoon Online) is yet another translated Chinese browser-based free online game. It’s published by Dovogame, which also publishes a free online browser RTS called “WarFlow”. (Which isn’t the worst name I’ve heard for an RTS, but it sure as shit isn’t the best by a long shot.)

Unsurprisingly, like pretty much all others of its ilk that I’ve encountered, it uses pretty women and big fake breasts in its ads, despite the game having pretty much nothing to do with sex – unless distribution and franchising is the sort of thing that gets you hot and bothered. If you stumble across one of their tamer ads, like this one, it might seem pretty indistinguishable from the legions of ads just like this one:

I am totally hot and fiscal for you! (an Asian woman displaying generous amounts of cleavage with the BTO: Mansion logo)

Albeit one whose translations are not as good as some other Chinese-translated games out there:

Fix you typo! (A "limited gift code giveaway" banner featuring a blond white woman showing lots of cleavage. The banner has a button right next to the woman's breasts that says "get you code".)

Make money like a former Senate Republican? Woo! What fun! (An old white man in a suit surrounded by cleavagey young women. It reads "be the boss and make your frist million")

All joking aside, the second banner about making your “frist” million pretty much sets the tone for the whole ad campaign. Boss = man = clothes. Subordinates = women = BOOBIEZ. And that makes sense, right? If there’s one thing that I learned from the few years I worked for a multi-national corporation it’s that only men get to be fully clothed. And let me tell you, showing the amount of skin mandated by corporate policy got pretty damned uncomfortable in the winter, what with being in Canada all. I had to resort to drinking margaritas at my desk to keep warm!

 

Boobz = profits is one of the biggest laws of economics. (Two banners, both featuring white men in business attire alongside women in very revealing outfits.)

I have to hand it to BTO. They actually have a pretty diverse range of ads in that they steal from pretty much every other online game’s ad campaign ever. We have the Breast Now Button from games like Evony and Caesary:

Three banners for gift package giveaways that feature text over or right next to the breasts of scantily clad women. The top banner has a woman behind a large gift box that appears to be naked.

There’s also the “half-naked woman with o-face with cars” from… just about every car ad ever:

TOP: A woman with a sultry expression and most of her breasts showing next to two expensive luxury cars. BOTTOM: A banner that reads "create your dream car now". A white man in business attire is on the left, in the center are four expensive luxury cars, and on the right is a woman with a seductive expression and a very revealing outfit. There is a button placed right next to her crotch.

I have to say, it’s pretty surreal seeing all of this sex-based marketing applied to a game about building a business empire. I mean, sure I guess the sexist advertising matches up with the misogynist reality of corporate boardrooms, what with less than 4% of all Fortune 500 CEOs being women. But even so, there seems to be an even larger disconnect between the ads and the game than with other free mmos that use these advertising tactics. When I think “business empire”, I usually don’t associate it with women’s crotches. But apparently, the BTO advertisers would like me to:

treature”. There is a treasure chest right in front of her crotch.”]

Two banners. One with a scantily clad woman that says "30 Million players" and has the BTO logo over her crotch. The second has the same woman in front of an old nautical map and reads "Dive deep and claim your [sic

Not exactly subtle, are they? Amusingly, I think the advertisers may have fallen into their own trap. It seems like they were so busy staring at this poor woman’s crotch to notice that they misspelled treasure – unless they’re trying to invent new marketing slang. (Treat + treasure = punany?)

 

All of this is bad enough, but BTO really goes for the gold with this one:

Two white men in suits with the BTO logo. One is clearly modeled on Warren Buffet. The other is... perhaps a Kennedy? The banner reads: POWER-UP YOUR WEALTH AND SOCIAL CLASS.

…by becoming a white man, amirite? I haven’t seen a single woman resembling an avatar in any of these ads. All of the women shown as presented as rewards, not as people or potential characters.

Also, look at the ads and really examine the skin tone. The first woman looks Asian, and a few of the others might be (it’s hard to tell at such small resolution). But all of the ads feature only figures that share a certain paleness of skin tone. The woman in the first ad is even paler than the JFK-ish guy on the left in the “Power-Up” ad! I didn’t find a single figure with a skin tone darker than light caucasian tan until I went hunting for screen shots and found this gem:

A game screen titled "please select your secretary". There are 10 female portraits. One secretary is selected who is describes as "stylish". She is a white blond woman who is showing most of her breasts, most of her midriff, and is wearing a micro-mini skirt. She has a very alluring expression.

So I guess the lesson is that it’s okay to be non-white, as long as you’re a hot chick willing to bone your boss, who will always be a white man and may also be ugly and/or old. Remember, it doesn’t matter if men in corporate culture aren’t young and attractive because we don’t hold them to such shallow standards. As for the women, tits or gtfo, bitches.

What I really, REALLY love is that if you squint hard enough to make out the words, each portrait is captioned with not a name but a generic descriptor. Like “sociable”, “sweet”, “innocent” or “dutiful” – none of which really tell you a whole lot about what sort of assistants they would be. Then you have the even LESS helpful descriptors like “gorgeous” and “stylish” – which describes the highlighted secretary with her shirt open.

…stylish? I can think of a few adjectives to describe her, but “stylish” isn’t the one that pops to mind. Generally, being stylish involves, um, wearing clothes.

And then there’s the red circle… the type was really small; I initially thought the caption was “Oriental”, which I just couldn’t believe – hence the red circle. I went hunting for a larger screen and discovered that the caption is actually “Outstanding”, which is still pretty ridiculous. Just what is she outstanding at? I think the implication is that it’s not paperwork ifyouknowwhatimean.

The thing is, when I went looking for a larger screenshot just now, I happened to find this:

A screen showing a portrait of a young woman, Asian? (it's ambiguous) wearing a blazer and showing cleavage. On the right side is a "Secretary Introduction", including: "Style: Oriental". (ORIENTAL? SERIOUSLY??)

Okay, what gives? This is a game published by a Chinese company! Even if this is a mis-translation, it’s one that should have been corrected. I mean, this is just awful. Really, unbelievably awful.

So, wow. Dovogame – you fail. A lot.

(Originally posted here)