I’m a gamer… I have been a gamer since the NES. I was instantly hooked when I loaded up my first game, Duck Hunt, and callously shot Ducks from the sky much to the amusement of an animated dog. I’ve played the best games ever made and a few of the worst. I’ve watched this industry mature into the highest grossing entertainment industry and I supposed played my part in getting it there. I love games… I make no apologies for it, and do my best to promote my passion to anyone that will listen.
Today though I found my self confused by what I considered was a gross over reaction on the Hitman absolution trailer. I awoke this morning to Charlie Brooker tweeting
Trail for Hitman: Absolution is terrible shit aimed at base, clueless imbeciles. Fuck the games industry if it thinks that works. Fuck it.
Talk about setting the games industry back about 27 years. Fucking morons
I won’t be buying that piece of shit game, and if they send it to me I’ll toss it out the window.
Hitman was trending worldwide and naturally my inquisitive nature took over. What could they have possible done to illicit this reaction. This was a game about killing for money after all, how much further could they push social convention. I came across an article by IGN’s new games editor Keza Macdonald and to be honest this article is a direct reaction to reading this leftish, feminist, nanny state, bullshit!
Fair play to the girl, she sets out her stall early. Barely a sentence in she whines
‘The latest Hitman Absolution trailer, though, pairs gratuitous violence with sexualised imagery to create the most troubling piece of marketing material I think I’ve ever seen. It’s obviously designed to shock, but the effect isn’t thought-provoking or emotional – it leaves you feeling uncomfortable, mildly disgusted, and wondering what kind of warped conception Hitman’s marketing team has of what gamers want to see.’
Strong sentiment indeed and the article continues in an unbalanced, highly critical manner. At this point I still hadnt seen the video and thankfully Keza oblidged. (albeit only after she had spewed out her venom). I will follow suit, please see the controversial video below.
Here’s a summary: Agent 47 strips off bloodstained clothing in a motel bathroom, redressing in his trademark crisp white shirt and red tie. Meanwhile, a group of women dressed as nuns march from a school bus parked outside the motel. The camera focusses on their religious symbols, a theme reminiscent throughout the Hitman series, before focussing on the eyes of one of the women.
They bring pistols, SMGs and a rocket launcher out from under their habits before stripping them off to reveal tightfitting PVC-and-leather. Agent 47, meanwhile, is putting clothes on, slipping a jacket over his shirt and pulling on his trademark black gloves.
The nuns line up outside his motel weapons in hand. The leader pulls a RPG out and fires on the motel. Make no mistake these guys are bad guys, trained soldiers, professional assassins, and they are here to kill our protagonist. Of course Agent 47 has sneaked out the back and proceeds to dispatch the villains with efficency. Agent 47 shoots the final nun square in the forehead before she can fire a round at him. He then closes her dead eyes, and there’s a shot of him standing before a burning building
Keza major difficulty with the trailer is the sexualised nature of the women and the fact that they are brutal killed. She draws the links between sexuality and the violence and accuses the makers of fetishing violence.
Lets explore these themes.
Firstly sexulisation of women is everywhere! I’m not here to debates the rights and wrongs of how the entertainment industry as a whole treat women. ( For the record I’m a fairly conservative guy and hold fairly conservative morals by today’s standards anyway) Hollywood has been doing it for years selling films through sex, courting controversy, toying with innocence etc. A recent example we could look to is Sucker punch which combines gratuitously dressed school girls fighting all sorts of men and monsters, in an almost video game like environment. I might be wrong but this was a full 90 minute film exploring the same themes as the trailer above, I didn’t see the film get pitched as ‘disgusting’ and ‘uncomfortable’ albeit it was style over substance.
Returning to games though and sexualised women have appeared in critically acclaimed games for years without even being mentioned. Bayonetta features a ‘PVC’ clad women with guns fighting all sorts of nasties. She is brutalised, hit, objectified, and sexualised all with violence attached.
Arkham Asylum features a highly sexual Harley Quinn who dresses in a revealing nurse outfit. Batman battles with her and plots to incapacitate her throughout two games. Again the camera lingers over her cleavage in cutscenes and her character design is meant to be sexy.
Again two critically acclaimed games and they have never had accusations thrown at them of sexualising violence.
The visceral nature of the violence also seems to disturb Keza. The graphics in games these days are incredibly real and with that the violence is more genuine. As gamers we have been growing and dealing with this type of violence at all times. I can think of several examples of potentially challenging images that I have experienced through games. Call of Duty has had quite a few in the last few years which courted less controversy. A scene in MW3 saw a young boy and his family blown up by a bomb in a terrorist attack. This I feel is more challenging than the trailer above.
Its the fact that a mainstream video game site is now in agreement with the same morns that read the daily mail that disturbs me. Just because games look more real doesn’t mean they cant have an element of fantasy about them, without some sort of sinister message being portrayed. On a serious note I have had a ‘gun’ in my hand since those days as a 4 year old holding that NES gun. I have never once felt that experience effected me at all, as I always knew the difference between a game and real life. I feel gamers are intelligent enough to know this is escapism and nothing more. The psychos who act out sexual violence on women in our modern society are mostly Footballers and jocks. While their out drinking and raping, we as gamers are plugging away at our computer games keeping ourselves out of trouble, yet the media are always quick to blame games for societies ills.
For me the whole thing has feed right into Squre Enix hands. They designed that trailer to get the daily mail, right wing, militant, decency police into a tizzy and unwittingly promote their game. Trawl any of the video games boards and you will see gamers share my view. My problem isn’t with Keza, my problem is with how sensitive society as a whole is becoming. We cant joke any more, we cant mock, we cant tease, we cant have escapism without being accused of being delinquents. I use video games as a way to blow of steam. To stop me lashing out at the world, I take my frustrations out in games. I have never played a game and felt my view of anything has changed, I have never felt a game has programmed me to kill. If anything on a few occasions its saved a few lives ha ha.