Being a bloke, I have to admit that I never really gave sexism in games any really consideration. I mean the most sexist game that I have ever played is probably Bayonetta, which is so tongue in cheek that even the wife was laughing at it. Recently many of the people I follow on Twitter start talking about sexism in games, and it has gotten me pondering on my attitudes (most of the people I follow on Twitter are games journalism).
There are a couple of things that really kicked off the thought process. The first is the trailer for the new Hitman game. The trailer is OK aside from one thing, why are the enemy in it dressed as sexy PVC clad nuns, when they could just as easily been generic army men. The second being about the new Tomb Raider game and how they are making young Lara Croft a stronger character by having her fend off an attempted rape. Being honest I did watch the Hitman trailer and the only thought I had a was why are sexy nuns attacking him, it was a bit nonsensical. However looking back it does seem a great deal like they put the sexy nuns in purely to ensure a few more views.
Likewise the Tomb Raider trailers is essentially a couple of minutes of Lara Croft being brutalise, which is intended to shock in itself . However what was more shocking was that the game director then came out and said that as this is Lara Croft at the beginning of her adult life, her nearly being raped will make her a stronger character in later life (the game is essentially a prequel). The implication being that no woman can be strong unless she has gone through some pretty damn rough times.
Do I abject to a game showing an attempted rape? If it is handled with maturity and consideration then no I don’t. Whether this will be the case with the new Tomb Raider game remains to seen. Though I do think that if video games are ever to be taken seriously, or be seen as an art form, they need to explore the darker aspects of life that films and novels handle so well.
Regardless I think what shocked me the most was how remarkably unshocked I was. Had these issue not been raised, I am not sure I would have batted an eyelid at them. Much like the “Booth babes” that many game conventions have. Yes I understand it is a very misogynistic approach to attract people men (either gamers or games journalist) to your game, to the point were they are banned at PAX. However again I just accepted that sexist PR and advertising exists and didn’t give it a second thought.
I beginning to think that I am so blinkered towards games that I struggle to think of things outside them. So when I see a Hitman trailer with gun totting bondage nuns in it, I am focused on the game that I don’t consider how it looks to the rest of the world, especially non gamers. I am beginning to think that games have desensitised me not just to violence (that’s for another blog), but to the sexism that is seemingly ingrained into games. No wonder video game industry struggles to sell to the female market.