The summer drought; finally my final impressions on Final Fantasy XIII; and so-called misogyny and misandry

June 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

Well, the summer drought is well and truly here. Just looking at the GiantBomb release schedule for the UK, there looks to be very little in the way of major releases coming out in the next month or so. Got to say, it’s kind-of welcome, since I’ve quite a few games on my shelf I’ve been meaning to play more of. Bayonetta, in particular, is one regret of mine, and its presence on the “To do” pile is a symbol of great personal shame.

I’ve just managed to finish Final Fantasy XIII, and, I’ve got to tell ya, reviewing that game would be an absolute nightmare. Fortunately, someone’s done my job for me. That man is Chris Kohler from Game|Life, Wired’s online gaming publication, and you can read his review here. It’s definitely a weird one, FF XIII. In some areas it makes some rather brave steps forward, but they feel misjudged, yet it’s also a game trapped by its heritage and its conventions; and, not unlike the recent Alan Wake, it also looks like a game that started out as very ambitious in the original design but was then scaled back to fit time and financial constraints. So, a bit of a mixed bag, then.

From the gaming blogosphere, there have been two instances of controversy: one from Hoyden about Town, where they accuse the creators of the Xbox LIVE edutainment title Privates of misogyny; the second, a reaction against the satirical Hey Baby FPS game, in which you, playing as a woman, gun down dozens of men who are catcalling, harassing and chasing you through the streets of some modern day metropolis.

For the moment ignoring the ridiculous uproar against Hey Baby (mostly of it seemingly coming from the male camp, I have to say), there are some valid points hidden within the Hoyden about Town article, written by Lauredhel. Most of it arises from the Privates press release, which states:

Britain. Land of Hope and Glory-holes. Where pregnant, waddling teenagers take up the full width of the pavement with their oversized triplet pushchairs, unaware that their rampant, perpetual humping has filled them to the brim with all manner of grotty infections.

Now, if you didn’t know that this first part of the release was actually a targeted satire at the Daily Mail’s hyperbolic, social-panic-inducing “news” stories, you could conceivably think that this is a game that considers women to be stupid diseased nymphomaniacs. It took the creators posting on the comments section of the article saying that this wasn’t the case – that it was written as a parody, that they never intended it to be taken as offensive – for some people to get it (and I say “some” because there were others present on the site who were clearly just looking for an excuse to feel morally outraged, and who were unable to listen to reason).

The bottom line here is that if someone has to explain the joke to you, then it was likely never very funny in the first place. You could point to cultural differences (Lauredhel is writing from Australia), but even to me, a native Englishman, the satire part didn’t come across very clearly when I read it. It’s a shame because the creators seem like nice, reasonable chaps, and the mere accusation of misogyny is really quite damaging publicly and hurtful on a personal level. It’s a message badly communicated, PR gone wrong, and it sucks.

(As an aside, misogyny seems to be a rather hot topic at the moment. Michael Winterbottom’s latest film, The Killer Inside Me, has caused an outcry due to an extremely graphic, violent scene where Casey Affleck’s character beats a woman to a pulp with his fists. My stance on this issue is pretty straight forward: as long as the scene doesn’t glorify the violence, it’s not immoral; and as long as it doesn’t unbalance or take away from the film as a whole, it’s aesthetically justifiable, but which is not to say that it’s necessarily a good idea.)

Just to wrap up, let me just say a few words about Hey Baby, and that is this: I don’t care. Seriously, I really don’t give a shit, and I don’t get the fuss about it. Someone has made a game, very clearly tongue-in-cheek, that’s an expression of the frustration they feel when they are harassed by men while attempting to go about their daily lives. I don’t think it’s anything more than that – it’s not, like, a general political statement against men, or something. I get it, I really do, and I think it’s great that we now have this new interactive medium for people to express themselves creatively and emotionally.

Honestly, it’s amazing how many words are being wasted debating this on various blogs and forums. Sometimes I think people really need to get a fucking grip on themselves.

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