By Isaac Butler
Amanda Marcotte has a must-read post rounding up and commenting on several recent stories about misogyny in the geek commnunity. You can check it out here. I think one of the things that kept me from getting too hard core into geek communtiies, despite being from an early age a sci-fi reader, video game player and BBS host are the kinds of jackholery Marcotte outlines here.
I also think one of the fixes is better, smarter video game criticism from mainstream outlets like IGN and 1UP. The average Maxim feature is more intelligent about issues of sexism than the average mainstream video game review. Because a photo of it happens to be features in Amanda's post, I went and looked up IGN's review for "Lollipop Chainsaw.":
Few games establish a tone as firmly and quickly as this one. Even fewer are willing to leave you behind if you aren’t into it. In the first five minutes, a voluptuous blonde goes from welcoming you to her bedroom to having a steamy shower scene to slaughtering zombies in her high school. If you can’t hang with the nonsense from the start, you won’t keep up as the obscene insanity spirals further out of control.
From top to bottom, Lollipop Chainsaw is self-aware and utterly silly. It has fun with itself and is proud to be what it is. Profanity is as prevalent as innuendo, and the open-faced absurdity is endearing.
Until it isn’t.
The problem is, the review has no real problem with the game's objectification of women or its overt sexism. The (male) reviewer's issue is that the game is too relentlessly vulgar. The problem is the game is so over the top it eventually kills Mitch Dyer's boner:
For every zombie Juliet Starling decapitates with her chainsaw, someone calls her a whore, talks about masturbating to her, or comments on her gigantic breasts. In and out of combat, the primary goal of Lollipop Chainsaw is the money shot, whether it’s up Starling’s skirt or down her shirt.
Obscenity eventually hits a point where it’s no longer contributing to anything. When shocking and titillating the player take precedent over the core gameplay loop, we have problems.
So... shocking and titilating the player with steamy shower scenes of underage girls is fine, but if you do it too much it's just so boring, particularly when the gameplay mechanics aren't as well worked out as they should be. Shit like this is going to have to change if we are going to change the discourse within geek communities.
PS: I'd just also say that this review-- and I don't mean to pick on it too much, actually by raising a mild objection of being bored by the nonstop T+A the review is almost progressive in the context of its peers-- employs one of my least favorite excuses these days: "self-awareness." Basically, the idea is that you can do something offensive or shitty so long as you're self-aware about it. The problem is... well... that it's just utter and complete bullshit if the self-awareness isn't being used towards any end. There's a difference between the self-aware comedy of Archer and the self-aware comedy of Family Guy, for example. The former uses outrageousness to develop character and examine genre tropes and is also so goddamn consistently witty it becomes difficult to argue with it. The latter is just a machine gun of jokes.
I'm sick of "self-awareness" being an excuse for things. It's either doing something interesting and worthwhile with its content or it isn't. If I know I'm being an asshole, that doesn't make me any less of one.