Are we brought up to see men in a negative light?

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Does anyone remember the phrase from their childhood: “Don’t trust boys. They’re only after one thing”? I certainly do and it’s likely it’s affected me my whole life, I just haven’t realised up until now.

Thinking about it, I have always been surprised men have emotions. It may sound strange or you may understand exactly where I’m coming from but let me explain. When listening to love songs sung and written by men, I used to find myself thinking “do men really think like that? Wow.” Or now when I see a man cry, I treat as a big deal, whereas a woman crying isn’t, because they cry all the time. I’m shocked and almost, can’t believe it. After all, we’re brought up with the notion that men are after one thing, who could have thought they could love another human being so much? When bringing up boys, it’s not unusual to skip all the emotional stuff – when they fall over, you tell them not to cry, get up and be strong whereas a girl is comforted, hugged and kissed. It’s true that girls are often more emotional than boys, a lot of this is down to hormones, so women are known to fluctuate in mood quite rapidly which men, often, do not understand. Men aren’t brought up to understand women’s emotions or menstrual cycles (which mess with our emotions quite a bit) so it’s no wonder they spend most of their lives confused about women. At the same time, girls are brought up with the idea that men are dangerous, want to force you into sex and that they’re generally bad news.

While this may be true of some teenage boys and some men, it’s not true for the majority and it seems hugely unfair for both sexes. What if inciting such beliefs led to the self-fulfilling prophecy? For those who aren’t familiar with that term, the self-fulfilling prophecy is when you tell someone they are “X” so much, they actually end up becoming it because of you. For example, if you are taught in school you’re going to fail no matter what, it can actually lead to you failing. Boys are supposed to be obsessed with sex, that’s what we teach them, so is it any wonder some turn sour? We are also taught that only boys are obsessed with sex during their teen years, not true – or else how would so many teenage pregnancies occur? We cannot possibly believe that every single girl was forced into it. No, due to those fluctuating hormones I mentioned before, girls can be just as sex obsessed (or rather, curious) as boys – they’re just not as vocal about it because they’re not allowed to be for fear of being seen as sluts.

I realise I’ve gone off on a tangent but my point is I feel as if we’re brought up to see boys and men in a negative light. Men don’t help themselves either, I’ve lost count of the amount of men who’ve judged another man’s actions on the basis of “that’s what men are like”, as if one gender follows the exact same emotional path set out before them. What I have found is that in fact, one man is very different from the next (funny that!) and that any man who says he can tell you what another man’s motivations are is a liar. But because of what men say about men, I don’t know what to believe sometimes, my boyfriend tells me things that lots of men (and women) would say is a down right lie. Now I don’t know if these things are lies or not, and unless I invent a machine that allows me to read others minds, I will never truly know. The fact that I doubt someone, just souly due to what others day is “true of all men” is sad though and I don’t think we should be brought up like this. 

Do you agree? Is it a similar case for what men learn about women? Please let me know as I’d be fascinated to learn more.

Writing about the opposite sex in video games; a Nathan Drake and Lara Croft comparison

Video games have changed, dramatically and at a very fast pace. Only a few years ago were we playing a pixelated character you didn’t really care about but now we have well developed characters with incredible stories. Unfortunately, this creates a few problems too. The industry has huge pressure on them to do something new, realistic and fan pleasing. Standards have gone up tenfold which means the players aren’t always happy.

The latest uproar comes from the Tumblr community. It’s about how Tomb Raider apparently promotes “rape culture”, you can see the post (and my rant at the end: here). They largely argue that male developers should not write a female character, ever. A statement which I find hugely offensive. It says that men don’t know women at all. A fair statement but what women knows what all women are like? She only knows her own personality inside-out but she couldn’t understand her polar opposite point of view. Every human being, whether the opposite sex or not, is complicated. Hell I think most people don’t even know themselves very well. My point is that if you say men can never write a female character, you’re also saying a woman can never write a male character.

So in that case, what about Amy Hennig? She is one of the most influential women in the gaming industry and is known for her writing of the Uncharted series. She created Nathan Drake, one of the most likeable video games characters in the world. So, if men can’t write Lara Croft then who the hell is this woman to write a male character!? Oh no, we’ve all been mistaken she’s done such a poor job because she wrote about the opposite sex. Furthermore, we should also slander all the books that have ever been written by a man about women and vice versa, I mean, they obviously don’t know what they’re talking about right?

I would be down-right offended if I was a male writer/developer and someone told me I couldn’t write about a woman. It’s sexist. End of. Women are not “better writers”, you get bad and good writers of every gender, race and background.

Now the issue of rape in video games. As far as I know, it’s an issue that has never really been tackled and from what I can gauge from the TR trailer, it doesn’t really look like it’s tackled here much either. Although, it’s only a clip, I could be wrong. However, we all know rape is horrible and it can be a very difficult issue to tackle. Many films and TV shows have tried and succeeded at tackling rape, you only need to watch any soap on British TV to see this. Some have failed too, naturally, but if TV shows can tackle such sensitive issues, games should be able to too. We want more adult games because video games are made by adults mostly for adults, we don’t want to be treated like children when it comes to playing a good, in depth story. For me, there’s no reason why rape shouldn’t be addressed as almost every other serious issue has been in games.

Some argue that the “rape” scene in TR is used to strengthen Lara and that in itself is wrong. Again, I don’t expect that particular scene to hold any significance over everything else that happens to Lara. She’s thrown about, captured, tied up, shot at, threatened…a lot of horrid things happen to the poor woman. That’s what makes her stronger. It’s perhaps a bit cliché but how do you make a character go from never firing a gun to becoming a bad ass? It would be unrealistic to say Lara was born a bad ass, this is an origins story after all. Let’s look at Nathan Drake again, the last game only just touches on his past and how he became the man he is today but it’s easy to tell he’s gone through some rough times. He’s very young, he’s by himself and almost gets killed when Sully finds him. He’s gone through trauma, it’s changed him, we’ve seen dark sides of Drake before and they are yet to be explained. Drake goes through shit too, he’s also threatened, thrown around, shot at, drugged, etc. He hasn’t had it easy. Characters need that emotional background to give them depth, we need to know how they got there, how they became the person they are.

Amy Hennig, creator of Uncharted

It’s insulting to say a female character can’t be put through trauma because it’s cruel if you’re then happy to say it’s okay for men to be put through that same trauma. When the Hitman controversy came out, many newspapers picked up on how horrible it was to see women get killed and taken out in such a violent way by Agent 47. That’s sexist because if those nuns were say, monks instead (i.e. male), they wouldn’t have a problem with it. We can’t cotton ball female characters in such a way if we also want them to be treated the same way as the male ones.

Oh and all the complaining about Lara’s “moaning” and heavy breathing? She’s exhausted, she’s hurt, I’m pretty sure I’d make similar noises given the situation, it’s an attempt to make it realistic, not sexualising it. Drake heavily breathes too and talks to himself, it’s not there for women to touch themselves over it.

The TR origin story may not be perfect. I don’t know, it’s not out yet, I’ll have to wait until next year to see. Maybe I will eat my words but for now we need to direct our anger at the real issues in video games, and to stop being so sexist ourselves.

Journalism standards in decline – the fault of journalists or the audience?

The Sunday Sport ‘journalism’ at its best…

Today, CVG has caused a hell of a hullabaloo with their article about the E3 booth babes of 2012 just after a week ago, Sarah Ditum wrote an article about how sexist the new Hitman trailer was (which I wrote about here). What adds insult to injury is the words that accompanied the booth babe pictures: “We here on CVG like to use a 10-point review system, but if you’re more simple-minded you could just settle with ‘would’ or ‘not with yours, mate'” The staff at CVG are starting to sound less like journalists and more like sexist pigs.

But whose fault is it? Just a quick scan of the comments will tell you most CVG readers seem to like these sorts of ‘articles’, so is the audience to blame? Perhaps the average teenage boy, young man, old geezer on the street wants to look at sexy ladies, giving the site hits and adding sales figures to the delightful Sunday Sport. However, lads mags are meant to be in decline so is this really want readers want? After all, CVG is a video games website, surely readers go there to read about video games, not the women who dress up to endorse them. If they want to look at sexy ladies, that’s what the copious amount of porn sites are for.

Why do they still have booth babes at these events anyway? It could be argued that most journalists are male, as are most video games developers so someone, somewhere in the PR department thought they could persuade journalists to talk positively about their game by pushing a cheerleader with a push-up bra in front of them. “Sex sells” people say but does it? It’s an old fashion view, that tactic might have worked in the past but now more and more men are thinking, hang on, this is getting a bit ridiculous.

You could say the same about all the celebrity news and nonsense that is constantly written about in cheap magazines – many complain about this type of journalism but these magazines sell, a reflection of the kind of society we’re currently living in. Perhaps we’re no longer bothered about ‘hard news’, we’re more interested in who Katie Price is now sleeping with…

I hope to be a games journalist someday and I would love to go to events like E3 but I would hope the booth babes saga was starting to fade out by then. This video by the BBC showed how uncomfortable women in technology felt at the CES convention because of all the booth babes. I would feel the same. It was bad enough during Eurogamer last year, some stalls did indeed have booth babes and as I was out with a group of mostly male friends, I felt uncomfortable. Some made jokes, some stared and I just wanted to play video games. It’s actually rather upsetting to be a woman and to be put in that situation. You might laugh at me and tell me I’m stupid but that is how some women feel and if you want more women in our industry like so many articles are going on about at the moment, companies and journalists need to change their attitudes.

My opinion on the Hitman sex nuns

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When I first saw the teaser picture for the new Hitman trailer I was excited. I’m not a Hitman fan but female assassins? Sounds awesome. However, when the trailer was released yesterday, a lot of people were not happy. Sarah Ditum was just one of those people and her piece on CVG explains her gripes with it.

Now I’m a bit fickle when it comes to sexism in games, probably because there’s a very thin line between what’s funny, what’s sexy and what’s just plain gratuitous. For example, many would argue Bayonetta is sexist but it’s not. It’s done in a funny way and doesn’t take itself seriously – that’s when characters like her are acceptable. It’s also why they get away with it in fighting games. But Hitman is a game that does take itself seriously and nun in tight PVC? Really Hitman? For a start that’s unrealistic, PVC and being an assassin…have the men who created this ever worn PVC? Didn’t think so. It’s the same with those ridiculous stilettos. 

In fact the ridiculousness is probably worse than the actual sexism. I like to play as sexy female characters in games, don’t get me wrong but make them believable, make them smart and don’t make them look like ex-porn stars. A few game-loving celebrities on Twitter such as Charlie Brooker and Robert Florence have said they’re going to boycott the game. Brooker went as far as to call it a “piece of shit game” and if anyone sends him a copy he will “throw it out the window”. Strong words. So it’s not just a few women who are a tiny bit upset by this, grown men themselves are tired of games PR nights being held in strip clubs and seeing female characters become nothing more than a bit of eye-candy. 

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Unfortunately, Hitman will still sell millions of copies. It’s a much anticipated game and few gamers aren’t going to decide not to buy it just over that one trailer. The problem is though, this will continue to happen until we do something about it and as we know, the majority of games journos are male and many of them do not have a problem with sexism in games. Hell, some females journos don’t either but this needs to change. All we can do, is tell games companies times have changed and we want the industry to change. Besides, I don’t about you but seeing male, over-muscled men is just as boring as seeing another big-boobed lady in games. So it’s not even about sexism, it’s about realism and I’m pretty sure the next-gen will demand realism. 

Do game conventions alienate women?

Booth babes at E3

Game conventions, all video game nerds love them but largely they are designed by and for men. Mainly because of course, that’s their target audience but are women being forgotten about when it comes to these events?

Now I’m not saying women need special treatment because we don’t, what I’m really talking about is how women are perceived at these events. Yes, booth babes. Now don’t start moaning and groaning, hear me out.

It’s insulting to men and women.

*Giggles* “I’m going to flirt with you and show off my cleavage and legs, buy this game now please?” Is basically the tactic these stalls use to sell their game to you, which is probably utterly shite. Yes, nothing wrong with a pretty lady right? But it’s treating male gamers like they’re dribbling geeks who’ve never seen a semi-naked women (other than on the internet) before. That may be true of some teenage boys but the average gamer is in their 30’s. They’re not all sad, dribbling individuals, they’re adults, doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy a sexy lady but they’re not stupid. They won’t buy a product simply because a pair of breasts are resting on it, or at least, I like to think so.

Now women see these ladies and think: wow I don’t belong here. Not only does a lot of barely dress ladies say: This is an event for men. It also makes us ladies feel a bit inferior. There we are, in jeans and t-shirt, trying to relax and play some games but instead our male friends are pretending like we don’t exist and staring into the distance at these girls.

Sex sells apparently but does it really? Do you rush out and pre-order a game because a lady in hot pants told you to? Unlikely. I enjoy a nice-looking lady too but there’s a time and a place and at a game convention I want to meet up with friends and play some games. I don’t want to have to feel like I don’t belong there the whole time. I know lots of people would disagree but that’s my two cents.