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Games Of June 2012: Lollipop Chainsaw

Is the game’s camp sensibility a foundation for clever commentary or just an excuse for T&A?

By John Teti • July 9, 2012

I was looking forward to playing Lollipop Chainsaw, as it reminded me of another game that featured a lollipop-sucking heroine, Bayonetta, and I wanted to see how it measured up. I found Bayonetta to be a well-made game that nonetheless perpetuated a puerile “otaku” sensibility when it came to sex. I never felt that the game’s winks and nods did much to alloy the fundamental fantasy being acted out—that if the player pushes those buttons fast enough, Bayonetta will strip off her clothes and prostrate herself before the camera. (I think those who disagree and say that Bayonetta is about female empowerment have a valid argument. My view is just that the “magical vagina” trope, which is as old as fiction itself, does more in this game to appease the base urges of men than it does to celebrate the strength of women.)

Imagine my surprise when I found Lollipop winning me over, to some degree, at least. Its format is familiar and brainless—you fight off wave after wave of zombies—and there’s not much to say about it. (I did see one critic complain, without irony, about “unimpressive blood splatter,” which, come on, people.) But I think that despite its repetitive feel, Lollipop serves as a clever and fun sendup of the badass-buxom-beauty stereotype, like Kate Beaton’s brilliant “Strong Female Characters.” Steve Heisler disagrees—he thinks that the game’s camp perspective is too scant and timid to distract from its horndog heart—kind of like how I felt about Bayonetta. I enjoyed our exchange. He makes some great points here. If I learned anything from Bayonetta, it’s that there’s often a thin line between parodying a stereotype and perpetuating it, which leaves plenty of room for debate.

By the way, regarding the role of the boyfriend, Nick, Destructoid’s Jim Sterling has some similar sentiments to mine. He takes a little different tack—I don’t get the “see how YOU like it, boys!” vibe that he does—but overall I think he makes a good point.

Also, the fried Twinkie was terrible.

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  • KidvanDanzig

    “I don’t care” – John Teti

    Gonna say that’s the… third time he’s said some variation on that so far

    • KidvanDanzig

      He doesn’t care!

    • Aaron Riccio

      At least he’s consistent.

    • caspiancomic

       I didn’t want to make a whole thread about it or whatever, but between Steve today and Drew last time, it’s nice to be able to start putting faces/absurd clothing choices/opinions of grotesquely unhealthy snacks to names.

      • Drew Toal

        I would’ve cut the sleeves off my sport coat if I had done this show in July.

    • doyourealize

      I’ve said it before on this site, but I wonder at times how much weight we should put on the artist’s interpretation of his/her work. Teti seems to be in the “none” group, and I think I agree.

      • ToddG

        I think it’s useful in framing the discussion about a work, but is not necessarily more or less valid than an audience member’s reaction or interpretation.  So I guess I disagree with the letter of John’s “I don’t care” statement, but not the spirit.

      • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

        I think that the artist’s interpretation is special and interesting; I usually find that it illuminates some thought-provoking insight, given that they are extremely well-versed in the work by their nature. So I do give it weight, just not extra weight. I don’t think that it validates or invalidates any particular point of view. That’s why in this particular case, when Steve said that he didn’t think that the artists had my interpretation in mind, I reacted the way I did. Hopefully it’s obvious that I didn’t mean “I don’t care about the artist’s viewpoint”; I meant that for the sake of considering my argument, I don’t care whether it’s theoretically endorsed by someone else or not, even if that someone else is the creators of the game.

        • doyourealize

          I can reword that. If we don’t give the author/artist’s interpretation any weight, then why anyone else’s? I only mean that just because someone thinks differently than the author doesn’t mean they’re wrong. No “automatic extra weight” to an author’s interpretation is a good way to put it.

          I usually know what I’m trying to say even if I can’t quite articulate it.

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          @doyourealize:disqus Nah, it’s quite clear that’s what you meant. I’m the one being overly precise, I think because it makes me feel a little weird that someone would highlight my saying “I don’t care” as a sort of verbal mannerism. Because I care about what I do, a LOT, and it makes me uncomfortable that out of some 70 minutes of Digest discussion so far, this one phrase would be placed in a spotlight. So maybe I get a little too exact and defensive in response.

          Sorry, probably TMI, but when I’m trying to enjoy the comment threads and the first comment is the first thing I see every time, it wears on me a little. I realize that @KidvanDanzig:disqus was just being silly.

        • KidvanDanzig

          FWIW, the last 2-ish times you’ve brought it up it’s been not “I don’t care” but “who cares?”, which is a legitimate thing to be asking, especially in an ossifying / self-justifying discourse like game criticism. It’s good to challenge people to examine and defend their critical reasoning.

          But yes, it’s not a referendum on you or anything, it’s just silly. I think you could turn it into a catchphrase.

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          @KidvanDanzig:disqus Wow, I’m glad I said something. Because yes, that’s exactly how I mean it when those words come clumsily spilling out of my mouth. Thank you for your reply.

        • HobbesMkii

           @doyourealize:disqus There was (is kinda still) a school of literary criticism called New Criticism which heavily frowned upon what its advocates termed [Author's] Intentional Fallacy. What that fallacy points out is that the author’s intention cannot be constructed from the authored work–that is to say, the only meaning that exists in the work is that which exists in the work itself. The author’s intent is extraneous. Hemingway, for instance, famously stated that he had not written symbolism into the text of The Old Man and the Sea (a text written at New Criticism’s height), that it had merely appeared there due to the “tru[th]” of his characters.

          I, personally only half agree with it (I think it’s incredibly difficult to wrongly interpret a work, but that the author’s interpretation is the most correct, though not the only correct interpretation), but I think this very well applies to @JohnTeti:disqus’s predilection for ignoring developer intent when considering games. Perhaps Teti is blazing a trail toward New Games Criticism.

        • Effigy_Power

           Or maybe a gulp of hot, buttery goo eaten out of a warm roll of Styrofoam has made him a bitter man.

        • doyourealize

          When you say “I don’t care” here, I interpret it as, “What I get out of the game doesn’t rely on what the author intended.” This is much different than saying the author’s interpretation doesn’t matter.

          That’s what I got out of it, anyway, and damned if the original speaker is going to make me think any differently!

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

          I completely agree with you here. One of the wonderful things about art is that it carries different meaning depending on who is experiencing it, and that meaning can be completely different than what the artist intended, or could have even predicted. And neither way is necessarily wrong, either (although some are better supported in the source material than others– I once had a film student try to make the case that Michael Bay intended for Transformers to be a complex commentary on the military industrial complex and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I told him it was great he found meaning in that movie, but I can all but guarantee Bay was NOT so intentional).

        • Asinus

          @HobbesMkii:disqus  and others– it sounds like you’re actually talking about something more akin to reader response criticism than New Criticism. Not sure of that was your intent or if I should just apologize for that last bit.

  • KidvanDanzig

    Also, a Suda 51 game, repetitive and ham-fisted?!?! I don’t believe!

    The game footage looks just like every other Suda joint but with a different hero skin and much better shaders. C’mon guy, just figure out a way for your baddies to die that doesn’t involve coins or hearts or rainbow sparkles spewing wildly from neck stumps.

    • Aaron Riccio

      Oh, there are so many skins to unlock in Lollipop Chainsaw. As if her main costume weren’t revealing enough, right? (No conversation about the achievement you unlock by seeing her panties?)

    • caspiancomic

       I’d like to know exactly how much of an auteur you need to be before you are said to be making “joints”

      • HobbesMkii

         >/= Spike Lee.

  • Aaron Riccio

    Nice segue from the food to the video game, there. But when Steve says, “It’s just over-the-top for the sake of being over-the-top,” that’s it in a nutshell for me. Probably because I disagree about Bayonetta not being equally knowing and winking in its own camp — but at least with a deeper combo system that held my interest and made me want to replay. (“Male gays” or “Male gaze,” by the way?) There’s also the point Steve makes about LAZY camp: I think that’s absolutely true. But I’m happy for the debate. 

    • BarbleBapkins

        That would be Male Gaze a feminist film theory dealing with the way in which the camera acts as a sort of male view of a female viewed subject (a camera panning up a woman’s body before finally resting on her face for instance).

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         I always thought “the colonizing male gays” conjured so much more interesting a mental image than “the colonizing male gaze”…

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       Yeah, I was suspicious that this game was kind of lazily seeking “absolution through irony,” and Steve’s comments seem to confirm it.

      I can respect John’s desire to read past the theoretical intent of the developer (death of the author, and all that), but I think that type of interpretive justification needs to be fleshed out a little more (possibly in writing), and his necessarily pared-down assertions in the edited video re: the male gaze, etc. weren’t as convincing to me.

  • Aaron Riccio

    I sort of feel bad that John’s got to eat more of that fried cream intestinal stuff. If playing Lollipop Chainsaw runs the risk of objectifying women, does tuning in to tomorrow’s episode of the digest run the risk of us objectifying Teti’s suffering at the hands of another inedible food thing? (Almost like, say, a Lego, eh? I eagerly await the transitions.)

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

    You guys touched on something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, especially in light of the E3 press conferences. Heisler said that the marketing for Lollipop Chainsaw mainly featured T & A, while Teti contended that the game said something deeper about how objectification can even reduce the status of the objectifier, a message that didn’t feature in the game’s promotional campaign at all.

    I think this is symptomatic of the increasing disconnect between video game marketing and the games themselves. There are lots of recent examples. The now infamous Dead Island CGI trailer was nothing like the actual game. Mass Effect 3′s marketing consisted mainly of action and battle sequences, but the game itself focused on the hidden side of war. The widely-criticized sexy-nun-punching trailer for Hitman: Absolution belied the stealth-oriented gameplay of the franchise. And now, Far Cry 3 is being promoted with trailers full of gunfights, fires, drug trips, and half-naked voodoo women, but the developers insist that the game is actually a deconstruction of “shooter culture.”

    I wonder why this phenomenon is occurring. It may be due in part to the fact that marketers think sex and violence are what sells, and as a result, they don’t use much else to promote games. But I think it’s also because a game’s themes or messages can be hard to market. In the case of ME3, how would one market backroom political machinations to the average gamer? In the case of FC3, how would one go about advertising the deconstruction of shooter culture to shooter fans? There’s also the problem that if a marketing campaign gives away what a game is all about, then takes away the appeal of playing the game for oneself. So, appropriate promotion would come down to selling the idea that the game has something profound to say without revealing what that profound message is, and in the end, it’s just easier to show boobs and explosions to people.

    Hence, the reaction to this year’s E3, and why so many game journalists came away feeling disappointed with the pressers but satisfied with what was displayed on the show floor, where they actually got to see the games in action. Games have more and more to say nowadays, but as their stories and themes become increasingly complex, the materials used to promote them have less and less to say.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      Well, 1st, I’m not sure that they could or would sell a blockbuster game based on its themes.

      2nd, nah, I really don’t think it’s that hard.  Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lo0gl0zljs4 (And it’s not like the Japanese are known for coherent or deep commercials.  The deepest game ever: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4bkzPptIzo !)  And it can’t be blamed on American marketers, either.  The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask had dull commercials, and we got 1 of the best and most informative video game commercials ever: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1SxykIilWQ The Halo 3 campaign would have been marvelous had the game’s themes, tone, story, or gameplay actually deserved it.

      At a certain point, charges that gamers demand too much can’t be taken seriously.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        You’re right. Selling a game on the strength of its ideas can be done, and that’s why I wonder why more companies don’t do it. Are they lazy? Afraid? Ignorant? Maybe it’s simply perceived as too risky. A unique promotional campaign can help a game really stand out amongst its competitors, but it’s also more likely to backfire. So publishers, notoriously risk-averse as they are, stick to what they know works: boobs and explosions.

        • Effigy_Power

           ”Show them exploding tits and they’ll buy it.”

          I don’t believe that general marketing views go anywhere beyond that, regardless of the vision of the actual game-makers. The people selling games without being part of the creative process are the same who make movie-trailers.
          ’nuff said?

    • caspiancomic

      I know that Metal Gear Solid is up there with Sonic and Suikoden in the category of games I won’t stop wittering on about, but MGS2 really blows the roof off the advertising discussion. A lot of people were furious with the ad campaign for suggesting that we’d be playing as Snake for the whole game when we really ended up playing as a lithe white haired pretty-boy, and maybe they were right to be annoyed. But a light tends to go on in your head when you realize the ad campaign deliberately falsified information fed to players about a game in which the main antagonists’ goal is to deliberately falsify the information fed to the American public.

      • Aaron Riccio

        Now who’s reading too much into a game :P

        • Destroy Him My Robots

          It’s a crackpot theory about a game about crackpot theories! Nah, just kidding. @caspiancomic:disqus  got it right. MGS2′s meta-ness doesn’t stop at “Turn your console off now”. Additionally, there’s the Snake-as-Kojima layer, with him trying to pass the torch to the new guys/Raiden. Of course that didn’t happen, so in MGS4 we got a Snake who’s broken and without passion or ideology and who just does what his boss tells him to do.

      • Sandwichands

        In fairness how do you market a game that starts freaking out and telling you to turn your playstation off?

    • Mike Ferraro

      Tale as old as time, across media. Seen a movie trailer lately?  ”Drive” is an action-packed car flick like Fast And Furious!

      Marketing doesn’t care what you made, they’ll sell what they wish you made by cherry picking elements, what they think will get asses in seats. …If they’re good at their jobs anyway, which they’re probably not–often the trailer is just a montage of stuff blowing up because that’s all groupthink is capable of approving.

      The cake-and-eat-it-too problem reminds me of Starship Troopers. It was advertised as a serious gung-ho action movie about good guys and bad monsters. The more savvy audience read it as satire, a piece of fascist propaganda from the future, and appreciates it on that deeper ironic level. But it doesn’t quite work for either audience: the people who want to take it serious find it too cheesy and the satire crowd starts wondering if they’re reading too much into it: how much of the camp is intentional? Too much is played too straight and too well for *everything* to be ironic…  Then there’s the third group who totally misread it and find it offensive: a celebration of fascism.

      • SamPlays

        I thought “Drive” had it’s fair share of action. There’s some great driving, a robbery, a skull-crushing, some stabbing, a bit of shooting, a dollop of hammering and a scorpion jacket. What was misleading about the trailer was that it didn’t tell the audience that the film had substance. But, I’ll agree on the point that “Fast and Furious” probably has more cars, which is probably for the best because… well, what else would there be?

        I must be in that niche market for Starship Troopers because I was able to enjoy it as an action movie AND as a satire. That’s what any good piece of Paul Verhoeven cake is made of, right?

        • Mike Ferraro

          I didn’t mean to imply I don’t love Starship Troopers, because I do. I just remember the ‘average’ moviegoers complaining about it being too silly, while I personally went too far down the “it’s 100% satire!” road before realizing it can be fun AND subversive.
          The genius is Verhoeven had fun with the material while inserting his ironic point of view earned by living through The Netherlands occupation in WWII. The marketing played it straight. The reactions were confused.  The point?  Suda might be the Verhoeven of games.

        • SamPlays

          @google-3a1536979b85e6fd2255574285311932:disqus You might be onto something there. Given the transgressive, extreme qualities in Suda’s work, his filmmaker equivalent may be Takashi Miike.

      • Electric Dragon

        And then you get Heinlein fanboys on the internet decrying Verhoeven’s satirical approach to Starship Troopers and insisting that it would have been so much better had they taken the book at face value.

      • Cliffy73

        Yeah, it’s endemic to media marketing.  Perhaps if it’s only becoming a regular feature of video game marketing today, that’s because the medium is finally becoming a mature one.  I suggest that in previous eras of game promotion, you could rely on a core audience of “gamers,” people who considered themselves fans of the medium as a medium, who sought out information via interviews, fan publications, and leaks, and who knew what was coming out when, by whom, and what it was about long before release.

        But now you have a much larger audience who isn’t going to do that much self-motivated research to figure out what to play.  A more casual audience is attractive because there’s more of them, but you can’t sell them something on the basis of theme (at least that’s the conventional wisdom) because they’re not that invested until after they start playing.  (This audience has people who will enjoy a game with depth, but they won’t necessarily buy it based on the promise of depth they don’t yet care about.  It also has people who just want to blow shit up.)  There are still the gamer fans, and the same channels exist for them to get invested early, just as the A.V. Club exists for movie and TV fans.  But, ironically, the ambitions of developers are so large, they can’t afford to just sell to the die-hards and still justify all the resources they’re putting in to development.

        • AHyperkineticLagomorph

          I think you’ve sort of hit on the problem here. A wider audience is something that any company wants. More consumers means more potential units sold, right? The problem then is, of course, that a wider audience means you need a wider net.

          At the risk of approaching “I appreciate the Muppets on a much deeper level than you”-style elitism, I think we here are somewhat more sophisticated gamers. We research games and their culture and try to understand their place and effect on the world. I do not mean to imply we are somehow better than people who do not, merely that we put more effort into understanding games.

          To many people, a game is a game. It’s something you play with friends for a few hours to kill time. It’s a social event made exclusively for entertainment purposes.

          And, again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this behavior. But it does send marketers a message that people don’t want world-view challenging ideas. On the large scale, gamers do not want complicated stories and ideas. They want (usually) male power fantasies. They want simple objectives that seemingly provide challenge without ever frustrating the player.

          And, on the whole, I don’t think they’re necessarily wrong. I do know plenty of people who view video games this way. Many of these same people view movies in the same light.

          Of course, if you believe that we’ve reached the saturation point, where we have enough shooters and action games, it leads to another problem. How do you reach out to the audiences who are tired of “mindless” action without losing the audience who was there for it primarily?

        • Effigy_Power

           Those are all great points, @AHyperkineticLagomorph:disqus , but I wonder if there’s such a thing as saturation points at all. I like to compare the fortunes of the gaming industry with that of the movie industry and no matter what the societal consensus is, sex and violence have sold for nearly a century now. The scales may have gone up from kissing on screen and Buster Keaton’s car falling apart, but it all tickles the same psychological aspect in us.

          Myself, I’ve been overloaded on shooters and Zombies for quite a while now. To think that scenes like the frenzied Zodiac-ride through an exploding Russian Navy in New York Harbor from… Dawn of the Medal of Duty X4 – Revolution of the Fallen… whatever… would be met with the ennui I met it with… That would have been pretty unbelievable for me back when I played HL for the first time and suddenly stood on a pixelated cliff full of soldiers.

          I don’t think that our boredom (and by that I refer to the somewhat more discerning gamer you hinted upon) will move the industry to change. Call of Duty will keep making tons of money, even if it needs to be hoisted up with cameo appearances or scenarios even more outrageous than NATO-moon bases firing hot butterscotch pudding at nuns.

          The wider audience is something that now controls gaming, since that’s what it means to be mainstream, I guess. While we can be glad about the heightened production values and greater focus on talent, we’re going to have to content with the fact that gaming is in its majority controlled by the lustless gyrations of G4 and the likes.

          PS: I wonder how long until gaming gets its own Sundance Festival, where we can all go and pretend to be happy to pay $15 for a Latte and talk about the socioeconomic problems in Mario Kart. I haven’t been balls-out pretentious in a while and it sounds like fun. ^_^

        • AHyperkineticLagomorph

           @Effigy_Power:disqus I’m not sure comparing movie’s saturation point with gaming’s is quite apt. I don’t think the problem is so much the level of violence and sexuality being hurled at the screen so much as it is a problem of economics. I’m not sure where gaming stands as a percentage of the population (what with “gamer” being a somewhat vague term that can mean anyone from casual Call of Duty players to hardcore RPG nuts to that guy playing Angry Birds for 3 minutes on a break). However, games are simply more expensive than movies and usually take much longer to consume. If you have 50 games about marines shooting things in a year with hardly any variation in game mechanics, how many of those games will yield a profit?

          Then we get to the problem of AAA developers saying that they need to sell at least X million copies just to break even. This seems to be coming up a lot lately, between THQ and EA.

          By comparison, one of my favorite developers/publishers Atlus considered Catherine selling nearly 500,000 copies worldwide to be a smash hit beyond their expectations, as I understand. They’re a great example of a company that doesn’t really aim for a wide audience, just a specific audience they know how to cater to. Perhaps that’s more of a trend we’ll see in the future.

          Also, being pretentious is kinda my raison d’tere. You can tell this by my usage of phrases like raison d’tere.

        • caspiancomic

           @Effigy_Power:disqus A gaming Sundance actually sounds pretty sweet. I think the Game Developer’s Conference is a little higher brow than E3 or the Tokyo Game Show, but I don’t know if it’s open to the public, and its focus is still on games in development. A proper cultural celebration of games with black tie and evening gowns and brandy snifters and all that Gatsby shit would be really interesting. The Extra Credits folks have been pushing for the Gaming Oscars as well (and no that Spike TV fiasco doesn’t count)

          @AHyperkineticLagomorph:disqus Are games actually more expensive to produce than movies? I don’t know much about the economics behind AAA titles, but what kind of expenses could possibly cause Medal of Duty: Revenge to be more expensive than Mission Impossible XXVII? You’ve got your overheads, like renting a development space, you’ve got to pay your designers and artists and musicians and programmers and voice talent, and I guess you’ve got to buy a lot of hardware and software… does all that stuff really cost more than 6 months of Tom Cruise’s time?

          (I’m actually pretty interested since I’d like to get into game design as a career, so if you know what these things cost I’d like to know ahead of time if I’m already too broke to even consider it)

        • AHyperkineticLagomorph

           @caspiancomic:disqus Actually, in terms of development budget, I believe many AAA titles are about on par with big budget movies. Programmers and designers and all that ain’t cheap.

          What I actually meant was that games are more expensive to buy. A movie ticket goes for what, $15 roughly? Even the most expensive Blu-ray editions usually top off at $40 or so (excluding box-sets, limited editions, etc.). Games are more expensive merely in this regard, which limits the audience.

        • caspiancomic

           @AHyperkineticLagomorph:disqus Aaaaahhhh, that makes a lot more sense, cheers. Yeah, with AAA console games routinely selling for $60 new it’s no wonder I was so floored by the Humble Bundle. Eight games for twenty bucks! I feel like a millionaire!

      • DougSndrs

         ”Too much is played too straight and too well for *everything* to be ironic”

        I think that’s actually essential to the satire. It’s too easy to make the thing being satirised just look ridiculous. If the propaganda was completely absurd, all that the film would be doing was patting the audience on the back for being so much savvier than the idiots who presumably would fall for that sort of thing. But at the same time that the film is mocking propaganda, it actually *works* as propaganda. As funny as it is sticking Doogie Howser in an SS uniform, he actually offers some convincing ends-justify-the-means logic. The final moments, with Johnny dehumanized and the bugs facing genocide, totally work both as tragedy and as a rousing action movie ending. By playing enough of it straight and executing it well, the film
        demonstrates why this sort of propaganda is effective.

    • Sandwichands

      Remember when Executive Decision came out? Headlined with Kurt Russell and Steven Segal. Then BANG Segal is dead 10 minutes in and you only get Kurt.

      • ToddG

        Or how the Terminator 2 ads implied that Arnold was the villain again (at least, the ones ahead of its initial release date.)  Which is doubly interesting because it means they had to hide all their nifty liquid metal effects, which were a giant deal back then.

        • RidleyFGJ

          From Dusk Till Dawn was another movie like that, where the awesome twist, which doesn’t rear its head until halfway into the film, became a focal point of its ad campaign.

    • RidleyFGJ

      A game that I’m going to call out as having a good ad campaign that actually informed you of what you’ll be doing without giving anything away is Shadow of the Colossus.

      One of the big promo items they gave away was a two-sided poster; on one side (here: http://tinyurl.com/88nhoe3 ), you have Wander staring down, as best he can, one of the colossi that you encounter, as the words “Some mountains are scaled. Others are slain.” are between both of them, putting emphasis on the fact that these will not be the kind of boss fights that you’ve been used to.

      On the other side (here: http://tinyurl.com/7na6we5 ) you have a great summary of what the game is all about, describing what kind of world you’re getting into, what stands between you and your ultimate goal, and, ultimately, what you’re fighting for. It’s remarkable that Sony was able to find a way to sell this game for what it is and not actually tell you what it actually is.

    • http://www.facebook.com/arthur.chu.94 Arthur Chu

      Dead Island’s trailer makes the opposite of the point you’re making, in that the trailer was far more artistic and thoughtful and well-crafted than the game itself.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        Yeah, you’re right. It’s not the best example. But I think it ultimately comes from the same place: trying to market the game in the coolest way possible with little regard for its actual content.

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

    I don’t know.  Are the 2 choices camp appreciation or disgust?  I don’t think Suda’s a particularly hard-to-read man.  I think “cheeky” is the right word, harmless naughtiness.  He’s knowing, but he’s not ironic.  He’s lowbrow, but he’s not reprehensible.  It goes all the way back to his 1st games, the beloved Fire Pro Wrestling series.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9jau3MfwS8http://kotaku.com/5905625/how-suicide-made-this-japanese-game-developer-famous

    I appreciate the 2 hosts (whom I could listen to all day) tying it into recent conversation, but this is like going after Al Lowe instead of Id’s Doom team.

    • Aaron Riccio

      Cheeky? Or Breast-y? And since FPW keeps coming up in relation to Suda, the difference between the games he makes now and the ones he used to make is that the FPW games — from what I remember of them — is that they were solidly designed. The simulating, the match-making, the bouts . . . LP can skate by on any number of things, but because of the dullness of the gameplay (in my opinion), it’s saggy rather than perky.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

        True, but we’d be here all day if we listed games that are absolved of problems because they actually did innovative or interesting things.

        Heck, I’m part of the problem on that 1.  I own multiple Artdink games. 

    • caspiancomic

       I think it’s a good point that discussions like this tend to quickly disintegrate into pro skub and anti skub, which is an artificial over-simplification of what is in theory at least a complicated piece of pop culture.

      For what it’s worth, I agree that Suda 51 is at worst harmless, at best misguided in his attitude towards women, to the degree that he can even be said to have a unified “attitude towards women.” I certainly don’t get any hateful or deliberately dehumanizing vibes from him. I think you’re right on the mark when you call him “lowbrow but not reprehensible.” I think he’s mired himself in a very specific niche of the pop culture spectrum, and is gleefully celebrating that little crack and all its baggage. And when he finds something interesting- if potentially tasteless- in his pile of toys (like grindhouse portrayals of women) he takes it out and plays with it instead of shamefully burying it or artificially revising it for modern sensibilities. He’s like a cat playing with a ball of string- he might make a mess, and he’s doing it on purpose, but at the same time it’s difficult to really blame him for it.

      • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

        Do you really think pro-skub and anti-skub is what happened here? I mean, I know there is only so much nuance of debate that can be conveyed in a headline, but I find it hard to believe that someone could come away from the video thinking that either Steve or I considered it a black-or-white conversation. I really abhor the “choose your sides!” dynamic in internet debate, and I think we do a good job steering clear of it.

        • ToddG

          So… do you 100% agree or 100% disagree with @caspiancomic:disqus ’s comment?  I can’t tell and thus don’t know whether to be angry or not.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

          Bwaha! A deleted post!

          Hm, I don’t think anyone got forced to extremes and I very much enjoyed the discussion. I guess where I’d have liked 1 more shade of nuance is in your shared assumptions with Steve. “If it’s 0, then’s it’s good. If it’s 1, then it’s bad. We just disagree if it’s 0 or 1.”  In John’s case, it sounded like the question is whether it was 0 more often than it was 1.  Obviously, neither thought it was the 3rd option, which is fine, but that was never raised as a choice.  The hair-trigger that catches stuff like Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider comments diminishes the space for “games that do something useful but are not for me.”

          This is especially true because Suda, Mikami (who heightened Suda’s impulses and is basically the same sort of person), and Kamiya have games in their portfolios that are total opposites in tone.  It suggests that their games are extensions of their (possibly offputting) selves.  I don’t think Sony Santa Monica or Crystal Dynamics have proved they’re doing anything more than exploiting.

          Maybe my last sentence above read as a slam. That wasn’t intended. Change “going after” to “dwelling on.”

        • caspiancomic

           Certainly not. At least, not to the point of violence. By nature of the fact that this is a show with two participants it’s necessary to have two viewpoints, otherwise we’d just be watching two people agree for ten minutes, which doesn’t exactly further the discourse. I think for the sake of the video Steve and yourself played certain roles, adhering roughly to “pro” and “anti”, but it was perfectly clear that you both have more textured opinions about the game specifically and the topic generally. I know you and the site well enough now that I’d never accuse the editorial tone here of being inflammatory.

  • Staggering Stew Bum

    The whole would i be embarrassed to play this game with my wife watching? test… I understand your pain @John Teti.

    • SamPlays

      John apparently has the luxury of playing video games with his wife in the room because it’s a function of his job. I, on the other hand, know better than to do such a thing! That said, I would probably have a twinge of embarrassment playing Lollypop Chainsaw with her or anyone else in the room because the face value of the game screams ADOLESCENT MASTURBATION ACTION FANTASY. I doubt most on-lookers would give much more analysis than that.

      • doyourealize

        It could happen to those of us outside of the game world! My fiance was watching me fight the (goddamn bitchass) Four Kings in Dark Souls this morning, and she commented on how cool the Abyss (just black space) looks.

        • SamPlays

          @doyourealize:disqus But the question is would you play Lollypop Chainsaw with your fiancee in the room? In all seriousness, I love my wife dearly and I respect her sheer disregard for video games, which is why I don’t force her to endure watching me play video games. I tend to “tune out” when playing games, watching movies, listening to music, reading books, etc., etc. so I tend to do those things on my own time:)

          • doyourealize

            I thought you said you’d never play any game with her in the room. In any case, I wouldn’t mind if she watched LC. She’d probably find it funny. Although she might try to get some conversation out of it, too.

        • SamPlays

          As with everything in life, there are nuances. As such, I won’t choose to play video games if my wife and I are in the room talking or watching something else. I’ll also continue to play video games if she happens to walk into the room. After ten years of marriage, you’ll learn these nuances and suddenly realize that every moment of your existence is a game whenever you and your spouse are in the same room. It’s very much like chess except that (to borrow from Seinfeld) the board is made of water and the game pieces are made of smoke. 

          As a point of clarification, because this is the Internet and all, I am in no way making any comment or suggestion about you, your wife or anyone else’s relationship. I’m just trying to balance housework and enjoying my day off work:)

      • AHyperkineticLagomorph

        @SamPlays:disqus  I think the problem with the “would you play with your spouse/significant other in the room” test is, besides the fact that many of us don’t have them, it would depend on the spouse/significant other.

        I can imagine some women may find LC so over the top that it is inoffensive and silly, while others could find it so over the top that it is offensive and in poor taste. I also imagine that some people could find it offensive but also silly.

        Edit: Do you know what is universally considered silly and offensive? Not checking to make sure you’re even responding to the right part of the thread.

        • ToddG

          I certainly wouldn’t reply to the wrong comment with my wife in the room.

        • Effigy_Power

           My girlfriend of going on eight years and me met online, while gaming. Yet I’d be embarrassed to play this game in front of her because I like to uphold the notion that I have slightly better taste.
          Slightly at least. If I can uphold that, I’m good.

      • Staggering Stew Bum

        To clarify, my occasional embarrassment from playing games in front of my wife is usually less about the game content and more about the fact a married guy in his 30s with, you know, responsibilities should probably be pursuing an activity that is more productive and dare I say it manly to spend his time with.

        The funny thing is my wife knows better than anyone that after yet another shitty day at the office a great way to unwind is to shoot zombies in the face and run down pedestrians in a stolen automobile. I am aware that I am one lucky guy.

      • http://www.facebook.com/gpsmith86 George Smith

        I don’t get the embarrassment test, at all. A shameless “my girlfriend” post will follow:

        My girlfriend loved the shit out of Lollipop, loved seeing the pallete swapped ninja chicks in MK9 put their stilleto boots through each other’s throats, and cheered on as I massacred half of Latin America’s underworld in Max Payne 3.

        My girlfriend hated Arkham City, not because of any laughable misogyny claims, but because it takes everything that was wonderful about Asylum and bastardizes it in the name of making it open world.

        My girlfriend’s biggest problem with Diablo 3 is that it’s kind of hard to make her character look how she wants her to look, because, as she puts it, “if I’m going to look at a character for 30 hours or more, I want her to be hot. It’s escapism.”

        Maybe I just lucked out and landed the mythical yeti within the fringes of games-as-faux-progressive-hipsterism, I don’t know.

        Guys, if your SO complains about any game on your shelf, from Duke to Lollipop, and she has a Twilight book, or Fifty Shades of Whatever, or a Harlequin novel, she is a hypocrite, full stop. 

        We need to stop apologizing for the medium, stop going out of our way to sanitize it or dumb it down or make it more accessible for those who don’t “get it.” 

        Instead, we need to tell them to get on the bus, or else they don’t get to go where we’re headed.

        • Effigy_Power

           I sincerely want to agree with you on several aspects, but you relay it in such a pompous manner, for the lack of a better word, that I really have a hard time.

          What each individual gamer loves about games is neither here nor there. Nobody throughout any of the discussions stated that “people are assholes for making this”. The problem we are discussing is one of society as a whole, not the gaming industry alone. As such I don’t think anyone is “apologizing for the medium”, whatever that is supposed to mean anyways.

          Arkham City’s style is something to be discussed, but by swatting off all claims of misogyny as “laughable”, you actually inhibit any reasonable exchange of opinion. It’s attitudes like this that lead matters to get nowhere. It doesn’t actually matter if misogyny is present or not, because everyone’s perception is different and flawed in their own way, but it is vital that we discuss why such things come up in the first place.

          I also take extreme umbrage with your “your SO is a hypocrite if X, but not Y” point. Who are you to determine who gets to enjoy what and in what doses and in what medium? I mean, it’s probably all great for you, what with your distance to the games-as-faux-progressive-hipsterism movement, but I for one define people by more than what’s on their bookshelf.

          There’s also nothing wrong with making games accessible to those who are still unfamiliar with it. Your exclusionary attitude is obnoxious at best and downright toxic at its worst. Anyone who counts gaming as a hobby will delight in the fact that people around us may be inspired to try new things by watching us play and I for one see no reason not to enlighten people about the better aspects of gaming culture.

          Actually, the more I read your post, the more it annoys me. For all your claims of being the polar opposite to what you perceive as gaming hipsterism, you come across as insanely dickish.
          That is obviously my personal, flawed and terribly objective opinion and you can make of that what you wish. I just felt that it needed to be said. The “skate or die” movement died out graciously and I am sure your “game or die” attitude will follow suit eventually.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @facebook-68137964:disqus: At the risk of speaking for other commenters, I don’t think that anyone really wants to “apologize for the medium.” Speaking for myself, it’s something that I’d never do, because I’d never apologize for works that I didn’t have a hand in creating. Heck, I’ll take that a step further and say that I’m glad that games like Lollipop Chainsaw or Dead or Alive exist for the people who want to play them.

          The problem is that there often aren’t alternatives for people who take issue with those types of games. I don’t want to censor or get rid of any game; I just want a wider variety of games to exist. Jerry Holkins put it much better than I could in a blog post at Penny Arcade: the answer is “more art.”

          I wouldn’t want any medium to become inaccessible to anyone, but I wouldn’t want niche works to stop existing either. In the digital age, the metaphorical bus of which you speak is the Internet, and it’s making media more accessible than ever before. It’s also providing fora for discussion, rendering it easier to make connections with people who share similar niche interests. The Internet can facilitate access to new media, but it can also allow the people who access those media to develop links with other online denizens and cultivate their own niche interests through discussion.

          Therefore, the solution is to improve accessibility, not by “dumb[ing] it down,” but by opening the doors and encouraging others to create. More voices means more variety, and that’s good for everyone.

        • Effigy_Power

           Shame on you @Merve2:disqus for making my reply seem as nonchalant as it is meant to be.
          But yeah, your point is better argued… but mine has “dickish” in it. So I win.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          I think the “Would this game be embarrassing to play in front of an intelligent female friend?” test is useful (as long as men using the rhetorical device don’t honestly convince themselves that there is one “female” opinion re: games) because so much of gaming culture and criticism is so insular and boyish. (By the same tack, a young woman who was marketed to by Twilight books, and who spent much of her time in homogenous online fan communities discussing those books, might benefit from the perspective of someone outside that target demographic – maybe someone male, maybe someone older, whatever. Not that she would need to be “taught” that those books are “bad” or whatever. Just that an alien perspective could increase her critical engagement with the book.)

          I find it usually helps expand and resolve my critical response to works in any medium to try and see it through the eyes of friends or other folks who are different than me – either by explicitly playing/watching alongside them, or by hypothesizing how they would react. (I got into Silent Hill 2, despite not liking survival horror, in part because I kind of saw the art direction “Through the eyes” of a really talented artist friend who loves Francis Bacon, and that helped me appreciate the aesthetics of the game.) The “intelligent [non-gaming] female friend” (or “SO”) test is a subset of that, I guess. I can see the game fresh through the eyes of someone not steeped in the adolescent boy bullshit that surrounds games, and it’s possible that that could lead to some illuminating embarrassment.

          And even if a game “fails” that test, it’s not an automatic referendum against the game. An analog might be “Would I be embarrassed to play/watch this in front of my mom?” – Obviously there is strong, mature work that would nonetheless be kind of embarrassing to watch with one’s mother (in most families), and likewise, there may be worthwhile work that the hypothetical, archetypal, platonic “girlfriend” would find objectionable but that is actually of quality. But this kind of perspective-taking isn’t a litmus test for finding “bad” media, it’s a critical tool.

      • TaumpyTearrs

        Lollipop Chainsaw is one of the ONLY games i could play in front of my lady, cuz she enjoys zombie killing and tits. I don’t have it yet, but she thought it looked cool. She thinks Battlefield, Mass Effect and Dark Souls are boring so i have to play them when she’s asleep or out.

        She actually plays videogames too, but she only enjoys (in her words) “games where i can cut people open with a big sword or rip their limbs off and beat them with them” She loves the God of War games (except for the puzzles which she hates interrupting her killing), and really enjoyed Splatterhouse until it got to repetitive for her.

    • Professor_Cuntburglar

       For the record, Arkham Asylum completely fails that test.

      • ToddG

        Not that I necessarily disagree, but Asylum seems like an odd target to single out for such a statement.  It’s not even the worst offender in that series.  Of two games.

  • Destroy Him My Robots

    Interesting. You wanna know what I thought about Bayonetta? SPOILERS: You’re a witch and you’re being hunted by these pearly white henchmen sent by “God”. Witch hunts were historically A BIT misogynist, no? Well, the game clearly sides with the witch. Then there’s a whole gender role reversal with Luka frequently acting as a damsel-in-distress. Then there’s Bayonetta’s refusal to really adopt the role of a mother. Then the main antagonist is Bayonetta’s own father who put her in this world with the expectation that she would never do anything for herself, and instead only further his own agenda. Get it? You figuratively get to defeat patriarchy using your explicitly weaponized sexuality. And then “God” itself, called Jubileus (yes, that’s a male noun), is revealed to be a woman, which I read as a swipe at the frequent notion of the Abrahamic God being a man.

    Am I reading a lot into this? Yeah, but I’ll pull the Teti card. It’s just so on the nose to me that I really felt disappointed when, for example, Leigh Alexander’s defense of the game amounted to pretty much nothing but “She’s got cool moves so I think it’s empowering”. Granted, I’m sure that knowing T&A sells had no small part in the conception of the game, and you can still find it exploitative of course. Your call. Just remember that there’s more to the work than what you see in the screenshots.

    • ToddG

      That’s a pretty airtight case, but I think the problem is that the best level both these games can get to is, as John mentioned in the video, having their cake and eating it, too.  After all, Platinum could’ve made a game with the same themes and criticisms without Bayonetta’s clothing flying off every five seconds.

      I say this as someone who both loved Bayonetta and skipped pretty much all of the cutscenes.

      • Destroy Him My Robots

        I’m ok with the clothes flying off, but I have issues with the way the camera captures it (and thereby makes the player complicit in gazing at her). I do think some sexualization was integral to telling her story, and maybe some over-the-topness there was necessary because otherwise it wouldn’t have registered in the current landscape. But obviously they went too far, otherwise we wouldn’t be in the situation where every discussion of Bayonetta and gender has to be either an attack or a defense. As I said, how you weigh the game’s presentation against its content is something everyone has to decide for themselves. All I’m really trying to accomplish here is to say that Bayonetta is hardly the poster child for misogyny in games it’s sometimes made out to be.

        And by the way, my dream solution would be a Kinect version where the camera detects when you try to whip it out and then Bayonetta kicks you in the gonads and it’s game over.

        • ToddG

          I pretty much agree with all of this.  In fact, you refined my point: it’s not the overt sexualization itself that’s really what I find problematic, it’s how it’s portrayed to the player.

        • Logoboros

           I find this discussion rather interesting, but I was wondering if you could clarify one distinction you’re making — I’m mainly responding to the way ToddG has phrased it, but I think there’s a bit of confusion in DHMR’s post, too.

          I’m not clear on the difference you’re drawing between the game’s “overt sexualization” and it’s “portrayal.” It seems to me that sexualization *is* an act of portrayal. It’s a bit like saying “The problem isn’t that the news sensationalizes mundane events. The problem is how it presents those events to the reader.” They’re one and the same.

          That is, to sexualize something is to view it/present it through a sexual lens. So how do you make a distinction there?

        • ToddG

          @Logoboros:disqus   I’ll try to clarify.  As we’ve mentioned, in Bayonetta, her clothes fly off pretty much any time you do a special move, and she’s pretty much always squarely in front of the camera, especially when she does such moves in boss-destroying cinematics.  Meaning that if you’re looking at the screen at all, seeing Bayonetta’s hyper-sexualized state in a way intended to titillate is pretty much unavoidable.  Now, they could’ve kept that entire mechanism, her defeating enemies with overt sexuality (as DHMR pointed out originally, it has a lot of interesting and deliberate things to say by using this), but without prominently displaying this sexuality to the player in what seems like an exploitative way.  A more tasteful camera angle could keep all the power of the imagery while losing the seemingly misogynistic portrayal of said images.  If that makes sense.

        • Destroy Him My Robots

          @Logoboros:disqus What @BreakingRad:disqus said. I just think that her being highly sexual is necessary, because female sexuality is of course one of the main triggers of sexism, from witch hunts to slut-shaming. So the story would lose some potency if Bayonetta was presented as a conservatively dressed wallflower. The bad part is that the game invites the player to ogle her through the camera. Let her be a sexy woman in a sexy dress walking down the street, but don’t turn my head and eyeballs so I’m leering at her ass and make me whistle. That’s not the guy I want to be.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

        I think the problem isn’t SO much Lollipop Chainsaw and Bayonetta, so much that the overall lack of regular games with regular females kicking ass while cooling down with the overt sexuality.

        Like, as a pure hypothetical and hyperbolic example: if there were 100 movies that used blackface, but 3 of those movies used blackface “ironically” or satirically. That’s… all well and good, but how about a movie that actually has black people?

        Likewise, we can break into the details and so-called cleverness that may or may not be in Lollipop Chainsaw and/or Bayonetta, but in the realm of all games, why isn’t there just a regular game staring a female that’s smart, good-looking, and has a semi-serious stake in the story? I’m talking about currently – I know about Chell, Jade, and Alex Vance (I can’t really get a bead on Lara Croft until the game comes out). The debate between Bayonetta and Lollipop seems, to me at least, miss the overall issue.

        • Effigy_Power

          That’s a good point and one that isn’t discussed often.
          I don’t care about how much sex is in those games, for all I care the “protagonist” of LC can fellate as well as fillet those zombies to death.
          The issue I am having and to which you allude, is that it’s yet another example of a “strong woman” from an utterly male perspective.

          Interestingly you fall into the same pit for a second. Why does a female protagonist have to be good-looking? There are plenty of pretty grim looking male heroes out there, yet it’s something we can barely accept of women. Plain women and overweight women especially serve generally humorist purposes.
          I am sure you don’t mean it that way, it’s just how society has wired us all. The character creation in MMORPGs is the best example for that. When it comes to bulky races, where the males have the Gears of War meatneck appearance, the female player-models are usually skinny, maybe sliiiiightly toned and unconnected to their male counterparts by anything but color. Insects have less sexual dimorphism than most fantasy-races.

          It’s a grand discussion that I am too happy we can have without snide remarks or the usual name-calling, which is why I think the GS is the perfect spot to discuss it. Not like the adolescent poo-brains over at “MurderKillGamer” are going to have anything useful to say.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

          *points down*  I tried to name some.

          It’s peculiar that the best analogy is art under communism, where symbolism or irony were your only choices apart from the party line.  Here, there’s, you know, no one threatening developers who want to feature normal female protagonists.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

          @Effigy_Power:disqus I should mention that the -only- reason I mentioned the woman be good-looking was in relation to the “feminist” school of thought where it’s okay, and even empowering, for a woman to use her sexuality to achieve her goals, instead of hiding them or pretending that it’s not a benefit. It’s an argument often used in comics, for Catwoman and Harlequinn mostly, and even then it’s filled with a lot of questionable implications.

          But honestly – I was kinda wavering on even using that term, as it’s definitely not necessary to create a strong female character (although I’d imagine she’d have to be in some kind of physical shape, to handle the running/jumping/fighting necessary to survive.) But she could be very plain in every sense of the word – the female characters in the Silent Hill series are actually perfect to describe “regular” women, I think – we just need them to lead a game instead of be secondary characters.

          Oh, and if you really want to get sick, check out the comments on Destructoid in relation to any article involving Anita Sarkeesian. No joke, they get Yahoo bad.

          @GhaleonQ:disqus I saw the list, then the list of the tropes said females always appears in. Yikes indeed. In fact, I’m playing Okami (it’s much longer than I anticipated), and it is kinda… awkward how the females are portrayed. Great game, but ALL the major NCP woman are designed as eye candy to Issun, and therefore the viewer, and there’s really nothing else. Also – SPOILER, kinda – most of them are killed like nothing.

        • stakkalee

          I’m not picking on you, but I just wanted to address your point about being in-shape: This link contains dozens of pictures of various male and female athletes, all of whom are fit.  The diversity of the human form is amazing.

        • AHyperkineticLagomorph

           @Effigy_Power:disqus I like what MovieBob said over at the Escapist (paraphrased from memory). “Mai Shiranui looking like she does is awesome. Every other girl in gaming looking like her is not.”

        • caspiancomic

           My go-to example for a good female lead is Heather from Silent Hill 3. She’s smart, she’s motivated, the plot is driven by her actions and the decisions she makes, she’s vulnerable without being weak, she’s emotional without being defined by her emotions, etc etc. All in all she feels like a real proper human being. If it helps the argument, she’s nothing out of the ordinary physically either, and spends most of the game with greasy hair, circles under her eyes, and a bit of teenage acne.

          Plus, the fact that she’s a woman is actually relevant to the story, unlike Chell, whose borderline asexuality is discussed further down in the comments. The subtext of the game leans really hard on teenage- specifically young women’s- fears and anxieties regarding sex, particularly rape, abduction, violence, infections, and unwanted pregnancy. I know that exploiting the frightening aspects of pregnancy to get a reaction out of female audience members isn’t exactly bulletproof storytelling, but I still think the game averages out to be a really strong representation of a female hero.

    • Cliffy73

      I don’t know the game, but there’s a long, long history of prurient material being dressed up as anti-smut crusades.  Early skin mags, for instance, were often presented in the vein of “look at this horrible cheesecake picture some disreputable photographer has taken!  We’re shocked, shocked!”  As I say, I have no idea whether that’s what’s going on, or if so, whether it was in tensional.  But it’s part of the reason this debate is always au courant.  Because the purveyors of sexualized images are always saying they’re meant as satire.  Sometimes that’s true, and sometimes it’s B.S., and sometimes it’s both.  But the audience has to tease out what is really going on, and whether it’s something they can be comfortable supporting.

      • Destroy Him My Robots

        Yeah, admittedly I wouldn’t be too surprised if it turned out that Bayonetta started with a character sketch with the words “gets naked during special attacks” scribbled next to it.

  • Brian Stewart

    I loved this. Really natural. Really conversational. I declare this… discourse! Yes, you’ve brought discourse to the internet. Good luck with that. 

    The one thing I feel is missing from this conversation is the cultural perspective. You’re looking at strictly from the Western side of the conversation, but there’s a storied tradition of just this sort of over the top cheeky violent sex romp from Japan. The highly respected Go Nagai http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_Nagai made a lucrative career of it. This feels like an homage to his works like Cutey Honey or Sukeban Deka as much as it does Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That doesn’t change whether you’re offended by the material, but shouldn’t it be considered in the conversation? 

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      Sure.  I don’t personally accept the cultural relativism argument, but the history’s there.  There wasn’t time for everything, but I’d be interested to hear their opinions (not even Japan-specific).  To me, it’s most intriguing when it’s hard to differentiate the end products.  I dislike Mortal Kombat and adore S.N.K., but, though they come from different backgrounds, I can’t differentiate between Mai/clothes exploding off of people and Mortal Kombat’s costumes.  S.N.K. just FEELS less harmful.

      That’s why John surprised me.  Bayonetta feels sexual in a more original and bizarre way than Lollipop Chainsaw, in my view.  I guess he felt Suda “made his case” for camp better in-game than Kamiya did.

  • Drew Toal

    Pretty heroic death, though.

  • SamPlays

    I can appreciate the different interpretations brought by John and Steve regarding the representation of women in video games. The reality is that most video games depict skinny, busty women and gender politics seem like a secondary, narrow-sighted part of the equation. I think this creates the ambivalence evident in the John/Steve discussion – this is not a bad thing. My problem with gender politics in video games is that sexuality is predominantly the only aspect that gets addressed. Perhaps this is intentional. Breasts, panty-shots and thin waistlines no doubt help sell games to a core demographic that is largely young and male. Game creator’s also have an opportunity to get “meta” about the usage of breasts, panties and thin bodies in their game. It’s a win-win for everybody! But seriously, the idea that portraying “Barbie”-style bad-asses (!) is a message of empowerment is unsatisfying, intellectually and creatively. This is exactly what @google-3a1536979b85e6fd2255574285311932:disqus was saying about having cake and eating it, too. I’d love to see more games take the same approach to female characters as “Beyond Good and Evil” – Jade was a great example of how to make female characters relatable, empowered and slightly more realistic. And Michel Ancel clearly had gender on his mind when the primary male protagonist (Pey’j) was a pig:)

  • http://www.lightsinthedarkness.com/ Mike

    I appreciate the camp/deconstructionist angles, but in the end it just seems like a soft-pedaling of the issue. I don’t think that if Anita Sarkeesian had been present for the discussion that she would have let that slide. I do think, if an “author” wants to try and justify a game like this then they need to account for how it will be bluntly and broadly received by its consumer base, a response which is obvious with every panty-flash in the game footage.

    • BarbleBapkins

      I am basing this only on videos and reviews as I haven’t played the game, but it seems like Lollipop Chainsaw’s attempts to satirize the particular brand of sexualization and objectification of female characters in the videogame norm by being wildly over the top fails, because the norm itself is so sexualized in the first place that LC couldn’t be much more outlandish without getting an AO rating. 

      If I didn’t know this was a Suda51 game, and that Suda51 games are almost Tarantino like in the way they co-opt and deconstruct the tropes and imagery of other works in their medium, images from this game would not strike me as being purposefully over the top. On the other hand they would look all too familiar.

      Obviously, within the full context of the game that might change, but I think for the game to overcome this problem, it really needs a very clear and powerful satirical message and not just “We’re showing T&A, but we’re more clever than those other games, aren’t we?” It just seems to me to be more of the same just with a wink and a nod, hoping that is enough to turn actual sexualization into a satire of sexualization.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        I can’t comment on the experience of playing the game, but I’ve been watching a Let’s Play of it on YouTube, and I’m seeing a lot of the things that Jim Sterling pointed out in his Destructoid editorial. Sterling points out that Nick is reduced to object status, merely a tool for Juliet to defeat the zombies. It’s supposed to make the (presumably male) player feel uncomfortable, which encourages them to reconsider their objectification of the female protagonist.

        The problems here are twofold:
        1) Even if the intention of the game is to subvert male expectations of female characters, as @Effigy_Power:disqus pointed out, that doesn’t change the fact that the intended audience is heterosexual male. It’s exclusionary, even more so than a game that sexualizes female characters but has no specific intended audience.

        2) In order to get the player to reconsider his objectification of female characters, he has to be enticed to objectify in the first place, hence the skimpy cheerleader costume.

        Thus I can why the game can be lauded for its message, but I can also see why the medium through which that message is delivered is problematic. So, everybody’s right! Yay, I guess…

        • Effigy_Power

          I could imagine that making a keyring out of the male character was done only because having him reborn as her panties wasn’t flying with the censors.
          As such it doesn’t seem so much to serve as the inspired comment on societal standards it might want to be as subject the player to all the subtlety of a knock-knock joke from the 70s.

  • http://rmyung.tumblr.com/ rmyung

    I hear you on the wife test!  
    There’s no way I would even play Lollicup Chainsaw even on my own.  I hope games eventually reach a point where there’s a niche market for these sexed up games.. and there’s the normal mainstream stuff. 

    • Aaron Riccio

      @JohnTeti:disqus : After thinking about it, this sounds like a terrific feature for Gameological. You guys already highlighted interns and mothers responding to games. I think it’d be a hilarious and educational video segment, watching reviewers/editors playing games while their partners looked on and commented. You’ve even got your name already: “The Wife Test.” 

      First up: Catherine.

      • Effigy_Power

        You can follow that up with DOA Beach Volleyball.
        It would make for some exquisite uncomfortable squirming.

        Then again we should make sure not to include non-playing boyfriends and husbands.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          I can’t even think of a game that would be anywhere near Lollipop Chainsaw that objectifies Men instead of Women to the point that it would make people uncomfortable. I know that it’s a classic mouthbreather defense of the portrayal of women in games to say something like “But men are portrayed just as bad!” but we all know that’s a load of bullshit since they are all designed to appeal to guys. A big muscular guy in armor with a sword is not on the same level as chainmail bikinis and shit.

          I don’t know why I’m even typing this. I’m used to trying to have to argue this point elsewhere on the internet, but I’m fairly certain that everyone commenting here already understands.

          But yeah. Games that would be on the same level for guys… Maybe Muscle March might make people uncomfortable? That’s pretty much all I can think of, and even that is a stretch.

        • Effigy_Power

           @Douchetoevsky:disqus: I was thinking that maybe the constant barrage of manly man’s man in games might be objectification to the point where your run-of-the-mill man might feel a little inadequate, but that’s not really the same thing.
          Still, I do wonder sometimes if the pressure of having to be hard boiled cop/elite commando/sword-wielding barbarian and so on isn’t just as bothersome for boys as the image of being thin and pretty and popular is for girls.

        • HobbesMkii

          Well, based on television and movies, for every Brad Pitt and George Clooney, there’s a Steve Buschemi or a Mark Duplass with a really attractive woman (or two) for them. I forget who it was (probably some comedian) but there was some guy who pointed out that popular culture sells men on the concept that, regardless of their personal baggage or appearance, somewhere out there is an attractive woman for them, while at the same time suggesting to woman that they need to stay attractive if they want to end up with even a half-way looking significant other.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @Douchetoevsky:disqus: Male/female sexualization as male power fantasy is a tricky subject. On the one hand, it’s obviously designed to appeal to men. On the other hand, just because it’s designed that way doesn’t mean that it actually appeals to men, particularly those who don’t “roleplay” and choose not to project themselves onto the player character. But you’re correct to point out that in a male power fantasy, male and female sexualization have different purposes.

          @Effigy_Power:disqus: That’s actually a huge concern of mine, which is why it bugs me that the only time people want to discuss male sexualization is when they want to provide a counterargument against those who raise the issue of female sexualization. Doing so devalues the issue. I think that the constant parade of musclebound dudebros can have pernicious effects on some of the young men who play these games, especially those who have body image issues.

          I don’t know why the Internet latched onto the idea that masculism and feminism constitute a zero-sum game. It’s fine to wish for better portrayals of both men and women in games; there’s no inherent contradiction there.

      • blue vodka lemonade

        I’m totally cool playing Catherine in front of my mother, my boyfriend, and my cats. It’s my dad I’m worried about.

  • doyourealize

    I haven’t played the game yet (although with no background I’d like to think Suda would get some credit for being Suda, just not sure how far that goes), but I love that you used this game to explore the larger question of female objectification in the video game world, and not just games themselves. It’s something I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about lately, although extended to our culture as a whole. My sophomores, most of them, wouldn’t stop calling Curley’s wife in Of Mice and Men a slut, no matter what we learn about her situation. I couldn’t get them to realize that, though she might not be a great person, she’s far from a whore. And their attitude just made me think about how kids/people today view women, and I wonder whether video games are a cause or an opportunistic bystander.

    The epitome of this sentiment right now is that godawful One Direction song, whose message – without any kind of awareness about it – is, “Hey, you’re insecure? Good, that’s what I like in a woman!” I’d like to think Lollipop Chainsaw is, if not an upstanding example of female empowerment, at least aware of itself.

    • AHyperkineticLagomorph

       I’d like to think if the game’s tone isn’t empowering, its self-awareness is at least a step in the right direction. I mean, just admitting that games can be sexist and objectify women seems to be something many people don’t want to admit.

  • PhilWal0

    Oh bums. You started using the new video thing that the AV Club is using, and I can never get the sound to work on them. Is there another host of these videos? Anyone else have sound problems?

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Can you email me at john@gameological.com with some details about your browser and platform? I’ll pass the details along to the AV Club tech team.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      I’m just sad I can’t watch the video in fullscreen in glorious 720p. I must see all the colours on that t-shirt!

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Also, the video is now on our YouTube channel.

      http://youtu.be/JOzp5eWei4s

      • PhilWal0

         Thanks again, John. Youtube version worked fine. Great fork catch!

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        Wait, Gameological has a YouTube channel? Sweet. That nullifies my prior comment.

      • Effigy_Power

         I didn’t even know the GS had a YouTube channel.
        AND YOU DISALLOWED COMMENTS… that makes it one of the few life-savers in an ocean of phlegm.

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          Yeah. I’d just rather have people comment here. Most YouTube knuckleheads won’t going to go to the trouble of clicking through to another site, and many thoughtful people with something to say will go to the trouble.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @JohnTeti:disqus: Do the YouTube videos or their descriptions actually have links to this site? I’m not seeing them. Maybe things are messed-up on my end; I’m pretty sure YouTube hates my computer.

        • Effigy_Power

           @JohnTeti:disqus : I think we ought to be very thankful for the fact that most YouTube “knuckleheads” won’t go to the trouble of clicking through to another site.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           If this were the AVClub, you could be sure that a “Reposted YouTube Knuckleheads” commenter would be in the pipeline already…

  • shermchurlish

    Where is the Day Z coverage? Teti, get your beans!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

    @JohnTeti:disqus There was no “see how YOU like it” vibe in Jim Sterling’s assessment of Nick  (which James Gunn, co-writer of the game, mostly confirmed via Twitter). His point with Nick was that it was using obvious, over the top male objectification to point out how silly female objectification is. One of my professors used to call it a thought experiment: if you swap the genders in something that you think might be sexist, and it appears completely ridiculous, chances are it’s sexist. For example, if you took a Victoria’s Secret ad and replaced the female models with male underwear models in the same poses, it would look completely absurd, exposing the inherent absurdity of the pose to begin with that we just miss when it’s a woman. So Nick’s disembodied head, according to Jim Sterling and James Gunn, is a sort of thought experiment, making a commentary about female objectification by making us feel uncomfortable when it’s a male.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      This is the conclusion of Jim’s piece: “So, treat women with respect, because one day you might be a disembodied head hanging from a miniskirt, and then you’ll have to see what it feels like to be somebody else’s toy.” I don’t think that “see how YOU like it” is an unfair paraphrasing of that sentiment.

      The “Is it sexist, yes or no?” thing is one I’m really trying to avoid. When the conversation turns into whether we should apply those labels — “is it racist?” is the other biggie — the calm discussion of ideas tends to go out the window. People tend to view the application of those labels as the end of the discussion. I’m not saying you’re doing that; I’m just saying that’s why I’m not interested in using that language.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

        I found that conclusion to be kind of tongue in cheek, but that could be just me, so I guess it could go either way.

        I also agree with you about labels having a tendency to make rational discussions go haywire, but on the other hand, I get uncomfortable when we don’t directly acknowledge things for what they are. It would be nice if we could call things racist or sexist without it killing constructive discourse.

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          Agreed on that point. The words have become more cudgels than words.

    • Aaron Riccio

      But by your logic here (and I agree with Teti that we shouldn’t bother going down that black-and-white Troll-filled road), the game *IS* sexist. After all, if a woman’s *STILL ALIVE* head were hanging from a man’s belt, wouldn’t that be ridiculous, too? :)

      • SamPlays

        I agree, this is an example of reverse sexism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

    I think, for better or for worse, Lollipop Chainsaw does both: it makes fun of traditional gender roles and objectification in pop culture, but unfortunately also perpetuates it when some people miss the commentary. The writers/readers of a site like this are all intelligent enough to understand the commentary, I think, regardless of how well it was or wasn’t conveyed in the game. But a lot of gamers– most gamers– I don’t think would realize there was a point to it even if the game came right out and said it as much, and for them it just perpetuates the stereotypes.

    Anchorman was kind of similar. The entire plot to that movie was mocking sexism in the work place, especially in journalism. All the sexist jokes Ron Burgundy and his crew make are making fun of the people who really think that, but a lot of idiots love Anchorman because they actually have those sexist beliefs and don’t get they’re being mocked. It’s kind of inadvertently brought about a resurgence in sexist jokes.

    All in the Family was the same way. The reason it was the number one show on television for basically its entire run was because it also appealed to all of the awful bigots that Archie Bunker’s character was mocking; they didn’t get the joke and thought he was a hero for sticking it to that damn hippie Meathead.

    Satirical pop culture walks a very fine line between using commentary to expose a problem, and making that problem worse by normalizing it among those who don’t understand the satire.

    • RidleyFGJ

      Mike Judge has made a career out of his satire being misunderstood by those that he’s actively mocking!

      I do suppose that King of the Hill is a rather large exception to that.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

        King of the Hill! That was the other example I was thinking of. That’s definitely a satire that got mistaken, and I think the fact it lasted so long on a network that wants to cancel everything halfway through the first season is a testament to how it appealed to the kind of people it was (good naturedly) making fun of.

        • RidleyFGJ

          I think the fact that it ribbed on its targets in a gentle way was a big factor in why it stayed successful for so long. I wouldn’t call Beavis & Butthead, Office Space or Idiocracy mean-spirited, but they’re substantially more barbed and prickly regarding their subjects than KotH. You always got the sense that at the end of the day that Judge loved the Hill family as much as he loved to point out their foibles, whereas you got the sense that he was just as disappointed in Peter as he was in Lumbergh.

        • BarbleBapkins

          I think really good satires like KOTH, All in the Family, and The Colbert Report succeed by not being slaves to the point of view they are “secretly” coming from. KOTH pokes at both rural and urban America, I might agree with Meathead more than Archie but Meathead is kind of an idiot himself, and Colbert might play the rightwing blowhard but that doesn’t mean the left is safe from mockery either. I think that makes it easier for one side to feel safe from mockery and to say, “see, it agrees with me!”

          I doubt if Lollipop Chainsaw is at that level of satire, but I do have a feeling you are right and that a lot of the audience it ends up appealing to are going to be the ones who want to see a sexy cheerleader run around, commentary and satire be damned.

    • Aaron Riccio

      See, satire is really specific, though, and the format itself mocks something. I feel like LC is more homage to pulp comics and a reversal on exploitational horror movies (like Grindhouse) than satire. My problem is that it’s inexpertly done, on account of what Teti and Heisler discuss as the “over-the-top” approach: when you’re throwing EVERYTHING at the wall, you lose your ability for specificity. This is especially true of the punk rock zombie bosses, who serve as comic value in of themselves, but don’t really enhance or extend the conversation on sexuality that you might say the rest of the game is doing. I’ll say this: LC looks as if it’s having fun. I just didn’t have fun playing it.

      • stakkalee

        I think you really hit the nail on the head here.  It’s pretty obvious that LC is trying to be satirical; the problem is that it fails, and winds up reinforcing many of the ideas that it’s trying to skewer.

        Video games may have become a more mature medium for artistic expression but the video game industry is still saddled with an audience that doesn’t really do nuance.  Actually, scratch that – as @Effigy_Power:disqus mentioned up above women make up a large part of the audience for video games, and the median age of gamers is now 37, so the problem is that while video games as a medium have matured, video games as an industry still haven’t.  Couple that with the fact that satire is hard, and requires surgical precision.  LC is attempting that surgery with a shotgun, with predictable results.

        • Aaron Riccio

          Next week on A&E: Shotgun Surgeons. “What would you do if you only had one (buck)shot to live?”

          Hm. I might actually watch that show.

  • Effigy_Power

    As a woman…!

    No, no need for that. I actually find it interesting to see how the time is allotted to the two discussions in the room. There’s the “Is this sexist?” discussion and the “Is camp a justifiable excuse for sexism?”.
    Both topics are important and strongly connected and can’t really be discussed without each other. Tarantino-like camp has its place, I am sure, but it’s a pretty complex question if obvious sexism is made any better or more cerebral by it.
    It’s pretty easy to hide something disgusting by pretending to be sarcastic about it, I am sure we’ve all done it.

    That said, is LC really disgusting? Nnnnoo… I’d have to say no. I won’t play it, but not because of outrage. I don’t care for zombies anymore, the game seems like a sparkly version of Dead Rising and the entire setup just doesn’t interest me. I am pretty sure that at least with the last point a lot of women would agree with me.
    LC isn’t nearly important or insulting enough to warrant grand-scale indignation, but it does exclude me, as a woman, from its target audience. I am sure that doesn’t count for all women, but I’d imagine it’d disqualify this game for most.
    And it’s there where the actual insulting point is. Game Developers either don’t know that this would be considered off-putting by female gamers or they don’t care. Both points are equally disconcerting, because it makes me feel that my personal history of 18 years of gaming hasn’t made an impact in gaming culture. Now, the makers of LC may be a bad example and gaming  as a whole has certainly moved closer to women, but at the same time it has spawned the sub-culture of the “GamerGurl”, which in itself patronizes and objectifies women all anew, usually with the consent of the brainless sugar-puff “look-at-me” girls who subscribe to that particular definition.

    Again, I am not speaking for womankind as a whole, but it serves as a constant reminder that gaming-wise, we are still a marginalized minority. Despite supplying a lioness’ share to the overall gaming-budget, we apparently have to be happy playing the Sims and the occasional Farm game.
    It’s a bit like childhood. Boys get to lasso laser-headed alien Nazis, we get to play home-maker… unless we’re pretty, then we get to be saved from said aliens. Yay.

    PS: I love that the arrival of summer has spurned everyone at GS to switch from loud jackets to loud t-shirts and ties. Also I believe the deep fried Twinkie was invented at the Texas State Fair. Which figures.

    • Aaron Riccio

      I thought that Texas was invented by Park Slope hipsters, though. Is it actually a real place, though? Do people actually have sweet-cream eating contests? And live to tell about it? (And if so, is that the dessert they eat after devouring a 90 oz. steak in one hour?)

      • Effigy_Power

        All I know is that the Texas-jokes were silently laid aside by New Yorkers when the obesity rate in NY State equaled that of Texas. I guess we could make fun of Idaho being landlocked, but it’s just not the same.

        • Aaron Riccio

          It’s just further proof that Texas is a state of our imaginations, right? We got so big for our britches that we created a whole other state to sustain us. That’s why we call it the heartland, right? Because we store our excess torsal material there?

        • Effigy_Power

           I thought it was called the heartland because we used to get our organ transplants from grain-fed Oklahomans. But with the current obesity pandemic, their ventricles are just as crusted as ours.
          I think it’s time we made up a new state.
          Texissouri. Where grocers still wear overcoats and all the trains are on time and kids play with sticks and dolls.
          Actually it sounds like a fucking nightmare.

        • Aaron Riccio

          @Effigy_Power:disqus : (Sung to the tune of Oklahoma): “Texissouri, where the winded come panting down in pain / and the raving elite can put out racist tweets / when the left’s put right before a train.” 

      • caspiancomic

         Texas is a state… of mind.

        • Aaron Riccio

          N***as in Texas?

  • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

    When the camera zooms in on Bayonetta’s butt, it’s simply to show you Bayonetta’s butt. When the camera zooms in on Juliet’s butt, it’s to focus on Nick’s head when he has something to say. I thought this was a clever way to exploit the tropes of exploitation.

    I was very apprehensive about the presentation of Lollipop Chainsaw until about halfway through the first level, when a rescued student announces “Thanks, Juliet! I’m totally going to masturbate to you tonight!” Ohhhhhhh, now I get what you’re going for. I also appreciated that Juliet chomps on a lollipop for health and never once slowly licks it in a seductive manner. Her sexuality isn’t flaunted the way you’d expect it to be, it’s mostly just surface fodder.

    • RidleyFGJ

      This was my takeaway from the game, too; as completely non-serious as it is, it makes it a point to show that the objectification of Juliet is projected onto her, rather than it being an aspect of who she is. She doesn’t even think much of anything that her lecherous sensei has her do for her “training” until Nick points it out. She’s just an all-American girl who loves her boyfriend and really enjoys killing zombies and Frankenberries.

      Perhaps it’s reading into it a bit too much, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the game’s most revealing costumes require lots and lots of mindless grinding of platinum medals in order to obtain.

      • Aaron Riccio

        You know, I hadn’t considered it before, but just the act of “grinding” to get more “revealing” costumes sounds dirty. Maybe LC *is* more meta than I thought.

        • RidleyFGJ

          Suda definitely has a thing for “mindless grinding for minimal payoff” as a thematic device. I mean, that is essentially the plot of the first No More Heroes title: an otaku loser lucks into a weapon of great power to try and impress women, only to find himself having to do the same old odd-job shit that he’s been doing to come even close to making that reality, and even at the end, he’s defeated by the fact that he’s still a loser, but a gullible one at that.

          Moral of the story? If a woman wants you to kill 11 people and have you pay for it, with the reward being the right to plow her, she’s really not that into you.

      • Logoboros

        That approach can present a different problematic message though, if the idea is that she’s oblivious to the sexism and just goes on doing her own thing regardless. It’s seems kind of empowering on the surface — and there’s a kernel of truth there — but it’s ultimately basically saying “Sexism (or racism) wouldn’t be a problem if women (or minorities) just stoppped getting offended all the time.” That is, prejudice can’t hurt you unless you let it hurt you. Which, like I said, has a kernel of truth to it, but is also plays into a rather convenient whitewashing of the institutionalized nature of so much prejudice and ignores the problem of its origins.

        • RidleyFGJ

          I’m not sure that either Suda or James Gunn were really interested in the way Juliet is presented as being particularly empowering (at least, not in a sense that they’d go out of their way to call it out specifically), but I think it’s fair to say when you’ve spent your entire life fighting the forces of hell in all its incarnations, you tend to have bigger things on your mind during the onset of a demonic invasion than how other people react to your skirt length or how far you’re going to let you boyfriend get with you later that evening, even if said boyfriend is currently a head attached to your hip via a carabiner.

          Would I call Juliet an example of a well-written female character? Probably not, but the way they ultimately approached her characterization makes a lot of sense, and it avoids a lot of the icky problems that occur with other female characters like Madison in Heavy Rain, Samus in Metroid: Other M, and what we’ve been witnessing with all of the previews we’ve seen for the next Tomb Raider title.

        • Effigy_Power

          Well, being snubbed as “too politically correct” is something that I’ve certainly encountered personally, which is basically saying that I ought to laugh about the dyke-jokes someone just told. I guess the “it’s just a bit of fun” defense for that type of behavior is a related form to the “We actually mean it ironically, stupid!” defense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pat-Tildman/100000418747365 Pat Tildman

    So, before I watch this: Is it going to be a debate about sexism between two men?

    • Aaron Riccio

      I believe they’re attempting to resolve the question of vaginal probes, right? What would a woman know about that?

    • Effigy_Power

       It isn’t, but regardless, I don’t think that would inherently be a bad thing. I’ve worked in the LGBT and a few women’s rights organizations long enough to know that “the oppressed” are under no circumstances better equipped to talk about these issues nor more serious or sensible about it.

  • Fluka

    First off, I really have to give some credit to the Gameological society.  First, to Teti and Heisler for a very thoughtful video, which made me think about this game a little more than I had.  Second, to the comments section for being able to discuss the issue of women in games critically and without making me want to crawl into a hole and die. 

    I think both sides here have some very valid points.  Someone earlier brought up Starship Troopers as a good corollary - it gets the tone of camp just right, so it can be over-the-top with its bug-squishing goodness, while still being very much a satire.  And yes, it gets to have it both ways, for better or worse. I think my problem with Lollipop Chainsaw, though, has to do with its context in the larger gaming culture.  Mostly, with the fact that it feels so rare to find a game with a lead female player character who is *not* explicitly designed with the male gaze in mind.  Bayonetta might get to fight the patriarchy, and this game’s character might get to cleverly subvert the genre, but they can only do it while having gigantic breasts and occasionally losing their clothing.  I think I posted this in the earlier thread, but it’s not much offensive as just exhausting and depressing.  If I want to play a female character who’s defined by something other than their sexuality, my safest bet is usually to play a gender-optional RPG.  (Though there’s always Portal! Yay Portal!)  Get a lot more variety in female characters, and make them actual human characters, and I’ll be happy to accept something like this as satire.

    • RidleyFGJ

      Not that I don’t think you’re making a good point, but Portal has always been an odd example to bring up of a good female character in a game when there’s no indicators of Chell being a woman unless you were looking through portals in a certain way. If I’m not mistaken, she’s never even associated with a gender in the original game; just the occasional “test subject” comment from GLaDOS.

      • Fluka

        Heh, yeah, that is a very good point.  It’s sad when the usual go-to example for “Look!  Gaming has non-sexualized female characters too!” is an unseen presence with no dialogue whose gender is only indirectly inferred.  

        • RidleyFGJ

          I think that prior to Other M, Samus of Metroid fame would have fit the bill of a strong female character that doesn’t fall victim to a lot of the pitfalls of writing for women characters in games. She was a silent character for the most part, but that simply came with the territory of her profession and the response to anyone surprised with her being a female was “deal with it.”

          Alas, the creators of the franchise felt that they had 20+ years to make up for in that regard.

        • Effigy_Power

           GLaDos did make some fairly gender-specific jokes in Portal 2 however. Not that they couldn’t apply to male characters, but especially the jokes about Chell’s weight sound a lot like woman-on-woman cattiness.
          Which I guess subverts the whole thing again, since it’s a computer with a marginally female persona insulting a voiceless, anonymous woman.
          Makes ya think.

        • ToddG

          @Effigy_Power:disqus   I was going to mention that, but I wasn’t sure if assuming jokes about weight were meant to imply that the protagonist was female would make ME sexist.

        • Effigy_Power

           Well, since men aren’t AS wholesale subjected to having to fulfill some physical stereotype, calling each other fat isn’t really done between men, is it?
          I on the other hand have called other girls fat out of spite a few times, so my brain is just as washed as everyone’s.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @Effigy_Power:disqus: Men do make fun of each other for being fat. Probably not as much as women do, but I’m not a woman, so it’s not my place to say.

        • Effigy_Power

           Hmm, maybe I am being prejudiced about the prejudice.
          Whoa… just blew my mind.

          Which btw is a size 6.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

        In some ways, that’s better. If the gender of your character truly doesn’t matter (and it really didn’t for Chell), that’s fairly progressive for video games at this point. Not that to promote gender equality everything has to be gender neutral, but the fact that Chell was female and they never even mentioned it is a good sign for equality.

        • RidleyFGJ

          Oh, I don’t disagree with that at all, and that’s the view I do ultimately hold for it as well, but I see her brought up a lot of times as being an example of a strong female character, and, well, there’s no character to speak of.

        • Effigy_Power

           @RidleyFGJ:disqus : I have certainly used her as a positive example for a female protagonist, which now sounds sort of stupid, considering she has all the characteristics of a sexless robot… one who doesn’t make any decisions on her own really… I’ll have to mull over that one, but I think you may just have eliminated Chell from the painfully short list of good female protagonists.

        • RidleyFGJ

          Effigy_Power: I’m sorry if I’ve left you in a state of disarray; that was not my intention!

          For what it’s worth, I don’t that Chell is a negative stereotype or anything like that; there’s just nothing there. She’s a cipher in a way that Gordon Freeman can’t be in the Half-Life games.

        • Effigy_Power

           @RidleyFGJ:disqus : It’s not so much a state of disarray as a confirmation of what I assumed, but didn’t really want to face. When you’re looking for the “strong woman” type in gaming and find nothing but blowjobs, dress-holders and basically men with female exterior, it’s hard to admit that one of the few lesser flawed examples is really no example at all. After all, we are basing Chell only on her appearance.

          Not to mention, maybe Chell is the gaming world’s first transsexual hero and we’ve misjudged her all along.
          Damn, now I imagine her with Harvey Fierstein’s voice.

        • RidleyFGJ

          The rabbit hole goes deeper than any of us could have imagined!

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      I’m trying to think if it’s because the only genres that most developers use females in are action and shooter games.  The Japanese equivalent might be shoot-’em-ups and role-playing games (Red Katana’s Batan and Square-Enix’s Ashelia are good examples of designs for “mature” women that blinked at the last second).

      I went through the Famitsu charts for 2009 through 2012.  They’re not all Chris Lightfellow, but they weren’t helpless, poorly designed, or demeaned (I’m including moe like Micaiah from Fire Emblem or Farm Story/Harvest Moon protagonists).

      Misogi Takanosu from Terror Of The Stratus: http://andriasang.com/comvbe/senritsu_no_stratus_site
      Noora from Noora And The Time Workshop: The Witch Of The Misty Forest http://andriasang.com/comvg7/noora_battle_system
      The Time Goddess from the Hero 30/Half-Minute Hero series (and look what could have happened): http://andriasang.com/comnup/hero_30_second_update
      Aqua from Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep: http://andriasang.com/comcw0/sakaguchi_hearts
      Ando Ringo from the Puyo Puyo series: http://andriasang.com/com6ed/puyo_puyo_7_unveiled
      I may have forgotten some, but that’s 4 years’ worth of the top 150 or so selling games a year.  So, regular female protagonists appear when:

      1. the game is a comedy/the genre doesn’t require an active protagonist.
      2. the game needs to be sold to children.
      3. they’re copying a famous Japanese animation where the protagonists are normal.

      Yikes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/raheem.miah.5 Raheem Miah

    Do sexy schoolgirl stereotypes lessen the impact of actual sexy schoolgirls in the community?

    Discuss.

    • Effigy_Power

       Well, to use the zombies used in this game: I’d say yes. I used to dig zombies, now I think they are boring, totally overused and terribly common.
      A few lollipop-gnashing airheads later and I am sure I’d be sick of sexy schoolgirls as well.
      And yes, I once owned a sexy schoolgirl outfit for … recreational reasons, so my shame allots me a somewhat more educated opinion… No? Ah.

      • RidleyFGJ

        I have to give the game credit for having such chatty zombies; they’re so often mumbling or snarling masses that games like this or even films like the Return of the Living Dead series are very welcome, especially with such golden nonsequitors as “I can’t get this Katy Perry song out of my head! What a horrible way to diiiiiiiiiiiie!”

      • Electric Dragon

        I think we all have to accept that sexy schoolgirl outfits are a valid lifestyle choice, but it still behoves makers of popular culture to treat sexy schoolgirl outfits with the respect they deserve.

        • Effigy_Power

          To be perfectly honest, I am hard-pressed to find anything respectable about the combination of basically pre-legal girls and strippers’ uniforms.
          I am guilty of advancing it, but I am not sure I like it. :P
          Also, weird that there’s no sexy college-girl outfit.

        • caspiancomic

           @Effigy_Power:disqus If I had to guess why, it would be because the typical college-girl outfit is sweatpants, flip-flops, a hoodie with the school’s name on it, a ten year old scrunchie, and a styrofoam container full of chicken tenders.

        • Effigy_Power

           @caspiancomic:disqus: I am genuinely more attracted to that image, because it’s a lot more based in reality than bouncy teens with giant tots, wearing something to school no PTA would possibly let slide.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          @Effigy_Power:disqus : Hey, you’ve got to give some credit to those games featuring teens with “giant tots” – they’re tackling head-on the very real societal ills of teen pregnancy and child obesity that plague this country. Such civic-minded consciousness should be lauded!

  • bendthebullet

    Call me crazy, but you’d have to be really stupid to think that Lollipop Chainsaw is anything but completely sarcastic in everything it does. They pretty much lay everything out in the first five minutes.

    I mean, for fuck’s sake, we’re talking about a game who introduces its main character by telling the player that she has a fetish for being told she’s fat while spending the game making those kinds of obvious “I’m a hot cheerleader but I’m SOOOOOOOOO FAT” quips. How can you tell me that’s remotely serious unless you are the dumbest motherfucker on the planet?

    • Effigy_Power

      Valid points are often made invalid by conveying them like a tool. Just saying.

    • Steve Heisler

      Well, it’s one thing to tell a joke, it’s another to tell a really bad, lazy joke. Sure, Lollipop Chainsaw attempts irony and sarcasm, but because it didn’t do it well, I felt like it came off as uncomfortable, rather than, like, “a refreshing take on women in video games.”

      • bendthebullet

        It strikes me as singling out the game for not doing something it wasn’t even trying to. Suda’s is often kind of hit and miss in his characterizations (No More Heroes is pretty strong evidence of this, with Travis constantly switching between sociopathic asshole who kills people just cuz and a character with some semblance of depth and morality) and I could totally see how someone would find Juliet to be relatively tone-deaf, but it’s clearly a joke. It may be a bad joke told poorly, but I think it’s still obviously and pretty undebatably played up for humorous effect. There’s an argument to be made for why that joke doesn’t play in the way Suda and Gunn think it does, and even how it does the exact opposite, but that doesn’t seem to be the argument here so much as “its cheesecake sexism passed off as humor” being the be all and end all. It’s like calling out Transformers films for not delving into the deep politics of the war between the Autobots and Deceptacons; it’s beside the point and focusing on the wrong aspects of why something doesn’t work.

        • caspiancomic

           With respect, I think it’s more like calling out Transformers for featuring a pair of transparent and blisteringly racist black stereotypes. Yeah, it’s perfectly valid to argue that it’s “just a joke”, but even when someone has no desire to offend, and even when the person making the joke is in all other ways a perfectly forward-thinking stand up member of society, the joke on its own is still perfectly capable of being in poor taste at best, and genuinely harmful at worst.

        • bendthebullet

          @caspiancomic:disqus And I’d argue that’s not a fair comparison since Revenge of the Fallen’s stereotypically black Transformers play to that very obvious stereotype whereas Lollipop Chainsaw, perhaps unsuccessfully, plays against its own stereotype, to say nothing of the fact that the racist robots use a stereotype that has existed to make a group of people seem inferior for centuries while the “hot cheerleader” stereotype is essentially one that exists solely in the minds of camp writers. I guess this is where we’ll have to agree to disagree, though.

        • Effigy_Power

           If you honestly think that the “hot cheerleader” stereotype, with all its sexist connotations and damaging patronization, is in any way something that’s been solely made up for entertainment purposes, you are very tragically misinformed.
          We all know what the “hot cheerleader” stereotype entails (sexual promiscuity, focus on physical attributes, low intelligence) and those things are only harmless if they are looked upon without any thought about the objectification at the core.
          It’s a stereotype that’s age-old and perfectly well defined, not a recent plot-device.

      • RidleyFGJ

        I get calling the humor in Lollipop Chainsaw lazy, but to the point of making you uncomfortable? Do tell.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      Goddammit, we almost had a full page of awesome discussion and then you come here and shit out this stupid comment. 

      Ya blew it.

      Also, at risk of actually engaging you in conversation, there’s the issue of whether or not the game joking about perpetuating these sexist tropes while still perpetuating sexist tropes makes it fine. The “It’s only a joke” defense, if you will. Personally I don’t buy it. 

      • bendthebullet

        I think there’s a pretty critical difference between “it’s only a joke” (something I think, as others have pointed out, could definitely be applied to Bayonetta) and what Lollipop Chainsaw does, which is to lean so far into the joke that there’s no way it couldn’t be satire. For all its faults, I think its clear that Lollipop Chainsaw lampshades its tropes at every single turn; the jokes become not only what the characters are saying, but what the game is telling you about them through the weird, baffling tidbits they let on about them and how they play into those constant trope characterizations. Again, the fat fetish joke, one of the earliest ones in the entire game: it colors pretty much every single line of out Juliet in a completely different light that simply going with “it plays on a sexist stereotype” is willfully ignoring what the game is actually telling you about her.

        Again, being done for comedy’s sake doesn’t give them a free pass if the joke doesn’t work, but the argument here strikes me as treating the obvious joke as a serious statement instead of analyzing why the joke makes him uncomfortable in the way it would as a serious statement. It’s misrepresenting the purpose.

        • Effigy_Power

           ”which is to lean so far into the joke that there’s no way it couldn’t be satire.”

          That would make midget porn a sociological expose into the sordid world of mistreatment.
          It would make incessant racist joking a revealing satire into the flaws of free speech.
          It would make a “fun-filled” night of gaybashing a satirical masterpiece about intolerance.

          None of those things are funny, but you assume that the crude humor of LC is. That’s where the flaw in your thinking is. Racist jokes are not funny. Not ever. Not for satirical purposes, not for the sake of irony. Neither are homophobic jokes. Sexist jokes on the other hand are still perfectly accepted as funny, as long as the person telling it makes a half-hearted attempt at making sure that it’s not meant that way.

          Some things can not be elevated from insulting to funny just by cranking up the dial. -isms are a pretty good example of it. 10 jokes about Mexicans being lazy are in no way more satirical or funny than 2 jokes about Mexicans being lazy.
          And while it’s great that society is slowly learning to follow that bit of common decency, sexism is still pretty fair game. That, and nothing else about this game, is the entire core of the issue.

        • bendthebullet

          @Effigy_Power:disqus You’d have a point about using sexism as humor and selling the idea of Juliet being a sexualized ditz as a desirable trait if said character was anything resembling a person. She’s not. There’s absolutely nothing identifiable about her because she’s presented as an endless contradiction. She’s an airhead who’s somehow one of the most capable zombie hunters alive; she’s a popular high school student who thinks of most things in terms of her zombie hunter life and the “normalcy” of magic spells and constantly carrying around a chainsaw that can transform into a gun and inexplicably hides a phone; she’s a complete and utter cartoon caricature of ditzy cheerleader while simultaneously being one of the most capable characters in the game and intelligent in ways that are completely inapplicable to the real world. It’s not a coincidence that the only character the game makes no attempt to subvert is Nick, who just so happens to be a severed head dangling from Juliet’s belt.

          Yes, I know, games are generally really shitty in how they portray women: if they aren’t hot, sexualized beings meant to be fawned over, they’re either men with tits; shrill, vindictive harpies who get what’s coming to them for being conniving bitches; or completely useless and need to be protected (see for example for all four: every game Rockstar has ever made). And yes, Lollipop Chainsaw obviously plays with the first of those stereotypes; it’s a send-up of B-horror films, that’s the nature of the beast. But I’ll continue to argue the humor isn’t sexist because the game neither glorifies nor rejects the characters for embodying elements of the stereotype, but rather wrings its humor from those character contradictions and Nick’s reactions to the complete insanity of everything going on that everyone else seems completely unfazed by. It’s like Wonder Showzen, in a sense, in that if you see the joke as “here’s this offensive thing but we’re not being serious, isn’t that funny?” you’re missing out on half the punchline, because everything leading up to and following the joke is part of it.

          Like I said, though, I think a case could be made that the send-up doesn’t work. Hell, you could probably even argue that the humor serves the opposite effect, and I’m sure someone could make a really good argument to that effect without falling back on “this uses a stereotype as a base so therefore it is sexist regardless of context or intent.” Or you could keep accusing me of being a pig who thinks sexist things are funny. That works too, I guess.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Um, for the record, her “secret kink” is “likes to be told she’s not fat”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vqq7Qw1-XH0&feature=player_detailpage#t=307s

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          @bendthebullet:disqus No one was “accusing [you] of being a pig who thinks sexist things are funny.” Don’t try to paint yourself as a victim here, that’s bullshit. Also, you cited Wonder Showzen as an example of satire, and I very much agree with you. However saying racist/sexist/whatever things while “not being a racist/sexist/whatever” doesn’t constitute satire. 

        • caspiancomic

           (@bendthebullet:disqus I don’t want to rattle your cage any more than we already have since you seem like a smart guy who made a bad first impression, but we wouldn’t be coming down on you nearly so hard if you hadn’t acted like a tit right out of the gate. You’ll find in this article’s comments alone, and on this site in general, a lot of varied opinions on any number of subjects, all of them presented intelligently, and none of them resulting in internet knife fights. Your opinion is totally and 100% valid, and I and everyone here is glad to hear your voice on the issue. But free advice: for your next thread it’s not necessary to call the people with whom you disagree “the dumbest motherfuckers on the planet.” This isn’t a place where people are of one mind, and it isn’t a place where you need to pre-emptively attack the people you expect to disagree with you. It is, though, a place where people are treated with respect, their opinions are carefully and deliberately considered, and a civil tone is maintained throughout. Just don’t come so hot out of the gate next time and I promise, no matter how inflammatory you think your opinions might be, you’ll find yourself in a pretty genial conversation.)

        • bendthebullet

          @Douchetoevsky:disqus Trust me dude, if I was trying to make myself the victim here, I wouldn’t keep digging myself deeper trying to prove I have a point beyond a stupid half-serious throwaway comment I made while half-awake today and thought everyone would ignore. To put it another way: sorry for being a morning grouch, guys. Won’t happen again.

          On the second point, as I said in the comparison, I think the game works because it does work on that level like WS where LC plays on the metatexual level of part of the joke being how they tell you the joke and combined with all the details they give you about the character here and there. For all Grasshopper sometimes gets it way wrong, they always try to go for an extra weird layer to the story. I just think it’s pretty readily apparent that to dismiss it as just going for the cheap crass sexist jokes all the time, whether you think it succeeds in what it tries to do, is just kinda bs.

          (Also, @Merve2:disqus I’m so bummed by you’re right, since that thing I misread was one of my favorite jokes in the game.)

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @bendthebullet:disqus: Now I’m kinda bummed that that wasn’t the actual joke. It would have been hilarious in a twisted sort of way.

  • frogandbanjo

    If we begin with the assumption that female sexuality is an asset that can be leveraged for an advantage, then aren’t video games caught in a no-win situation when it comes to portraying it?

    If the idea of a “female” and the idea of “sexuality” both exist in the game’s universe in ways that are remotely relatable to the real world, then it would seem silly for a controllable female avatar, or all of her opponents and/or allies, to be completely blind to its utility.

    I’m having a hard time putting this succinctly.

    An example: we’re almost immediately willing to suspend our disbelief for the insane, reality-defying physical strength of certain video game protagonists. If their muscles are impossibly large or well-defined, generally we roll with it unless it inexplicably clashes with the rest of the game-world’s aesthetic. If they can do stuff that would require reality-defying levels of physical strength (or dexterity,) again, generally we roll with it.

    If a puzzle comes along where the character’s insane physical acumen is less useful, or is completely neutralized, the visual indicators remain, and sometimes even the “feel” of controlling the character remains; their insane abilities just don’t help them (or us) to solve certain puzzles.

    So I suppose my food-for-thought question is twofold: first, given the initial assumption presented above, why wouldn’t female sexuality be hyped up, highlighted, and integrated into characters in the exact same way physical strength/dexterity is, and second, why would we expect the indicators of that hyped-up, highlighted, reality-defying sexuality to disappear even in situations where it doesn’t necessarily help to overcome the immediate challenge presented to the player?

    Maybe the larger issue here is that female sexuality is most often leveraged as a social asset, and the vast majority of video games simply do not present social challenges (even though rote gameplay challenges are often given social window dressing?) Maybe that causes a fundamental disconnect between the player and the avatar that prevents us from just rolling with an avatar or character who has female sexuality in the toolbox.

    • Logoboros

      I’d propose turning your initial assumption around. Rather than asserting that female sexuality is an “asset” that a woman can use to achieve things in the world, we could instead say that male lasciviousness is a weakness that a woman can manipulate. It may be a relatively subtle distinction, but I think it matters. When you get right down to it, maybe there isn’t much difference between “power” and “leverage” per se, but our rhetoric about power and empowerment tends to suggest that it’s something innate, that one “possesses” power, etc., whereas leverage highlights that “power” is determined by one’s place in a system (and thus makes it easier to critique that system). Calling sexiness or desirability an asset that a woman possesses (instead of recognizing it as a value that has been assigned) masks the actual mechanisms of power that are at play.

      Anyway, a game that highlights possessing the conventional “male gaze” as a weakness that can be exploited has the potential to really change the player’s relationship to what a female character is doing. A game that posits sex itself as “a power” that the character wields (against the other powers of the enemy) does not invite nearly the same kind of critique.

      As I said, though, it is a tricky issue. Is my enemy’s weakness my strength? From an economics perspective, the two concepts are pretty much interchangeable. But ideologically, they’re charged quite differently.

      • caspiancomic

         I like the way you think, @Logoboros:disqus, and wish to subscribe to your newsletter. The idea of reversing female sexuality as an asset into male drooling lust as a weakness is a pretty inspired spin on the topic, and I think gets much closer to the heart of the issue.

        Seriously, I don’t even have anything productive to add, it just kind of wrinkled my brain even reading that. I just always try to take the opportunity to thank people for changing my way of thinking for the better.

      • frogandbanjo

        From a gameplay perspective, it’s all just a question of how the game designer wants to parcel out upgrades. Defense and offense all feed into the same formula ultimately, so the only real distinction is whether/how you can “upgrade” your offense and/or your defense.

        I’m not completely dismissing the idea that the superstructure can affect a player’s perceptions, but I’m pretty deep down the RPG rabbit hole myself. A Sword of +10 Female Sexuality and a Curse of +10 Male Gaze are functionally equivalent, and such a silly example only serves to highlight my earlier point about video games being ill-suited to addressing the type of leverage that sexuality tends to offer in the real world.

    • Effigy_Power

      That is an important point. There’s nothing at all wrong with sexuality in video-games, nothing at all. Men and women are sexual beings and there’s no need to white-wash these things.

      The issue, as you yourself hit upon in your last paragraph, is the inequality with which it is portrayed. In the vast majority of games, male sexuality works for the benefit of the male protagonist. Female sexuality however usually serves the gamer or other male figures in the game. Rarely (actually I can’t really come up with any valid examples, since sexuality in the Dragon Age games is certainly there but reduced to a hollow reward system) does a female protagonist get to show her sexual side for herself, for nobody’s benefit but her own and for no ulterior motive.

      Again, that’s more a societal double-standard rather than a gaming one. The aspect of female sexuality has always been a sore point for society, especially when flaunted. Men become “players”, women “sluts”. Men do the picking up, women become trophy wives. This is neither new nor terribly upsetting for me, as I am sort of out of the loop when it comes to the whole man/woman relationship, but it clearly transcends everyday life and made its way into video games.

      Restricting female sexuality in games would be just as bad of course. Thinking of women as nothing but “someone’s mom or daughter” is a pretty bad attitude, because it puts women on a pedestal from which they once again don’t get to have any real influence.

      It’s a conundrum alright, no doubt about it. I just wonder if the marketing-departments of the gaming industry have the mental wherewithal to make some adult decisions about it.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        Synonyms for “slut,” off the top of my head: strumpet; slattern; trollop; harlot; hussy; whore; tart. I’m sure there are more.

        Equivalents for men: I’m drawing a blank.

      • frogandbanjo

        I don’t want to outright accuse you of having your cake and eating it too, but your second paragraph is setting off some alarms for me. Doesn’t dragging the Male Gaze or Gamer Gaze into the equation make your assertion that “rarely does a female protagonist get to show her sexual side for herself, for nobody’s benefit but her own and for no ulterior motive” an unfalsifiable statement?

        I mean, I suppose we could set up something, but it would be pretty ridiculous. We’d have to vet a heterosexual female gamer (using the standards prescribed by the international society of self-declared feminists who can speak for all women) to make sure she’s free of false consciousness, and then plop her down with a video game where she plays as a female protagonist. Said female protagonist would then need to jump through all the fiery hoops of feminism (prescribed by the aforementioned society) and then enjoy sex without any ulterior motive (again, determined by guidelines issued forth by the same aforementioned society.)

        I’m not saying it’s impossible, but hopefully you can understand my concern. It really does feel like a no-win situation most of the time, especially when the “male hero with tits” criticism is also lurking about.

        I can appreciate your criticism of DA:O (which probably carries over to the ME series, no?) because it highlights exactly what I mentioned at the end of my previous post. I’m not sure the actual “game” portions of video games are sophisticated enough to make use of sex and relationships as anything other than window dressing for RPG number crunching with a few dialogue tree choices thrown into the mix. Maybe video games and sexuality are just a poor fit for each other, and the only reason we’re holding video games to any kind of a standard is because of their overlap with other forms of art (e.g. movies?)

        • Effigy_Power

           I get what you’re trying to say. I probably do want to have the cake and eat it too, that’s sort of my thing.
          I am sure there’s a solution for this entire problem, but it is beyond me and something tells me that it is beyond 99% of the people responsible for decisions in the gaming industry.

          • frogandbanjo

            Unfortunately I don’t think there’s a gameplay solution currently available. If a genuine social challenge for a human player could be coded into a computer, well, we’d be living in a very different world.
            That leaves a “movie” solution, which could be effective in certain games, but in others might draw legitimate criticism for diverting resources away from more salient parts of the game’s story. Still, plenty of movies that don’t directly involve sex still take it into account when determining character motivations and reactions, and the result is, unsurprisingly, more believable and relatable (though frequently less heroic and less immediately likable) characters.

            What irks me, and where I’d like to see progress made first, is the narrow band of games that construct a fictional universe that they seem to be asking their players to take seriously, and yet totally ignores sex, or lazily puts boobs and fetish gear everywhere and then proceeds to ignore sex.

            I can’t overstate just how amazing I think The Witcher 2 is in this regard compared to almost every other “serious” RPG I’ve played. Even games that I’d previously considered passable, like Dragon Age: Origins, seemed painfully shallow and whitewashed in retrospect. After playing TW2, I’m much more comfortable criticizing games for failing to integrate sex logically into their fictional worlds. It’s simply lazy to transplant humanity into an alternate setting and then just blithely assume that sex is some boring, inconsequential thing that happens in the background and has no real effect on anything in the foreground. That shouldn’t be blithely assumed. It should be defended, somehow, within the context of the game, because it’s a major deviation from reality.

      • SamPlays

        I agree with your point about restricting female sexuality in games or any other form of entertainment/art. It seems unnecessary, albeit conventional and perhaps easy, to dichotomize female qualities (i.e., pure vs. whore). Your comment reminds me of this verse from “Thieves in the Night” by Black Star:

        “I find it’s distressin, there’s never no in-between
        We either niggas or Kings
        We either bitches or Queens
        The deadly ritual seems immersed, in the perverse
        Full of short attention spans, short tempers, and short skirts
        Long barrel automatics released in short bursts
        The length of black life is treated with short worth”While the lyric is focused on a broader issue, I think it’s relevant to what’s being discussed here. Females seem to be devalued within a set of deeply entrenched stereotypes that are perceived to define what it means to be female. But this definition is less about accurately describing females and instead used to demonstrate the value of being a male. Realize that modern gender roles are almost completely fabricated; they’re socially constructed “truths” that define and support the dominant group in a (patriarchal) culture. FUrthermore, it seems to be human nature to not only categorize things/people (which is a helpful heuristic to navigate our environment) but to also rank them (which is less helpful when it comes to social relations in the modern era). Lennon/Ono wrote that “the woman is the nigger of the world,” which seems like a pretty apt summary of how women get treated, not only in the world of entertainment but in real life, too. Gender equality has come a long way over a relatively short period of time but the progress made since the mid-20th century (really, we’re only talking about one generation) has been the equivalent of baby steps. As one example, I study organizational issues for my employer (a large, public sector entity) and it’s somewhat jarring to see gender segregation prominently on display in our workforce. Two of our largest pools of workers (literally thousands in each group) are almost entirely male or female and the jobs they occupy are clearly gender stereotyped. You see similar inequities in our management and executive levels (ratio of about 1:2). I believe this inequity confers the “inherent” (read: socially constructed) value placed on males, while females, despite being over half the population, are considered socially less important. So when I see games like Lollypop Chainsaw, I can appreciate that they’re trying to subvert gender stereotypes but it’s a little like the pot calling the kettle black, if you know what I mean. Wallowing in the negativity of female stereotypes is not necessarily the most productive way to comment on how gender and sexuality is used in video games and it certainly doesn’t offer any alternatives.

        • Effigy_Power

          I still don’t believe that overblowing on a joke turns it automatically into satire, but I can see where you’re coming from.
          I am just very careful not to give someone a pass on their ignorance just because they are self-aware of it.
          And it is hard to not wallow on these things, since we are nowhere near solving the issue and much rather still in the process of making sure people know there even is an issue.

        • SamPlays

          @Effigy_Power:disqus I agree that overblowing a joke doesn’t equal satire. I certainly didn’t mean to give that impression because I believe satire is far more delicate and requires significantly more subtlety and intelligence than what’s on display with this Chainsaw game. 

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      I thought it was interesting that Fallout: New Vegas lets you use sexuality as a tool, even having a perk called “black widow” that gives you extra sexual/flirting powers. That’s why I’ll always remember New Vegas as the game where I slept with and then killed Matthew Perry. (I played as a female character.)

      • DougSndrs

         The distinction with New Vegas is that it doesn’t present it as some power that’s unique to women – a variant of that perk is available whether you play as male or female, gay or straight. That game also deserves credit for having gay characters whose sexuality is treated matter-of-factly – it’s an incidental detail about them, not some defining trait.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Yeah, I forgot to mention “Cherchez La Femme,” which I guess one could call the lesbian perk. I don’t know what the male equivalents are. In any case, it’s interesting to play a game where sex is treated as no big deal.

        • DougSndrs

          IIRC, the male equivalents are ‘ladykiller’ and ‘confirmed bachelor’.

        • Effigy_Power

           What I love about the gay/lesbian characters in Fallout and I believe also Elder Scrolls is that they are in fact exclusively gay.
          Bioware has sort of dropped the ball on that issue, since all the straight characters are exclusively straight, but all the potentially homosexual characters are in fact bi-sexual, which has a lot of indications I don’t even want to get in on.

        • uselessyss

          Actually, I think Mass Effect 3 does present exclusively gay/lesbian characters in Traynor and Cortez, even if the weird shower scene for the former felt extremely awkward.

    • DougSndrs

       Why even focus on ‘sexuality as an asset that can be leveraged for an advantage’ in the first place? Do we really need video games reinforcing the horrible sexist myth that using sex to get what they want is some typical thing that most women do?

      • frogandbanjo

        I think it’s equally pernicious to intentionally exclude sex from the general idea that if you have something that somebody else wants, and they’re not able to simply take it by force (without suffering any significant loss,) then you have leverage.

        But yes, you can begin by rejecting my assumption. As you noted, a lot of games reject a similar assumption for male sexuality. It’s not counted as an explicit asset, and game systems don’t arise in attempts to quantify it.

        I think the issue is that in reality, men want sex from women. It’s a common and widespread phenomenon that crosses virtually all other demographic boundaries. If a game’s fictional world in any way resembles the real world vis-a-vis sex, it seems incredibly odd that this widespread phenomenon would be completely ignored. That’s why I began with my assumption (though in fairness, I did explicitly state it as being an assumption.)

        • DougSndrs

          If situations where women have to use sex to get what they want are a common feature of your fictional world, then it’s just replicating sexist tropes that are common in other fictional worlds. If you want your fictional world to vaguely resemble the real world when it comes to sex, a good starting point would be treating sex as something that people mostly have because they like sex, not because one of them ‘has something that the other one wants’ other than their penis/vagina.

          • frogandbanjo

            I don’t recall saying much about situations where women “have” to use sex to get what they want.

            Regardless, your willful ignorance of the interplay between sex, social convention, and economics is irksome.
            Rape and prostitution are merely the most savage and explicit ways in which sex is used as a weapon or as a commodity, or as both simultaneously, and I’d hazard a guess that they represent a not-insignificant portion of all the human-to-human sex being had in the world. The remainder includes any number of more-socially-acceptable scenarios wherein sex occurs due to a sense of obligation, and/or as the result of a negotiation, but doesn’t rise to the level of legally-defined “rape,” “slavery,” or “prostitution.” To abuse the corpse of a dead joke, there’s an awful lot of sex occurring in marriages that doesn’t have much to do with both partners enjoying sex.

            Even in situations where both parties want sex, there’s still the potential for sex to be commoditized or weaponized because people can lie. They can, either individually or as groups, manipulate the actual scarcity of sex, the apparent scarcity of sex, and the apparent relative value of sex. Is it a sick, twisted form of psychological warfare? Yup. Is it commonplace, and often considered humorous or charming? Yup. Is it something that’s been with us since before we were even human? Very likely so.

            Just to be clear, I am describing the modern, real world. Set the clock back even a few decades, and the situation only becomes worse. Set it back a few centuries – which is a very common jumping-off point for many fictional universes – and the situation is downright disgusting.

        • DougSndrs

          Do you actually believe that the gulf between most game worlds and the grim reality of a world of rape, slavery, prostitution, and lifeless middle-aged sex is a problem?

          If you actually believe that it’s a problem, why do you think that, of all the ways in which fantasy game worlds don’t resemble the real world, the lack of opportunities for female characters to use sex to get what they want is worth singling out as especially problematic?

          • frogandbanjo

            Well, part of the reason I’m singling it out is because it’s one of the topics that’s being discussed…

            In a broader sense, for me it’s mostly about laziness when developing a fictional universe and characters, and a similar laziness when developing an interface that allows players to truly explore the “full toolbox” of their avatar within a video game. If a video game developer is going to have me playing a ridiculously attractive, hyper-sexualized female character, I’m going to want to know how that informs her personality and her ability to interact with the rest of the world. If that stuff isn’t even considered, I’m disappointed. At the very least there needs to be some explanation (which doesn’t need to be on-the-nose explicit) as to why a ridiculously attractive, hyper-sexualized female character is just traipsing through a world full of ostensibly-fully-functional heterosexual males and never having to even think about the issues of sex and desire.

            Most of it is laziness, but for some games it’s also about cowardice, no doubt. Many fictional game universes get neutered because developers are scared to death of the wrong rating or bad press or whatever, and so whatever titillating elements slip into the game get absolutely no support (entendre overload not intended.) One reason that Skyrim is a flat, flavorless world is because sex is almost completely excised from it; so too with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Play a game like the Witcher 2, and suddenly you realize what you’ve been missing.

            I have about as many problems with LC’s sexualized elements as I do with Street Fighter 2′s portrayal of Zangief’s physique, because both “worlds” are utterly unrealistic, hyper-stylized, and contain a fair amount of silly humor (although SF2′s is much more subdued, and probably not self-aware.) Indeed, my original post was making a point about that very issue: why are we so willing to accept the latter but not the former? They’re both silly, unrealistic exaggerations of physical attributes and even mental ones (since Zangief’s sole purpose in the game, like every other character, is to hit other people until they drop.) They’re both portrayed against a backdrop of a world that is cartoonish to the extreme. It’s distressing to me that Suda’s getting hoisted up by his own petard when the petard in question is a sense of humor and a sense of style, both of which deserve free reign within an artist’s creation. The guy didn’t put panty shot cutscenes into Skyrim, or gratuitous nudity into Tetris. It’s not jarring or random.

        • DougSndrs

           So what you’re saying is that, if a game puts you in the role of a schoolgirl with cartoonishly giant breasts, you’re disappointed if the game doesn’t let you use those cartoonishly giant breasts to get whatever you want?

          Sorry, but I’m not convinced that video games reinforcing *too few* sexist stereotypes is actually a problem.

          • frogandbanjo

            As I stated in my previous post:

            “I have about as many problems with LC’s sexualized elements as I do with Street Fighter 2′s portrayal of Zangief’s physique, because both “worlds” are utterly unrealistic, hyper-stylized, and contain a fair amount of silly humor (although SF2′s is much more subdued, and probably not self-aware.) Indeed, my original post was making a point about that very issue: why are we so willing to accept the latter but not the former?”

            Thus, I don’t feel the need to answer your question. You’re not correctly restating my position. If a twisted barbie girl in a twisted barbie world doesn’t leverage her sexuality in anything approaching a realistic way, I don’t care.

            Nevertheless, it remains an interesting issue to explore across a broader spectrum of video games, because many games do exist wherein female characters – be they player avatars or not – are ridiculously sexualized, and yet neither the player or the NPC’s are able to explore it.

            In some games, it’s the proverbial elephant in the room, and in the context of video games I think it’s appropriate to ask both why nobody is talking about it and why nobody can play with it.

            In games like LC, it’s an elephant in a room full of elephants in an elephant apartment building in Elephant City, Elephantia, where it’s also totally normal for elephants to have giant tits and call each other bitches.

        • DougSndrs

          “Nevertheless, it remains an interesting issue to explore across a broader spectrum of video games, because many games do exist wherein
          female characters – be they player avatars or not – are ridiculously sexualized, and yet neither the player or the NPC’s are able to explore it.”

          So if a game puts you in the role of a
          schoolgirl with cartoonishly giant breasts, what uses of those breasts would you like the player to be able to explore, exactly?

          • frogandbanjo

            How about a little foreplay first? Like, say, an explanation as to why my character looks that way, assuming that it’s not atypical – or why certain women look that way, if it’s at least non-unique? That’d be a good start. From there, I’d like to see reactions from other personalities within the game world. Sure, some folks might try to studiously ignore the giant breasts, but certainly not everyone will, right?

            Once we get to the level of reactions, it’s also worth exploring how the character herself feels about her physical appearance, and how/whether that self-regard influences her actions.

            That may seem like a lot when it’s typed out, but honestly, it’s not. It’s common sense, and good writing and storytelling do it for any number of physical characteristics and personality traits.

            It’s glaringly absent from a lot of games, however, as is a similar discussion about sexual politics in general even when the breasts aren’t cartoonishly large.

  • DougSndrs

    [edit - this posted in the wrong place]

  • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

    I hope sexy video game women don’t disappear due to whiners :( 

    look, there’s nothing wrong with a game taking a more serious approach to story and characters and all that, but I don’t agree with the people who complain about “sexism” in video games

    the way I see it is video games are a fantasy world, nobody complains about big beefcake male characters as being “objectifying”, it’s a double standard 

    • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

      let me put it to you another way, when I play the God of War games I don’t complain about Kratos setting an unrealistic male body image, instead I just enjoy getting to pretend to be a muscular Greek badass who tears apart monsters with his bare hands 

      so for any female gamers out there, shouldn’t you just have fun pretending to be a sexy woman who kicks ass? 

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

        “so for any female gamers out there, shouldn’t you just have fun pretending to be a sexy woman who kicks ass?”

        As has been pointed out many times, in the discussion for this article, even, the sexy woman who kicks ass video game character is specifically designed to appeal to male gamers, not female. Just like the badass Greek god Kratos also appeals to male gamers, not female. 

        The video game industry has effectively assumed female gamers don’t exist beyond The Sims and FarmVille, and that assumption has become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

      There is so much wrong here I don’t even know where to begin. 

      Addressing sexism (or “sexism,” as you put it, because it’s all just in our heads, apparently) in video games is not a matter of taking a more serious approach to story and characters, it’s a matter of not engendering misogyny in the gamer population, marginalizing and lowering the status of woman, and excluding have of your potential audience.

      Games being fictional means absolutely jack squat. Do you think a little girl watching Snow White or Cinderella, learning that women are delicate flowers that should just wait for a wonderful man to come along and do everything for them, are going to reject that notion because it’s just a movie? Not on her own, anyhow, and if you think she can then you have a lot to learn about psychology, how influential media can be, and the insane way society forces gender (entirely a social construction) on sex.

      The reason people don’t complain about the beefcake male characters in video games is because it’s feeding into the same male fantasy as the overly sexualized women. A hot cheerleader who wears short skirts and fights zombies is a male fantasy. Being a hulking god who can punch through a monster’s face is ALSO a male fantasy. That sort of objectification works entirely differently, but whoops, ends up being just as damaging to woman because it encourages misogyny in men.

      Dammit. At the risk of sounding mean, I was extremely impressed by the discussion on this article until this comment. Everyone else’s replies were intelligent, reasonable, respectful, and engaging, even if I didn’t necessarily agree with all of them. But this one is just ignorant.

      Take a women’s studies class. Take a bunch of women’s studies classes, and African-American studies, and media literacy classes, and you’ll start to see the incredibly damaging and discriminatory force media can be without even realizing it.

      • UninvitedChristopherGuest

        “Take a women’s studies class. Take a bunch of women’s studies classes, and African-American studies, and media literacy classes…”

        Take… a breath, dude… and realize who you’re lecturing – a dim witted, half-man with latent repressed homosexual impulses expressed as rage and misogyny. Isn’t that every silly video gamer? Yes, yes it is…

        • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

          hey, screw you too buddy

      • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

        I’m sorry, but I stand by my comments 

        like I said if a game wants to have more realistic female characters, like Alyx Vance in Half Life 2, then I’m all for it, I think that’s wonderful

        but I’m not gonna feel guilty nor be accused of being a misogynist because I am a heterosexual male and therefore find myself sexually attracted to the female form, it’s called biology bub

        see this is something that’s never sat right with me, the idea that being sexually attracted to women and wanting to look at sexually attractive women makes you a misogynist or means you think women are less than men and yadda yadda yadda, I think that’s bullshit of the highest order, women are great, women are equal to men, women can be as smart as any man and so on and so forth, I believe that all to be true and that’s great, but to punish me for basic biology, well that’s where I cross the line 

        and these days women get plenty of fantasies what with Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, the former both a huge grossing book and movie series and the latter a huge grossing book and soon to be huge grossing movie series 

        so can us guys have our video games please? can we have our male fantasies please? life is shitty enough, don’t take our playtime away, thank you

  • uselessyss

    I’m late to this particular party and expect no response, but here goes:

    I think it’s pretty obvious that Lollipop Chainsaw is exploitative, whether it also comments on that exploitation or not.  My question is, what’s wrong with an exploitative game?  Exploitative works are present in pretty much all other media; while they may be marginalized by society and some might consider them morally problematic, they exist without attracting much attention, much less criticism.  Blaxploitation films, in particular, have become a genre unto themselves, and people watch them without feeling embarrassed or ashamed because they are aware of the exploitative aspects of it.

    So why can’t some games fall into a similar category?  I think much of this debate has to do with gaming’s relative infancy in relation to other art-forms.  While video games have become more and more accepted over the years, they’re still a sense that they don’t command the same respect that movies or books might.  Because of this, we tend to look at every game through the lens of the “common man”; what would someone who isn’t a “gamer” (like a spouse) think?  There’s this desire to have our games validated by society at large, as if playing games is still something that we have to prove is worthwhile.

    So, er, what was I saying?  Right.  Lollipop Chainsaw, taken on its own terms, isn’t very harmful (I think – it’s arguable).  But because gaming is still in a weird half-state of acceptance by society, we can’t help but see it as distasteful through the eyes of “non-gamers.”  This isn’t the only factor, of course; the majority of games are pretty purile and sexist in their depiction of young women, and any game that seems to perpetuate those lowly standards is (understandably) criticized.

    I hope this doesn’t make me seem like I’m okay with sexism – I’m definitely not; I just think that in Suda’s mind, there is no distinction between something like Robert Rodriguiez’s Planet Terror and Lollipop.  Because games are still a nascent art-form, however, we see a big distinction.

  • DavidHilbert

    And the war on biology continues.

  • Ichi_the_Killer

    Holy crap- Attack of the Killer Hipster Nerds- wow, you guys are something.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/keepthemuse Connor Park

    At first, I thought that John was positing that this game was “Male Gays: the Video Game,” and I was utterly baffled.

    Good old homophones.

  • UninvitedChristopherGuest

    That demented Panty Fetish Porn that Japanese losers worship is now infecting Occidental entertainment. We are doomed.

  • wanshang13

     http://tinyurl.com/84zrtck

  • Eco1970

    I have come  here from the future, shortly after watching the Digest on DMC:Devil may Cry, and I can tell you that future Steve heisler  looks exactly the same, but John Teti has not aged as well.