Last year a Hitman game was released with a trailer that was widely derided for a poor (read: offensive) portrayal of the women’s role in the games industry.
It was a fair call, too. The games industry is now the most important entertainment industry on the planet, and with that comes a responsibility to be part of the global culture. It’s no longer good enough to make games for male pubescents. Just as the film industry has learned that exploitation and sexploitation is generally a bad thing, we all hoped that that Hitman trailer would kick start a maturing of the games industry.
And then CD Projekt Red went and released this trailer for its upcoming game:
Notice the half-naked women positioned in a submissive position as a gang of masculine-looking figures unload a hailstorm of bullets on her? It’s hard to miss, that’s the entire trailer. No context (other than a token ‘this is cyberpunk and she’s a robot, so this is totally OK, boys’ in the accompanying press release), no characterisation. Nothing more than graituitous slow-motion grindhouse-style sexualised violence.
I can’t say I’m surprised with this trailer. CD Projekt Red proved with The Witcher games that it makes some incredible games, with a very juvenile understanding of sex. Women are invariably prizes or vampire-style enemies that are to be as feared as desired in they typical CD Projekt Red game, and this new game seems to be following that tradition in style.
It’s a pity, because CD Projekt Red games are incredible. The Witcher 2 is my favourite western-style RPG since the original Baldur’s Gate, as cringeworthy as its portrayal of women is. I have no doubt whatsoever that this game will also be incredible.
So why the heck do they feel like they need to prove the critics of the games industry right? At a time when people are looking for excuses to dismiss the games industry as a legitimate art form, why release a trailer that proves to them that this is still a boy’s industry tailored for people lacking social skills?
The description of the trailer, from Adam Badowski, CD Projekt Red studio head:
The teaser shows how the Psycho Squad might acquire a new member. The Psycho Squad specializes in combating “psychos” – individuals who overuse implants and substances that boost or otherwise alter the human body. There comes a point when they overdose on these innovations, and their bodies start to rebel against their biological body parts as well as against all things organic around them. Simply put, they start killing people, who they now derisively call “meatbags.”
When a psycho goes on the rampage, strange things can happen. There’s going to be a lot of carnage, so the psycho might be taken down by regular police, but they’re not always able to get the job done. When things spin out of control, they call in MAX-TAC (Maximum Force Tactical Division), popularly called the ‘Psycho Squad’. And these guys are exceptional; these guys are crack troops. The fact that they’re proud of that name tells you a bit about their mindset. They wear a badge with their official emblem on their right sleeve, but their left is reserved for their unofficial Psycho Squad emblem. It’s primitively made and the image itself is on the crude side of things. It’s not unlike a badge special force operators might make and wear to distinguish themselves from the ranks of grunts in any theater of war.
Comments for this story are now closed. Unfortunately my prediction was right and this topic was never going to generate a reasonable debate. My apologies to anyone who wanted to have a civil discussion on the topic.
What is this for?
Oops, posted that link too early, sorry. Onto my reply; The trailer isn't being sexist or objectifying women. If you watch that rewind theater (the link), it explains why she is half naked, and in a "submissive position". She has augmented her body (probably to be more beautiful than she originally was, that isn't sexist, it's an observation of society.) The more these people augment their bodies, the more insane they become, hence her breakdown and subsequent murder of innocents. She is broken down and unfeeling, so she dropped to her knees and is no longer resisting the police. Sure, this may have some sexual connotations, but it doesn't make the trailer as a whole sexist. There is a reason for the way she is dressed, her position and the way the police are handling her. I feel like anytime a woman is shown in a game or trailer, it is automatically deemed sexist. Let's look past the obvious and find out the reason behind it. Yes some games objectify women, I get that. But there is a purpose for it in this trailer. That is just my two cents.
It's only sexist to people who are sexist. Otherwise it's a badass chick who is apparently bulletproof.
Sorry, I accidentally hit post before typing my reply, and then I accidentally replied to myself instead of you. Just can't do anything right today! haha
Sorry bout that. Disquis is being weird, it posted that when I didn't mean for it too and then I replied to your comment a couple minutes ago and it just didn't post.
Firstly, thank you for a well-reasoned rebuttal – I appreciate a good debate, and you've made a great counter argument there.
Having read the link the video itself makes more sense, so with the complementary explanation it's no longer context-free, I agree with you there.
I also like the idea that the body augments are a social commentary – that is a very strong theme to run on (and, in fact, a feminist one), and if the game itself makes that the focal point I'll be the first to support it.
However, if you just watch the trailer itself then it doesn't give you any of that context. If that was the intention, then it's a poor trailer. By itself the trailer is very much of the "half naked woman is ruined and beaten into submission by men" ilk, and this is a problem, as the developers can not assume that people will see more than the trailer – the context has to be in there.
I have no issue with sexy women being in games – in fact I am a massive fan of Lollipop Chainsaw as it does exactly what you suggest above – it's critical of sexism while featuring a sexy lead character.
However, at this stage this game is more Hitman than Lollipop Chainsaw, I feel. It should still be a great, great game, and I can't wait to play it, but I'm a little disappointed that 2013 is kicking off with the same juvenile hyper violence and poor use of sex that damaged the industry's reputation in 2012.
I look forward to your response!
Hah! No worries. Disqus is a good system, but it's still not bug free, sadly 🙂
I agree, I think CD Project assumed that everyone watching their trailer would see the written explanation of the universe of the game, and it would all be clear. It is a beautiful trailer visually, but it requires prior knowledge that not everyone will have. I'm sure if I showed it to a non gamer they would be horrified that this officer is executing a woman. Miscommunication between developer and audience seems to be the biggest problem here. I don't believe it intends to be offensive, but it does come off that way.
I think you've summarised it perfectly there!
That was actually my (MattyG, just in case it changes again) reply, I don't know why the name is Pidgaj. CURSE YOU DISQUS.
Not him, but your head is so far up your arse that you simply cannot see past yourself.
First of all, its a robot. A ROBOT. And because it happens to look like a woman, its sexist?
Further, you're that kind of a man who looks at a trailer and dismisses the blatant depicted death of innocent people to claim "SEXUAL OBJECTIFICATION OF WOMEN OVERRULES ANY VILE ACTIONS COMMITTED THEREBY!"
Really? Wow man, you've fallen so fucking far; I, a male, feel oppressed.
This article is sexist, But no actually we realize you are a hack writer and desperate for hits so good for you!
Oh god, I didn't make the Pudgaj "you need to stop writing articles" comment above! hahaha, don't listen to people like that, I write for a small gaming site and people tell me that all the time, just take it in stride.
Who buys these games?
Oh ya. Guys.
When women actually start buying these games, then maybe devs will actually start catering to their wants.
Until then, just suck it up.
Women are of little value to the devs and publishers because they get little money from them in comparison to the male audience.
You're only as important as you are useful. Start buying games as much as guys then your voice will be heard.
I don't see anything sexist about this at all. I see a woman who has murdered a lot of people and doesn't know fear prove to be invulnerable to bullets. This woman is in a superior position to everyone around her. She's at rest because she wants to be and being shot at because those with the guns fear her. A bullet matters as much a snowflake and that is obvious from the first one's impact. There's no flinch, there's no worry. She sits because she wants to.
Thanks! Also, I really need to just stop trying to fix Disqus. It keeps wigging out and changing peoples names and everything. One minute everyone is "Pidgaj" and now everyone has the right name! Five comments trying to sort it out and then it sorts itself out.
It's all good. I've been a journalist long enough to understand that most of the kids that post on forums don't have a clue about what they're talking about 😛
It's the objectification that is the issue here, not the 'power politics' that people seem to immediately associate with sexism.
She can be the most powerful character in the game world, but she can also still be objectified. Unless it's done in an ironic sense (no indication of that in the trailer) then it still falls within the boundaries of sexploitation, which is sexism.
Look at the woman's pose again; kneeling, with split legs. It's a common pose in fashion photography, and if you ever do a course on fashion photography you'll learn why: psychologically to the reader it's an incredibly sexual and inviting pose. That's why it is most commonly used in swimwear and lingerie photography.
It is entirely unnecessary for a cyberpunk game trailer to use that pose… Unless of course objectification was the intention.
Hey Matt. I like how you delete anything that calls you out on your stupidity. I'm glad that at least our hits are cutting you your paycheck. Going to a good cause and all.
I deleted your post because it breached our comments policy; don't use course language and don't abuse the other commenters. That also extends to the writers.
Yeah some of the forums I've been on are ridiculous with the amount of trolling and uniformed BS that goes on. But the funny thing is, I am technically one of those kids (16 years old)! I generally try to avoid being lumped in with trolling teens as much as possible haha.
As a female I find this article both offensive and presumptuous.
Stop trying to discredit actual female gamers who value a developers creative decisions, this is just generating more discontent across the internet. Also, to assume a game is automatically sexist based on a short teaser trailer with little context is incredibly presumptuous.
In either case you are not supporting women, gamers, or developers by making these articles.
Wow. Just, wow. Is everything today Sexist by your fucking High School level of analyzing?
It was a trailer about a woman with robotic blades on her hands straight up murdering a crowd of people, while a whole squad is shooting at her. She is basically just shrugging off bullets and looks like a total bad ass.
When at any moment of the video was the trailer implying any sort of sexism? Was the woman being bashed, or raped, or objectified? No. She was a posing a deadly threat to the lawmen, and was being subsequently taken down, like any other criminal.
Go ahead and delete this comment because it is disagreeing with you. Do it.
It's a damn video game. Play it if you like it, don't play it if it "offends" you. Simple as fucking that.
Quit fucking crying.
That's impressive! Sexism (and feminism, as part of sociology) isn't really a subject that people explore in much depth here in Australia until they do courses at university. Where did you learn it? Seems to me you've got a solid understanding of it.
Although I don't think it's sexist, it seems she's in that position after realizing she's the reason all those dead people are around her.
I'll agree with you there, the song to the trailer is awesome.
What's the deal with all the deleted comments? It's like North Korea up in here.
Damn dude, why don't you try being original or serving your audience as a journalist? Nobody wants to hear you piss and moan about what you learned in your freshman year liberal studies class.
Well, I am sorry that you found this article offensive. It was not my intention to discredit anyone, but rather raise a discussion around a common issue the game's industry is facing at the moment.
There's a lot of female game developers out there, and a lot of female journalists that have a problem with the portrayal of women in video games. So I think it's a relevant discussion to be having.
And to clarify for you – I am not saying the game is sexist, I am saying the trailer is.
thanks for the laugh whoever wrote this article…
10/10. This is the best article I've read all day. How about you come work for me now, I think you'll fit in great.
I have zero education in any sociology, I mostly just pick it up from everyday life, literature and interactions with people who HAVE taken courses in it. One of my best friends is actually taking quite a few courses in things like ethics, logic and societal issues, so I've had a lot of exposure through him.
Comments are being deleted for breaching our comments policy.
Thank you CD Projekt for existing and thank you Eastern Europe for existing. You are the last bastions of a close to "civilized" world where people aren't oversensitive sissies and easily offended.
Please keep making games as you wish without bowing down to these oversensitive spoiled "pseudo politically correct" children that are trying to politicize a medium of entertainment that should NEVER EVER be politicized. Football has been ruined by politics enough, the movie industry has contrary to the words of this article, not bowed down to the control freak traits of radical feminism, the third wave of feminism, control freak nazism.
You may be a poor world Eastern Europe, but that is what makes you mentally sane, it makes you hardened.
Yes, there is sexism that matters in this world, it finds itself in the midst of the Middle East and Africa and India for example. The places where feminism is needed. Sexism in form of women having no opportunities and females being physically harassed.
And then there is "sexism" in the 1st world. I like to call it a part of "1st world problems" because only in the midst of the spoiled, spoon fed and easy going "1st world" can you find individuals who live such a good life that the vastness of their "problems" are reduced to crying about irrelevant, pointless and weak details like this one here, "sexism" in an imaginary world. Or "mommy didn't buy me an iPhone for Christmas, i hate her".
Even the definition of "sexism", as people throw that word so eagerly at every possible whim, is now scrambled and reduced to a buzzword.
Yes, this is the level of silliness of people who label a naked woman in a video game "sexist" and seek sexist interpretations in games.
I bet the women with actual problems in the problematic areas of the world are laughing at this bunch of people crying about supposed "sexism" in imaginary entertainment,
laughing at how insignificant and weak this is. I bet they don't even consider anything like this as "sexist" because of how insignificant it is.
Devs, you have no obligation towards these people or the writer of this article. You have no obligation to pander towards a "wider audience". No.
You should make games the way you love to make them, make the characters and stories the way you love and imagine, this is the definition of entertainment. So it is said and so it should be.
Hah, that makes a lot of sense then. It's an interesting subject to study – it was one of the better classes I did while I was at uni.
If you watch the trailer with an open mind instead of immediately jumping to SEXISM any time an attractive female is portrayed, it's pretty easy to figure out what the trailer is about.
The most noticeable thing to me was the fact that the bullets were shattering against her flesh without tearing it, and then the mass of dead bodies surrounding a seemingly normal, attractive female who had long bloody blades erected out of her wrists.
This scene does not at all imply a helpless woman being subdued by men. It heavily implies the woman murdered an entire crowd, and given her emotionless state, she quite obviously has lost touch with reality.
And then said woman is later shown suiting up as a police officer, which highlights the method by which they choose their members. How dare they throw her in the submissive position of police officer!
Seriously, why do you think trailers need to spell everything out in big bold letters to tell a story? This is the real problem with the game industry. Instead of getting up in a frenzy about a fictional character showing some cleavage, you should be more offended by video games that insult players' intelligence by spoonfeeding them every little bit of information at every possible opportunity.
Although your misinterpretation of the trailer just goes to show that there is clearly an audience for people who can't think beyond shallow concepts. Apparently media that requires any semblance of analysis beyond just the superficial is now niche.
There's nothing submissive about it, unless you read that into it, due to having a mindset programmed to imagine sexism wherever it can.