Last night as I was looking for something to write about for today’s article I came across a certain news article that was trending just about everywhere, that article was the God of War trophy name change controversy. For those who are not in the know before the release of the new God of War game (God of War ascension) it became aware that after defeating a villainous female you receive an achievement titled: Bros before Hoes. This sparked controversy since it offended a slew of people, for reasons that should be obvious, and Sony has since released a statement saying the trophy name will be changed to Bros before Foes. This is all very well known facts and if you are wondering why I am even talking about it since the game was released yesterday and probably been altered by now, well this whole situation got me wondering: What is acceptable in video games? What are we ok with and what are we not ok with? Now, let’s be clear, I think having a reward called bros before hoes after murdering a woman, evil or otherwise, is tacky and I am shocked that it even got past the planning stages but it did get me wondering. So I am going to talk about violence towards woman and men in video games and if I think they should be allowed in the video game medium.
The first thing I will talk about is the achievement on the chopping block. It is clear that having a reward for murdering a woman is bad but at the same time this really isn’t a new thing, in the Grand theft auto series many fans have openly said that after grabbing a hooker they would run them over to get the money they spent back; The GTA fans who told me this were primarily female as well. Isn’t collecting money after killing a prostitute a reward so what makes that less offensive to people compared to a reward that’s purely text based, and why are gamers less inclined to make a deal about when the prostitute wasn’t even an antagonist? In God of War receive an achievement after defeating a villainous, and unlike a cash reward you can’t use said achievement for anything other than gloating to some friends. The other example is in the new Tomb Raider games there are more than a couple instances where Lara Croft, the games lead protagonist, is tortured by the developers after the player has completed everything he or she is supposed to; is that not as offensive or is it only offensive if an achievement accompanies it? Maybe it seems less offensive to play a game where your lead character is a female getting tortured because you watch her survive, it is true Tomb Raider had some controversy after a developer mentioned a possible rape scene but should the controversy have ended there? Should we be concerned that every seconded scene is that out of a torture porn movie or is it ok because we watch Lara survive time and time again? I honestly think that achievement in God of War was offensive enough that I initially was not going to buy the game (alas this man child is weak) but I also feel very uncomfortable watching Lara get tortured all the time for the sake of having her be tortured, maybe it’s because I’m getting older but torture porn like scenes unnerve me now and seeing a woman beaten, skewered, and slammed against rocks make me squirm in my chair.
The second question I pose is just violence in general in video games. It’s funny that I feel uncomfortable watching Lara get tortured but yet I can play Mortal Kombat, a game with barely dressed woman getting torn to pieces and those same woman murdering people violently. Is it fair that I’m ok playing games like Man hunt just because the cast the player kills are mainly men? Why do gamers like me feel ok watching Kratos murder hordes of human men and female snake demons but watching human females suffer the same fate we are inclined to be against it? I’m a man who prides himself in living my life not believing in double standards but yet it comes out in my game playing; it’s just hard not worry about what might happen if we allow ultra violence against woman in an interactive experience. Woman have been treated poorly in video games since the beginning and even characters like Lara Croft were reduced to just big lips, long legs and big breasts when she should’ve been sexy for her power. When I see a achievement like Bros before Hoes I wonder if it’s a sliding scale, if we allow that will developers start creating female characters once again that are reduced to only being strong if they are top heavy and half naked? Maybe I’m just an over sensitive male but these thoughts plague my mind when I play a game where woman are treated poorly. I was very happy the steps that developers were taking making Lara have the proportions of a real person because sadly that is a new thing in games, so to have in the same year God of War just try and reset that made me upset.
In the end I guess it’s everywhere in games, characters like Bayonetta are able to kill anything that moves but is reduced to a character who looks like every male fantasy. I wish females could have protagonists that appeal to them and not just males, but maybe I’m asking too much. Maybe it’s too difficult to try and think about these things when making video games, maybe someone made a joke about a achievement joke in the developing stages and someone else took it to seriously. Maybe what we need is anti male achievements like after killing Mathias in Tomb Raider you get a “Hoes before Bros” achievement or a “Castrated that dude” achievement, all joking aside I do think we are on the right track with Lara Croft’s new model. I know I said there was going to be a discussion of violence against men in video games as well but that just seemed less important than the real issue at hand. Well, Lara looks like a real person and I guess that’s a good step in the right direction and maybe just maybe it’s a baby steps kind of thing.