Tuesday 3 July 2012

Nexon: What do you really think of Female gamers?

Sudden Attackon feminism

Candace Bailey in the trailer video for "Hostage Rescue"

Nexon Americahas released a new video for its high-intensity online FPS, Sudden Attack, showing off its new mode, Hostage Rescue, that features model/gaming media personality Candace Bailey [...]who is being held in a glass cage, surrounded by her captors and bombs. A team must infiltrate theMain Eventmap, where Candace is being held, eliminate her kidnaper and disarm the bombs, all this while the clock is ticking toward an explosive ending. Having yet to play the mod, I'll focus on the aforementioned video and on Nexon America's press release to show just how sexist this is.

Note how the description points to Candace Bailey as a model, even using a slash so as to cram it into the description; video very clearly identifies her so that you can get a kick out of rescuing a celebrity. They could have instead focused on her being an Olympic-level gymnast, her going to college, her hosting several shows, or her acting. She indeed played Skylar Stevens, a teenager facing bravely a dystopian future in the tv series Jericho. In other words, she could believably play Lara Croft ohwait...

And this is no accident: Candace wears a strapless, short dress and high heelsshe could be going on a date. More damningly, the glasscageis really just a showcase: in all the indoor scenes, this is the only thing lit and it's even in the literal spotlight, ensuring that we don't miss the eye candy. Even the map name “Main Event” infers that she is the main attraction. And because eye candy should remain easy on the eye even when in danger, her abduction is relatively violence-free (she is merely grabbed from behind), she wakes her in the cage without so much as a scratch (implying chloroform or an equivalent, as well as no fighting back from her) and she is being killed with poison gas (she is already surrounded by armed men and freaking bombs: why the overkill?). Realistically, all this should rough her up a bit anyway, but hey this isn't a documentary; and the upside is that at least we don't see any torture porn.

The nice visuals only accentuates herdamsel in distressantics. She starts by fdropping her car keys, then is subdued by a cloth on her face, utters in a child-like voicePoison gasI'm allergic(no kidding), and finally taps feebly on the case while coughing up and calling for helpok, that very last one is believable. Except... since her captors didn't tie her up and even left her her high heels, can't she grab one of those and try to pierce the glass? Even if her captors then threaten her with guns or the bombs, at least she bought herself (or her rescuers) some time. But no, she is completely passive in all of this, only waiting for her rescuer.

So, fighting back is more easily said than done, especially when the one talking in not at the heart of the situationbut this plot hole nonetheless weakens the narrative of the video and game. On the other hand, it reinforces all the negative, sexist tropes (damsel in distress, airhead, eye candy). Besides, this isn't a documentary, but a video game, an escapist entertainment! And please, don't use that last sentence to justify the sexist undertones of this video. This character is most probably not written that way to be realist or to serve the story; she is most likely written that way to market and capitalize on thedulcinea effect, on the sex appeal of Candace, and on some males' fantasies.

Speaking of her serving the narrative... why is she abducted again? Just to justify the mod's scenario? Her being killed in such a protracted way only serves as justification for the timer. We don't even know who her captors are or what they fighting for. At that point, a straightforward bait could be substituted for poor Candace and it would make more sense. So, this is just a trailer and you don't need a complete backstory for ever single character, but still... Think for 2 seconds when creating a story. Think again once it is “done”: are there any unfortunate implications? How did this mod and this video even get a green light? Either Nexon America just didn't see the glaring issues, and that speaks of how ingrained some sexist bias are in our societies; or they just decided to use sexist tropes to create and sell a video game, either as a straightforward macho attitude or as a “any publicity is good publicity”.

Either way, this initially made my blood boiled; right now, I'm just tired and jaded. I don't want to always be harping on sexism in video games; but I know I will again, probably in the very-near future, because games and their marketing campaigns keep being plain sexist. We, as an industry, community, and decent human beings, need to acknowledge this problem and address it - and this is not a necessarily conflictual discussion either. I'm personally a woman, a feminist, an industry veteran, and a gamer; I love games and only want to see them grow, both in reach and into amatureentertainment.


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