I love you video games, so why do you keep doing this?

Sexy, sexy sexism in the <i>Hitman: Absolution</i> trailer.


Gamers get really, really angry when you characterise them as mouth-breathing adolescent boys who’ve never kissed a real-life girl. And rightly so: according to Jane McGonigal, one in four gamers is over 50, and 40 per cent are women. Three of the big games of last winter – Gears of War 3, Uncharted 3 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution – were written by women

And then along comes something like this. I don't mind the Hitman games, although they've come in for a lot of flak in the past for their high levels of violence (remember, only 5 per cent of games get an 18 rating). But it now seems that 12 years after the start of the franchise, it's not just Agent 47 who's looking tired.

The new trailer for Hitman: Absolution, released this week, could be used as a teaching aid if anyone were to give a class on "Boring, Lazy, Stereotypes about Women in Video Games" (it would be a very long class).  

The plot of the trailer, such as it is, runs like this. Hitman is hiding out in a motel. The world's least successfully disguised troupe of assassins come for him and he vanquishes them with his chiselled, yet emotionally repressed, combat moves.

First, there's the whole nun thing. Is this Grand Theft Auto: Ann Summers? Surely the whole point of being a troupe of deadly assassins is that you blend in with your surroundings? You wouldn't catch Ezio Auditore prancing round medieval Italy in a gimp suit. Do these women specialise in contract killings on hen nights?

Then there's the shot selection. Chapter 2 in my mythical games class on this trailer would be headed "The Male Gaze". I could have storyboarded this trailer just from the words "sexy nuns". So, first shot: Nuns. Second shot: Suggestion that these AREN'T REAL NUNS, GUYS. (Done by showing a close-up of a very, very high heeled boot. Because, you know, assassins never worry about practicality over style.) Third shot: taking off the nun robes. Fourth shot: what I am going to christen Walking Bottom. There it is, at 42 seconds, the absolutely cast-iron signifier of a game developer working one-handed. 

If I had a pound for every game I've seen where the female characters walks in, and the camera follows her gently wobbling buttocks into shot, rather than her face, I'd have at least 23 quid. Maybe 24.

From then on, it's all squeaky pleather and violent shooting, as the Hitman despatches the flock of faux-nuns. Did you know it was possible to die in a sexy way? These ladies try their hardest. 

By the end of the trailer, I was feeling utterly depressed that once again the games industry was perpetuating the idea that men are doers, and women are for looking pretty. The only thing that cheered me up was imagining how this trailer would look with the genders reversed. Seriously, try to imagine it. Then you'll realise how ridiculous this sort of thing is.

Walking Bottom: Please stop doing this shot, videogame developers.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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Labour to vote against George Osborne's fiscal charter after U-turn

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell withdraws support and says Labour will "underline our position as an anti-austerity party". 

There was much surprise when John McDonnell announced on 25 September that Labour would be voting in favour of George Osborne's new fiscal charter. The target of an absolute surplus by 2020, which the charter mandates, appeared at odds with the shadow chancellor's support for borrowing to invest. At Labour conference, he all but admitted to Newsnight that his backing for the document was merely symbolic.

Now, ahead of tonight's PLP meeting and the vote on Wednesday, Labour has revoked its support altogether. In a letter to MPs, McDonnell wrote: "In the last fortnight there have been a series of reports highlighting the economic challenges facing the global economy as a result of the slowdown in emerging markets. These have included warnings from the International Monetary Fund’s latest financial stability report, the Bank of England chief economist, Andy Haldane, and the former Director of President Obama’s National Economic Council, Lawrence Summers.

He added: "I believe that we need to underline our position as an anti-austerity party by voting against the charter on Wednesday. We will rebuff any allegation of being deficit deniers by publishing for the debate our own statement on budget responsibility. We will set out our plan for tackling the deficit not through punishing the most vulnerable and decimating our public services but by ending the unfair tax cuts to the wealthy, tackling tax evasion and investing for growth.”

McDonnell has cited global economic conditions to explain the U-turn. But some in Labour suggest that he simply failed to realise that Osborne's new Fiscal Charter mandated an absolute surplus, rather than merely a current budget surplus. By reversing its position, Labour has denied the SNP a chance to outflank the party from the left and has appeased backbenchers who opposed the leadership's stance. But it has also made it far easier for the Tories to level the "deficit denier" charge that McDonnell's earlier support for the charter was designed to avoid. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.