There's no sexism in gaming

Why don’t you just enjoy the fantasy? Games are a special medium, completely separate from our wider culture and any attempt to put them in context is just insulting.

I am tired of all this "sexism in gaming" crap that has come up recently. Reasonable people know that fantasy has nothing to do with reality: believing otherwise infantilises us and treats us as if we cannot distinguish one from the other. People who are outraged about this latest ‘gaming drama’ need a severe reality check: those masculists simply seek out reasons to get upset all the time. The "disembodied bloody crotch in Speedos" outrage went too far, for a start.

A resin model of someone’s disembodied crotch isn’t hurting anyone. It’s simply something to put on one’s mantelpiece and enjoy. People sometimes ask me about mine when I am hosting dinner: and I say, ‘Oh yes, haha. I’m a gamer,’ and that’s the end of the conversation. One of my male friends left dinner early once because of it; his girlfriend apologised for him and said that he’d once been sexually assaulted and that he was just really sensitive about this sort of thing. We both shook our heads about it. “I’m so glad we have freedom of speech,” she said to me, ‘the Nazis wouldn’t have allowed this to be made. He’ll get over it - he’s just really emotional about that stuff."

The males who say they they are not represented by our videogame heroines are merely ignoring the fact that women have all the disposable income. Despite this, they whine and whine about how they would like to see Alex Vance actually do something in his scenes in the game, instead of fawn and flirt with our heroine Freewoman. Can’t they just enjoy the fantasy? It’s no reflection on real life: no women really shoot alien headcrabs in laboratory settings, and neither do males occupy secondary positions in most parts of our society and sit around to gratify our need to become pregnant. That would be absurd. Fantasy is not reality: we go to our games to get away from reality. Why don’t you just enjoy the fantasy? Games are a special medium, completely separate from our wider culture and any attempt to put them in context is just insulting.

Furthermore, reasonable people would see that asking to put male soldiers in the Call of Duty series is simply not do-able. Since the age of the Amazon, women have waged wars, because they have a higher pain threshold than males and have more stamina in every area of war. Who would take a male Battlefield seriously? Including men would simply cloud the matter; when crawling through tunnels, as is often necessary in war, our eyes would fall on the male backside - from then on women would be irreparably compromised.

 

I mean, who would take this guy seriously a soldier?

 

To anyone getting their boxers in a bunch over this, I say: buy the games with the male protagonists. There are at least four of them. They are attractive, virile boy characters with a lot going for them. Show us you mean business by buying those titles. Lawrence Croft is still an icon: that bulging crotch and tight ass, the washboard abs - what more could you want to identify with? He’s everything you aspire to. And those of you who complain we didn’t put any clothes on him - he became an icon because of that lack of clothes! And Lawrence Croft has trousers now, think about that. Women’s interest in a sexy, provocative young male is what gave Lawrence Croft his iconic status. Stop asking for special treatment by the games industry, we are making the best games in whatever way we see fit.

Anyway, you guys wouldn't even have videogames without women. Remember that. With Ada Lovelace at our head, we invented the technology that makes them possible. The majority of the games industry is populated by hardworking, talented women who have been producing the best interactive experiences for 20 years. Why shouldn’t we make videogames where we can look at sinewy, naked males who moan sexually when we toy with them? Why don’t you start your own games industry where you can make your male-led games about football and the colour blue? Perhaps then we will stop making jokes about how you can get back in the kitchen and take the bins out.

It's only men who can't get laid that complain about all this, let's face it. My boyfriend enjoys when I play games where the male character is sexy and capable. Do yourself a favour: stop being so uptight and humourless. Games are a special medium, don’t spoil them by trying to change the way they are made. Separate them from your masculist politics and sit back down on the couch. This ‘sexism’ in technology doesn’t exist.

Cara Ellison is a writer for Rock Paper Shotgun and other sites. She tweets: @carachan1

Lawrence Croft, as imagined by ulysses0302 on deviantart.
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Netflix's Ozark is overstuffed – not to mention tonally weird

Could the channel use a hit? Every time my subscription leaves my bank account, I think again that it could.

The main reason why Ozark, the new Netflix series, feels so underpowered has to do with its star, Jason Bateman (who also directs): a good actor who badly wants for charisma, he simply can’t carry it alone. Watching the first few episodes, I kept thinking of Jon Hamm in Mad Men and (a better example here) Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad, both of whom played, as does Bateman, characters around which the plots of their respective series turned. When they were on screen, which was often, it was all but impossible to tear your eyes from them; when they were off it, you felt like you were only biding your time until they returned. But when Bateman disappears from view, you hardly notice. In fact, it feels like a plus: at least now you might get to see a bit more of the deft and adorable Laura Linney.

In Ozark, Bateman is Marty, an outwardly square guy whose big secret is that he is a money launderer for the second biggest drugs cartel in Mexico. When the series opens, he and his wife Wendy (Linney) and their two children are living in Chicago, where he nominally works as a financial advisor.

By the end of the first episode, however, they’re on their way to the Lake of the Ozarks in rural Missouri. Marty’s partner, Bruce, has been on the fiddle, and the cartel, having summarily executed him, now wants Marty both to pay back the cash, and to establish a few new businesses in which future income may be cleaned far from the prying eyes of the law enforcement agencies. If this sounds derivative, it is. We’re in the realm of Breaking Bad, only where that show gave us out-of-control Bunsen burners and flesh-eating chemicals, this one is more preoccupied with percentages and margins.

Where’s the friction? Well, not only is the FBI on Marty’s tail, his wife has been cheating on him, with the result that their marriage is now just another of his business arrangements. The locals (think Trump supporters with beards as big as pine trees) have proved thus far to be on the unfriendly side, and having paid off their debts, the only house Marty can afford has a cliché – sorry, crotchety old guy – living in the basement. On paper, admittedly, this all sounds moderately promising. But hilarity does not ensue. As dull as the Lake of the Ozarks when the tourist season is over, not even Linney can make Bill Dubuque’s dialogue come alive. Her character should be traumatised: before they left Chicago, the cartel, for reasons I do not completely understand, pushed her podgy lover – splat! – off his balcony. Instead, she’s fussing about the crotchety old guy’s sexism.

Ozark is overstuffed and tonally weird, so I won’t be binge-watching this one. This completes rather a bad run for me and Netflix; after the lame new series of House of Cards and the egregious Gypsy, this is the third of its shows on the trot to bore me rigid. Could the channel use a hit? Every time my subscription leaves my bank account, I think again that it could.

And now to The Sweet Makers: A Tudor Treat (19 July, 8pm), in which we hear the sound of the “living history” barrel being scraped so loudly, those attending the meeting at which it was commissioned must surely have worn ear defenders. Basically, this is a series in which four confectioners “go back in time” to discover how their forebears used sugar (first, the Tudors; next week, the Georgians).

What it means in practice is lots of Generation Game-style faffing with candied roses and coriander comfits by people in long skirts and silly hats – a hey-nonny-nonny fiesta of pointlessness that is itself a sugar coating for those nasty things called facts (ie a bit of tokenism about slavery and our ancestors’ trouble with their teeth).

Resident expert, food historian Dr Annie Gray, strained to give the proceedings urgency, sternly reminding the confectioners that the sugar house they’d spent hours building did not yet have a roof. But who cared if it didn’t? Destined to be eaten by fake Tudor guests at a fake Tudor banquet, it wasn’t as if anyone was going to lose their head for it – not even, alas, at Broadcasting House. 

Rachel Cooke trained as a reporter on The Sunday Times. She is now a writer at The Observer. In the 2006 British Press Awards, she was named Interviewer of the Year.

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder

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