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Oh, it all started innocently enough. Daphny David, PR secretary and beau of indie game designer Anne Anthropy, tweeted a rather lurid scenario involving God of War creator David Jaffe, Destructiod.com personality Jim Sterling, multiple sexual aids, consensual deviancy, and trampoline acrobatics. A friend obligingly dashed off a crude pencil illustration of the act (NSFW), and @daphaknee retweeted it directly to its subjects, proclaiming "FAN FICTION OH BOY".

Jaffe, a man not known for his restraint, blew it off. Sterling engaged, and his responses quickly took on a sharply sexist tone (also NSFW). "You're the embarrassment. To your gender, your species, and all feminazi sluts like yourself." And so on.

Dead or Alive Xtreame Beach Volleyball 2
A different kind of hardcore game.

Now, I can't authoritatively say Jim Sterling's a misogynist. It's not misogyny to hate a specific female while leaving the rest alone, and I've only seen him unleash on the one so far (and to be absolutely fair, David fired all the opening shots). But I can say that if Sterling worked for a traditional media outlet, any one of his combat tweets would've gotten him fired on the spot. Here in the gaming industry, he's perfectly safe because sexism and misogyny are ingrained in video-game DNA, widely tolerated when not being openly celebrated. By us.

 

And by Duke Nukem Forever. It carries the franchise torch for objectifying women so proudly, publisher 2K Games held a recent press event (which Bitmob attended) in a strip joint redubbed Titty City for the evening. Strip joints normally have names far too classy to meet Duke's standards.

That's a major corporation's idea of what gamers think is cool, and they're not entirely wrong. The women in attendance didn't seem offended (though perhaps those who took umbrage didn't RSVP), and anyway, how seriously can you possibly take Duke Nukem? He's an intentionally super-crass, politically incorrect '90s neanderthal. That's his appeal, right?

Appeal doesn't hurt. Developer Core Design took a big risk in 1996 when they decided to make a male-dominated market play as a girl, but when a designer's accidental slip of the mouse turned an intended 50 percent increase to Lara Croft's breast size into a 150 percent gain, that issue vanished. To this day, Lara's dimensions come up early in conversation for every new Tomb Raider. Team Ninja spent years building females with similar cartoon anatomy and even created a dedicated physics engine for Dead or Alive's "bouncing breasts" mode. Then they released two successful games — Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball and its sequel — based entirely around those springy beasts.

Bayonetta
Not your monther's Rapunzel.

Developers know their predominantly male audience. That's how you get Bayonetta, a character whose hair acts as both clothing and weaponry, and there's only so much to go around. The bigger her attack, the more naked Bayonetta gets. No way around that one, I guess.

Do you think those mechanics would've remained intact if Bayonetta was a guy?

Sure, I like pleasant female nudity. I don't like being pandered to. Nearly every title dishes out gratuitous fan service, and some, like BloodRayne, even let you increase your character's cup size in the options. Worse than that, females in games are often little more than tits connected to an ass with a personality — assuming one's included — seemingly invented by someone who's never actually met or spoken to a woman. They're blow-up dolls, gold diggers, ice queens, victims, whores, or crazed tormentors.

Oh, we can name exceptions. Chun-Li from Street Fighter 2, Portal's Chell, Faith in Mirror's Edge, and Samus Aran of Metroid fame all spring to mind. Only they're just that…exceptions to the rule.

Ninja Gaiden

She's got a great personality.

A women-as-things standard, like it or not, plays right into the power-tripping thrill games can provide to the guys playing them. Maybe that's cool, distasteful, or disgraceful, depending on your sensitivity level, but the biggest problem happens when those girl-bashing attitudes leave the game and find a place in real life. Real women endure real harassment every day on gaming servers. Many choose male-sounding handles just to avoid it. A few lady gamers even launched fatuglyorslutty.com to make this rampant stupidity public.

I like that. People haven't quite figured out that internet anonymity isn't quite so anonymous anymore. Anything you say, type, message, or tweet can be disseminated to a wide, disapproving audience with ease now…as Sterling and David both discovered.

Dismiss video games as silly and inconsequential — though you'll be wrong — and write corporate culture off as habitually man-centric if you must. It still matters how people treat people. We grew up on Duke Nukem's slap-and-tickle, but now we're gaming through far more mature approaches to sex, sexuality, and equality, as seen in Heavy Rain (which also gives equal time to male nudity), Mass Effect 2, and Red Dead Redemption. Our games don't need to sink down anymore. As people, we never should.

Or, as Jim Sterling put it while reflecting on his spat with David to a supportive fan, "Let it be known that I acknowledge how childish it was, for indeed it was."

So maybe it's time to grow the hell up.