The Hitman: Absolution trailer is a symptom of a huge problem with games

Late, but I wanted to get a couple of thoughts out on the Hitman trailer. A whole host of articulate people have already tackled it – Keza MacDonald, Helen Lewis, Sarah Ditum, Brendan Keogh and Grant Howitt being my picks for good reads on the topic. I don’t want to go over old ground, but I do have a couple of things to add.

Firstly: these are not “powerful women”, whatever IO says. These are women whose sole purpose for existing is to be titillating for the viewer, and then to be destroyed. If being entirely defined by your utility to men is how these people think female power works, then they are wrong and even dafter than I’d previously given them credit for.

Second, a lot of the problem here is ubiquity. If the trailer existed in isolation – if it was one egregious thing in a world where most things weren’t egregious – it would probably stand out more but it’d also be a less problematic incident. Stuff like this is not just normal – it’s actually hard to think of one game franchise that includes women that doesn’t pull sexist shit some of the time. Wouldn’t it be awesome to tell stories about strong female characters that didn’t assume a viewer wanted wank fodder? Why does almost every woman in mainstream games have to deal with sexualised violence? The Hitman trailer exists in a cultural context where – within the mainstream at least – the narratives are extremely limited. The writing is almost universally bad and almost universally discriminatory. If women are in a game, we’re on show, or we’re weak and pathetic and need rescuing. (The treatment of non-white people, disabled people, same-sex relationships and disability is a whole different rant, but has the same basic features.) The male gaze is ubiquitous in mainstream games. This is just the latest stupid example. A lot of people (myself included) aren’t just pissed off at IO, we’re pissed off at the routine disregard and objectification in games and games marketing.

Finally – look, gaming while feminist is basically an exercise in ignoring infuriating things all the time. In extremis – say while playing Heavy Rain, Arkham City, Bayonetta, DOA, and so on – it’s like trying to read while someone’s shouting SEX BOOBS LADYBITS SEXY SEXY BUM in your ear. You can SEX read the sentences GIRLS if you BOOBS try CROTCH SHOT but it’s much ASS harder than it SEXY should be. Most of the time the sex is completely irrelevant to the game. For the love of god, game designers and marketers, please just stop.

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Mary Hamilton

I'm a journalist-type tech-ish geek person, working in that interesting ambiguous place where reporting the news meets all sorts of peripheral skills. In my spare time I herd zombies, design games and write stuff.

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