Hitman Absolution And The Army Of Girls That Will Change Gaming

Yesterday I had the most incredible day.

Yesterday I visited the studio of Good Game: Spawn Point, at the ABC.

Good Game: Spawn Point is a TV show about video games, and its target audience is young gamers – under 10s — kids who spend their days playing Minecraft, Smash Bros., and Mario Kart.

The show’s creator is a woman, her name is Janet Carr. She is a real hero of mine, and I’ll never forget what she said.

“The kids are so innocent in the way they love games,” she explained, as she showed me around the set, “but the thing that really amazes me is just how many girls there are gaming.

“When I speak to developers I always say, ‘you better start thinking about the games you want to make in a couple of years for teenage girls — because soon there’s going to be a whole army of them, and they’re going to be angry when they see what’s out there.’”

And then I went home and I watched the new trailer for Hitman Absolution.

No doubt you’ve seen it already – sexuality by numbers – chaste nuns, casting aside robes to reveal themselves in the most tacky way possible. Dressed in leather and stilettos, having their faces smashed in and shot by Agent 47 — a strapping bald male — grimacing as he chokes, punches and blasts his way through this sexualised horde of females.

This, I think to myself, is what those girls, who love video games in the purest way possible, have to look forward to.

They get to watch the ‘sexy’ unboxing of video games. They get to wear underwear armour that isn’t armour at all. They get to lick lollipops suggestively. They get to play beach volleyball; they get to choose which bikini to wear while doing so.

I can’t abide it. If this is what works, if this is what genuinely sells video games, I just don’t want any part of it. Is this what we want as a culture? Is this what really works. I genuinely hope not.

Yesterday I had the most incredible day, and I left with a real hope for video games as a medium — because it has this beautiful, pure, diverse audience to look forward to, to cater to — an audience that doesn’t engage with video games in the same dull, gendered way.

They’re going to be so angry.

And I hope they get angry. All of them. There’s already an army of girls playing, engaging, writing and talking about video games – and they’re about to get some new recruits.

Janet told me that in a single week, Good Game: Spawn Point receives over 17,000 letters and emails from its viewers. At least 50% of them are from girls. I sincerely hope that, by the time they’ve grown up, we'll have something significantly more substantial for them than Nuns in stilettos and beach volleyball in bikinis.

Because if we don’t, there’ll be hell to pay. And you best believe they won’t be donning leather and bikini armour when they burn this silly little boys club to the ground.


Comments

    I get the feeling the creative types are in a different headspace than the marketing types. I sure hope so, anyway. This seemed like a cynical attempt to stir controversy to me. *shrugs*

      (The trailer I mean, not Kotaku. :P)

        Ahaha! Thanks man!

          I freaked out when I read that. Had to clarify. ;)

            Whoever works at marketing is a fucking nutcase.

              I have to agree. with the markters bien nutcases. I've really enjoyed some of the older Hitman games. I'm make and not afraid to say I don't mind seeing a bit of boob now and then but this trailer made me less keen on the game if anything. I don't think there is anyone who plays hitman for sex.

              Then again it's obviously generating it's own publicity as a result so I guess you could say it's a win for the marketers.

      If I'm understanding you correctly DC you're attributing this to the marketing types. I'd respectfully disagree (and I've little love for the marketing types). This seems more than just a skewed use of sexualisation to market the game, rather it appears to be somewhat representative (I could be wrong). That aside, the examples (lollipops, volleyball, armour) Mark has listed are most definitely attributable to the creative types. I know it's not that black and white, but responsibility definitely needs to be spread around.

    Agreed. Nothing else to say really, except nice one. Lets see what E3 throws up ey? The cutting edge of mainstream gaming culture.

    I'd love to see a parody of this trailer with the gender sexualisation reversed.

      So, a weak man in tight speedos (Tony Abbott?) going around and bitch slapping buff, fully armored women (Brienne of Tarth?)

      Or a bikini clad woman strangling hordes of bald muscle-men?

      Or... So many thoughts.

        Or a Brienne style woman slapping down submissive and sexualised men. As horrifying as that would be, I think it's the most demonstrative reversal of the trailer. I just wish the trailer hadn't been made in the first place.

      Play Saints Row The Third to play out that fantasy!

        I loved that games approach to gender equality, you can do pretty much anything with the guy characters that you can with the girls. Cracked me up when the traditional boob slider in the character customization changes the size of the guys package.

    When I see trailers like this, or that Sexy Unboxing, or Coco and the Ghost Recon trailer, I just cringe so hard.

    GUYS VIDEO GAMES ARE ART!

    Then what's with the hyper sexualised trailers?

    They're art, so it's okay.

    Well said Mark. This is basically the reason why at the very beginning of development on my game I decided to go with a young female protagonist. The gaming world definately needs better representation of women.

      Same here, and fully clothed in coveralls. No less. Still in the documentation and concept art phase, so nothing I care to show yet.

    I fear this day is still a long way off, though. Although storytelling in games might be on the improve, the (unnecessary to my mind) over-sexualisation of female characters is only increasing as graphics improve.

    Even the most mature stories on the market (I'm thinking MGS1 and 3, and Heavy Rain for example) include opportunities for the male gamer to participate in or observe the gratuitious stripping off of female characters.

      Or the female gamer, shouldn't discriminate.

      Heavy Rain had you stripping off as a male too.

        Yeah, but not in a strip tease sense.

        An equal opportunity game. :P I get the feeling David Cage was trying to do the exact opposite with that scene, exploring where Madison drew the line and the like. The scene was any thing but sexy to me. (Unless you mean the shower scene, then yeah, that was kind of gratuitious. :P)

          Yeah I agree, I thought the stripping scene was intended to make you incredibly uncomfortable and tense. I felt very stressed with my avatar being in such a terrifying and demeaning situation. However, there were other scenes and choices in that game that I thought made missteps on the gender politics. But that scene in particular I thought was quite good, even if it could easily be interpreted in another way by someone who was less sensitive to the gender politics at play.

        That tooth brushing scene was some hot shit too, yeah BRUSH THOSE TEETH!

    It's the articles like this Mark that keep me coming back to this site. Well done old chum.

    17,000 letters a week? Wow, that is some powerful reach right there. Well done GG:SP.

      The Spawn Point letters segment is one of favourite things in all of television, love the way they earnestly read all the bad grammar and spelling without batting an eyelid!

    You know what sold me on Hitman Absolution? Hitman Blood Money.

    The sniper challenge is good as well.

      But Absolution is going to be nothing like Blood Money...

    What a vile, pathetic, disgusting trailer. Sometimes I hate this medium.

    My cousin - she's 10 - loves Spawn Point, it's where she gets her game recommendations from. She wants Minecraft and Fez now. But when she gets older - what's going to happen? Gaming is becoming more normalised, more gendereless for younger kids today, but suddenly she's going to hit the demographic gap at some point and leave disgusted, I suspect.

    Hey, I'm all for boobs and stuff. But most of this stuff is just gratuitous and over the top, and quite distasteful, especially that unboxing crap! It's kinda sad really.

    There's no real need to put this stuff in games, or game culture.
    YOU HAVE THE INTERNET, AN UNLIMITED ACCESS TO ALL SORTS OF STUFF *wink wink*

      I agree that this trailer is just stupid and over the top. Hitman is a franchise about varied and interesting tactical options in order to complete an objective which typically involves assassinating someone.
      Watching that trailer is like going to see Saving Private Ryan and seeing girls having pillow fights in the middle of the bomb craters. It just doesn’t seem right.

      I see no reason that sexuality should not be part of video games as a medium. Sex is part of life. Most humans find that after puberty they are attracted to other humans. It would be nice, however to see more games that include females without assuming sex is the only motivating factor any gamer ever has.

    Yeah man. I'm cringing with you.

    It's interesting an article like this comes after the story of Purple Moon yesterday and the article about "The three words" today.
    My impression is Australian gaming culture, especially regarding female gamers, is more mature than the US equivelent, but not by much.
    I think female gamers should be writing to their favourite developers and let them know what games they want.
    As the Purple Moon story demonstrated, targetting can be an issue when you can't see where to aim.

    I can't help but wonder if this trailer had a counter-purpose. On its surface it seems grotesque and base, but it is SO grotesque that you can't help but think about what you've seen:

    Sexism in gaming.

    I admit, when I saw those women getting shot, I was disturbed. There's something in me - primal male instinct I guess - that reacts badly to the idea of violence against women. And yet, violence against men in video games - meh, I couldn't really care less.

    I feel that this is probably a widely held attitude among male gamers, who would much rather blow other men apart than to destroy an attractive woman.

    This inherent inequality in attitude basically ensures that if a woman is going to be in a mainstream video game, it won't be as a target (or at least, certainly not in a 1:1 ratio with male targets), so she needs to find a different role to play in the game. If the game's only mechanics involve violence/gunplay, all that's left is window dressing.

    And - sadly - this is where women factor into AAA titles which use violence as their primary vehicle for gameplay. This has of course spilled into other genres too, in which game engines are designed to calculate breast jiggle (really).

    Maybe - maybe (but probably not), this trailer is attempting to get us used to the ways in which gaming needs to change. That we have to get used to shooting pretty women to get true equality in games. If this is their message, though, they did it poorly.

    Just wanted to share my thought process here.

      I think you're giving them too much credibility unfortunately.

        Of course you are right.

          I think the idea still stands, though. I would be extremely reluctant to buy a game that advertised violence against women or even equal-opportunity slaughter.

            No, I agree with you there. I just suspect that the extent of the thought process was: Nuns? Great the Christian groups will go nuts! Hooray! Women? Great the women groups will go nuts! This'll make Fox News FOR SURE!1! :P

    It is embarrassing seeing this trailer but is it really different to the girls that love music at 10 and already are exposed to the over specialized embarrassing music industry.

      Sexualized damn phone auto correct

    It seems to me, that a lot of females that grow up gaming, stop earlier than men might. And it may be the sexualisation that does it.
    Because companies focus on targetting a male audience there's nothing there to keep the female gamers. Or if it is there, it's drowned out by the imagery used and therefore ignored. The way games/gaming culture is sexualised for the male audience may also be a key piece as to why people don't see it as more than 'pervy games with blood and bullets' and people that enjoy them are 'immature'.
    Same thing happens with comics.
    And when you take another 'nerdy' media, board/table top games, which doesn't have as BIG an issue of sexualisation (it is there), and there's less criticism of the medium in general.
    There's more than female gamers finding it difficult to enjoy the medium, it's that the entire medium is 'dumbed down' by the way it portrays itself.

    The thing is, it seems to me that sex DOESN'T sell games, so I have no idea why marketers still think it does. Top sellers like Mario and call of duty, halo etc don't have a shred of sexual themes in them at all. Mass effect had sex but it's certainly not what sells it. Arkham city wasn't critically acclaimed because of catwoman and poison ivy. What few games do use sex as a main selling point (like DoA) don't seem to sell nearly as well nor are they as well received as their counterparts.

      I play Bioware games, so I'm kind of spoilt for, on the one hand, undeniably sexy games (Miranda's ass FTW!) which nevertheless feature interesting female characters (Miranda's biotics, pistol shooting and daddy issues FTW!). It's entirely possible to avoid a false choice between sexy ladies and female participation in gaming. What I don't understand is why more developers don't get this. (CDProjekt also FTW, although strictly speaking the Witcher's badass women should be credited to Andrej Sapkowski.)

      Sex doesn't sell games? You think something like a DoA has to be made in order to prove that point? Then why do most "non-sexualised" women in any game have great curves, reasonable cup size and an attractive physique, and not say, slightly obese with a cute face? It's because it's attractive and gets people to think about sex, genius.

      Case in point: have you ever heard of a guy friend describing a beautiful woman starting with her personality?

        I think his point was more that games which don't feature sex as a selling point sell better than the ones that do, as opposed to just "sex doesn't sell games"

    What if they were in full combat armour? Would it be okay then?

      That's an interesting question Harli...
      I don't feel I'm qualified to answer, how would you feel seeing a male protagonist shooting up women if the were in proper combat gear?

        For my part, if they were graphically distinguishable as women, it would be
        a) first or all, armour fail
        b) still problematic for me

        If they're not graphically distinguishable as women, then they might as well be male or androgynous sprites. blast away.

          There are a few countries that do have front line female troops... Canada and Israel come to mind.

        No, I wouldn't have a problem with it. If a bunch of assassins are trying to kill the dude, then he should be expected to retaliate. A fight is a fight.

      I would find it more acceptable if it were a mix gendered group in full armor. I don't see why women shouldn't be just as capable combatants.

      I would also find it acceptable if it was a woman in a business suit killing large hairy bearded men in sexy nun outfits, because I find that mental image humorous.

    Let's just balance it up & get some Top Gun beach volleyball games with jiggling man-junk for the girls to ogle. Wait that'll never stick... Perhaps some half-naked buff barbarians wearing leather straps?

    Being serious, though - given that we're essentially witnessing the maturity of the industry, I'm actually surprised with the way things are heading. When we think of genres, the video games industry is seeming to create a few new ones (namely puzzles/casual/simple games) and then adapt all the Hollywood genres in various different ways: Action, Comedy, Adventure, Drama, Mystery, Epic, Fantasy, Gangster, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller, etc.

    Now, aside from these are two obvious stand-outs which otherwise would be marketed for the female gamers: Romance & Romantic Comedy. Aside from a few dating sims which tend to be targeted toward the forever alone male, there's really only .... *The* Sims which I guess I can think of which would really engage this genre, right?

    I'm thinking the reason for these not being developed (as far as I'm aware) isn't because of lack of demand but probably more because of the fact that the dev studios are simply not that interested in the challenges that would come with coding these games when they could instead be involving themselves in their own fantasy/adventure world or designing puzzle logics & other challenges. I think there's also got to be something to do with the financial backing of the studios. Investors would be more likely to imagine money coming from male gamers & games which are already played by a significant portion of girls - whereas a game targeted towards girls may not be nearly as well received by guys & as such is not as desirable to invest in.

    Either way I agree that there's clearly a niche of the industry that's not being filled while at the same time the over-sexualisation of various other sectors is simply running rampant ... Perhaps saying that the industry is "maturing" is somewhat of an oxymoron.

      I think you might be missing the point a little fortalyst.

      If the GG:SP audience is anything to go by, girl/women gamers arent a 'niche', they are (or soon enough will be) equal with males in terms of raw numbers. To suggest that the industry need to cater to them by making 'girl friendly' rom-com games with pink packaging (i exaggerate) is a little insulting. That devs are " not that interested in the challenges that would come with coding these games when they could instead be involving themselves in their own fantasy/adventure world or designing puzzle logics & other challenges" is a pretty telling statement. Fantasy/adventure and logic are now a male-only domain?
      Girls and women don't need patronising, they need an equal voice and equal representation within the medium. If the industry grew up and evolved out of the sexualisation/fetishisation of women (and violence towards women), it would be a step in that direction.

        Oh perhaps I was poor with my wording - I absolutely agree! I wanted to say niche as a means of describing the gap in the market where these genres seem to not be present, rather than imply that it's small and insignificant. I also did not mean to carry the opinion that fantasy/adventure are a male-only domain. It's a genre which caters toward a larger demographic by appealing equally to women as well as men whereas the rom/com genre (given that in Hollywood the genre has earned a nickname being "Chick flick") tends to stereotypically be targeted for to the fairer sex. The point of that statement was to imply that the appeal to game designers and developers might pose more of an exciting challenge to design puzzles or model dragons or cars & developing physics engines rather than the components of a romance game focused on female gamers.

      Judging by the amount of yaoi fanart & comics proliferating in all corners of the web I think there's definitely a space in the market for half-naked barbarians and jiggling man-junk beach volleyball. The female gaze is ripe to be made money out of, and beach volley ball featuring already established male game characters with large fangirl bases would make a fortune. It makes me want to develop such a game, and more importantly, reap the obscene profits said venture would generate.

    I agree. What can be done about it though? It's all good to post articles like this (kudos for this article by the way Mark) and to post comments about how we're fed up with it and want things to change (or at least some of us are fed up with it and want things to change) but do these things really have any sort of impact at all? Are the developers getting this feedback or not and if they are does it really matter? If a game with stripper nuns sells more than a game without stripper nuns do they really care if some people don't like stripper nuns?

    In my opinion I think we all need to be a little more forceful with this issue. I'd love to see someone stand up at E3 or something and ask a game developer, in front of an audience of millions, why their games are so sexist? Why aren't the women wearing proper armour? Why does your game only feature one female character and she's wearing a bikini and has triple D breasts (is that even a size? I know nothing about bras)? If we bring this issue to the forefront and put developers on the spot, demand them to explain themselves, I think we might actually see some change. Until then I just don't see how anything will change.

      I think you're right. The thing is I've been a Hitman fan going way back. I've played and loved 'em all. I'll still probably buy this one, but it has nothing to do with this trailer. How will they know I didn't like the trailer if I still bought the game any way? *head explodes* I remember reading something from Tracey (I think?) about how she was pulled aside for asking too many questions about ethics in war games or something. Seems they're VERY protective of their IP. :S

        Woah, got a link to the 'pulled aside for ethics in war games' thing?

          http://zerolightseeds.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/we-need-to-talk/

    While I find the trailer disgusting, and sexism definately exists within our chosen medium, there's every chance that this is just the work of some marketing consultant - creating a trailer that will undoubtably get the cheap attention they've obviously gotten.

    I agree 100%.
    I could write a well thought out response to further elaborate on my thoughts, but I'm at work so I'll just post this to convey my feelings on this article.

      And for the record I am not horrible outraged at this trailer, I did however find the hyper-sexualisation of the nuns to be unnecessary and flat out dumb.

      Some games use sexiness in the right levels and in necessary ways, but cramming in T&A into every possible angle of every new game is insulting to all of us as an audience.

        I guess I did elaborate on my thoughts huh?

        Oh well, back to work :P

    Im a bit sick of this discussion on Kotaku. If you dont agree with sexism in games, dont buy games. Simple solution. Vote with your wallet. And get over it, and bring me game related stories rather than articles about sexism. If you have ever (as a girl) shaved your underarms for a date, or bought a "pretty" dress, you are as obsessed the female form as anyone else. Conversely, if you are a guy and have ever checked out a girl, same thing. So get over it.

      Frankly, I'm a bit sick of people who say they're a bit sick of this discussion. For some people, it's an interesting issue and for some people, it is an up close and personal issue. If you don't agree with a discussion about sexism, feel free to vote with your mouse and click off. There are plenty of game related stories on this site and others - Kotaku excels (in my opinion) because it goes a little deeper into gaming culture, into the sociology of gaming and the relationships between gamers and society at large.

      That's what appeals to me; evidently not to you. Feel free to migrate to a gaming site that revels in T&A, sounds like you'd be more comfortable there anyway.

        sorry Shane, I totally agree with you, but 'click off' wasn't strongly worded enough to convey my thoughts.

      Following that logic:

      I don't like you on my planet. Get off.

      you just used 88 words to say "get over it"

      Dear eltial,
      I think you've missed the point. Entirely.
      I'll just assume you didn't read the article, so here's the gist of it in four easy dot points:
      - Games revel in sexualising women to an extreme degree
      - there is a fairly high number of female gamers aged under 10
      - When these female gamers reach their teen years, the above mentioned hypersexualisaion is most likely going to put them off the medium entirely.
      - the single-minded adherence to the games-are-for-boys & sex sells ideas is destroying the medium for a large number of people.

      right. so that's the article summarised for you. so you've got context for the following:
      now then, its people like you who are complacent enough with this problem (and it is a problem) to just ignore it coz it doesn't apply to you that are making it worse.

      no wait, its worse than complacency because you are actively speaking against an article that is condemning the practice. i'm sure youve heard the cliche that 'if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem'? yeah well this applies here. please understand that this is not just directed toward you, eltial, but every single motherfucker who can sit there & see bullshit like that trailer & think its ok. ITS NOT FUCKING OK. guilt through inaction.

      vote with you're wallet you say? thats not gonna stop this. if you dont like it, get fucking vocal & talk to the developers & publishers who are pushing this shit.

      but if you're complacent enough to just sit there & take it, or say youre sick of people writing against this crap, then you can always fuck off to ign & join in the rest of the ogling masses.

      sincerely,
      Shoggoth.

    I know it's not the point of the article, but I wanted to comment on the 17,000 letters GGSP gets sent each week. I think that's really awesome. I remember seeing Hex tweet a photo of one of those letters a while ago, it was pretty heartwarming stuff.

    Personally, I don't find this trailer anywhere near as bad as the ridiculous 'sexy unboxing' and that Coco lady for Ghost Recon, but I certainly see why people are up in arms about it. Actually this has reminded me about an anime/manga series called Trinity Blood. The action nuns in that series were fully clothed. I'm not sure what my point is there, but yeah.

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