Four interns enter, one game gets picked apart: That's right, it's time for Intern Deathmatch.
In this, our inaugural edition of Intern Deathmatch interns Lauren Orsini, Aulistar Mark, Kate Finegan and Amber Nichols discuss indie game Hey Baby by LadyKillas. In the game you take on the role of a verbally harassed woman, gunning down your harassers with an automatic weapon, first-person-shooter style.
Do keep in mind that all of the opinions here are those of the individual writers and not Kotaku as a whole.
I think every woman has a bit of pent up rage about cat-callers. I hate that just by walking around outdoors by myself, I become an object for men to pass judgment on. Men might think they're paying me a compliment by indicating that they find me attractive, but it's revolting that anyone would think of passersby of the opposite sex as their own personal girlfriend shopping mall. I can't get back by whistling and cat-calling at attractive men on the footpath; that's just reverse sexism, and a lot of men would probably like that. No, there was no outlet for my anger - until now.
"Hey Baby" is a simple online game with the slogan, "It's Payback Time, Boys!" It's just like your regular walk around the neighbourhood, getting cat-called by man after infuriating man, except this time, you have an .80 calibre machine gun. As I play, I shoot crudely engineered men who bestow me with compliments like "I wanna lick you all over!" as they bleed and convulse into tombstones. Each tombstone bears the legend of that cat-caller's particular catchphrase. Here lies "I like your bounce, baby" indeed.
However, this game didn't resolve any of my anger. Shooting at defenceless sexists wasn't satisfying. No, it wasn't because of how crudely done and unrealistic the game was engineered. It just felt like excessive force. Men don't catcall us because they're trying to intimidate us, even though that's often the result. It's pure ignorance; they think they're being smooth and complimentary. They need a sexual harassment class, not a bullet to the head.
Oh "Hey Baby," how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways...
We could start with the graphical glitches, as Lauren touched on. They were abundant and present at nearly every turn. Most memorable for me were men stuck in the pavement with just their torsos visible above the surface, flailing their arms to get a piece of me (sorry, tiger).
But let's face it, "Hey Baby" isn't meant to look pretty (despite all the cat-calling going on). What it's really about is the experience. Us gals (or men who want to get in touch with their feminine side) get to express our long pent-up rage against these ignorant, outspoken pigs in a violent manner that's only legal in the confines of a video game: the killing spree. The game doesn't keep score and there's no time limit, so you just kill until you can't stand it anymore. Personally, I prefer games with a bit more structure, even if they're cheap thrills like this one.
Ironically, "Hey Baby" kind of reminds me of your average zombie shooter in the sense that humans (in this case, all male) surround you with their blank stares and awful noises (in this case, the completely fail pick up lines. "I'm not hungry today, but I would love to eat you"? No thanks). In this case though, I'd say even the worst zombie shooter is better than this.
What sealed the deal for my opinion of "Hey Baby" was the music: your standard ice cream truck jingle on loop. Ice cream truck music is only exciting if the truck is coming your way and you're getting ice cream. Otherwise, it's downright annoying. I will say this though, it did make me want to put a bullet in someone's head. Namely mine.
Hey Baby! attempts to create a vent for the frustration women face when dealing with the persistent advances of men. Its 1998 graphics are initially distracting, and its glitches add an extra element of unforeseen hilarity, but the greatest issue here is the games failure to appropriately deal with its subject matter in a creative fashion.
Unlike my Kotaku Intern peers I was in fact born with a male phallus which automatically disassociates me from the emotional rollercoaster of disgust, fear, and anger women go through in regard to cat-calling. However the problem is Hey Baby! addresses the issue of public sexual harassment in a very masculine fashion; by pointing the barrel of a machine gun at it.
Mute the game and remove the cheesy pick-up lines off the tombstones and you have a training simulation for anyone with a inkling of going postal (I'd keep this game far, far away from USPS employees). It therefore contributes to the hyper-masculine culture of America (if not the world) which created the activity of cat-calling in the first place. While some men might protest that they one-sidedly hit on women because they wholeheartedly enjoy it, but I beg the question that men cat-call women because they have been socially trained to do so.
Men are as much a victim as their prey because they are forced to conform to society's ideal representation of masculinity. They don't cat-call because they want to but because they have to or risk having their masculinity put into question.
This effect is seen clearly if you observe a group of men (especially adolescents). If one man doesn't contribute to the activity of conversing about the female body or actively harassing a passing female they are immediately outcast, from the group.
After playing "Hey Baby" pretty much anything looks more enjoyable.
The graphical problems have already been discussed at length so I'll keep it short. Basically, you can't go 30 seconds without running into some sort of glitch (pretty much worse than Fallout 3!). For me, as soon as I booted up the game for the first time I got stuck in the pavement right where I spawned. Joy.
As for the audio, I think I would have accepted the ice cream truck music if there at least was an ice cream truck present in the game. What really got me was the t-rex death cry that the men blurted out as they died, that is some weird stuff right there.
Now, about the actual content of the game, I can't say that, even though I am a woman, I have never hated men enough to be able to relate to this scenario. As straightforward as "Hey Baby" seems though, I found it had a rather confusing message. I could shoot tons of guys into oblivion or I could press 2 and summon hearts out of thin air while handing out compliments. The hearts did nothing, as far as I could tell, except place me in a thick red fog if I made enough (which almost felt like changing things up, except not).
To add to the confusion I felt like "Hey Baby" was condemning men but at the same time included men who did nothing and were therefore un-killable. I assume this meant that men who pine after you are bad, but men who lay back and are completely unaffected by you are good. I believe this would imply that women should waste their time on those who aren't interested. There may be a deeper meaning here but I'll stop before I'm even more confused.
The point is it's very obvious that the developers did not do much critical thinking in the process of making this game, and honestly I guess you shouldn't have to for flash games.
But my main gripe is that it is hard to describe "Hey Baby" as a game, something Kate picked up on. In my mind, games constantly evolve as the player tries to accomplish a goal. "Hey Baby," however, is the same five minutes into it as it is an hour into it with no real end in sight. There is a never-ending supply of the same five or so character models spouting the same lame pickup lines. I suppose at some point you would trap yourself in a mountain of tombstones and be forced to move on with your life.