Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Character Assassin's Creed... More Misogyny in Gaming

I really want to post something good about gaming.

I really do.

Instead, I'm forced to keep pointing out the failings of games and gaming culture. The problem is that, despite my love for games, gaming culture remains a pretty awful place in a lot of ways. It's bad enough that gaming itself is treated like male hobby, despite the many, many, many examples to the contrary. But, when I read a story like this one, from feministe, it's enough to make me scream.

I admit that I might be late on this one- much of my online time is spent at work, and I don't read much gaming news (if they've even touched this story), but for those even more behind than I am: Jade Raymond is a producer for Ubisoft, and her latest game, Assassin's Creed, came out recently. By most counts, it's supposed to be a pretty awesome game. You'd think this is good news, right?

Not so much.

See, there are two problems.
1. Raymond has a vagina.
2. Raymond works in a field that is seen as male territory. She makes products typically made by and for men.

Now, really, neither of these are actually the problem. The real problem is that there are some assholes out there who see the fact that they find her attractive or that she's a woman in a "male field" to be justification for treating her like shit.

It started with comments about hot she is on sites like Kotaku and in other gaming publications. Who cares that she's working on one of the hottest games of the year, a title that people have been clamoring for since the first video trailers were shown, a title that's graced magazine covers and had gamers drooling for months and months now... she's hot, and that's all that matters. It's much more important to hear about how fuckable she is, or how much people wish they could meet her or find a "girl" as hot as her.

And the really sad thing is that these sorts of comments? They barely register anymore. They're so common in the gaming world- the constant objectification of women associated with gaming- that they're easy to miss. They don't even appear as blips on the radar to most people. It'd almost be more noteworthy if the forums and boards weren't filled with sexist bile. I can't speak for my fellow bloggers, but on the rare occasions that I do go onto a non-feminist gaming site looking for news or information, I know that I can't stay too long or pay too much attention, because the level of sexism and misogyny tends towards "extreme".

If it had stopped with mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers lamenting how they wish they could touch her and how hawt she is, most nongamers probably wouldn't be reading about Raymond, because... well... that's status quo. We're at a state right now where about the best you can expect is that any woman associated with gaming is going to be put on display and talked about like she's a piece of meat. Gamer forums are going to be filled with disgusting posts about her body. If woman plays or makes games, she's seen as public property on gaming forums, and they'll endlessly debate how hot she is.

And the fact that I've come to expect that level of misogyny makes me beyond sad.

But, of course, it didn't stop there. It didn't stop with those types of comments and it didn't stop with hoax postings about her posing for Maxim. Instead, World Class Asshole and All Around Class Act Dave Cheung decided to up the ante and created a pornographic comic depicticting Raymond as a bikini-wearing idiot who services fan-boys.


Nevermind that this is one of the major creative forces behind Assassin's Creed. Nevermind her degree in computer science. Nevermind all the hard work she's put in. Because a bunch of gamers have decided she's the hotness, she's depicted as a fan-servicing moron who can't even pronounce "creative".

As Holly points out, the typical sexist apologism has already started and is in full swing:

People can say whatever they want because of free speech! (Wow, congratulations on being lucky enough to have rights. Now stop using them to be an asshole, why don’t you.) It’s all Ubisoft’s fault for exploiting her as a poster girl! (Which is why it’s OK to treat her, personally, that way? Also, it’s part of her job.) Who does she think she is, wearing a cute top like that and standing in front of the other Assassin’s Creed developers? (Serious shades of Sweatergate right there.) It’s not her game and I bet she didn’t even do any of the real development!

Raymond and Ubisoft have been fighting back- a cease and desist letter was sent to Something Awful, and while I fully support her fighting to get the comic removed, I recognize how hard that's going to be- these things tend to become viral very quickly, and it's going to be hard, if not impossible, to find all of the comics and remove them. And, of course, even as she fights to assert her rights, she's demonized for it. The creator of the comic is taking her fighting back as a sign of "victory" of a sort- he's put a "Made Jade Cry" notice on his site. Classy, right?

This is exactly the sort of thing that I'm going to be talking about at WAM!

This is just one of many reasons why women end up feeling threatened and intimidated by traditional "male" careers and industries. You read stories like this, or the Kathy Sierra story, and you have to ask yourself, "if I knew going into my career that people were going to try to humiliate me and harass me and post disgusting, potentially threatening comments about the things they'd like to do to me, just because of my gonads, would I still want to get involved in that career?"

I wouldn't.

And if you show even an ounce of compassion, prepare to hear at least a few people comment about how she deserved it in some way:

Poor taste, but then Ubisoft must be fairly naive if they think they can capitalise on a hot woman in front of a bunch of undersexed geeks and get away with it. - fire&wings

The same stupid argument has been trotted out over in the thread on feministe, too. How dare Ubisoft present the producer of the game as the public face for inteviews! It's simply outragious! And obviously unheard of!

Because, clearly, nobody else gives interviews about the games they're making, right? Certainly, there are no men who capitalize on fame within the gaming industry. Miyamoto who? Hideo Kojima? Never heard of him. American McWhosit? Civ Meier? Williams somebody? Will right? Tommy "I'm a Huge Tool Who Reinforces Everything Bad About Gaming" Tallarico? Nope, clearly, Raymond is the only person who has been presented as a public face for gaming. Nobody else has ever been as much or more in the spotlight than the games they were involved in making.

And, really, I want to know how, exactly, Ubisoft was exploiting her to market the game. I've seen dozens of ads and videos for this game, and until yesterday I had no idea what Raymond looked like, at all. The ads have largely focused on the gameworld and the innovative control scheme (I haven't played it, but that's what the marketing has been about). Interviews? I knew she was giving them- but, again, that's her job- I expect the producer of a game to give interviews- particularly on a game as highly anticipated as Assassin's Creed was.

The interest in Raymond came from sites like Kotaku and from game forums and blogs and the rumor mill. It came from people completely unassociated with Ubisoft who were more interested, or at least as interested, in talking about Raymond's body than in talking about Assassin's Creed. The blame for Raymond being the focus of some sites coverage of AC doesn't lie with her or with Ubisoft, but with the sites themselves. Ubisoft can't force Kotaku to publish intelligent articles. That's up to the writers there.

Apparently, the creator of the comic released this statement:

Hoo boy. Who’d have thought 2 hours of messing around in Photoshop due to random boredom one night could result in so much DRAMA! Actually, it was probably inevetiable since the internet is full of morons who think they know everything (myself included).

So, to dispel some misunderstandings caused by up-their-own-arse moralistic faggots, here’s a “Buy Jade’s Game” MORAL-O-FAQ!

Q: Did you Buy Jade’s Game?
A: As a matter of fact, I did. I’ve had it pre-orderded since before I knew of poor Jade’s existence, since it looked quite nifty. Sadly, despite being promising in many areas, it gets very boring rather quickly, and has the most ridiculous plot since Star Ocean 3 (This is Jade’s game… with a Sci-fi/Horror twist). Oh well.

Q: Why do you hate Jade? Leave Jade alone!
A: Personally, I have nothing against her. I just found the entire situation of HER being more heavily marketed and gaining more “press” (and I use the term loosely) coverage, than THE GAME to be somewhat amusing. In fact, fair do’s to her working her way to a cushy position like “Executive Producer”, it really is the ideal job; since all you do is sit around doing nothing and get paid for it. RESULT!
But I digress, this has nothing to do the matter at hand.

Q: What statement are you trying to make with the Jade Comic?
A: If you would take some time to read the links I originally posted along with the comic, you see that the primary reason for it’s existence is the “Jade Hype” on videogame forums, blogs and “news” sites like Kotaku (lolz). Although Ubi-Soft UNDOUBTEDLY whored Jade out to an extent, it really wasn’t any more than how say, Cliffy B whore’s HIMSELF out. The difference is, forum nerds, bloggers and Kotaku (lolz) got rather more hot and bothered for Jade than they would for old Cliffy.
So, I suppose Jade could be classed as “Collateral Damage”, which may not be very fair, but honestly, if you really care about something as trivial as a comic, you’re a collossal faggot (that goes for you ladies too). A joke is a joke, and is only as harmful to you as you let it be.
When someone makes a joke about you, it is YOU who chooses whether or not it becomes EPIC BUTTHURT, not the other way around.

Q: What if Ubi-Soft sue you?
A: They won’t, because they don’t have a case. As obviously tastless and unsubtle as the comic may be, it is no different to (for example) Dave Chappele dressing up as R.Kelly and pretending to pee in someone’s mouth or cartoons in newspapers showing George Bush as the devil. It is merely bullying tactics, and would reflect more badly on them than anyone else.

Q: What is a “moralfag”?
A: A moralfag is a person who’s principals are so far wedged up their own backside that they believe that any any remotely derogatory commentary made on anyone else is unnaceptable, unfounded, sexist, racist and, possibly, EVIL. That is, of course, unless they are the ones doing it. Moralfags are also utterly convinced that their view of morality is the ONLY view, and anyone who disagrees can GTFOTHX!
In summary, a moralfag is 99% of DeviantArt users. OH SHIT!

Q: Are you a moralfag?
A: No, I’m just a self-satisfied cunt.

Have fun flaming, arse-lickers!

Well, there you have it.
These are the words of a person who considers himself a "liberally minded person".

And that is what we're up against. Even the guy who made the comic admits that the bulk of Raymond's publicity came from blogs and forums, not from any official source, and that she's "Collateral Damage", but, hey, it's fine, because, you know, it's just a joke!.

Har. Har.

At this point, I almost worry that I'm becoming a broken record. How many times do we have to point out "It doesn't matter what she looks like"? "It doesn't matter if you think she's hot- her attractiveness doesn't have anything to do with what she's doing"? "Judge her actions, not her appearence"? If the game is good (and it's been getting generally positive reviews, not that that means much), who cares whether the producer is attractive or not? It's still a good game. And, if the game sucks, why would it matter whether the producer was hot or not? Whatever she looks like doesn't change how good or bad the game is.

So, how do we get that across? How do we fight this kind of thing?

For me, one of the things that I do is, when I hear about a story like this, I make sure that I talk about it with as many of my gaming friends as I can, and I explain why I'm outraged and I explain why this is a problem. My hope is that I get across how important events like this are- how much it hurts women, how much it reinforces stupid stereotypes about gamers, and how bad it makes gaming culture look. My hope is that they'll talk to their friends about it, too, and that it'll spread over time.

That, and I post long, angry diatribes about how pissed off and sickened I am by things like this.

-edited: 2:11 PM EST-

More thoughts that I forgot to include...

I love how Ubisoft is getting slammed for "using Jade" to push the game (again, despite the fact that it's the producer's job to give interviews and raise interest), but these same people have been strangely silent about, say, the use of Playboy to push a game. Last time I heard, Kane & Lynch still wasn't about Playmates, so, there still isn't any reason for Playboy to be the major advertising push.

Anybody want to bet that these are the same people that complain that we're too sensitive about things like the Resident Evil controversy?

And yet, these people are apparently outraged, outraged that Ubisoft would let Raymond give interviews. I know, I know, none of that actually proves anything. Maybe I'm wrong, and these people are equally outraged about the Playboy thing, but, still...

You know, about one of the most highly anticipated games of the year. The only games that I can think of that might have more anticipation were Halo 3 and Bioshock. So, you know, this game was kind of a big deal.

Anyway, I also meant to mention that Luke, over at Shrub has a post up about this, too, and it's well worth reading.

Other related posts:
The Angry Pixel says "We Heart Jade Raymond".
Broken Toys nails it with "Clearly We Do Not Deserve Nice Things And/Or People.
Game Girl Advance reminds that Jade Raymond is for Real.
Shameless: For Girls Who Get It explain why you should care, even if you're not a gamer.
Rabid Space Dog laments that we have such a long way to go.
Elaine over at Confutatis.org explains the problem with the "It's Ubisoft's fault!" arguments


N1nj4G1rl said...

I saw an interview with Jade about Assassins Creed on G4 at one of the gaming conventions, and I had some kinda strange idea that something like this was going to happen.
I'm saddened to be proven right to such an insane degree.

Have you played Assassin's Creed by the way? It looks great, I love that it can be played through in a ton of different ways (or so I've heard) Sadly I don't have a console that will play it (yet).

Elaine said...

I just wanted to say a huge thank you for your comments at Feministe (and this post as well!). I thought your comments were incredibly insightful and refreshing (much to the contrast of the likes of Brad who enjoys running in circles over the same argument again and again).

The Snobographer said...

Feministe's main page won't even load anymore.

Thanks for reiterating the important, obvious, yet repeatedly overlooked point that Raymond and Ubi didn't do anything unusual or use Raymond's looks or sex to promote AC. The fact that keeps getting lost is she wasn't the one who posted her picture all over the gaming blogs and forums to spark "debates" about her "bangibility." It was the droves of misogynous, drooling geek boys who did that. Those dorks need to stop making rationalizations and revising history and take an honest look at their own bigotry.

The Snobographer said...

Also, I was wondering if anyone has a picture of Cheung. If Ubi's case doesn't go anywhere, it might be "fun" to depict him in some scurrilous "adventures" and to circulate those depictions widely.

brandann said...

wonderfully written, both here and at feministe. thank-you...another incredible post...i didn't even know what she looked like until all the fuss started...i did know that one of the prominent leads on the team was female...which i thought was really cool...

and i have played assassin's creed...and it is very cool...gets my recommendation...my guy loved it, and he is way more of a console junkie than i am!

Torri~ said...

Not only is this Cheung guy an asshole, he's also a complete idiot. I mean reading his 'cute' little Q&A he tries to make it sound like it's the gamers who are drooling over Raymond that he's having a go at. Yeah drawing the woman they're drooling over and degrading her is a great way to take a swipe at those guys. Really showed them right?
Honestly wtf?

but yes once I get my hands on a PS3 Assassin's Creed is on the top of my game list.

Phoenix Woman said...

Wonder what his parents (Dave's only 25) think of him reinforcing negative racist sex stereotypes about Asian women, being that Ms. Raymond is herself Eurasian?

Ami Angelwings said...

I actually kinda liked Chugworth a little tho Dave's obsession with young girls was getting creepy, but now I have lost all respect for him!


That is just AWFUL. And I'm tired of ppl saying that men aren't in control of their own actions. That if a girl even shows her body to them then it's her fault for inciting them.

I'm sorry, is it her fault for having good genes or something? :\ Should she be totally covered up now?

This is a great post btw :]

I just... have a lot of experience with this myself cuz I'm an attractive (read: not hideous by fanboy's stupid standards) female gamer, and it doesn't matter how good (or bad) I actually am, all the focus is on my looks. :\ I'm tired of comments about how hot I am, or how ppl want to do me, or nething else.

PLUS, there's always the whole "ppl are nice to you b/c your'e a girl" or "you get ppl helping you when you play b/c you're pretty!" and stuff.. as if it's my fault and clearly I'm giving blow jobs and gang bangs to get benefits :\

It's disgusting! Honestly it's about a bunch of guys who can't get over their own obsession with a woman and think that their uncontrollable lust must be UNIVERSAL and therefore it's UNFAIR that EVERYBODY is being manipulated by this person. :\

They need to get over themselves!

And Dave's defense is so dumb. If Ubisoft is exploiting her (by what.. hiring her? So far I haven't seen any proof that they're "exploiting" or that she's even prancing around in a bikini or nething, just that she exists and is attractive to them) shouldn't the comic be about how horrible Ubisoft is not what a whore SHE is?

It rly is a fetish thing that ppl latch on to ANYBODY in a field that they dun expect to see "attractive" women in, who attracts them as "OMG OMG OMG". :\ And I think that in their mind she's something that doesn't and shouldn't exist: an intelligent, gamer girl, and clearly if she exists, others exist, and why aren't THEY dating them?

So she has to be "not worth it". It's like assuming the head cheerleader that you badly want is a slut. It's sour grapes. >:O

I'm just so mad about this. I didn't even know about it. :O

Dave Cheung should change his last name to Sim. >_>

shrimplate said...

Poor Dave, just another asshole. Feh. It must suck to be him.

Mick said...

Thank you for this post.

I can't believe how batshit wankery crazy that particular pool can be (or worse, is most of the time).

The really fucked up thing for me was the comic's "creative" thing. If he'd "only" put the porn bits, I could assume it was indeed bad satire of how fanboys (and himself) and news sites were treating the subject.

But making her the dumb little thing was the telling part in a industry soon to die out and become a niche for "hardcore gamers" (aka lifeless status quo fat creepy nerds) -- like comics! She's been extremely talented in selling her product, much more articulate than your usual creator just spouting the word "awesome" around like he's your "extreme bud!" who loves dick&fart&misoginy jokes. And I'm sure she's extremly talented in areas of creation I have no criteria in how to understand (but the game's quality itself is telling). Making her appear as if she's there because she's good-looking (or because she's a woman) was incredibly disgusting, and made worse by being in so many forums.

And "moralfags"? Jesus Christ, gamers creeps really want to believe hard they're macho creeps through rampant homophobia, no? I guess that explains most of the feel in the games themselves, and why I feel all the time like I'm watching a wrestling version of Top Gun gay porn when I play them.

Please somebody make hundreds of comics where sad little Dave is getting his ass pounded by all the fanboys who congratulate him by not being a "moralfag"?

Pai said...

In response to the claims of 'Its legitimate satire!" I have this:

'Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel -- it's vulgar.' ~Molly Ivins

Competent satire would be lambasting Ubisoft's willingness to exploit attractive employees for attention, which is what all these boys claim is their 'real' point. However, that excuse is completely at odds with their actual commentary an behavior, and proves they're just being gleefully misogynist asshats.