girls go(t) game

Hillary Clinton has jumped all over the Grand Theft Auto downloadable sex mod scandal, apparently in an attempt to shore up her right-wing base and reconnect with the Tipper Gore Fan Club. USA Today 7/14; wikinews 7/17; salon.com 7/22; gtaSanAndreas links to a video of the mod in action]. Ted Frank on Overlawyered reminds us of a similar culture-war foray from the Democrats — Bill Clinton’s 1992 attack on Sister Souljah — and is pretty funny to boot:

Me, I’m just amused by the thought of class action attorneys trolling for a named plaintiff parent who will testify that, while she was okay for her little Johnny to buy a game involving drug dealing, gambling, carjacking, cop-shooting, prostitution, throat-slashing, baseball-bat beatings, drive-by shootings, street-racing, gang wars, profanity-laced rap music, homosexual lovers’ quarrels, blood and gore, and “Strong Sexual Content,” she is shocked, shocked to learn that the game also includes an animation at about the level of a Ken doll rubbing up against an unclothed Barbie doll with X-rated sound effects, and is thus a victim of both consumer fraud and intense emotional distress, entitled to actual and punitive damages totalling $74,999 per identically-situated class member in the state.

Having posted this, I have to comment on a) the class action schtick is just unnecessary; this anecdote stands alone; b) I wrinkled my nose at a few whiffs of sexist patronizing & homophobia: the contemptible ‘named plaintiff parent’ of the anecdote is of course female (because Donald Wildmon & crew are just not funny, I guess) and Overlawyered’s list of social ills includes, along with various depictions of violence, “homosexual lovers’ quarrels”. Dude. When my spouse & I fight, it’s ill, all right, but not “throat-slashing, baseball-bat beating” ill. Get some perspective.

Speaking of sexism & Grand Theft Auto, feministing raised the concern about the frequent sex-violence connection in popular entertainment. Commenter erin shed some light, which I’ll quote in full since I can’t point directly to it:

I’ve done some research on game patches, and unfortunately, the majority of those out there serve to further exploit female characters (avatars). For example, in the Xtreme Beach Volleyball game, there is a nudity patch which allows the player to play in full nude mode. No big surprise that all of the volleyball players are female. There is also a patch for BloodRayne 2 that allows a player to actually change the breast size of Rayne, inflating or deflating to one’s personal desire. These patches are readily available on gaming websites and message boards, and are fairly easy to use for any semi-experienced gamer.

However, there are also some female gamers who are designing patches to further enhance their gameplaying experience as well, kind of a proto-feminist hacker art movement. There are a few patches for the Tomb Raider series that allow a player to “gender bend” Lara Croft, turning her into a drag queen, dominatrix, or queer babe.

For more on these patches, look at Anne-Marie Schleiner’s article “Does Lara Croft Wear Fake Polygons?” www.opensorcery.net/lara2.html

Posted by: erin at July 11, 2005 11:16 PM

What’s the remedy for stupid, sexist, ridiculous, offensive, insensitive, unsatisfying speech? More speech. These female gamer/hackers get that. And so do some universities and businesses. The current monoculture in video games isn’t ‘just the way it is’; it’s a result of social forces and trends. These social forces and trends are hackable and that’s an opportunity.

update 8/15:

On the sex-violence issue, shakespeare’s sister linked to an article about research showing no change in aggression from playing aggressive video games. The paper is Williams, Dmitri & Skoric, Marko (2005). Internet Fantasy Violence: A Test of Aggression in an Online Game. Communication Monographs, 22(2), p.217-233, available at https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/dcwill/www/CMWilliamsSkoric.pdf.

Most intriguing, though, the rest of shakespeare’s sister’s post on gaming and kick-ass girl heroes talked about lance mannion’s concerns about boys hitting girls in action media (video games, movies, comics). Sh-Sis isn’t too concerned about it, and neither am I. But I’m glad she brought it up, because often, while watching Buffy, Xena, Lara Croft, and the like, I experience a split-second cultural response to the gender: “There’s a boy hitting a girl!” Or, sometimes, “There’s two girls fighting!” I never have a gender consciousness moment like, “There’s two boys fighting!” This learned response annoys me; my own mind is colonized; I know it, but how can I turn it off?

As for boys hitting girls in video games, I’m going to throw out an aggressive opinion and see how it ages: I’m all for it. To the extent there is violence in video games, I want it to be equal opportunity violence. I don’t want female exceptionalism. In the real world, boys hit girls all the time, despite the politesses of “boys shouldn’t hit girls”. Those politesses haven’t stopped gendered violence and I have a sneaking feeling that they contribute to it. Combining two different instruction sets (“girls are special; don’t hit them” with “but it’s okay to hit otherwise”) is surely just going to lead to confusion and anger and a well-founded sense of injustice among young people of the okay-to-hit variety. A stripped down rule set (“don’t hit”) seems much less confusing & much less likely to cause gender-based anger.