Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Will "Arkham City" Be This Year's "Other M?"

REMINDER: "Game OverThinker's" new episode about "Other M" will be viewable by EVERYONE tomorrow on ScrewAttack.

Short answer: Probably not, as it's a much bigger/more-anticipated game of the "we will riot if insert-reviewer-here gives it below a 9" variety and because I don't think anyone is as protective of Harley Quinn and Catwoman as gamers are of Samus Aran. Still, it's an intriguing prospect to see this play out...


DISCLAIMER: I'm buying the game today, have not played it yet and will refrain from judgement until I have. The great Film Critic Hulk, however, has (you should be reading this site - it's seriously highbrow movie/culture commentary in the "voice" of The Incredible Hulk) and makes some troubling observations about the content which have now been echoed by Kotaku.

The crux of the issue is that theres (apparently) a much heavier emphasis on violence against women in this sequel, and that it's favorite (T-rated) cuss word is "bitch;" mainly from bad guy NPCs engaging in surly "guy talk" about Catwoman etc.

Now, since it's unlikely that Rocksteady is employing a bunch of unreconstructed misogynists on it's design teams; it's fairly easy to imagine how this happens: The premise of the game is an Escape From NY/LA-style "city of prisoners;" and this was how the writers chose to make them sound like "real inmates" since for whatever reason sexist-slurs are deemed more 'teen-friendly' than racist or homophobic ones (which is a related but whole other issue altogether.)

Here's where this get's interesting, to me:

From where I stood, this is exactly what the problem was with "Other M" - an awkward writing decision that left the game, however unintentionally, open to interpretation as sexist. The difference (at least so far) is that while "M" was immediately (and continuingly) savaged for this, up to and including the wide dissemination of baseless accusations of intentional sexism on the part of the designers and a hefty helping of deplorable racism in the form of ascribing said intentional sexism onto some kind of endemic woman-hatred in the Japanese psyche. "Arkham," on the other hand, is so far recieving what looks like the expected wagon-circling defense in the gamer-sphere - "It's just a game," "that's how prisoners would talk," etc. And hey - maybe I'll agree.

But agree or not, I SERIOUSLY doubt that you'll see anywhere near the level of condemnation "Other M" got for a variety of reasons - mainly that it comes in two different forms (i.e. one game where a poor narrative choice led to implications of sexism versus another where intentional "in-character" sexism is suspiciously prevalent) but also because - and I'm speaking VERY generally and ONLY in my opinion here - because the loss/gain ratio is different: "Arkham City" is a game that gamers are invested in even without having played it - a hardcore "gamer's game" that's also the successor to arguably the best superhero game ever.

"Other M," meanwhile, was a Wii game (strike one) doing the retro-throwback thing after the series had spent three prior console installments in a well-regarded FPS series (strike two) and... egh, look... I'm not going to go saying that people who GENUINELY hated it or were GENUINELY offended by it were "wrong" or un-genuine in their opinions, but I get a real sense that at least SOME of that shitstorm was the result of folks in and around the Western gaming scene having finally found a 'weak one among the herd' to single out and vent long pent-up issues against Japanese developers in general and Nintendo/Team Ninja specifically. Just an observation/opinion.

I'll probably have more to say, one way or another, once I've had a work-free minute to play it.

P.S. Regardless of how the game itself "works" for me, the "it's how prisoners would talk!!!" thing doesn't work for me. As said, it's weird that they'd be sexists but not ALSO racists; and also the notion of "realistic criminals/gang-thugs" goes out the window when we're talking about a scenario where the crooks in question are being leg by clowns, mad scientists and ice-blooded guys in spacesuits.

59 comments:

Sir Laguna said...

No. "Bitch" is an insult I expect the inmates of Arkham use against any women they cross and I also expect the good guys to use against the "bitch" who attacked them. IT works in the context of the game.

Also, The people really overreacted about "Other M" and FilmCriticHulk overreacted EVEN MORE with this one.

PD: I love Harley Quinn, but she's a bitch. I love Samus Aran, she's not a bitch and I will go mad, Hulk-mad, If somebody call her "bitch" in one of the games.

PD#2: Batman: AC should have been "M" rated. I think we all can agree with that. The use of the word "bitch" (and a lot more) and the dark tone. "M" should not be just because of the gore and nudity.

Peter T said...

No, it won't be this years Other M, for the same reasons you listed- it's a big name Western game that has assured high scores, and not a Japanese title from a company people were waiting to take a crack at anyway.

firelordzero said...

It will not be this years other M because it's prison inmates saying it, the game clearly doesn't want you to side with them, it's not like batman or any of the protagonists are saying it. Other M on the other hand had a seen where a previously strong independent woman runs through a room full of fire without proper gear because a man tells her to, and the game never chastises Adam for not authorizing it or Samus for not going against that. (Also I don't think Other M is sexist necessarily, it's just very poorly written)

Silens said...

Ugh...

No, this game won't be this year's 'Other M'. Namely because of a number of distinctive factors that separate the issues. As I've said before, my issues with Other M come down to the game's exceptionally poor writing, awful voice acting, and elements of the characterization that didn't really jive with what I've always accepted about Samus from previous games (on a side note, I haven't seen your 'Other M' follow-up, so I'm not entirely sure how your context has changed). This isn't an anti-Japan, anti-Wii, anti-Nintendo backlash - this is a writer addressing very visible failures in the story that pissed me off to no end.

Now with Arkham City... ugh, having not yet played the game and only following the buzz, I'm really of two minds on this issue. For starters, FilmCriticHulk does make some good points regarding the use of language, and I agree that this game should probably be rated 'M', particularly considering the common state of the current Batman mythos.

However I'm not coming at this particular issue in a vacuum here, considering I've read some Catwoman comics (from before the relaunch), and as much as it makes some people cringe, sexualization has always tended to be a part of her character. I don't have a problem with her flirting or making sexual advances on Batman, and to be completely honest, I can understand the slurs the bad guys and even some of the good guys throw at her (considering her questionable hero status at points and the always questionable morality of the Gotham Police Department).

And while it's more than a little annoying, I can see some of the insults directed by evil henchmen at Harley Quinn - as much as I really don't like admitting it, sexism wouldn't surprise me coming from that crowd. And once again, they ARE the villains.

Where I draw the big line here is with Batman. If he's tossing around that kind of language or exhibiting those types of attitudes, we're moving into Frank Miller territory, and there I will come down against Arkham City. Batman does not need to call anyone a bitch - he's way too cool to stoop to that level. Granted, I haven't played the game, but if this really happens in the story... then yeah, I'd have problems with it.

Eh, I haven't played the game yet, so I'm really not sure where I fall on this - although I look forward to the inevitable episode focusing on it.

Chris Pranger said...

Strange, while playing as Catwoman I was more inclined to beat the ever-loving hell out of these crooks than high-five them, agree they were right, and shut the game off and oppress women.

From a writer's standpoint, you don't throw in your A game to the lowly goon NPC's, not with a script this large. You characterize them as not just brainwashed henchmen but as crass, crude, and general dickbags. It makes it easier to justify Batman breaking their arms and legs Ong-Bak style. But this is a T-rated game, so no, they don't get to say the "realistic" words here. The goal isn't realism, it's atmosphere. They don't sound silly and they don't sound overly offensive. They sound like jerks, pure and simple, and the point was to insert generic fist-fodder into a Batman game...according to my expert opinion.

Other M, however...well I see sort of what they were going for, but it was hamfisted and just plain poorly done from all levels. They were trying to be serious and couldn't pull it off, but they were also trying to get away with the game mechanics excuse and that didn't work either, so in the end it just looked stupid and poorly thought out.

Regardless, these issues, however valid they may be, have zero relation to one another. I don't quite see why we're making the leap here, stringing together two vaguely similar entities. Is the goal to say that Other M really was sexist, or that Arkham City clearly isn't because Other M wasn't? I...don't quite see the end game here.

Mads said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8GtkcXL_3g

Second part of the batman episode where Harley Quinns backstory is first revealed.

This is the background of the game character as well, as far as I remember. Watch it for context.

Here's another clip, this one with better sound, from the same episode.

Harley is an incredibly tragic character, and really works because of the underlying gender issues at play.

In the episode, the Joker might not be calling her a bitch, but he _does_ slap her and throw her out a window in a bit of domestic violence.

Calling her a bitch would certainly be no more hurtful than what he did. It would be shallow and stale by comparison, bad writing, but not worse.

The hulk thinker Bob linked...I read the article. He talks about mood a ton. Here, the mood would be, "use domestic violence to illustrate the tragic fate of giving unconditional love to a horrible person". I think. Either way, it's not used purely to make the joker seem evil, though it accomplishes that too.

I can't judge the mood of the game without playing it, but the underlying gender issues of harleys character make it clear that gender issues are a part of the Batman franchise. I'm not sure I've ever seen _racism_ in the franchise.

So if sexism is in, and racism isn't, it makes a perverted kind of sense to extend that to the game.

Question is, do they leverage the inherent gender issues at play by using those slurs, or are they merely tacked on?

If it's the later, I agree completely with Bob: I believe this is exactly what went wrong with Metroid Other M.

If it's the former, then it's not actually a problem (just like the violence isn't in the episode I linked).

It's bad writing either way (because it's bland), but it's only really problematic if it doesn't work together with the intrinsic tragedy of the characters...if you don't get the sense that the reason they're being called "bitch" is ultimately because of a tragic choice or circumstance that has deeply affected them and their behaviour.

someperson said...

@ Silens

I don't think Batman himself uses the word. I'm not that far into the game, but so far the only people to say 'bitch' are Two-Face and some of the random henchmen (but they do say it alot).

@Moviebob

Are you trying to say that people were looking for reasons to demonize Other M? Because I can't believe that for a second, seeing as most of the sites I visited at the time were really anticipating it.

Popcorn Dave said...

It obviously won't be as big a deal, because, yes, it's the villains doing it, and YES, that makes a difference. Drop your damn agenda already.

I'm not denying that it's badly written (haven't played it) and I definitely don't get why the censors think it's "okay" for these guys to be sexist but not racist, but the situations are NOT the same, so it's nonsense to expect the same reaction. I have a nasty feeling you're just posting this now so that later you can gloat "called it!" and "prove" that the Other M controversy was hypocritical. Please don't - it will ring very hollow.

"Other M," meanwhile, was a Wii game (strike one) doing the retro-throwback thing after the series had spent three prior console installments in a well-regarded FPS series (strike two)

Oh lord. After all this time and all the rebuttals you must have read, you're still suggesting that people hated Other M because it was a Wii game and not an FPS? Seriously??

P.S. Thanks for linking me to FilmCriticHulk. I think he was making a mountain out of a molehill this time, but I checked some of his other articles and he's a damn good blogger. Even if the ALLCAPS are a little hard to read.

Mads said...

@ Chris

MovieBob likes him some nintendo and some Japan, and here's some non-nintendo non-japan game that's comitting similar sexism to a japan-nintendo game, and Bob cleverly wants to compare the public reaction (or lack thereof) to say something about specific members of the public.

He really takes issue with people treating stuff out of Japan differently from stuff out of our culture. He really took offense when people blamed Japanese mindset for the purported sexism of Other M.

His argument is that this will provide a sort-of litmus test for whether or not people were carrying a double standard when criticising Other M and calling it sexist.

Ah, that's an overly simplistic analysis, but that's his end game as far as I can figure.

I think it's a poor litmus test because the differences appear to be quite big, and the first several comments (yours included) point in that direction as well...then again, I haven't played the game, so maybe it'll be a good litmus test after all?

Aiddon said...

huh, interesting observation. Though if it were the good guys saying it (oddly enough I don't remember hearing Kevin Conroy swear even ONCE) I wonder if people would still just hand-wave it. Also, I'll believe accusations of sexism after people try and justify the God of War series absolutely ABYSMAL treatment of women

Steve said...

Other M had a protagonist that was solely dependent on a male for progressing, and was dumber than a board. I don't believe the sexism was intentional, but at the end of the day, Samus was just a very, very badly written female.

Catwoman is an independent female who knows who she is, what she is, and lives with it. She's seductive towards men as a part of her personality, and usually follows up that seductiveness with kicking their ass afterwards. Hell, the game makes you travel back to Selina's department to retrieve two weapons, instead of asking for permission for them. She has always been a seductress, and will continue to be. It's her character, deal with it. As for being a well-written character, that obviously depends on who's writing her ;)

Bob, am I at fault for expecting Samus to be better than what we got? I won't make any illusions that she was this fleshed out character from the get go of the first metroid, but she was gaming's first major heroine. We know for fact that she takes up an alien suit to fight other aliens...by herself. Other M pulled the opposite of that and made her dependent on others, while at the same time giving her a rather boring character. I didn't go hating Other M, I DON'T hate Other M, but I don't like what they did to Samus. They have done NOTHING to Catwoman that wasn't already in her character.

On the subject of the Prisoners, they are sexist, deal with it. When I'm playing Catwoman, I don't necessarily need them calling me bitch, but I am not going to throw a hissy-fit for them calling her one.

My frustration with this entire debate has stemmed down to two things.

A) Bloggers giving major implications that Rocksteady is full of sexists goons, of which I am quite sure they'd be offended by.
B) That people are so simple as to completely ignore this game on the basis of the bad-guys calling the good-guys bad names.

I believe said bloggers are justified in discussing this issue, I do not wish to imply that we should completely sweep this under the rug. But people are more than likely taking this issue out of context and overreacting.

And one last thing, there are many, MANY more games that have come out this year that have contributed a lot more sexism than this one, and at the same time being marketed towards even larger audiences than Batman. And you know what? No one is talking about them, because those games are more or less bad. I hate the fact that Batman: Arkham City, an incredibly fantastic game, is getting the shit kicked out of it by a few bloggers for something that many other games have done much worse.

And Bob, I do feel how you feel about Other M, because I am feeling it with Batman right now, but I do still disagree about the comparison between the two.

Sylocat said...

From the comments of the FilmCriticHulk post: this charming gem.

Yeah...

Lord Fluffy said...

My Problem with other M is EVERYTHING.

the writing, voice acting, touchy as fuck controls, stupid gameplay elements, switich to first person JUST to fire missiles. Rage inducing "searching sections" in first person where it's never obvious what you're supposed to look at. ETC ETC.

i don't hate on other M for JUST it's writing. i hate on it because i personally see it as a horribly made game. i was personally excited for it when i heard it was gonna be like it. too fucking bad team ninja fucked it up -.-

Anonymous said...

What else do you think a prison island to call a woman. I think its pretty light compared to what they would really say...

Anonymous said...

eh beats Im dying but cant save my self intill the guy tells me i can...

Ian said...

Oh boy, where to start indeed.

First off, Bob, I'd really like to know what part of the internet you still hang out in where you think a majority of people's qualms with Other M's narrative and Samus' character has to do with Japan AT ALL. If you bother to read/watch some of the more well-known criticisms of the game's story (Elephant in the Room, Learning from Other M, both of your original video's rebuttals), none of them mention Japan once. Not even Yahtzee says any of that; instead, he blamed the story and Samus' character on Team Ninja. Just think about that: the story and characterization is bad enough that not just he, but several people thought that it was 'typical' of Team Ninja when it was actually Nintendo's Sakamoto all along.

In fact, one of these criticisms blames WESTERN culture for the story and Samus' character, as the relationship between Samus and Adam just strikes a little too close to Bella and Edward for some (you really can't argue that Twilight has gotten popular enough that the eyes of the world see it as a part of our cultural landscape).

Secondly, a short point as many others have said, it's all about context. Violent criminal inmates calling women bitches? Considering that they're never portrayed to be sympathetic or likable, that's kind of a good thing, because their behavior is shown to be a BAD thing; it would be like have a racist character who happens to be the antagonist. However, Adam idly watching Samus enter hostile, hazardous environments without telling her it's okay to equip her non-lethal fireproof suit, who'd also shoot her in the back with a potentially lethal firearm, Samus raising no objections to anything Adam says or does, and I'm supposed to like this? No. It's almost scary to think that if someone in the game or Samus herself began to realize that her relationship with Adam was an unhealthy one, the story would actually come off as better.

Thirdly, please stop pretending that people were out to hate Other M before it was out. Watch the E3 reveal; people cheered. Websites gave the trailer and the game 'biggest surprise/most anticipated game/best trailer' awards, and people commented on forums everywhere that they'd buy a Wii just for Other M. The reason people are out to get it now is because not only is it a step back for Metroid, it's also a step back for gaming in general. There's not a single thing it does better than any game on any platform you care to name, not even Metroid Prime; the FPS had more to do with classic Metroid than Other M, which is just sad. Its gameplay is so simplified that it plays itself, and its story is so bad that people mistake it for promoting sexism and misogyny. Sakamoto himself said that Other M was 'perfect,' that it came out exactly how he wanted it. With that said, pray tell, who in their right mind would want him to make another M?

P.S.:

Again, I almost never see anyone look at Other M and say 'Oh, Japan.' In fact, the only person I see bringing up Japan whenever Other M is mentioned is YOU, Bob. Either you're trying to make people with legitimate claims look bad, which is just childish (strawman, anyone?), or you're more insecure with Japan than you think. You might want to do a little introspection.

P.S.S:
And for the record, Other M isn't a retro throwback. That would imply it actually plays like the original sidescrollers (spoiler: there isn't any sidescrolling, only a very limited control scheme).

Aiddon said...

actually, from what I understand reading stuff from the Metroid Database Forums, that Elephant article was a SATIRICAL breakdown. So...yeah, seems like everyone who took it seriously has wasted their goddamn time

Mads said...

@ Sylocat

Yeah, they're not making an excellent showing. They're narcicists though, not sexists. They might as well have made big bully jock monsters, though hating on women probably feels more safe because it doesn't remind them of their own failures.

It's a huge issue in society in general, but especially within gaming; for some reason, a solo activity that pads you on the back and always makes you come out a winner in the end makes you think very highly of yourself, to the detriment of those different from you. Who'da thunk.

But they're not sexists at their core, just...silly self-endulgent little boys who feel a little more safe about making women the bad guys.

BleedingNeuron said...

I just had to add to this, catwoman by default is a sexy lady, i mean throughout all branches of dc lore she has been the pin up fetish icon for ages,


that being said, i read hulk(gonna read more love it) but for gods sack i just got done watching Extra credit talk about lazy game design creating horrible, and in the case of jurez(horrible horrible) I have to fault the game maker, I mean you have millions of millions of dollars flung your way and i see why this mistake(and ill call it a mistake cause i hope to god this was not intended).

I mean seriously i could take 5 mins and draw up a non sexist way to deal with joker's lady friend and catwomen that would lend great deal more growth to both batman and both characters while still not hedering gameplay...

here is shot from hip, rather than havering twoface brutalize her and have hero swing in, have catwomen waiting in the wings, watching, looking for the moment to struck when either is least exspecting it?

i dunno i have not played the game but to do wrong by 60 year old character arcs for easy get in your face piss off lines is a disservice to us all.

Jannie said...

Bob...

Jesus where do I begin, I don't even...

No, you insufferable little man, it is NOT the same problem as Other M. The problem with Other M was a previously strong willed, indomitable female protagonist being reduced to a whimpering child by the sight of a monster SHE KILLED EIGHT TIMES THAT MORNING.

And no, it didn't "all happen in a few seconds", you can't possibly prove that nor do you have any evidence of that (yeah I watched the new video).

Your massive blindspot for Japanese culture in general and Japanese games in particular is causing you to overlook some very blatant and obvious gender power-structure "stuff" that is painfully obvious to every other adult human being who has EVER READ ABOUT JAPANESE CULTURE and knows about how they view women. They don't hate women, they just see them as inferior.

In THIS game a bunch of criminals call a woman kicking their ass a bitch. Fuck I am a woman, I'd call a woman kicking my ass a bitch. Especially a nutcase dressed like a fucking furry.

So no, it's not the same fucking thing. And you know what, you FUCKING KNOW it is not the same thing. You're being purposefully obtuse just because it benefits you, and it's fucking insulting--to women, to your fans (i.e., not me) and to the people who have been hurt or marginalized by the very culture you're constantly defending. Stop doing it.

Jesus.

Alfredo 'kuomon' Berguido said...

I'm sorry Bob, but I fail to understand how you can insist on defending Other M and purporting that the only reason for the backlash against it had to do with apparent sexism.

It's true that many prowlers of the internet used as a chance to lash out their japanophobic agendas, just like some other internet prowlers used it to lash out their feminist agendas.

At the end of the day though, Other M failed due to terrible writing, and as mentioned in your latest episode, terrible execution of said writing. I remain baffled how at how a movie critic like you continues to ignore this problem whenever you discuss the other issues surrounding the game.

awwnuts07 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
awwnuts07 said...

My beef with Other M was it's corny dialogue. AC doesn't have that, so I'm cool. Loved the gameplay though. I just turned off the sound when the "story" was playing.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy how only guy critics have been complaining about this issue, yet a lot of females (With exclusions, obviously) essentially giving a "Really?" message to critics.

I'm just saying.

Sylocat said...

I'd really like to know what part of the internet you still hang out in where you think a majority of people's qualms with Other M's narrative and Samus' character has to do with Japan AT ALL.

The Escapist, for one. The second paragraph of their review, when they started in on the problems, said, "The series has become too Japanese," and used that as their jumping-off point for lecturing about attitudes toward "submissive" women.

Popcorn Dave said...

What Escapist review are you talking about? I can only find this one and Yahtzee's.

Sylocat said...

Dang... I could have sworn that review was on The Escapist. Forgive me, I'm a bit under the weather... I wonder where I read it now.

However, while we're at The Escapist, just read through the COMMENTS on that review right there for some prime examples of what Bob was talking about. Every third comment contains a smug generalization about Japanese culture.

Mads said...

Oh, and Jannie in this thread also generalized about japanese culture.

I'm not saying she's wrong or right (I don't have a clue), but she did bring it up.

@ Jannie

I didn't say anything earlier since I don't feel like picking a fight over this but it's been nagging me...Really? Insufferable little man? I believe you also called him an asshat in the other thread?

Why lower yourself to that level? What good does it do?

I mean, if you just want to vent, you might as well let it out, but if you have an agenda or want to actually convince people of something and not just piss them off, I think the high road might lead to more of that than being mean. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Bob: "Look at all the pageviews I'm getting!"

Anonymous said...

"As said, it's weird that they'd be sexists but not ALSO racists"

Do you expect them to start calling batman and catwoman crackers?

Also I see nothing wrong with having some parts be unrealistic but the setting and background characters try to be realistic (or at least gritty).

I don't think it needs to be a binary "go for as much realism as possible" or "don't bother making anything realistic".

toosoo said...

I saw a little bit of a lets play of Arkum City and the thing that stood out for me more is "Man bat mans getting beat up alot" lol seriously he gets knocked out like 2 or 3 times from what ive seen so far ,but were not here for that. Its really is just a plot convienance so they can have bat-man reappear in new places(and like yatzee said in one of his reviews "why does everything in a game need to be explianed")

if it comes from bad guys its expected it doesn't make it good and it should probrobly make it M- rated ,but other then doing the soccer mom thing and making it a media thing and writing letter its probrobly not gonna change.

I can see what your saying bob there is some confusion to the way people think about japan. At the same time though,japan doesn't necessarily have the same inabitons about sex that most countrys do.Mostly caused they closed themselves off from the world eventually being reopened by force by an american admiral in the 1800's during that time they had no real contact with the outside world. I believe shinto(I think thats the name for it) is the main religion of japan and again it doesn't have the same inabitions about sex that most other countrys that had to deal with the spread of christianity(at least I think so I'm not exactly sure about shinto).

Samus has never been a considered a girly character and as the guys at extra credits said she wasnt completely devoid of character she just didn't have much.While comics have been around longer then videogames their still not really considered art while there have been several steps in the right direction with comics being considered art(which they are) its still seen as something for children even if that isn't or was never true at least from the older set(I know my dad still sees comics and videogames as childish).

In both these instances I think it just comes down to people not thinking about their actions and The stigma the keeps both of these mediums seen as a childrens thing.

Catwoman has always been a sexualized character at least in some sense and see can be shes the bad guy(she does good thing occasionally ,but she still a bad guy) and its the same thing with harley.Samus on the other hand has been this silent hero and seeing her sexaulized(as in submision of a man that she respects or maybe even loved/loves)ruins that quiet hero.

I think the way most saw samus was like a femme fatale characacter with acrobatic ability and a gun for a hand.They may of seen her as a working woman that could do anything a man could do(maybe even better).It really just depended on their personality the last thing anyone suspected was a sumissive armed forces woman who takes orders.

That really just my thoughts about it.

Pat said...

For me, it's not so much about making the inmates "realistic" by making them sexist, it's about making them fun to beat up. Everything about these thugs makes them fun to kick the crap out of, and part of that are the conversations you overhear. They say a lot of things that just make you want to kick the ever-living crap out of them.

The important factor here is that YOU CAN.

In Arkham City, if you hear someone saying "Such-and-such is a crazy bitch" and that offends you, you can literally turn on Detective Mode, find out WHO is saying it, and punch them in the throat and balls. And boy is it satisfying.

Even when they aren't being sexist, half of what the inmates says is designed to get you to want to beat them up. They talk about how they think they can take on Batman/Catwoman, how you're a chicken, and other hyper-masculine bullshit designed to get you to enjoy beating them up.

What makes Other M stand out as more sexist, in my opinion, is that the aspects that are perceived as sexist don't come from the game's antagonists. They come from the supporting character that the protagonist looks up to.

And another thing is, these inmates are talking about the characters in the game. They aren't going to start spouting racial slurs because, frankly, none of the major characters are people of color. But a decent number of the characters they talk about are women, and a typical hyper-masculine put-down for women is "bitch". I don't think it's much of a stretch for the inmates to be sexist without openly acting racist in the context of the game.

Also, I was very happy with the portrayal of Catwoman in this game. Particularly after her portrayal in her new DC comic. Yes, she has some cleavage going on, but she's Catwoman and it's never focused on. You literally open the game with her kicking a ton of ass. She has agency in the game, doesn't depend on Batman's help (except maybe once) and no one gets away with messing with her. Yes, she does flirt a lot, but that's how Catwoman is.

Jannie said...

@Mads

I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything...I have NO agenda, I simply say what I feel is true and if that happens to be calling Bob an asshat and an insensitive, self-indulgent prick (like that) I will. There is nothing wrong with using insults. It's perfectly normal and natural.

I didn't make any "generalizations" about Japanese culture. Again, HAS ANYONE ACTUALLY READ ABOUT THIS SUBJECT? No? Do it. Be shocked. By the by the Japanese don't particularly like Black folks like me either. So again, go, read, be shocked.

Sylocat said...

So, who else thinks Jannie is secretly a fan of Bob's, and is just putting on this ridiculous clown act to make Bob's points look reasonable by comparison?

It's working, by the way.

Pat said...

@Jannie

I'm going to call your expert knowledge on Japanese gender roles into question here. Yes, the Japanese are a bit sexist, particularly if you examine aspects of their media. But I would stand to reason that they are no worse than America in this regard, and even a lot better in some ways. By and large, Japan is heading towards a population decline because more and more women are becoming career-focused. Even women who are mothers are expected to still hold down a job. There is a heavy undercurrent of sexual repression and frustration, partially as a result of the shift in the female work force, but it doesn't exist to dehumanize women in most cases, but rather as an outlet since Japanese are generally discouraged from acting out. And while there is a great deal of fanservice and objectification going on, Japanese popular culture also has a lot of strong female role models that exist both for the female audience and the male audience, which is something America doesn't do often enough. There aren't a lot of "women in charge" archetypes done in American pop culture, and when it does happen, characters are usually surprised by it. In Japanese pop culture, women in charge is nothing unusual and actually fairly common. They also do a lot to question male gender roles, which are often a huge part of how women are treated in society.

Racism is a completely different issue, since I think their impressions of black people mostly comes from a lack of experience, not any inherent hatred or fear. There just aren't that many black people in Japan. It's no excuse, but I don't think an average black person going to Japan would be met with any particular hatred. Perhaps fear, simply because most of what Japanese people probably know about black people they get from American pop culture, which isn't exactly flattering most of the time, but there's no reason they would have any hatred towards black people.

And yes, I do know what I'm talking about. I have taken a few courses on the subject in addition to spending a great deal of time with Japanese pop culture. I know a lot about the history of Japan and (for example) how women's suffrage was essentially forced on them by America at the end of WWII, but the fact is that the role of women in Japan has grown a lot in a short amount of time. Does sexism still exist? Yes. Is it worse in Japan than in America? I don't think so.

Jannie said...

@Slyocat

Actually I used to be a fan of Bob before I realized how myopic and backwards thinking he is. Frankly I just think someone needs to offer a counterpoint. If you REALLY think he's right, well, I can't hope to convince you otherwise. I will say though that Bob has said on one instance he does a lot of stuff to troll the internet. So you probably are just agreeing with someone who doesn't care one way or the other.

@Pat

I don't have any "expert opinion" on anything. But since everyone else on the internet with an opinion presents themselves as an expect (BOB) I can see how everyone expects that.

So-called "fanservice" and "objectification" is not what I have a problem with and I've said it before. That's fine. They do that for women too, especially here in the West.

My problem is with several deliberate choices made that reflect on someone who has a very screwed up view of male-female interactions: namely that women should just sit back and do whatever they're told even if it is needlessly dangerous.

And I never said it was "worse" than anything here. Frankly I don't think worse or better are the words to describe it. I said it EXISTS and that it guided the hand of whoever thought this up. If this were made by an American company I'd say the same thing, and so would Bob. This guy, mind you, says Halo is racist because in the commercial the guy's eyes turn blue. Yes. He did, and I can show you where he did.

So don't misinterpret this as some exclusively Japanese problem. But it is a problem, it exists, and simply saying "it's not THAT bad" or pretending it doesn't is insulting and pointless. It doesn't matter if it's "not so bad" or "no worse" it exists. Racism is a problem, it exists, and the severity is irrelevant. That doesn't mean that there is no racism here, or that EVERYTHING people get worked up over is racism (that DX stuff is just bullshit for example, so is this Arkham City crap) but racism DOES exist and it IS bad who cares why or how severe it is.

And really if the best argument we can make is "It's not as bad as it is in x country" then you're missing the point. It's not about HOW BAD it is, it's about THAT it is.

Jannie said...

I'd also like to point out that Bob as outright called other games racist, sexist and everything in between for doing FAR LESS than Other M but he doggedly defends that.

As I said he called Halo racist, because in the commercial the guy's eyes turn blue when he becomes a Spartan. And he himself has said that RE5 is racist and said so ON VIDEO.

But I'd like us all to think about this: we are forgetting what the problem here really is. He's using accusations of "Japanophobia" and statements like "OMG U Gais Arkham City is like Other M" to distract people from what he's actually saying and why.

He's baiting and switching and changing the subject of the debate, from say sexism to racism, simply because HE KNOWS he has no argument which is why he presented no argument in EITHER video so far. And admittedly I kind of fell for it to for a second but let's not lose sight of the real argument here because that's why he's doing shit like this.

It's a dishonest debating tactic, but one I fear will work since we're not completely off track from the real problem that started all of this: Other M was a shitty game that portrayed a female character as basically a possession of some male NPC and beholden to his commands, Bob defended it by calling everyone racists, and people got angry and rightly so. Now look where we are, we're talking about if racism is worse here in America (it is, by the way) or not. Or if a completely unrelated game with no characteristics in common is "like Other M" because a BAD GUY who you KILL calls the female character a bitch. Which is exactly like Other M in every way except none of them.

So let us not get confused about the real subject here, shall we? If you want a more coherent response I wrote a long-ass one in the Other M Revisited comments section, but I would like to ask people not lose sight of the point here while Bob moves the goalposts.

Diogenes the Dog said...

I didn't notice it at first. I thought the thugs talking about what they'd do to Harley weren't too bright. Anyone who's that close to the Joker and has lived this long as his side can't be a push over, and I was sure that, if they'd tried anything, they would not live to regret it, or indeed live at all.

I wrote off most of it as the sort of misogyny one could expect from a bunch of incarcerated lowlifes who clearly spend less time reading than they do lifting weight and shooting steriods into each other. Reading this article, however, it did occur to me that this is how ALL the women in the game are treated. Really. All of them. I can't think of a single woman who gets any real respect in this game. Maybe Talia Al Ghul, kindof, but even then she spends a lot of her time on screen trying to persuade Batman to take her fathers place (which is superior to her own). And while she's wearing some serious assassin-style gauntlets, there's really no tactical advantage to her exposed midriff.

I suppose there's poison Ivy. She's in charge, last I saw anyway, of a small gang of her own thralls. But from what I recall, the thugs in the city don't think too highly of her either.

Mostly, I attributed the excessive use of "bitch" to lazy writing. Also, I didn't have the sharpest ear tunes to all the NPC dialogue that constantly pours from the streets below as you traverse the city, so I thought it was entirely possible I was hearing the same thing over and over again.

In short, I hadn't really considered the problem as being quite as large as this. But now that it's been pointed out, I find myself wondering how one fixes it. For that, I have no answer.

So let's say you have Arkham City in front of you, pre-release. The problem has been identified and you've been tasked with fixing it. How does that happen? Do you just cut 75% of the "bitch" lines? Have Catwoman zip-up?

I'm not trying to diminish the point you make here or undercut it by implying that if you don't have a solution you're somehow wrong. That would be stupid. But while I grasp intellectually the distinction you're making between Arkham City and Straw Dogs, I'm at a loss for how that tonal change could be made manifest in Arkham. How do you make the game show some respect for women who, I have no doubt, could gut 90% of the game's cast in a heartbeat?

Pat said...

@Jannie

I think you're mixing up Bob's arguments a bit. He's not calling people who think Other M is sexist racist. He's gone on the record saying that arguments made by groups like Extra Credits were valid and interesting, but mostly because it didn't devolve into an argument about how "Japan is like that". Because it's not. Not in any way we can objectively criticize as being "uniquely Japanese" at least.

Bob believes that the sexist implications of Other M are unintentional and he makes a decent enough argument. Do I necessarily agree? I agree with certain parts, but not all, but I do agree that the reaction to Other M was overblown.

Bob's biggest issue isn't with those who disagreed with his point, his issue is with people who seem to think that the most convincing argument for why Other M is sexist is because it was made in Japan.

In this article in particular, he posits the theory that while some have similarly accused Arkham City as being sexist, many gamers have been very vocal against this.

Bob believes this is because Arkham City is a "harcore" title made in the USA. I don't particularly agree, at least not entirely, but I don't think he's entirely wrong.

I'm sure a lot of people did join in the hate storm on Other M because it was a Japanese Wii game that tried to give a beloved icon a voice and emotions. Even if this was handled well, it probably still would have gathered a lot of malice from people who had their own ideas about Samus in their heads.

He nor I are saying that the people who find Other M sexist don't have a case. He's just saying that what might be one reason why this particular hatred became so widespread is because Other M was already less palatable to the hardcore audience.

He doesn't have a problem with people like you who justifiably disagree with him, he has a problem with people who have turned Other M into a reason to accuse Japan and Nintendo of a lot of things they probably don't really deserve.

There ARE people who think that. People will post pictures from Akihabara of very lewd and occasionally disturbing things, or things they dug up on 4chan, etc. and use it as evidence condemning Japanese culture as a whole for being misogynistic and allowing this injustice to occur to Samus Aran.

But as soon as an AMERICAN game does this, people get defensive. Arkham City isn't the only case of this. There are PLENTY of sexist roles in video games, not to mention a significant lack of female protagonists in general, and most of the time, no one gives a crap. And it's not just games either. Take a look at some of the responses from fans over the treatment of certain characters in recent comic books. "Red Hood and the Outlaws" literally turned Starfire into an emotionless fuck toy and instead of seeing it as a larger problem with American culture, they DEFEND IT and say "relax, it's just entertainment".

What Bob is discussing isn't a figment of his imagination. A portion of this IS a double-standard. I don't agree that it's the whole issue, because as we've both mentioned, Arkham City isn't really in the same ballpark as Other M, but it's not something Bob made up to defend Other M.

I do think he should have actually PLAYED Arkham City before he drew this comparison, but he's not just blowing hot air.

Sylocat said...

If you want a more coherent response I wrote a long-ass one in the Other M Revisited comments section

Yes, we know. You've written about fifty of them.

Mads said...

@ Jannie
"I didn't make any "generalizations" about Japanese culture. Again, HAS ANYONE ACTUALLY READ ABOUT THIS SUBJECT? No? Do it. Be shocked. By the by the Japanese don't particularly like Black folks like me either. So again, go, read, be shocked."

Well you wrote with broad, sweeping strokes. You don't have to write "All japanese are sexist" for it to be a generalization, so that's how I saw it.

All the same, forgive me if you feel I mischaracterized your statement by attaching a label to it; I did it to point out that you're an example of a person who does point to japanese culture in general as a plausible tie-in to the problem, thereby illustrating that the argument is being made, even as someone in the comments here claimed that it wasn't being made.

Whether you're right, again, I have no idea about. Not something I'm that interested in having an opinion on. Japan is far away, has few social problems, and I find it really hard to care about what goes on there when there are insane overt problems in many other countries.

And well, the targeted personal insults make you seem rude and mean (yeah, I'm playing the part of captain obvious, but fuck it, it needs to be said). And if you want to bully someone, yeah, sure, I suppose there's nothing wrong with insults.

But when I see someone doing that, though, I can't help but ask them to tone it down. I would do the same thing in real life, wouldn't you? Insults are designed to pester and anger, cause misery and turmoil. They're cruel, and my point was, they're completely unnecessary if you want to participate in a discussion of the subject matter.

Mads said...

@ Jannie

Actually, my last post was probably disingenuous.

I suppose the main reason I'm annoyed that you're using insults is because I think you sometimes provide good points, and you often provide valuable insights, and I really do _want_ to listen to what you have to say even as I really _hate_ personal insults.

I've reread what I wrote, and tbh, I'm coming off too high&mighty.

And so, I apologize for trying to cramp your style. There are far more things that I like about your contributions than there are things I dislike, and that wasn't clear at all.

Also, yes, I completely agree that Bob needs to be counterweighted on a number of issues. I don't think that necessarily comes down to trolling, though, and I believe he's opinionated style encourages fruitful conversation a good amount of the time.

mstieler said...

first off, I have not played this game. Take what I saywith a grain of salt, as I can very easily be getting mechanics wrong.

While this has probably been sai by more than myself, I figure there could have been a relatively easy workaround for the "can't use it til you're told to" mechanic:

An altered suit (granted, in-game it's not, but it could have worked), given to Samus by the group she's working with, which has all these much-more-high-tech equipment than the guys she's running with; something the whomever it is would like to keep under wraps as much as possible.

It would seem easy from this point to have to get to a point where the the tech is necessary to proceed, and you get a scene where the authorization needs to happen (whether in some control room, boardroom, or whatever). This could account for the delay in getting say, the fire suit upgrade until halfway through the level: if you have some bureaucratic/corporate/military types arguing over whether the suit is absolutely necessary to continue, they're going to need a little time to come to that conclusion.

There's my two cents on it.

Coatlmon said...

To all those people saying that Japan isn't any worse when it comes to sexist behavior-You're wrong. DEAD WRONG. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fd20041107pb.html This lovely man, Shinsuke Shimada, used to be one of the most popular television hosts in Japan. He only recently resigned after it was revealed he had ties to the Yakuza-http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/25/shinsuke-shimada-resigns-yakuza-links
If this guy pulled this crap in the US, he would have likely been fired on the spot. And unfortunately this is fairly common. There have even been women-only cars installed on the subway to attempt to help stop groping-http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/International/story?id=803965
So yeah, guess what Bob, Japan does lag behind in gender issues, and what goes on Other M is actually pretty common. So stop whining about how people aren't calling out other games as much, especially when said games are made in a country that actually has gender equality.

Sylocat said...

So yeah, guess what Bob, Japan does lag behind in gender issues, and what goes on Other M is actually pretty common. So stop whining about how people aren't calling out other games as much, especially when said games are made in a country that actually has gender equality.

Gender equality, huh?

Aiddon said...

interestingly, I also noticed that Catwoman in this game (beat it just now)...is kind of unlikeable, too. Not gonna spoil things, but there is one moment during her second episode where she does something that comes off rather childish and even just plain mean. Seriously, Dini didn't really put a whole lot into fleshing out the women in this game. Talia's probably the best of the cast (if you excise Oracle), but even then it's nothing special.

Jannie said...

Of course she's unlikable...she's a psychotic furry who works as a professional thief. She USED to be a villain before she fell in love with Batman. She is fleshed out, she's just fleshed out in a way that's unlikable. Frankly why men like her at all baffles me, despite the fact I'm a cat person.

Likewise, Harley is a psychotic murderer who wants to bone a serial killer, if anyone deserves to get her ass kicked it's miss "I will help in the murder of hundreds, because obviously I'm in love!" If anything she's SUPPOSED to be repugnant. She IS a bitch, she kills people because some asshole tells her to because she thinks he loves her--at best she's deluded and dangerous, at worst she's about as likable as that lady from the Manson Family who stabbed a pregnant woman to death because Charles Manson told her to.

Talia's a terrorist in the comics so I have no idea what she's like in this game, presumably the same. And at any rate she's not very much to write home about there either, like her father he gets blown out of proportion in terms of importance. Oracle is a good person obviously, she probably is the same here too. But if you're trying to claim that "evil female character=underdeveloped female character" you're simply wrong.

Just because you have fully developed female characters doesn't mean they're GOOD GUYS: they can be childish cat-obsessed thieves or serial killers too. And at least that's in keeping with their characters.

Anonymous said...

You are only trying to dismiss the criticism against otherM, actually, and I suspect that is your main reason to write your post. Arkham seems to mostly be your tool to do so.

OtherM did not only have "sexist implications" as you cutely say, it was dripping in deep sexism bad enough that even Nintendo fanboys had a hard time defending it. The very people who like Samus Aran are the people that BOUGHT IT, that already own a Wii, and that are NOT likely to do as you say.

Yet they did.

This isn't "japanophobic", it's a simple matter of fact. Japan is a culture that is more sexist than most western nations (except Germany, actually, which is more similar to Japan than to other western nations when it comes to sexism. This is probably due to the late democratisation). This is evident in many, many things. Did you know that women in Japan still can get fired for being pregnant, and are expected to not return to a job with a child (and thus child = career ender)? Do you know that japanese politicans then turn around, and blame women for the lack of children, because they don't give up their career quickly enough? Yes, several popular japanese politicans have outright stated that women are to blame for Japan's problems. No western country would let such politicans get away with this. Japan does, because we have no alternatives.

Fact. If you ever lived in Japan, which you clearly did not, you would know this.


OtherM is a pile of deep sexist FAIL. Nothing of your derailing changes this.
Arkham Asylum being sexist does not change this, actually - and even if it WAS sexist (which it might be! It looks more like assholes portrayed as assholes thouhg. I do however agree that it's unnecessary and was only added to make sexist male gamers grin and agree) that'd not make OtherM better.

Imagine it like food. OtherM is a soup, that someone dumped a bucket of SEXIST SOJA SAUCE into. It now tastes like sexism, because, well, it mostly consists of sexism.

Imagine another dish. It doesn't matter how much sexist soja someone pours into it: OtherM is still mostly sexist soja with a little soup.



If you truly want a genuine discussion on the failings of Arkham City: Do this. But stop trying to excuse the massive sexism of OtherM by twisting words. This wins you no favor.

Signed, a japanese woman currently teaching japanese history at a european university who is sick of western guys trying to pretend that Japan as a society does not have deep problems with sexism.

If I were in Japan, I would currently be unable to get a proper job. Why? Cause I'm a woman. Fun huh?

ANImaniac said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

Here is 15 cents. The dime is for your dime store analysis.

The nickel is so you can finally buy that second IQ point you have been looking for all your life.

My suggestion to do with it? Rub the new IQ point with your old one together until you start a fire.

Jannie said...

Wow you sure offered a pretty solid counterargument there.

Oh wait, no you didn't you just made an elaborate sarcastic swipe instead of addressing anything he said directly, how...nice?

Aiddon said...

btw, Bob, Arkham City also has a HILARIOUS jab at Lost near the end.

Popcorn Dave said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Popcorn Dave said...

Hang on a mo.. is Anon 12:48 talking to the Japanese woman who teaches Japanese history for a living? He's calling THAT "dime store analysis"? For fuck's sake... how much more qualified to talk about the subject could she possibly BE?

Jannie said...

He's just a child who doesn't understand how reality works. Like most nerds, Anon 12 is just in love with the inane otaku Japanese shit and not willing to look into if anything anyone says is true or not. She could be the Emperor of Japan and he'd still call her wrong, because then somehow he'd have to give up his masturbatory fantasies about being accepted by a society he never would actually be accepted in anyway.

The irony is that Japanese society doesn't put up with nerds the way the West does, because homogenousness is considered a virtue over there and being an otaku is like hanging a sign around your neck saying "plz never have sex with me" in Japan. But nerds don't know that because they don't care to find that out.

shadowhikari said...

If you mean will Arkham city will bomb in sales and get people who play the previous games to hate it...then no.

I know you want people to suddenly turn around and love Metroid other M moviebob buts its gotta turn into a good game first.

Aiddon said...

an interesting writeup about Harley:

http://johnmcusick.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/oh-harley-my-harley/

This brings up another problem in game narrative (oddly enough from the West of all places) in that writers seem to be TERRIFIED of giving characters that avoid empowering the player. This is probably why I have a hard time remembering most game heroes.

Lockgi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lockgi said...

Not that I want to defend or attack Batman. That seems like a horrible idea no matter how you say it.

We could also expect sexism more often in batman overall because of two words..... Frank Miller.

You know, whores, whores, whores, stripper miller?

I find that gaming has a very overt yet unconscious sexist way of thinking. Since the first batman game. Harley, who wore an entire Jester outfit now wears a "Sexy nurse in bondage gear." Now just bondage gear.

Although technically, I guess it is much easier to move around in? Maybe it offers more protection? Maybe the boobs will work on batman? That's the problem here. Liked they where going to get taxed if they didn't show up some boob.

Then again, Catwoman and Poison Ivy where always suppose to be "seducers" Although I really don't know why cat woman would be wearing that in winter...

Is gaming sexist? Hell yeah it is.

However I don't think Two Face, PRISONER INMATES calling women bitches is indicator at all, since they probably would be saying insults like that.

Also, Bman:AC is better written then Other M, even if it was from the fault of localization. I'll give you this at least, it wasn't Japan's fault for Other M, it was TEAM NINJA, THE GUYS THAT MADE BREAST PHYSICS A PRIORITY IN THEIR GAMES FAULT!

Sorry to say, but it just sound like your grabbing for straws here for your Other M case. Not that the new DC comics are making any type of the new "liberated woman" as appose to just making them "dudes with boobs" as one person made an entire article on.

http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/09/22/starfire-catwoman-sex-superheroine/