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Captain's Log -
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I have a confession to make. I'm a feminist, and I fucking love Grand Theft Auto.

The story is interesting enough to be a movie in itself (or at least a direct-to-cable movie). The characters are well developed, well acted, and funny. The gameplay and controls are intuitive, and music is good. The map is insanely detailed, and you're always coming across something you didn't know was there. The "sandbox" setup gives you many, many possibilities to complete your missions, and if you don't feel like playing the storyline, you can go knock around the city and cause some random mayhem.

Speaking of random mayhem: someone told the Feministing ladies that you can kill the prostitutes in GTA, and all hell broke loose. Ordinarily, I love Feministing, but Samhita is flat-out wrong here.

Their major points, judging from the original poster and the comments, seem to be:

Oh my god! That's terrible! I am shocked, SHOCKED that this is on sale!
The game is called "Grand Theft Auto". Don't tell me you were expecting Cooking Mama.

Children shouldn't be allowed to play this!
That's why it's got that "M" sticker. If you see kids playing it, feel free to call their parents. Actually, feel free to call their parents ignorant twits, because that's what they are.

But but but it's sexist!
Not disagreeing with you there. There's not a lot of positive portrayals of women in the the GTA series. And the strip club stuff is just flat-out demeaning. (Also pointless, unless you happen to like pixelated soft-core pr0n.)

The largest audience for games, and the main consumers of games have been young men, so most games, even the PG-rated ones, tend to skew male. Some companies have tried to make games specifically for girls, but honestly.. they suck. If you're a lady who likes action games, you're stuck playing as a male avatar, or just dealing with other manifestations of a sexist mindset.

But this is a problem with a lot of games. Women tend to be portrayed as ho's, double-crossing ho's, or princesses in need of rescue. Even playing a woman protagonist, most of the time she's very obviously designed to appeal to adolescent boys. I'm looking at you, Lara Croft. You too, Rayne. But video games aren't the only source of rampant sexism. There's movies, TV shows, politics, fashion... It's pretty short-sighted to single out GTA as public enemy #1 when there's enough sexist crap to go around.

[Fortunately, it's changing. It's a glacial change, but video game companies are gradually coming around to the fact that woman *gasp* play video games. Guitar Hero, Super Smash Brothers and Dance Dance Revolution are all kickass party games that don't objectify women. Unfortunately, first-person action games haven't quite caught up yet.]

Taken as a standalone thing, that's pretty fucked up. But describing GTA as "the hooker-killing game" is like describing The Sims as "the game where where everyone pees their pants."

You can kill *everyone* in these games. Men, women, hippies, rollerbladers, cops, old people, construction workers, rival thugs, and yes, hookers. It's an equal-opportunity nihilism. Unlike real life, if you're caught killing a hooker, you get the exact same number of cops on your ass as if you had killed a white guy in a business suit. How's that for progressive values? :P

Unless something has radically changed in this new incarnation, going on a sex-worker killing spree has never been part of the story line. But, yes, given the open-ended "sandbox" format of the game, I could depart from the story line for a while to go kill hookers if I felt like it.* I could also depart from the story line to drive a limo backwards through an alley, mow over some innocent bystanders, run off a jump, flip over a four-way intersection and land upside-down in a crowded shopping mall.

And yet, you don’t see AAA freaking out that GTA will cause our innocent, corruptible, youth to try and flip their cars through the mall. The GTA universe is so divorced from reality that it's practically a cartoon. If you're trying to emulate GTA, please do the world a favor and quit blaming your significant problems on a video game when the rest of us sane people can differentiate between fantasy and reality.

But what really chaps my hide (eats my quarter?) is when people start off their objections by saying "I HAVE NEVER SEEN OR PLAYED THIS GAME, BUT I HAVE FORMED STRONG OPINIONS…" There are actually a surprising number of them on the site above, including the author of the original post.

I say balls to your strong opinions, sister. Reforming video games to be less sexist won't come from a gaggle of scolds freaking the hell out over something that they've admittedly never played. It didn't work for Tipper Gore, it didn't work for Jack Thompson, and it won't work for you. I'm sure Rockstar will appreciate you doing their marketing for them, though. Rockstar's whole schtick is based on cultivating a "macho" image-- hysterical shrieking about how "video games corrupt the childrens!" just feeds into that.

However, if they started getting complaints from the not-insignificant number of women who actually play GTA saying "the prostitutes are lame and sexist" you're damn right there would be some changes made.

I guess what I'm getting at, ladies who don’t-play videogames but have no problem condemning them, is Shut. Up. Don't pass judgment on a game until you've either played it or at talked to someone who does. I'd like to acknowledge your womynity by giving you a supportive space to share your feelings, but this kind of "think of the children!!!!" hysteria makes gamers look like nihilistic sociopaths, and adds to the stereotype that feminists are humourless gits. As someone who's both, I don't appreciate it.

And ladies-who-actually-play-games, if you're playing a game and the sexism bugs you that much, speak up and tell the game makers. Write some emails and tell them exactly why their game sucks. Better yet, tell them why you don't want to buy the sequel.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go cause a little vehicular wo/manslaughter. :D

*killing the ho's is actually a tedious way to get money. If you want to kill people for cash, look for a drug dealer standing around, cap him with a head shot and he'll drop a giant pile of dough, and sometimes a weapon. Score!

Tags: ,

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ipsin From: ipsin Date: April 30th, 2008 07:06 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
I'm quite peeved by your post, because you appear to be playing Grand Theft Auto IV. My 360 console decided to die about a week ago, and your rampant... havingitism is really quite galling!
kar3ning From: kar3ning Date: April 30th, 2008 10:17 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
I didn't realize I was being so haveitist. I'm sorry I was so insensitive! :D
chowyunsmut From: chowyunsmut Date: April 30th, 2008 07:24 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
This is incredibly well written, and I'm glad that I know you, simply so that I *could* read this. Mind if I send a link to a (female) friend of mine who writes about games?
kar3ning From: kar3ning Date: April 30th, 2008 09:50 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
Hey, thanks! Link to whoever you want. :)
chowyunsmut From: chowyunsmut Date: April 30th, 2008 10:04 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
I sent her the link, but I also agree with keshaphim that it needs to be in print somewhere. Seriously.
kar3ning From: kar3ning Date: April 30th, 2008 10:33 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)

Well, you're more of a blogger than I am-- know anywhere that's looking for submissions? ^_^
chowyunsmut From: chowyunsmut Date: April 30th, 2008 10:39 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
Not a clue. Salon? Radar magazine? I'd get crackin' on it while it's still topical, though. I may be a blogger, but my blog is the only place I currently get "published", if you can call it that.
6827 From: 6827 Date: April 30th, 2008 07:43 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
Best post ever!

Between you and a couple of other people I am possibly changing my stance on this game to 'eh, more of the same in all the wrong ways who cares' to 'eh, I guess maybe I'll buy it'
kar3ning From: kar3ning Date: April 30th, 2008 10:27 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
I haven't got too far into it yet, but yes, more of the same, in all the right ways. The driving is actually a little trickier, but I'm not sure if it's because I haven't accumulated experience, or if they're just trying to make it more realistic. We shall see.
From: clynne Date: April 30th, 2008 08:03 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
Well-written! And all true!

I've always enjoyed that killing hookers is *not* an optimal strategy in the later GTA episodes, and that killing drug dealers *is*.

In the future, I'd like to see the following changes in the series, though:
  • Male hookers as well as female.
  • Female drug dealers as well as male.
  • Can buy and consume drugs as an analogous gameplay operation to sex with hookers, instead of just when the storyline calls for it.

Just imagining the retardation that would break loose in many game discussion communities if male hookers existed brings a HUGE smile to my face. HUGE.
kar3ning From: kar3ning Date: April 30th, 2008 10:05 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
Male hookers would be hilarious. Really, if you're learning anything from this game, it's that it's an incredible pain in the butt to lure unsuspecting people into your hoopty ride and kill them for money.

Dropping a drug dealer is quicker and much more lucrative, and in the game's (warped, fucked up) morality, an act of good, as long as the cops don't see it. Also, if I remember right, one of your first missions in San Andreas is to go break up a crack house with a baseball bat. Awesome!

As far as the *taking* drugs aspect of the game-- I've heard that you can get drunk and have it affect the gameplay, but I haven't got to that part yet. I'm still getting the hang of the controls and shaking down shopowners for protection money.
underwhelm From: underwhelm Date: April 30th, 2008 01:36 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
Having just been invited to hit the bar, I think Rockstar's message with that gameplay mode is clear: don't drink and drive.
From: clynne Date: April 30th, 2008 03:59 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
I think drunkenness is a new feature in GTAIV.

And, yeah, San Andreas has a very, uh, anti-drug message. I mean, within the context of the game. Early on, you bust up a crack house, then eventually you take on the big dealer for the entire neighborhood and IIRC you burn down his warehouse.
thefreak From: thefreak Date: April 30th, 2008 08:11 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
As you said, Rockstar gets off on the negative publicity. So, people writing int ot complain would be about as useful as...writing ANY company to complain about something.
kar3ning From: kar3ning Date: April 30th, 2008 10:13 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
I still say that if enough women give them a monetary incentive to change, they'll change. Pleeeth.

Dear Rockstar,

I love me some GTA, but I keep getting harassed on your online version. I cancelled my XBox account, so you won't be getting any of my green, green money.

2fly From: 2fly Date: April 30th, 2008 09:25 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
Ha! That was so bad ass... (Mine arrives in the mail tomorrow!)
kar3ning From: kar3ning Date: April 30th, 2008 10:15 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
Woo hoo! Have fun running things over. :D
keshaphim From: keshaphim Date: April 30th, 2008 09:54 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
*golf clap*

That was awesome. It needs to be in print.
kar3ning From: kar3ning Date: April 30th, 2008 10:31 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
Why thank you! Umm.. know anywhere? :\
keshaphim From: keshaphim Date: April 30th, 2008 10:37 am (UTC) (lock coordinates)
I dunno - LA Times Editorial? LA Tweekly?
underwhelm From: underwhelm Date: April 30th, 2008 01:34 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
My compliments. I followed your link at the bottom of the feministing thread. I was sorry to see that I had missed that discussion (I was probably playing GTA-IV when it was posted), but I think you covered most of the points I would have tried to make.

GTA-IV won't be the first or last narrative to suffer from accusations of weak female characters (assuming it's a valid accusation—I'm only 4 hours into the game). (see, e.g., The Godfather, Scarface)

I will say that the midnight release line was a sausage party, and I'd wager that most of the guys weren't exactly feminists. But what they choose to do in the game outside of the primary narrative is, as you say, of their own choosing.

Edited at 2008-04-30 01:43 pm (UTC)
angeldye From: angeldye Date: April 30th, 2008 01:41 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
fuck a doodle doo I need to go and get it. Shit the last one I played on the PS2 all I did was go and steal cars and kill people.. I didn't even really "play" the damned thing.

I want
alex_victory From: alex_victory Date: April 30th, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
My cousin, who works at Rockstar in their marketing department, claims that there are in fact several strong female characters in the game. I would give examples but some of them are pretty major spoilers.
kar3ning From: kar3ning Date: April 30th, 2008 07:00 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
Of course, what constitutes a "strong female character" is a rant for another time, but it's nice to know they're at least making an effort to include women who aren't hos, victims, or hapless pedestrians. :)

No spoilers! *runs back to the controller*
(Deleted comment)
kar3ning From: kar3ning Date: April 30th, 2008 07:46 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
It's not so much a sense of humor as being irked when people who admittedly don't play video games start thinking they should review them.

And hello!
dr_jekyl From: dr_jekyl Date: April 30th, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
Another girl gamer here, and you're absolutely dead to rights. It pticks me off no end when people bitch about video games without having played them, or immediatly cry 'think of the children' when discussing games that are not intended to be consumed by children and have ratings labels on the goddamn front.

I'm a passing fan of the GTA series. I'll wait for it to come out on PC. Once it hits there, I'm sure some enterprising female gamer will create a mod that allows you to play through as a woman if there is a market for it.
djsendai From: djsendai Date: April 30th, 2008 05:00 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
as someone who lived off of SM blvd for several years, I am offended that this game doesn't offer the same opportunities of exposure as my TV/TS friends.

How can this game cater to all of us if you can't kill a transvestite hooker, possibly while with Eddie Murphy in tow?

I demand satisfaction!
kar3ning From: kar3ning Date: April 30th, 2008 07:02 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
Well, no one has discovered a "hot coffee" mod for this one. Yet.
eain From: eain Date: April 30th, 2008 05:15 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
Well said! Thank you for writing this.

Also, the next time we do a massive Rock Band session at my place, should I invite you and thefreak?
thefreak From: thefreak Date: April 30th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
Fuck yeah!
eain From: eain Date: April 30th, 2008 08:01 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
kar3ning From: kar3ning Date: April 30th, 2008 07:11 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
yesplease. ^_^
eain From: eain Date: April 30th, 2008 08:01 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
oslowe From: oslowe Date: April 30th, 2008 05:40 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)

Oh, and Amen, sister.
sinsation666 From: sinsation666 Date: May 1st, 2008 05:56 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
Of course there's killing the prostitutes. How else are you going to get your money back?
kar3ning From: kar3ning Date: May 1st, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC) (lock coordinates)
You wouldn't be out the money if you hadn't visited her in the first place. It's far less tedious to take out a drug dealer and then hit the Burger Shot.
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