We talk N64, what holds up, what doesn’t, and what is retro gaming to us.
It’s no secret that Polygon has a feminist agenda. It’s not a bad thing; it’s actually a great thing. Women need a voice in gaming journalism that will champion them. One that is loud enough to be heard and tactful enough to be taken seriously. Polygon could be that voice… I’m just not sure they are with their review of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.
While there are problematic gender tropes in gaming and female characters that are portrayed offensively, it doesn’t mean every opinion piece and every review of a game featuring women represents an opportunity to march farther down the feministic warpath. It degrades and dilutes what could otherwise be a strong and incredibly valuable voice for women in gaming.
In Polygon’s otherwise stunning review of one of the most anticipated games of 2015, the reviewer complains about violence towards women and over-sexualization of its female characters. My curiosity swelled and I looked up the character model of Ciri, whose “shirt is unbuttoned in the middle showing part of her bra.” When I saw the images, I was taken aback. Not by CD Projekt Red but by Polygon.
Source: The Witcher official wikia
This is one of the most conservative female character models I’ve seen in a long time. I see real-life young women every day in more revealing attire and can’t imagine anyone, female or male, being offended by this. Ciri is covered in fabric from head to toe with just a tiny amount of skin peeking through just below her chest. It’s disconcerting to think about how afraid of the female form one must be to take arms against this character’s design when you have questionably young female characters actually being over-sexualized and Dead or Alive characters jiggling about in “volleyball” simulators. If CD Projekt Red was so worried about Ciri’s sex appeal and Barbie good looks, why does she have a deep scar maiming her perfect cheek?
Another female character, Zero Suit Samus, was recently introduced to the Super Smash Brothers series as a sexier, spandex-wearing version of a very popular female role model for girls who play video games. She’s strong, prevailing, dangerous and sexy.
A commenter on an IGN message board with a female avatar puts it like this:
“Why can’t someone be sexy and badass? Does sexuality intimidate you? Are you only allowed to respect women if they are stripped from their sexuality? If so, you’re a pig, plain and simple, and your opinions are trash.”
While I don’t agree that anyone’s opinion is trash, I think this commenter hits on an indelible truth and I find it strange that it is Ciri, a mild character in a mature-rated game, who is pulled aside and ridiculed for being overly sexual. Ciri is not represented as being forced to open her shirt for the pleasure of other male characters. She seems to do it of her own volition. And if so, who are we to tell her she can’t? Should she be forced to cover up and be stripped of her choice to control her own sexuality? Should she have to give it up to men who know better what is good for everyone? It just feels like a lazy add-on to Polygon’s one-sided campaign against the Witcher III for over-sexualizing its women.
To be perfectly fair, Ciri was not Polygon’s only example of over-sexualization of women in its review of the Witcher III. I admit there are other females in the game with sexually attractive bodies and revealing attire. But even if there are far more women wearing far less clothing, I don’t find nudity or sexualization of characters to be a bad thing as long as it is done tastefully, and I say characters because I’m talking about both males and females.
Geralt himself is complete with rippling muscles and a mature, manly face. CD Projekt Red may not be issuing out calendars of his butt, but he certainly isn’t a fat slob with pimples and glasses slaying monsters while echoing the image of the stereotypical gamer.
I didn’t read one complaint in Polygon’s review about the scene where almost ALL of Geralt’s chiseled body is visible and wet as he stands with naught but a towel clinging to his toned waist. Yet the review still frames the issue of sexuality as unfair treatment only towards women.
Maybe I’ll be enlightened when I play the game for myself, but it’s more likely I’ll remain of the opinion that the unrealistic portrayal of male body-types is just as common as that of sleek, skinny females. Take Misturugi and Ivy from Soul Calibur as an example.
Both have outrageous, anatomically-unattainable bodies. Ivy is a scantily-clad woman with large, perfect breasts and thong to augment her derriere. Misturugi is a shirtless samurai with biceps that make basketballs feel like shriveled turnips. However Ivy is considered a sex object to be ogled by men while Misturugi is not perceived sexually – at least not problematically sexual.
And that’s just it. The problem is not with these characters designs, but in the eye of the beholder and how they wish to perceive the human form. I argue that you won’t find many digital heroes, male or female, without equally idealized and impossibly perfect figures. Just take a look at the Justice League or Marcus Fenix.
And let’s not forget. This is a Mature-rated title. It’s supposed to delve into adult themes. It features a dark and gritty fantasy world stripped of pleasure and luxury and filled with hardened characters who deal with very real issues of the medieval era. Artists have a free license to create whatever mature content they want and no one is forcing anyone to play or buy their work.
If we want people to take this art form seriously, we have to let it lead us into places that make us uncomfortable. So if you can’t handle bare breasts and lady butts, washboard abs and massive biceps, violence, torture, gore and drug use, stay away from mature games like the Witcher III.
I have to point out that I have never played the Witcher III and the reviewer has. So I can’t say for sure that it’s not misogynistic as Polygon says or whether sexualization is fairly attributed to both genders. What I can say, and am saying, is that I want Polygon to focus on the problem at hand.
I want them to focus more on the image of female helplessness Princess Peach offers to women in games despite being fully clothed rather than slut-shaming Bayonetta based on her appearance when her character amounts to much more than that. I want them to applaud series’ like Mass Effect, Tomb Raider and Metroid for bringing strong female leads to the forefront. I want them to focus this fight and not dilute it with petty complaints about clothing choices and violence in a game that is targeted towards a mature audience who is supposed to be able to handle mature themes with, well… maturity.
Let the games begin! On May 16, we’re going to play a ton of video games for patriots and gamers who want to support our troops.
At 12 p.m. CST, we are taking it to the next level for the 8-Bit Salute! The 8-bit Salute is a charity program that raises money from Twitch stream donations to supply our deployed soldiers with video games, consoles and other gaming goodies.
We’ll play any game of your choosing from our library of ~400 games across almost any console for 24 hours straight, or as long as we last!
Let us know in the comments below and on our live Twitch stream what to play and how to play it. The more you donate to the cause, the harder we’ll try to accomplish your request. And if you are unable to donate, don’t worry! You’re welcome to join us in a chill setting where all we do is talk games, play games and have a great time.
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Our game library:
- Cruisin USA
- Donky Kong 64
- Diddy Kong Racing
- Excitebike 64
- Golden Eye
- Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
- Mario Kart 64
- Nagano Winter Olympics ‘98
- Perfect Dark
- Rampage 2: Universal Tour
- Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer
- Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Zelda: Major’s Mask
- Ninja Gaiden
- Ninja Gaiden Black
- Gears of War 2
- Gears of War 3
- Halo: Reach
- Rainbow Six: Vegas 2
- Dead Rising 3
- Forza 5 w/ Thrustmaster Racing Wheel and Seat
- Forza Horizon 2 w/ Thrustmaster Racing Wheel and Seat
- Halo Master Chief Collection
- Ryse: Son of Rome
- Sunset Overdrive
- Battlefield 4
- Call of Duty: Ghosts
- Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition
- Dragon Age Inquisition
- Grand Theft Auto V
- Killzone Shadow Fall
- Metro Redux
- Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
- Need for Speed Rivals
- The Last of Us Remastered
- Tomb Raider Definitive Edition
- Wolfenstein: The New Order
NES, SNES, Gamecube, Sega Master System, Genesis, Sega CD, 32x, Saturn, Dreamcast, PS1, PS2, PS3, PC
- Game List Coming Soon
- Full Sega Master System US Releases 126 Games
- 80+ NES Games
- 60+ PS3
Captain Keys managed to get kidnapped in the most confusingly designed cruiser in the Covenant army, and the Chief(s) set out to retrieve him. Mike tries out the invisibility cloak twice but insists he doesn’t need it, which he demonstrates that soundly by waking up all the grunts. No matter, we’re the Master Chiefs. We have some fun with the Needler and finally escort our helpless captain to safety. Luckily he did not walk in front of our rifles this time and shoot at us for the rest of the level. Seriously Captain Keys, sometimes you suck all the dicks.
Join us as I tea-bag a Hunter, Mike melees everything he sees (including me), and we harm so many Grunts in the making of this video. Their ship’s hallways may be confusing, but they sure make for some wonderful choke points.
Our lifepod lands on Halo Installation 04 and the Master Chief(s) get considerably luckier than the other marines onboard. We leave the blood and wreckage behind to begin our journey across Halo’s hostile terrain. Watch us as I mow down Grunts with the ‘Hog, pull 360s and run Mike over. Mike manages to run himself over but redeems himself by saving the last group of marines who survived the sinking Pillar of Autumn… until I shot them all.
Two levels in and Mike is starting to realize how much Halo: Combat Evolved is like Destiny; but better. He’s also digging the 2001 graphics which seems fitting for him to experience during his first playthrough.
*Apologies for the chat audio clipping in this first video.
Two Spartans prepare for battle. One crash-lands on an unfamiliar cosmic installation to discover its secrets for the first time; the other wages a calculated, well-rehearsed assault on Halo’s control room.
Every Halo fan knows few things are as brutally satisfying as hearing a Grunt’s childish squeals while his companions fall before him… and that pistol-whipping him as he flees is one of those things. However, my Spartan ally does not. He’s never played a Halo game before.
That’s right. My buddy, Mike, was a PlayStation fan during Halo’s heyday and a fairly recent first-person shooter convert on top of that. He only got behind the trigger when the Resistance games came out, otherwise passing winter nights in front of PlayStation classics like the Uncharted and Ratchet and Clank series.
I, on the other hand, logged countless hours of alien decimation on Halo’s ring worlds alongside my brother and friends throughout high school and college. Completing every mission in Halo: Combat Evolved on ‘Legendary’ is one of my most accomplished feats in gaming. Yes, even the part with the sword-wielding Elites right after being grav-lifted onto the Covenant cruiser Truth and Reconciliation. I hated that part.
Halo 1 is 14 years old, yet I enjoy it far more than many modern games of the same genre. It was a golden egg, an outlier of its time, and it has cemented its status as one of the greatest console first-person shooters of all time (Sorry Taylor Swift, you’ll get ‘em next time). What makes Halo stand above other shooters with great gameplay is its charm.
The game doesn’t just have characters, it has character. It is believable that the fearful bottom-feeder race of grunts is forced into battle by stronger Covenant. The powerful Elites speak backwards English, prompting loyal fans to decipher their barking orders and sneering taunts. An Elite aggressively crouching, shaking his head and snarling ‘wort wort wort!’ was the mark of a formidable enemy.
The Flood is less interesting but still satisfying to fight. I’ll always remember creating packs ‘flood buds’ by shooting off their arms and heads so they harmlessly chased the Chief through the Library. All in all, Bungie created an alien army that felt like an important cast of characters rather than an endless stock of terrorist whack-a-mole victims.
Even the weapons have character. No one can say the Needler is like a slightly reskinned M4, and it took 15 years until the release of Call of Duty Advanced: Warfare to see a new grenade type with the level of ingenuity of the plasma grenade. (Protip: Combine the two for won-ton explosive mayhem).
The human weapons aren’t boring M4 clones, either. The original Pistol rings out with a definitive punch and the Assault Rifle’s gruff blare tears into Covenant with satisfying results. The Warthog’s infinite propensity to fishtail was so unique it spawned constant bickering over who got to drive. It was difficult to master, but those who were good at it wore it like a badge of honor amongst fellow gamers. Warthog jousting, anyone?
Halo also held secrets that have surfaced over the decades. We learned to press X to remain on the Pelican dropship on the Assault on the Control Room and 343 Guilty Spark missions. We discovered horde mode after killing Captain Keys in the first mission. We laughed as the Elite and Sgt. Johnson shared a tender moment before the explosion of the Pillar of Autumn in the secret legendary ending cut scene. We discovered the Grunt easter eggs. Good thing that food nipple’s waiting back at the starship!
Now let’s let our assault rifles growl and our pistols ring out to Halo’s amazing musical score as we spill colorful blood onto Halo’s aged but not aging soil. Let’s begin this fight and find out if Halo: Combat Evolved is as relevant today as I think it is, or if my mind is clouded with logic-trumping nostalgia. Let Mike be the judge as we make our way through the entire Master Chief Collection. Will he wonder why I’m forcing him to play games as old as the Forerunners themselves, or finally understand why Halo is so close to my heart?
Tune in to see Mike’s inaugural journey through John 117’s epic and stay frosty, Spartans. We’re going to finish this fight.