Daily Reaction: Discussing God of War’s ‘Misogynistic’ Trophy

March 8, 2013Written by Sebastian Moss

The industry is always in an uproar over something, sometimes for good reason, sometimes for stupid reasons, and sometimes because no one knows what is going on. Yesterday, everyone was incensed about SimCity’s awful DRM, and today the hot topic is misogyny in games. Daily Reaction discusses whether God of War: Ascension’s infamous trophy was intended to cross the line, and if there even should be a line in the first place.

Seb: With the God of War: Ascension review embargo now up, ex X-Play host and renowned games critic Adam Sessler brought up what he saw as a serious issue in the game:

– There’s a scene where you stomp on the head of a female fury, smashing her face to bloody pieces. After doing that, you unlock the trophy “Bros before Hos”.

Sessler thought that stomping her/its face in was “borderline”, but ok due to the dark tone of the game. The trophy, on the other hand, was a “gut-punch of misogyny” that “irredeemably soured the game”, and it was “shocking that such a talented developer would traffic in such a contemptible attitude.” In short, he was, or said he was, mortified by what was in the game.

Before we get into the whole issue of whether the trophy was misogynistic, it’s probably best to first admit that both Dan and I are men. I’ll also take this opportunity to shamelessly plug a previous DR on the blatant sexism that exists within the gamer community. Also, Santa Monica should be chastised for misspelling hoes.

The question of misogyny and sexism in any game comes down to personal preference – there are some games (Custer’s Revenge) that are blatantly sexist, while others have sexist moments, and more still are just generally crude.

God of War is mostly just that – crude. You kill everything you see, in the bloodiest and goriest way possible, and you engage in (embarrassingly short) sex games. Stomping the femalish fury’s head in is no different, just like you stomp everyone else’s head in, but the trophy is clearly tasteless. The thing is, however, it’s a tasteless game. It always has been, and always will be, this should not be a surprise.

Dan: Exactly, the expectations that people have regarding games is an interesting and complicated issue. As people revel in the ability to castrate or gore an opposing enemy, but become shocked as things enter the realm of taboo, they are inconsistently setting up abstract boundaries they willingly chose to ignore. The acceptance of violence across multiple titles, while moving away from other aspects that are simply taboo or in ‘bad taste’, is only reinforcing that violence is ok, if it is against males. Socially, violence against anyone should not be ok, but in a videogame we are not dealing with the realities of the outside world, we are in a fantasy world where the rules should also be equal across the board.

Equality really is the source of what people should strive to achieve, whether it is the real world or in a fake one. A game like God of War does not set itself as the moral compass for people to teach their children, but is simply a game that revels in its own ability to forgo social limitations and appeal to people’s ability to not take life so seriously. Sessler might feel mortified by the trophy use of “Bros before Hos” for killing a female creature, but in reality if the cards were flipped and you were rewarded with a “chicks before dicks” trophy for killing a male as a woman, no one would really care. Just as within the newest Tomb Raider you are awarded the trophy of “Widowmaker” for killing 40 male enemies, or in Tekken where the character Nina has a move to simply kick the opponent in the balls. This is not to say that everyone should be free from their own moral compass if they want to be, but simply keep equality what it needs to be, and view the world through multiple angles – both men and women are targets of senseless acts, meaning none of us are special.

Seb: My issue with Sessler is his lack of sticking to a moral compass. We’re all allowed one, and if he thinks a game is sexist or misogynistic, that’s fine. But where was it when he talked about how funny Bulletstorm is (bizarrely in a video titled ‘Bulletstorm Is Funnier Than Killzone 3’, which it should be because it’s meant to be, while KZ3 isn’t…)? In his vid, there was no rant about how the game is rather immature – you shoot tons of people in the balls and get points for it, and there’s even a trophy called “Damsel in distress” where you have to save a woman, who was far from a helpless damsel. There was no moral outrage at that. Equally, there was no moral anger that the video is flanked by the site’s other vids such as ‘Sara Underwood’s Naked Bike Ride’, ‘Best Nude Scenes in Video Games’ and… ‘International Sexy Ladies Show: Messy Cat Fight’. Yeah…

He might not work at G4TV any longer, but that’s not because of any moral views, it was simply because he lost his job. He was happy to allow what he now sees as misogyny to continue while he was getting paid.  Now he’s somewhere else, and suddenly he’s all up in arms that a violent, sexual and irreverent game is violent, sexual and irreverent.

Mass media may often condemn video games for being violent or sexual, but that shouldn’t mean we should stop having violent or sexual games. We have our GOWs and we have our Journeys, just like any other entertainment industry. God of War is not a game for easily impressionable children, it is not a game for people who are easily offended. It’s a bloody, aggressive, insensitive and sex-filled take on a fantasy version of a bloody, aggressive, insensitive and sex-filled era. ‘Bros before Hos’ would not make sense in a more serious game, but it makes sense in such a title. Developers should be allowed to cover any issue, and shouldn’t have to worry that people take things too seriously, or blow them out of proportion.

There are genuine sexism issues in this industry, from female developers not being paid equally, to female gamers being harassed online. They should be the focus. The fact that most games star male leads could also be seen as a problem, but that is also simply an issue that crosses most media forms – the majority of writers are male, so they write male leads, and the majority of gamers are male, so they get male leads. That’s not misogynistic, but it is male dominated. Thankfully, characters like the new Lara Croft show that it can be done properly, especially because they are allowed to have the same irreverent attitude towards men with the Widowmaker trophy.

Dan: Precisely, the problems with sexism in the industry is a bigger issue than immature games fulfilling their own quota. The presence of female leads and the ability to portray any character as a human should be the things we push for as an industry, characters, both male and female, are torn down to stereotypes instead of being made to be relatable. For some titles that are pushing boundaries and try to have realistic stories, we should expect proper representations of men and women outside of tits and muscles.

Games like God of War get away with it simply because they are not meant to be relatable – Kratos is a dick. The title is not built around misogyny or misandry (hatred against males), it is simply built around the lead character being the essence of a person who does not give a shit. His path of destruction is not a targeted offence against any single contender, each person whether they are eviscerated or stomped to death, does not matter to the story, they are simply bumps in the way to a much larger goal.

There seems to be an overall misunderstanding of the term misogyny, which gets thrown around quite a bit, as people begin to think any negativity towards a woman is a hateful act. The inclusion of the trophy, which can be seen as a dig against women is simply that, it is a dig at women, but it is not meant to be a hateful act. While, possibly in bad taste, it is in a game called God of War where you play as a dick, so get over it.

Is God of War sexist? Will you feel wrong when you unlock that trophy? Or are some people too sensitive? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or let us know your longer thoughts by emailing us at [email protected], and following us on twitter at Seb and Dan.