Kicking a Dead (Island) Horse - Bradamantium Blog -
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Kicking a Dead (Island) Horse

(Hopefully humorous title aside, this one's a little wordy and totally absent of pictures; bear with me, if you'd be so kind! The site also appears to be resisting my attempts to fix what went wrong with the formatting here. Sorry!)

Let’s talk for a second about Deep Silver’s Dead Island: Riptide promotional faux pas. I’m inspiredto do so after spending the last hour or so wondering how people can really think this is okay.


Of course, they’re actually pretty quick to explain. It’s not objectification; it’s a game about zombies that takes place on a tropical island. Of course there will be zombies in bikinis! Though that’s a bit of a logical fallacy in and of itself and a weird representation of expectations of media in the modern day, I’ll run with it a bit. Certainly, given the setting, we can expect certain enemies to populate the island. You wouldn’t expect a game like Call of Duty to suddenly have battlefields full of Care Bears, right? But that’s not what’s happening here. Digital characters are not an actual, physical bust that has a pair of physics-defying breasts and a bikini tossed on. Furthermore, at least they’re just part of the game’s zombie demographic.  There’s men and women both, all in their swimwear, all looking like they were caught by surprise by a zombifying virus in the middle of their vacations. A hunk of plastic in our actual reality molded into the shape of a headless, armless woman does not have any logical narrative presence. Why isn’t it a guy in trunks, then? Why does she(and I use “she” incredibly lightly in reference to this) need to have no head? Why does she have to be so particularly well-endowed in the chest?

I’m sure the comment section on this will lead to a few ripostes to the former paragraph, but I’ll keep trucking along regardless. Argument #2: It’s just not sexist. defines “objectify” as “to present as an object.” Deep Silver has put an actual object on display that is ostensibly a woman, just lacking all feminine identifiers except for the most commoditized aspect of women; breasts. There’s no head to this body, no face (which, I should point out, is a departure from the classical busts they claim this takes a page from). There’s no identity here aside from a pair of breasts and the fact that its what’s left of someone ravaged by zombies. It is, in every sense of the word, an object. It takes an identity and turns it into a commodity. Is it just a chunk of plastic shaped in a specific way? Yeah, sure. But it’s also in the context of an industry that’s facing some serious upheaval and calls-to-action in the face of sexism throughout game development and communities.

So. Argument #3: Sex sells! They just want to make controversy with this! This isn’t really as much of an argument as it is a reason why this is a bad thing. (Aside: I have never seen any research that indicates sex actually sells games. Not saying it doesn’t exist, but I’d like to see if anyone could present any.) Moving quickly on from that…

Argument #4: No one would care if this was a bust of a man! But it’s not, is it? If it were, people would still care, because a chopped up torso coming out at a time when the industry is full of discussions of violence is just something that shouldn’t happen. But that strays from the point; this is a woman’s torso. Why? The answer ties back to Argument #3: erroneous as I believe the notion to be in relation to games, some people seem to think sex sells video games. And as I said, this is an inherently bad thing as it is. Women are not, in fact, sex. They aren’t a pair of breasts. This isn’t a woman, it’s a solid hunk of plastic, but one meant to be evocative of women in a really ugly, gross, totally unnecessary way.

Next up…Well. That’s it. Mostly these three arguments, mixed and matched and rephrased and restated. A side note I’ve seen pop up is “Jeeze, there’s bigger things to worry about.” There most definitely are, and I wouldn’t trivialize any of them. But as someone who lives and breathes game and has had it up to my nipples with this kind of ridiculousness in the industry, controversies like this are like being punched in the face. It seems, to me, so simple to avoid these sorts of things, but developers and gamers fall into the easy route of “Sex sells!” and oblivious sexualization at every turn. It might seem like overreaction, but keep in mind; women are a good portion of gamers, and the population beyond that. Things like this do nothing but marginalize, oppress, and insult actual people.

The most severe irritation, to me, behind this incident? It’s the same argument, the same set of responses, that come up every time a developer pulls something shady like this. People are very, very quick on the draw to try to “disprove” the sexism inherent to the situation. I won’t sit here behind my blog, at my keyboard, and tell people what to believe. But I will say this much; if it doesn’t affect or offend you, then it doesn’t affect or offend you. If it does do those things to someone else…do them the courtesy of staying out of it, then. Assume that they’ve got every reason, personal or otherwise, to have a problem with this sort of thing just the same as you might not.

And if you are with me? Thanks for putting up with this. Thanks for keeping your fingers crossed for a better gaming industry. Maybe if we speak up enough, people will listen.