I often have trouble discussing my observations of social justice themes in various entertainment media with people. Usually I find that people take issue with my wanting to look further into a topic that they are enjoying, and if I criticize or attempt to dissect it, I must be attacking their hobby or even them personally for enjoying something because I find fault in that particular movie, TV show, or game. But why would I spend so much time criticizing something that I myself don't enjoy?
The false dichotomy dividing "good" and "evil" into groups represented by light and dark goes back further than my first memories of seeing The Empire Strikes Back at the drive-in. It is a way of looking at the world around us and packing things into neat little boxes, and it has enveloped our popular culture and our mythology. How does this affect the way some people consume video games?
Despite the fact that, according to the ESA, gamers are about 40% women and girls (to be really general), it doesn't seem that the world of developers and marketers has caught on terribly to these stats. Or to many things, actually.
Video games have long been a fascinating escape for me. I've never been and can not now be what one would consider a "hardcore" gamer, but ever since I received my first gaming system—a hand-me-down Magnavox Odyssey²—I've enjoyed games as a way to get away. It hasn't been until recently that I've had the privilege to apply the lens of social justice to my favorite escape.
The game is called "Hey, Baby", and it is a game about street harassment. It is a first-person shooter where you play as a woman walking around a city fighting off waves of men who approach you while repeating "classic" street harassment lines, everything from the notorious "Smile, baby" to shouted rape threats. Killing the harassers results in a gravestone popping up with their line engraved on it.
The widely popular video game Bayonetta boasts an advertising campaign that rivals the onscreen sexism of the game itself. In Tokyo, a large billboard in the subway invited passersby to literally strip off flyers to reveal Bayonetta naked underneath. The campaign perpetuates and encourages sexual and physical harassment against women, an epidemic in Japan (and many other countries, including the United States). Check it out: