Boys Of Summer: Beach Volleyball Online

By Kieron Gillen on April 15th, 2010 at 11:18 am.

It's important to carefully label nets with the location they are to be used. To do otherwise is to court anarchy.

Hey – Major MMO devs. It’s another sports-based MMO. Beach Volleyball Online is going into a closed Beta, and you can get keys from here. The sport of Beach Volleyball is, of course, how seeing exactly how outraged you could get an Edge Reader by sticking Dead Or Alive Beach Volleyball on the cover. ENORMOUSLY ANGRY. I probably should try and drag Edge’s Dave Taurus out of retirement to see what he makes of this. 8/10, I dare say. Trailer and – hey! – a few notes on the old Edge cover controversy for old-time’s sake follow…

The trailer’s fairly old and devs talk about it going into Beta last year in China, so you have to presume it’s a straight conversion to the Western market job.

Anyway – Edge magazine: The Girl Issue.

Edge is the flagship of British games journalism. It’s easy to think of it as this unchanging black monolith, standing in the middle of the landscape and slowly rotating. Like the Sentinel. Yes, exactly like the Sentinel. Like any magazine, Edge goes through cycles of what it is and what it isn’t. In this period, due to some particularly argumentative staff, Edge was the industry’s agent provocateur. It cheerfully went around burning bridges and starting fights. Sitting and watching from the side-lines, I found it all particularly amusing. Edge was doing the stuff which only Edge could get away with, which is how I’d prefer to see it using its power. Of course, it ended up running too far, the pendulum swung and it went into a more conservative period of This Month’s Rendered Bloke covers. And I suspect it sold better.

But yeah, this was a good one:


(Cover retrieved from this lovely chap’s gallery)

The issue, as is Edge’s wont, was a big riff on the perennial gender-issues question – the Women In Games Article Writ Large. And the cover… well, the cover’s all sort of clever. It’s a cover about objectification, about how women are treated in games. It’s not a cover designed to sell to new readers – though I dare say it’ll catch your eye – but one which is meant to provoke an response from their current ones, trying to shake them out of the self-satisfied malaise and making them question themselves. Really? There aren’t many women reading games magazines. This is a question aimed at the male readership. It’s meant to question the male gaze. It tries to make you embarrassed, saying you should be embarrassed and does it with the absolute minimum components. I mean, the centre third of a woman cropped, standing in a fairly neutral pose. What’s that compared to the majority of imagery in games? If this is bad, how bad is that? You should be embarrassed – at buying this, at being into this medium, at working in this industry.

What are you going to do about it?

Edge’s next cover was this, which cemented many people feeling that Edge’s staff of the period hated videogames and had a barely concealed contempt for its audience. I suspect the criticism was completely right, and the reason why the period was so invigorating was because that forced them into awkward areas that the flattering-mirror model of games coverage avoids – generally speaking – out of fear that their readership will resent being told something unflattering about themselves. And as the response to these issues showed, they will.

RPS, generally speaking, works on the opposite axis. We deliberately decided, as an antidote to the boring cynicism of most left-field internet coverage, to be powered by love bordering on open sentimentality. Games are amazing. But that doesn’t mean that occasionally I wish someone would slap the entire world around the back of its head, and that’s exactly what The Girl Issue did. As such, I still think of it fondly.

, .

68 Comments »

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  1. Tim E says:

    Would.

  2. diebroken says:

    Now all you need is some Kenny Loggins, playing with the…

  3. Daniel Rivas says:

    More interested in what I would consider a poor choice of font for the “The girl issue” line than the bikini-shot.

    Anyone else think it looks a bit iffy?

    • gulag says:

      I suspect it’s almost a deliberate ‘non-choice’. A default font that almost disappears, leaving just the image and a vague question. What does a ‘girl issue’ of a computer game magazine entail?

      The phrase ‘The girl issue’ achieves it’s ironic point in part due to the absolute neutrality of the font used. It betrays no excitement, dismay, or anything else. It is gender neutral in stark contrast to the image, which is as accusing as it is alluring. Normally a font like that would be dismissed out of hand, but here it’s a good choice, but for difficult to articulate reasons.

    • Corporate Dog says:

      I always suspected that Times New Roman was hiding a penis somewhere.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      I just feel like maybe it would have been better on a banner (is this the correct term?) on the bottom, instead of overlaid on the picture. More contrast, plus it further frames the vagina-shot. It just looks a bit slapdash to me, rather than understated.

      No?

  4. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    Considering your decision to be constantly positive about games on RPS, how is it, do you think, that RPS acquired a readership quite so incredibly whiny?

    • Janek says:

      AndrewC: They put it on the internet, primarily ¬_¬

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      We rage against the dying of the light.

      KG

    • Urthman says:

      AndrewC,

      I beg you to link me to the PC gaming website with a more upbeat, mature comment section than RPS.

      Because that would be awesome.

    • matte_k says:

      Damn you, KG! That line’s made me think of Chumbawamba’s “Anarchy” album, as it’s the last track. Now I have to find it…

  5. Spinks says:

    “This is a question aimed at the male readership”

    Yup, another game magazine cover reminding me that I’m not supposed to read these things and they’re not aimed at me. I guess just being a gamer isn’t enough ;/

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      I’d normally agree, but… well, you’ve got a 95% male readership. You’ve got a choice of doing the nice thing and changing nothing and playing hardball and slapping the majority of your readership around the head. I can see why you may decide to go the other way for once.

      KG

  6. Cinnamon says:

    If you want to keep things positive then don’t mention the new “XCOM” ever again. It’s dead to me. e.t.c.

    • Corporate Dog says:

      You might change your mind if the accompanying image was a close-up of some Chrysalid crotch, eh? EH?

    • Cinnamon says:

      Enlarged Muton crotch would remake me re-evaluate my relationship to video games and their progression, or lack thereof, as a mature medium.

  7. roBurky says:

    I think I was just as embarrassed by the Resident Evil cover which was about the same time.

    The exchange with my Mum went like this:
    “What’s that on the cover?”
    “Oh. It’s not nice, is it?”
    “Is he ripping that man’s heart out with his hand?”
    “No. I think he’s cutting him in half with a chainsaw.”
    “That’s horrible.”
    “Yeah. Yeah, it is.”

  8. gulag says:

    On the subject of unflattering truths there is probably some desirable balancing point. Games journalism should aim for a high standard, but is not tasked with tackling the thornier issues of our day.

    However, where it falls within the remit of those who earn bread and butter from commenting on the escapades of Italian pumbers and blue wildlife, things like equality, sexism, morality and ethics are more than fair game.

    I would prefer to be spoken to as an adult rather than a child, and that Edge magazine cover does the job well. Perhaps that was the high point of the discussion about games place in society in the printed medium, but fortunately sites like the Escapist, Gamasutra, and good old RPS continue the debate.

    Please continue to laud us with feel-good retro pieces and gossipy news, but never shy away from occasionally dropping the harsh light of honest examination on the gaming world.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Gulag: Oh, we will and do. It’s just our default mode has to be optimistic. Because if it wasn’t, why the hell would we be writing about this medium?

      KG

    • Dreamhacker says:

      Gulag: Did you just imply that putting women in bikinis on magazine covers automagically makes the magazines mature and suitable for adult readers? Because if you did, I will immediately go berserk from the incredibly shameless stereotyping…

    • Corporate Dog says:

      @Dreamhacker: It’s like Romero suggesting that he’s going to make us his bitch, and then someone steps in and says, “You see: what he was REALLY doing there, was making us question what it means to be a male, in a post-industrial society where the traditional male gender roles no longer apply.”

      No. No he wasn’t. He was trying to sell his game to 11-year old boys.

    • gulag says:

      @Dreamhacker

      Hmm. You might be able to read that implication from it, IF it was a woman in a bikini on that cover, but it’s not. It’s a close up of a female groin. It’s a tightly cropped shot of a small piece of cloth covering a vagina. This isn’t a woman, it’s a commodity, an object, a component.

      That’s a very different message. It’s a very uncomfortable and confrontational image. It doesn’t allure and tittilate as much as it accuses the viewer. It strips the cute and coy practice of selling everything from magazines to margarine with sex of it’s sugar coating and asks an intelligent question of the viewer, be they male or female. “Do you condone this?”

      I hope that saves you having to spaz out.

    • Corporate Dog says:

      @Gulag: Teenage boys tend to be “allured and titilated” by fully clothed models in the Sears catalog.

      For all of their higher intentions, Edge didn’t do the gaming community any favors with that cover. Self-reflection’s a great thing, when it’s done in a private. Getting all of your demons out in the open just makes the casual observer say, “Wow. What a mess.”

    • gulag says:

      @Corperate Dog

      Could it be that ‘teenage boys’ and ‘casual observers’ should be spared any fleeting moments of arousal/discomfort at the expense of an important public debate? I doubt it.

      This sort of thing does not get resolved behind closed doors. Nor should it.

    • Corporate Dog says:

      Is it supposed to be a public debate? Or is it supposed to be something that makes the gaming community self-reflect?

      If it’s a public debate (“Games are juvenile and misogynistic!”, “Are not!”, “Are too!”) then you’re automatically shutting the other side out of the debate with your cover choice. They won’t engage in a debate, because the cover automatically confirms whatever negative viewpoint they already had.

      If it’s something that’s supposed to give gamers pause, then the magazine doesn’t really need the in-your-face cover. A series of in-your-face articles should suffice.

      It really just strikes me as a sort of smug, ivory tower, intellectualism. It allows the gaming community to nod sagely at the nuggets of wisdom hidden within the magazine, while passing judgement on those who will most certainly rush to snap judgements of their own, based on little more than the cover.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Ideally they would have just had a uterus on the cover, but you can only reproduce what appears in games, and ‘Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers’ remains vapourware to this day

    • battles_atlas says:

      @ Corporate Dog

      “It really just strikes me as a sort of smug, ivory tower, intellectualism. It allows the gaming community to nod sagely at the nuggets of wisdom hidden within the magazine, while passing judgement on those who will most certainly rush to snap judgements of their own, based on little more than the cover.”

      Yes its provocative, but I fail to see why the magazine should hide its satire lest it upset the knee jerk reponse brigade. Given that games magazines feature big titted bikini babes on the cover as standard, why should it be the one making a critical point that has to hide it? The Daily Mail brigade who would leap to offence at such a cover are not a group open to debate anyway.

      Its the equivalent of Obama destroying his own health care bill in a misguided effort to build a bipartisan consensus with a group that have no interest in such hand holding.

      If Edge hadn’t put that cover out, this thread wouldn’t exist, thus it’s justified its existence.

    • gulag says:

      @Corporate Dog

      The public is the gaming community, and vise-versa. Any attempt to define them in and/or terms smacks of the sort of self-gettoisation that gets us to the 95% male readership this problem/debate stems from in the first place.

      I would hope that the level of debate on both sides would not descend as swiftly as your characterisation assumes. I suspect our exchange belies that assumption.

      Try selling a magazine with a demure cover and see how far you get. Edge, whatever their hopes for provoking thought, need to sell issues to survive. Such are the facts of life.

  9. x25killa says:

    Sometimes, it is good to shake the world as long you considered the aftermath effects. Kinda wished these current gaming magazines shake the world once in a while.

  10. /V/endetta says:

    IT’S A TRAP !!!

  11. Radiant says:

    !Edge is about elevating the art form!

    No.
    Edge is about writing smug for smug people sitting in their smug chair feeling smug whilst stroking their smugging cat.

    They even missed the whole genius of Extreme Beach Vollyball.
    A japanese dating sim smuggling operation aimed squarely at a western audience.
    A very successful dating sim at that.

    • MD says:

      Heh. I’m tempted to make “feeling smug whilst stroking my smugging cat” my new facebook status or something.

  12. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    Would there have been the same furore if the close up had been of the lady’s boobs? Which is to say, that the anger came, not from the objectifying, but from the objectifying of something the audience was not comfortable with. Which is to say boobs are a nice, safe, non-penetrative level of objectifying rather than the slightly scary vagina shot which is a bit close to your actual real, scary sex.

    Is the problem not even that games objectify women, but that games are still at an embarrassingly childish level of women-objectifying?

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      AndrewC: I was going to go into that – as in, talk about hypothetical other takes – but I agree with you. Basically.

      KG

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      Next week is Vagina Week on RPS. It will happen if you believe!

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      I think you’ll find RPS is all about fear of women.

      KG

    • Baboonanza says:

      I don’t want to see John Walker’s vagina!

    • Mr_Day says:

      You do know they will make it vagina dentata week just to spite you, right?

    • Premium User Badge

      Thermal Ions says:

      No need to be afraid Keiron, they don’t bite.

      Ok, maybe they do bite once a month, or if you forget their birthday / anniversary, or don’t remember that insignificant piece of information buried in a discussion you had with them 3 months ago, or say their cooking isn’t as good as your mothers. Actually, they are pretty scary aren’t they.

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      Fine then, write articles about why game-caves are full of monsters and why designers still include ‘find the button you need to press’ puzzles. And doors that refuse to open. And why enemies that you shoot with your gun disappear as soon as you stop looking at them.

      Oh, and an article about an indie platformer, with a title involving a pun on a pop song.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      “AndrewC: Oh, and an article about an indie platformer, with a title involving a pun on a pop song.”

      This will never happen on RPS.

      KG

    • Radiant says:

      @KG
      Fear of women and football.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Sagan says:

    I love that cover. I hope they explained it in the issue, because I wouldn’t have understood it without explanation. My reaction would just have been “oh they are just trying to be provocative” without understanding what they are trying to provoke.

    Also, the trailer for the beach volleyball game apparently doesn’t have a license for it’s music: “This video contains content by Sony Music Entertainment. It is not available in your country” it says. The German Youtube has to block music videos, and this is the first time that I have seen something good come out of it, actually preventing commercial piracy.

    What I like about the game is, that, at least from the screenshots, it partially avoids the male gaze thing. Sure, the women are meant to be attractive for men, but the men in the game are too beautiful for a male audience. I’m not too familiar with the male gaze concept, but I think sexually objectifying both males and females is better than sexually objectifying only females, right? Still they aren’t treating both genders equally in their promotional material.

    • Corporate Dog says:

      If it doesn’t pass the, “Can I read it on a bus, and not have people slowly shuffle away from me?” test, then yes, it’s meant to be provocative, no matter what explanation is provided.

      It’s a magazine cover. It’s designed to attract attention. And a large majority of the people who see it on a magazine rack (or on a bus) wouldn’t even consider cracking the cover on it, to soak in its deeper meaning.

      Net effect? Computer games and their players get thrown into an even deeper and dirtier conceptual ghetto, in the minds of those who see the magazine, and don’t care to investigate further.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Thermal Ions says:

    Oh dear, seems they’ll turn anything into an MMO these days.
    I stopped buying gaming mags here in Australia years ago. They never had any type of insightful commentary. They either had stock standard (dare I say boring) reviews, interviews, game hints & walkthroughs, etc or the opposite extreme in pandering to immature adolescences with geek speak and insults. Oh and the obligatory weird stuff on the last page.
    After coming across RPS it’s gravitated to top place in my list of game sites to visit for informative and enjoyable reading. I shouldn’t be surprised, they do say the cream rises to the top don’t they.

  15. mrrobsa says:

    I miss Edge, I’m sure someone will disagree, but it hasn’t felt right to me these last coupla years.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Thermal Ions says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    I don’t want to see John Walker’s vagina!

    Arrrgggghhhh, must unread.
    double arrrghh, quoting from the forum puts it out of place on the webpage.

  17. Premium User Badge

    James G says:

    With respect to the cover, I’m not sure it works. I understand your interpretation of it Kieron, and am even willing to believe that is what Edge intended in using it, but I think it fails in fully achieving that goal. The reason, games, magazines and advertising in general are using exactly the same approach in a completely matter of fact, no-subtext-intended kind of manner. If the cover is trying to ask, “shouldn’t you be embarrassed by this?” then it is somewhat confounded by the large number of people answering “no.” Meanwhile those who actually are uncomfortable with the co-modification of female sexuality for the purposes of male gratification in marketing, are going to have already been rolling their eyes at DoA:Beach Volleyball. Reducing the whole issue down to its base elements to make a point doesn’t work so well then the magazine above you is using exactly those same elements to market itself.

    I suppose its a bit like one of those awkward moments in which someone makes a mildly racist comment. In response, and to highlight the racism in what they say, you end up making a sarcastic, and overtly racist response, along the lines of “Yeah, we should just send them back where they came from.” Only your target misses the sarcasm, they take the statement at face value, and worse, they agree with it. (Truth be told I’ve only ever seen this happen to someone else, which was enough to teach me that the method can backfire. Although on occasions I have attempted to counter a point diplomatically, only for me to be misinterpreted and it taken as agreement.)

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      It’s a good point, James. But I think it gets more or less addressed by AndrewC above. Check his comment. I’m suggesting indeed it addressed the issue in the most direct possible way, and exactly where it hurts much — Our psyche.

      For those with a “No, it doesn’t bother me” answer, there’s really not much that can be said. The cover still targets them, but in the sense that at least makes them aware there may be a problem with that. For anyone else, the discomfort should be a a clear indication something’s afoot.

      In the very least it induces awareness. But mostly, the cover (and I suspect the article(s) inside) will make us think hard about what we have been accepting as a natural component of our games and whether this may or not be a problem.

  18. Mario Figueiredo says:

    It’s a shame I will forever miss the articles on that issue “Bored to Death of Video Games?”. I’d really like to have read that and how much of that extended to 2010 (7 years later) and how much has been aggravated.

    But on the “Girl Issue”, I wonder how much of a risk would be to bring in that cover to 2010… only this time, instead of game-neutral image we’d have the groin of Miranda from Mass Effect?

    James G point above is an interesting one. I question, what if the magazine went straight for the kill. Exactly on those games people love the most? (and a NPC I feel embarrassed to play with around my daughters and even my wife)

  19. Stu says:

    I’m surprised you went for Don Henley over the obvious Arab Strap reference, Mr G.

  20. DXN says:

    I wish they’d make one of these games with boys.

  21. manveruppd says:

    You are all overlooking one thing: the bikini is just a bit of texture! In other words, there IS no vagina! That cover was not about objectification but about the idealising self-delusory inclinations of the male gaze. It went all post-modern on us and shi’! :)

    Seriously though, I did appreciate the harshness and honesty of Edge back in those days. These days if people are giving a speech about women in games they’ll go on about the growing number of women devs, the hordes of women playing WoW (no pun intended) and the squillions of bucks Nintendo has made off Wii-Fit. And they’ll say all this **** with a completely straight face, all the while ignoring the fact that there are only about 5 women in the audience! WTF?

    (Similarly on other issues, eg. people writing about how MW2 or Halo 3 were the “biggest entertainment products of the year” etc., while ignoring the fact that most devs live a hair’s breadth above penury and – apparently – have to work unpaid overtime of 178 hours a day, but that’s another issue.)

    Rather than parroting self-congratulatory bullet points, Edge forced its readers to stare at the core of the issue – and here I’m not talking about the cover, but about the content of the issue, which was more about why games got the bad reputation in the first place. It might sound contradictory but this is the same reason I liked The Witcher: because rather than deny the issue it acknowledged that objectifying women is an indelible part of the literary traditions on which the game’s genre is based, and by acknowledging that this was so it forced you to re-evaluate your preconceptions.

    In other words, if only we could talk to the vaginas…
    :)

  22. The Archetype says:

    @DXN: There’s alway the Cho Aniki series, if you enjoy nightmareish surrealism mixed in there as well.

  23. Urthman says:

    This kind of “have-it-both-ways” irony has been done to death, and most people see it for the cynical ploy that it is. Edge Magazine simultaneously gets to have a super-cheesecake eye-catching cover and at the same time claim “We’re just trying to make people uncomfortable! We’re trying to make them question their reactions! We’re satirizing the sexism in the games industry!”

    And it seems like it’s mostly dudes who buy that. Women just roll their eyes and see it as no different from Maxim or whatever lad magazine is non-ironically using T&A to sell magazines.

    Turns out EA put all those boobs in Dante’s Inferno to spark discussion about the relationship between religion and 12th-century sexual morality.

  24. the wiseass says:

    I’m sorry but what exactly is wrong with that cover? I really don’t see anything special about it. Is it supposed to be witty or sexist? Because honestly, I don’t think it’s either but maybe I’m missing the big picture here. So if anybody would care to explain, I’d like to know :)

  25. Dave says:

    I don’t know if humanity will ever figure out how to be both fair and honest at the same time, where it comes to issues of sex and gender.

    Is a straight guy checking out a girl, or a picture of a girl, or a fake picture of a fake girl made with pencil or pixels, being sexist… or just normal? Is using sex to sell stuff always sexist, or just opportunistic? Is it always wrong to have gender and/or sexuality as one of the factors in focusing on one’s target audience/market?

  26. THEAlmightyRadish, uh , RADOK says:

    Since trying Shot Online I’m cured from Sports MMOs. Thank You.

  27. Magic H8 Ball says:

    Wait, it’s about misogyny? I thought it was about how EDGE is a bunch of pretentious twats who believe they know something about videogames because they’ve been playing them for the longest time. Just like stupidly catching herpes as a teen makes you an expert on STDs when you hit 30.
    I guess I’ll excuse myself then.

  28. toastmodernist says:

    the word pretentious should dissapear forever.

  29. Dominic White says:

    Wow, Edge do seem to have the ability to make a lot of stupid people feel threatened and insecure. Rolling out the P-word whenever someone does anything even remotely intelligent is a sign that you’ve got issues, not that the world needs to stop aspiring to anything.

  30. Magic H8 Ball says:

    “P-word” huh? This is what it came down to.

  31. Donnie says:

    This looks awesome!