S.EXE: Teen Girl Squad

By Cara Ellison on April 11th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Jack! I'm flying Jack!No, not the beloved Homestar Runner animation, this fortnight it’s a celebration of teenage girls and their sexual agency being front and centre of the narrative! “Hey Cara,” I might hear you say, “I have never heard of a game that even gave the tiniest crap about teenage girls’ libidos!” Well, I’d say, you’ve clearly never been near the Otome genre, or a copy of Duel Love, but that’s okay. We’ll leave Otome to another day, because I found two perfectly free games that give women a good sense of bodily autonomy without having to relate their self-worth to what a dude thinks of them. How healthy!

How Do You Do It

New York-based Nina Freeman makes adorable games with a nuanced sense of intimacy that not many other games have. In her game How Do You Do It, something made in Flixel for the Global Game Jam in conjunction with Emmett Butler, Jonathan Kittaka, and Deckman Coss, Nina explores the curiosity a young girl has about sex after seeing the sex scene in James Cameron’s Titanic. Her mother leaves the room, and the girl is left with a Barbie and a Ken doll, which the player can then move and rotate and smash together to ‘figure out’ what sex is.

You only have so much time before your mother returns, however, which gives playing the game a really piquant sense of the forbidden, raking up that feeling from your childhood whenever you knew you were watching something on the TV that definitely had too many adult hugs. (I think for me I first felt this way after switching to late night ITV and Species was on. It was fairly clear to me even then that part of the crime of this alien woman was that she desired sex at all, which plays into that societal expectation for women to be desirable but meek. It portrayed women as being sexy aliens. Sometimes I think the internet believes that women are indeed sexy aliens.) (Man, Species is terrible but women being evil and sexy is something I so enjoy.)

How Do You Do It addresses that space between feeling sexual and not knowing what to do with it. There’s a small amount of time between the ages of about eleven and seventeen when you’re just trying to figure out, emotionally speaking as well as technically speaking, what sex is and what it does to your own body as well as someone else’s. When I was a tiny Scottish girl in a tiny Scottish school there was no formal sex education until I was eleven years old, by which time I think I had already asked my mother what the hell a condom was (mainly because it’s such an ugly word, and I still think it is).

Eleven years old was when they rolled out the childbirth videos, the videos about periods, and the ones about unwanted erections. They were all uncomfortably narrated by a very proper Englishwoman with an RP accent, about as far as you could get from any of our Aberdonian accents, and maintained a really strained distance from the people it described. The uncomfortable rutting diagrams may as well have been narrated by David Attenborough: ‘And here, we see, the man on top of a woman, with the intention of growing a baby inside her, which is incredibly rare, because usually the man and the woman are completely dead set against any outcome of sex, up to and including feelings, relationships, exchange of numbers, text messages and phone calls.’ (Twitter DMs, naked Snapchats and photomessaging pictures of your dick with sunglasses on were not a thing then.)

Sex education seemed so removed from emotions and feelings and from the charged, exciting sex scenes we saw in films that sex still seemed like a mysterious prospect; even the formal info on periods was abstract. Until I actually got a period I was convinced it would be a painless quick process where the liquid was blue like in those Always sanitary towel absorbency adverts. I’d never noticed a grown-up woman even talk about periods: it was the world’s best kept secret that women even endured this ludicrous torture as frequently as once a month for a week. I was extremely angry when it was not blue liquid: so much so I remember playing Doom and thinking THIS IS YOU, PERIOD, and gunning everything down with the rage of a small girl who had been betrayed by her own body. Eventually I realised that this was a thing that would carry on throughout my entire adult life, destroying my competitive swimming schedule, making proximity to a toilet a constant, gratingly boring worry. Couple that with the realisation that boys make you feel funny and that Titanic sex scene becomes all the more confusing. How do you do it? Why, even? And what will my body do if I get it wrong? Or get it right?!

Nina’s game expresses these feelings all very neatly through How Do You Do It: the pressing together of two genital-less plastic dolls to see how many times you can ‘do it’ is a feeble attempt at making sense of sex in a world where there are no, ahem, tools for girls (and also boys) to do so, since discussion is so societally policed. There’s even less discussion about gay sex than there is heterosexual. The fact that the Barbie and Ken dolls have been neutered is symbolic of the lack of frank discussion in public about what having genitals means or does not mean. This also ties in to gender and how we unfairly assign meaning to people via their parts. Sex, particularly in the UK, is left as a mystery until you actually get someone who is willing to do a sex with you/on you. But perhaps that’s the point of sex: it’s a personal thing. You find out more about yourself through it than you ever wanted to know, and most of the time it’s a pleasant surprise.

Love Is Zero

Our very own free games columnist Porpentine’s text game Love Is Zero is something I have also been playing around with recently. I think it illustrates a really powerful teen girl agency that you often don’t see illustrated in games. Girls are often relegated to beautiful little ICO waifs that must be admired but never given control, and even if they are, they can’t be evil or nasty or threatening in their actions. Porpentine’s Love Is Zero is a sort of recreation of a fantasy all-girl high school experience, lyricised. The music is intense, like the text is almost a music video, and you generate lyrics for your teen girl by clicking ‘study’ ‘play tennis’ or ‘bully’. You are a teen vampire, and the symbolic nature of the blood, the ‘sucking’, the mention of hentai in the anime club are all exciting morsels of a teenage sexual agency I wish I’d had. ‘God I hate you want to kiss you’: perhaps a teenage feeling that’s a little too familiar.

Structure-wise, Love Is Zero is really interesting. It’s constructed like a pop song that has different lyrics every time, soundtracked by the talented Brenda Neotenomie, and made with pop art ‘album’ covers by sloane. It’s almost infused with all the feeling of the nineties cult classic film The Craft. Pop and The Craft: two things I was obsessed with as a young girl. The game generates three sets of lyrics, like verses, and then ends answering the question: ‘Who Am I?’ All of these structural and thematic manipulations evoke a realm of teenagedom that it’s exciting to fantasise about. It gives the player power, the power fantasy that young men so often get in video games, but that teenage girls are often denied.

In short: it’s very easy to fetishise teen girls in videogames, but the most interesting work is being done by the game designers who want to convey meaning to other women about their own experiences or fantasies. As soon as you let go of the fixation on looking at teenage girls’ bodies, and start to think about how girls actually feel about their own desires, and how they want to be empowered, much more exciting things can be done.

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143 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    “Eleven years old was when they rolled out the childbirth videos, the videos about periods, and the ones about unwanted erections. They were all uncomfortably narrated by a very proper Englishwoman with an RP accent, about as far as you could get from any of our Aberdonian accents, and maintained a really strained distance from the people it described.”

    Would it really have been any less uncomfortable if it had been narrated by Robbie Shepherd?

    • toxic avenger says:

      With all due respect, this passage sounds downright passionately erotic compared to “The Catholic Vision of Love (TM)” us Yanks (possibly exists overseas?) had to go through from 5th-8th grade, so for about 9-12 years old. It was basically what the author describes, sans the accent, dressed up in a nun’s habit, and overly seasoned with thousand years of repressed guilt. Looking back, it was hilariously awkward, especially because this took place during really formative years, sexually speaking. I remember a few of the guys goading each other into asking about, um, fun alone time, without any sense of irony (and only out of pure curiosity) only to get told that participating in such would lead to eternal hellfire alongside pedophiles and murders. Enjoy!

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        I live in Aberdeen and know someone called Robbie Shepherd. This post made me laugh out loud.

      • The Dark One says:

        The only thing I remember from my grade 4 sex-ed class was that on the first day, half of the boys shoved their 30cm rulers down their pants prior to entering the room. It turned out our school uniform shorts were quite stretchy.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          I remember this, and apparently everybodies penis was 90% the length of the ruler. Either we were the most hung group of lads ever or there was a bit of exaggerating going on.

    • The_B says:

      Petition starts here for Sex Education videos narrated by Brian Blessed.

      • Iskhiaro says:

        +1

      • Jeroen D Stout says:

        [bursts through wall]

        HELLO kids, I AM HERE to talk… about SEX. HA! HA! HA!

        Now of course I have TREMENDOUS experience with this… HAHAHA, [mumble, mumble] ol’ O’Tool… HA! HA! HA! CRY HAVOC CHILDREN WE ARE
        █▀▀▀ █▀▀█ ░▀░ █▀▀▄ █▀▀▀   ░▀░ █▀▀▄
        █░▀█ █░░█ ▀█▀ █░░█ █░▀█   ▀█▀ █░░█
        ▀▀▀▀ ▀▀▀▀ ▀▀▀ ▀░░▀ ▀▀▀▀   ▀▀▀ ▀░░▀

        • Premium User Badge

          Gap Gen says:

          I say, they are in the godforsaken walls! Let us book, then.

      • Premium User Badge

        bonuswavepilot says:

        Oh man, what a concept! I reckon he’d be up for it, too – just a matter of convincing school boards to include it in the curriculum…

      • syllopsium says:

        HELLO CHILDREN! Today we go through SEX, reproduction and what it’s like to have a RAGING ORGASM. So need to see Brian do this..

    • pepperfez says:

      As a Yank, I was surprised to hear about ineffectual Scottish sex ed because I had seen Be Books Online videos, which are possibly the best sex ed material ever produced. Seriously, watch them both. They are delightful.

      • Premium User Badge

        Sinomatic says:

        Oh wow, they are hilarious. Not sure how I’ve never seen those before.

  2. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Ehh I dunno. I’m 36 and remember two sex ed sessions quite clearly, because of two lurid incidents. One in which a sudden massive on screen erection made me snigger so much that I blew mucus all over my blazer sleeve, causing my classmate to get thrown out for laughing his head off, and another in which the documentary maker had attached cameras to people’s genitals as they shagged. In other words, we were shown porn. Suddenly the sly teacher stated laughing, said “ok that’s the end you can all go now”, fully aware that 30 teenage inconvenient erections made that impossible.

    RP stuffy women would have been better.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      It shows just how useful sex-education in school is that pretty much all anyone can remember is that sort of thing. About all I recall was someone in the class blowing up a condom and it being punched around the room to the amusement and delight of all except whoever it ended up bursting near.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        You just reminded me. We had a vehemently homophobic form tutor who, after walking in on a particularly aggressive bout of performed-for-class-during-break “comedy” simulated bum sex between the school wags, took it upon himself to convince us all not to be gay.

        He did this by describing the anal prolapse in great detail, assuring us that this indeed was the only outcome of such an activity. The appalled, shocked, disbelieving trance-like state he put the class in was only shattered by the very poshest member of the class covering 4 square feet of desk with vomit.

        I can still hear the dollopy, pale yellow chunks spattering on the floor.

        • Premium User Badge

          Gap Gen says:

          Amazing. That said, you can probably turn on a reasonable segment of the population through vomiting, so it’s not an entirely wasted exercise.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            His surname was double barrelled – Lucas-Smith.
            This of course became Pukey-Whiff, because now the room smelt of barf. Forever.

          • TWChristine says:

            *sees some of her favorite posters bantering about*
            *reads said posts*
            *quietly slips back out..*

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            John Stuart Mill believed in the white man’s burden, Beveridge was a eugenicist, Gap Gen promoted vomit porn.

            EDIT: Perhaps I should apologise for taking all the alcohol so that now there’s no alcohol left for anyone else.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            @TWChristine – Probably for the best. This is basically a post traumatic fugue state you are witnessing.

            Can you smell parmesan?

            Edit: @GapGen – are you my ex flatmate Paul, who used to show us vomit porn to the theme of Top Gun, before we went clubbing, as well as being Robbie Shepherd?

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            If by that you mean not-that, then sure.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Awww :) Not-Paul, I’ve missed you.

      • Drake Sigar says:

        Let me tell you, there were a lot of condoms on car exhausts that day.

      • gwathdring says:

        Huh. I had a multiple excellent sex ed programs, except that one where they showed us how horrible STDs were when we were per-pubescent to, I guess, head us off at the pass. But other than that it was pretty good, progressive stuff.

        I have a friend in Oregon who had 7 sex ed programs growing up and who says most of them were actually quite good other than the bit where he had sort of groked the whole being-educated-about-sex thing the first few times. :P

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          They did seem to stage it over the years. You would begin with basic reproduction beginning from the point where sperm (LOVETROOPS) were already swimming up the LADYTUBES, before happening upon an ovum and doing the wiggle dance. Then you would move onto anatomical mechanics and an actual penis-in-lady-garden diagram would be shown, in cross section, so that you simultaneously winced at the thought of having your HUBERT sliced in two and wondering what the prostate gland does.

          Finally, there would be porn. Porn with COCKCAM TECHNOLOGY and plunging, reaching cervixes and first person ejaculations. Then you basically had graduated. Also not a euphemism.

      • MartinWisse says:

        Yeah, even in the supposedly enlightened and un-ptight Netherlands the only sex ed I got at school consisted of the biology teacher fiddling with getting a condom over a banana and getting redder and redder as he failed to do so, in front of a class of bored fourteen year olds.

    • Geebs says:

      I think I was shown the exact same. To this day I am only able to see erections in infrared.

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      bonuswavepilot says:

      Heh. At my school, (where for some reason the poor meek Religious Studies lady was given the task of taking sex-ed) we got divided into male & female groups to watch informative videos which were stuffed in, play pressed, and teacher slipped hastily out of room.

      Thus it was that it was not discovered that we had been given the wrong tapes. I learned more than I had ever expected to about the use of tampons, but it might have been more useful to see the stuff about how to apply a condom… (Fortunately one of the ladies who got the other tape lent some able assistance a few years later :)

      • gwathdring says:

        Really? They had us divided into groups in 5th grade, but we both learned both curricula–the point was that we understood a) what was happening/going to happen to our bodies b) what was happening/going to happen to the bodies of our classmates and c) the science of human growth and development.

    • Premium User Badge

      melnificent says:

      I don’t remember any sex-ed classes. But then I did skive the boring lessons.

    • SuicideKing says:

      The human reproductive system was a part of our biology course in grades 7th and 10th. I was 12 and 15 respectively. All our sex ed was basically rolled into those few paragraphs and the two or three odd diagrams.

      Then only our section was shown a video of childbirth when i was in grade 12th. This was really because of our (excellent) biology teacher, otherwise no one would have bothered. We had both computer science and biology kids in our class, so without our (CS students) insistence, we wouldn’t have been shown it.

      Then there was one lady who tried to give a sex ed seminar to 160 first year college students…that didn’t go well. Most people just kept laughing and jeering.

      Um yeah…that’s sex ed in India. I do have a few batch mates from school who’re doing good work in this area, touring villages and taking sex ed sessions there. Which takes guts, really, it’s taboo in a lot of places/communities.

    • syllopsium says:

      All I remember was some vague anatomy related stuff, a video of a woman giving birth (one of the chaps in the class fainted) and, because it was the late 80s, You’re All Going to Get AIDS and Die! Not the best introduction to sex, frankly.

  3. SillyWizard says:

    Still no Super Deepthroat? For shame.

    • DarksDaemon says:

      I guess exposing the public to that would make it a little hard to swallow.

      • SillyWizard says:

        Yes, I suppose we wouldn’t want Cara to bite off more than she can chew!

        • Premium User Badge

          Gap Gen says:

          I am impressed that in 3 posts we went from an oral sex reference to tearing off penises with our teeth.

          • Geebs says:

            Yeah, pharynx for that guys.

          • SillyWizard says:

            Are you suggesting that there’s a form of oral sex which does not culminate in a toothy penis-rending frenzy?

          • Premium User Badge

            Gap Gen says:

            If you still have a penis, by all means report back. Personally, my ability to repeat the experiment is limited.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      Don’t forget Dusty’s Castle and Sakyubasu. They even had gameplay!

  4. Janek says:

    Pretty sure I had the same videos, must’ve been a UK-wide thing.

    Would actually be really interesting to have some kind of repository of school educational videos by year and region. Never encountered so much shared nostalgia as when reminiscing about something like Geordie Racer with people from across the land.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      Through the Dragon’s Eye is now a phrase that is 100% dirtier thanks to you, Janek. That innocence will never be rewon. I hope that you are happy with this. Although, that being said, Charn creeped me the fuck out as a 5-year-old. I mean, who shows a person made of animal skulls to infant school kids?

      Understand how this is deeply terrifying for a schoolkid in 1990: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uz1pGlydYs0

  5. Iskhiaro says:

    Loving these articles Cara.

    On the subject of terrible sex ed tapes, anyone else experience Johnny Condom?

    • Palindrome says:

      These articles have opened up whole new vistas for me, I have never even considered what female puberty is like (in fairness I never think about male puberty given that mine was 20 years ago and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then). RPS at its finest.

      I never had sex education videos (as far as I remember) just my physics teacher (whatever happened to miss Bell?) being extremely uncomfortable attempting to teach 12 year olds the birds and the bees.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        Miss ….Bell…. taught you sex education?
        Was there a teaching assistant called Mrs Dumplings?

  6. Premium User Badge

    AngelTear says:

    Dear Cara,

    Thank you for being you and doing what you do.

    Meow

  7. sinister agent says:

    The alien in Species wasn’t evil! The only dudes she killed were all arseholes, and she only did it in self defence, with the exception of the woman she killed in a panic. And the dude who was hunting her, but, y’know, he was hunting her.

    Also it’s a really, really funny film. Incredible cast, with Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen and my personal favourite, Forest Whitaker as a psychic who, on entering a room splattered all over with gore, a mangled corpse and gigantic, burst open alien pod, applies his phenomenal psychic powers and says “SOMETHING BAD HAPPENED HERE!”.

    It is terrible in the most watchable way.

    • Ross Angus says:

      Plus it’s just been remade by Jonathan Glazer as Under The Skin. (Highly recommended)

      • iucounu says:

        Is it a remake of SPECIES or a remake of LIFEFORCE (in which nekkid people are discovered in space, and turn out to be nekkid sex-vampires?)

        • Spacewalk says:

          I was hoping it was going to be a re-remake of Cat People.

        • Ross Angus says:

          Sorry: I was confused. It’s a remake of The Man Who Fell To Earth.

    • sophof says:

      You either have a very good memory or you have seen that movie way too many times :D

      • sinister agent says:

        I have a good memory, but only when it comes to films. Especially films I saw in my teens, most of which were memorably dreadful.

  8. sinister agent says:

    Sex education is a whole other world if you grew up in libraries, man. The things I knew by the time I was in my teens… I remember knowing more than a plurality of adults.

    • Premium User Badge

      RedViv says:

      That was very much the only retreat we had in Ireland. Sex ed was… Pretty much non-existent. Basic biological facts and a bit of contraception stuff when kids were 14, and that’s about it. Don’t want to imagine what it was like before the 80s, but at least it seems to have become much better since the mid-90s.

      • Gwyddelig says:

        I reckon I must’ve gone through on the tipping point (early 90s) then or just been lucky. My parents (read “mother”) had sat me and my twin sister down aged about 9 to give us “The Talk”. This was considerably earlier than most of my peers and I’m grateful that they did.

        At school, we had an excellent science teacher who went through things on a biological level. She was very matter-of-fact and had the standing with the class (she could flay you with a look) to address the subject with the minimum of up-arm-sniggering. She also ensured that boys knew as much as possible about menstrual cycles and the like. Which was useful.

  9. Incompleteness says:

    I get better scores in this when I don’t worry about mother coming in.

  10. dorn says:

    In short: it’s very easy to fetishise teen girls in videogames, but the most interesting work is being done by the game designers who want to convey meaning to other women about their own experiences or fantasies.

    I agree with your intent. These games are poor examples unfortunately.

  11. kwyjibo says:

    If you’re after smut, there’s a kickstarter for gay boys in space at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/starfighter/starfighter-visual-novel

    I read about it at Polygon and took a look at the original webcomic. I thought it’d be space opera with a side of homoeroticism, turns out it’s dicks everywhere.

  12. kwyjibo says:

    I kind of get “How do you do it”, but I think that experience is lost with the internet everywhere generation. Kids are just getting high on bath salts recreating scenes they saw in Skins.

    Love is Zero seems to say less about what it’s like to be a teenage girl, and more about what it’s like to be Porpentine right now.

  13. Spacewalk says:

    My sex ed video was an animated one from the seventies or something. I can’t remember if they drew bush on anyone though which is surprising since it was from the seventies. It didn’t do us any good, everyone in the class already knew about screwing but at least it was amusing.

    • Premium User Badge

      Jackablade says:

      Was that the one with the duck looking at human anatomy and making confused faces? That was the one that we got.

    • geerad says:

      Man, I didn’t even get a sex-ed video, just a gym coach talking about how if you have sex you’re going to get gonorrhea. I got a video about checking myself for testicular cancer though. (And the girls got a similar one about checking themselves for breast cancer.)

  14. Geebs says:

    I wonder what alien species or our far-future descendants would think about human mating based on Titanic?

    “When a man and a woman are very much in love, he ineffectually tries to slap through a car window. She then freezes her mate by not letting him on to her raft despite there being oodles of space.

    Then, fifty years later, Bill Pullman”

  15. twaitsfan says:

    All I know is, being a fat, ugly, zitty bloke in school that no girls would even look at was all negated by the video games I played. They all instilled such a good sense of bodily autonomy for me as a boy, that I got to enter adult life and sexuality with complete self confidence. Thank god for being male!

  16. DoingitRight says:

    Complains about things which gives girls body image problems, likes things which gives guys body image problems.

    • SuicideKing says:

      “Why don’t you make your own gaming website and write your own article/blog post about whatever you want discussed?”

      “Why bring it here?”

      “I just want to read about S.EXE games.”

      See how that can work now?

    • Premium User Badge

      RedViv says:

      Show us the female Gragas, and you can talk. Show us the female The End, and we can talk. Show us the female Wrex, and we can talk. Show us the female Brick, and we can talk.

      • DoingitRight says:

        The first two I have you covered. Alma, and Motherbrain.

        Muscle bound bruisers? they are not popular period. edit: they tried it with the amazon chick from Dragon’s crown, but we all know how that went over.

        But I tell you what, while you are dodging the hypocrisy, find out how many Norton Mapes are in games.

        • Premium User Badge

          RedViv says:

          Okay. So neither Mother Brain nor Alma are a counter to a list of characters encompassing positivity about their build and variety in their characterisation despite negative stereotypes associated with the appearance of their bodies.
          The Amazon is running around with her boobs wafting about and her butt forming the roundest badonkadonk whenever she jumps – which is how exactly doing something FOR self-perceived body image?
          And the third thing – really? Are you going for the fat nerd stereotype? Something that is not even videogame-centric, but rather a combination of obsession-shaming and fat-shaming prevalent in most Western media? And how is that a pervasive thing in videogames that you bring up, when an entire sex is alienated by their representations in games being for the most part stupidly naked, stupidly sexily built, stupidly useless, stupidly singular in a thing, or any combination thereof?

          I struggle to find the hypocrisy there. So if you can, explain how pointing out a lack of variety in female body representation with positive characterisation is hypocritical when opposed to enjoying a medium that itself concentrates on male powertripping in many ways (while also wanting to reduce THAT, as it is), or I deem this an unsolvable internet debate with the usual be-trilby-ed silliness that has manifested over the last few years. Because that’s a stereotype that seems to want to fulfill itself, for some reason, despite the sad connotations.

        • joa says:

          I dunno. I think a lot of fictional characters in videogames present an idealised view of whatever gender they are. The male characters you list may be fat or weird looking but they still fill a rather limited tough guy role (at least the ones I’m familiar with). A lot of games are not story focused or character driven, so the writing often falls into easy stereotypes.

          Edit: this was meant as a reply to RedViv if that’s not obvious

    • El_Emmental says:

      If you have been reading RPS for the last 6 months, and followed what’s going on with blogs-based activism, you should have noticed this structure and the people taking part in its functioning aren’t able (in terms of systemic limitations) to encompass the entirety of a subject.

      - – - – -

      Say you’re covering fishing.

      Simple, right ? It’s a bunch of fishes, in a body of water, that we pick up using various tools, for fun or for food (or both).

      Are you going to cover fishing in rivers, lakes or seas ? As a leisure, a sport, a local activity, a culture, a global economical activity, an impact on the environment, an activity endangering specific species ?

      Some people will be all about whaling, some people will just want to talk about their last trip to the nearby lake, some people will discuss the different kind of cooking/frying, some people will debate about the health benefits of eating fishes (with the worldwide heavy metal pollution of our modern times, the equation changed).

      And that’s just fishing.

      - – - – -

      Now back to body image issues.

      Are you going to cover:

      - Advertising ? Including its history ? For all type of ads ? By that I mean (a) representing women, targeted at women ; (b) representing women, targeted at men ; (c) representing men, targeted at women ; (d) representing men, targeted at men.

      - Magazines ? again, all types: who is targeted, which group buy which magazine, etc.

      - Movies ? again, all kind: mainstream or not, comedy/action/romance/thriller/horror/etc, short or long movies, western/american/european/indian/japanese/chinese/korean/iranian/etc, in the 1920s, 30s, etc…

      - Music ? again, everything has to be covered: from the “popular” songs to the less-known ones, from the song you’ll hear on the radio and at the club (usually following a certain pattern regarding gender-based roles) to the more “intimate” ones (about relationship – often exposing borderline psychopathy and abusive behaviour)

      - Video games ? everything and the kitchen sink, + the history of sexism and discrimination (regarding the gaming culture) perpetrated by a significant ‘external’ minority of both men (active/semi-active rejection of gamers -actual ones, the nerds-, even more aggressively rejecting female gamers) and women (passive/semi-active-aggressive social exclusion, stronger against female gamers (to the point of almost becoming passive-aggressive harassment)), along with the ‘internal’ significant minority perpetrating the discrimination (gamers of both genders rejecting/excluding other gamers depending on their gender).

      - Evolutionary-related (debatable) traits (female: the so-called “child-bearing hips”, or breasts that are large and round so “should be able to easily feed many babies” ; male: muscles, large chest/shoulder area, self-confidence, height, “so should be able to defend the group and hunt well to feed the pack”) ?

      - Body-related discrimination within the same sex (female-on-female and male-on-male body-related discrimination), along with discrimination between different sexes (femalemale) ?

      - The whole idea of puberty and the transitional stage called “adolescence” ?

      - and many more elements that I forgot but are absolutely necessary, not to say crucial, to have a proper view of the problem ?

      - – - – -

      No, because you’re not doing a 5-to-10 years book of 300-to-500 pages to properly study the subject. You’re only trying to improve the situation, by raising awareness about one single point, by starting a discussion about it, through an indie game, a website, an article, a blog post, a hashtag, etc. You do that on your free time (for the vast majority of the participants).

      That’s one of the reason why, for the vast majority of these attempts, it’s globally a failure. It’s just an extremely difficult task: you can’t sum up body issues with just your personal experiences, 5 hours of actively thinking about it, 2 hours of writing about it, over a single week. That’s just impossible.

      You can’t find more and more sources, you can’t challenge all assumptions made in your sentences, you can’t provide all the necessary context and more, you can’t discuss about it with people who agree and disagree with you then reworking your plan, you can’t read hundreds of articles and books about it, you don’t have the time, knowledge and environment to do that.

      The only thing I truly find regrettable in almost all these attempts at doing activism, is the lack of humbleness, accepting that one cannot cover the entire subject properly within a single week, let alone a single post.

      Instead of saying something like “regarding the sexism perpetrated by male video-game players on AAA titles (example A, B and C) during the 2005-2010 period, I think that…”, with a short and clear reminder that sexism in gaming worked differently during other eras, gaming culture categories, and isn’t limited to a single gender – to make sure there isn’t any confusion about what’s being discussed -, nearly all of these attempts forget to set up that structure and directly rush to the main point of their argument (a great injustice, an overlooked element, statistics, etc) to get the word out (off their mind).

      Sadly, it inevitably implies the author is omitting the other elements of the subject either by ignorance or on purpose (by dismissing their importance or refusing their very existence/relation to the subject), when it could simply be an oversight regarding the delimitation of the topic at hand.

      Given it’s the Internet and most people here are strangers to each others, without facial expression and body language, it’s only logical to assume nefarious intent until proven otherwise, especially since the Eternal September of the mid-90s.

      It only leads to useless flamewars, and seem to only confirm what the initial participants thought about the current situation and other opinions, not contributing to any evolution.

      - – - – -

      That’s why I don’t think your criticism is well-founded enough to be pertinent, as it’s only exposing the inevitable flaws of such attempts at casually discussing the issue of body issue, without providing your own advice or recommendations to improve the process. However, I have to concede you accurately pointed out the article shortcoming regarding its delimitation in a concise manner.

      - – - – -

      TL;DR: you can’t cover everything related to body issues in one single article ; but you’re right pointing out the RPS writers tend to fail to properly disclose the boundaries of their articles when talking about complex subjects.

      • geerad says:

        Whales are not fish! They are mammals! I remember when Reel, Pole, Shotgun used to be about fishing. Keep your activist mammalling politics out of it!

      • hprice says:

        Excellent post, El_Emmental. You have covered some of my thoughts about this “column” in a better way than I ever could. A column such as this could never cover all the issues regarding such an area of humanity like you say. However, in my mind, this column always seems to cover the most juvenile, “squidgy” aspects of it, and in a pretty facile manner. There doesn’t seem to be any really deep thinking going on … maybe because it is only something knocked up in a few hours once a week or every couple of weeks, or whatever, like you say. A more academic column may be better, and it would take longer to produce, but of course it may be drier than a week in the Utah Salt Flats. However, a good writer would be able to cover a more academic style maybe with some semblance of wit. To me this column fails in this way completely , and comes over as “hey woman/man, I’m really cool with my sexuality. I can talk about really squishy subjects like an adult, and use really rude words with absolutely no guilt … man/woman”.

        So a really good column without the juvenile attitude would actually (to me) be a more interesting read but I don’t think it will actually eventuate.

        I also think that a sister series covering the violence one sees in computer games would be good too. I have been playing computer games on and off since 1981 and earlier (ZX81 freak here) so I don’t mind the odd bit of gung-ho violence now and again. But, as I get older, I am starting to get rather disturbed by the amount of gratuitous violence in computer games, nowadays. See games like Hotline Miami. I really don’t care how fantastic the soundtrack is, it still seems like utterly mindless violence to me. Maybe that’s why I tend to avoid the zombie chewing games (apart from Minecraft, hypocrisy mode off). Those zombies you are hacking to pieces are a hairsbreadth from being human beings. Maybe this is why they’re so popular. You can slaughter human beings in their droves without feeling the guilt because they’re not really “human beings”, are they?

        So yeah, great post. I’m not entirely sure you would agree with any of my points but that’s ok. Intelligent discussion is good. Its not so good when people just lambast you for being different, or not cool, or just have a different opinion of how the world is looking at the moment (to these eyes, not so good) … which is some of what I have seen around here. Maybe my “hipster” quotient is lacking or something. Who knows … the world gets more alien to me every day it seems.

        All the best

        Harvey Price

        • El_Emmental says:

          Excellent post too, sir Harvey Price :)

          I agree a regular column on violence in video games, one small subset of the entire subject at a time, could be very interesting. If I wasn’t busy with studying at the moment, I would be starting some primarily researches.

          I’ve always thought about documenting the history of violence in video games, especially the way death and pain is represented, from the “Mein leben !” of the SS officer in Wolfenstein 3D, to the gruesome death of some third-person-view games, where the victim is spraying blood and chocking on their own blood (forgot the name – similar to ‘Severance: Blade of Darkness’).

          Then, trying to determine what criteria and elements make a death funny, horrible or disgusting: a super dramatic death cry, convulsion, respiratory problems, rag doll physics (suddenly removing all muscle tension – unlike in most death), etc. Basically, death design.

          It could then branch off with zombies: what would happen if we were making zombies more “human-like” ? What makes people believe something is not human ? There’s a lot to be discussed there.

          -

          Regarding Hotline Miami, I think it’s all about the “suspension of disbelief”, either suspending our usual stance on violence (= because it’s a game, a colorful pixelated one, it’s like a cartoon so drilling through a live skull or gouging eyes out is part of the game’s universe, not part of our world), or suspending our belief that’s it’s just a cartoon and actually believing it’s close to reality.

          When playing HLM (HotLine Miami), I would sometime feel immersed in it (it takes quite a lot of concentration though), and suddenly it really was horrible. Seriously, doing such widespread massacre, blood and dead mangled bodies everywhere ?! I think that’s where HLM goes from a “neat gore game with a cool soundtrack” to a really interesting experience: it was disgusting, it was horrifying, it was the work of a psychopath, and I only wanted it to end, for good. In that situation, finishing the game was a relief, the end of the nightmare (only a true psychopath would wish it would never end). Suddenly the masks, the oppressive atmosphere, everything made sense.

          -

          I think such ability to go beyond the “it’s a cartoon/a game/some zombies” and immersing yourself in the game’s universe depends on the players (their personality, personal life, books/movies/games previously played).

          In your case, playing on the ZX81 taught you to believe these 5-10 pixels were a live character in the game, you gained the capacity to extrapolate from the superficial appearance of a world/character and see further into the game.

          I only started playing video games in the early-mid 90s (Gameboy !), so rather rapidly the 2D improved a lot (MegaDrive, SNES, etc) – that’s probably why I can tolerate that realistic-looking-world violence, but sometime I kinda find it pretty troubling, I’m probably walking a fine line between the two.

          I think that’s the reason you can’t buy the “it’s just a game, they are just zombies” argument that easily, making a human stumble around and have a grey/green skin doesn’t magically turn it into a bad monster that deserve to be killed in gruesome ways. Hell, plenty of fantasy books/games had much weirder characters that weren’t looking like humans at all, who were perfectly humane and had the right to live in these lands.

          As the graphical fidelity increases years after years, newer generations of players have less and less extra mental work to do to enjoy the game, and I think it globally (not all) makes them less able to interpret beyond the superficial visuals: if Hotline Miami would have been released in early 90s, it would have been perceived as one of the most violent and disgusting game of its era, nowadays it’s just a quirky retro-style top-down action game. Most people don’t see what makes it any shocking.

          I think you’re simply cursed with your ability to read between the lines, so you need more subtle or minimalist designed games, otherwise the very troubling aspects of the game, invisible to the main audience, are spoiling the fun.

          A similar situation exist with people enjoying everything about the soviet army and songs because it sounds cool, while other people who endured the soviet regime (especially the NKVD and KGB) really can’t understand how anyone could enjoy that, when millions of people died in soviet deportations and camps. I guess that “knowledge is power”, but like all power it’s also a curse. Kinda like a super-hero :)

          Best of luck

          El Emmental

  17. truths33ker says:

    Wants his own issues discussed, only ever brings them up when telling her to shut up about her issues

    • DoingitRight says:

      Wants to white knight, fails to reply properly.

      Either way, double standards are why you people are the worst.

      • SuicideKing says:

        Oh wow the comments section is going to be about this isn’t it. “White Knight”? Beautiful.

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          Just come upstairs and join us in the sex ed memories (mammaries?) conversation. We’ve got Pringles.
          And no thats not a euphemism

          • gwathdring says:

            Well, not exclusively a euphemism.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Indeed. Come and enjoy our tubes of salty pleasure.

          • SuicideKing says:

            Yes i did enjoy all of that. Been thinking of a sexy game pun (or a game sex-pun?) all day! :D

          • DiamondDog says:

            Well, maybe his problem is he has a tube of sour cream.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Which brings us back to gonorrhoea

          • El_Emmental says:

            I confirm the CookPassBabtridge & Friends team won the comment section with their top-notch mammaries stories. Go up there !

        • DoingitRight says:

          When it quacks, it is a duck.

          Or a voice recorder.

          • Kaeoschassis says:

            Treating people like crap is never okay. It is never not harmful. It is detrimental to everyone, not just to those it targets. There is no need for a hidden agenda – or any agenda – when someone stands up and says “Hey, this is not cool.” And since it is harmful to everyone, I really find myself wondering why anybody would not stand up against it. When someone questions another’s motives for desiring a kinder and fairer society, I question their motives for not desiring it.

            Gosh, I really do not see what’s so hard to understand here.

      • Phasma Felis says:

        “White Knighting” isn’t actually a thing. You’re projecting because you can’t imagine any possible reason to be pleasant or supportive to a woman except to trick her into touching your penis, and you assume other men are the same. Let me assure you that we are not.

        • joa says:

          Of course it’s a thing. How do you know what the motivations of men defending women talking about female roles in video games are? Men are certainly evolved to have a strong desire to protect women. It doesn’t really have a direct bearing on whether there should or shouldn’t be better written female characters in video games, but it is interesting to consider how many men are simply endorsing these viewpoints in an effort to differentiate themselves from those other guys who “don’t get it”.

          • geerad says:

            “How do you know what the motivations of men defending women talking about female roles in video games are?” How do YOU know their motivations? If you don’t know their motivations, should you assume they’re treating women with basic human decency just to manipulate them into having sex?

            Men (some of them, anyway) have also evolved empathy and a conscience. And therefore they sometimes speak up about things that don’t directly affect them because they believe it is the right thing to do.

            I am a man. I believe that women are human beings and therefore entitled to a certain amount of dignity, whether they might have sex with me or not (and if history is any guide, very few of them are going to have sex with me). I believe that women shouldn’t have to put up with a bunch of crap just for being women. It’s very easy for us as men to not notice this crap or to write it off as isolated incidents, but for women, it’s an “isolated incident” pretty much everywhere they go. I believe that women can and do stand up for themselves, but they can’t fight that battle in every single community they enter, because it’s EXHAUSTING; I believe they shouldn’t have to.

            If I have to choose between excluding the jerks who make awful comments about women or the women who read some of these awful comments and decide not to participate, I’ll get rid of the jerks every time. Yes, even though I don’t think any of the women will have sex with me.

          • joa says:

            I’m not saying it’s anything as conscious as only arguing for women because you want to have sex for them — I’m saying that the innate male desire to protect women is always going to factor in. And while that doesn’t mean we should dismiss anti-sexist male viewpoints entirely – we should at least take them with a grain of salt.

            In your own comment you say that women shouldn’t have to fight against sexism in the communities they enter, the implication (presumably) being that men should do it for them. You must be able to see where this accusation of “white knighting” comes from.

          • Tssha says:

            “You must be able to see where this accusation of “white knighting” comes from” No, joa. No, we really don’t.

            Cynical views like yours about the level of agency people have in choosing to stand up for other human beings just because they were born with a penis really have no basis in facts or reality, and your assertions that they do really just reveal your own sexist biases.

            I know, it’s an unpleasant fact to look straight in the face, but you’ll be a better person for confronting your own biases. While you’re at it, you might consider NOT accusing people of being white knights. Because that’s just plain ridiculous and polarizes every conversation it’s inserted into…heheh, inserted…*ehem*

            Point is, white knighting accusations are always bullshit, just like accusing the other guy of cheating in that Source Engine Multiplayer mod you like to play. It’s always wrong, and it’s usually because you can’t understand how the other dude could have owned your face so hard without trying, unless they were somehow cheating.

            And that metaphor pretty much stands on its own.

        • Lusketrollet says:

          Of course White-Knighting is a thing. Have you spent the last few million years of human existence on a different planet?

          I can’t believe it’s gone so far that we’re apparently supposed to pretend the phenomenon “doesn’t actually exist”. That’s just ludicrous.

          • Kaeoschassis says:

            It probably does, at that.
            Does that mean it should be a viable counterpoint anytime any male tries to say or do anything decent? More to the point, should we really just assume that this is infact what’s happening every single time? I never signed up for that. If we’re all meant to be that cynical then humanity may as well just give up now.

  18. SuicideKing says:

    Until I actually got a period I was convinced it would be a painless quick process where the liquid was blue like in those Always sanitary towel absorbency adverts.

    Well, being a guy i didn’t get a period, but yeah, I thought sanitary pads were some sort of blotting paper for absorbing ink. Used to like experimenting with random things (single child, what can you do, except pretend screws are missiles?) so i remember asking mother if i could have one of those to play with.

    That’s probably when she told me about menstruation in an abstract and factual way.

  19. vai90 says:

    I swear I’ve seen this article on here before (or one of remarkable similarity about the very same game). Totally feels like a repost to me. Following the tags doesn’t bring anything up though. What gives?

  20. Richard Burton says:

    Haha that Homestar Runner cartoon series was bloody brilliant! Spanks, Cara!

  21. Scumbag says:

    While playing How do you do it I ended up twisting both dolls out of the girl’s hands. They spun in the center as her arms spazed out at the sizes, cracking and limbs flying everywhere. The mother then came home and the girl’s arms suddenly flew off and the dolls flew away.

    Is… is that how a teenage girl’s sex drive works?

  22. davemaster says:

    Gender politics has no place in gaming.

    edit: Discussion of sex makes me uncomfortable. Please send help.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      Economics have no place in gaming.
      Communism has no place in gaming.
      Lamps have no place in gaming.
      Murder has no place in gaming.
      [...]

    • Phasma Felis says:

      Your MOM has no place in gaming.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        You take that back!

        One of my favourite games of all time, that one. :c

    • Cara Ellison says:

      You’re right! Stop flaunting your male agenda on my videogame column I am paid to write by this fine establishment. There is no place for your gender policing here. This is my space. Get out.

      • Calculon says:

        Writing about gender discrepancies in a given genus is one thing (and perfectly fine quite frankly) but overly sexualizing said content is very much unneeded and unnecessary. We already live in a very overly sexualized society, so all you’ve really done here is add your voice to the millions of other voices saying ‘look at me – I’m about SEX!!! And I’m a girl talking about sex, and games!! Isn’t that SEXY!!??” Congrats – you’re just like everyone else. Amazing accomplishment.

        • Kaeoschassis says:

          Well, someone here certainly sounds droningly familiar, that much is for sure.
          Thinking it’s not Cara though…

        • joa says:

          The human race is about sex. Get over it

        • unit 3000-21 says:

          While I do think the culture we live in is oversexualized and I find Cara’s “I’m a girl who is really open about sex” schtick kind of tiring (while considering her writing generally good enough to still read it) I’m curious about what did you expect from a column titled S.EXE?

          • Cara Ellison says:

            I’m not really ever sure what my gender has to do with anything regarding a ‘schtick’, I mean, is the fact that the majority of commenters are men a ‘schtick’? I can’t help that I’m a woman so I write from the perspective of a woman, but how could you write a column about sex in videogames without being open about sex? I am a) a person who is IRL open about sex, and b) a good writer, so the ad hominems here – ‘I will bring up what I assume her identity is again and again to lead people to ignore the content of what is written’ seem really off base and pretty irrelevant. It’s the only column of its kind in the games press and is sort of badly needed since everyone tries to ignore the fact that games like this are being made.

            As for being ‘juvenile’ 1) I wrote about Fatale in the most highbrow manner possible (FOUCAULT and OSCAR WILDE) and no one read it because it wasn’t a mod for dongs or whatever flimsy thing it is that people get excited about 2) POOPYHEADS

          • unit 3000-21 says:

            I’m sorry Cara I didn’t mean to offend you. When I read it now “schtick” sounds somewhat negative, like a gimmick or something like that. I just meant that it is something that you do often and that it differentiates you from most people writing about games. I don’t think it’s wrong or bad I just prefer when you dial it down, because I’m kind of tired with oversexualization of our culture.

          • tormos says:

            also re: 1) I read the crap out of that article

  23. Jraptor59 says:

    I am guessing this is a joke article? If it’s not, and you really think its cool, then I hope I never meet you. I would not like a computer simulation teach my child about sex. You must also realize that this program is not innocent? It’s perverted. I also bet the main market for it is perverts, child molesters, and pedophiles.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Man am I ever glad I had open-minded parents who were always willing to discuss my concerns and queries without forcing their opinions on me. Who understood that there’s a huge difference between healthy, sexually active people and “perverts, child molesters, and pedophiles”.

    • Jack Mack says:

      I hope this is a joke comment.

  24. Josh W says:

    I don’t have anything clever or controversial to say, but this is a nice article.

  25. altum videtur says:

    Everyone who read this article has been assassinated by TEH GOVARNEMT

    Edit:
    Forgive for drunken stupid.

    I seem to recall that by the age of 12 everybody I knew (and myself included) was more or less fully aware of how “teh sexez” worked, somehow. I remember when in high school our biology teacher said (learning about the human reproduction system) to a room full of 14 year olds that if anybody that so much as snickers during class is a bloody idiot (he said this in english actually, hooray for bilingual education) and should shut their stupid immature face because they bloody well know better. And nobody did, and it’s not like we were the most serious people in the world (except me. I was.)