FAO Volition/THQ, Re. Saints Row Marketing

Look at all the naked women oh no wait.

Dear Volition/THQ,

I’m really looking forward to Saints Row: The Third. While I didn’t much enjoy the original Saints Row, Saints Row 2 was one of the most entertaining open city games I’ve played, and by the looks of the trailers for the third game, it’s heading even further in the direction of anarchic fun that so delighted me. So I really want to ask you to reconsider your current marketing strategies.

This weekend you announced your “quality assurance team” for Saints Row: The Third, in the form of Penthouse Pets Heather Vandeven, Justine Joli, Heidi Baron, Shay Laren, Ryan Keely and Nikki Benz. You accompanied this with puns that suggested sexual interaction with the player, such as their involvement promising “to ensure a satisfying Saints Row experience whether playing alone or with a friend”.

I understand that the development team, and the game itself, believes in the philosophy of equal opportunity offending, where all targets are considered fair game. While I take issue with this way of thinking – as I believe it ignores the hundreds/thousands of years of subjugation of very many distinct groups, be they by race, gender, sexuality or wealth, from a position of predominantly white, male, middle-class luxury – I understand this is the perceived justification behind the antics that accompany the series’ publicity.

My SR2 character.

I think such publicity betrays the content of the game itself. When I played Saints Row 2, I played as a strong, confident Hispanic woman, who made up one of extremely few such female characters in all of gaming. And while of course the game contained depictions of women as gormless bikini-clad bimbos, they were among a cast of other strong women, and as such appeared in context as a parody of a particular group. Not a particularly brilliant parody, nor perhaps an entirely helpful one, but certainly one within the above-mentioned philosophy.

However, despite the variety within your games, the notion of women being anything other than a transporting mechanism for breasts seems to be absent without. Attending the surprisingly wet and chilly E3 this year, and finding that the car park’s sponsorship by Saints Row: The Third included a group of shivering models in purple bikinis required to perform the service of washing your car for you… well, it rather stuck in my craw. The sight of those poor women in their skimpy swimwear, in the middle of LA’s grimy, grey interior on a grimy, grey day, did not endear me toward your game.

SR2 offered some confusing choices.

Your lead producer, Greg Donovan, states that the Penthouse models have been hired because of “a number of key factors”. These are:

  • their passion for Saints Row
  • their sense of style and Saints Row attitude
  • their desire to give every player a unique, over-the-top, unforgettable experience

“In the end,” he continues, “their selfless efforts are going to put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces.”

I do not know if any of the models listed are fans of Saints Row. I have no way of knowing. It would seem, to me, a large coincidence if all these Penthouse regulars happened to be into the games. Not impossible, certainly. But I’m still going to go out on a limb and guess that their “passion for Saints Row” may not have existed before their first pay-check. What is less ambiguous, however, is the suggestion that their alleged involvement in the QA process of Saints Row: The Third will result in some sort of sexual gratification for the player. I would contend that their involvement at this level of the game’s development could carry over the sexual suggestions implied via their being people who regularly pose naked for pornographic magazines. It seems also worth questioning whether their participation is entirely “selfess”. Are they not being paid for their work? This would seem like serious exploitation were it the case.

It seems from your recent press release that you intend to release DLC in the future that features these women. You say this is “a rare homage to the dedicated developers charged with quality assurance,” which you say has previously been a “thankless” job. This does seem a touch insulting to your genuine QA team, and also concerns me that this marketing angle will indeed be influencing the game.

Where are all the muscly men in the ads?

I am not convinced that through these marketing techniques, which some may consider somewhat exploitative of and disrespectful toward women, accurately reflect your game, nor promote it in a useful way. While I do not doubt that there is a significant contingent of potential players who will be attracted to damp, servile women in bikinis, or porn stars pretending to work on the game, I can say that as one person I find myself put off a game I’m otherwise extremely excited to play. You do yourselves a significant disservice when your marketing suggests your game is unsophisticated, masturbatory material, when it is in fact wild, anarchic mayhem and gleefully violent nonsense.

Yours sincerely,

John Walker


  1. CaspianRoach says:

    I’m sure that this is just a joke and they won’t let unqualified people to somehow influence the game designing proccess. They’re not that stupid.

    • FakeAssName says:

      THQ is though!

      remember when they got fined for dumping a shit pot of propaganda for Homefront on San Francisco, most of which ended up in the bay.

      I have every bit of faith that THQ would let these bimbos write down whatever stupid ideas they can think of after being partially asphyxiated by their implants each night, and then turning them in to Violition with a note saying “make it happen.”

    • medwards says:

      Is this some advanced form of trolling? Or are you seriously that oblivious to the content of the post?

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      After thinking it over a bit, I’ve decided that this is the best post ever.

    • mjig says:

      Yeah, I hope they won’t let unqualified people ruin the game, otherwise they might actually listen to John Walker’s bleeding heart nonsense.

      Phrases like “While I take issue with this way of thinking – as I believe it ignores the hundreds/thousands of years of subjugation of very many distinct groups, be they by race, gender, sexuality or wealth, from a position of predominantly white, male, middle-class luxury” are comedy gold, and I’d suspect that the whole article was sarcastic if it weren’t for his work in the past.

    • ShaunCG says:

      “I have every bit of faith that THQ would let these bimbos write down whatever stupid ideas they can think of after being partially asphyxiated by their implants each night, and then turning them in to Violition with a note saying “make it happen.””
      I’m glad to see that John’s comments about sexism and respect have really resonated with you.


      Yeah, that whole treating people fairly thing, and that whole understanding history business. What a load of nonsense eh? Good job we’ve got you around to point out that it’s all about the lulz.

    • Tenk says:

      @ShaunCG, yeah, because nothing scream social equality like tiptoeing around poking fun at one particular group of people, implying that they couldn’t take a joke.

      –Really people. this bleeding heart, Over-PC nonsense is more harmful to equality then making sexualized jokes, because the jokes imply an acceptance of said group as opposed to acting like a time bomb entered the room when one shows up. to be fair, I can understand how y’all’d be confused, considering the “have your cake and eat it to” -SOME- types have, where they want to be treated specially if it’s in their benefit but god help you if it isn’t in their favor. come on, really?

    • ShaunCG says:

      @Tenk I didn’t realise that “I have every bit of faith that THQ would let these bimbos write down whatever stupid ideas they can think of after being partially asphyxiated by their implants each night, and then turning them in to Violition with a note saying “make it happen.” was a gentle joke that no one would object to having made about them, as opposed to a jab at THQ that drifted into contemptible and misogynistic territory.

      If you disagree then I suggest you try that comment out on a few models and see how many times you do / don’t get a slap in the face.

      “Really people. this bleeding heart, Over-PC nonsense is more harmful to equality then making sexualized jokes”

      No it is not. You are wrong.

      Generally speaking, the people who are criticising the sort of unquestioned and lazy sexism inherent in this sort of approach marketing are the people who have made some effort to understand feministic critiques on social patriarchy, male privilege, the male gaze and other such concepts. The people who argue against such criticism are typically males who are ignorant of such ideas and who have little grasp on what their male privilege actually means in terms of their worldview.

      If you have a cogent, coherent argument that is one thing, but brash and baseless statements like the one I have quoted above do not qualify. Nor do straw men like the ones you proceed to tear into.

  2. Cooper says:

    Thank you, John.

    The sleep-walking, unthinking sexism which pervades the games industry veers between boring and depressing.

    I too played a confident black woman in SR2, precisely because such characters are lacking in general, especially in games. That the Saints Row series allows for this is something to be celebrated, not hidden.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Quite. Also,

      You do yourselves a significant disservice when your marketing suggests your game is unsophisticated, masturbatory material, when it is in fact wild, anarchic mayhem and gleefully violent nonsense.

      is one of the most amusing sentences I have read in quite a while.

    • dethgar says:

      “pervades the games industry society”

  3. Tei says:

    Fact of life: fat people (and hypermuscular dudes) have tits. Is not socially aceptable to show in public with a “Male Brassiere” (see image sr3m.jpg, then again see sr3m2.jpg). But for some reason, is not socially aceptable to show in public withouth one, if you are a girl.
    Is that fair? I think not!.

    • CaspianRoach says:

      Fact of human biology: people are attracted to female mammaries because of our reproductive system.

    • JackShandy says:

      Tei, you’re fantastic.

    • Tssha says:

      It is this line of logic that has made it legal for women to go topless in Canada…provided it’s legally acceptable for a male to go topless in the same situation. The law restricting such behaviour, applied only to one gender, was ruled discriminatory by the courts.

      Whether it’s socially acceptable is another, whole more convoluted matter I won’t discuss here. Nonetheless, the thought amused me and maybe stirred up a bit of national pride. Canada is truly a model for egalitarianism.

    • NegativeNancy says:

      @Tei: Fact of life; pecs are not tits.

  4. Rikard Peterson says:

    I hope you get a reply.

  5. pipman3000 says:

    They should of had that guy in the cat costume shoot octopi into people’s faces.

    • pipman3000 says:

      Fat guy in a hotdug suit spraying people with shit.

      Spray a little shit on Raven Software for not making more Heretic/Hexen games. (Activision didn’t shut them down yet right?)

    • pipman3000 says:

      It’d be way less gross then booth babes IMO

      Septic Tank Shower: Disgusts me less then casual misogyny.

    • FakeAssName says:

      Raven’s still alive and kicking, Singularity didn’t exactly knock off socks but Bobby has been having them work on DLC projects for COD (if you can call that alive).

      if you really want to see more games in the vein of the old Raven games you should pay attention to Human Head and the Prey series (most of the founders split from raven after Avtivision bought them and started HH).

  6. Skeletor68 says:

    This kind of stuff always makes feel a little embarrassed to be a gamer.

  7. Burning Man says:

    “the notion of women being anything other than a transporting mechanism for breasts seems to be absent without”.

    I don’t get the sentence structure there. Can someone explain “absent without”?

    • John Walker says:

      It reflects the “within” from before the comma.

      I realise it reads clumsily, but I decided I didn’t mind.

    • jezcentral says:

      I read it as “absent throughout”.

    • Danorz says:

      “the notion of women being anything other than a transporting mechanism for breasts [you cultivate inside your games] seems to be absent [from your thinking outside of them]”.

    • Burning Man says:

      Oh I see now.

  8. Symitri says:

    I played a female Asian character with the extreme ‘cockney’ male accent.

    On an aside from that note,the marketing campaign hasn’t bothered me at all until this point. And even with this, I’m still not bothered. This is from somebody who found EA’s campaigns for Dante’s Inferno, Dead Space 2 and even Shadows of the Damned to make me feel terribly icky in different ways.

    The game is an incredible over-the-top parody of the genre and their marketing campaign is just more of the same. While I’d like to see booth babes gotten rid of, none of the other stuff has been particularly harsh yet. Maybe my opinion will change over the next few months as we get closer, but it hasn’t even come close to a point where I feel I have to make a stand on this issue.

    • sinister agent says:

      I played a female Asian character with the extreme ‘cockney’ male accent.


    • ffordesoon says:


      I have, and I know vaguely what you’re referring to, but it’s not the same.

      EDIT: Goddamn busted comments system…

  9. RuySan says:

    I disagree with the notion that every piece of entertainment must be directed to every gender, ethnicity and social class.

    If Volition wants to market this game to a specific niche, let them be.

    • Nalano says:

      You’re right. We don’t have near enough WWII games from the Nazi perspective.

    • Cunzy1 1 says:

      Anyone read anything about the difference between making a product for a target market and discrimination? There’s a theoretical fine line dividing the two.

      This kinda stuff isn’t anywhere near that line however. Video game marketing is almost as offensive as cosmetics marketing

      If there is a spreadsheet somewhere showing how crap like this actually transfers into increased sales I’d like to see it.

    • FKD says:

      I disagree as well, and they should be allowed to gear their game towards whoever they want. I think part of the problem, part of what John was saying, and certainly the way I feel is that this is not simply a one time case of “But we are just trying to market towards a different group!” so much as it is..once again..the same old thing. Actually marketing to a different group would be a actual nice change (and by that I am not meaning, “Oh we made Bejewled because we think lonely housewifes will get a real kick out of it”).

    • Nalano says:

      @ Cunzy

      Anyone read anything about the difference between making a product for a target market and discrimination?

      I would imagine the distinction comes when the target market is itself discriminatory. In this case, we’re talking about using real live women as objects to coax horny, horny boys.

    • ffordesoon says:


      Actually (and I realize how this sounds, but hear me out), I would rather like to see the release of an FPS (or an action game, or blah-de-blah) wherein the player is an instrument of a regime of comparable malevolence. Not the Nazis, for obvious reasons (not least of which being that it would make me sick to my stomach to the point that I couldn’t continue playing the game), and perhaps not any other real regimes, but perhaps a fictional Evil Empire of one sort or another. I think that such a game, done tastefully and without gratuitous titillation, could make some fascinating points about the seductive nature of Empire, say, or the allure of fascism, and this hypothetical game could do so in a way that no other medium could.

      All of which is far too heady for a discussion of a Saints Row title, but there you go.



    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      ffordesoon: Have you played Far Cry 2?

    • Erd says:

      Didn’t Company of Heroes have a campaign from the german perspective.

    • jymkata says:

      I’d play it

  10. obvioustroll says:

    OMG women in bikinis, someone call the police!

  11. MiniTrue says:

    Dear John Walker,

    link to tinyurl.com

    Sincerest regards,
    Someone who understands Saint’s Row: the Third.

    • Jubaal says:

      Sadly you clearly don’t understand his article.

    • MiniTrue says:

      Oh, I understood it. I just thought it was pretentious games “journalism” (read: hobbyism) incarnate, typical of a hobbyist writer trying to legitimatise what he writes about to the extent that he passes for a journalist. Such is the offense that I have taken at this ludicrous “letter” that I shall no longer be returning to this site. I fear that the cancer that infests Eurogamer and Kotaku has moved to RPS now.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Aw, no! Come back!

    • Koozer says:

      Hehe, nice one.

      You are joking…right?

    • sinister agent says:

      What a terrible shame. Now who will challenge us with their carefully-considered debating points? We’ll have to ship in at least three or four schoolchildren to match that kind of quality output.

    • Latterman says:

      no more low-pixel bad-quality quickmemes? a shame.

    • Trousers says:

      I gotta agree with minitrue. This may be really rude, but this article and many by John before it just SCREAM “Please hire me to write about Serious Business, or if I must write about video games, PAY ME LOTS” Padding the resume at the expense of your loyal starving flea bitten readers.
      This is just a guess though, one that tingles at my immature nether regions much like these Penthouse Ladies.

      edit: I don’t know what a quess is

    • tyrsius says:

      I absolutely love it when self-righteous people like yourself get so offended by a single writer on a single article that they threaten to leave the entire site.

      Good riddance, you worthless hypocrite.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Yes; John Walker, who has a Wikipedia page and has written for a number of publications including (and I quote from his Wiki page) “PC Gamer (credited since issue 75), Total Film, Linux Format, Cult TV, Edge, NGamer, Windows XP, PC Plus, Official Xbox Magazine, Gamesmaster and PC Format,” is clearly some amateur blogger who desperately wants a job as a games journalist and is running RPS into the ground in order to get more stuff on his CV.

      He is absolutely not an intelligent person writing articles about an important issue in video games which retarded, reactionary trolls have decided to comment-bomb with their disgusting, outmoded opinions that ought to get them shot.

      And nothing of value was lost.

    • timmyvos says:

      Minitrue doubleplusgood reaction johnwalkerarticle, john walker commit thinkcrime against Volition. Minilove has been alerted. Big brother is watching. (Did I do this correctly?)

    • Pinkables says:

      I don’t always agree with the opinion articles on RPS. Often i do. None have come anywhere near to offending me though.
      Furthermore, misogyny in the games industry is hardly a new topic for John, so i would question how contrived this article really is if these are sincere beliefs.

      Or are you looking for purely objective reviews of games? Metacritic is probably the closest you’ll find.

    • Yosharian says:

      Sod off then.

    • Nick says:

      hehe.. John Walker is a hobbyist.. hehe

    • sinister agent says:

      Walker’s hobbies are healing, crying, and now apparently he’s branching out into writing about games.

    • stahlwerk says:

      I hope he’s better at writing than that other thing.

    • noom says:

      Edit: I have to stop reply failing like this…

    • Hanban says:

      The people have spoken MiniTrue!

      You are retarded! \o/

    • MiniTrue says:

      “PC Gamer (credited since issue 75), Total Film, Linux Format, Cult TV, Edge, NGamer, Windows XP, PC Plus, Official Xbox Magazine, Gamesmaster and PC Format”

      All hobbyist publications.

    • Chris D says:

      “Such is the offense that I have taken at this ludicrous “letter” that I shall no longer be returning to this site.”

      And back in just under two hours. Well to be fair that’s stilll longer than the average period from dramatic flounce out to “and another thing!”

    • Pinkables says:

      I’m genuinely uncertain here. Do you mean he’s a hobbyist, or that he writes primarily for publications pertaining to hobbies?

    • Ralphomon says:

      So trying to address part of the sexism endemic to the majority of the games industry is a shallow attempt to legitimise games rather than basic human consideration for others? We’re better off without you.

    • TenjouUtena says:

      I think his implication here is that games journalism isn’t ‘real’ journalism because John isn’t writing about grown men putting on special clothes and wrestling each other of control of a preselected object.

    • Pinkables says:

      ^Excellent summary. This is pretty much what i suspected and your ridicule echoes my sentiments exactly.

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      I’m almost certain he’s just doing a double troll. I think. I hope.

      Thats what i’m going to tell myself when I try to fall to sleep tonight anyway. No one could possibly be that sanctimonious, to post on a gaming website, when they don’t even believe gaming related journalism is real journalism. Or that they believe Mainstream journalism is real journalism.

    • ffordesoon says:


      Yeah, how dare John Walker – a grown human being with dignity, self-respect, and years of experience writing about a medium he loves passionately – request to be treated like the adult he is by the makers of a game he’s quite looking forward to? How dare he object in a reasoned and fair manner to a marketing campaign he finds troubling on a fundamental level? How dare he have the intellectual courage to believe that maybe – just maybe – these crazy “electronic games” are more than toys for stupid children, and that perhaps we should hold them and their makers to some sort of standard? How dare he take video games – perhaps the only genuinely new form of art created in the last fifty years, and certainly the only one with near-limitless potential – seriously? You’re right, it is a sickness! Why can’t the stupid enthusiast press just regurgitate the questionable PR handed to them and write puerile lists asserting that one pretend lady’s pretend mammary glands are quantifiably superior to another pretend lady’s pretend mammary glands? Why do these dumb hobbyist man-children always have to state their dumb opinions on their dumb websites that they – and not you – maintain? It sickens me!

      In all seriousness, you haven’t been coming to RPS long, have you? If you do some digging, I think you’ll find the RPS Hivemind has been “infecting” others with this alleged “sickness” since its inception. That’s kind of the point.

      Oh, and incidentally, you might want to steer clear of gaming entirely in the future, because this particular “sickness” is going to become a full-blown pandemic in about, oh, five years or so. Mass media have a way of, you know, becoming legitimate without your permission.

  12. Pedanticjase says:

    I wouldn’t have even known about this stunt if RPS hadn’t drawn attention to it

    • stahlwerk says:

      …which is kinda the point of journalism, isn’t it? Can’t make something go away by trying not to look too hard.

    • westyfield says:

      Same, I haven’t seen any new SR3 adverts since E3.

  13. Nalano says:

    I do hope they get the message.

    • patricij says:

      I’d prefer a massage…from Shay Laren *nudge, nudge*

  14. Tony M says:

    My reaction to SR3s previous (cat) marketing video:
    “WTF awesome! I’m forwarding this link on to all my gaming friends. Looks like this game might be something new and full of energy”.

    My reaction to Penthouse girls used to market SR3:
    “Sigh. This tired old crap again?”

    • Justin Leego says:

      Or “Ehh… I hope no-one realises that this junk is for the same game.”

    • The Sentinel says:

      Didn’t they also do the cock-punch video? Yeah, they did: I liked that one. :)

      link to youtube.com

      I don’t like the tacky/sleazy sexism shit, though. John’s right to call that out. It’s long past time the industry got past this horrible trend of using T&A to sell and promote games.

  15. MiniMatt says:

    Honestly I agree with the sentiment whole heartedly but I find little merit in this approach at changing industry behaviour. It strikes as educational in tone, hoping the marketing execs will wake up and go “hmm, yeah, perhaps our campaign could come across as playing to crude stereotypes; perhaps it might not be the best way to market our games in the 21st century”. Now, education is not what these people need, they already know, nobody’s that stupid, at least nobody able to tie their own shoelaces and sit on a toilet the right way round.

    What they really need to be told is not words of wisdom but simply to “cmon, just grow the feck up, this is getting cringeworthy and I’m simply not going to give this rubbish the attention it craves”. There may or may not be no such thing as bad publicity but what I can guarantee is that marketing people fear more than anything is NO publicity. You’ve given them publicity. I’d be tempted to simply drop their PR people a private line saying “Heyas, RPS here, erm, well we’re not going to run anything on your latest porn-star campaign as well it’s a bit crap.”

    • Nalano says:

      Well, if our hopes rest on convincing marketing execs, we’re doomed already. Let’s hope the owners have sense enough to collar them, however.

    • Jac says:

      I’ve never tried picturing someone sitting on the toilet the wrong way round. Now I’m laughing.

  16. Jubaal says:

    Thanks John, it is always refreshing to see you championing these causes in the industry.

    Keep it up good man.

  17. GT3000 says:

    Le sigh. RPS, the crusading force for gender equality in the gaming industry. It’s admirable but it always comes off as apologetic. Almost like RPS is that white knight that scolds the bad gaming industry and profusely apologizes to the damsel he believes to be rescuing only to see her leap back into Gaming Industry’s badboy arms.

    • Tony M says:

      Who is the “damsel” in this analogy?

    • GT3000 says:

      Women. I suppose if we had to specify a particular group in this whole endeavor, the booth babes who were inadvertently shivering in the cold as well as the pornstar game-advisors*.

      * = In name only mind you.

    • Salt says:

      I don’t think the purpose of the article is to be a white knight and rescue Heather Vandeven, Justine Joli, Heidi Baron, Shay Laren, Ryan Keely and Nikki Benz from their employment on an ad campaign.

      Rather it’s to point out that such an ad campaign leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth of many potential customers.

    • Urthman says:

      Poor GT3000. He thought those Penthouse models were actually gamers who like to play Saints’ Row until John came along and ruined his fantasy.

    • GT3000 says:


      You’re missing the point. RPS gets preachy. RPS loses the entertainment value when they get preachy. Anyone with common decency can infer that these marketing gimmicks appeal to base audiences. I’m just trying to grapple with RPS’ incessant gender crusading or their odd sense of British humor. If this article was supposed to be satire then it fell down a flight of stairs and on her face. If it wasn’t then stop talking about their low-brow marketing techniques and tell me about Saints Row: The Third’s gameplay/plot/etc. Nobody is going to remember this shit when the game releases.


      Your reading comprehension leaves much to be desired.

    • stahlwerk says:

      While I can’t be totally sure, I don’t think this letter is satire.
      RPS is as much about the games as it is about the people making and playing them, something one might even call “gaming culture”, in contrast to the gaming barbarism of the Tribes of the Plains.
      In other words: deal with it.

    • Ralphomon says:

      Yeah, this ain’t satire. Gender issues and sexism in gaming are serious business (said with no trace of irony). I think RPS, as a good games news site, has a right or even a responsibility to ‘get preachy’ at this kind of thing.

    • John Walker says:

      It’s not satire. It’s occasionally sarcastic, but it’s what I was thinking, so I wrote it down.

  18. Alaric says:

    Let’s pass a law that requires all games to be politically correct. All developers must also hire an equal amount of people of all races, both sexes, all age groups, all wealth levels, and all handicaps. That is the only way to make games which will no longer perpetuate the shameful tradition of hundreds/thousands of years of subjugation of very many distinct groups, be they by race, gender, sexuality or wealth, from a position of predominantly white, male, middle-class luxury.

    Also… KILL WHITEY!!! (Especially if whitey is male and middle class.)

    • Latterman says:


    • Ralphomon says:

      Straw man much?

    • Gonefornow says:

      I agree. The only way to be sure is to force it by Law.
      The perpetuation of the shameful tradition of hundreds/thousands of years of subjugation of very many distinct groups, be they by race, gender, sexuality or wealth, from a position of predominantly white, male, middle-class luxury must be stopped, one case at a time.


  19. Fiwer says:

    Excellent fake post John, you really captured the essence of what it means to be a whiny tool who fails to grasp satire when he sees it.

    • GT3000 says:

      15/10 if John wrote this as a troll post. This would go into the pantheon of tricking someone to anger. Only to rival purple and green.

    • John Walker says:

      Heh, I love the idea that THQ were being archly satirical when they hired all those women to don their bikinis and wash people’s cars.

    • Nalano says:

      So, at any point during this whole event, was any of the women sucker punched, run over or fired out of a cannon?

  20. Trousers says:

    Sex sells, Mr. Rather.

    I blame Ariel in the Little Mermaid, none of us will ever be the same.

  21. Okami says:

    The new “block” button on RPS is the best thing ever.

    • stahlwerk says:

      I know what you mean, but I just can’t seem to let myself be derived of this… “entertainment”. Also, facepalms.

  22. arienette says:

    I support you wholeheartedly. Marketing like this degrades the industry and players as a whole. But it does strike me as little more than marketing, likely the overall impact on the game will be unnoticeable.

    • Negativeland says:

      No it doesn’t. It might degrade that particular publisher, depending on your worldview, but most of us are adult enough to tell the difference between a single piece of “art” and the medium.

    • thegooseking says:

      We can, Negativeland, but non-gamers (who are not also non-voters) often can’t. It’s virtually certain that someone will look at this, roll their eyes and say “typical of video games” because they just. Don’t. Know. Any. Better. Because they heard it on mainstream news. Not that mainstream news never lies, but if you didn’t know anything about games and look at how infrequently they purely make shit up about movies and sports, you might be forgiven for ultra-wrongly thinking that their reporting on games was equally accurate.

      Stuff like this just isn’t helping.

    • Urthman says:

      I pretty much agree with John Walker here, but can’t resist quoting Old Man Murray on the subject:

      link to oldmanmurray.com

      But what does all this say about gaming and gamers? It doesn’t matter. Look, we’ve got bigger problems that need to be addressed first. I took an informal poll of women at the Duluth Center for American Indian Resources yesterday, and overwhelmingly they found it much more pathetic that gamers spend much of their time ordering little pretend army men around. Women at least understand sex. According to my sources, breasts and men’s tendency to be distracted by them are the most recognizably human thing about the whole fucking subculture.

      Which I quote not to defend sexist marketing, but just to say that if your only reason for objecting to sexism is to make gaming seem more respectable, there might be some other issues on the table…

    • gwathdring says:

      Old Man Murray is awesome. And fair enough … but that’s not the only reason, for many of us at least.

      I want my girlfriend to be able to enjoy games, or at the very least not to be subjected to sexist crap when I play them in her presence. I never really expected her to be a gamer with me … but then she asked if she could play Portal 2 when I was showing her the humorous opening. And she rather liked it. And I got to have the wonderful experience of sharing something I love with my best friend. I want to be able to do that with more people. When I tell my Mother about Fate of the World (who hated games when I was in High School and blames them for procrastination that could have been blamed on books or guitar as easily) she thinks it’s fantastic, and wishes she could get something like that for her students, only more acutely focused on education.

      There are always going to be people who look down on shooter games I play, on Arkham Horror, on SCION. But I want to be able to share what I love with people who are more open minded about it … and I want to be able to do that without first needing to put them through the decade long process that allows me to ignore many of gaming’s issues and idiosyncrasies. I don’t need gaming to be easier or less complex to make it more accessible. I know how to handle that, which games to pick. But since around half of my friends, including my closest friend who is now actively interested in trying a few games, are women … the way gaming treats women is a problem for me. Even when they do shrug it off the same way I shrug off musclebound men mountains and the way they shrug it off in movies, it’s embarrassing. It’s so blatantly pointless. So obviously unnecessary.

      I don’t want that kind of sexual pandering, it doesn’t excite me and it makes it harder for me to share my hobby with my friends. The rest of the geeky inaccessibility that comes from ordering around toy soldiers I resolved myself to when I picked up boardgaming ages ago.

  23. Danorz says:

    i think you might be due another playthrough of saints row 2 because you seem to have forgotten a lot about it, i do think the marketing is a little OTT and maybe forgets that the humour of saints row comes from the fact that everyone in that world is sociopathic and not just the boss and johnny gat, and doesn’t really work because this isn’t that world, but it’s not even remotely out of style with the game, with its long running joke about stripper poles, capturing/spraying shit on prostitutes, ten levels getting busy in a burger king bathroom/strip club called “technically legal” etc etc.

    is everyone a little twitchy now because of duke nukem forever? because that deserved it, this? no, not so much. i thought i was reading ars technica here.

  24. Skeletor68 says:

    If you are selling bikinis, bikini models make sense.
    If you’re selling a computer game… gah I don’t know it just makes me think the marketing guys think I’m an idiot. I may be one but when the two things are so loosely connected it just smacks of lowest common denominator.
    Booth babes and strippers, the new ‘stealth section’ in games marketing.

    Don’t get me wrong it isn’t a HUGE deal, just mildly irritating.

    • DainIronfoot says:

      This really. I mean do they honestly think I will go

      “Oo, boobs! I like boobs! These girls with nice boobs are advertising a game! Therefore I’ll like this game too!”

    • Danorz says:

      yeah, THIS is annoying, “the lynx (or axe depending on where you live) effect” as applied to other products

    • Koozer says:

      The Lynx adverts make me despair for humanity’s cultural progress.

    • Gunde says:

      Is it bad that I thought you guys were talking about text ads for the Lynx browser?

    • Nalano says:

      I know! Let’s make the game box shaped like a boob! That’ll bring in the customers!

    • cjlr says:

      Satire. Always one step ahead of real life.

    • Nalano says:

      I was looking for that comic! But I wasn’t about to trawl a backlog of 400 just for one comments thread rimshot.

    • cjlr says:

      Lucky for you, I don’t have better things to do.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      If any game should have had a box like that, it was Duke Nukem Forever. What a missed opportunity.

  25. Serekh says:

    Women aren’t precious flowers who need protection from unscrupulous marketing campaigns. You seem to think that this type of advertising detracts from the game’s true merits, and I agree. Try to stick with that instead of going on a moral crusade.

    • Skeletor68 says:

      You’re right. I’m fully aware that these are consenting adults getting paid to do whatever it is they do. I just want them to leave my gaming alone :(

    • arienette says:

      I didn’t realise anyone was implying women needed protection. But you know men are allowed to care about women’s rights too?

    • Ralphomon says:

      Just because women don’t ‘need protection’ doesn’t mean we should leave all the championing their rights and getting outraged at sexism to them.

    • John Walker says:

      I don’t remember trying to protect the poor delicate flower ladies.

  26. stahlwerk says:

    Sex sells, but mostly to people whom sex sells to. If that’s who volition/THQ want to market their games for…. well, have fun being “that” games company in the future.
    Personally, I blame Al Lowe.

    • MiniMatt says:

      Yeah that’s a really good point. My time as a 12 year old boy by chance corresponded with the era in which the average gamer demographic was 12 year old boys. As such I bought Barbarian. It included a poster. I was a very happy 12 year old.

      Now if they want to sell fap fodder to 12 year old boys that’s fine, if they want to sell to other demographics as well then they kinda need to grow the feck up.

  27. Julius says:

    Could this be the same Rock Paper Shotgun that brought us the deathless line “games, like breasts, are best pressed closely together”?

    • John Walker says:

      Breasts are AWESOME! I don’t want to speak for anyone else on RPS, but I *love* breasts. That’s not the point at all.

  28. chabuhi says:

    John, an excellent missive!

    You’ve most eloquently explained why many of us feel that THQ/Volition has crossed over the line into “trying-too-hard-now” territory.

  29. El_MUERkO says:

    Now I feel bad :(


  30. Pantsman says:

    Surely more subjugation is historically due the white male upper-class than the white male middle-class?

    • Ralphomon says:

      Surely it’s a small distinction to make?

    • Pinkables says:

      And stop calling me Shirley.

      I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I tried to resist.

  31. DaFishes says:

    When I read that this Playboy thing was happening, my thought was, “Playboy bunnies? Are we in 1970? There are plenty of hot women who DO play games…could they not find any of those to shill for them?” Guess not.

    The text of their press release reeks of preemptive “Oh come on, honey, get a sense of humor.” Why is it so hard to make a game where you can beat people up with giant purple dongs and NOT include over the top, tired, Mad Men crap? Boobs are great! *Relevant* boobs are better.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Actually, “boob relevancy” would make a very good parameter to optimize for in most game development processes.

    • Skeletor68 says:

      I like the sounds of this system.

    • DaFishes says:

      Sure, I’m all for that.

    • stahlwerk says:

      It is the only way.

      No seriously, if your female character needs sympathetic-back-pain-inducing breasts for purposes of the story, granted, Chiropractor Simulator 2011 will surely be a hit in some parts of europe. But if there’s no point to them (hur hur) why not go with something more neutral?

      You wouldn’t give a male character in a whodunnit adventure game steroidly huge muscles, would you? It’s just character design 101, really.

    • malkav11 says:

      Penthouse, not Playboy. Penthouse is sleazier. Though not as sleazy as Hustler.

      And actually, for Saints Row 2 they did find a porn star who at least ostensibly plays videogames to promote it, Ms. Tera Patrick. Who actually has a role in the plot of one of the DLCs the PC version never got.

  32. Armand Van Flicknife says:

    On the one hand, this letter is a bit self important.

    On the other hand, I’ve been reading John’s scribblings since i was a tiny lad hunched over ancient pc gamer issues, and have enjoyed years of rye smiles at esoteric references and belly laughs at assassinations of shit adventure games, ‘cos of his less self-important writings.

    So John, I’m prepared to let this go. Vacuous tittie-girls aren’t welcome in games, sure, but there are bigger problems in the industry.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      There are people telling me that the country I live in (or rather, country that currently holds me hostage) has “bigger problems” than the meager, unimportant issue of LGBT rights. These people apparently think that we are only ever allowed to deal with ONE SINGLE ISSUE and no more until that ONE ISSUE is solved. They also seem to think that their list of priorities is the One True Priority List.

      To these people I usually say fuck you, you disgusting, horrible, selfish person undeserving of tiniest bits of sympathy.

    • wonkavision says:

      That’s just what this post needed. Random and inappropriate whinging about gay rights. Kudos to you, sir. You completed it.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      On the one hand, this letter is a bit self important.

      How exactly is it “a bit self-important?” Because of the tone, or because it’s “stooping” to tackling actually important issues instead of just throwing more screenshots and preview videos at us?

    • Jesse L says:

      Armand: how generous. Blocked.

      Wonkavision: do you really want to join the crowd of people constantly telling minority groups to shut up about their rights?

      John: when you’re constantly ticking off jerks, you’re doing the right thing. Keep it up.

    • Nalano says:

      Is there some sort of zero-sum factoring in to games journalism? Is this taking away from talking about whatever game you’re interested in at the moment?

      Do we never have time to reflect?

      Kinda reminds me how “24 hour news” only really has 20 minutes of actual news, the rest of which is just regurgitating the latest self-made scandal ad nauseum. Hey, we have the time, no reason not to do the report!

  33. kevldulf says:

    I guess you guys do not have a very good memory…

    Did you complain when they did this last time, or did you forget that they did the exact same thing to promote Saints Row 2? Last time they hired Tera Patrick to appear in their commercials and they added her to the game with DLC. It sounds like they are doing the exact same thing this time, but instead of hiring Tera Patrick they hired 6 Penthouse Pets.

    • pipman3000 says:

      I would of cared if I gave a shit about the series proir to playing SR2.

      But hey if you don’t mention all sexism everywhere then you might as well not mention any sexism at all :D

  34. wonkavision says:

    Oh those poor women! Oh good heavens! Mercy oh mercy! WTF is this, Gawker Media?

    • Temple says:

      John Walker
      “You do yourselves a significant disservice when your marketing suggests your game is unsophisticated, masturbatory material, when it is in fact wild, anarchic mayhem and gleefully violent nonsense.”

  35. Yosharian says:

    Ehm, you do realise this is just giving Saint’s Row 3 a huge PR boost, right?

    • Jimbo says:


    • Skeletor68 says:

      I get what you mean but this kind of thing, hand on my heart, actually does put me off buying a game, so does it do more harm than good?

      When Duke was near arrival I was waxing nostalgic but the press event inside a strip club, followed by that weird online Duke game started really putting me off. Obviously the bad reviews etc. sealed the deal but the initial BS dampened my excitement.

    • zergrush says:

      Those are some mighty PR busts, indeed…

  36. Baggypants says:

    I for one was outraged at the working conditions of the Booth Ladies at E3. I have downloaded and printed the reference material to remind myself of this blatant flaunting of workers rights.

  37. Temple says:

    Help me out here. Someone else reads Kotaku right?
    At work right now so cannot access it.
    Article on there over the weekend about a FPS frat-fest that banned women because the males make sexist jokes at them? Rather than, say, banning those who make the sexist comments. One commentator does say something like ‘Are they going to ban people of colour as well?’ as I’m sure there may be the odd N-word used as well.

    Also, Jezebel had a piece on the very young girls on an American dance show being (basically) told to show more skin by their dance instructor. Led to quite a bit of back and forth over legal prostituition (I cannot say interesting back and forth because, well, it was on Jezebel).

    Anyway seemed relevant. Now I see it is not, basically John is complaining about the marketing direction not the inclusion of the ladies. John you need to put your point at the beginning of the article so when we comment we can at least get in the right ballpark. If still only hitting foul balls. With a cork bat. On steroids. Lost my analogy.

  38. Skeletor68 says:

    Can we clarify whether people are focusing on this being degrading to women, or that it seems to cheapen our love of games and is all a bit unnecessary?

    • Teddy Leach says:

      If they want to flaunt their tits, that’s up to them. I’m going with the latter option.

    • Skeletor68 says:

      I think that is what is more pertinent here. The games should be good enough to sell based on their own content. The gameplay video I previously saw with the people cannon thing made it look like great fun. The marketing campaign tells me that they need extra elements to ‘trick’ us into wanting the game. I’ll be buying a game, not boobs lads. This is all a bit unnecessary, if the game is good I’ll buy it!

    • Pinkables says:

      I’m less concerned for the women in this instance, since they are models being paid to model. Personally i’m more offended by the idea that i might be lead to confuse my appreciation for breasts with my anticipation for saints row 3. I know that this is a very cynical assessment of how marketing works, but this is the internet, so i choose to stand by my cynicism.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      I appreciate both breasts AND Saints Row 3.

    • faelnor says:

      I absolutely agree with what you say, but funny how I was the only one to say the same thing when Square released that ridiculous DX:HR live trailer a few days ago. Games judged on their own merits. Heh.

      Also, Saints Row was good when it was a GTA clone which tried to remain serious while at the same time collapsing under the weight of its own incidental and absurd humour. Now that it’s officially a joke game, there’s no hope for anything even remotely interesting.

    • JackShandy says:

      Hold on, Faelnor, there’s no way selling a game based on sex appeal is equivilant to selling a game based on it’s theme and world. Unless we boot up HR in a few weeks to find it has nothing to do with augmentations, that trailer can’t be called a marketing trick.

  39. Noirdeathe says:

    I am now looking more forward to Saints Row 3 as it has additional boobs. My girlfriend is looking forward to it due to boobs AND that giant pink cat thing.

    I am failing to understand how it’s a bad thing? I swear Duke Nukem and Saints Row are tongue-in-cheek for this kind of thing (granted, I thought it was funny) and it’s just part of the OTT gameplay?

    Am I missing something or am I failing to be a sensitive gamer?

    • kevldulf says:

      You should be ashamed for not getting your panties in a wad over the marketing for a video game!

    • Noirdeathe says:

      Goddamnit! I knew I was doing something wrong!

    • Negativeland says:

      Indeed. Will buy for cars, guns & wanton bastardry. The boobs are a nice bonus.

      I find it hilarious that shooting sewage on people, running them over and beating up random innocents with rubber dildos is a-okay, but the bikini-clad women are suddenly a cause for moral outrage.

  40. Leeks says:

    Wow, it really is impossible to criticize someone for criticizing overt misogyny if you want to have any hope of not seeming like, well, a huge misogynist. Especially if you’re one of the aforementioned rich (ish), white, male oppressors. But, hey – what the hell?

    The games industry deserves this, no doubt. Not only are women in games almost universally badly-drawn, cartoonish, damsels-in-distress, the use of “eye candy” at major press events only plays to the ugliest tendencies of the grossly male-skewed culture. No argument there. But I’ve got to say, I’m getting pretty tired of rich (ish), white, male fans drawing their sabers and rushing to the defense of the poor, defenseless damsels.

    Women make their own choices and have their own voices (including booth- and carwash girls). And while as the male gaming majority I think we have a responsibility to support and reward progressive cultural shifts in our favourite medium, I don’t see the value in a knee-jerk attack on a game you’re admittedly looking forward to, on a website of fairly significant readership, just because it offends your extremely safe opinions.

    The “safeness” of anti-misogynist sentiment (especially in a culture where it’s a legitimate issue) is actually why I decided to post this, rather than just mumbling to myself and continuing on with my day. What intelligent, free-thinking person could possibly disagree with you? Given what I’ve seen of RPS’ audience, I doubt you’ll reach many dissenters. So what, then, is the point of this? Because from where I’m standing, it sure seems like the answer is: “To express a very unoriginal opinion on a topic no one can debate me on, lest they wish to brand themselves a sexist as*hole, and thus have my unoriginal opinion validated by a fawning choir of yes men.”

    I don’t want to be mean. RPS has provided me with hours of free entertainment, and I love you guys for it. Yes, sexism is bad, and we should do everything we can to purge its insidious presence from this awesome passtime. But – and maybe I’m giving us all a bit too much credit – we knew that, didn’t we? Did we need 800 words of florid prose to remind us?

    Sexism is and has been a problem with the games industry for a long time, and I do think it’s easy to get inured to the symptoms of it. But that is what the game girls and the deplorable caricatures in games are – symptoms. And maybe it’s time that we put aside our vanity and stop flailing our arms whenever a new one crops up, and start spending our energy on the much more difficult, much more dangerous business of thinking about the cause.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Hm, I wouldn’t call it fighting a symptom as much as putting out fires when they happen. Sure you can ban smoking in the woods during summertime, but still you need to keep those fire engines in working condition, also, people being people, they won’t become any smarter about it by laws. Only if you can show them that it is undesirable for their own safety/wealth if they accidentally plant fires they’ll change their behaviour. That’s also why a lot of tourists don’t give a crap about littering.
      And this is when my analogy train of thought comes to a screeching halt.

    • Hentzau says:

      “a fawning choir of yes men”? Really? Because judging from this comment thread there’s a fairly even split between people who agree and people laying into John for having the temerity to talk about this sort of thing as though it’s serious rather than LOL BOOBIES IT’S A FREE COUNTRY TELL ME ABOUT THE GAMES. The piece is a little melodramatic, but after the last three or four RPS posts on the same subject met with the exact same reaction I have to say I admire John (and the other RPS contributors) for continuing to push the issue even though it’s become evident it’s not what a significant portion of their readership wants to hear. I’m not sure I’d have the moral fibre to do the same in their position.

    • 4026 says:

      Holy shit, a dissenting comment that’s also reasonably civil! It’s like gold dust, and I only had to trawl as far as page 3 of the comments to find it!

      Not, I’m afraid to say, that I actually agree with you. I think you kind of nailed it yourself:

      “Yes, sexism is bad, and we should do everything we can to purge its insidious presence from this awesome passtime. But – and maybe I’m giving us all a bit too much credit – we knew that, didn’t we?”

      I’d say this comment thread proves amply that you’re giving us way, way too much credit. We clearly don’t all know that. For all that John is 80% preaching to the choir, the preaching still needs to be done from time to time, just to remind people that the issue exists, and is worth caring about.

    • Skeletor68 says:

      Again, I thought we were talking about how the marketing was lazy and unnecessary not ‘look at these poor women who aren’t capable of making their own decisions, I’ll save them!’. Maybe I’m the one missing the point here, correct me if I’m being stupid.

    • Om says:

      ” But – and maybe I’m giving us all a bit too much credit – we knew that, didn’t we? Did we need 800 words of florid prose to remind us?”

      Read some of the comments/replies to this article. Not everyone has got the message yet

      And frankly just because this is not a new phenomenon does not mean that people should stop writing about it. Now I’m all in favour of rushing out to help ‘booth babes’ unionise or overturn patriarchal structures in society but John Walker is a games journalist writing on a games website. All that I’d expect from him is to comment on the games milieu. It’d be fantastic if he is a feminist activist outside of RPS but I’d not expect to read about that here

      So yeah, I’m happy to have him continue to flag up these issues/episodes because someone needs to (continually) comment on the relentless misogyny that plagues this industry. The irony being, and it’s important that this is noted, that SR2 gave you the ability to play as a strong female character. SR3 doesn’t need this nonsense marketing and it does (or at least hopefully will) a disservice to the game itself

    • Leeks says:

      As a point of clarification: I’m not opposed to engaging with the issue of sexism/misogyny in games or games culture. I just think it deserves to be engaged with in a critically-minded, thoughtful way that presents a thesis a little more developed than the frankly self-evident “women should be treated equally.”

      Which, outside of Leigh Alexander, you don’t really see a whole lot of in the gaming press (not just RPS).

    • Jubaal says:

      @Leek – Whilst I don’t entirely agree with your comments I appreciate the way you have put them across in an intelligent and thoughtful way. Now if only a few more people could wipe the foam from their mouths and swallow their bile there would be a few more intelligent debates on this and less spittle-flying ire!

  41. noom says:

    So many clueless twunts on here completely missing the point of this post. Either that or wilfully misinterpreting it in order to get on their own soapboxes. Fucking depressing either way.

  42. Twitchity says:

    In one fell swoop, they managed to insult females, QA testers, and female QA testers. Smashing job, lads, trebles all round!

  43. noom says:

    After much deliberation on this, I think I’m going to have to sadly posit that the problem is not the marketing, but the hordes of slimy mysogynistic gamers that render said marketing likely to be effective. In that respect, posting this as an “open letter” is probably the best way to go, as it’s more likely to reach that group.

    Though it unfortunately does bear saying that it seems to be proving ineffective…

  44. Demiurge says:

    Oh wow, you never cease to amuse me John Walker. You care so much about feminism and women’s rights, and yet instead of crusading or taking action against real women’s issues such as female genial mutilation which carries on across the developed world, or even the pay-gap which remains here in the UK to this day, you decide to write pissy lttle emails to toymakers, instead of doing anything which would, you know, actually take any effort.

    But that’s why you write for hobbyist publications instead of any kind of real journal.

    • cHeal says:

      How’s your campaign against male genital mutilation going?

    • noom says:

      You’re a fucking idiot. One of many on here, apparantly.

    • Demiurge says:

      Excellent rebuttal, Noom, spoken like a true master debater.

    • noom says:

      Yeah, sorry, patience worn to nothing now. That’s all you’re getting.

    • cjlr says:

      I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, Demiurge, but writing for RPS is ony one part of John Walker’s life. Do you KNOW he does nothing more to support his beliefs than write “pissy emails”? I don’t really see how you could. You care so much about how much John Walker cares about gender issues, and yet instead of crusading or taking action, you complain about him not doing so.

      But maybe that’s why you’re writing comments on a hobbyist blog, instead of a real site.

      Also: what is a “real” journal?

    • Demiurge says:

      Thank you for conceding the argument, I didn’t think it would be that easy.

    • cHeal says:


      Don’t let the mask slip too far…

    • Demiurge says:

      Well cljr, You’re the one who is positing the extistence of Mr Walker’s activism, so why don’t you give us some examples? And while your at it, some other publications which aren’t hobbyist/entertainment magazines?

      And I don’t care that Walker cares for Women’s Issues, I care that he likes to post about it on the internet like he does care when not actually doing anything to show a real commitment. But maybe that’s becuase I’m a relic of a time when games writers wrote about games instead of writing diatribes about how much more tolerant and egalitarian they are than the rest of us poor, mysoginistic plebs.

    • cHeal says:


      How’s your campaign against male genital mutilation going?

    • Demiurge says:


      I’m for it! Elected to get myself mutilated in my teenage years in fact.

    • cHeal says:

      And maybe John is all for females getting their vaginas cut up because they’re ugly and have low self esteem?

    • cjlr says:

      My response to you saying “why aren’t you doing that instead of this” was only that you don’t know he doesn’t, and instead is a might stupid word to be using there.

      Again you insinuate that Walker’s activism is confined to this website. He may give his time and money to causes he supports, or he may not. I don’t know. I never claimed to. I do know he seems a decent person, and so would guess he probably does, but that still doesn’t matter. I was only saying that you don’t know either. His private life and actions outside his journalism are irrelevant and bringing it up is pointless. Nice try shifting that burden, though.

      What you think would be an appropriate place to publish something like this, a commentary on a specific case (though part of a real tendency) of gaming marketing. Is a gaming site not a good venue? There were plenty of other articles published today – announcements, interviews, press releases, mod news, demos – that were more straight-up. So maybe you think RPS isn’t the place for something like this. Tough shit, friend, but that’s not your call. I suppose one of the site’s founders might have a right to decide that sort of thing, though – what were their names again?

      Also: the article has absolutely nothing to do with being “more tolerant and egalitarian… than the rest of us poor, misogynistic plebs.”

    • cjlr says:

      Cutting off bits of one’s delicate regions strikes me as about the most spectacularly dumb medical procedure since trepanning, but I guess as long as it’s elective…

    • John Walker says:

      Demiurge – This is a site about PC games. So what I write here will be about PC games. Your argument appears to be that because I complain about misogyny in marketing a PC game, that I’ve done something wrong. I don’t follow that logic.

      I don’t understand your rationale for “instead of”, either. By this logic you should rush screaming to a passing milkman that he’s wasting his time delivering milk instead of raising awareness about women’s rights. It’s my job to write about PC games, as frivolous a job as that may be. Within the realms of this job an issue of misogyny was raised, so I attempted to address it. It would seem a bit strange if I were to write about female circumcision on RPS, unless there were to be a game raising awareness about it. There should be, and I would gladly write about that too.

      What I do outside of RPS isn’t accessible by you, so again it seems a bit odd to make your judgments based on the contents of this post.

      Also, you do yourself a disservice by your suggestion that I’m claiming to be more “egalitarian” than anyone else – I wrote this assuming agreement by the reader.

      You seem to have fired your rage in the wrong direction.

    • Ralphomon says:

      @Demiurge: because we can only concentrate on one feminist issue at a time, right? I doubt that John Walker in his capacity as a games journalist could do much about female genital mutilation, but he probably could make a difference to the state of sexism in the games industry. Sure, the issue may not be as SERIOUS, but it could hardly be thought of as not a good thing to try and do something about it, right?

    • Demiurge says:


      link to en.wikipedia.org

      Welcome to the astounding world of biology.

    • Nick says:

      I seem to remember hearing about John doing voulenteer work with (disadvantaged?) children, if that makes you feel better in some way.

  45. cHeal says:

    For the record, I’ve never oppressed or enslaved any racial, ethnic or cultural minorities.

    FYI John.

  46. Deviija says:

    Thank you very, very much for making this post/letter, Mr. Walker. I had to register and leave a comment to emphasize how important it is that this trend in marketing/(mis)representing games can lead to alienating a fanbase more than it does to attract it. It signifies that you are trying to gain a very specific demographic and only caring to keep that very specific demographic (the young white hetero male, if that needs clarifying).

    One of the many things I did love about Saints Row 2 is its over the top action and narrative, never taking itself too seriously but still dealing with a central plotline that is taken seriously by the characters involved. It supplied a fun cast of multicultural/multi-ethnic characters that weren’t too stereotypical, that had their ups and downs, but ultimately triumphed at the end of the day. And, most of all, that it allowed the player to CHOOSE from an equal amount of customization for their avatar, be it woman or man. I was able to be a confident, fat black woman and a transgender man with the character creator. Not many other games out there can say they offer all that. What disappoints me and turns me off SR3, as a fan of the series, is seeing blatant marketing and furthering of this sexualization of women (of sex objects, of porn stars, of women there just to get young hetero men off).

    If they wanted to be equal opportunity offenders then they would be hiring male and gay male porn stars as well, and include options to have your prostitutes be men, women, or mixed company. Seeing only women as prostitutes or exploited sex trade objects in the games does say something else about the player’s free agency and the perception of women. I mean, my lady protagonist sure wouldn’t want to subjugate other women, that’s for sure. Personally, I’d prefer a mandatory mixed company (of sexualized genders/prostitutes) in-game and none of this pandering or ‘shock value’/titillation value marketing of a sexualized of anyone. There are many steps forward that Saints Row 2 offered to people, but the marketing and some (social justice) aspects from SR2 could seriously use some overhauling. Thanks again for posting this. :)

    • Gnarf says:

      “If they wanted to be equal opportunity offenders then they would be hiring male and gay male porn stars as well, and include options to have your prostitutes be men, women, or mixed company.”

      Because that’s like really offensive?

    • Nalano says:

      And, yet, kinda sounds like a regular day in LA.

  47. D3xter says:

    Did you grow a vagina while writing this article or do you just want a Captain Planet game that badly?

  48. Skusey says:

    John Walker, you are a nice man and I like you.

  49. Juan_Lebedev says:

    Dear Mr Walker, I too would like to thank you for this post. I think that the kind of Phallic Marauder Dickwolf Dragoons we sometimes get on this forums need this kind of letter to put them in their place.

  50. Sinomatic says:

    One thing I’d just like to say, as a slight aside, is how amused I am by people who regard John as somehow playing ‘White Knight’ to us damsels in distress.

    Why is it when he, or any other guy, speaks out about this kind of tasteless nonsense, he is somehow protecting or speaking for us womenfolk? He isn’t. He’s aligning himself *alongside* us. We don’t need saving, and I’m fairly sure John would say the same. He’s simply speaking up as someone with an opinion on the matter.

    I personally think its great when men do speak up in agreement. Why? Because sadly there are plenty of times where if a woman spoke up on this issue she is deemed as some man-hating, bra-burning feminazi, who has no sense of humour and is out to ruin the fun of all straight blokes everywhere. As such, she is safely ignored, insulted or ridiculed. If men speak up too however, its more a case of challenging the culture from both sides.

    The more people who speak up about things like this, the better. I don’t care which set of genitals they’re sporting.

    • Demiurge says:

      I don’t know how old you are, but the fact you post on RPS indicates that you are presumably too young to have been around when the feminist movement was fighting overt sexism. Now i’ve often been irked with what I’ve read online with various games pundits opinions on what sexism is, so I asked a few of my female relatives, who were feminists when it meant something, who actually faced discrimination at work et cetera. And they did not, surprisingly, think that racy jokes in computer games were anything for women to actually care about. But you lot who want a cause to safely and comfortably fight from behind your keyboard have latched on to this nonsense. So face it, Women’s lib is a done cause, you’re late to the party. Why don’t you campaign about some real women’s issues in places where women are still not equal. (Which would concern you if you were really a woman and not probably John Walker.)

    • Juan_Lebedev says:

      I am also a woman (disregard the “Juan”, it’s a Deus Ex reference and I don’t like to flaunt my femininity), and I have to say that the response to John has been incredibly masochistic. Over the course of my adult life, I could never conceive of entering into a relationship with a man who did not espouse feminist convictions, especially a co-habitual one. People (well, men actually) seem to think that being a “white knight” is a cynical way to “pull birds” (or however they choose to vulgarly express the concept of relationship). In reality, I think it just displays a correct understanding of the feminine (and human) psyche. As a woman, who would you rather go out with: John Walker or Alan B’stard?

    • stahlwerk says:

      Demiurge, you come across as parody.

      “who were feminists when it meant something”
      What? Just because you (and allegedly your female relatives) can’t see the relevance of the phenomenon in question towards modern, western society in general, it’s worthless to argue against it?

      “racy jokes”
      ha ha, those po-faced feminazis, am I right?

    • Jesse L says:

      I don’t feel that blocking Demiurge is a strong enough measure of my disapproval.

    • Skeletor68 says:

      I like this idea of ‘alongside’. I think that is a helpful way to decribe my own leanings. I don’t want to seem like I speak ‘for’ women when I want to speak in ‘support’ of.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Demiurge’s got a fascinating argument here. It’s a “get back into the kitchen” argument applied to feminism, which is a certain special kind of thinking. I’m also a big fan of an argument saying that prejudice against women is a matter for the past while entirely proving it isn’t. I also like him paraphrasing what some women he know say as evidence, while suggesting someone who’s on John’s side doesn’t exist.

      I’m impressed! Good work, Demi.


    • Demiurge says:

      Welcome to Kieron Gillens’ class in reading comprehension!

      If someone disagrees with you in any way shape or form on gender issues, it is secretly a “get back in the kitchen argument” becuase that is the only argument our poor little minds can conjure up a rebuttal to, rather than what the argument actually is, even in cases when it complains about lack of action on real women’s issues!

      Reading comprehension at a KG level is sure to bag you any job with a webiste about toys for grown men!

    • Juan_Lebedev says:

      Demiurge, I bet people like you secretly approve of the British Empire! Honestly, I despair. It was people like you that took us to war in Iraq and the Falklands.

    • Jubaal says:

      @Demiurge – I actually feel kind of embarrassed for you reading your response. I hope some time in the future you re-read your post and realise how ignorant and ill-informed you have come across.

      Phrases like “feminists when it meant something” makes me cringe on so many levels. It is as if you think that sexism died long ago and the “cool badge” that is feminism now looks rather jaded and dated in modern society. It appears as if you have either been living under a stone for most of your life or you were born with blinkers!

    • John Walker says:

      Sinomatic – thank you for summarising that so effectively.

      It’s an interesting phenomenon, this reaction. I wrote what I wrote because *I* am offended by it. Not because the poor widdle girlies are all helpless.

      I found the bikini car wash offensive, and I find this sort of marketing offensive. It really isn’t more involved than that.

    • Demiurge says:

      Oh god Mr Walker, it’s Mary Whitehouse reincarnate. I thought we as a society were past campaigning against other peoples’ entertainement becuase it fall foul of our own personal ethics. But that was before I found out the RPS was the supreme moral arbiter of taste of course.

    • Juan_Lebedev says:

      John Walker, I do hope you are not backpedalling! Go get them!

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Demi, man. You’re missing the point. We don’t think we’re supreme moral arbiters of taste. John just thinks this is sexist and I think you’re sexist.


    • Zwebbie says:

      “tasteless nonsense” is a phrasing of Sinomatic that I’d like to call attention to, as I generally perceive these things as a matter of bad taste, rather than mysogyny. Bad taste is something men can be equally offended with. Breasts are nice, but there’s a time and place for them.
      But then, I also take offence at the violence in the game, which John is obviously okay with.

    • Demiurge says:

      @Kieron Gillen

      You think I’m a sexist KG? Can you please point to anywhere in my posts where I’ve expressed the opinion that women are in any way inferior to men? Or is “sexist” your own personal word for “person who disagrees with me on gender issues”?

    • eldwl says:


      I have to say, I’m pretty confused. This is the internet, and there are many things to read. If something offends you as much as John’s article has (though goodness knows why it has), then surely it’s best just to walk on by and go read something else? Many of us enjoy John’s way of dealing with such matters (hell, he’s far more eloquent than I am, I just thought something alongs the lines of “huh, that’s a bit naff” but rather agree with what he’s written) so please don’t go throwing so much hate at him…

    • Demiurge says:


      I have to say, I’m pretty confused. This is the internet, and there are many things to read. If something offends you as much as Saints Row 3 has (though goodness knows why it has), then surely it’s best just to walk on by and go play something else? Many of us enjoy Volition’s way of dealing with such matters (hell, they’re far more eloquent than I am, I just thought something alongs the lines of “huh, that’s a bit naff” but rather agree with what they’ve developed) so please don’t go throwing so much hate at them…

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Demi: The main reason for my flippant tone throughout is that I’m here to have a mock. I’m not here to explain why I think you’re sexist. Your first post in the thread removed any urge I may have had to engage with you, so instead, I’m having a giggle. That you don’t know that you’re being sexist is primarily why it’s funny.

      I woke up in an oddly flippant mode, and have sort of rolled with it throughout the day. I’m normally good at treating fools gladly, but today I figure – “fuck it”.


    • Demiurge says:

      Kieron, that is the wettest, wimpiest post I’ve seen in this whole argument. You are now desperately trying to save face after I showed that you threw the word “sexist” about with no justification in a pathetic attempt to delegitimise my perfectly legitmate arguments. Unless you want to explain to me why I’m sexist (Which you can’t, hence why you feign like you “don’t want to”) them I’m safe in the knowledge that I’m not sexist, and I, judging by your awful backpedalling, posted arguments for which you have no actual rebuttals.

    • PFlute says:

      @Demi: Well, for one, instead of simply opposing Sinomatic, you went out of your way to talk down to and patronize her. That seems a bit off to me.

      You also seem eager to outright sling insults and bile at the modern feminist movement and belittle their causes, which is an effective way of saying you can’t even respect their opinions, and that you find your own vitriol and knowledge (as a man, I’m assuming) more valuable than a group of women’s knowledge on issues affecting women.

      You essentially seem to be, in respect to this comment thread, be complaining at women for being concerned about women’s issues. “Get back in the kitchen” actually seems like a pretty decent analogy for your statements in that respect.

      So, yes. A call of “sexist” doesn’t seem like that far of a stretch, if we are to make assumptions.

      Are you also aware that your habit of delivering asinine, sarcastic responses even to people who address you quite seriously only makes you look like that much more of a resentful ass?

      All in all, my monocle’s off to you! Happy trolling!

    • Demiurge says:

      Jesus H Tapdancing Christ on a Moped! Can you dense lot honestly not tcomprehend an argument aginst modern feminism which doesn’t amount to “get back in the kitchen”? If you had actually read my post, I was complaining about supposed feminists not caring enough about women’s issues. But of course you’re stuck in your little mindset that the greatest political aspiration a woman can have is to moan about naked ladies on the internet. You’re the bloody sexist here, is you seem to think that the extent of women’s issues on the world is people disagreeing with your feminist sacred cows on the internet.
      Also, complaining about people being sarcastic on an RPS comments thread? Is this your first time on the internet or are you a barefaced hypocrite?

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      I thought we as a society were past campaigning against other peoples’ entertainement becuase it fall foul of our own personal ethics

      What other possible reason could there be for campaigning against someone elses’ entertainment?

    • PFlute says:

      @Demi: You seem to be confused. That’s okay.

      You seem to be holding onto the misconception that being concerned about video game marketing precludes one from caring about any other issues. That is incorrect, fortunately! I find it quite easy to frown at this marketing and then go care about “important” things.

      For future reference, you should likely be aware that what you are engaging in with that line of thinking is not actual strong debate, but a silly tactic known as “derailing” wherein one tries to deactivate the entire conversation without addressing it.

      Of course, we shouldn’t bother at all with distasteful marketing because there’s still a wage gap.
      But why bother with the wage gap when there are children starving in Africa?
      But then why bother with that when we may blow ourselves up at any minute unless we protest nuclear proliferation?

      And so on the turtles continue.

      You also seem to be jumping to conclusions quite wildly, perhaps setting up a straw man or two along the way. My support of this topic (and John for his article) does not entail a fictional world wherein I think women are best attuned to only caring about marketing blunders. As such I think you’ll find a few of your protests debunked quite handily.

      “Also, complaining about people being sarcastic on an RPS comments thread? Is this your first time on the internet or are you a barefaced hypocrite?”

      It is my first time on the internet, actually! Could you direct me to a Gogol text search field? I have some things I would desperately like to find.

      This part concerns me. If you cannot discern the difference between firing off sarcasm appropriately and doing so when people try to genuinely engage you. Well. That’s a bit unfortunate.

      Do have a nice day, though!

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      It’s funny. I came back to my PC, because I was thinking “you know why this isn’t your style? Because you just can’t help but think about how it’s just not a nice thing to do to treat someone with complete blankly callous patronization. Apologise for patronizing and just back away from it. Not worth it”. So I’d do that and log off.
      But then I read your last few posts and think

      “Nah, fuck it. He’s just a sexist.”

      Like, obv.


    • John Walker says:

      Certainly not backpeddling, Juan_Lebedev! Just underlining the point that at no point was the purpose of my article to defend poor helpless women who can’t defend themselves. It was, instead, to point out that a game series that is surprisingly good at presenting strong female characters is undermining and devaluing itself by marketing itself in such an overtly misogynistic way.

      Demiurge – Kieron is a smart man who knows it’s not worth pointlessly pointing out the quite alarming beliefs you have stated to you, since such arguments on the internet never lead anywhere useful. That he’s sensible enough to walk away does not give you a victory, I’m afraid. It does make you look a bit of a wally as you continue shouting nonsense after him, of course.

      Were you to present yourself as someone who is open to the potential of education, people would be more likely to want to engage with you. But as it is you come across as a nasty little twit, no matter how much you may think everyone else is so despicable for thinking so. If you would like to have some level-headed dialogue on this subject, please do email me.

    • jaheira says:

      @ Juan
      What was wrong with going to war in the Falklands?

    • The Colonel says:

      @jaheira: Ha ha. Ha.

    • wiper says:

      I just had to post to say how much I enjoyed this particular thread. For one thing, I got to read some well-considered, and well-written support of John’s article. That’s always nice to see. For another, it allowed me to do something I, well, just don’t normally do, and block somebody. Which then led me to discover how entertainingly surreal it is to experience an argument against somebody whose own responses you cannot see. So that was nice.

      But yes, a late addition to this thread, and this comments section in general, but I just wanted to add my own support for the piece. This is an issue which crops up time and again, and it’s even more frustrating when attached to a game that, as many (including John’s original article) have already said, is otherwise so successful at rising above it. It’s been heartening to see that the majority of commentators have agreed with John, even if there has been a very vocal minority somehow offended by somebody daring to bring gender issues into little-old-games.

      I also can’t stop myself from responding directly to Demiurge (and, yes, to unblock him. Entertaining as it was for a moment, I can’t really bring myself to keep people censored. Not least because anyone can change, eventually.). So here goes. Your assertions have mostly been taken apart already, particularly your bemusing belief that being a games journalist and complaining about gender issues relating to games is somehow a terrible thing which precludes a person from taking issue with, or a stand against, other issues in the world, but I want to go back and have another look at your assertion that only silly, young people would think that women had anything left to fight for. Now, I’ll try and be a little bit charitable and assume you’re not quite so moronic as to be trying to suggest that women’s liberation has been completely successful globally, but are rather just the sort of blinkered idiot who thinks it’s over in the West/UK (delete as appropriate).

      I was going to call your relatives blinkered too, but then realised that the only person suggesting that they were “feminists when it meant something, who actually faced discrimination at work et cetera”, as opposed to modern feminists who clearly don’t face any meaningful discrimination, was you. Their only crime seems to be thinking that “racy jokes in computer games [weren’t] anything for women to actually care about”, which seems perfectly reasonable. And, in fact, not at all what John, or any of the commentators were talking about. So it’s reassuring to know that not only are you the kind of cretin who denies women today [in the West/UK] are discriminated against, but you haven’t even quite gotten to the stage of basic comprehension, or the ability to relay information accurately to people. So that’s good to know. Maybe when you do learn to read properly, you’ll realise that your view that there’s no ‘real’ sexism against women any more is more than a little flawed. Here’s to hoping!

      Anyway, sorry, I deviated a little there. What I was going to say is: suprisingly enough, you don’t have a monopoly on older female relatives. Let us consider, as a case example, my mother, a second-wave feminist. Now, presumably, as somebody who fought the fight ‘back when it mattered’, she’d understand and accept, like you, that everything’s all sorted now and any fusses kicked up, particularly fusses over silly little things like the sexualisation of women in promotional materials for objects which have no inherent reason to be associated with the sexualisation of women, are completely overblown and irrelevant. Oh, but wait, it turns out that actually she does find that quite offensive. It doesn’t enrage her, but it does annoy her, and strangely enough she doesn’t have a problem with people discussing and complaining about such behaviour. Who’d have thought?

      And why does she think it’s worth complaining about? Well, actually, I’m not going to ask her that, because I’m pretty sure I know this one. It’s because the representation of women in all sorts of media contributes to general attitudes towards women. And both the representations in media, and the attitudes of vast swathes of the populace, are still heavily mired in damaging stereotypes. And these in turn inform the cultural expectations put upon women (and men), which then influence the options open to people. If you want a fair and balanced society, you have to challenge the dominant, damaging representations of the affected group (in this case, women in general).

      Which means that you’re fighting a hydra. You can’t just defeat stereotypes with a single blow, you have to keep chipping away, challenging each example as it comes and gradually helping to move the general perspective of that group to a more rounded one. So, while Volition’s marketing may not be at the same level as, say, the vast majority of power still belonging to men, it’s still a contributor to the wider perception of women as objects for men’s enjoyment, and for that it deserves to be challenged. That it was challenged by so eloquent and intelligent a writer as John is something we should be thankful for, not bizarrely affronted by.

    • jaheira says:

      @ The Colonel
      No, really. What? I’m not trolling or baiting or anything. I just want to know.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      It’s not really an obscure subject. Read a history book (or Wikipedia, for the lazy) to understand the arguments.

      Or listen to Roger Waters’ “The Final Cut”. I recommend that course of action.

    • jaheira says:

      @ TillEulenspiegel
      I have. Max Hasting’s book is excellent, the Brian O’Hanrahan (“I counted them all out, I counted them all back”) book that came out soon after the conflict was a good read, and I also read an interesting book by a Harrier Pilot called Sharkey the title of which I forget. None of those are going to tell me why thirty years after the conflict in a video games blog someone decides to use a Falklands reference as a snide remark. I thought it was weird.

    • Ralphomon says:

      I have a couple of things I’d like to add to this:

      1: it seems as though, in some of his posts, Demiurge thinks that we’re taking issue with the GAME Saints Row3 itself. As far as I can see no one has done that – the issue is that the marketing is misogynistic and pretty unpleasant. All I’ve seen of the game so far is demos of, as John says, “wild, anarchic mayhem and gleefully violent nonsense” and not anything particularly misogynistic or sexist.

      2: All of you people who get what John is saying, and have displayed considered arguments in support of highlighting gender issues in video games (and how it doesn’t come at the expense of caring about ‘bigger’ issues)are complete badasses, and if I meet any of you I will bake you cakes.