Saturday, March 25, 2006

Ninety-Nine Sexists

Inphyy from Niney-Nine Nights
Tetsuya Mizuguchi and SangYoun Lee discussed Ninety-Nine Nights at GDC, Gamasutra reports. While I found the discussion very interesting, the feature was rather ruined for me by one of Mizuguchi's comments:
"When I was Inphyy [pictured above], I liked her, she's cute and has a nice body. She has good cleavage, I threw that in for the player's sake."

I have noticed that offhand comments often reveal a great deal about what someone really thinks. This is precisely because they are considered 'offhand' and therefore bypass the 'what-you-can't-say' filter. With that in mind, let's take a look at what this particular comment might tell us.
  • He feels it necessary to explain why he liked Inphyy; not because of her skill, courage or prowess in battle, but because he'd like to do her.

  • As her designer, he ensured that she complied with the restrictions patriarchy imposes on women, and is proud of it.

  • He believes that having some tit on display will enhance the player's experience. From this we infer that he views players as exclusively male.

  • He believes in his right to define the female form, and in his games he does exactly that - makes women as he sees fit, for the enjoyment of men.

I think it is fair to say that Mizuguchi is a deeply sexist man, for which of course I do not blame him, but the partriarchy. Other comments he has made elsewhere seem to confirm this:

K: “What did you think of the Ulala porno?”
M: [smiles] “Yeah, we found that on the internet. We then watched the video in the company. We were like, ‘wow, let’s see that. Wow.’”
K: “Were you upset?”
M: “No. We were, ‘yeah!’ We don’t care about that. Because, I don’t know, maybe Sega called them. I don’t know.”
K: “But, you personally?”
M: “I don’t care. This is a porno video. Ulala is not Sonic. She’s cute and a little bit sexy. So that’s okay.”
K: “Sonic would be…”
M: “A bad idea.”
K: “You might get sick watching that.”

I have been thinking a lot about feminism lately, and unfortunately I must reluctantly recognise that, as a man, I can never fully understand what a woman goes through. It is hard enough to acknowledge my own male privilege, and shockingly easy to succumb to the temptation simply to lie back and enjoy the status quo. The rampant sexism in the games industry does not exist in isolation from the rest of society, it exists because of it. Any attempt at gender inclusive game design is laudable, but can only be driven by social change outside of the industry. However, as a supremely male dominated sector, it is a good place to see the effects of any changes and, sadly, to see how far we have left to go.

The hardest part will making men understand that really the only things we can do to help are:
  • Hire more women designers, programmers, artists etc.

  • Respect them.

  • Listen to them.

  • Learn how to be a real nice guy.

Any man talking about making games more appealing to women must recognise that the only people who can do that are women themselves. All we can do is use our male privilege to open the doors for them, and be prepared to give up that privilege.

As Guilded Lily so rightly says, sometimes it's not all about us.