(Sometimes a response deserves to be more widely read than it would be if it were a private email or a post in a comments section. This is one of those times. The following email is reprinted with the permission of the author.)
I’m a 50 year old female gamer who absolutely loves Rockstar games, especially Red Dead Redemption. My wife and I (yes, we’re lesbians) have been playing Grand Theft Auto V since it came out. We’re slowly wending our way through the storyline, taking our time to drive around and discover random events.
On the latest Quarter to Three Games Podcast, Tom Chick talked about how Rockstar is telling a specific story and because this story doesn’t really have anything to do with women, it shouldn’t have to worry about issues of misogyny. His point was also that Rockstar and other developers shouldn’t have to rein in anything because someone might mistake the content for reality. I certainly understand what he’s saying. Since I used to work in the comic book industry, I too am a strong advocate for “just because a story/game is violent doesn’t mean that people will become violent by exposure.”
However, I just have to point out a thing or two. I think we can agree that most people in the world are taught that stealing is bad, and that killing to get what you want is out of the question, and even that lying/cheating is generally a no-no. But can you say the same about how to treat women? If society had a handle on how women were treated, there’d be no rape/death threats for Anita Sarkeesian’s exploration into gender issues within the gaming community.
For me, the complaint isn’t necessarily that Rockstar is misogynistic. It’s that in Grand Theft Auto V, and other GTA games, women are treated as one-dimensional things. Even cars and weapons have more depth than women. I’m only a bit into the game, and I haven’t gotten to the torture scene yet, but so far women in Grand Theft Auto V are airheaded new wave feminists who sound crazy (both Michael’s wife & Franklin’s aunt are in this vein) or airheaded fame seeking shits who can only scream “you’re ruining my life!” One of the best things about Red Dead Redemption was Bonnie MacFarlane. Why? Because she was a well thought out character who had depth.
Why is it okay for us to play a game where carjacking is the norm? Because the vast majority of folks aren’t likely to commit grand theft auto. But what about treating women like objects? Even my nephew, who was raised by three strong women, has enacted forcing a woman to go down on him, in my presence. At the time, he was trying to prove his masculinity to me. This is why in boy toys like Grand Theft Auto, removing content like touching strippers without consent might be better for the world. Yes, it’s okay to have dark humor regarding things that we know are wrong. The problem is, within the current boy culture, treating women like shit or like an object isn’t a wrong thing. So in this case, excusing misogynistic content by calling it dark humor is the ol’ boys club creating a wall.