Let me put forth a hypothetical scenario: To advertise a product, a company decides to hold a press event. It flies a bunch of journalists to a strip club in Las Vegas, which it has dubbed “Titty City” for the occasion. Ladies with rather large assets serve drinks while product managers give interviews with the journalists in the VIP lounge (aka, the lap dance room).
So, what industry did this event recently take place in? Does it have anything to do with adult films? Nope. Perhaps the product in question is an sex toy of some sort? Nada. The above scenario took place earlier this week to publicize a videogame: Duke Nukem Forever.
Now, this particular game is almost something of an industry joke – it’s been in development since the mid ’90s (forever ago in terms of game development and technology), and it’s based on a franchise that stars a supremely misogynist macho stereotype. So, the Vegas and “football-sized funbags” on display were all part of the shtick.
Still, reactions (to the event) from journalists have been mixed, ranging from the “It’s no big deal!” attitude displayed by Dan Hsu, who is one of the most respected writers in the business:
I saw at least three [women attending the event] (there may have been more, but I don’t know if they worked for 2K or what). I talked to two of them, and while I didn’t ask them directly about being female in that environment, they didn’t seem to care or mind at all. One of them, Amanda from CheatsCC, seemed to know a lot about the franchise and its perception, but she didn’t look like she was turning her nose up at it.
To the more measured approach by ARS Technica editor Ben Kuchera:
The event had a strange tone: people who are clearly emotionally attached to Duke Nukem as both a character and a game were being very serious about the title while we interviewed them in the back rooms of a strip club. Scantily clad women served drinks, and the monitors and video game systems were set up around the tables. I was uncomfortably aware that I was setting my laptop and notebook down on an area where someone was gyrating nude the evening before.
Topping it all off is the “colorful” language of one Jamin Smith of VideoGamer.com, which I’m certain I can’t even paste here.
I’m not exactly sure how to feel about all of this. I have no objections to strippers doing their thing and no qualms about crude humor in a game – but there’s something about the fact that real-life journalists had to go to a real-life strip club to report on a game (you know, to do their jobs) that sketches me out a bit. Certainly the audience for this game is mostly straight and male, and so are the majority of game journalists. It’s the underlying assumption that every single journalist (and by extension, reader and gamer) is a straight dude that gets under my skin.
Gaming Angels summed up this position nicely in a post from Tuesday evening:
Hearing about the preview event online today made my skin crawl. Not that I was invited, but if I had been, I would have been incredibly uncomfortable. I have been to strip clubs in real life, but I would never expect to visit one when I’m at a professional event. The overly male focus of the event (complete with strippers) would make me feel unwelcome and uneasy around my peers. Which would definitely affect my preview of the game.
What do you think, geeks? Does the subject matter make this sort of thing ok, or is this an example of good, old-fashioned sexism at work?