Suda51 games are generally characterised by being eccentric and fuelled by maniacal energy, and just to bring you up to speed, Killer Is Dead is unusual in only getting as far as the first part. Alright, so there’s no law saying you can’t do a quiet, slow-paced, unemotional game now and then. But I would argue that it doesn’t sit well when the gameplay still involves madly hacking away at surreal monsters with a sword fatter than you are. But what I think is worth a closer examination is the seduction aspect, or ‘Gigolo Missions’.
As mentioned in my review, how these work is that curiously named drink of water Mondo Zappa has a date with one of his lady friends, and then seduces them by looking into their eyes a lot and strategically looking away when you want to play hard to get. And also you need to get your own blood flowing by sneaking crafty looks at her tits and thighs whenever she’s not looking. Then you give them free shit until they agree to a shag. Although the game doesn’t use those exact words.
It’s not painting a great picture of either half of this exchange, is it? Mondo comes across as weird and starey, while the women come across as materialistic, as well as weird and starey. But when you’re trying to turn seduction into a win/lose minigame with understandable mechanics, the participants coming across as weird is kind of inevitable. No-one in real life will immediately sleep with you because you managed to max out their moistness meter. Would that they did. Perhaps this is an application Google Glass should look into.
At least Mondo does it because he likes the ladies. Well, I assume he does. It’s hard to tell, because his ‘liking the ladies’ face seems to be exactly the same as his ‘killing the nasties’ face. But the point is he seems completely at home in female companionship, which is more than can be said for a lot of macho game heroes. What’s also important is that women don’t just throw themselves at him ‘cos he’s naturally awesome; seduction seems to be something he puts a lot of work into and around which a lot of his life revolves. He’s not indifferently looking into the middle distance as his groupies cling to his knees.
And crucially, none of the women he romances are ever kidnapped or killed by the villain solely to motivate him, like an asshole cat owner holding the squeaky mouse slightly out of his pet’s swiping range. Almost uniquely in action games, Mondo and his lady pals seem to have this strange idea that romance and sex can just be a fun thing consenting adults can do with each other without having to be punished for feeling emotions.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s a pretty dumb mechanic and an at best skewed view of gender relations. At least these are characters in video games that seem like they actually have sex.
In the past I’ve pointed out that there’s a stark difference between manliness and machoness, or the ideal of masculinity presented by big-cock action shooters like Gears of War. In brief, the former possesses strength, emotional control, respect, and probably also smokes a pipe, while the latter possesses strength, guns, the belief that all girls are icky, and guns. And there’s an equivalent dichotomy between characters that can be described as ‘sexual’ and characters that are merely ‘sexualised’.
The distinction I make here is a simple one. A character is sexual when one could actually picture them having sex, as in, placing themselves in a position of vulnerability in order to enjoy a moment of strong emotional intimacy with another human being. A character is merely ‘sexualised’ if they have extremely prominent sexual characteristics but seem completely unwilling or incapable of doing anything with them. The classic example being the armoured bikini woman who is offended or contemptuous at the suggestion that someone is daring to have sexual thoughts about them.
Sexualisation is part of the same obnoxious attitude in today’s entertainment media that has come to redefine the word ‘mature’ to mean ‘violence and tits depicted with the giggling red-faced attitude of fourteen-year-olds.’ And part of that attitude is an ambivalence towards sex; the hormones want to be able to look at sexy bods, but at the same time, the act of sex itself is something frightening and to be kept at arm’s length. It represents a part of the adult world that a fourteen-year-old mind is still reluctant to join.
Hence sexualisation, something to be ogled from a distance but not touched. Look at an armoured bikini and ask yourself: Is its intention really to protect against attack, or merely to prevent access? The armoured bikini is just a more economically-designed chastity belt, the very symbol of sexual repression. On the flip side of the coin you have characters who embrace their own sexuality because they want to use it as a weapon, something still rooted in the idea that sex is something to be frightened of. Bayonetta would be the Ur-example there.
But it’s not just female characters. The male equivalent would be a hero with the physique of a love interest from the cover of a racy romance novel aimed at lonely housewives who seals himself inside a suit of armour lest he be shamed by his unclean flesh, and who is constantly clutching a massive penis surrogate with both hands. The kind whose love interest gets murdered so he is free to go kill-crazy out of equal parts RAAAGE and massive relief that he will no longer be called upon to touch her icky bits or take the padlock off his giant cast-iron jockstrap. So, yeah, not dissimilar to the ‘macho’ archetype. But I’d say it is possible for a character to be both macho and sexual. Kratos springs to mind; he got his little deicidal nob on on a daily basis. And it says something that that was probably the most stable aspect of his personality.
You see, a character who is sexual is mature with the true meaning of the word. They have fully grown into their bodies and are at ease with themselves. A character who is merely sexualised is riddled with insecurities, terrified of an aspect both of themselves and the very nature of humanity. So ask yourselves, reader, next time someone’s trying to get you to suck their cock in a men’s toilet, who are you really afraid of? Big John, or perhaps… yourself? Well. Big John, probably, that was a bad example.
Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn’t talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.