Who’s actually getting upset about how women are represented in games?

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For quite some time now I’ve been of the opinion that most of internet drama is caused by the internet’s unfortunate ability to amplify the hateful and angry voices that will always occur. Whether that is true or not is for someone else to investigate fully but what I’d like to approach is something I experienced in Germany last week whilst at Gamescom.

There is a South African game being developed at the moment by friends of ours called Jengo. Jengo is an old school point and click adventure game which has a definitive art style and what I’ll call a “Unique” sense of humour.

During Gamescom, I actually boarded with the two man team so we had a fair amount of time to chat about the game and life in general. Seriously, do I need more disclaimers about a possible conflict of interest here?

So the team had their game on the Gamescom show floor in the indie booth and since we only had a single key for our apartment I had to often pass by to drop off the key or pick it up and whilst there I enjoyed just watching the random Gamescom attendees playing through their demo, and chatting to the team on how they could possibly improve certain interactions in the game.

During this time what I did notice was that their style of game seemed to appeal more to women, with more men either skipping over the game entirely or not pushing through and completing it while most of the women I saw playing played it until the end. As with most of the indie games, the developers are always close on hand to help out and I couldn’t help but laugh when the one lady turned and told them to stop helping her as she’s enjoying trying to figure it out.

But more importantly, while the game had some crass humour, pictures of half-naked ladies and the ability to attempt to chat up a drunken lady in the bar not a single one of the ladies who played ever made a negative comment about it. According to the developers, they only received one complaint about those aspects and that was from a male, whose female partner instantly told him to get over himself.

However, I have heard that some locals complained about the game and the blatant sexism it contains and how it’s holding women in gaming back. But the reality appeared to be very different. We spoke with many women indie developers at the indie after party and not a single one of them had a problem with it. They thought it fitted the style of game perfectly and that there is nothing offensive about it.

During the same time, I saw a tweet by a local developer. I’ve smudged the name as this is nothing against the person in question, I just felt it was a good example.

Locally, are we focusing too much on the idea of not offending people and being all equal and warm and fuzzy whilst taking our eye off the ball? For me (and I’m not a game developer – so take my opinion for what it’s worth), the idea of game development is surely meant to be to create games that people enjoy and will pay money for? The more people who enjoy it and pay for it the better and more successful a game is. While the developer may be right that the South African industry is further developed in gender equality, and I may disagree – what does it really matter when our local industry is in its infancy and 99% of all sales made by the local industry are from overseas?

Anecdotally, it feels like many developers are pandering to overbearing social pressure in the local industry – and I believe that it may be doing more harm than good.

And for the people who literally saw the top header image and the subject line and came down to comment: for a bit of balance, there were two images made to poke fun at both sides of the over sexuality in gaming. Here’s the other.

Also in the second image, the drunken blonde lady is a princess who has been dumped by a plumber due to his new-found fame and the space marine is hitting on her in attempt to score. Just outside of the picture there is an old crazy scientist and a robot so I think all genders and sexualities are covered.

I reached out to Graeme Selvan of Robot Wizard to ask him about the idea behind the tone of the game

I feel people need to learn how to laugh again and have fun, the world is going through troubling times. Videogames are a form of escape. We want people to have fun with our game and laugh at the insane characters they meet

In closing, you are not expected to like the game just because they aren’t trying to offend and the few people I’ve met weren’t. But what I would like to see is people not getting offended without actually understanding the full story or even a partial story. Getting offended over a single image taken out of context is ridiculous and isn’t helping anyone. Context is important.

Just because you are offended doesn’t mean you are right, and that is something that needs to change.

If you’d like more information around Jengo you can visit their website here and follow them on twitter or Facebook. To find out more about what our local developers are working on then head on over to Make Games South Africa where many of our local talents hang out to discuss various aspects of the local gaming industry.

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Last Updated: August 29, 2017

Gavin Mannion

I for one welcome our future robotic overlords

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