The game Killer is Dead was recently made available to United States audiences and we picked up a copy to play. Do yourself a favor and watch the reviews and read up like here on IGN before you go in blind because you’re thinking, ‘a new game by Suda 51! Yay!’ I assure you, you would like to be spoiled a bit.
So here’s the trailer:
Have you spoiled yourself? Good.
Now let’s cut the shit. You’re going to read all over the place how this game is so demeaning toward women (it is) and oh no the Gigolo missions are so distracting (they are) and sexist (they are). You’re going to read how the Gigolo missions are a failed attempt at suave James Bond-esque nods and whole mess more of those holier than thou awkward dude confessions disguised as “we feel you feminists” game reviews but before I say I care about a single one of those “sorry ladies” reviews, I’m gonna call, bullshit on the whole noise factory surrounding this game. I’m not even going to call bullshit in one of those awkward coughBULLSHITcough manners either. I’m call “BS” in one of those ways where I look you square in the eye and say “You’re full of shit, sir” and make you face me.
Why? Don’t I appreciate that men see how demeaning this game is? Don’t I want the gaming industry to change? Don’t I want people to speak up when there is an injustice being served? Hell yeah I do. Then why would I pick a bone with men saying this game makes them uncomfortable? Because a game shouldn’t have to be an accurate or even cartoonish portrayal of hetero-male sexuality– misogyny, sexism, patriarchal heterosexual nuances– to get men to feel awkward. Those same men are still defending the progressiveness of Last of Us. Those same men are still sitting around talking about gamer girls as if they’re some monolith separate from the rest of the gaming community because… boobs. Those same men are still sexist whether they like to admit it or not.
Saying that Killer is Dead is sexist and misogynist and whatever else is nothing. Obviously this game is sexist. Obviously. In this day and age if you want to keep your job you have to at least mention that sexism in Killer is Dead is a criticism. But for all the male reviews saying “I’m not sexist but…” But what? “This game is upsetting but…” But what? If this game is so upsetting to you or you aren’t that sexist, you wouldn’t review it. “But I have to because I have this job…” No, you don’t. You don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to write this article but I am. You don’t have to play the whole game and review it– but you do. You don’t even have to give it 5 stars. But you do.
See, I think Suda 51’s depiction of sexuality, while disgusting, disgraceful and way misogynistic, is accurate. I really do think that men need to face the fact that they treat women this way. Sure, it’s awkward to have misogyny be so blatantly brought to your attention and even minimized and trivialized like it is in the Killer is Dead game, but let’s be really fucking real: you’re only embarrassed because you’ve done this. Or you do this. Or you think that women don’t know that you do this. (We do, by the way). Or because secretly you idolize men that get away with this kind of behavior and treatment of women. James Bond– right? If only Killer is Dead had the polished actions of James Bond, it wouldn’t be so sexist. No. What fantasy are you living in where James Bond is any different than Mondo?
I absolutely loathe this game’s depiction of women and I am so beyond bored and sick of male dominated, male-led games. I am sick of female representation in these games– even in female led games. But I kind of LOVE that this game is awkward and disgusting and misogynistic and that the male gamers playing this game have to– actually HAVE TO– engage with this dark disgusting side of themselves. No really, you can’t get full use of the game unless you gigolo.
Isn’t it cute, by the way, that they call it a “gigolo” mission as if it’s just an optional activity that you could quit if you were to make enough money to no longer need to prostitute? Because even at the worst, you still have the “back out” option– where you can say “look, it was just a job” because you’re not really like that. Or are you?
Sure there are those male gamers sitting alone while they ogle the lady’s boobs avoiding all awkward conversation and need to apologize for their behavior. They can bury the game under their bed like so much porno and disavow any sort of objectification of women in normal circumstances– unlike some guys. They don’t have to engage in the dialogue because it’s easier to pretend that the conversation eludes them. They don’t have to look at what such a game means to women or even for men– they can just play in private and pretend they’re James Bond without anyone being any the wiser and, in their minds, no one getting hurt.
Of course there’s no such thing as no one getting hurt from misogyny but that’s a topic for later.
Will all gamers have that luxury of secretive sexism? Doubtful. Some men are sitting awkwardly in the tenuous space between privacy and total exposure- their engagement with this perverted game and its quests liable to be exposed at any moment in the lack of unshared space to game without attention. Then what can these men say when someone happens in the room when they’re ogling for points? The shame and embarrassment and quick excuses against the sexism are poised and ready for defense. “It’s only a game– I’m not really like that” is ever at the tip of their tongue as the thrill of being one mission away from getting caught being a prick is ever present. Like masturbating without the door to the bathroom locked tight (when you know people are in the house) they skirt the issue of misogyny by pretending that the game is disgusting while also still engaging. No one wants to get caught being a pervert, but no one wants to stop either. Of course they’d rather you didn’t see that, but they didn’t want to hide it enough not to do it in the first place.
Then there are those men that have to share their game play with everyone. They aren’t in a house where there’s privacy. Everyone is watching and everyone is judging at all moments and those men can only laugh uncomfortably while they keep trying to get bonus points and fuck the pretty girl for an A+ mission. But everyone is watching them play the role and the elephant is quite visible in the room– even if it’s a room of men or women or a mixed bag. There is no way that you can ignore what is unfolding.
I love that no matter whether you are privately or publicly playing this game, you are engaging in that side of misogyny. You are literally ogling a woman. No matter how you slice it, you have to be misogynistic. Just by playing this game, reviewing it, even knowing of it and the missions within, you have to confront misogyny. Like a handsome abuser assuring his victim that he didn’t mean it, the gaming community likes to pretend that misogyny doesn’t exist any more– that the feminists are crying wolf and no one really means “rape” when they say it. The gaming community likes to turn away from “disturbing portrayals of sexuality” like they aren’t engaging in such depraved behavior themselves and don’t feed the culture of misogyny with their purchases and hiring practices, and (le sigh) so on it goes. But the gaming community still bought Killer is Dead. The gaming community still played Killer is Dead. The gaming community still reviewed Killer is Dead. The gaming community still released Killer is Dead for American audiences. Yes, Killer is Dead is doing quite well for being the embarrassing piece of shit the reviews like to make it out to be.
Put differently, the ogling of breasts that Killer is Dead makes you do? So fucking what. Like heteromen have never ogled breasts when they were supposed to be making eye contact? Please. Why do you all bow to the titties of Jessica Nigri? I’m sure it’s exclusively her use of exquisite costume design and fabric qualities. Oh no the handsome assassin woos the heart of the lady friend and gets in her panties? This has surely never been a heterofantasy that men have had! In fact, there isn’t a single Hollywood blockbuster, video game, or even porno that has such a plot line so JUST STOP SUDA 51 you scumbag (note the use of sarcasm, such lazy witticism that it is). And those x-ray glasses and skanky outfits? Lingerie is simply an expensive industry that us ladies have dreamt up for no reason other than satisfying our own vanities (Victoria’s Secret you know).
I’m just going to go out on a limb that needs just a little more blood and some ogling for upgrades and say that Killer is Dead shouldn’t be the lonesome pariah it has become. There are plenty of games that should be in the sexist club already. I’m going to feed that limb some blood from a sultry nurse and add that if men really want to say something feminist that’s worth hearing, they should be talking about the sexism apparent in other games as much as they talk about the sexism in Killer is Dead. Misogyny isn’t always this obvious transgression against women. It’s not Killer is Dead more than most of the time. Most of the time it’s a subtle and quiet sourness that looks like a (white) woman making 77 cents on her male counterpart’s dollar. It doesn’t look like a gigolo mission, it looks like a boobtastic suit of armor for a female lead character with sexy costume upgrades because even though she’s strong… BOOBS.
If male gamers want to be allies for the feminist gaming cause, let’s talk about rape in video games. Let’s talk about plot lines. Let’s talk about options for playable female characters that isn’t confined to 1/8th the entire game. Let’s talk about why some amazing “progressive” game like the Last of Us needed a male-female relationship like literally every other flipping game on the market? And why Damsel in Distress is stillthe most popular story line for games over 30 years later– and really in an era where it really didn’t need to be so damn sexist.
So if you’re going to say the gigolo missions are ill thought out because they don’t make you feel like a debonaire rapist like James Bond, then you’re actually sexist and Killer is Dead is for you. Ogling a woman’s body without getting caught isn’t classy but men do it all the time anyway– it’s even in popular culture, media, mainstream society and well– it’s a thing (“Let me get a look at you”– if you say you’re going to do it, it becomes okay? Please). If you’re going to pretend like “doing it all for a kiss” is some twisted sexist bullshit but you’ve asked a girl to smile for you in exchange for helping her, then you’re really not looking very deep at what the hell misogyny is and the way it works. If you watch porn, if you insult men by attacking their masculinity, if you insult women by calling them bitch or cunt (etcetera) then you’re misogynistic. The thing about misogyny is that it is everywhere. Literally… everywhere. You saying you aren’t like that just tells me you are because it is so deeply rooted in this culture, as well as every other culture, that it’s impossible to escape.
Killer is Dead is perfect because it shows how little this culture has actually changed. Killer is Dead shows how even though we all agree that women should be treated better (except in fictional games and, you know, real life) there is a part that remains feeling this attachment to the game of seduction, of not getting caught being creepy, of “sealing the deal” with every piece of pretty “tail” that meanders your way. Killer is Dead shows how little misogyny is actually acknowledged and investigated and addressed in this culture because it reminds every single person that learns about it, plays it, or sees it that even though we pretend misogyny is dead, it’s still very much alive in that seedy underlife of unchecked male ego and brosef culture.
As the saying goes, “you are only as strong as your weakest link” so the weak link of blatant misogyny shows that we still have a long way to go. Each and every gigolo mission is a silent conversation forced to be had because of the sheer audacity to expose that side of men that isn’t ever spoken about. The side of men that says “I don’t notice your titties or how sexy you look in that dress” even though they’ve been trying to figure out a way to “appreciate” your body. The missions are so brazen in their neutrality– just a simple “business” arrangement that despite being entirely misogynistic because of the method of wooing, is actually a perfect representation of the greater culture. And because of that, this game does something that no other game could do: it revives the misogyny debate. It forces the conversation. The only thing that dies is the refusal to acknowledge that feminist conversations on gaming are worthless. Because if these conversations were worthless, then the weakest link wouldn’t be ogling a woman’s breasts after buying her a present so you can fuck her for an A+ like some overfunded pick up guide for date rape. The weakest link would be a game like The Last of Us if our culture was past (or sailing by at an impressive rate) its misogynistic roots. The very fact that Killer is Dead exists in its form and that the suggestions aren’t to get rid of the gigolo missions but to turn them into a more James Bond seduction venture just goes to show that the only thing dead is the ability to talk productively about sexism and misogyny and its affect on us all. Killer may be dead but the conversation continues.