Hello, our dear readers!You all probably know cases when representatives of the feminist movement (or other movements) expressed their dissatisfaction with certain games, sometimes creating a scandal out of thin air and thereby jeopardizing the reputation of developers, leaving a negative mark on the team and project that often put their soul, time and money into it.
Can you say honestly, you also probably thought that all these were accidents and all these “Robin Hoods” are fighting an open-minded battle, guided exclusively by objective reasons and their inner convictions? As it turned out, this is far from the true, at least the experience of our comrade is an evidence to this.
We will tell you one story from which many of you will learn something new about this business. You’ll be able to take a peek behind the curtain of this lair of hypocrisy, cynicism and double standards.
Our story is about how one of our employees “talked” with representatives of the feminist movement. The word «talked» is not in quotation marks by accident, since there was no communication as such, but instead there was a very funny story…
It all started when one very talented guy joined our team. After reading the script he asked us:
Do you care about the reputation of your project and the team as a whole?
As it turned out, he was disturbed by the way female characters were represented in the game, and since our friend knew what discontent feminists could do he was worried…
We tried to convince him that we were a small and unknown studio, and nobody cared about us. After all, usually feminists only pay attention to large studios with a big NAME and where they can get an extra dose of “hype”, so we have nothing to fear… But, we couldn’t convince him, he decided to find out first hand whether his reservations have real ground or all his fears are groundless.
As he said, everything seemed simple too him. He writes a letter, receives an answer, an exchange of a few more letters takes place for possible clarification, and then he shares his findings with us and looks at our actions. After that he makes a decision weather heremains with us or leaves the team. Everything goes quietly and without unnecessary noise.
The following is a chronology of events told by the employee:
September 23, I sent letters to several well-known and serious feminist organizations and started waiting. So that it wouldn’t look like a provocation, I will NOT write the names of the organizations.
You can read the contents of the letter below:
My name is Ivan. I represent a small but ambitious game development team called Mikola Zaporozhsky Games.
We are working on a game called Highly Likely. It’s a humorous and surreal 2D Adventure about a funny and a little naïve Ukrainian character called Mikola, who does everything he can to save his farmstead.
Further in the letter I describe the game and provide the link to its Steam store page in case you want to examine it more closely.
A little background
Recently, there have been many cases around the gaming industry when representatives / supporters of your organization / your movement / your idea pay attention to games in which for one reason or another, female characters are absent from the game or present, but in an insulting context. Unfortunately, there are cases when female characters are subjected to offensive, derogatory, rude mockeries, banter, ironic comments and restrictions. Typically, game developers present a lot of excuses for their decisions.
In this regard, women rights organizations often express their displeasure, which, in turn, often develops into scandals and entails at least negative reviews, and often negative consequences and damaged reputation for the developers and their investors.
In our opinion, this, of course, cannot go unnoticed!
We do not want be among those who ignore the demands of the community. Therefore, we decided in advance, at the development stage (a few months remain before the release of the game) and before the start of an extensive advertising campaign, to officially contact you in order to enlist your support.
We would like to know your opinion regarding the plot of the game we developed and, possibly, ask for your recommendations specifically regarding how women are pictured in the game. We will be grateful if you officially express your opinion regarding the scenario of the game and its characters. Your assessment is important to us in order to exclude any controversial points and misunderstandings in the future.
The heart of the matter
In our game, there are about 36 characters. 33 characters are male, they have names and stories, and 3 characters are female. We sought to create those characters to be as realistic as possible. According to the plot of the game, female characters experience some pressure from the males.
According to the scenario, we have the following female characters:
1. The wife of the protagonist. The main character periodically drinks alcohol, after which he insults and belittles his wife, sometimes even assaults her physically. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in real life. According to the scenario, the wife wants to join the local feminist movement, but her husband finds out about it, and begins beating her. As a result, because of fear, the woman abandons her idea and continues to endure his abuse.
2. A woman at the fair. In the story, the woman volunteered to assist a magician who, allegedly, «saws» people. Accidentally, the performance fails, and the female character in the game is really being sawed in half, she moans and screams, calls for help, but others believe that this is a part of the performance and continue to laugh, and, accordingly, do nothing to stop this. In this episode, the screenwriter sought to arouse sympathy, empathy and compassion for the woman.
3. A female gypsy at the fair. The gypsy woman is forced to work as a dancer, she does this under duress, for food and drink. The scriptwriter tried to show the real situation of many distressed women in a dreadful life situations.
There is one more nuance that unites all female characters. They do not have names.
33 male characters have names. The dog and cat in the game also have nicknames, but female characters do not. The wife of the protagonist is called simply «the Wife», and the other two characters are completely nameless.
IMPORTANT! If you need visual images of the characters in question, please tell me and I will send them to you immediately!
This brings us to the question that we would like to ask:
We are interested in your opinion about whether our script and the game as a whole will cause any misunderstandings, complaints and negative reactions on your part or on the part of your representatives/allies?
We do not want conflicts and problems with the sales of our game. In this regard, if necessary, we are ready to change the game scenario before the start of the advertising campaign, if you recommend us doing that!
I, in turn, promise that I will make every effort to influence the writers and investors of the project on the issue of reviewing those moments that, in your opinion, can cause negativity or displeasure!
Let me talk a little about our project.
This part of the letter is the game description.
I look forward to your reply and hope that we can find a common language with you and resolve all issues!
Mikola Zaporozhsky Games team
1.10.19 I didn’t receive a single response. I send the letters again! At the same time, I am writing messages to the Facebook and Twitter accounts of these organizations with a request to respond or provide contacts for feedback.
9.10.19 I didn’t receive a single response. I send the letters again!
I decide to try to communicate with the participants of this movement on Reddit. I create a post on /r/Feminism
The post passes the moderation. The first constructive comment criticizing us:«this horrifically sexist video game».
Another comment with a clearly erroneous opinion:«For heaven's sake, you even state that your motivations aren't to make a good story, but to keep the evil bitches from Feminazi Women's Groups from fomenting unnecessary uproar.»
I try to enter a dialogue, and here is the most interesting thing! The comments do not pass the moderation!
The message counter shows 8 comments but only 3 are displayed. Apparently, they fight trolling in this way, but the algorithm is incomprehensible. For example, my
answers that contain no provocative things are not posted, at the same time they permitted one very provocative comment, and deleted it an hour later…
I assume that perhaps there would be more people wishing to talk and express their opinion, and the discussion would be very interesting and constructive, but… what is the point of writing if the comments are not displayed? Is this a dialogue? No, this is not a dialogue!
11.10.19 I didn’t receive a single response. I create another post in r/Feminism with the title «Please provide an opportunity for an open and constructive dialogue!” I ask to provide an open dialogue, or at least publish a link to the post in my profile where we could communicate without censorship and restrictions. I am ignored, they remove the post!
I make a duplicate post in the French sub /r/Feminisme
The first comment accuses me of trolling.
I try to enter a dialog to explain everything, and I even managed to write one comment. I’m already glad that maybe I’ll be able to talk here, but after a few minutes they ban me permanently and completely delete the post…
I post the same at /r/GenderCritical, the post is removed!
I duplicate the post in an anti-feminist communit /r/FeminismStopsWhen in hope that they might at least answer there.
People leave several comments. BUT! At the same, I want to achieve a dialogue with representatives of the feminist movement, so to speak, with the real feminists. People leave several comments. The commenters, however, are not feminists, but quite the opposite. I want to achieve a dialogue with representatives of the feminist movement, so to speak, with the real feminists.
1. The official and unofficial organizations ignore us and do not respond to letters.
2. On the thematic platforms on Reddit, I am not allowed a single word.
3. The attempts to reach them on Facebook or Twitter are also fruitless.
It would seem that I can safely agree with the guys from the team who initially said that none of the feminists would care about a small and unknown team, and all my feelings and fears are groundless. As they say, their version is verified by their personal experience! We decided to forget about it and
Conclusion: I know many cases where representatives of the feminist movement expressed their dissatisfaction with certain games in which the female characters were deprived of their fair share in one way or another. Sometimes it came to a serious
scandal, thereby inflicting a blow on the reputation of the developers, leaving a negative mark on both the team and the project in which they invest their souls, time, money…
Frankly, I always thought that all these „Robin Hoods“ are fighting an open-minded struggle, guided exclusively by objective motives, as well as their sincere internal convictions, and until recent events, NO ONE could convince me otherwise!
BUT! Looking at this whole story, the ignoring and indifference on your part while I’m trying to have a dialogue with you, so that it would NOT end with a scandal, I have an ever-stronger opinion that all of these seemingly random „hypes“ around some games are nothing more than a well-planned and no less well-paid PR campaigns, and now anything can hardly convince me otherwise!
A few days later, on October 21, one of my colleagues advised me to publish a post about my story in the /r/KotakuInAction community in the hope that maybe someone will notice it and join the dialogue, which I actually did. NO comments about what happens next, you ought to see it yourself. I will say one thing, the communication turned out to be very constructive. Not without fun from one Russian brother. He was a complete moron, judging by the manner of his writing, but at least it was amusing :-)
P.S. In fact, the story does not end there, but rather only begins, and has a continuation, but this is a topic for a separate story that we will share with you in the nearest future…