This has been an exceedingly hard article to write for a number of different reasons. Firstly was the fact that despite the number of times that stuff like this has popped up I'm still not quite sure how to deal with it or even if it's appropriate for me to do so (remember, middle class white male is life on easy mode, I'm not about to debate that, ever). Secondly is that it's really something only tertiarily related to games on the whole, so I waffled a little over whether or not it was something actually worth including. Thirdly is the fact that if I'm going to be completely honest, I'm not entirely sure where I stand with this.
What am I talking about? I'm talking about the recent trouble that Dead Island publisher Deep Silver has found itself in over one of the bonus inclusions for Dead Island Riptide "Zombie Bait Edition" which serves as the special edition to the game. The inclusion causing the commotion? A torso, bikini-clad and bloody, missing its arms, legs and head.
Now, as I said in the title itself, this trinket is tasteless, make no mistake about it. The reaction to it should have been expected. The thing is though, was it an overreaction? As much as I hate to say it, probably.
Before I get tarred and feathered I'd like to make it clear that even though I'm choosing to play devil's advocate here that I'm not a huge fan of the torso by any means. If I were to say something though, it would be that I think that Deep Silver lost a nice opportunity by failing to do a male equivalent. The damage has already been done so it would be too late now, but if they would have come out with something like the "half eaten hunk" which would have been a stereotypical macho male body but in the same condition, and then marketed the female version as "half eaten eye candy" then while it still would have been tasteless at least it would have been a little clever and equal opportunity.
People would have rolled their eyes to be sure, but let's face it; as someone who plays these kinds of games (well, sort of, Killing Floor, Left 4 Dead, those things) even I have to admit that you don't exactly pick up a zombie game because your refined cultural tastes demand it. Zombies are gross, zombie movies are often just flimsy excuses for gorefests, zombie games likewise. At least by playing into that with some groan-inducing wordplay and (more importantly) an equal playing field, we might have had something that while not revolutionary, at least wouldn't have been as big of a PR nightmare as this turned out to be.
Truth be told, I'm actually kind of shocked by my own reaction to this. The thing is though, that if this is misogyny, then it's only the latest small drop in a very big bucket. That's not saying it's not worth getting mad about, not at all. But if there's problems over this promotion, then why does something like this:
Get a free pass? How is this any less bad? Remember, I LIKE Dead or Alive as a fighting game franchise, and I was thrilled when they said they were trying to move away from having the women of the game just be pure fanservice vehicles. Well, so much for that. But to me, the only difference between that torso up there and everything that's being shown in that video is that for some reason that I cannot comprehend no one bats and eye at the second one. What's the difference? Is there one? From my point of view, there really isn't.
Again, I'm not saying that people should be angry with Deep Silver. I can appreciate that the video game industry as a whole has a very, very long way to go in regards to the depiction and treatment of women both in the video games that are produced and also in real life as well, if any of the horrific stories shared under the #1reasonwhy hashtag on twitter are any indication. But, if you're going to raise a stink about a tacky addition to a zombie game, then why doesn't a game advertisement featuring nothing but bikini clad women with near impossible figures even register as a blip on the radar?
Have I gone insane, or has everyone else? Either way I'm not even sure it matters anymore.