Tsk, another media article moaning about Lara Croft and other balloon-breasted game heroines. It’s not as if they’re turning the nation’s men into a race of mole-eyed stalkers, is it? Don’t answer that. The fact is there are plenty of mobile games with a less-than-new-manly attitude towards women, whether it’s presenting them as pumped-up thong-wearing porn stars, defenceless weaklings who need A Man to save them, or just really really dull.
With that in mind, check out this list of ten games that have caused controversy for their depiction of women. It’s not an exhaustive list – there’s only so many Japanese dating games you can fit in after all, and I’ve erased from my memory a stream of 8-bit Strip Poker games that were big (among schoolboys) back in the 1980s.
1. Leisure Suit Larry
Somehow, Larry’s still going strong, despite all his peers (i.e. Benny Hill) falling by the wayside. According to publisher Vivendi, the LSL games have made more than $70 million collectively since the first one came out in 1987. Not bad for a cartoon lech who spends his time running after women (and catching them far more often than is realistic unless you’re the multimillionaire Hugh Hefner). Even today, Larry’s still plying his chat-up lines on mobile, including an upcoming beach volleyball game where he has to massage the female stars of his team. Obviously.
2. Dead Or Alive
Maybe it’s harsh to pick on one beat’em up when pretty much 98% of them feature at least one female character in a teeny-weeny bikini and heels. But what the hell. "She’ll catch her death of cold in that," say mothers around the world when they catch their kids playing it. "And besides, it’s physically impossible for any women to do that spinning kickflip with those breasts." Soon to become a movie whose main attraction appears to be Holly Valance beating people up naked.
3. Sexy Babes Wild Waterslides
Does the mobile games industry have a problem getting women to buy mobile games? I can’t imagine why, with games like this. Best summarised as: bikini-clad women slide down flumes, while you spray them with as much water as possible, and then take photographs of them. If you’re skilled, their top might’ve fallen off. Inevitably is being promoted with the use of real Page 3 girls, who if you tried this sort of thing in the real world would call the cops pronto.
4. Target: Pheromone
The usual ‘cultural differences’ disclaimer applies, but really, helping a foxy witch get back to her own dimension by, er, seducing lots of women? A worrying proportion of whom appear to be looking really miserable while you do it? And one 18-year-old character who, according to the game’s makers, "may look younger than she actually is, but she’s still very popular among her customers". She runs a bakery, by the way, the game’s not THAT sexist.
5. Donkey Kong
Why can’t it be the beautiful girl jumping over barrels to rescue the paunchy plumber, instead of the other way around, hmm? Answers on a 10,000-word sociology dissertation, please.
6. Wild Summer
This game isn’t even out yet, but wins inclusion on the basis of its promo artwork alone, which we spied at E3 this year. It shows a college jock legging it down the street clutching a pair of knickers, while the full game promises all manner of naughty japes and jokes. In other words, it’s Leisure Suit Larry for the MySpace generation.
7. Duke Nukem 3D
I’ll be lazy with this one and let someone else do the hard work. "Is there a sexist undertone to Duke’s comments, appearance, killing of women, or love of XXX theaters and strip joints?" writes Stephanie Bergman in this article. I think that’s hit the nail on the head, to be honest. And don’t forget the industry excitement that surrounded the "gritty realism" of those strip joints when they first appeared in the game.
8. Night Trip
Also famous for being one of the worst games ever made, in the era of FMV (basically shoehorn as much badly-acted video clips into games as you could, and watch the profits roll in. Or not.) On the face of it, Night Trip was quite a chivalrous game. After all, you were saving a house-full of nubile young women from some murderous intruders. Er.. except this also meant spying on said women on security cameras. After all, that pillow fight might be unnecessary to watch, but what if a baddie turns up…
9. Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes
You wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with a real-time strategy game featuring elves in metal bikinis, would you? After all, they’re fictional creatures, who are we to say they don’t wear that sort of thing all the time, in an empowered way? Yes. This writer isn’t so sure though. "Even if they are some sort of alien infernal elves, how exactly would they be able to do anything with that massive sword in an outfit that shouldn’t be worn anyplace outside of the bedroom? Why would anyone wearing elaborate shoulder armour with spikes and finials wear nothing but a thong on the bottom?"
10. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Yes, alright, a game that gives you the option to get jiggy with a prostitute in the back of your car and then beat her to death with a baseball bat to avoid paying may not be intrinsically sexist. After all, it’s up to you, so it’s YOU who’s sexist, punk! Yeah.