Because sexual harassment is hilarious

I’m not sure what bothers me more about 行殺! Spirits (“Line-Kill Spirits”): the game itself or the response to it.

Screenshot from Line-Kill SpiritsLet’s start with the game itself. It seems like a typical cutesy all-girl fighting game. The art style employed is one that is generally associated with pre-adolescence – it tends to be used in children’s manga and lolita porn. I’d put the girls at middle school at the latest, personally. Still, that sort of thing isn’t unusual; I’ve known plenty of fighting games that employ those marketing tactics.

What is unusual, however, is an added game element: picture taking. Not just any kind of picture taking, however, panty shot pictures. As anyone who has watched anime knows, there is a seemingly cultural fixation in Japan on women’s underwear. In particular, men and boys lifting up unwilling women’s skirts to look at their underwear. I can’t speak for how common it is in real life (not being a Japanese woman, nor living in Japan), but I do know that harassment is a part of women’s daily life there. One example of this is the women-only trains that companies began to run because of the unnervingly high instance of sexual assault (groping, mostly, but I’ve heard stories about men using women’s asses for masturbation aids).

To add fuel to the fire, it is not creepy old men taking these pictures (which would be bad enough), but the other girls themselves doing it. Showing women participating in their own objectification (ala. Levy’s “raunch culture”, girly kissing culture, etc) only serves to normalize the behaviour. After all, if the girls are willing to do it then it must be okay, right? While I wouldn’t think that anyone would confuse LKS with reality, having the girls do it to each other rather than a man doing it to a girl undoubtedly helps the players to rationalize the game as “harmless fun”.

And, indeed, that is exactly what many of the commenters did on the Inverted Castle thread. I counted six overt “that’s funny” kinds of comments – four instances of “hilarious”, one pertinent “lol”, and one “amusing” – and five comments that the gameplay was “interesting”, “innovative”, or something along those lines. The ones condemning it, even in part, were an overall minority. Two people called it “weird”, two people called it “disgusting”, four people used “disturbing” (two in direct context to the girls’ ages, rather than the mechanic itself), but only three people addressed women in particular. Out of 61 comments only 4 addressed the obvious gender issues of the panty shot mechanic, one of which was posted by the same person. For a game that is blatant objectification and sexual harassment, that is just sad.

To get an idea of some of the worse comments out there, I’d like to post a few of my… ah… “favourites”.

dj kor said:

dj kor like panties and japanese girls.

NoShit Boy said:

If that’s not innovative, then I ask, what is?

Although, I happened to like the comeback posted to that one: “The Nintendo Revolution’s remote control, of course.” (commenter’s handle was Revolutionary Remote)

MasterBaytor said:

Where can I get me one of these? Seriously, this is why Japan is one of the 3 most creative countries on Earth, according to a recent study (the other two are Sweden and Finland).

Of course, the three parties speaking up didn’t exactly give the game a ringing condemnation for its treatment of women.

Thoughtless said [emphasis mine]:

I don’t know if it’s supposed to represent little girls as sexually appealing; then it’s pretty sick, but obviously the panty shot was meant as humiliation. This is an interestingly insightful; if odd insight into real cat fighting tactics. I don’t know if my distaste for the game is my American prudishness(I didn’t watch the clip) or a genuine effort to avoid prurient material of most disgusting nature. Some perverts like little girls in panties sexually, but most of just yell at them to put closthes[sic] on or they’ll catch their death going outside. If this game gets girls playing video games then I say it’s good if it’s designed for perverts it is illeagal[sic] in the USA(and should be).

He starts out really well with the humiliation angle; one of the best tools for control is shame. Humiliating a woman (or girl) by exerting ownership to her body (in this case, the unalienable right to take pictures of her private areas) is one of the oldest tricks in the book. I think this game displays this tactic quite obviously, but in a way that reinforces its ideology. Certainly, the amount of people who didn’t think to comment on its use of women speaks volumes about how invisible this issue is, even in our so-called “equal” Western societies.

I can understand Thoughtless running with the first part of his initial sentence (the paedophilia angle), as that is what was most commonly focused on by the detractors of the game, but his insight into the humiliation tactics had really had me rooting for him to be a guy who gets it. His second sentence, however, made me weep with frustration. Real. Cat fighting. Tactics. Why, thank you, Thoughtless, for being one of the billion privileged men who is not only uncritical of the term “cat fighting”, but has no problem reinforcing the idea that women do things (like getting into fights) solely for men’s amusement.

And on what planet would a game of women taking panty shots of other women get girls playing video games??? It’s not erotic. It’s not cute. It’s not interesting. And it’s nothing new. Newsflash for you gamer guys, since so many of you seem to be blind to this small fact: a great many games have some implication of girl-on-girl action and we women (especially the ones who love other women) are not amused.

Moving onto Ms. I’m-not-a-feminist-but, Noneofyourbusniess said:

This is so childish and this game so turns to perveted[sic] males(as always). No i am no feminist but you get rather tired of seeing games that always is about less cloth, more boob bouncing etc. I mean really. I at least dont wanna buy a game cause i can see boobies or something. There is adult games for that(not that i like them either).

Not the deepest reading into it, but it doesn’t need to be. The message: objectification of women isn’t cool.

She adds:

A second thought on that game. Why would a girl take a picture of a girls pantises?[sic]

The same reason two straight girls would kiss: fulfillment of male fantasy. And there’s no doubt that LKS’ purpose is just that.

The third and final commenter, ditchwitch, took issue to NOYB’s feminist bashing:

Feminist isn’t a dirty word btw, and you shouldn’t feel the need to qualify your statements. Just say what you think. Anyway I am of 2 minds on the game, on the one hand it’s pretty amusing, at the same time I object to media which consistently links sex and violence together, and it’s hard to argue that this game doesn’t.

It does make me a bit sad that she saw any kind of amusement in this game. This kind of treatment of women, even in a video game (especially in a video game), just doesn’t strike me as funny in the least. But at least she sees the link, which is more than I can say for 98% of the other commenters.

I guess, in the end, I have to say that the overwhelming response to this game is worse than the game itself. In a way, the game is just a response to the demand. While it undoubtedly perpetuates the stereotypes it utilizes, it only exists because of the invisibility of the harm caused by this kind of “entertainment”. Until we – the gamers, the bloggers and readers, and our societies at large – educate ourselves on these kinds of issues and unabashedly speak out against it, games like these will continue to be made and distributed. And, while this kind of thing might be on the extreme end, make no mistake that the kind of attitude it holds towards women can be found in a majority of mainstream games both in Japan and the West.

Via New Game Plus.

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