Monday, June 14, 2010

Hey Baby, come play this video game

Recently, a new first-person shooter video game was released called Hey Baby, The game, developed by Suyin Looui, can be played for free at the site, or you can buy a version to play. You can see a trailer for the game here. The game's description, from the site:
Ever had one of those seemingly endless days? All you want to do is to get home... You're the last one out of the office. Its getting dark outside...

You walk down the streets and realize the streetlights are burnt out. There's no one around. You hear a footstep behind you. The light flickers. You turn and he says, "I wanna lick you all over....."

And then you remember, you’re packing a 3' long .80 caliber machine gun that’s locked and loaded.

Ladies, are you sick and tired of catcalling, hollering, obnoxious one-liners and creepy street encounters? Tired of changing your route home to avoid uncomfortable situations?

Essentially, the main character (a woman) can shoot men who harass her on the street. The comments from the men in the game range from the seemingly innocent comments on looks to threats of sexual violence.

The reactions to the game have been all across the board. There's the typical "feminists and their 'reverse sexism' suck" reaction (note how this person never once addresses street harassment) and there is the (understandable) "I'm not so sure about this" reaction.

But. There are also people who get it. And there are men who get it. And they are writing about it, trying to help others understand. That makes me happy, because this game isn't about making any one man feel bad about having told a woman walking down the street that she's pretty. It's about showing what women deal with when they step out their front door, and that can include that one guy saying she's pretty -- along with other guys' commenting on looks/clothes/body parts, and yes, making threatening comments, name-calling, etc. (Admittedly, the game doesn't show everything. My understanding is there are no negative comments about how the woman looks, and those happen all the time, too.) It's about how exasperating it can be to deal with these comments and situations, because they are uninvited and tiresome and often degrading. These kinds of comments can violate personal safety. You're walking along, everything's fine, suddenly some guy says something, and now you don't feel safe. Even, in some cases, if that comment is just a "you're pretty" comment. And just like the comments are exasperating, so is the game -- because it never ends, like the comments.

I strongly recommend reading the following articles:
  • Feministe: "Hey Baby Hey Baby Hey," by Sarah, who makes an apt comparison in the article to chivalry.
  • New York Times: "A Woman With the Firepower to Silence Those Street Wolves," by Seth Schiesel, who reviewed the game and concludes "I found myself throwing up my hands and thinking, 'Well what am I supposed to do?” Which is, of course, what countless women think every day,'" and "I doubt any noninteractive art form could have given me as visceral an appreciation for what many women go through as part of their day-to-day lives."
  • New Statesman: "Hey Baby's not big or clever, but boy is it cathartic, by Laurie Penny, who says "All human beings have ugly thoughts, and the disjunction between everyday transgressive fantasy and the type of violent, premeditated hate that obtains a real weapon and goes on a real murder spree is enormous. And contemporary cultural production sees plenty of use in exploring men’s violent impulses, often to the point of insensitivity. But what about women’s dark, secret fantasies?"
  • Rock, Paper, Shotgun: "The Proposition: So, Hey Baby Then…," by Kieron Gillen, offering this fantastic statement: "That your passing desire means you get to derail a woman’s life whenever you feel like it is the absolute definition of male privilege."
  • NPR: "Video Game Lets Women Fight Back," an informative interview with the game creator and with Emily May of Holla Back.
And, if you want to learn more about street harassment and what you can do about it, check out Holla Back and Stop Street Harassment.

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