Tag Archives: Wii U

Is Bayonetta 2 (or video games in general) Sexist?

Admittedly, this is a topic that one could write a thesis paper on (and this has probably been done), but I wanted to look at one particular fact of the argument today, coming off of a conversation I had with this this site’s video host, Tomarris.  With the recent release of Bayonetta 2 on Wii U, a game series well known for the over-sexualization of its titular character, I had mentioned that it was a shame a game getting such good reviews for its gameplay had to drag itself down with such juvenile humor and sexism.  This led to a discussion of whether video games in general are sexist, to which Tomarris made the argument that while they certainly make unrealistic representations of people, they do so equally with men and women and are therefore not sexist.  I wasn’t sure if this was true, but it was a compelling point and it made me decide to dig into the concept of sexism a little bit, both with regards to Bayonetta and with video games in general.

Bayonetta, as a character and as a game, provides an interesting challenge as part of the sexism debate.  The video game itself may contain plenty of pervy camera angles, but the character itself would seem to be the exact model of feminist empowerment.  This may in fact be a product of how the game was constructed.  It is, by virtue of being an over-the-top action game, empowering to the player and therefore the character of Bayonetta.  In the game, she kicks ass and takes names, owns her sexuality, but does not function as an object to any in-game character.  One of the games producers at Platinum Games, Akiko Kuroda was quoted in one of the promotional videos saying, “So being a female myself, I think it’s really awesome to see a strong female lead, and it’s something I can relate to, I’d really like to see her continue to play a big role.”  On the other hand, the director of Bayonetta 2, Yusuke Hashimoto, and the chief animator, Takaaki Yamaguchi, are both men, which may explain why the game has so many crotch shots and why the walking animation has such exaggerated hip-swinging to it.  It reminded me of the PC mod a few years ago for Dragon Age, where the modders put the female animation onto the male character model to show how ridiculous it looked to have the female “seductive running” being done by a guy.

Something worth noting is that both the first and second Bayonetta games actually pass the Bechdel Test with flying colors.  For those of you who don’t know, the Bechdel Test is a minimum bar popularized by a feminist comic strip that is often used now to judge the portrayal of women in film and TV.  To pass the Bechdel Test, the product must contain: a) at least two named female characters who b) talk to each other about c) something other than a man.  It’s not deeply scientific, but does say something about the depth of female characters in any given fiction.  To give you an idea, only about half of the movies in 2013 passed the test with failures by the vast majority of big blockbuster and action movies. So in that sense, the fact that the Bayonetta universe is populated with many female characters who talk to each other almost exclusively about things other than men would seem to combine with the empowering gameplay to make Bayonetta clearly avoid sexism and in fact serve to empower women.  Still, there is a rebuttal to this argument that we cannot ignore.  That is, video games are a very different medium than film and TV and as such the Bechdel Test may be partially invalidated by some other aspects of the game.  It has been argued before that the relationship that should be tested in the video game environment should not primarily be the one between the characters, but between the character and the player.  Does the game assume and/or cater to the assumption of a heterosexual male holding the controller?  Despite the intentional campiness of Bayonetta’s scripting, this is a test the game demonstratively fails.  This game, as well as many others, know that the male eye is, for better or worse, drawn to certain alluring representations, and has shown little qualms about catering and counting on that guilty pleasure in their audience, despite the long held understanding that overindulging in this is seen as objectifying to women.  So in the case of Bayonetta, it seems that the character is feminist, but the perspective is objectifying.  But does this mean the game is sexist?

To settle this question, we need to look at a broader topic.  By definition, “sexism” as a term refers to unequal treatment of men and women in some way.  Such a definition requires scope by its very nature.  If that scope is limited to Bayonetta, it would seem that it’s male characters are not objectified to the same extent, though one does get a crotch close up as he is almost run over by a motorcycle. On the other hand, the few male characters that there are in the game come off as bumbling, slightly stupid, and fairly useless.  So as far as equality goes, they don’t seem to be faring much better than the women.  It’s an interesting perspective.  If we look at Grand Theft Auto, a series that is routinely criticized for negative portrayals of women, it is also true that its portrayals of men are also overwhelmingly negative.  So is there really an imbalance that would allow us to use the definition of the term “sexism?”  The argument is certainly not as clear cut as it has been portrayed.  Bayonetta, as we’ve discussed, has strong positive and negative aspects to it.  Which of these is stronger is open to as much debate as one wishes, but my instinct is that in the war between empowerment and objectivism, it breaks even or possible empowerment wins by a slight margin.  I would therefore say that Bayonetta is not a sexist property.  However, the video game industry as a whole, where there is an in-game achievement for looking up the main character’s skirt in Lollipop Chainsaw, may come up slightly on the other side.  I think its close though, especially in the face of Tomarris’s argument.  The male characters in video games are overwhelmingly rugged, handsome, muscly beacons of masculinity that may be attractive to a female player, but just make the rest of us feel inadequate.  On balance (perhaps just because men are more visually oriented, or just less mature) there are more pervy, “objectifying” instances of females than males in video games and that is certainly something video game designers should be aware of.  However, it seems like accusations of sexism in the industry as a whole are overblown in this light.  That said, the instances of unrealistically perfect characters who are funnier, better looking, and more confident than we are, continue to be as rampant as ever in video games as well as everywhere in media because the consumer (us) doesn’t want to read, watch, or play as uninteresting, average people.  So maybe we should work on that.


Another long one, but its a big topic.  Have some input on the subjects of sexism, video games, or anything really?  Let us know in the comments or e-mail us at thedailydpad@gmail.com.  Also, check out videos on Youtube at Daily D Pad.


Is it Okay to Put DLC on the Main Menu?

The recent release of Destiny kicks off a busy Fall for exciting new releases.  Tons of triple-A games are coming out in the next few weeks and months.  But up till now, there hasn’t been that much to play on PS4 and Xbox One.  As a result, the game I’ve played most on these consoles recently is a small shooter for the PS4 called Resogun.  For those who don’t know, it plays like a simplified twin-stick shooter.  I say “simplified” because part of the premise is that you can only shoot horizontally, left or right, as you move your Galaga-like craft around the stage.  As an aside, the game is excellent though short, technically only having 5 levels.  Being excellent but short, the player might be expected to finish the game wanting more.  This brings me to my topic for today, which has to do with the placement of DLC in Resogun, an issue that started to peeve me with the release of Mario Kart 8, the recent racing game from Nintendo, but has now annoyed me enough to warrant a good venting.

The main menus of Resogun and Mario Kart 8 are actually very similar considering the disparity of genres.  Both contain the following options: Single Player, Local Multi-player, Online Multiplayer, Options, and Shop.  The Shop option takes the player to a place that lets the player purchase and download add-on content.  In the case of Resogun, it directs you to the Playstation Network Store, where you can buy the “Heroes” expansion for Resogun, containing two new modes and a bunch of unlockable trophies.  In Mario Kart 8, it takes you to the Nintendo e-Shop where you can buy 2 packs of additional characters to play as and two sets of Courses to race on.  This is fine with me.  While it is true that both the PS4 and Wii U have buttons on their controllers that let you instantly go to their respective online stores to purchase DLC add-ons without quitting the game, I can understand the desire to put a place in the game were players would see it and think to check the store.  Otherwise, I might not know there was any Resogun DLC at all unless I happened to check the store on my own just on a hunch.  Having a place for DLC seems reasonable.  But both games go a step further, which is where we get into the meat of today’s topic.

One menu deeper from the main menu in Resogun, there is a curious thing.  If I select “Single Player” from the main menu in the game, it gives me another menu with four options: Arcade Mode, Single Level, Survival, and Demolition Mode.  However, the latter two of these options are greyed out, so the player can only choose Arcade and Single Level.  At first, you might think the other two must be unlocked.  After all, the “Master” option on the difficulty select screen is greyed out in the exact same way.  But if you try to select Survival or Demolition Mode, the game give you the message that these modes are part of the “Heroes” DLC for Resogun, which can be purchased for $5.99 from the Playstation Store.  Mario Kart 8 does something very similar.  When go to the character select screen, the bottom row of characters has a colored band on them.  If you try to select any of those characters, the game will inform you that they are part of the upcoming DLC packs and asks if you want to pre-order the DLC for $11.99.  The same situation exists for the last two sets of courses on the Course select screen.

Downloadable Content is by definition an add-on to an existing game.  So, seeing these options, it would be fair to wonder how options exist in the menus for game modes, characters, ext. that didn’t exist when the original game was finished (I can’t confirm for Resogun, but Nintendo expressly stated that they did not begin work on the DLC characters and courses until after the original game had shipped).  Well the answer is that in both cases, mandatory software updates to both games added the menu items after their original release.  As you might be able to tell from my tone thus far, I have an objection to SONY and Nintendo automatically placing these menu item into the games of consumers who have not chosen to buy the content that these menu items are for.

Essentially, this tactic amounts to a dirty marketing strategy.  And in the end, it offends the same sense that many gamers today have when they hear, for example, about Activision developing the DLC content for Call of Duty concurrently with the regular game, but choosing to hold those muti-player maps and bonus items back to be sold piecemeal to the consumer at a premium after we have already purchased the main game.  Gamers feel, perhaps rightfully so (though that is an argument for another day) that they are being tricked into buying an incomplete product and resent paying more to experience everything a game has to offer.  This is a feeling that SONY and Nintendo are using in reverse to drive sales and advertise their DLC in Resogun and Mario Kart 8.  Even though they didn’t actually hold back content, by putting the DLC menus in front of gamers that have’t purchased DLC in this way, they are making us feel that our games are incomplete and temping us to pay to complete them.  Whether that is fair from a logical supply/demand ethics standpoint is debatable, but I can testify that when I select “Single Player” in Resogun and fully half of the Modes that are displayed are inaccessible, I certainly feel like my game is missing something, and I fully feel myself being manipulated by SONY.

SONY and Nintendo are essentially going the extra step to dangle a product in front of you and deny you access unless you pay.  This is the equivalent of the grocery store finding a way to make it so that you don’t need to choose to shop for food to see their products, but instead they come uninvited into your home and put a bunch of delicious looking food on your shelves that you can’t touch unless you pay a premium.  It seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? It’s actually just like the mini-bars in Hotels.  And we all know how reasonably priced those items are, right?  $5.00 seems reasonable for a bottle of water (sarcasm)!  Temptation is powerful, which also raises an ethical question for children, especially considering that both company’s digital stores allow you to store credit card information and then are dangling products in front of children that are just a few clicks from purchase.  Just last year, Consumer rights groups in the European Union got a new set of laws passed restricting just this sort of tactic in downloadable games for phones because too many children were being tricked into spending large sums of money on micro-transactions in games while playing on their (or their parent’s) phones.  Maybe we are not yet at the point of legislation with home consoles, but we seem to be heading in that direction.  I for one have concluded that I would prefer all parts of a product, including its menus, to stay in the store until I choose to go to the store myself purchase it.


Sorry for such a lengthy article this week, but this one really got my goat (so to speak).  What do you think about DLC and micro-transactions being forced in front of consumers?  Let us know at thedailydpad@gmail.com or by leaving a comment.  Also, check out Daily D Pad on YouTube!


Nintendo is doing Mario Kart 8 DLC Right

With the budget of AAA games today, companies are looking to bolster the bottom line more and more with DownLoadable Content that releases after the original game releases.  These add-ons vary from Maps for multiplayer, to addition story driven sequences, to simple tweaks, like character skins and new difficulty levels.  This content has a big profit margin for publishers and developers because the start-up cost is so low.  The programmers already did all the R&D, the engine is built, most of the art assets are already done, all it takes is a little bit of creativity to rearrange what has already been built in a new way and ask $15 for the optional add-on.

The problem is that over time it seems like DLC has become less about us buying some cool Bonus stuff after-the-fact and more about paying again for things that should have already been in the game.  Part of this feeling comes from companies like Activision building the DLC for Call of Duty before the game even releases, but then holding back the already built content to release to consumer piecemeal for a premium price.  Nowadays, if you want to experience everything in a game, expect to pay $120, not $60 over the life of the product.

Then there is Nintendo.  We got our first taste of how the Big N does DLC when they released New Super Luigi U as an add-on for New Super Mario Bros U, the 2D platforming launch game for Wii U.  For those $15 dollars, you got 80 levels!  Nintendo remixed almost every level in the original game to be completed the Luigi, who handled completely differently and was required to finish every level in less than 100 seconds, effectively making the whole DLC a giant speed run.  Between the amount of content and new way to play, it was pretty hard to get mad at that.  Plus Nintendo didn’t work on it until the original game had already come out.

And now we have the announcement of the DLC packs coming to Mario Kart 8.  Nintendo has already released three new Cars and a new set of tires for the racing game for FREE (though Mercedes paid something: for more on that see the article below), but for the next two pieces, the total cost is only $12 for 16 new courses, 6 new characters and 8 new Vehicles.  Sure, the programming overhead is done and some assets might be reusable, but this DLC is half as big as the entire original game!  And once again, Nintendo didn’t start until the original game was done (and didn’t make the original game any smaller to compensate).  By offering fantastic value, proper fan service, and doing one thing at a time, Nintendo is showing everyone else how to do DLC right.  Now if only they would release some proper old-school Battle areas…

-The DPad Bulls

Are you looking forward the Mario Kart 8 DLC?  Tell us your opinion in the comments or e-mail us at thedailydpad@gmail.com.  Check back here every week for new articles and be sure to go to our Youtube Channel: Daily D Pad.  Thanks for reading.


Is It Okay to Complain About Free DLC?

I don’t know how many of you out there have ever played this little cult title I love known as Mario Kart, but the eighth game in the series, (the aptly named) Mario Kart 8 for Wii U recently got some free Downloadable Content in the form of marketing for Mercedes-Benz. For over twenty years, Mario and friends have been zipping around in, well, Karts, with some cartoony motorcycles thrown in for Mario Kart Wii. But now, for the first time in the series, cars from the real world are in Mario Kart and fans seem to be split down the middle on it. Some are thrilled to have three new cars and a set of wheels, while others think that some sacrosanct rule has been transgressed by allowing a real-world brand into the game? In the end, whether you mind or not may come down to whether or not you like Mercedes cars or not, but I’m not not here to settle that for you. I’m here to settle the most common rebuttal to the opposition. They say, “How can you be upset about it when it’s FREE?” So I’d like to think about that for a moment. Can you be opposed to something when it’s free?

So maybe this argument is over before it starts. After all, I can think of a couple hundred things off the top of my head that I wouldn’t want even if they were free: a bucket of vomit, polio, a tiger… you get the idea. Though perhaps the more fair way to go about it is to ask only about games. Is there a game you would wouldn’t want even if it was free (not counting Russian Roulette)? Really, for any video game, board game, card game, anything, the worst case scenario is that you don’t like the game and throw it away. The insinuation with the argument that you can’t be mad at free things is that in the worst case, it’s only a zero sum game. You’re not out any money, so you’re not losing something. Unfortunately, this is a fallacy.

The problem is that if you don’t like having Mercedes-Benz in your Mario Kart, there ISN’T any way to throw it away or get rid of it. Sure, you can delete the entire game from your Wii U and start from scratch if you don’t mind losing all of your progress, but you can’t get rid of only the DLC. On top of that, the automatic update that adds the shop link to the main menu means that every time you turn on Mario Kart, you’re going to see the bar if the bright red exclamation point and a picture of a Mercedes on the main menu. Not to mention that you’ll still see other players using them if you play online. My point is that it isn’t feasible to completely ignore the DLC. So if you prefer to only play with real-life cars in Need for Speed, you’re out of luck. If the magic is ruined for you, it’s now irreversibly ruined, so you definitely have a legitimate beef with the promotion, free or not. Fortunately for me I don’t mind it, but if you do my sympathies. And feel free to explain to anyone who tells it doesn’t matter because it’s free that they’re missing the point.

-Doug H

Have you played the new Mario Kart DLC?  Let us know what you think in the comments or send us an e-mail at thedailydpad@gmail.com.  And be sure to check out our Video content on Youtube at Daily D Pad!