Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Dragon's Crown, Polygon and Selective Anger: How One Review Riled Up Everyone

I think I should preface this whole thing by stating two things: a) I love beat 'em up and hack and slash games and b) I own and have played previous Vanillaware games.

Now with that being said, let's get down to business.

There is quite the furor in particular segments of the gaming community over a July 31st review of Dragon's Crown on the Polygon site by Danielle Riendeau, which she gave a score of 6.5. In said review, amongst other criticisms, she talked about the art style and how it depicted women in a negative, unrealistic and sexist light.

The outcry was seemingly almost immediate. Despite the fact that just about every other score is very high for this game, and there is loads of praise elsewhere for it, somehow the vocal part of the fan community became fixated with this review, and just this review. 

At every other site I've been to that has comments on reviews, someone brings up the Polygon review almost immediately, and that becomes a big part of the conversation.

And the thing I don't understand is, if you don't like the review, why are you telling everyone about it? Why are you bringing attention to it? I mean, I probably would have never read the review myself since I play games on a PC, and it probably isn't coming out on that platform. And people who say that the review was written with a feminist agenda and who truly believe that and are angry about it are the ones who are most guilty of spreading this review, which seems counterproductive.

The argument that the review was written with an agenda in mind seems sort of ridiculous too. After watching the video review, I can see exactly where Danielle Riendeau, is coming from when it comes to the art style, and I can understand the issue. Whether I agree or disagree with that perspective doesn't change the fact that it is a valid criticism.

And really, if you don't like the argument that she is making in her review, it should still have no effect on you as a player. None.

I love a game called God Hand. IGN gave it a 3 out of 10. That did not make me stop loving the game. If I read a review that called out the game for Mr Gold and Mr Silver, two stereotypically gay characters, I wouldn't be angry about it because again, that is a valid criticism. It wouldn't change the experience I had with the game.

I also have the option to stop reading a review as soon as it becomes apparent to me that the person who wrote it has a vastly different outlook on the world or a particular genre than I do, but on the other hand, my world isn't totally rocked when someone disagrees with me or takes a position that is different than mine. 

Her review doesn't take the game away from you. It will never take the game away from you. If you like or don't like it, then why does it matter what Danielle Riendeau or anyone else writes or says about it. If you've already made the decision about how you feel about something, why are you so threatened by the opinion of someone else?

I've also noticed it is like people involved in this argument are, I don't know, skipping over the fact that Riendeau also talked about how the game has a lot of grinding and repetition after you've beaten it the first time, and to me, that aspect alone is the thing I take away from the review long term, and that was valuable information for me. If it came to the PC, I would remember that criticism.

There is also the argument floating around out there that it is just fantasy art and fantasy art is like that... which when you think about it, is sort of a stupid statement. If someone made a game that took place in a cartoon world of the 1940's and characters of color were drawn in that style, there would be controversy and those artistic choices would certainly be commented upon in reviews and negatively so in most of them. 

If hypothetically, there was another beat 'em up/hack and slash game made in super retro graphics and the other criticisms applied outside the ones of sexism, so it was the same kind of game, the same kind of setup, but the reviewer in question bashed that chunky retro art style instead of the one in Dragon's Crown, and it received the same score, there wouldn't have been the amount of outrage there is now, and that is what tells me this controversy is being churned up and kept going by a small minority of the community that wants to set up a situation that their own put upon value system is being attacked... by one particular review out of many.

These people are driving this controversy like Riendeau's review was a shot in a culture war that is seeking to destroy everything they hold dear in gaming, when clearly that isn't the case. Unless cartoon boobs and comically sized asses that could be the subject of a Sir-Mix-A-Lot song are the only thing you are looking for in a game..

When I read confessions of people in comments saying they bought the game out of spite, just to show the mean lady who had the audacity to talk about the over-the-top art style of the game in a negative way, that tells me that is the wrong side of the argument to be on.

I don't swear too often here, but I think in this case, it is appropriate. For those people who are turning one review into a fundamental attack on gaming and men and everything else, I have four words for you:

Grow the fuck up.

1 comment:

Alexander Fournier said...

Thanks for taking the time to articulate all this, I remembered reading your article a week or so ago and feeling pleased that someone was speaking sanely about all this absurdity!
How hard is it for someone to admit "yeah, there is an overwhelmingly present trend in which female characters have been created with the viewing eyes of men largely in mind." Though I've been in enough gamer circles to know that what really creates discord is not simply recognizing how often women in games are *obviously* tailored for horny viewers, but when some of those horny viewers treat gamer girls they meet in creepy or unequal ways.

Now among the contingent of guys who do that I've known many to also be misogynistic, by the things they say both around women and when just around other guys, but also from one or two really empathetic interactions we've had wherein past relations with women were discussed. I've seen - and even more fully - *understood* this pattern of psychology, the way in which we view the world after very formative events in our lives, such as the experiences of being hurt, betrayed, and utterly baffled by close women in one's life. The people of this category I knew had less respect for women and were less likely to monitor their gaze or words when in the presence of girls it seems. They were still very attracted to women, just as I'm sure many feminists are very attracted to men, but they feel a sense of separation or anxiety towards the other gender. I can see why such feminists would spend so much time talking about the penis and how phallic/masculine certain things look, while men of this psychology would be natural candidates for creating or encouraging absurdly sexualized images of women. From my interactions with some feminists, I'd imagine that both heterosexual men and women of this psychology are in desperate need of lots of humanizing interactions with the gender they are attracted to, which would lead to less "treating them like 'other' and sexual objects" and more "treating them like people."