Games not art after all, say angry gamers

samus1.jpg Gamers are often characterized as wanting the medium to be taken seriously as art. But what happens when critics look at games less as consumer products and more like movies or books? In the case of G4's review of Metroid: Other M, anger and confusion reigned. Though reviewers often address the artistic attributes of mainstream games, the focus usually remains on less subjective measures of quality. Critic Abbie Heppe, however, slammed the game despite the title's high technical standards, identifying problems that had nothing to do with gameplay. Among other things, Heppe was appalled at how it infantilized the series' heroine, Samus Aran, depicted in earlier outings as a tough female marine veteran. Gaming's answer to Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor, Aran first did battle in her desexualized military armor in 1986. Come 2010, however, and much has changed. "You're asked to forget that Samus has spent the last 10-15 years on solitary missions ridding the galaxy of Space Pirates, saving the universe and surviving on her own as a bounty hunter," Heppe wrote. "Instead, Other M expects you to accept her as a submissive, child-like and self-doubting little girl that cannot possibly wield the amount of power she possesses unless directed to by a man." And on goes Heppe's write-up. Though she also covered gameplay issues in her review, responses from G4's readers were often negative. Of the hundreds of comments published, many attacked the author directly. Amid the predictable misogyny and hostility, a pattern emerges: it's just a game. Some even claimed that it was unprofessional to talk about such matters in a game review. Michael Abbott of The Brainy Gamer sees this as a backlash against the idea of games as art: "All too often, the greatest resistance to thinking critically about games comes not from academics, luddites, or old-school critics like Roger Ebert. The most vocal resistance comes from gamers." True! But as far as we accept the angry constituency as representative at all, we should also admit that some gamers only cared about 'art' because acceptance as such amounted to a form of validation. To see a backlash here assumes a level of engagement that was never actually in evidence. Critical assessments of games -- at least mainstream ones -- remain a hard sell to most of the people buying them.


  1. I wonder how this is different from artistic assessments of any other popular media? How many people who buy the Twilight books or watch reality TV really care that critics think they’re awful?

    1. My thoughts exactly. How often are books, movies, and other media seen as pure entertainment rather than an author’s or cuture’s particular views on a subject. How hasn’t despite it’s logical merit had a favorite movie or story ruined by a ruthless examination of it’s message. Games are art, subject to enjoyment and also critique, despite what gamers or non-gamers think

  2. At least in music there’s a firm line between popular music criticism and “serious” music criticism. From a traditional (or even jazz) analysis standpoint, Katy Perry or Lady Gaga is very basic and boring. But in pop music publications, the reviewers draw on esoteric analogies and cultural references to quantify what makes it good. Not saying either viewpoint is better than the other, just that where art and consumer products meet, there’s usually a need to define what audience the product is for. It’s usually self-evident in music, but I’ve never seen a game marketed as for the true connoisseur. I guess Mega Man 9 or 10, or maybe something like Braid?

    1. I see that you’re also part of the problem, eh?

      When someone like you denigrates the medium because of your shallow interpretation, it just makes the backlash more justified.

    2. A clueless comment from an obviously clueless person. Gaming is as valid a hobby as trolling websites like you do. There absolutely sexism in games and it needs to be addressed, but it’s just as important to address issues like gameplay. This is not a passive medium.

    3. “Insecure males reacting negatively to accusations of sexism in their stupid little toys? GTFO!”

      what could be less sexist than insulting an entire gender based on your opinion of their entertainment.

  3. By and large, I think the people making the games are the ones pushing for having games be considered art. When I worked in the industry as a programmer, I got my share of condescending comments from programmers in other industries: “that’s not real programming,” “you’re making toys,” etc. It doesn’t take long for those kinds of comments to get under your skin. And I know my experience is not unique.

      1. Plague Dogs by way of Skinny Puppy (I learned of the former via the latter). Though in the book it’s Beakrip. ;)

    1. Well, by the classical definition, anything created by man is art. But, I think why gamers resist games as art is simple:

      1) Interpretation is hard. It also implies that devs might make a game for artistic value rather than entertainment value. yeah yeah yeah, you can make one for both, but it implies that there could be a market for no fun games that serve a higher purpose than MW2, your favorite time drain.

      2) Games are (generally) still developed for idiotic 13-24 males. (like myself) I realize this is changing rapidly, but 13-24 males do not engage in interpretation of much at all. What we currently consider fine art (literature, movies) caters exclusively to small groups of people.

      3) Lastly, as an artist and recovering quakehead, yeah, games are really fun, but do not
      a) control user experience enough to be really interesting compared to installation art or movies
      b) do not generally use story lines that are really interesting, esp. AAA titles.

      I realize these are kinda inflammatory statements to the BB crowd, but I think they represent games in GENERAL, not your favorite game, like Bioshock, etc. I think until the games industry grows enough in terms of userbase, (not sales) there will not be a significant enough number of users interested in games as art to make a real market for them. I’m not sure about this, but I think theater and movies were similar at one time; considered crass entertainment.

  4. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: who cares?

    If I stick a kazoo up my ass and learn how to play the star-spangled banner and someone else enjoys that, who I am to tell them that it’s not art? Why does everyone need constant validation for enjoying something?

  5. Wow. That review managed to single out that thing that was bugging me when I was playing Other M. It does not feel like a Metroid game really.

    The dry voice acting doesn’t do the game many favors either.

  6. I’m not a gamer – too addictive of a personality to ever have wanted to pick one up in the first place. But I wonder if the backlash here isn’t truly against artistic criticism, but of the sociopolitical critical stance as applied to games in the name of “review”.

    Another way to say that might be to note that this particular review is Paglia, not Ebert – particularly feminist, eminently sociological. And while from a critical studies perspective it seems quite above-board, even pedantic, it seems specious and over-generalizing to suggest that the response from the gamer community somehow represents a dismissal of artistic criticism as legitimate. I’m not buying it.

    1. Another way to say that might be to note that this particular review is Paglia, not Ebert – particularly feminist, eminently sociological.

      Well, not really, because unlike just about anything Paglia’s written, especially lately, this review is really much more focused and to the point. (Paglia usually goes to one of two wells: the Apollonian/Dionysian split, and her eternal crush, Madonna. And then she sort of babbles.)

    2. I think that distinction (Ebert v Paglia) is less important now than it was ten years ago or more. Further, the review was not criticizing the overall depiction, but the disconnect between the existing character and the behavior shown in the new game. Imagine if The Man With No Name were to return in a new sequel but this time played by Woody Allen. No one would buy that change, and no one should.

      1. ” Imagine if The Man With No Name were to return in a new sequel but this time played by Woody Allen. No one would buy that change, and no one should.”

        No, but I would definitely be there on opening night =)

        back on subject: I’m not so sure I agree with this post. I read the article, and about 2 pages of responses, and saw some positive, some negative. Some articulate, some boneheaded. In other words, I saw the internet. If success criterion for any meme is that it can be posted on the internet without getting flamed, often by members of its’ supposed constituency- no idea is safe.

        The article was really well written incidentally, by someone who clearly knew and loved their metroid.

  7. Seems like reviewers have to walk a fine line between reviewing the GAME and reviewing the EXPERIENCE. I think a good reviewer should be able to acknowledge whether a game is good or not regardless of their experience.

    For example, there are some movies, games, songs, etc. that I absolutely LOVE, but totally know that they’re garbage. And on the other hand, there’s some stuff that I can totally respect for accomplishing what they set out to do, even though it might be the furthest thing from my particular cup of tea.

    1. ‘Seems like reviewers have to walk a fine line between reviewing the GAME and reviewing the EXPERIENCE.’

      i think that one’s going to need at least another 50,000 words to work through. the ramifications are profound.

      theawesomerobot • #8

      ‘If I stick a kazoo up my ass and learn how to play the star-spangled banner and someone else enjoys that, who I am to tell them that it’s not art?’

      you don’t play kazoo, do you. unless your ass can hum with your sphincter open then nobody’s going to enjoy it. if you can, then you truly are a marvel.

  8. That’s some pretty ugly backlash, and no small amount seems to be rooted in the internet’s usual, and all too casual, misogyny.

    As for games as art the boys over at Penny Arcade summed it up nicely “If a hundred artists create art for five years how can the result not be art?”

    1. “As for games as art the boys over at Penny Arcade summed it up nicely “If a hundred artists create art for five years how can the result not be art?”

      Playing devil’s advocate (esp. since I’m an artist in the industry), “artists” is a pretty tricky quality label to define in the medium.

      As with all industries there’s a bell curve when it comes to the talent and dedication from the art pool on a game. I worked with some artists who were as clueless and talentless as a box of hammers who were just lucky to get in..and I worked with others who I would consider to be genius-level intelligence and ability.

      The game and company also makes a huge difference in talent. Company A making a knock-off Disney game is going to way below grade compared to the leading edge of a first-party developer like Insomniac Games or Naughty Dog.

  9. On one hand, reading the comments on the review do make clear that some gamers dismiss artistic criticism entirely. It is sometimes just an easy way to lash out at something they don’t like, though. In any case, a disinterest in critical engagement.

    On the other hand, Samus’s status as a feminist icon always struck me as overstated. At least enough so that thinking Nintendo would know she was, or give a damn about it, always seemed a recipe for disappointment

    1. The fact that Samus is a feminist icon says a lot about the dearth of substantive female characters in gaming.

      1. My take on it: unfortunately, yes, there is a real dearth of substantive female roles in gaming. The only ones recently I would consider worthwhile would be the women in Uncharted 2 (and I think that has a lot to do with the Creative Director, Amy Henning, who I consider one of the best directors out there, bar none.)

        It’s going to take a while for the industry to start breaking away form the AAA testosterone-fueled games that are being created for the past decade and into something more substantial. It’s starting to come together with Independent games and a platform (Steam) to help put it out there. hopefully more exp. devs who burn out and get sick of the AAA industry can bring their talents to something like this.

        But like any product, what sells is what is going to keep selling, and unfortunately, those type of games make MASSIVE amounts of money and it’s going to take a consumer shift in tastes (and their dollars) to change that.

        As for the games are art discussion. Give the medium more time to mature, maybe another 10 years, I’ll think you’ll start to really see something then.

  10. I haven’t played this game at all, but I was a big fan of a lot of the Metroid series.

    What strikes me as odd is the number of reviewers that seem to think the Storyline has nothing to do with the game play.

    When I’m playing a game, the storyline has everything to do with how much I enjoy the game. The cut scenes, the random interactions between characters, etc. These all make or break a game as far as I’m concerned.

    When I first started playing GTA 4 (picking up the controller halfway through someone else’s game for a quick stuff around) I was disappointed, it didn’t seem nearly as fun as Vice City or San Andreas and seemed a big step backwards. However once I started playing the actual game and got all the cut scenes, etc I decided it was far better than any previous iterations. Even with less stuffing around fun stuff to do, it was a much more engaging game because of the character development, etc.

    Her criticism of the game seems every bit valid.

  11. Of course Samus is a meek, indecisive woman. Remember the development team for this game is not Nintendo, but Team Ninja from Namco, famous for their incredibly sexist Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive series. The plot is entirely written to arouse socially rejected Japanese basement dwellers and otakus, whose fetish is primarily weak, powerless women that they can fornicate with without having to be a strong, assertive male. In fact, if you look at Japanese porn, a large majority of it is based around some form of sexual assault. Even the ‘vanilla’ forms of Japanese porn the actresses are told to pretend they are not enjoying it and making uncomfortable, painful noises.

    Of course this is lost on 14 year old USA boys who have just discovered puberty and will rally against any mature viewpoint that might prevent them from being able to ogle Samus in a skintight suit. Such as the review mentioned in this article.

  12. umm… maybe because most most of the people commenting are bored 13 year olds who thinks the new Samus is hawt and can’t think critically in the first place? Or maybe its cuz they are actually younger than the original game itself and thus probably never played it?

    Thinking deeply and critically about anything requires being immersed in it, and as much as most gamers think they are immersed in games, they aren’t. Very few gamers actually take the time to track a games history, or its ancestors, or the path its creators took to get to where the game is today. It is only at that point that you can actually think critically about a game, as now you have all the information necessary to properly dissect and discuss it. Us old geezers (alright… that was a joke… I’m in my mid 20s…) remember the originals as well as the remakes whereas the younger generation never experienced the originals and the older generation probably phased out of gaming by the time the new sequels came out. On the other hand, should Halo be remade in 10 years or so then this current batch of 13 year olds could probably speak quite deeply about its comparisons.

  13. Being treated as art does not automatically mean that they narrative needs to be examined. Sure, narrative and characterization needs to be fair game, but these “oh let’s take the story very seriously” reviews feel gimmicky to me in that the author found something that is very, very easy to attack in video games and then puts on his super serious hat and treats it with way too much scrutiny.

    Art needs to be examined for the things it does different from everything that went before. Movie-reviews don’t talk of movies in the term of stageplays or novel-narratives; they take into account things unique to movies as a medium. Editing, photography, special effects, etc. Of course you still have to look at story and characterization and pacing and what-not, but only a review that appreciates games for what is unique to them attempts to treat them with respect.

    All this doesn’t mean this reviewer doesn’t have a point. Game stories are shit. Shit beyond reasonable discourse. I’m a hardcore gamer, and have been since I was 6 (I am now 30). I love games. I play games too much. I work in the gaming industry. And I will say, without exception, that there hasn’t been a single game where storytelling wasn’t at least somewhat crappy. The games that are generally mentioned by gamers for their amazing story-telling, the Mass Effects and Dragon Ages? Oh dear god, what utter and complete rubbish. I like to mention Planescape: Torment as an example of a game with a good story, but I haven’t dared revisiting that for a good decade now, scared that it’s only nostalgia that makes me think its story was really really good.

    1. Unfortunately, I totally agree that game storylines are garbage. Within the game the narratives suffer from bad translations, hurried storytelling, horrible voice acting and usually one or two major holes. When you look at games that have been continued from sequel to sequel? Wow. Just, wow. You have to wonder if they forgot what it was they did the last go around.

      All that to say, you don’t play video games if you’d rather be reading Tolstoy. As a gamer, suspension of disbelief is paramount, and the story need only be good enough that you don’t return to reality until your mountain dew high (am I dating myself? should I be referencing some stupid energy drink all the kids using these days?) wears off and you have to call it quits for the night.

      1. Game storylines are not always something the makers are concerned with, and when they are, they’re subject to Sturgeon’s Law, same as other visual media. That’s all.

    2. I agree, story telling in games is total shit. But still its the thing that usually keeps me engaged when I’m playing. I usually have to overlook certain clichés to enjoy the game. Story driven games like Heavy Rain (or the Myst series) they almost get it right in the way they do it.
      Still Heavy Rain uses every serial killer story clishe in the book.

      I think of certain games as art, usually in the impact they have. In how they change things.
      The games tend to be flawed here and there but it still made an impact.

      Of course now people are also making ‘art games’

  14. Why aren’t critics breaking down games the way they break down movies and judging on various criteria? You can have great photography, great lighting, and a shit script, and all that plays into whether a movie is good or not.

    Other M is a great example of how you can have great gameplay, great graphics, an innovative control mechanism, and an overall extremely enjoyable game to play, marred by a crap story based around a terrible character.

    I’m a Metroid addict, I love the previous games, and I think this one brings a ton of great new ideas to the series, but it would really be better without the lame-ass cutscenes and development of Samus into a whiny child. I think it’s lazy of people to want to say “this is a good game” or “this is a bad game.” There are great aspects to it, and terrible ones, and they all deserve mention.

  15. You’re conflating the notion of having the admittedly large percentage of young, immature, privileged male gamers being confronted with a real issue of sexism that they don’t like being confronted with. This isn’t because they don’t think that games aren’t art, they are retaliating to defend and push that issue under the carpet. They are retaliating because having to confront a franchise that they are emotionally invested in for performing a bad move is difficult for anyone, and making excuses is easier than confrontation.

    Ask them whether games are art in another context, and I suspect a lot of them will find reasons to say yes.

  16. Whatever the valid criteria are for Capital-A Art, they’ve mutated substantially over time.

    The idea of Art now seemingly exists in relationship to the ease of production of what was previously considered Art, now being divided into Art, Craft and Design.

    Art now seems to be as much about a certain elite’s sanction regarding purpose, ideology and background as about actual talent, skill or whatever.

    Which is not to say that I think that there’s a paucity of skill or talent in high art cirles, which is a reactionary, misinformed viewpoint with a focus on provocative abstract stuff like that produced by Damien Hirst.

    I would say that a craft becomes Art when it’s produced by people not from or potentially from your own cultural milieu, hence the reverence of “outsiders”.

    In two thousand years, somebody will play Space Invaders and marvel at the ancients’ elegant abstraction of something or other. Screw it, I’m sure it’s already happening.

  17. When you look at games that have been continued from sequel to sequel? Wow. Just, wow. You have to wonder if they forgot what it was they did the last go around.

    The same is true for many movies (Bond, anyone)? On the other hand, it’s not true for all games.

  18. This is actually the second time I’ve heard about this new Metroid game, the first being from some of my friends on an irc channel that were complaining of exactly the same thing: that the new game had “ruined” Samus as a character. And if the descriptions are accurate, I fully agree. When a company takes a kick-ass, engaging character and turn her into a bland wuss it’s completely reasonable to complain. All I can say to the flood of negative response is that the Net, as always, has no shortage of trolls.

  19. Fans of Michael Bay movies and Baywatch defend their tastes by claiming it’s just a movie or tv show, so really this isn’t unique to gamers.

  20. Rob, this is a good point, but I’d frame it differently. In specific contexts, gamers *are* willing to talk about the art in games. For example, the comment thread to this philosophical/thematic analysis of *BioShock* is pretty smart and positive:

    The main exacerbating factor here, I think, is Heppe is a woman giving a Feminist capital F critique of a major hardcore gamer favorite. Not gonna fly with a lot of extremely young, undersexed guys who consider games a respite from all those intimidating vaginas out there.

  21. I’m old enough to have played the very first Metroid game. It was the first game that I ever played where you were a female protagonist. That was certainly not lost on me as a teen age girl. In fact, it made such an impression, I played every single metroid game after that.

    Other M sucks. The story is a big part of it for me. Or maybe I should say the lack of story. Samus was treated just like any other protagonist, with no extra back story to justify her gender. Turning her into a whiny kid with a giant red button daddy complex is beyond stupid. I agreed with the tear down reviews completely.

    It’s not about whether or not it’s art. It just didn’t make sense at all in context of the history of the game. It would be like reducing Masterchief down to a teenage guy that has to ask his mom before doing anything.

  22. so pretty much any digital media is not art is what it sounds like. i dont get it i have to draw out what im going to make first and scan it into my pc before i can turn it into a 3d creature or what ever.

  23. Interesting article. Few writers dare to mention how those of us who play games feel about the inability to suspend disbelief on the grounds of art. Software developers have spent some time now on creating stories to further allow us to immerse ourselves in the experiences we choose. They are now stories and very much an art in their own right. Art is not just for the eye, it is for the mind and it is for the heart. Many of us read fiction as a form of escapism, to leave our lives for a little while and allow our minds to play. Games are no different. So, when a major inconsistency, in this case with the character, is crudely apparent we do feel cheated. Yes, some will say that it is “just a game” and they have every right to feel that. But for some of us, when such things happen, it makes us angry. We feel cheated, insulted or even hurt.

    Thank you for the article.


  24. A friend brought over Other M this last weekend; I watched her play it for a bit. We both found this game’s excuse for doling out Samus’ powers gradually to be really annoying, and the flashbacks to be pretty insulting. The fact that the voice they chose for Samus was a breathy ingenue kind of sound didn’t help either.

    I would have been fine with the power restriction of “Samus isn’t using her weapons because this guy she respect asked her not to”… except this game completely failed to convince me that she did respect him. I, the viewer/player didn’t respect him; why does this woman who’s so hardcore she jumps onto a giant monster’s shoulders so she can blow its head off with a point-blank charge-blast respect him?

    1. I haven’t had, (and may not get), a chance to play this, but I can certainly see where poor VO work can kill a game. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve played a game that had notably good voice acting, though some solid attempts have popped up, (Borderlands comes to mind).

      Still, while the whole Samus-chooses-not-to-use-her-powers-unless-Adam-gives-the-order thing may have been presented in a, (very wrong and in conflict with the established story), way that suggests some sort of ‘male subjugates female’ situation, it’s worth noting that Samus may well defer some decisions to Adam as part of a ‘soldier has conflicting feelings about disagreements with a former commanding officer and wants to show there’s still a certain about of respect’ relationship. You know, since, (as no one seems to note, and perhaps Other M ignores), Adam was Samus’ commanding officer in her Galactic Federation days.

      Admittedly, that whole chunk of the story is a fairly recent addition to a long-running series that focused on formulaic-but-fun sci-fi stories, engaging puzzles, and wonderful strange environments full of odd side-ventures to keep even the most dedicated players occupied.

  25. The thing is, I’ve seen the argument applied to film as, “It’s a freakin’ MOVIE, why are you trying to read too much into it?”

    There are also folks who discount the idea of provenance in fine art, who argue that it shouldn’t matter to the viewer how something was made, they should just look at it.

    Whether it’s a backlash against trying to delve deeper into the meaning of something or discounting that the process of creating something helps inform the final product, you can find parallels to the arguments in the other disciplines.

  26. There are many exceptions to games with crappy storylines. How can some people believe this, even those who work in the industry for heavens sake! I’m glad bioshock got a mention but what about the first deus ex or half-life? Nobody even mentioned half-life?! Particularly half-life 2 onwards; you become so invested in the characters that statements like… ‘without exception, that there hasn’t been a single game where storytelling wasn’t at least somewhat crappy’ are utter tosh. Seems to me that there is a split between those who only know console gaming and those who know pc gaming. I’d agree with mostly crappy storylines on consoles, but then you still have a game like ico – a beautiful work of art. People like Ken Levine or the folks at valve understand how to work a storyline into a game. Valve especially just GET what makes a great game without sacrificing story or dialogue or voice acting or anything, so it can be done.

  27. I couldn’t agree more with Anon, this is very much a reflection of the current issues plaguing Japanese society. Japanese men still prefer women to be defenseless and almost infantile in their behavior. If you’ve ever spent any time in Tokyo, watch how girls act and behave in restaurants and department stores. The head bobbing, the cute little outfits, and fake high pitched voices, the subservience. Watch some Japanese TV, you can quickly and easily find simple repetitive trends in womens behaviors, from intentionally slipping on their high heels to dropping tea on their bosses desk, then bending over to clean it up while he sits there and stares at her. In no way does this new Metroid game surprise me, it’s what Japan is becoming very, very good at, ultra conservative repetition.

    1. Someone I know had played an MMO game called “Perfect World”. It is developed by a Japanese company. She was furious at the sexist elements, with female voices, as you say, high pitched and far too “cutsie”. Missions that glorify the male and disrespect the female, like one that deals with a wife that is too fat and lazy with a solution involving a wheelchair that can take the weight of 800lbs, are acceptable by males – and not just in Japan. Although she did seem to take it far too personal, IMO, her point remains valid. Such games try to cater to a world-wide audience but fail horribly in delivery when developed by Japanese society.

  28. A lot of games, I’d say most games have lousy, stupid stories if you care to think about it. Usually, you have a laugh or a cringe then continue to mash buttons.

    I think the reasons this review had such backlash was because of the jokey tone of the criticism and maybe the reputation of the vendor, as in, g4tv is not highly regarded, or people don’t know them enough to respect their opinion and so got upset.

    The only thing that kept me from buying this game is the short length, otherwise I actually want to see whats the fuss about the story.

  29. that’s like stating that a hollywood film is art, and critique it as such. It’s target audience does not care.

    If you want to critique games as art, critique games intended as art, targeted at people that want art games.

  30. The game looks like crap and it does look like an insult to what the series has been. I feel nothing wrong with the review she gave it, seemed fairly accurate to me.

  31. Does anyone remember what happened in Super Metroid? Samus essentially adopted the baby metroid, and then mother brain lasered it to death.

    What I’m saying is that it’s not unreasonable for Samus to be a little off her game after seeing her only family get murdered by space pirates AGAIN.

  32. With all due respect to Michael Abbot, that is a dumb thing to say. A backlash against games as art? Because fans disagreed with a critic’s review? Really?

    Games deserve as much respect as an art form as film, but it must be remembered that they are not movies, and they play by different rules. Tearing a game to pieces solely because of the story is like ripping on a movie because one supporting actor did a bad job.

  33. The videogame medium has exactly the same potential to be art as the film medium does. Telling a moving story comes down to being intelligent enough to write a good story and make use of what the medium offers the storyteller.

  34. Story has been commented on for ages in video game reviews. And inconsistency is absolutely something to comment on! Think if Solid Snakes, in stead of having that saving- the- world attitude, remarked that he didn’t so much care about THAT, he just wanted to go around killing stuff. That would feel down right wrong in an MGS game, and I’d appreciate any heads up from a reviewer that this writing was poor.

  35. Although I think that it’s fine to critique a game on its artistic merits, I think the G4 review was pretty unbalanced, placing too much focus on a couple of flaws. Depicting Samus as a vulnerable character seems like a valid artistic choice; how are you supposed to make an interesting backstory to an indestructible superwoman? I will say that they could have gotten a better voice actor for Samus though. Her delivery is wooden.

    The other one about the contrivance of limiting her powers just seems silly. Tons of videogames have these limitations to ease new players into the gameplay. The reviewer seems overly fixated on the fact that the Samus “boss” is a man. It does seem there is some personal prejudice on the reviewer’s part that cannot accept this, even though the boss’s motives do not seem to have any sexist intent. Would it have been an infinitely better game if her boss was a woman? My guess is that it would have been about the same. Would there be any critical freakout if Halo’s Master Chief had to answer to a female CO? I don’t think so.

    The reviewer spends so much time on these points when most of the time you’re running, jumping, and rolling around and shooting things. From her review it’s hard to get an idea, what the gameplay is like – if it’s worth it to get past the flaws. I think it was right to call her out on this (although politely). It’s like going to watch a big blockbuster, and complaining about the silly story, and barely mentioning whether the action pieces were any good.

    1. In point of fact, the Master Chief spent an entire game (Halo 2) under a female CO (Lt Cdr Miranda Keyes, voiced by Julie Benz). I didn’t hear any critical freakout.
      /bungie fanboy

  36. Isn’t it quite easy to resolve this apparent two-facedness on the part of the “gamers”?

    Simply accept that gamers are a very varied group. Although some might promote the games-as-art view, others don’t really care for that and just want entertainment.

    Just like music fans. Or book readers. Or cinema goers. Sure some people think of some films as art, but some people don’t care about that. Which is fair enough.

  37. Since when can art not depict or have attributes of anything; including sexism?

    I have to say she is on to something… but not about video games and art. Seriously, time and time again we’re to buy into this “OMG, the hero has lots of self doubt!” Even in squeals where the character(s) have been through hell and back. Adventure games are the worse… “I summoned you from far away…” now go level up until you are ready to fight the ultimate evil. If you cant kill the guards… WHY DIDNT THEY GET THE GUARDS TO ATTACK THE ULTIMATE EVIL???

    1. Games that cater to men and only men are of last century. More and more women play games, and not just those like sudoku or janga either. There are many women and girls out there that play MMOs, 3PS, and FPS games like Halo. It’s time that all the developers face the fact that they are disrespecting one half of the human population and are living in the past.

      Why can’t art depict or have attributes of sexism? Because it is highly disrespectful of women, who have spent millennium under the heal of men.

  38. Much as I’d like to get onto the ‘Gamers are kinda sexist’ bandwagon, the review is kind of a difficult place to have this particular battle at. Partially because it’s not particuarly good and partially because it’s got a weird degree of projection onto a character who was essentially an empty cypher up until this installment.

    Before this point, Samus had no personality or identity. Anything you are saying about her nature is there because you decided it was there. While you may not agree with what they came up with, you’re arguing it from the point of view of your own personal fan fiction. And while you can argue that there’s a naturally a degree of projection towards an empty cypher style character, projecting onto Samus is like projecting what you view as particular characteristics onto Mario or the current iteration of Mickey Mouse.

    The review reads more angry nerd being angry than anything.

  39. How about “Other M” is just a shitty video game, and you shouldn’t waste your money on it. The storyline doesn’t make any sense and the characters’ personalities – particularly Samus Aran’s – are wildly inaccurate when compared to what has already been established.

    Spit on it and cast it aside as the sleazy cash-in attempt that it is. It is not a Metroid game at all, but rather a cheap rip-off using Metroid character names.

    BTW, games are art. Certainly they are. But they’re still ultimately diversions. A life spent gaming is still a waste, just as a life spent staring at pictures in a gallery is wasted. You have to be productive at some point.

  40. The problem with the label art today is that it has been misappropriated by pompous idiots who refuse to subscribe to any one definition, but instead change their definition to whatever includes whatever they consider art and excludes everything else. Why is a Shakespeare play art, when a movie based on a Shakespeare play is not? Why is an oil-painting art, when a digitally created poster isn’t.

    So what if she suddenly develops a personality in the newest game? Games don’t require continuity, and sometimes even literature doesn’t require it either. You look at each episode separately and judge if you like it.

    It’s like starting a review of the Simpsons by complaining that each weeks starts out the same with no character development even though last week Leny was in charge of the powerplant. It’s a basic pretext for the story, smooth continuity isn’t really needed.

    Also, why is it sexism when a male tells a woman what to do, but not when a woman tells a man what to do? And what’s wrong with protraining a weak main character with a backstory? Ohh, ofcause, it’s because it’s a woman, and protraying weak woman is sexist, while portraing weak men is…
    Note to self, main character cannot be male. Since she’s female she should only talk to females, of cause shouldn’t be player controlled (Then male players would be controlling a woman which is sexist and assumes all woman can be controlled).

    To sum up: Crummy review is Crummy.
    Art is still art, games are still games, and some games are still art. And if you want to write an essay on genderbias, don’t chose the format of a review being read by people who want to know what the game is like, and not just have a short story of your personal view on sexism.

  41. It’s funny how everyone said Samus was a great character back when she hardly ever said anything. Sometimes less is more, I guess.

  42. aRt is fundementally flawed as an ontology, it is essentially a beorgious hangup.

    Culture is intersting, games as culture, underground culture, lowbrow, highbrow – much more real and visceral.

    art is a tautology that fails to be culture when it is funded rather than consumed. Culture is the interesting superset.

    The artist is dead, anything that is art requires a viewer and it is each individual viewer that makes something art at the moment when they are awed.

    Galleries don’t make pissoirs into art when they show them, artists donxt make art when they make or find or juxtapose an artifact.

    art is what happens when someone goes hey nice i’m into/ shocked/ awed by that. Most folk mistake this for religion.

    so art is an entirely personal affair everything else is culture.

  43. The art of videogames is not in the (often despicably derivative) fluff of characterisation and narrative, or even in art direction and assets, but in the *interactive design*.

    Those other disciplines help to wrap the interactive design into attractive packages that may or may not allude to artistic greatness, either by homage or in their own right, but the the real material for any meaningful artistic analysis of a video game is the interaction – how it works, how it flows, what the player’s input is, what the risks and what the rewards are and what significance they have.

    The fact that 99% of debates on games-as-art completely miss this incredibly fundamental and utterly crucial aspect of *why* games *should* be viewed as art (see: the Ebert furore, pompous dolts like David Cage) only proves how utterly ignorant most people are of what really separates video games from every other artistic medium.

  44. If a character is designed from the start to be a whiny sex object, fine, although these types of characters, combined with bad voice acting can get annoying enough to single-handedly turn me off a game. But to remake an established character, a badass, solitary space bounty hunter into a stereotype like that sucks.

    Of course nothing else is to be expected when you give a franchise to the team that brought us “Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball”.

  45. I’ve heard plenty of gamers who’ve criticized the game for the exact same reasons so this isn’t limited to “artsy people” trying to criticize games.

  46. To define “Art” is relatively simple. It should be uselessly aesthetic. For example, While at college studying Ceramic design and Technology, I encountered the argument that pottery is not art because it is functional. In response I made a teapot with holes in all around the body.
    Movies are not interactive, but neither are the parts of a game that are “scenery”.

    1. “Art” is that which results from human artifice, rather than existing in an undisturbed ‘natural state”.

      The arts of metallurgy, martial arts, etc.

  47. Can it be Art if you can only play it on a Wii? Not Art for the Masses, at any rate.

    But whatever, this whirligust in a teacup reminds me of a parody of literary critics that came out in the Sixties — The Pooh Perplex, IIRC — in which the focus was on the literary styles of the critics themselves. Pooh came out of it unscathed, but for awhile there, it looked like Freud and Marx were doomed.

    OF COURSE Samus Aran’s exploits are Art, just like Roman statuary of the Winged Nike, but leaving out Samus’ previous strokes on the male psyches who beat the game and were astonished at the gender bender conclusion, is a big flaw in any critique.

    1. “Can it be Art if you can only play it on a Wii? Not Art for the Masses, at any rate. ”

      Global sales figures
      1. Wii – 70.9 million as of 31 March 2010 (2010 -03-31)
      2. Xbox 360 – 41.7 million as of 23 July 2010 (2010 -07-23)
      3. PlayStation 3 – 38.1 million as of 30 June 2010 (2010 -06-30)

      nearly 80 million is quite mass

  48. I may be wrong, but wasn’t this a “prequel” game? As in, prior to the previous games. You’d think that might go a ways in explaining why Samus isn’t quite the heroic badass games are familiar with.


    1. Yes, but the stereotypical and extremely annoying, hammy, melodramatic manga-girly persona was still uncalled for and is a bit of a break with the series´ mood.

    2. As mentioned in the review, the game is a direct sequel to Super Metroid; it even opens with a re-enactment of the events of Super Metroid.

      Chronologically, you have:
      Metroid 2: Return of Samus
      Super Metroid
      Metroid: Other M

      I have no idea where the Metroid Prime games fit in.

  49. Well, I’ve to agree with the reviewer that thrashed Metroid Other M. If this was Samus’s first game probably I hadn’t cared that much. But Samus existed, Like Batman! C’mon, someone remembers Batman Forever and Batman & Robin??? On the technical aspect the movies were well done, but the art stile, script and almost everithing else wasn’t right. Who likes Batman know that. You can change the team, but you have to choose it right. Batman Begins an The Dark Knight prove that. Team Ninja wasn’t the right choice. I’m disappointed with Nintendo that “ruined” the character (for this episode, I hope the last done by Team Ninja). Hope to see a New Metroid (done right) on 3DS, bring back Retro (or choose someone like Eric Chahi, Another World’s creator, the mood must be that, NO “manga Pop caramel-steroid hollywoodunrealtournamentgodsofhaloworld or almost everithing else done in videogame industry for whining teenagers”). Art or not art, who cares, but the experience must be there and be coherent with the franchise. (a good written story helps a lot)

  50. Games are just that GAMES. The work put into the graphics may be art…the story line for any popluar games is minimal at best, and ridicule should be accepted.
    Playing a game is not art, the characters are not developed in any way worthy of literature. The Story line is usually beyond sub par.

    Look at the Demo Scene (, It maybe be Music and/or/or GFX alone, but its more ART than any game.

  51. In this specific instance, we may be seeing a backlash not of games as art, but against a truly strong, self-reliant female character. When the crowd starts yelling for the speaker to sit down and shut up, it is not always because the speaker is wrong. All too often, it is because the argument is correct, but requires the persons doing the yelling to admit they like things as they are for exactly those reasons. Since this is not always an easy or “politically correct” position to take, they take the easy way via ad hominem attacks.

    For all its supposed maturation and egalitarianism in recent years, the gaming world is still the domain of adolescent fanboys of all ages. Never mind the lip service they might pay to the masses, and ask if they 1) truly want to play a female character who, if real, would show them to be the pants-free weenies they are, and 2) that they want to be told this by an obviously smart woman (an aspect of their fear)?

  52. I think a lot of people are STILL missing the point. The critique is not largely about the game’s playability, but rather a larger cultural context. Sure there may be storyline inconsistencies or problems w/ the playability.

    But in framing the critique about gender values and their relavance to Samus, the article is tacit acknowledgement of the medium as no longer “just a game”. Heppe essentially is saying that a game must both be playable and enjoyable as not only a game but as it stakes itself within a larger context of culture as a whole.

  53. why does this “Art” debate always center around the narrative and character development? Paintings don’t have coherent character development either, and they aren’t up for debate.

  54. There is so much mashed up into this little happening that I think the headline does it a disservice.

    FWIW, though, I’d like to see Abbie Heppe review Aquaria, whose female protagonist, while no Samus Aran, is still an interesting blend of cliche and badass.

  55. games have the potential to be art. they are still a long, long, long way away though.

    As for the comparison to Master Chief, hell Samus was the ORIGINAL master chief. Yeah MC takes orders from a woman in H2, what he doesn’t do is a whole lot of hand wringing and whining.

    It is not merely the fact that her character expresses self-doubt, it is that her character has been rendered into an infantile charicature of a woman, by a development house (Team Ninja) who has made it clear for years that they think women are best treated as objects, on their good days. It wasn’t until I read this review that I realized Other M was developed by Team Ninja. Then suddenly every bad design decision made perfect sense.

    But if you think games are art you need to get your ass to an art museum. There is more artistic integrity in the worst kind of modern art tripe than there is in 99% of video games. Stuffing a game’s story chuck full of worn out genre tropes does not make “art”, when the reaction to a game is “gee its like watching a movie!” it does not make the game art, particularly when it feels like you are watching Transformers 2 or Saw XVI, not North by Northwest. . .

  56. No.

    The problem is not with gamers, but Nintendo gamers, Nintendo gamers who read G4.

    Consider the G4, consider its audience. It is not a place where you would expect serious intellectual coverage of anything, particularly a video game.

    And consider the Nintendo audience. This is an audience who has never grown up. You do not buy a Wii because you are strive for art, beauty or truth. You buy a Wii because its fun.

    Yeah, there are hardcore gamers with a Wii, but these are Nintendo fans. They’ve got a Wii so they can play Mario, Zelda, Metroid and Brawl. They may be great games, but none of those have any pretensions to be art, and these guys are happier for it.

    1. “Consider the G4, consider its audience. It is not a place where you would expect serious intellectual coverage of anything, particularly a video game.

      And consider the Nintendo audience. This is an audience who has never grown up.”

      Ah, I see, out of hand dismissal by association?

      Also, is it really sexist to depict a female character in a way that accurately reflects the persona of a rather large chunk of females in existence today? Just as many men actually are basement nerds (a demeaning stereotype feminists have no qualms about invoking) many women are actually insecure. Look at Buffy in season 6 – she ought to be stronger and more independent than ever, having been at it for 6 years, and yet she relapses into adolescent self doubt and shacks up with Spike.

      I’m not defending the decision to go with a manga little girl-ish character – it’s banal – i’m just saying that not all women are strong, independent, willful and lacking in desire for male approval – so why would we expect all ‘strong’ (read: violent) female characters to embody such qualities? Furthermore, we aren’t the same person from year to year, decade to decade. To expect a character to remain static is the antithesis of quality narrative.

      I’m not saying the shoe fits here – it does seem rather inconsistent, and that’s a legitimate gripe, but I tire of hearing the claim of “sexist!” every time someone fails to cater to the ideal of the ’empowered’ woman. Call a manga little girl-ish character flawed, but don’t call it invalid.

      1. “Look at Buffy in season 6 – she ought to be stronger and more independent than ever, having been at it for 6 years, and yet she relapses into adolescent self doubt and shacks up with Spike.”

        There’s a problem with that analogy — she had recently been dead. She still feels removed from humanity, if I remember right, because she remembers being dead. It’s a terribly melodramatic story device, yes, but isn’t a good example of your point.

        I think the issue here isn’t with personality change; after all, as you say, we all grow and change throughout our lives, but with the unbelievable /amount/ of change her personality has undergone. Throughout all a person’s changes, there is still a consistent core of their personalities that is theirs and doesn’t change — this game, it seems, asks you to believe she practically changed who she /is/.

        Also, I’m not a Metroid fan, but it does seem to me that if the game takes place in between some of the games in the franchise, it is asking the player to believe she has a period of time in which, despite her personality and actions being consistent before and after, she was practically a different person. That’s a pretty tall order.

        The issue of sexism here seems to make people blind to the point of the review; the game did not feel, throughout the gameplay, like a Metroid game, because it essentially did not have the same protagonist as the other games. If you take out the gender-specific words and substitute ‘protagonist’ for ‘Samus’, I wouldn’t be surprised if more than 70% of the angry commenters would have been in agreement with the article’s assessment of the game.

        In that light I think it is very clear that the backlash is about the (completely valid) accusations of sexism.

        In regard to there being many girls who aren’t strong and empowered: Although this is true, becoming a hardcore bounty hunter requires certain traits in a person, either male or female. The type of weak female you describe wouldn’t be able to do Samus’s job; that’s the problem. Most main roles in videogames would require a woman to be at least somewhat ’empowered’, just as they require a type of man who most likely is not representative of the majority of males.

        1. “There’s a problem with that analogy — she had recently been dead. She still feels removed from humanity, if I remember right, because she remembers being dead.”

          What difference does it make what drove her to that state? The point is one *can* fall from confidence and purpose no matter how dedicated and grown into a role one is.

          “The type of weak female you describe wouldn’t be able to do Samus’s job; that’s the problem.”

          As you’ll recall, Buffy wasn’t exactly able to do her job while she was in that state either.

          “this game, it seems, asks you to believe she practically changed who she /is/. ”

          which is the one valid gripe here – the shoe doesn’t fit, the change doesn’t make sense. but the themes of the character itself aren’t IMO offensive or invalid – the idea of a timid girl with immense power who is still in need of guidance is a great starting point for eventually building and growing a powerful and awesome character. In the context of metroid its a non sequitur, but to dismiss the character in a vacuum as ‘sexist’ or ‘misogynistic’ is outright ridiculous.

          When a male protagonist is deeply flawed, (often in ways stereotypical of men, ie a player, a booze hound criminal womanizer incapable of emotional connection) we call him an anti-hero. When a female protagonist is deeply flawed, (often in ways stereotypical of women, ie overly helpless, hysterical, self doubting, air-headed, overly emotional, flaky) we call it sexism and misogyny.

  57. IMHO while game design may attain the status of “Art” (perhaps even great art) it will never be an ideal medium for “storytelling.”

    I believe this because the things that make for good gameplay (interactivity, dynamic outcomes dictated by player actions, etc) are often directly at odds with the things that make good storytelling (control over pacing, story arc, character development etc.).

    If a story has to be told through cutscenes you basically have a game that keeps getting interrupted with scenes from a movie or a movie that keeps getting interrupted by a video game.

  58. I think the biggest issue is that commentors on game reviews are just horrible people. Just really, really awful, hypocritical people. Of course I’m overstating it, as not EVERYBODY is terrible, but generally game comments instantly devolve into name calling and “YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT VIDEO GAMES”-esque statements.

    Anyone else here frequent AV Club? The movie, TV, and book articles usually have some of the most incisive, intelligent conversations about pop culture that you are likely to find on the internet, even when the commentors believe the writer of the piece is completely wrong. But on every single video game-related post you can’t go more than two comments in before someone is questioning the credentials of the writers or slinging personal insults.

    I don’t think it’s a comment on whether gaming has evolved into art, so much as a comment on whether gamers have evolved to critically analyze their chosen hobby.

  59. Personally, I want to applaud Heppe for critiquing a game fully, rather than just the mechanics of it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s only this kind of criticism that will move the genre forward to something more interesting. I’ve largely stopped playing games because once you’ve killed your billionth alien invader (or whatever) the thrill has worn pretty thin. The things that get me revved up today are stuff like Flower and Machinarium, where there’s something interesting going on from a story & artistic perspective as well.

    This isn’t to say that there’s not a place for games that are strictly blow-em-up adrenaline fests, but you’ll notice that a lot of the summer Hollywood blockbuster movies get universally panned by the critics too. This doesn’t stop them doing huge business, it just means that the “mature” audience and the critics most likely aren’t going to be part of that business, as they aren’t in the 12-18yo boys target demographic.

  60. I saw that Team Ninja was making Metroid: Other M, and I was ecstatic, because after Ninja Gaiden I knew the gameplay would be awesome.

    But I have to seriously laugh at anybody who thought Team Ninja would make even a remotely feminist Metroid game.

    I mean come ON. You’re looking at the people who made Dead or Alive: Beach Volleyball.

  61. “Anyone else here frequent AV Club? ”

    I hope you die in a cancer aids fire of death.

    Also for the record I have no observed what you describe in the video game section. Generally the film review section is the worst, with hundreds and hundreds of inane (but often hilarious) posts, whereas video games have very few comments and most of them are pretty legit.

  62. Videogames must grow, find their way to comunicate, in metroid prime series the story was told by the ambient you where exploring, that was smart. In other games the story helps you to get in the mood, in max payne, half life, homeworld and few others the feeling is something more than shooting to some digital puppet. Nothing life changing, no, but well apreciated indeed. So, games CAN tell a story, and it helps to enjoy it. Let’s think about SPACE INVADERS. The plot is simple, aliens from somwere in the galaxy try to INVADE US. We are alone, they’re endless. You are doomed, but you shurely apreciate blast those bastards. Think if it was “Rose invaders”… ok, someone likes it, I know, but c’mon, it’s not the same thing…

  63. “Games are not art, say angry sexists”

    I fixed your title for you.

    The “It’s just a game” crowd are hiding behind their incredibly lackluster defense as a method of disguising their real complaint. Either they didn’t notice the blatant sexism and therefor feel defensive when it’s pointed out, or they actually ~like~ the ridiculous changes in Samus’ character and feel defensive when it’s pointed out.

    This isn’t a “gamer” problem, it’s a “sexist” problem. Please label the people complaining correctly, and stop lumping legitimate gamers in with adolescent morons.

  64. I think it’s a bit more complicated than “It’s Art/It’s not Art” when talking about games because we’re talking about a product that’s largely collective.

    Most often, what we most often refer to as ‘Art’ involves an artist- or a tight-knit, cohesive group of artists, like a music band- of whose vision, skill and background can be all taken into account when making a value judgement. Even movies, while using the talents of huge teams of technicians and actors, are often driven by the leadership of a director who bears the brunt of the blame if a movie falls short of meeting expectations.

    Unless they involve a single creator/leader or are a very small, independant production, games are more a collection of artistic work packaged into a commercial product. A single game can absolutely feature wonderful ART, perhaps masterful concept illustration, or high-quality 3D animation, while at the same time suffer from shoddy writing or lazy storytelling. But these all come from different sources. Is a talented, passionate concept artist at the very bottom of the assembly line less of an artist because his art unfortunately ends up in commercial drivel at the end of the corporate pipeline?

    I look at it the same way I look at, say, recent Disney animated movies. I now think of them as ‘products’ as opposed to single works of art because they are no longer under the tight leadership of a creator (Walt Disney) but clearly the result of hundreds of ‘cooks in the kitchen’ making artistic, business and corporate decisions. However, I can’t dismiss that Art is indeed involved: The background painter or 3D modeler at the bottom of the totem pole is still a skillful artist who deserves respect and acclaim for his/her craft and creation and cannot be held responsible for the lackluster outcome.

    I’m willing to bet many artists who worked on the Other M game and Samus would have loved a better storyline and a more kick-ass, authentic character to flesh out. But they probably don’t make the big decisions and, unlike popular representation of artists, they have to feed their families and keep their jobs.

  65. Good games can be Art.
    Making good games is an art.
    Not all good games are Art.
    Not all Art games are good.

    In fact, games-as-art generally suck, because the artist is too busy Making A Statement to create a well-crafted piece of entertainment.

    Hilarious exceptions being Desert Bus.

    But, “well-crafted” games aren’t art.
    Craft isn’t Art.
    Craft isn’t immune to hostile legislation.
    Craft isn’t immune to angry mothers.
    Craft IS immune to angry feminist critics,
    but that’s a small consolation.

    Craft gets no damn respect.

  66. Playing the game, I find myself chuckling at this review as one of the most ridiculous things I have read. The story is not done well, but Samus is also a character that would be prone to daddy issues. Her parents were slaughtered when she was a little girl by a pterodactyl/dragon combo, was raised by alien bird creatures where she learned to fight, then she joined the army and bonded with the CO. She has just finished killing said pterodactyl/dragon monster and has bumped into the CO, and she wants to prove something to him – not a big surprise. But the reason the game spells out to you as to why she’s limiting her power is that she doesn’t want the government pissed at her.

    The whole theme of the storyline is that the worst nightmares in her past are coming back to life in front of her, and how anything good in her past has betrayed her. While done poorly in terms of good dialog or voice acting, her psychology makes more sense as portrayed than it would if she was Rambo with tits. I actually really enjoyed a few scenes where her insecurities plagued her, but she quickly snaps out of it to ram a laser beam up something’s ass.

    You can tell its not Team Ninja’s normal sexism since Samus’ proportions are far more realistic than any of the Metroid Prime games.

    TL;DR how much can you complain when she shows up in a bikini in the original games?

  67. I appreciate the link to the review, and I appreciate the review.

    If you’re just in a game for its mechanics, or perhaps is exploration elements, then perhaps it’s okay to ignore a plot and characters you find stupid. (I played through FFVII and loved the game, while hating the characters and plot. I know I’m not in the majority, but I found Cloud to be just silly.)

    But Ms. Heppe points out that there’s nothing to love about the game mechanics, here either. A friend of mine, a GameStop employee who tries just about every new game, found Other M disappointing as well. (Anecdotal, but this is a guy who usually cares more about fun game play than story.)

    In other words, no one can justifiably make the, “It’s just a game, lighten up,” argument, because it seems like it’s not much of a game, either.

    Moreover, Ms. Heppe’s whole point is that the game is _trying_ to convey a meaningful narrative. It’s providing more personal history for Samus (and more face-time, as opposed to helmet-time) than any previous iteration. So it’s setting itself up to be weighed on the merits of its plot and character development, as much as a Metal Gear Solid would. And just like that franchise, it’s failing on that count (though for different reasons).

    Basically, there is no excuse for a poorly-developed female protagonist in a video game, and there hasn’t been since _Beyond Good and Evil_ came out and showed that really great female leads are possible. (Or Resident Evil, for that matter. Or any of the others you can think of.) There’s even less excuse here, where we already know Samus as the epitome of a strong woman. It sounds like she’s not just poorly-developed, but devolving.

    But what the hell am I saying? You guys are BoingBoing readers; you know all this already. The real problem is that Ms. Heppe is publishing her writings at the wrong audience. She should be guest-posting on Offworld, not writing for G4. G4 pursues the kind of viewers and readers who speak in racial and homophobic slurs as a matter of course; that they wouldn’t understand a feminist discourse is to be expected.

  68. This whole thing has just exposed a an age old issue; as a sub culture grows and expands, it must recognize that it has a responsibility to communicate relevant messages to its audience, or its influence will be compromised.

    Video Games have enjoyed languishing in a void between the worlds of children and adults for far too long. I guarantee the same people attacking this woman are the ones who simultaneously cry about game censorship. Well, which do you want? Are games part of the mainstream or aren’t they? You can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim to be an adult and a child at the same time.

    Being an adult, being a man, means understanding that women are your equals. They have an equal (if not greater since they produce the successors to the human race) role to play in society, and now, are consuming games at a much greater rate than previously. Game developers can continue to ignore them at their own peril.

    While this is not solely a problem associated with Japanese companies, I have to say that their gaming culture has inherit issues with trying to over come this issue. Time and time again, games that try using strong female protagonists (Order of Ecclesia, FFXIII) get bashed in Japan for not making the female leads attractive enough. But, what is attractive? This is culturally based, and the problem is that the types of people who hold the most consumer power in the gaming market in Japan, want cutesy, female dolls so they can fantasize about “doing things to them”. If they don’t have immediate, slutty or pedobear worthy sex appeal, they are discounted.

    It’s sad. Samus is an awesome IP. She is probably the single most recognized consistent female gaming icon, and Nintendo (read Team Ninja) just destroyed the image I had in my mind of her.

    I agree that a review on a site like G4 was maybe not the place to voice these opinions, but you know what, power to her. She had a platform to get her point across to a wide audience, and she used it. Maybe the more women do that, the more developers will actually listen. Remember, there’s more money to be made if you stop ignoring 50% of the (potential) market.

  69. All I have to say is that Other M is a particularly bad example of ‘an artistic game’ since the background/story is tacked onto an existing franchise that had already established its (originally abstract) core concepts in a different era. It’s like assigning artistic value to Jason Goes to Hell — suddenly there’s all this backstory that explains behavior and motivations, but who cares? And movies are an accepted artistic medium. Not every splash of paint is art.

  70. Video games are hard to class as art. I think of Video Games as a hub of art that is working towards one goal. The reason I don’t consider a video in its self art is that there is too many hands all with their own ability to add their own creative look onto the overall high message of the piece.

    Also most games out to date have been made for one idea; to get your money. Art is made to push a subject, and to make people to come up with their thoughts on the subject matter, while games are made to entertain you and for you to spend money. Now you can say that about movies and music, but I also don’t consider most of them art (even though they like to say they are.).

    So think of a video game has a hub of art, a place were different types of art can join to develop into one concept and goal.

  71. It’s great to see I’m not the only one to notice this disturbing trend among gamers.

    However, this review is far from being fair. It’s clearly written with an agenda already set way before the game was even released, thanks to the involvment of Team Ninja with a beloved franchise that happens to feature a woman as a protagonist.

    None of what Team Ninja did in the past shows up in Other M. If you doubt it, play the game and try to imagine Samus is a man. No, seriously. Remember she’s an orphan raised by a completely alien race that has been travelling alone for years and was trained by a strong, older male figure.

    Even a man would naturally make Adam Malkovich a father figure in such circumnstances.

    The reviewer has an agenda. Don’t buy it at face value just because of what Team Ninja did before or because videogames are lacking in strong female figures. Samus, is anything, is way more believeable as a real heroine now that she has ever been in the old games. Good, well-developed heroes do have issues, and this also applies to women protagonists.

  72. Oh, by the way, it’s disturbing that a lot of the comments here concerned about Other M’s supposed misogyny and gameplay issues comes from people that either haven’t played it or are taking friends’ opinions at face value (as well as the review).

    While this article is spot-on in pointing out how gamers in general don’t really want to be bothered by real criticism, these commenters aren’t doing such a better job than the average gamer either, sorry.

    Either play the game and check for themselves or go beyond a single source before taking conclusions. Other M does have a majority of good reviews praising its gameplay. Check Metacritic or GameRankings and see for yourselves. G4’s review is actually one of the exceptions.

    You can still believe what you want, no matter if you played the game or not. But please, don’t take conclusions out of a *single* review/article just because it rubs the right spot about something (misogyny in the gaming industry) that may or may not apply to that work in particular (Other M).

  73. It’s certainly not wrong for a reviewer to criticize a game’s story line or characters. But I honestly think the average gamer is so used to 1-dimensional characters and abysmal writing that they have truly given up on that aspect of games. I will never play a Halo game because I give a damn about Master Chief or the story arc. But I can still have a lot of fun with it anyway. The same goes for countless other series.

    It is a real treat when you get a series like Mass Effect that actually has some interesting Characters and dialogue. But such games are so few and far between that it’s simply not an expectation I have. As for Samus, you have to keep in mind that her only discernible personality traits in the previous games were “wears a space suit”, “is a hot chick” and “shoots aliens”. Whatever else you thought you knew about her was just projecting your own ideas onto an empty canvas.

Comments are closed.