“Hey Baby” video game shows us how irrational those women are

At first, when it was reported that a new video game enables you, as the main female character, to shoot men who harass you on the street, I thought “Ha ha, tables turned.” But after a look at this trailer video, I changed my mind:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krvA3VHq5as

Basically, you’re looking down a gun barrel and walking along on the street while men approach and street harass you. Then you shoot them, and a tombstone pops up with their particular cat call on it. And that’s it.

No elaborate scenarios like RapeLay offered for people who enjoy fantasizing about stalking and raping women and children. It’s not tables turned – it’s just fluff that involves women actually overreacting to a problem we’re frequently told we should find flattering. In one swoop, by presenting such a skewed reaction, the game trivializes the very appropriate reaction of women speaking out against street harassment and problems like rape which actually legally merit killing (in the U.S. at least, you are entitled by law to defend yourself with lethal force if someone’s trying to rape you – it’s considered self-defense).

If this game were about shooting men who try to rape you, okay. Or if it was street harassers, but instead of shooting them we just hit them really hard, that’d be fine by me, too. Still looks like a pretty boring game, though, and somehow I’m thinking that adds insult to injury – as if they assume women don’t want something more elaborate and interesting?

Comments

  1. says

    Disclaimer: this comment is about my personal reaction to the game. I’m not stating this is the correct interpretation of it, nor am I trying to argue with your article. Your article reminded me of how I felt when playing the game and I hope this comment is relevant, I think it is *uncertain*

    I tried playing the game briefly and stopped after I felt too creeped. One thing I do think the game captures (intentionally or unintentionally, I don’t know), and I recognise this will not be the case for everyone but it worked for me, is that sense of hopelessness.

    The use of the gun gave me a different idea to overreaction. I felt like that no matter what my avatar did, the harassment would not stop, they would continue to follow my avatar and harass her. Even something as extreme as shooting them just wouldn’t stop it. That sense of frustration/hopelessness is something I can relate to, the feeling that no matter how hard I work or what I do, I can’t stop all the crap, that it will just keep coming at me. It was that feeling of hopelessness that was behind me feeling so creeped out by the game.

  2. stella says

    I haven’t seen the game, but this post about it offers an interesting perspective. Maybe it made a few men think about what women go through all the time?

  3. I. Scott says

    After following stella’s feministe link and some links there I tried the game.

    My first reaction (before anyone said anything) was that it’s rather clunky for this style of game. Further play met with people disappearing into thin air and stuck voice-loops, so it isn’t exactly well-made.

    Then someone came up to me and said something revolting, and I just sort of sat with my mouth hanging open for a few seconds. He was quickly followed by a few others until I was surrounded and couldn’t go anywhere, at which point I tried out the gun.

    Again, compared to similar games, the gun is rather weak and finicky. They may be going for the hopelessness Iseryn mentions, but I don’t know. The website design says to me that it’s more about killing the users of various catcalls.

    There’s a second button, which dishes out a compliment (“thank you” and some hearts), but I can’t imagine why you’d want to. Even the initially better-sounding lines turn nasty quickly. Plus, in game terms, it doesn’t seem to do anything.

    I found there are two groups of NPCs in the game – the catcallers and the men and women who just go about their business. You can shoot the former and not the latter (although it’s not clear from the graphics from a distance of any difference, but again that goes with the territory. I presume you can’t spot these people in real life until they’re directly approaching you). Sometimes I found the catcallers harassing the other women. Shooting them felt a little different to shooting the ones coming at me, but I’m not sure I can explain how.

    I can’t say if it’s helped me understand how catcalled women feel or not (maybe if I had no gun and had to get from A to B without getting harassed), but hearing ‘god bless you’ did make me think of the endless stream of annoying people who say that or variations of it (often with a gut-wrenchingly condescending smile*) whenever I sneeze in public (which is a lot, especially during hayfever season), and how much I’d like them to, for example, go under the train I’m getting on rather than on it.

    *maybe years of it have grated on me and I’m imagining things…

  4. Jen says

    Your analysis of the game is what I feared when I heard about it, Jennifer. Doesn’t look great.

    Have you got a Tumblr account btw?
    I’ve seen you quoted on Tumblr!
    there’s such a large feminist community on there!

  5. says

    I haven’t played the game either, and most of what I know of it comes from links that have already been referenced in this thread, as well as some others on similar themes. My personal feeling on that linked anecdote is that while it was kind of heartening to hear this example of a Moment of Male Enlightenment as to women’s experiences, that probably wasn’t going to be a widespread reaction to the game, and that it kind of felt like someone had to be at least partway there to reach that reaction.

    I guess I’ve basically felt neutral on the game itself, which is why I’ve been trying to figure out why there’s something about the title here that I find kind of troubling. I don’t feel – again, without taking the time to play it – that within the game, there’s a sense of irrationality about the reaction. It’s internal video game rules – shooting whatever pops up in front of you is the status quo. That’s how you deal with “the enemy”, the ubiquitous “everything that is not you or your programmed team”. Whenever I’ve read about people’s experiences playing it, they don’t read their in-game persona as overreacting to a situation – they read them as behaving according to the rules of the video game world. That shooting is the practically universally accepted method of dealing with conflict within said genre of entertainment is another point entirely, but it seems to me that because of that accepted set of terms, the “irrational female” trope isn’t really being invoked here.

    I’m kind of intrigued by Scott’s observation about the “thank you” button and its impact. It seems to me that supports the interpretation of the game that it is more awareness-raising, especially if the “thank you” reaction (which is the one women in real life are SUPPOSED to go with) makes the harassment worse.

    All that negativity aside, however, I really appreciate your point about the possibility to do a lot more with a concept like this if the effort and imagination that goes into horrific stuff like RapeLay were applied here. It seems like pretty much a one-note concept at best, and much less of a game that someone might actually like to play than a talking point or one-off educational activity.

  6. says

    First of all, to everyone who’s actually played it, thanks for sharing your experiences, which are obviously more hands on than mine.

    It was that feeling of hopelessness that was behind me feeling so creeped out by the game.

    That’s… disturbing. And worse than the impression I formed.

    Stella, that’s interesting! It’s too bad it would probably never get played by the sort of people who could really USE a lesson in that, but it sounds like it could help men who actually like women to empathize more and be better allies. Which is a good thing.

  7. Robin says

    Um… ew.

    I don’t think I could stand playing the game long enough to find out, so I’ll pose the question to those of you who have already done so. Is there any sort of goal to the game? Are you trying to get somewhere / accomplish something other than just shooting creepy catcallers? Or is it just about the body-count? If it’s the latter, well, that’s not only creepy, it’s boring.

  8. I. Scott says

    @Robin

    I didn’t find any particular goals other than ‘shooting creepy catcallers’ while playing the game. It is indeed quite boring.

  9. Firebird says

    I actually heard the creator of the game interviewed on one of my favorite NPR programs (Tell Me More, a program with a WOC host who is active both as a POC and as woman in her journalism, doing stories and asking questions in her interviews that probe how issues affect the black community and doing occasional audio editorials that speak usually as a feminist but occasionally bring her ethnicity into it). Michel Martin interviewed the creator of the game in tandem with the founder of the group “Holla Back” which she described as somehow empowering women who were victims of street harassment to use the internet and cell phone cameras to fight back against street harassment in a safe and at least moderately effective way. (I forgot to check it out.)

    In any case, the creator of the game was a woman who was called a very nasty racial epithet on a London subway and felt helpless and hopeless and set out to create the game to recreate that feeling. Ms. Martin questioned her about why there was not a broader variety of responses in the game to the harassment, and the creator stated that she felt like in real life there are no good options, nothing you can do or say that makes you feel empowered, and so that’s how she wrote the game – rage or swallow it.

    For what it’s worth, the host/interviewer seemed unsatisfied by that explanation, and the founder of Holla Back stated the game creeped her out as well. I just wanted to say that the game wasn’t made with ill intent – as far as I can tell it was made to either empower people or to be an expression of one woman’s feeling of powerlessness in a harassment situation, or possibly to engender dialogue. Possibly ill-conceived, not well carried out, and she’s probably bought into all kinds of junk, but she seemed sincere in her interview.

    The story is here. A quick note about the show – Michel Martin had a family tragedy recently and has been away a lot, so if you start listening, you may not hear her all the time. Yeah, I listen daily, lol.

  10. says

    Ms. Martin questioned her about why there was not a broader variety of responses in the game to the harassment, and the creator stated that she felt like in real life there are no good options, nothing you can do or say that makes you feel empowered, and so that’s how she wrote the game – rage or swallow it.

    Huh. So she’s presenting a real life scenario as a problem that can’t be solved – it can only be obliterated. That’s… disturbing. And doesn’t really improve my take on the game.

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