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The "What'd You Say About My Mother??" Dept.:
MailBag for Issue #3

Comments by Stephanie "Bobbi" Bergman


Every week our associate editor takes on the big ol' pile of mail for your reading enjoyment...got something to say? Send it in. You just might win a swanky loonygames t-shirt. Letters are presented exactly as they are recieved.

"Duke Steed" checks in....

Subject: Duke

Bobbi,

Dug your article on Duke. Very provocative. Reading through the responses of people you talked to it suddenly occured to me the reason for such polarized opinions on Duke. Uptightness. Yep. Seems to me the people that don't have a problem with Duke seem more secure with themselves and particularly their sexuality. Good thing or bad thing, Classifying an imaginary character as a sexist or non-sexist is pretty damn funny to me. The fact that on average, guys produce millions of spermatazoa a day and spend 90% of their wakeful existence thinking about sexual things makes the question of whether Duke is sexist or not moot. Sexism is a very unflattering, mysoginistic term. The Duke, like the majority of hetero dudes find women hopelessly attractive and feels the more, the prettier, the more Boomin' the better. Guess I'd like to give the Dukester one of my favorite lines, "I'm not sexist...I'm just sexy. Baby."

Personally, I think Duke is just a practicing philogynist who doesn't give a shit what people think. Hmmm...Reminds me of someone...

ps

I donít think Iíd call the people who consider Duke sexist "uptight", certainly some of the people I know who find Duke offensive are far from it. Itís just a matter of each personís individual value system, and whether or not they personally believe that a game can be taken at face value as just a game. Some see more than a game (I certainly find certain games cannot be discounted as just Ďfor funí, I do believe games have the ability to teach things to the people who are playing them), some donít.

As for the similarities between you and Duke, well, I think at the very least, you need a bottle of bleach.... :)

I'm sexist, you're sexist, we're all sexist!!

Subject: feedback on the duke article

Hi Bobbi,

Well, I just got done reading the Duke article, and it was a bit enlightening... because I never really thought about it before. (For the record, I never really liked Duke, and I think the biggest part of it was because I was forced to roleplay -- in a limited fashion Ė a character created by someone else that is wholly unlike myself. This is one reason why I like id's games so much; I can "roleplay" myself.) In a real, in-your-face kind of way, of course Duke is sexist, and I think the fact that 3D Realms chose to present the game in this fashion is telling. However, I don't believe that their motives are (as some have ascribed) attributable to hyper-hormonal juvenile minds at work, or some company-wide misogynistic bent, but simply to The Bottom Line. Any attention is good attention. Any mention of your product, even in the most offensive, malicious fashion, is a good mention because it gets the product name in front of consumers' faces. And the best part? Those mentions don't cut into your ad budget. I do, however, believe that using such tactics as the "sexism" in Duke and the "racism" in Shadow Warrior to generate sales is particularly mercenary, and while I recognize it is a valid (and, apparently, effective and profitable) tactic, I also recognize it to be somewhat... shallow. I shudder to think what kind of controversy 3D Realms is going to come up with for DNF, but in a "morbid fascination" kind of way I'm sort of looking forward to it.

Anyway. The troubling part about the "sexism" (that's not the best way to describe it, but I can't think of another word that fits) in Duke is the pure objectification of women, and, not incidentally, the complete lack of response by some of your interviewees on the matter. The most common reason to not care is, "hey, it's only a game." This is true; it _is_ only a game. And yes, it's true that other games objectify women in one fashion or another -- some positive, most negative. However, the blatant method of the objectification in Duke is what's most repellent. Sure, Lara Croft is... erm, fully-figured, but hey, she doesn't need anyone to save her, she can move 10-foot-square stone blocks by herself without a block and tackle or even handholds (let's see Duke do _that_ :) and she's a ground-breaking adventurer, travelling to exotic locations around the globe (and no way am I ever going to call the Sunset Strip "exotic") to solve mysteries. Duke, on the other hand, is simply a caricature of a mish-mash of just about every action-movie and horror-movie lead, trapped in the body of a professional wrestler, plopped down with bug-eyed monsters and cartoon "women". To this day, I don't understand the appeal in that, but maybe that's just me.

...wandering again. Actually, Duke is "sexist" on both sides of the coin (as sCary pointed out), but since men don't seem to mind being treated as objects (for the most part), it hasn't been as much of an issue. Duke has a cartoonish, over-the-top feel that does lessen the impact of its converting both genders into two-dimensional figures. I'll be interested to see if the "3D" part of the company name will be applied to not only the setting, but the characters (such as they are) as well in future releases. It'd be nice to see them go out on a creative limb and make the setting somewhere where strippers and prostitutes and "women to be saved" aren't quite so common, but I doubt that The Franchise would hold up without something or someone to objectify.

Especially since The Franchise earns so much. Now, don't get me wrong; profits, in and of themselves, are good. The methods to achieve profit, however, can be both good and bad, and I'm of the mind that these means aren't the best to achieve that end. But, hey, why mess with success?

Crash
http://www.quake2.com/crash

From what Iíve seen of DNF so far, theyíre certainly taking some of this to heart...Bombshell (the female Ďleadí) is without a doubt, a woman who could kick Lara Croftís anorexic butt any day. There will, without a doubt, be the mindless strippers for Duke to save (or shoot), but Bombshell seems to be far from the stripper bimbos weíre used to seeing Duke play with.

As for sexism on both sides....sort of. Somehow, our society has accepted the concept of mindless muscle men much more easily than that of women, and I think the reaction to Duke and other games just reflects that. But, then again, men were always the ones assumed to have the intelligence, not the women. Way back when, women werenít supposed to work, read, or think...that was for the men. So, maybe itís because everyone knows Rocky isnít really stupid (because, theoretically, men canít be stupid) that its not offensive. But...the strippers being stupid just hits a bit too close to home? Dunno.

Humorous killing and sadistic killing sprees...

Subject: Is Duke Nukem Sexist?

Were you really serious about this? Are you really offended by a scantily clad depiction of a woman in a game that centers around wanton violence? Is it important to you that a killer respects his victim as an individual? You could be a movie censor. You know, the person who says "Well, that decapitation scene with the chainsaw is ok, but I'm gonna have to cut that sex scene out." Or you could be one of our esteemed lawmakers, promoting that a murderer can go free as long as he's really sorry and if he didn't kill on the basis of race or gender.

You wrote "Is there such thing as humorous sexism?" Well, Ms. Bergman, is there such a thing as humorous killing? I think if you can accept the latter, it is ludicrous to condemn the former. Or have you become so lost that you really find the sex more offensive than the violence? If you actually think that this game promotes sexism, how can you believe it would not promote mad sadistic killing sprees as well? In your mind, which would be worse?

-Van Roberts

Wow...someone was a wee bit offended by my article. I never once said what I personally felt about Duke, whether or not I was offended by it. All I was doing was playing devilís advocate...asking some questions, and printing the answers.

I donít think Iíd make a very good movie censor though, Iím a firm believer in the first amendment, and abhor censorship. For that matter, Iím also very involved in law, and, heh, would love to be a lawmaker someday (look out Washington!!). Well, no, Supreme Court Justice would be my ideal (my Ďidolí, if you can call it that, is former Chief Justice William Brennan...aka "that liberal bastard" :) ) but weíll ignore that one (long standing joke with a good friend of mine whoís very active in local politics...heíll be president, and somehow get me on the Supreme Court, bribe congress or something) :)

Is there humerous killing? An interesting question. Apparently there is, just look at the arguable Ďsuccessí of Postal and Grand Theft Auto, to name a few games that have made killing Ďfunny.í

Oh, and for the record? I donít know what I think about Duke and sexism anymore. When I started on the article, I thought it was sexist, and offensive. But after hearing so many different opinions, and talking to a 3D Realms employee about the subject (he who shall not be mentioned here), I honestly donít know. I played through Duke again a month or so ago, and loved it. And I happily shot the strippers, just like everyone else. Iím also looking forward to Duke Forever, as most of you are as well. So....I dunno. It may be, it may not be....either way, itís a great game. :)

And, the winner of a loonygames t-shirt...Carmack the fruit??

Subject: Thinking Outside The Box

*sigh*

Even though I don't always agree with his thoughts, I always enjoy reading Mr. Steed's comments, simply because he is so articulate. It makes my literary innards all warm and tingly to see a "computer-professional" who not only knows how to spell, but knows how to use vocabulary. He uses words that I use in every day conversation. And I can imagine the number of blank stares his comments generate, because I see those same blank stares when I speak.

So when I read this week's issue of Thinking Outside the Box, I was shocked by the following:

"Whether they're solely my ideas or the ideas of my co-workers or an amalgam of the two, creating the visual experience in the form of animations either pre-rendered or manipulated by the fruit Carmack's genius?this is my 'job'."

The fruit Carmack. Now, either this is an example of an editor who simply took it on faith that the product would be complete (in which case, they aren't worth a damn as an editor), or Mr. Steed thinks his boss is ... well ... I think you see my point. My oh my.

There's one thing that really irks me with this whole crazy thing we call the Internet. English. I will forgive those intrepid souls to whom English is not the primary language. But to anyone living in the 50 states, proper spelling and the rules of grammar ought to be mandatory for publishing. See, that's what this World Wide Web thing is all about: *PUBLISHING*. One is publishing a document for the entire world to read at their leisure. I should hope that one would run it through the spell checker before uploading it to the server.

Until now, Mr. Steed's comments have always been articulate. Proper spelling. Good word choice. Proper use of "its" versus "it's". And so on and so forth. But this typographical error (either his fault or the editors at Loonygames) is nearly inexcusable. Printed magazines have an Errata section to correct the mistakes of previous issues. With the joys of electronic publishing, I should hope that this error will be corrected immediately.

Many thanks,

Skippy

You gave me a good laugh, Skippy. I do doubt that Paul Steed was calling Carmack a fruit, probably youíre right and an "of" was omitted there somewhere, for which we can take the whip to our esteemed editor. *smack the loony!*

Well, or, Carmackís a fruit? Hmmmm....my dirty mind could have fun with this imagery, but I think Iíll leave it up to you perverts. :)

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Credits: MailBag logo illustrated and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. The MailBag is © 1998 Stephanie Bergman. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited and not nice.