Game Review – Fez and “Mature” Gaming

Just played Fez. Well, got the demo, tried it, BOUGHT THE SHIT OUT OF IT and then played it.

Oh look, a bunny! TANGENT!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of “mature games”. I think a lot of the time, we forget that mature has two meanings. Mature as in: fully developed adult, and mature as in: having violent or graphic content that is not suitable for children. Gamers can sometimes subconsciously confuse the two, and begin to conflate gritty violence and sex with maturity. Now, that’s not to say a game that includes these factors can not also be mature, Silent Hill 2 is a perfect example, Metal Gear Solid is another. But for a demographic that loves to mock directors like Micheal Bay for his masturbatory use of explosions, violence and hyper sexuality- they seem to rabidly defend gaming’s right to be just as vapid. When I log into steam or XBOX Live to browse new games, all the games seem to blur together in one long log of sameyness:

  • Military Man Shoots Brown People
  • Hulked Out Muscle Man Fights Monsters
  • Badass Shoots People ‘Cuz Vengeance also Boobs
  • The Zombie Apocolypse Scenario We All Want to Happen for some reason
  • …and a JRPG and underage tittays.

I’ve played these games, I’ve played ALL these games. I’m bored with these games. As I get older these “gritty, realistic” games appeal to me less and less. There are a variety of reasons, but the biggest one is that so many of them are immature power fantasies.  Now everyone has guilty pleasures. There are movies and games I know are brainless and yet I enjoy them. Just because something isn’t mature doesn’t automatically mean it has no merit or isn’t a great game. But so many games rely heavily on gritty realism and shock-jock antics in order to grab attention in a over saturated market. However, not a one of these games is an immature power fantasy for me. Not a one, is a over-the-top power fantasy for a girl.

And so, feeling bored and cock blocked from the boys club that is popular gaming, I often turn to indie games.

Yes, I remembered what I was talking about.


I previously reviewed Benjamin Rivers indie game HOME, and I praised it for it’s unbridled radness. Fez is to platform gaming what HOME is to indie horror. You play Gomez and adorable 8 bit sprite to navigate a brilliant 3 dimensional world in order to collect cubes. The game itself is aware of it’s roots, I giggled when I noticed the constellations in the sky looked like Tetris pieces. You don’t shoot anyone, there are no monsters. It’s you against the world- just like real life. It’s the kind of game you can come home from a long day at work and play to relax. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about screaming at 14 year old boys who are teabagging my corpse  that really doesn’t help me unwind.

The gamers who first picked up a light gun to shoot  at ducks in Duck Hunt or race through Sonic are older now, and a lot of us have kids we’re hoping to introduce to gaming as well. This is a game you can play around your kids.

“No baby girl, look away when the half naked woman gets shot in the face. And that one… and that one…and that one.”

I highly recommend Fez as a game for anyone bored of shooting people.

The Feminist Gamer Tidal Wave

It’s no secret to anyone who runs in the communities I do (nerds, gamers, reviewers) that something is indeed amiss. Social changes are often sparked by one large, public event that sparks an outrage- that seems to trigger a host of other events. Enter Anita Sarkeesian. If you don’t yet know about Anita and the controversy surrounding her kickstarter project. Feel free to fill yourself in:

• Tropes Vs. Women In Video Games Vs. The Internet – Rock Paper Shotgun
• This Week In Harassment – The Borderhouse Blog
• Kickstarter Video Project Attracts Misogynist Horde – The Escapist
• Tropes vs Movie Bob – The Big Picture, The Escapist [VIDEO]
• Feminist Frequency Kickstarter project smashes target – Games Industry
• Awful Things Happen When You Try to Make a Video About Video Game Stereotypes – Kotaku

Now that we’re all caught up, I think we all sort of know – on some level, anyway- that video games have sexist representations of women. That’s not really debatable. And for those of you who will invariably choose the “men are objectified too” route. No… just, no. Get your facts straight, and then rejoin the conversation. We’ve all debunked this argument more times than is necessary and we’re moving on. But I think many were legitimately shocked at the harassment, death/rape threats and so on. I wasn’t really shocked- it’s that kind of retarded behavior that keeps me from bothering with XBOX Live. And I mean “retarded” in the most literal of terms- as in “completely stunted“. I’ve never known a person with developmental disabilities to use the phrase “uppity Jew cunt”.

I think as nerds/gamers we think we live in a futuristic community that is somehow above this kind of behavior. Like misogyny is regulated to Bro culture and frat parties. Clearly we’re far too smart to participate in this kind of Neanderthal shit, right? That was our bubble, and it got burst. And then it got better.

Crystal Dynamics walks onto the scene with quite possibly the worst timing in gaming history. They had redesigned Lara Croft to be less sexualized and had been given a pat on the back from modern society. Then unfortunately took two steps back, fell down the stairs and promptly shit their pants. After Sarkeesian showed us that some gamers are extremely sexist, Crystal Dynamics proved that even those who are trying are fucking up due to a complete lack of understanding. At least that’s how I see it. The Tomb Raider thing doesn’t come off as malicious to me, just ignorant. Which is almost worse because it’s easier to defend. Ya dun fucked up, C.D. It’ll be okay, but maybe you should like… talk to women before you try to flesh out female characters.

By the time the new Hitman trailer waltz in to the party- 2 hours late and wearing only a sign that says “MAKE ME A SAMMICH”- everyone was ready to fucking kill. I don’t even need to break down whats wrong with it. You either get it or you don’t. And really, it’s not any worse than most games that have been coming out for years, it just came out at the best time to be a perfect example of the level of sexist bullshit in gaming. No worse, just the status quo.

And if you’re extra local to this neck of the internet, you’ll know all about the uproar that happened at TGWTG. If you are a fan, then you already know. If you aren’t- you probably don’t care. moving on)

We’re collectively discovering something about ourselves. It’s difficult- for nerds especially -to accept that something about the status quo is fucked. That a facet of our community is really destructive. Not just to the outside world, but to us personally. Over the last couple weeks I’ve seen all manner of reactions. Some completely agree that it’s an issue and are standing with female gamers. Others are striving to find any tiny crack in the argument. This is frustrating, but at least these guys are being coherent. Pro tip, gentlemen: you’re not right. Just let it go. It’s not like anyone is blaming you directly, no one is calling you a misogynist pig. We were all raised in a culture that created this mindset, we’re all at fault, so do yourselves a favor and don’t take the criticism so personally.

The last group was inevitable: unabashed, juvenile temper tantrums. This is the sub group of nerds/gamers who just have no coping skills- they cannot tolerate any form of criticism. Mostly dispensing the same “FUCK YOU BITCH, GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN” joke that hasn’t been funny “BAREFOOT AND PREGNANT” was funny and that was never funny. These are the true man children of our community. I’m actually reminded Tom Green in “Freddy Got Fingered”** screaming “Look Daddy, I’m a farmer!” as he jacks off a horse. It’s the knee jerk reaction of someone who simply cannot cope and has to react by simply becoming what they are accused of being. “Oh so I’m an asshole? Well I guess I’ll just be an asshole then!” he shrieks as he throws his toys around the playground.

I really hate the modern idea of “It’s the internet, what do you expect?” that’s such a cop out. It gives a free pass for real people to participate in hate speech, death threats, and insane misogyny without any social consequences. What do I expect? I expect a little more out of those who consider themselves superior to Bro culture. I expect you to grow the fuck up and stop acting like a little bitch. There’s a problem, so why don’t you put on your big boy pants and do something about it? Or you can sit here in the sandbox and whine. The rest of the nerds are going to join the 21st century.

** Don’t watch Freddy Got Fingered, just watch the review by Nostalgia Chick, Nella and Oancitizen. I’m not a monster, people.