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There Is Nothing Sexist About Quantic Dream's Kara Demo

This is exactly what happens when sensitivity reaches a critical point and begins to crush artistic inspiration.

Patrick Garratt's article concerning the problem of sexism in video games has struck a sour note with me, because it only proves just how insidious and counter-productive extreme sensitivity can be.

Firstly, just to clarify- There is no doubt that video games have been guilty of stereotyping and over-sexing female characters. Whether or not it began with Lara Croft's chest is subject to some debate (Garratt does mention that Princess Peach "always had to be rescued"), but such glaring instances are obvious. It's also true that with a mostly male audience ranging in age from 13 to 35, titillating the typical game consumer is bound to happen. But that's about where my agreement with his rant ends.

The Quantic Dream Kara tech demo is being attacked because of the supposedly sexist way in which the robot character was presented. "Do the cooking, mind the kids," her pleasing shape, her overall tone of submission and obedience, etc. Now, artistically speaking, the focus should be squarely on the gravity of the situation, a situation everyone from H.G. Wells to Isaac Asimov has addressed in human history. It involves the danger of artificial intelligence and what we lose when we go down that road. It involves the gray area between consciousness and unconsciousness. It tackles a relevant, complex, and intriguing concept.

But of course, all that gets buried under the hypersensitivity from which we suffer on a daily basis. Common sense disappears. Kara is a commercial product. The scene was not meant to show that women are supposed to be seen as property, or that women only serve a specific set of roles. If that's all you're getting from that presentation, and all you do is strive to find the politically correct issue, you're missing the deepest, most important aspect of that piece. Kara is a consumer product obviously designed for men, and what's to say in that era depicted, there aren't male robots for women? What then? Can't have that, either?

And then the idea that all women are always positioned in sexist roles- To the question in the article, are there any men that are deemed "sexy" in video games? It was supposed to make the point that only women are sex objects in games, but that is completely invalidated by the fact that the very nature of the traditional hero (muscular, cocky, powerful, etc.) is very often seen as sexy by females. Duke Nukem isn't sexy? I'm no woman but I'm willing to bet that guy would hit the hot charts for girls if he were real. Not all women go for that type, but to say that only women are sexualized in gaming is utterly one-sided.

On top of which, we are starting to see some extremely strong female characters in games that are exactly the types feminists would appreciate: Independent, not strangely shaped, intelligent, capable, etc. Trip in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is a good example of that, as is numerous female roles in major game productions today. On top of which, are we to forget that this is mainstream entertainment? Movie stars aren't exactly ugly, are they? Appearance matters in this hedonistic world and gaming is no different; nobody wants to see and control unappealing characters. Yeah, sorry, that truth always hurts.

We are in a dangerous situation right now. We are in danger of squashing truth for stuff that, in the long run and in the bigger scheme of things, does not matter. We are in danger of producing the best play in twenty-five years, only to have it denounced because it doesn't have any minority roles in it. We are in danger of constantly preaching without ever understanding the intrinsic human natures that have defined masterful literature and art since the dawn of our existence. There is something beyond our petty "role" squabbling; there is the fact that men and women are different, chemically and biologically. If you'd like to make us all the same, I'd be interested to see how that society functioned.

Art is about exploring humanity. It's about exploring the depths of ourselves and the endless, intricate questions surrounding time, love, death, and anything else that kept the philosophers awake nights. Blatant sexism and racism should not be tolerated simply because both are nothing more than ignorance. But quelling any possibility for advancement in the arts - Quantic Dream is well known for artistic progression - is dangerous. And depressing. If we are honestly going to condemn the Kara demo because we're so outrageously shortsighted that the only thing we can see anymore is sexism and any other "ism" everywhere we turn, we're in trouble.

Tags: kara, quantic dream tech demo, sexism, video game sexism

4/13/2012 10:27:31 AM Ben Dutka

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Comments (37 posts)

Oxvial
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 11:02:00 AM
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Dunno if the demo was made with a male model I'm sure nobody would complain. Is a interesting verse there I would get a robot and fu** wasting time getting laid xD!, unfortunately I would probably end like that one person on Futurama that got a Marilyn Monroe-bot D:

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Palpatations911
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 4:23:35 PM

I agree that if the demo was made using a male character that no one would complain about sexism even though men in video games are extremely stereotyped as well. The difference is that most men are not sensitive to issues like that.......

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Fane1024
Saturday, April 14, 2012 @ 2:01:12 AM

They'd complain if the human "owner" was also male and there was any hint of sexual tension between the two.

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BikerSaint
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 11:13:04 AM
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Unbelievable!

If the Kara video rubs Pat Garratt the wrong way, he needs to get a stronger skin.

May I suggest......Crocodile or Water Buffalo???

Anyway, it's truly a shame that it always has to be that lost & clueless sheep who can't find his own way to get the true meaning of anything, and just has to always try & f*ck it up anyway they can, for everyone else who does get it.......

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Underdog15
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 11:14:22 AM
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Someone should remind him that in Super Mario RPG, Princess Peach was a force to be reckoned with!

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Highlander
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 11:23:46 AM
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Sounds to me like Patrick Garratt has been examining his navel too closely.

Sexist, or rather caricatures are the very nature of games. Look at Uncharted. Drake is obviously a hero type. If he were a real guy he'd probably be one of those who has women (and some men) flocking to him. Does that make Uncharted sexist? This is just ridiculous.

If you take a particular point of view and look at games from that point of view you can see anything you want. If you want to see positive female roles, you can. If you want to see negative female roles, you can. If you want to see sexism, it's there, against both genders. If you want to see titillation it's there - again for both genders.

Patrick Garratt seems like he has too much time on his hands, perhaps he needs to boot up a copy of DOA Paradise?

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karneli lll
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 11:33:07 AM
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This is annoying, nothing is said when Bayonetta or that lolipop game are making waves but Kara makes a comment about being a sex slave and its sexist?

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 12:24:18 PM

To be fair, he does mention Bayonetta in the article.

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wackazoa
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 11:38:27 AM
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Sad.


Another reason we shouldnt have given women the vote. D

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Comic Shaman
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 11:39:40 AM
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Er... I'm not saying that I'm in agreement with the article as a whole, but I don't actually think he was going after the Kara demo for being sexist. This quote stands out to me:

"David Cage's Kara demo attacked the issue of
sexism by reducing its lead to an impeccable
sexist stereotype."

I think the point he was making is that the Kara demo was itself an examination of sexism and the harm that it does. Which I believe is correct. In fact, I thought it did a far better job than the article did in creating a sense of empathy for those who suffer from crass objectification.

That said, I think Mr. Garratt is off-base in a lot of his reactions and paints with way too broad a brush. His invective towards Catherine, for instance, seems entirely misplaced -- there is a game that is dealing head-on with sex and relationships in a complex way. The sexuality of the characters is not tacked-on or eye candy, it's there as a fundamental part of the story.

Last edited by Comic Shaman on 4/13/2012 11:40:10 AM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 12:25:36 PM

There is no way on earth that demo is in ANY way about sexism. Saying that sexism is the focal point of that short story is just plain wrong.

He just WANTS it to be an examination of sexism because everything HAS to be political in some capacity these days.

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Comic Shaman
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 12:42:06 PM

Mmm. Well, first off I think that the Kara demo is a piece of art, and that any good piece of art has multiple levels of interpretation. You and I may not be seeing the same thing in it.

I believe that the Kara demo is dealing directly with what is the real issue BEHIND sexism: dehumanization. Sexism is simply one form that dehumanization can take. When we see another being as less than human -- a being less than ourselves, whose emotions and life are less valuable than our own -- we take that as license to treat that being in a way we would not want to be treated.

And I think that the Kara demo deals very much with dehumanization. The great irony and brilliance of it is that David Caged used a subject who is literally not human. Kara is at first treated with no more compassion than if she were a buggy piece of software. Yet the unseen operator (and we the viewers) see her humanity as she is driven towards death. The I perceive is there is that if we can make a human connection with an android, why is it so hard to make that connection with each other?

Now, as to whether or not it is an attack on sexism... I think there are certainly overtones. The three women that I've shown it to all identified very strongly with Kara, and said that the messages she was being given about her role in life resonated with the sort of conditioning that they experienced. That to me speaks very strongly to the power of the message.

I didn't feel that when I saw it, because as a guy I didn't receive those same messages in my upbringing. I found myself identifying more with the unseen operator, wanting desperately for him to make the decision that he ultimately made. Like I said, a good piece of art has many layers, and can speak to different people in different ways.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 2:17:13 PM

Of course it's about dehumanization. That much is obvious.

But I believe that to be an "a priori" truth of the work, as Aristotle might say. It's a truth that is true in all time periods, all eras, even all corners of the universe, like 2 + 2 = 4. It's dehumanization because that's what the attempt at creating artificial humanity IS.

Sexism is just something we're reading into it because of the way our society operates. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the underlying point; it's just something we happen to see because it's a common subject.

This makes a point without being political. Without making any "statement."

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Comic Shaman
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 3:04:21 PM

Ben, I don't have the same degree of confidence that you seem to that there is only one underlying point to the Kara story.

You offer an interpretation in your article which suggests the story is about artificial intelligence. That's one completely valid level of interpretation, and I would call it the most literal one.

However, what if you take the story as allegory? Say for a moment that Kara serves as a symbolic stand-in for a human experience. Her programming and construction are a metaphorical representation of a human being's upbringing, presented in a condensed space. Her delight in learning her name, discovering her ability to move, are the delight we feel when we grow into our identity. The threat of her extinction does not represent "death," but the rejection of the individual who tries to express their uniqueness within a conformist society.

And so forth. On an allegorical level, hers is a very human story.

Now, is it about sexism? Does the struggle that Kara experiences in the first few minutes of her life allegorically mirror the same struggles that a woman on the receiving end of sexist discrimination endures? You don't seem to think so. I think the case is not so cut-and-dried.

And we may never see eye to eye on this. That's okay.

The point I was trying to make in my original post, however, was that I thought this analysis missed the mark:

"The Quantic Dream Kara tech demo is being
attacked because of the supposedly sexist way
in which the robot character was presented."

I didn't perceive Garratt's article as an attack on the Kara demo at all. He attacked plenty of other targets (and said some pretty dense things, I thought), but I thought he was saying that the Kara demo reflected his own position about sexism in games.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 3:33:08 PM

You're overthinking it Comic, Quantic Dream isn't operating on those levels... ever.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 3:51:11 PM

ahem, looks like I have to elaborate. Omikron, Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain, they are all interested in telling a compelling story with compelling characters. They are not interested at all in compiling an allegory so that you can read your issues into their story. It can be done, but this isn't poetry: it does not invite that kind of slipshod critiquing. By that I mean over-deconstructing the metaphors and points made.

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Comic Shaman
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 4:00:06 PM

World:

It doesn't have to be poetry or "great art" to include metaphor. Allegory exists in good storytelling in almost every medium.

Example:
Star Trek used allegory all the time. Alien cultures acted as stand-ins for the issues of the day. It also told an entertaining space adventure story.

Another example:
The X-Men comics are full of allegory. On one hand, you can read them as being about a handful of people with super powers. Or you can read it as a struggle of a fictional minority representing real minorities. Or as individuals whose uniqueness is rejected by society.

Both of these examples are popular art, but their creators have said that they want their stories to speak on multiple levels.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 5:33:04 PM

My point is that QD isn't doing this to their art, ignorant people are doing it TO their art. Where poetry invites that kind of critique, QD's games do not. Madison Page is supposed to be a character, not a symbol.

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Comic Shaman
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 5:50:51 PM

I suppose that since that's precisely what I'm doing, I'm one of the ignorant people in question? Well, if you like. I hear ignorance is bliss, so I'll try to get the most out of it.

Gotta sign off for the weekend. It's been fun, folks.

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Oxvial
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 6:24:56 PM

Da heck happened here!?!? D:

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 7:23:16 PM

If you subscribe to the idea that the Kara tech demo is a sexist work, then yes you are.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 8:16:48 PM

You're completely missing the point. The fact that sexism is even mentioned in accordance with that piece is the ENTIRE problem.

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Beamboom
Saturday, April 14, 2012 @ 1:38:18 AM

Very interesting and good posts, Comic Shaman. Can't say I've noticed your nick before but I will now.

And you are of course right in that allegory and metaphors exist in almost every medium where there are professional writers at work. The main exceptions being television for very young children and - unfortunately - quite a few games.

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Lotusflow3r
Saturday, April 14, 2012 @ 11:36:04 AM

Comic,

What an absolutely refreshing read! Please post more often so i can enjoy and join in more as i don't feel compelled to do much recently.

Great writing and thinking, my friend.

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JLB1
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 12:20:17 PM
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You guys know what they say about opinions. It's like as... ah forget it.

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Beamboom
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 12:27:20 PM
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Maybe it's just the internet that brings out the worst in people, but I think there's only become more and more over-sensitive persons around as years go by. Some are so sensitive that you have to express yourself like the slickest diplomat ever.

Everything has to be so politically correct that you end up only being able to talk about the weather.

How do they even survive real life...?


Last edited by Beamboom on 4/13/2012 12:29:40 PM

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Knightzane
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 2:06:25 PM
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Funny, i have more female friends that play uncharted because of Drake than i do male friends. Girls think Drake is hot so does that make them sexist? So if a guy thinks...Chloe has a nice ass does that make the game suddenly sexist? Yeah it probably would. Sexism exists in todays world but that doesn't mean video games are being made that way. I can guarantee that some of the female characters is one of the designers dream girl. So what is he sexist because he likes women with large breasts?

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Comic Shaman
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 3:53:06 PM

No, I don't think it makes anyone sexist to be attracted to another person.

This is what I see as the fundamental flaw in Garratt's reasoning in his article. He appears unable to make a clear distinction between "sexism" and "sexuality," or "sexual attraction."

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 3:56:55 PM

I'm with you man. It's an entertainment medium. A f*cking fantasy world.

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anjpikapp3
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 3:29:26 PM
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Of course. Big breasted women don't exist in our world. Just like muscular men with large penii. Why would we ever want that in our lives? /sarcasm/

If you think that any video game is being sexist...don't ever work in a factory.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 3:32:09 PM
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I think the bigger problem is that our boys have unrealistically heroic and physically superior "Nazi-supermen" as their game heroes more often than not.

Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 4/13/2012 3:34:48 PM

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clockwyzebkny
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 7:22:10 PM
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Wonderfully written article - by Ben. Not that Garratt fellow. I agree with all of your points. But it just goes to show you how video gaming STILL has has to be scrutinized by overly sensitive, immature critics.

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Gamer Girl Gemo
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 8:07:53 PM
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So, they were paying attention to what she said was her protocol rather than the amazing graphics, technological advancements, and great looking engine? It's called a tech demo for a reason...

People are just looking for reasons to whine about something. Being a female myself, I found it in no way sexist. It's just marketing appeal because really, who wants to have to deal with kids and household chores?

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BTNwarrior
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 9:36:41 PM
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I must say, this guy probably hasn't been laid in a loooong time. It is sad when a guy gets so desperate he becomes a feminist

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PC_Max
Friday, April 13, 2012 @ 11:53:47 PM
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Whether female or male in the demo or in any game is irrelevant. Presentation is what matters. In regards to the Kara short, I shake my head for those seeing it sexist. As the demo states, she is a product, whether female or male, to be capable of being used for whatever purpose. Sorry, she is not human. BUT is that not what the demo puts to us? Did those who are disillusioned with their own sensitivity to be political correct miss the point? What is human?

The demo was brilliant and towards the end an emotional high for me. Gut retching! Seeing a being who obtained consciousness and then scream out before being completely disassembled that she was scared. Powerful HUMAN stuff.

Art to me does not explore per say our humanity... it reflects it... it reminds of us our humanity through the emotion it invokes.

I shake my head ONLY at that the Kara demo was pointed out. Sexism or negative portrayal of women does exist in games, but there are plenty that show strong woman characters. The Uncharted Series for example.

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clockwyzebkny
Saturday, April 14, 2012 @ 8:58:20 PM
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lol Why did I get 3 thumbs down for my comment?

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Raze22
Sunday, April 15, 2012 @ 12:20:10 PM
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"Well-meaning relatives buy Disney Princess for girls and toy JCBs for boys. There’s virtually nothing you can do about it.

But we can do something about sexism in video games."

Is it me or does that whole statement just sound like bs.

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