Hey, did anyone hear that a game called Bayonetta
came out? A couple people wrote about it. I don't really want to edge in on Critical Distance's Critical Compilations, though, so I'm going to try and break some of them down into component parts about things like female sexuality and empowerment (which is the bulk of it) and about other issues in the game that showed up in other places this month, such as how games handle religion (yes, that topic is still kicking).
It seems like initial response to the game can be broken down a bit. From what I understand, the narrative elements of the game generally are as silly or moreso than the character design of Bayonetta herself. It's the ludic elements that are consistently praised. (For my part, I tend to demand a certain base level of craft in mechanics and after that only look back at the ludic side if there's interesting meaning in the dynamics.) So let me say this: I have every confidence that people who enjoy this sort of play style will have a great time with this title, so long as they can accept or ignore the narrative elements.
Bayonetta is a hyper-sexualized character, perhaps so much so that she supersedes sexuality entirely (but for all the "hot chicks dress like Bayonetta" posts that have sprung up recently). A lot of people (many of them male) were initially more than hesitant about the game, turned off--either through guilt, fear
(Chris Dahlen at Edge Online--make sure to stick around for the comments) or reproach--by the overt sexuality, and nervous about how mainstream media would depict the game. Leigh Alexander is an expert when it comes to quirky Japanese games, and knows the depths of sex in games with a passion that few can (or perhaps should attempt to) match. When it comes to writing about sexy games and Japanese games, Leigh is perhaps the biggest of the big shots. So it's no surprise that many people turned to Leigh to set the tone for conversations about Bayonetta
. At GamePro, Leigh questions of whether the game is exploitative, or perhaps more empowering
in its presentation of female sexuality.
William Huber (Zang.org) sees praise for the protagonist as premised on "a misguided notion."
To wit: It doesn't really empower women to depict females who posses masculine power ideals, since those ideals play on the weaknesses that traditional gender roles have taught us to expect in women.
But could it be that Bayonetta's over-the-top aesthetics allow her, as a character, to mask a uniquely deep personality? I don't think anyone fully made that claim, but Tae K. Kim does proffer that her sexual appeal makes Bayonetta
's powerful protagonist palatable to a broader, potentially chauvinistic audience. Danielle, a guest poster at Press Pause To Reflect, appreciates the move in making the femme fetale a heroine instead of antagonist
, but still thinks that games as a medium have moved beyond the point where Bayonetta
is a relatively important or meaningful work. Gunthera1 at The Border House similarly points out that sexuality as a weapon shouldn't necessarily be condemned
Iroquios Pliskin at Versus CluClu Land probably did the best job at looking at all the angles
of the protagonist's image, concluding that, if it is harmful to our understandings of femininity, womanhood or the female form, it is harmful to a much smaller degree than the sort of images depicted in mass-market "women's" magazines.
isn't the only game out there that deals with sexuality, and it's not the only reason to talk about sexuality in games. In running a series on how the "cardinal sins" play out as mechanics in games, Joe Tortuga (Cult Of The Turtle) explains that sex and sexuality in games seems seldom done well
, even when it's the central focus of the game, which Joe notes it a shame, since it could be such a fascinating part of human experience for games to better explore. Meanwhile, CuppyCake at The Border House does a good job of being fairly patient
in the face of what I consider a self-evident (if profoundly important) question: whether artists have an obligation to consider the social contexts of their works.
Visual & Narrative Aesthetics
G. Christopher Williams (PopMatters) wrote about how game-like aesthetics in video media
can hurt the experience, which I think is an interesting statement to make when juxtaposed between all the Avatar
love and the talk about Bayonetta
and ongoing praise for the eminently polished Uncharted 2
(Matthew Kaplan's Game In Mind). Incidentally, Chris also describes Bayonetta as a lavish spectacle
, detailing it like an improv troupe's game of "Yes, And" that perhaps doesn't know when to stop.
The "Gammelier" can't get far due to what he sees as a tiring superfluity of the game as a whole and the story in particular. After a year characterized by games that focused on polish and minimalism, Bayonetta
comes off as badly in need of editing
. Gus Mastrapa at Wired toes a similar line, describing a dish so overseasoned
so as to render the underlying food indiscernible.
Tiffany Chow enjoys the game, but admits the "High-Def Rococo" style makes the heroine's appearance seem more ornamental than empowering.
(Tiff defends her view in the comments at Infinite Lives
.) Lisa Foiles (Kotaku) personally likes the character
, but also admits that the storytelling and plot make the game difficult to approach with any sort of seriousness, which reminds me of the discussion over at Experience Points. The guys at Experience Points trade blows
on how aesthetics and mise en scene
create ambiance, which contributes to immersion.
And Christian Nutt at Gamasutra tops off the talk of Bayonetta
's aesthetics with a masterwork of a piece on personal taste, camp, and the maturation of media
. Not to be outdone, Chris Bateman (International Hobo) has started a series on Kant and aesthetics
. It is delicious
Since the story of Bayonetta
was largely written off as best ignored, there wasn't really much talk about the plot of "witch from Hell fights angels," even if that might be the only part that potentially interests me. Anyway, that religion topic we talked about last time is still going, and I figured I'd tell you about some of it. As previously mentioned, Joe Tortuga at Cult Of The Turtle is running through the Seven Deadlies
as they show up as game mechanics. I anxiously anticipate entries on sloth and pride.
Julian Murdoch's article on games and religion came out at GameSpy, looking at how designers hesitate to even talk about designing religion
in their games, partially inspired by playing through Assassin's Creed 2
As if on cue, Nick Dinicola (PopMatters)
and Richard Clark (Christ And Pop Culture)
pointed their magnifying glasses at AC2's unusually overt (if a bit Dan Brownian) handling of the Catholic church as an institution. Sinan Kubba (You Have Lost!) is jealous (!) of the direct and provable presence
of god that characters enjoy in god games.
On an even broader note than Julian's media-wide piece, Paul Raven (Futurismic) tackles and responds to a couple recent articles on how science fiction in general
can and should deal with issues of religion.