Each week in Play in Process, Richard Clark shares what he’s been playing and why it matters.
Ms. Splosion Man is a silly game – no one would argue otherwise. It stars a personified explosive substance, and in this case, that personification wears a bow. She likes shoes, shallow pop songs, and thinks everyone and everything is “cute”. She is, without being an actual woman, the stereotypical woman, for better or for worse.
Joshua Wise Michael Elliot at The Cross and The Controller, a fascinating and worthwhile blog that typically does a great job analyzing some of the deeper religious and ethical aspects of games, it’s for worse:
…at the end of the day all I came away with was a sore thumb and a sense that I had just endured a compilation of the worst parts of how our society sees women. It’s embarrassing how this industry falls flat on its face again and again when trying to depict women. While this game can be both fun and funny, especially when playing with friends, buyer beware: you might find yourself getting mugged for your self respect in the process.
I agree that Ms. Splosion Man‘s portrayal of this particular woman is less than flattering – but it is worth pointing out that in this case, the protagonist is absolutely without humanity in any meaningful sense. This is not a woman – it is a purposeful amalgamation of all of our tone-deaf concepts of what women should be. Ms. Splosion Man was born, both in the fiction of the game and in reality, as a creation of a group of men. In the game, it’s clear she was created by careless men, too absorbed in themselves to notice the error of their ways. It is this creation that ultimately destroys them.
The brilliance of the Splosion Man series in general is that it’s crafted specifically to represent some of the most tiresome and frustrating videogame and cultural stereotypes and missteps in a way that’s both humerous and fun. After playing the game, it’s simply impossible to take them seriously. No one leaves Ms. Splosion Man assuming that women must really like shoes – they leave thinking that such an assumption is hilarious. Everyone knows that one of the best ways to combat evil is to mock it – Ms. Splosion Man drops a nuclear bomb on the self-serious assumptions people make about women. Can’t we just point at that destruction and laugh, for once?
If you like, you can read my official review of Ms. Splosion Man at Kill Screen.