I go on holiday for a couple of weeks and the world of gaming goes flip upside down. It's all gone topsy-turvy I tells ya. For months now, the games industry has been torn between juvenile anticipation and a curtailing sense of maturity. Nobody was fooled by the UK publications that chose to condemn a certain game for its blatant exploitation of the female form.
I am of course talking about DOA Extreme Beach Volleyball. Where those journos got their new-found integrity remains a mystery to this day. Of course they've lost it down the back of the sofa again, now that DOAX has actually been released and turns out to be an awesome bit of gaming.
Tecmo has managed to bring us a game that on the surface endorses all the male-dominated, sexist clichÃ©s that plague the games industry. Dig a little deeper and you discover a game with universal appeal as well as sex appeal. And I mean, if you can get both, why not go to town"ooh and throw in a couple gazillion gallons of fun too.
Talking to my friend Benn a few weeks before launch he exclaimed, "You can't like DOA Volleyball, you're a girl! It's all girls in bikinis." Which is rather like saying I can't appreciate Botticelli's Venus because it's a painting of a saucy bird with her hair covering her bits and bobs. There's not much you can say to this kind of attitude frankly.
On the other hand there was the feminist backlash from male journos probably sporting beer bellies (go figure). They were flouncing around in disgust at Tecmo's flagrant use of sex to sell a game, whilst featuring a multitude of screenshots to sell their magazines. I on the other hand took a more balanced position and reserved judgement based on the quality of DOA one through three. And I love to say it, but I was right.
Three weeks down the line and all the gamers I know, all of them of course being male, are discussing the hazards of matching footwear to your bikini and reviewers everywhere are enthralled. Benn is in the midst of volleyball fervour and favours matching bikinis for his players, to enhance team morale. Konami Boy is trying to take the trailer park out of Tina with some tasteful accessorizing and we're both trying to get Helena to take that awful bow out of her hair. Visors and hats seem to be the way forward at the moment.
During his first fortnight on Zack Island, Konami Boy got very disheartened because the other girls wouldn't play with him. He spent his days playing the hopping game to earn money for his shopping and gambling sprees. Thank God there are no bars, otherwise Hitomi would be a washed up has been, nursing a bottle of gin. He got bitter that week and now keeps a gift-wrapped dog leash and collar ready to send to any girl who snubs him.
Nobody talks about anything else at the moment because they're too busy comparing wardrobes and accessories. Gamers everywhere now realise how tough it is to wear anything other than black or white, when you're sporting purple hair Ayane style. And when will Kasumi come to terms with the fact that baby pink does nothing for her complexion?
Now, I've always been one to question the legitimate need for so called ‘girls games' and DOAX goes a long way to support my doubts. Describe to anyone a game that requires you to try and make friends on holiday, go shopping for hats, shoes and bikinis and then get together and play volleyball on the beach and the response would be, "Hmm, sounds like my 12 year old niece would quite like that one." Fair enough response, that's the description of a ‘girl's game,' surely.
So if this is the description of a ‘girl's game', why are my 30-something male friends obsessed with it? And if it's because there are girls in bikinis, surely that makes it a ‘boy's game,' in which case, what the hell IS a ‘girl's game?'
When it comes to sexism in the games industry surely the worst culprit has to be lame attempts to sucker the female market with shopping games and any old crap with a Barbie license. Contrary to popular belief there is no such thing as a ‘girl's game'. However, there is such a thing as a ‘good game' and these are the games that have the power to reach everybody, regardless of gender, religion, sexual persuasion or pubescent mind-set.
Of course, now we have to endure the aftermath of volleyball and female sports games that won't be as good, or will miss the point entirely. At this point I must mention Acclaim's Beach Volleyball (a pretender to the DOAX crown, being released on PS2). I'd love to say that this will be a subtle take on Tecmo's vision, but I'm almost certain it won't be. We'll try not to think about BMXXX, which wasn't offensive, it was just a bit of a joke.
I don't know about you guys, but I'll be too busy trying to get someone, anyone to play with Christie for more than two days, so I can save up and buy her something decent to wear. I'm sure she's a really nice girl deep down, being a complete cow is probably just a defence mechanism.