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Do  Arkham City ís Language Critics Have A Right To 'Bitch'?
Do Arkham Cityís Language Critics Have A Right To 'Bitch'? Exclusive
October 28, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

October 28, 2011 | By Kyle Orland
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    53 comments
More: Console/PC, Exclusive, Audio, Design, Production, Business/Marketing



[Controversy over cursing in Warner Bros.' Batman: Arkham City gives Gamasutra news editor Kyle Orland an excuse to speak to a cursing expert -- and to use words like "ass" and "bastard" -- in this goddamn article.]

Amidst the glowing reviews and strong sales that surrounded last week's release of Batman: Arkham City, one little issue stuck out for a fair number of players.

Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton referred to the problem succinctly as the game's "weird 'bitch' fixation," arguing the male characters' frequent use of the word to describe female characters like Catwoman and Harley Quinn crossed the "fine line between edgy dialogue and forced, angry overkill."

"It comes off like the writers are either misjudging their audience, or possibly aren't comfortable portraying fearsome female characters without having the male characters attempt to belittle them with the world's most famous gendered insult," he wrote.

The reaction to the idea among people I've read and talked with online ran the gamut. For some, that single word was enough to sour their entire experience the entire game, or at least to dissuade them from plans to play it with children present.

For others, the word passed by without note -- just part of the kind of background language they hear in their everyday lives. Others still thought it was ridiculous to even be discussing the use of a mild curse word in a game that already features depictions of torture, murder and general property destruction.

And, as Hamilton noted, it's not just the cursing itself that has been the issue for some, but specifically the repetition of the word "bitch," a word that carries such misogynistic connotations.

Those different reactions highlight how the perception of cursing is highly dependent on the sensitivities and experiences of the specific audience member, according to Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts cognitive psychology professor and "Why We Curse" author Timothy Jay.

"I think it's dangerous to make blanket statements about the effect of a medium on people when we all have different sensibilities on these things," Jay told Gamasutra. "It depends on the level of literacy of the person playing the game. For some people they're going to be distracted by it and bothered by it, and other people are going to report that it's really not that notable. Perceptions are going to be variable."

While some curse words, especially the "explicit" ones dealing with sexual and excretory function [i.e. "fuck" and "shit" -- ed.], have maintained their strong offensive power pretty consistently for hundreds of years, others like "hell" or "goddamn" have gradually lost much of their effect over the years through frequent, everyday use. Jay said he thinks the same process may be happening with the word "bitch" as it has increasingly entered mainstream use through hip hop and rap culture over the past few decades.

"[Bitch] is pretty common," he said. "Even using it as 'I'm gonna eat that sandwich, yeah I'm gonna eat that bitch.' It's used as a punctuation point. ... We went through this with the word 'sucks.' When I was in school, sucks meant cocksucker. Now we've got a whole generation of people growing up with the word meaning 'I don't like it.' The word bitch might go through its fad use now, it might become less powerful and take on different meaning."

Of course, one of the reasons "bitch" stands out so much in Arkham City is the general lack of other cursing throughout the game (unless you count even milder words like "ass" and "bastard" as curses). A word like "bitch" wouldn't even register as a blip amidst the high-frequency, over-the-top profanity of an M-rated game like Bulletstorm or House of the Dead: Overkill. But in a T-rated title set in a classic comic book universe, should players expect even somewhat weakened profanity like this?

"There's really no formal set of rules or policies dictating that specific language will result in a certain rating or content descriptor," the Entertainment Software Rating Board's Eliot Mizrachi told Gamasutra. "Just as with other media like TV and film, there's a contextual element in dialogue that matters in terms of assigning ratings. So it's impossible to say that the presence of a particular term, or a given number of instances of that term, will inevitably produce a certain rating."

That said, Mizrachi notes that the official description for a T rating includes the possibility of "infrequent use of strong language," and that the rating summary for Arkham City mentions cursing and includes a "Mild Language" content descriptor.

"So it shouldn't necessarily come as a surprise, particularly given the presence of the other types of content in the game and its overall nature and tone," Mizrachi said. "Besides, it's not uncommon to find [bitch] used in many other products rated for a 13+ audience, including movies and TV shows."

While Mizrachi says cursing alone probably wouldn't raise the rating of a game that already has other potentially objectionable content, salty language can prevent an otherwise squeaky-clean game from getting the family-friendly "E for Everyone" rating that applies to the vast majority of releases.

But this brings up the question of why cursing should factor into a game content rating scheme at all. Are we really protecting anyone when we make it a little bit harder to play a game with a few curse words thrown in?

"In general, nobody's going to learn the word bitch by playing a video game," Jay notes. "They all know what it is, probably by the time they get to elementary school."

And there's even a certain marketing logic to pushing that language barrier. "These media are manufactured to make money," Jay says. "You can bet your boots if people hear that this has bad language in it, that's going to be a method of attraction for a lot of kids. Not so much for their parents, but you know teenagers -- they'll find Grand Theft Auto, they'll find an R-rated movie, and some kid at somebody's house will have that and then kids will use it and they will be titillated by the adult content. That's the way it's been forever."

The question of whether to include cursing in a game's dialogue is all about context. While a family-friendly Mario game would sound ridiculous with coarse language of any kind, a hard-bitten game like Gears of War 3 would sound just as ridiculous without it. Batman: Arkham City runs into problems because, to some extent, it tries to inhabit both worlds -- the game wants to appeal to hero-worshipping kids without coming off as too watered-down for the hero-loving adults those children eventually grew into.

Threading the needle like this isn't impossible, but the brouhaha over Arkham City's "'bitch' fixation" may prove that gently pushing the language barrier, without breaking all the way through it, may actually represent the worst of both worlds.


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Comments


Gil Salvado
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If this game would be about Superman and take in Metropolis, I would agree with Hamilton. The thing is, he properly doesn't know the franchise well enough or is just up for clicks.



Gotham is a poor place to live in and its criminals wouldn't fit the picture, if they would be sweet-talking. And after all, it's the criminals who're cursing and not the protagonist with whom you usually identify.



I definitively would play this game with my children, because I wouldn't want them to play it without an adult.

Joe Wreschnig
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If this is how Batman is, why is no other Batman media like this? Why does "bitch" only appear once in The Dark Knight? Why wasn't it all over the place in the first game? How many times have criminals said it in the comics?



Once again, you're just repeating stuff that's already been carefully refuted at e.g. http://filmcrithulk.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/hulk-vs-arkham-city-
round-2-bitches-be-trippin/ with points #1, #2, and #8.

Dave Smith
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this is the same "comics/video games are for kids so you cant curse" argument that people who don't know comics have been drumming up for years.



the writer has every right to portray his characters the way he feels they should. The writer fails because he didn't correctly portray the character, not because he used foul language to attempt it. stop being so sensitive.

Joe Wreschnig
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@Dave,



And now you're just restating the origins of argument #7 on HULK's blog post. No one is upset just because children are hearing the word "bitch." The problem is that it's provided in a context that condones and normalizes misogyny. It's dangerous to adults too, it's just extra-dangerous to children.



And again, you bring up that strawman about "artist's rights". Stop doing that.

Dave Smith
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i'll stop doing it when you stop changing the subject after you are proven wrong :).



re read your post again (any of them) and then tell me you dont come across as offended by a character's use of the word 'bitch'. clearly you have a problem with it.



once again, i ask why TDK not using the word has any effect on judging another story that uses it? what does Catwoman's reaction have anythign to do with TDK's lack of cursing?



i'm sorry, but your hero Hulk's post that you keep linking doesnt constitute the irrefutable proof of you being right that you seem to think it does. :)



once again, the problem is lazy writing and not sexism.

Justin Keverne
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Something being lazy does not excuse it of sexism, if I run over your foot in my car whether I meant it or not your foot is still broken, and I should probably apologise even if I was just being lazy and not checking my mirrors.



On it's own I wouldn't have been particularly bothered by the word usage, it's frequent but to me not notably so. What was much more troubling was the frequency with which characters make threats of rape towards the female characters in the game. References to liking "women who scream", thugs wanting to "take a ride on a Harley" and assorted other statements.



The debate isn't over whether such behaviour should be excluded from fictional works, but rather whether it's inclusion is warranted and serves a purpose. This is why comparisons to other media and representations of Batman in other media are relevant, it's clearly not necessary to include direct threats of rape and sexual assault in order to show the inmates of Arkham City as bad people. There are examples of works where such violent language and action is relevant and does serve a purpose, some of my favourite films Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy makes extensive use of extreme violence including rape and torture but they don't use them as the sole defining trait of a character which is the case throughout Arkham City.

Thomas Wallace
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It's all a numbers game, folks. Dark Knight gets a single use of the word 'bitch' because in that work, Batman is dealing with only two villains, and he is not barricaded into their gangs' territories at any point, let alone for the entire work. Arkham City is unique among Batman media in how he is almost exclusively listening to and dealing with only villains and their respective gangs. Given that the Gotham underworld is dominated (by %population, at least) by men, you're going to hear a proportionate increase in misogynistic terms. It wasn't a surprise to me, and it shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone. Now, if Robin, the Oracle, Batman, Alfred, Gordon, or any of the other non-villain characters threw the word around even once, I might buy into all this "controversy." But as the game is, the use of the word is very contextually believable.



Disclaimer: My experience with Batman is limited solely to contemporary films and video games. I have not read any comics, or experienced previous A/V media.

Dave Smith
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the problem is lazy dialogue, not offensive language.

John McMahon
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Agreed, it's not the meaning of the word, it's the repetitious use of it. True it's a lot of guys in the prison talking about what they would do to the women or bad mouthing them.



Why are there no female criminals (apart from the super villains)?

Joe Cooper
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It's very common to refer to anything with profanity as "lazy writing"; it's a stock phrase people use when they want to pretend they're not just bugged by the profanity.



To be bothered by profanity is perfectly legitimate.



Your comment, however, is lazy writing.

Joe Wreschnig
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This argument has been refuted time and again - yes it's lazy, that doesn't preclude it being sexist.



For example at http://filmcrithulk.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/hulk-vs-arkham-city-
round-2-bitches-be-trippin/



"ARGUMENT #14- ITíS NOT SEXIST, ITíS LAZY!



HULK GOING TO LINK BACK TO THIS GREAT ARTICLE WHICH ESTABLISHES THE IDEA OF THIS ARGUMENT QUITE WELL.



THE ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THAT HULK DISAGREES WITH A SIMPLE CONCEIT. SEXISM BORN FROM LAZINESS IS STILL JUST SEXISM. IN MANY WAYS, THE TWO TERMS ARE SYNONYMOUS. PEOPLE CLING TO STEREOTYPES BECAUSE THEY ARE TOO LAZY TO ENGAGE IN SOMETHING MORE HUMAN AND REALISTIC. BUT THE IMPORTANT PART IS THAT THE RESULT IS STILL SEXIST.



A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULD SMELL JUST AS SWEET.



SEXISM BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULD STILL BE JUST AS DETRIMENTAL."



I made a similar, though less eloquent, response when someone tried to brush off racism as "intellectual laziness" in http://gamasutra.com/view/news/36981/Square_Enix_Responds_To_Alle
gations_Of_Racist_Character_In_Human_Revolution.php#comment118837.



"Racism is a type of intellectual laziness... We have special words for them because they are extremely dangerous types of intellectual laziness, and as they are dangerous we need to challenge them when we see them."

Dave Smith
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you two Joes are completely ridiculous adn your arguements in no way refute anything i said.



"To be bothered by profanity is perfectly legitimate."



Don't be so oversensitive. the artist has every right to have his characters speak in a way that the characters would, including using profanity. the artist fails, however, when those characters do not speak in a natural way to appease oversensitive readers like you guys (thugs using "heck" instead of "hell", for example.) He also fails when they over use such language in some immature attempt to write tough guy language they know nothing about.



of course the characters would be sexist idiots. THEY ARE THUGS! the writer has every right to portray them this way. this doesnt make the writer sexist. the problem comes when the writer either doesnt know how or is too LAZY to write thugs in a more authentic way, and instead resorts to gratuitous curse words that don't really fit either because of amateur writing skills (pretty much a guarantee in the gaming industry).



if you are so easily insulted by curse words, i'd offer that you give words far too much power over you. I'm more offended by bad writing.

Joe Wreschnig
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@Dave,



Your position is inconsistent. Are they using "bitch" because the writing is bad? Or are they using "bitch" because that's how thugs talk? You can't argue both sides of the coin, right? Either the writing falls short of realism or the writing is the way it is because it's realistic. And fundamentally, you're going to have a hard time justifying anything in this game with realism. It's a guy in a bat mask fighting an entire prison's worth of prisoners. Realism is gone from the moment you start the game.



I'm not offended by curse words. I'm offended by sexism. They're not saying "son of a bitch" as an exclamation or "life's a bitch" as a general complaint. They're calling women bitches, and taken with all the other sexist undertones in the game, it's indicative of a serious problem.



And again, I must suggest you read http://filmcrithulk.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/hulk-vs-arkham-city-
round-2-bitches-be-trippin/ which totally covers both the "this is how thugs talk!" and "this is how Batman media is!" arguments; they're both wrong.



No one is trying to take away the artist's rights. That's a strawman. Please try to think and respond to the issues clearly.

Dave Smith
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i'm not inconsistent. the artist has every right to use the word 'bitch' in dialogue to portray a character. the problem is the overuse of the word in a clumsy attempt to write a character as a tough. that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the word in question is sexist, offensive, etc., but everything to do with bad writing. a bad writer can overuse any word, or use it at inappropriate times, not just curse words.



your solution seems to be that removing sexist language would somehow make it better writing. nothing could more wrong.

Larissa McCutcheon
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I agree with Dave. While the context has sexist overtones, it does also point to maybe limited if not lazy writing. It's partially because the swears you can use in video games are so limited that you don't get variety, but in the real world people don't swear the same way. We have our favourite curses and we use them creatively, or rarely or excessively as per our characters. If someone gets angry at a woman they might say bitch, or they might say c*nt, or they might say she's a jerk.



There's a spectrum of offensive that gets whittled down to one word and over-use sticks out like a sore thumb. It becomes one of those things that once you notice it, it cannot be un-noticed ad that makes it sound like all the characters speak with the same narrative voice and it homogenizes them.



I say as a woman who is very particular about the portrayal of women in games, I can't get upset if a bad guy calls a woman a 'bitch'. He's a bad guy. He has qualities that are not right. A character can be misogynistic if there's a recognition from the writer that it is deliberately so, and it needs more than just chanting the word 'bitch' over and over. There's a difference between a misogynistic character and misogynistic story.

Andrew Kim
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I thought the dialogue was fine for the most part. The one glaring issue would be the character of Bane though, he's supposed to be a Hispanic character, yet he embarrassingly kept on mispronouncing "payaso" (Spanish for clown) as pey-aso instead of pie-aso, which exposed his voice actor as a non-Latino. Casting should consider hiring the real deal for ethnic voices because there's more to it than just "sounding"ethnic.

David Midgley
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I agree with the "lazy dialogue" comment. But most of this article (and especially all the 'expert discussion') focused on the idea of cursing in games in general. This was not the issue in question.



The issue in question was the one referred to only in the top 3 paragraphs: the fact that the insult was perceived as gendered, and there was no equivalent insult directed at male characters.



Personally, I think this perception of the role of women is something more likely to be endemic to the source material than purely evident in the videogame. We just have to look at the limited scope of the female characters (attractive women wearing skimpy clothing who are at least a little crazy, violent and unpredictable) to sense this.



Perhaps giving Batman a civilian love interest, like in the films, might help balance it out?



On the other hand, I do acknowledge that in a world populated by evil (and most likely stupid) henchmen, it's hardly surprising they'd say evil and bigoted things. It just would have been nice to get a little more variety.

Reed Hawker
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Interesting note: Civilian love interest Vicky Vale is included in the game, as well as three other women who I don't remember EVER being referred to as "bitch".



When you think about it, Arkham City's thugs used the word on the two women who have been making their lives miserable, while sparing it from the other ones. It's that fact that makes me feel the issue was blown out of proportion, though I definitely also agree with the "lazy dialogue" sentiment. I get tired of hearing any curse word when it's overused.

Michael Isaacs
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The problem with this game and reason I wont be buying it is, the lack of the writers creativity so they just copy pasted curse words every other word. Then on top of that, the damn game has a 'Rape Pit'... I mean I seriously think that using Rape in a video game as a 'Shock Value' or just to portray a character as EVIL is a bit on the pathetic side. It's disgraceful, its just not classy, for a lack of better terms.



I enjoyed the first Batman, but I will not be buying this one.

Jack Niehsner
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I have completed this game once, and am going through it a second time, and I honestly do not remember a 'Rape Pit', or any mention of one. I never even knew that the language was an issue until I read this article, as I never noticed it while playing.

Justin Keverne
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When the female Doctor Harley Quinn kidnapped fails to help the Joker, she throws her from the balcony into a literal pit of male thugs who are all cheering and shouting with glee at the prospect of doing something to her. They then all, to a man, act incredible disappointed when Harley instead decides to have her taken elsewhere.

John McMahon
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They were going to kill the doctor, hence Mr. Hammer being stopped from killing her.

Evan Combs
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Honestly I only remember hearing the word once, and it was towards the end of the game.

Nou Phabmixay
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The best response for me so far is:



http://filmcrithulk.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/hulk-vs-arkham-city-
round-2-bitches-be-trippin/



Here's a snippet:



ARGUMENT #1 Ė THATíS HOW PSYCHOPATHIC CRIMINALS WOULD ACT!



OKAY. LETíS START THIS WITH A QUESTION. HOW OFTEN DID THE BAD GUY CHARACTERS IN NOLANíS THE DARK KNIGHT USE THE WORD BITCH?





The problem of "lazy writing" wouldn't stop me from buying the game as it seems to be fun. I think I'm more concerned about how the problem is being misinterpreted as just swearing.



I wonder how it happened. I hope it just isn't "lazy writing".

Dave Smith
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what difference does that make? because one artist chose not to use cursing, no other artist should? utter garbage.



in the words of Eminem "Will Smith don't gotta cuss in his raps to sell his records; well I do, so fuck him and fuck you too!"



i'm more offended by bad writing, such as not knowing a more interesting way to portray sexist characters except to use 'bitch' over and over. dont get me wrong, it has its place, just not overused to the point of comedy.

Joe Wreschnig
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@Dave,



"because one artist chose not to use cursing, no other artist should?"



No, no one said that. But people - including you! - have made the claim it is what it is because that's how criminals talk, that's realism, that's what we should expect. But it's never been that way before. So it does make a difference, because it means hey, something is up in this game, something is new and different, and that different thing is kind of worrying because there's this fucked up subtext to it!



If in the game, everyone called Catwoman a bitch AND SHE REACTED that would be interesting! It wouldn't be lazy, it wouldn't be sexist (the thugs would be sexist but the media would not be). Instead when the thugs call her a bitch she unzips her outfit and does pinup poses. That's not interesting; it tacitly reinforces the sexism rather than engaging it.

Dave Smith
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the author is under no obligation to enforce an anti-sexist message whenever the opportunity presents itself in the story (this is not to be confused with it being a sexist story either). the author is under the obligation to portray the characters accurately. Catwoman's proper reaction is debatable, but in a story where nearly every character, Batman included, is completely insane, her reaction in this story isnt out of the realm of possibility.

Joe Wreschnig
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No one's asking for "anti-sexist messages" to be peppered around the game. There's a different between actively speaking an anti-sexist message, and just not being sexist.

Nou Phabmixay
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@Dave



Yeah, the artist is under no obligation to do anything! Hell, the artist could go download naked pictures of cats.



Really, my point was there's better ways to convey the story. And yes, it's utter garbage that one artist gets to do it and another one doesn't. But that was not something I said.



I've been playing Dragon Age Origins and I had to turn off the blood splatter because it is too comical. I think they could have done it a better way without so much blood. Though how they did it was kind of neat if you consider how hard it would have been 20 years ago. But does that mean that I said that no other artist should do it? No, there's some taste involve.



It also didn't stop my enjoyment of the game. But there is this tiny glaring option that lets you see the blood splatter and I don't know if it was a wise choice. The same thing goes this Catwoman bitch situation.



The artist has a choice. That choice affects the story. That's difference that it makes.

Tomi Hanzek
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This is... this is a real concern people are having with this game?



Like... for real?

Nou Phabmixay
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Sure. What about it?



I'm not concerned about the actual swearing. The one place I found that had a proper response to this has been FILMCRITHULK. That it's not just about the swearing.



It's a situation that brings up some sexism that doesn't really need to be there. Plus, Rocksteady has made an awesome game and they could have done better with this. Is it wrong to expect just a little bit more?



I don't see what's wrong with being concerned about this.

Andrew Dobbs
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This game is bitchin'.

Joe Wreschnig
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I understand that you've tried to use the title of this post to be clever, but it implies the ludicrous idea that somehow, people may not be legally permitted to complain about sexism in games. (Then you wrote an article that was about profanity, not sexism, so terrible job there also.)

Brad Borne
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'...unless you count even milder words like "ass" and "bastard"'



Seriously...? That's the most sexist thing I've read all day.

Ruslan Shestopalyuk
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If this is the only thing critics can bitch about, then the game must be _really_ good.

Bruno Patatas
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Talking about how a Batman game that has bad dialogues like this one is not a minor thing. If you are not familiar with the Batman mythos, you may think this doesn't matters. But this is not only a game. It's part of the Batman franchise.



We could have had our equivalent of The Dark Knight, but instead the industry has chosen to once again deliver another title with guys in steroids talking like gangsters. This is much closer to Joel Shumacher's movies than the masterpieces crafted by Nolan (and Burton did a fine job too).



This is not the Batman I always knew. This is Batman for the "Y U MAD" generation. I expected more, much more.



This is the example of how a great storytelling opportunity was missed...

Tomi Hanzek
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I'm really more concerned about the puns. This was written by the co-writer of the animated series, Paul Dini, someone who has never sprung to my mind when I think of complex, adult storytelling in Batman fiction.



Of course the writing will seem "lazy" or "sexist" or even a missed opportunity, it was written by a children's cartoon writer with a license to pepper in Teen rated swear words, not Ed Brubaker, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison or any other A-Class comic writer. Next time they want to make a superhero game, hire a writer who knows how it's done. I'd even take Jeff Loeb, what's he working on now that Lost is done?

Bruno Patatas
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Totally agree. Grant Morrison or Mark Millar would be great choices. A-Class comic writers are needed for this type of games. I can only imagine a Batman game written by Frank Miller... :)

Dave Smith
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once again, a problem that has nothing to do with the use of foul language, but everything to do with poor writing in general.

Bruno Patatas
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@Christian



Paul Dini posted today on Twitter proudly of Kim Kardashian doing Batman cosplay... I'm expecting to see the Kardashians on the next Batman game now...

The magnificent Batman Year One animated movie (that is brilliant) comes bundled with a Catwoman short written by him that was panned by critics.



If you want adult Batman storytelling, Dini is not the guy, I'm sorry.

Nathan Streeper
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@Bruno As an every Wednesday comic buyer for a very looong time I can say that Dini is regarded very highly in the comic book community. You panning him shows your lack of knowledge on the subject, and I'd appreciate it if you kept your part of the conversation to things you actually have knowledge of.



If you wan't quality Batman storytelling Dini IS THE GUY. Yeah, he hasn't knocked em all outta the park, but neither has Morrison or Millar. In fact, Millar, whom you've mentioned as a "great choice" is maligned constantly nowadays by the comic community, far more than Dini has or ever will be.

Bruno Patatas
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@Nathan



Don't get me wrong. I think that Dini is a good writer and what he did with the entire DC universe is very cool. He gave us some of the best moments in TV animation. But he is not the best Batman writer for a game like Arkham City imo. I have a great knowledge of comics, and if there's a lot of people that like Dini, there are also a lot that don't. His Catwoman short that was panned by critics it's an example of work with lesser quality than expected.



For me, quality adult Batman storytelling is not with Dini. I am not even going to compare him with Morrison... In the end it's a matter of personal choice, but the flaws in terms of writing on Arkham City (that is what is being discussed) are obvious.

Bruno Patatas
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Yes, I'm familiar with his comics work. Some very good stuff there, without doubt.



"I would recommend you at least the Ross/Dini books to get an idea, what adult storytelling means"



Stuff like Batman: War on Crime is very interesting, and Ross artwork is insane. However for adult storytelling I will stay with Moore, Warren Ellis and Morrison.



Plus, the question here is Arkham City. Probably Dini _could_ have done a better job, but there are a lot more to Batman than just being the bad cop. Where are his detective roots here? He is not a wrestler. He wins with a mix of intelligence with fight. But hey, this is the industry that got a magnificent license like Watchmen and turned it into an atrocious beat'em'up.



Regarding Arkham City writing (and the realism excuse that has been pointed out), I will point you to the review at Comics Alliance:



"... But then there's the dialogue you hear while you're playing, and man. They could've thought that stuff through a little better. We've already mentioned here at ComicsAlliance that the game seems almost obsessed having dudes call Catwoman a b*tch; in my playthrough, some dude yelled it out twice just in the opening sequence, which seems a little excessive. There's a sequence in Catwoman's levels where you fight the security guards -- military types -- and in my experience, they didn't say it once, so I'm willing to look at it as a choice to have the scum-of-the-Earth henchmen types say it because, hey, maybe they didn't realize that hearing "b*tch" literally every three minutes over the course of an hour would get a little tiresome and off-putting?



But when you get to the actual threats of rape? The lines where guys talk about how Catwoman needs to be careful because "these guys haven't seen a woman in years," and when the fight banter is dudes ordering her to take off her costume and then talking about getting underneath it while trying to stab her? Even taking into account that these guys are purely there as villains to be beaten, that's about where it starts to be indefensible. You can trot out the excuse that they're just writing realistic bad guys, but this is a game where a guy costume jumps off skyscrapers because his bat costume has a magic collapsible hang glider and fights a 600 year-old immortal and a cryogenic scientist wearing a refrigerator. "Realism" isn't really a factor in the decisions they're making about dialogue, or anything else.





Read More: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/10/25/batman-arkham-city-revie
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Denis Nickoleff
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My sister and sister in law played the game, I asked them what they thought of the game, particularly the use of the word bitch. They viewed it as gang members using it as punctuation, and as far as cat woman goes the response was; "She is a bitch, I'd call her a bitch too.". Honestly I don't thinks to many people really care, and while two women are hardly speaking for the entire gender, others I've observed playing, friends and their friends, men or women, no one cared.

Nou Phabmixay
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Maybe almost everyone is use to it. But what if it is sexist and nobody cared? And if it's not, does it really need to be like this? Having big bag guys say bitch all the time? The game is a technical feat but the dialog, not the actual cussing, fell short enough to piss some thinking people.



Not all thinking people agree, but the population of people who objected, didn't need to have this issue. It was easy enough to avoid. Plus the game is excellent, so having some standard is unavoidable.

Jamie Mann
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Hmm.

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While some curse words [...] have maintained their strong offensive power pretty consistently for hundreds of years, others like "hell" or "goddamn" have gradually lost much of their effect over the years through frequent, everyday use. Jay said he thinks the same process may be happening with the word "bitch" as it has increasingly entered mainstream use through hip hop and rap culture over the past few decades.

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I'd argue that words such as "hell" and "goddamn" have lost their power mostly as a result of the diminishing role of religion in day-to-day life, rather than through repetition. It's also worth noting that it's mostly been US media which has been hesitant about using these terms; in the UK, I was reading comics and watching TV back in the 80s which freely used these terms, rather than the "gosh darn it to heck" analogues which are still in use today in mainstream US media.



Conversely, "bitch" is a personal - and generally denigrating - insult, and it's usage is still tightly controlled in mainstream media in the USA and the UK. And I don't think that the fact that it gets used a lot in the "urban" music scene can be used as evidence that it's losing it's power, given that this scene is generally regarded as heavily misogynistic:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misogyny_in_hip_hop_culture



However, I think that the use of the word "bitch" in BAC is justifiable: it's essentially set in an inner-city environment - the same sort of violent, impoverished and misogynistic setting which gave rise to hip hop and rap. You can argue about whether or not BAC is glorifying this situation, but that's a different issue: fundamentally, if you set your story in an misogynistic context, then the characters should swear and denigrate women.



Instead, I think the problem for BAC is actually summed up in the next paragraph:



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Of course, one of the reasons "bitch" stands out so much in Arkham City is the general lack of other cursing throughout the game (unless you count even milder words like "ass" and "bastard" as curses).

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Reptitive use of words is a problem for any sort of media - it's even something which I've seen highlighted in project-management training. When repeating information, using different terms and/or paraphrasing the original statement is generally more effective than just repeating the same words. F'instance, to take the paragraph I wrote above: which is better:



1) However, I think that the use of the word "bitch" in BAC is justifiable: it's set in a inner-city environment - the same sort of violent, impoverished and misogynistic environment which gave rise to hip hop and rap. You can argue about whether or not BAC is glorifying this environment, but that's a different issue: fundamentally, if you set your story in an misogynistic environment, then the characters should swear and denigrate women.



2) However, I think that the use of the word "bitch" in BAC is justifiable: it's essentially set in an inner-city environment - the same sort of violent, impoverished and misogynistic setting which gave rise to hip hop and rap. You can argue about whether or not BAC is glorifying this situation, but that's a different issue: fundamentally, if you set your story in an misogynistic context, then the characters should swear and denigrate women.



Which one is more readable?



Unfortunately, this is something which is arguably much harder to achieve in video games: a song may last for 5 minutes and a film may last for 2 hours, but video games such as BAC generally have anywhere from 8-40 hours of content, during which time the player will interact with dozens - if not hundreds - of characters. And it's fairly common for players to talk to the same character multiple times. As such, the game's writer(s) may have to come up with thousands of lines of dialog, making it highly likely that there's going to be at least some repetition.



Sadly, for whatever reason, it sounds like BAC is heavily repetitive when it comes to the term bitch. And I suspect this is why it's being flagged up as an issue.



Still, to be fair to BAC, it could well be that there's a good reason for this. Off the top of my head, it's possible to think of two:



1) It's an attempt to keep the game's rating down - in the UK, it's rated as a "15" game (i.e. noone under the age of 15 can buy the game). Adding more swear words could have potentially pushed it towards being an "18" game and impacted sales.

2) it may well be that DC has laid down some strict rules on the language which can be used - it could be that there's a specific requirement that nothing stronger or more denigrating than "bitch" can be used to describe Catwoman and Harley.

Michael Joseph
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I think the lazyness of the writing fits in with the lazyness of the gameplay quite nicely.



The game is lowest common denominator style gameplay and so you get lowest common denominator style writing with it's typical low brow dialogue.



Imagine a Batman game that really challenged the player to solve puzzles.... The Batman I knew as a kid was not just about sneaking around and ambushing people and bashing their heads in... he was about solving riddles and defeating his enemies by being a DETECTIVE and by out-witting them.



Here the detective work is just automated and the player is just a bad cop. Poor Batman.



So in this context, I don't see the point in harping on the language considering the game itself is offensive all around. And yes... MY Batman game would only sell a handfull of copies... I know that. LOL.

Jakub Majewski
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The general rule is, swearing is basically a writer's last refuge for characterisation. I don't agree that it's needed on Bulletstorm, Gears of War, or anywhere else. Look at Hollywood. The last thirty years, language has been going downhill, yeah - but look before that. Why is it that Dirty Harry could be such a strong character, so rough-and-tumble... and never needed to swear (ok, maybe he said "shit" occasionally)? I mean, in spite of all the harsh language, I don't get the impression that the lead character from Bulletstorm is tougher than Callahan - if anything, he's just really infantile. It's the same with bad guys - old Hollywood movies are full of amazing, impactful bad guys who never swear, and they are usually much stronger than today's characters. When a character says "fuck" or "bitch", that does not make them come across stronger, it just makes the writers come across as more infantile.

Ronildson Palermo
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In the end, I think the overuse of the word was kind of expert... Look at the result: everyone is quick to despise and/or judge its use by the general villainous population, which you know, it's villain.

Eric Geer
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I think I say bitch on average of 6-10 times a day(while playing BF3--see average increase immensely)--in various froms: fat bitch(type of sandwich), bitchin!(aweseome), quit bitching(stop complaining), you bitch!(accusatory), son of bitch(anger/pain/accidental), bitch!(ouch!), bitch!(angry), don't be such a bitch(derogatory), that's such a bitch(strenuous/tedious activity), that's a bitch(empathy)-- then we can move on to the more excessive uses like: fucking bitch!(accusatory), fuck you, bitch!(insult)---the list could go on--and only a few(handful?) of these are misogynist...



People are being coming overly sensative to non-issues---just a bunch of sensitive bitches...



PS--would it be acceptible if Cat Woman was instead Dogwoman? :P

Ian Williams
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It's ridiculous, people are oversensitive these days.

A W
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I think the uncanny valley that games are reaching are bringing the issues of character's actions and mannerism to the forefront more than ever before. It seems the more realistic or ultra realistic a character becomes, the more people disassociate themselves from the object and began to recognize the hateful aspects of human nature with in it's context. People forget the fantasy aspect of it and start to take a look at the "men behind the curtain" and they began to ask "what where they thinking when they did this?"

Joshua King
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Can't wait to play this bitchin' game.


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