Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Steadily Growing Scandal of Jade Raymond

Because I like commenting on things I know nothing about.

Recently, I saw a comic I didn't understand about Assassin's Creed. I don't remember where I saw it, but it certainly wasn't SomethingAwful, because I don't read it. So I Googled around, didn't see anything particularly worthy of notice, and dropped the matter.

Game Girl Advance apparently found the same comic deeply disturbing. She's just a liiiiiittle bit closer to the concept, so that makes sense.

Now, let's lay out the field: there are, in fact, attractive women in the games industry, especially on the art side of things. They seem to make up somewhere around 1/20-1/30 the population, at least here in Boston. It's roughly the same as the other tech industries I've worked in.

All of these women may catch local flak from the people they work with. I don't have a clue. But they don't catch flak from the game industry or players at large. They are completely unknown, no more or less popular than anyone else doing their job.

The only one catching anyone's attention is Jade.

I have to put the responsibility squarely on Ubisoft. I think that if any of the companies I've seen out here tried the same tactic, their front-woman would also catch flak.

This kind of backlash happens whenever anyone is made a front-person to the geek crowd, regardless of their qualities and abilities... and regardless of their gender.

Just do a search for "Jared Fogle sucks". You'll find tons of sites bashing that poor Subway Schlob, often in far more personal ways. Anyone can be drawn in a pornographic situation. It takes a real determined ass to tell everyone you were "the porn king" in college. I'd take the former over the latter any day.

Search for anyone who was made a spokesperson in something big, you'll find site after site after site lined up to knock them down. Hell, there are sites dedicated to slaughtering the Mythbuster's reputation, and they never even claimed to have one.

I'm not acting as an apologist. Or at least, I'm not trying to. I'm saying that if you toss someone to the sharks, there will be blood. It is always messy and ugly. This is not extraordinary, it's pretty run of the mill. It's a bit more graphic than usual, but a bit less personal than usual.

So, yeah, I'm sorry Jade got to meet the sharks face to... face. Being a spokesperson exposes you to the cesspool at the bottom of the barrel, and it always gets messy.

So think carefully if your company wants to make you The Face.


Forrest said...

I think the main difference is that people make fun of Mark Rein, or Ken Levine, or Dennis Dyack, or Gabe Newell, but they don't call them whores. the closest personal attacks are generally that they're fat. People certainly get attacked when they're in the public eye, but it shouldn't be expected that a woman be attacked because of her gender. That's like saying that someone being attacked because of their skin color is to be expected, or should be shrugged off.

Craig Perko said...

If you look at the comic, it's actually pretty clearly just a cynical restating of the marketing campaign. In this case, I'm not sure we're seeing an attack on someone's gender so much as a response to someone's attempt to sell using gender.

It's unfortunate that an innocent was caught in the crossfire, but in this case I have to interpret the comic as just a really brutal way of saying "no matter how subtle you think you are, we aren't falling for it." It may even be indicative of a positive change in attitude, although I certainly won't bet on it.

The thing is, this was never about her. If the figurehead had been any attractive woman, the comic probably would have been the same, because it's a response to how Ubisoft used her attractiveness. Not to her personally.

That said, it's rather like hunting fish with dynamite. Does rather more damage than can be excused.

Holly said...

I tend to agree with a lot of what you said craig, except I don't exactly know what "marketing campaign" you're talking about the comic being a restating of. Whose marketing campaign? Ubisoft? What exactly did they do, send the producer of their game to give interviews? That's just business as usual. And for instance, someone else pointed out that the creative director of the game (a guy) gave almost as many interviews; it's just that he didn't get all the drooling fanboy attention. Who caused that, really? Jade? Ubisoft? Should they have yanked her off for being pretty and causing some gamers to go cross-eyed?

The comic was also based on a fake rumor someone started that she was appearing in Maxim magazine. All of this stuff is pretty much out of her control, and not really under Ubisoft's either, although I'm sure their PR department was happy to get the extra buzz based on her looks. But it's not like she wasn't also actually producing the game -- you can listen to her talk about framerates during processing of textures on different platforms and know that she's not just a PR shill.

I agree that it would have been the same with any attractive woman. And it wouldn't have happened if it was an attractive man! That's part of the problem. And it is personal too, because whose name is being used to depict her as a shallow airhead who gives blowjobs? Hers. I don't imagine you'd see it as "nothing personal" if it was your girlfriend, sister, etc. who hadn't done anything but appear on camera doing her job as a producer.

Craig Perko said...

I don't think she had much to do with it, but to say it was just business as usual is a bit off. Business as usual generally doesn't involve lots of soundbytes from a specific pretty face.

I don't blame her, but I think this is a good example of things to watch out for. These things always get out of hand. Occasionally they go far enough to permanently harm someone's career. I don't think that's the case here.

Peter Bessman said...

I embrace and extend Craig's POV. This is a non-issue. Would anybody care if somebody said that some successful IT dude had a small penis? Evidently not, because it happens all the time (google "bill gates small penis").

So a person was on the butt-end of a crude sexual joke. Whatever. The fact that she was female doesn't mean anything to me. Suck it up and move on.

Freedom of speech requires thick skin, and I see Ubisoft's reaction in this as bullying, pure and simple. If you want to crush dissent, go to China. If you want the freedom to make a game where the player assumes the role of an assasin (an assasin, for crying out loud), then you should respect the freedom of gamers to say they won't play said game unless the producer gives them head.

I also find humor in the tangential idea that the notably undersexed population of male gamers is actively trying to keep women out of games. A moment's introspection should reveal the absurdity of this hypothesis. Certainly, their behavior might have a significant impact on female participation, but it is unwise to chalk up to malice what could be explained by incompetence.