The trophy's original name is "Bros before Hos," and is awarded to the player at a certain point in the game's story, after Kratos, the main character, literally curb stomps a female antagonist, killing her. The trophy's new name will be "Bros before Foes."
"We have created and will soon push out a patch for 'God of War: Ascension' that alters the title of one of the game Trophies," Sony Santa Monica said in a press statement. "The text was offensive to some members of our community and impacted their enjoyment of the game. We are endlessly committed to ensuring that our community can fully enjoy the experiences the team has created. As such, we've addressed the feedback and amended the Trophy in question."
In their reviews of the game, many game journalists expressed their shock at the violence in this particular scene in "Ascension" ... despite extreme violence and rampant misogyny being recurring elements in the "God of War" series.
"[T]here's an almost pornographic level of intimacy to the violence here that pushed things too far for me," Arthur Gies writes in his review for Polygon. "The brutal, bone-shattering assault on a realistic female avatar was horrific regardless of its context, the imagery too loaded for me to shrug it off as just another God of War Moment TM. And then the assault was robbed of any narrative impact whatsoever by a throwaway story device. It didn't matter. I had to watch it happen and then it didn't mean anything. And then approximately 45 seconds later, I unlocked a trophy called 'Bros before Hos.'''
But for many others, their problem wasn't with the scene itself, but rather the name of the trophy alone. Adam Sessler notably glowed about the game in his video review for Rev3Games before coming down hard on the developers for the trophy's name.
"While the image of a woman's face being kicked in is borderline, the overall dark nastiness of the franchise and its lack of gender roles, outside of the famous sex scenes, kept it just inside a tonal context," Sessler said about the scene itself. But speaking about the trophy name, Sessler cries, "This gut punch of misogyny irredeemably sours this game, and is shocking that such a talented developer would traffic in such a contemptible attitude."
What is shocking to me is not only how shocked everyone is about this scene given the series' track record on violence against women, but how the name of a trophy, not the act of violence itself, is the tipping point for Sessler and others.
"God of War" began life in 2005 on the PlayStation 2 as a shameless ripoff of the "Devil May Cry" series. It was noted for its violence, in which Kratos dispatches enemies in bloody, brutal fashion by way of repetitive button mashing and quick-time events. Kratos quickly became popular with 12-year-old boys and virgins of all ages for his supposed manliness, gruff voice and lack of character development.
The original game followed Kratos as he sought revenge against Ares for making him accidentally kill his own wife and daughter ... and by "accidentally," I mean that Kratos was too busy slaughtering women and children that he failed to notice that two of them were his family. Instead of renouncing his violent ways or seeking a way to redeem himself by helping others, the "God of War" franchise is about Kratos killing everything and anything in order to some attain peace of mind about what he did to his family. And instead of noting and highlighting the irony of this, instead of being about the idea that violence only breeds more violence, and taking revenge only creates the need for more revenge, the developers and writers of the series relish in the blood and sexism, because that's the only thing people who play these games are really interested in.
While giving Kratos' character a pass in the first game, The Escapist's Ben Croshaw writes that in subsequent games, "The whole 'seeking redemption' excuse is lost because Kratos already got all the redemption he needed, and any closure or character growth Kratos might have had for seeing his family's murderer brought to justice (the indirect one, that is) is canceled out by the need to maintain the status quo. ... His actions are no longer rooted in any actual motivation, but the simple reason that he's that wacky guy who enacts violence upon everything that slightly deserves it."
This includes female characters, and though they all do not suffer at the hands of Kratos, they are all treated as mere objects that only serve to be killed or bedded. Kratos' wife, after all, is just a woman in a refrigerator; she is simply an excuse for Kratos to kill, lacks any discernible character traits and her name isn't even given in any of the games. Meanwhile, women casually disrobe to reveal their breasts at the sight of Kratos, and each game features a quick-time event (surprise!) mini-game in which the player's quickness at the controller determines Kratos' proficiency in bed (off-screen of course) with sometimes an unrealistic amount of women at the same time. Video games are inherently a form of wish fulfillment, but "God of War" is wish fulfillment at its most immature and degrading.
So it's wholly laughable that people are only now getting offended by something in the game. It's why it's hard to take Sessler seriously when he says, "I have always liked the adult fantasy of the 'God of War' games ... [but] in this moment, it's all reduced to some frat house joke, making me ashamed that I ever thought it was more than that in the first place."
It's also hard to feel sorry for him for getting so much grief for his comments from the ever-mature arena that is the Internet. The backlash Sessler has received for being a "feminazi" or "White Knight" not only serves to highlight the level of immaturity present in the gaming community, but Sessler's constant underestimation of it as well.
The gaming industry rightly shouldn't bow to pressure from self-righteous media personalities, over-zealous lawyers or ignorant, fame-seeking people spouting nonsense on TV when it comes to mature content in games. Sessler valiantly joined enraged gamers in a bit of immaturity himself after Fox News slandered "Mass Effect" and its brief sex scene.
But churning out tripe like the "God of War" series doesn't help the video game mature as an art form, instead holding it back as a pop-art medium designed for cheap thrills and nothing more.
"Ascension" may be the last straw in some critics' minds, as many have noted in their reviews that the facade of Kratos being a redemptive character or having any admirable traits has begun to wear thin. Unfortunately, it is perhaps too little too late. As long as such titles continue to sell, and an all too compliant gaming press continues to be silent, the industry will continue to market to the lowest common denominator: the bros.