Go to Google Trends and do a search for the word "misogyny". You will notice that interest in the word "misogyny" more than tripled in October of 2012. Since then, it has been searched for twice as often as it previously did.
Dragon's Crown, released in 2013, was called a misogynistic game by its critics. Bayonetta, released in 2010, did not receive widespread accusations of misogyny, despite being an extremely racy game with an overtly sexual main character. The farther back in time you go, the more difficult it is to find the words "sexist" or "misogynistic" in a video game review. Why is that?
The reason is because it has become fashionable for journalists to label a game as misogynistic, in order to appear patrician. It has become nearly impossible to read an article about a game featuring female characters without being exposed to the writer's opinions on whether or not the women are portrayed in a sexist manner. Dragon's Crown was surrounded by damaging controversy purely because of its character designs, and the latest victim of the "bash anything with sexy women" trend is Killer Is Dead.
Suda51 is the Quentin Tarantino of the game industry; he constantly pushes the envelope in his games, delivering bizarre experiences that are simultaneously confusing and entertaining. Reviews for his latest release, Killer is Dead, are beginning to roll in, and, predictably, many of these reviews involve an in-depth examination of anything in the game that could be considered remotely sexist...most notably, the game's "Gigolo Missions".
Killer is Dead features a gameplay mode in which the main character must seduce women. This takes place through a minigame involving staring at the woman's chest and crotch and putting on X-ray glasses to check out her underwear. The whole thing is done in a comical fashion, but it's attracted the attention of journalists who scan games for anything of a sexual nature so they can write long articles calling the game's developers sexist.
The game's seduction minigame has invoked journalists to write the following phrases in their reviews:
...sexist, garbled mess...
There is no way to play this game and not feel like a dirty, crusty, leering old man.
It is trashy. It is gross. It is pandering.
I feel ashamed to play this game.
Killer Is Dead is deeply misogynistic.
In IGN's review of the game, "Gross Gigolo missions" were listed as a negative point. In the past, games were reviewed based on their gameplay, replayability, innovation, etc...now, a game's degree of supposed misogyny has somehow become a critical point to be judged when rating the game.
In an interview with Edge magazine, Suda51 was asked if he believed that his Gigolo missions would alienate female players. He replied, "I think women can have just as much fun with that mode," demonstrating that the entertainment value from this mode is not meant to be gender-exclusive. Clearly, the player is supposed to be amused by this feature, not necessarily aroused. When asked for more comments, Suda51 stated the following:
It’s not that we depict the women in any derogatory way, so I’m not extremely concerned about the depiction of these characters. I think if you play this mode for yourself, [then] you will be able to understand the context. There is punishment if [the main character] tries to do anything that crosses the line with these women, too, so he could very well get slapped if he does anything that would be considered not classy or uncool. I think there’s a proper amount of punishment and reward.
Suda51's casual approach toward the matter is a stark contrast to the harsh reaction that this mode has been getting. The trend of bashing characters with sex appeal, and bashing gameplay features of a sexual nature, has gone on for far too long. One can only hope that this trend will die out quickly, and that journalists will soon shift their focus away from criticizing harmless and silly game mechanics.