Computer games have always had something of a love affair with ultra-violence. The Hitman series is no stranger to controversy, but the latest pre-E3 trailer for Hitman: Absolution has caused outrage with many critics calling the violent preview “misogynistic”.
The “Saints” trailer, which appeared on IGN’s YouTube channel on May 30, depicts a group of nuns who lose their usual “saintly” attire for scantily clad rubber suits. You might even call it bondage gear.
In an age where violence is so prolific – whether in video games, on the TV or, sadly, in real life – most of us gloss over these things. As the trailer unfolds the mixture of knives, machine guns and a rocket launcher may not come as a major shock. What’s really got peoples’ backs up is its depiction of violence against women.
A slow-motion scene of a nose being broken by a backwards headbutt even evoked a response from IGN’s Keza MacDonald, who writes: “Is that what people think gamers find cool? Breaking the noses of women in suspenders in slow motion? This trailer panders to violence-worship and misogynistic desires that have nothing to do with the game, and that surely don’t exist in the minds of Hitman fans.”
Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker has also been in on the outrage action. He tweeted that “the trail[er] for Hitman: Absolution is terrible shit aimed at base, clueless imbeciles. Fuck the games industry if it think[s] that works,” provoking a mixture of supportive and opposing reactions – some are even calling to boycott the forthcoming title because of its graphic content.
It Wouldn't Please My Granny...
But what of the game’s producers? The trailer does open with a “PEGI 18” statement and warns that it “may contain content inappropriate for children”. The one word inexplicably incorrect in that sentence is “may” as, let’s face it, this trailer just is not suitable for kids.
In an interview with Luke Valentine, producer at IO Interactive, the games company that makes the Hitman series, including Hitman: Absolution, he is quick to defend the title.
Pocket-lint queries whether the trailer would be deemed “misogynistic,” before Luke interrupts: “Showing powerful women?”
We continue: “Yes, but they’re all killed in graphic ways except for that delicate touch at the end where Hitman’s hand closes the dead girl’s eyes.”
He responds: “Yes, even if he does kill them all, he shows a bit of respect... At the end of the day it’s a trailer for a video game. It’s got to be impactful. It’s got to be fun. If it was of Hitman hiding in wait for a minute it’s just not going to register.”
But Luke is keen to point out that the company isn’t trying to offend.
“It’s pretty crap to upset people. But having said that, we know we fly pretty close to the sun. There’s stuff that people won’t like. I mean Hitman’s using rosary beads; there’s someone being killed with rosary beads in the trailer… which isn’t going to please some people. It wouldn’t please my Granny for sure."
And when Pocket-lint pressures him on whether the violent content is used as a tool to promote sales, Luke diplomatically responds: “We don’t sit in meetings working out how to upset people. But we understand that with this kind of content that we might do. But that’s not our motivation.”
Well, it doesn’t look like the game’s makers can absolve themselves of this one quite yet.
What are your thoughts on the latest Hitman Absolution trailer? A step too far, or enticing enough to make you want to know more?