Hitman trailer exposes the weird, writhing sexual politics inside games

OPINION: The latest Agent 47 video clearly comes from a predominantly male creative team second-guessing what a largely male audience wants, says PSM3 writer Sarah Ditum

If you think videogames have problems with women, then the latest Hitman Absolution trailer is all your nightmares (and somebody else's wet dream) come at once.

PSM3 writer Sarah Ditum

In it, a bloodied Agent 47 cleans his wounds and prepares for another showdown - slipping on a clean white shirt and meticulously pulling on his black leather gloves - while outside, a group of vicious sex murder nuns approach.

You heard me. Sex muder nuns. The camera centres on the bosoms jiggling under the black habit, flashes a glimpse of a pretty tattooed face and some trotting stripper shoes to suggest this might not be an orthodox sisterhood, and then the black robes slip off to reveal PVC basques and big throbbing guns.

It's hardly a practical uniform for murderwork. And unsuprisingly, 47 shoves his wannabe ladykillers right off their stupid shoes and onto their exposed arses, where he can smash the noses on their pretty faces. It is an outstandingly stupid trailer, and judging from the online mix of huffing-and-puffing and heavy breathing, a brilliantly attention-grabbing one too.


It's also super sexist. Let's have none of the ooh-sexy-empowered women talk here: these ladies rocked up to be knocked down, and because some videogame developers still have the mentality of a frightened prepubescent when faced with an actual female person, the best way to make them seem threatening was to make them look crazy sexy.

Bare lady flesh can be almost as intimidating as being able to wield a firearm effectively. (See also, fighter femmes in stilletoes and cleavage like Tekken's Nina Williams.)

Actually, it's not fair to make this out as a problem caused by girl-shy nerds on the creative side. In Japan, when Layton dev Level-5 decided to make a female-focused RPG, it put a female development team on the case. And these talented, successful, female tech professionals came up with... Girl's RPG: Cinderelife, a hostess club sim in which you flirt with clients to make money to buy dresses to attract more clients to oh my God please give me Cinderel-death now.

Unsurpisingly, the game stiffed: girls already have plenty of RPGs to choose from, all of them more entertaining that a prettified sexwork sim.

Games don't always get it wrong. There's Chell in portal - a female character who manages to be clothed, competent and somehow not repellent to a largely male audience. Elena in Uncharted is tough without being tarty. And there's Vib Ribbon, who I think is a girl but is also a line-drawn rabbit.


Against them, you've got Bayonetta kicking ass in a self-stripping catsuit made of her own hair and seductive examples of the monstrous feminine, like Isaac Clarke's visions of his missus Nicole trying to lure him to a horrible space death.

In other words: the hot dead nuns are just a tiny glimpse of the weird, writhing sexual politics inside a lot of games. Why are they like this? My best guess is that they're the product of a hothoused, largely male creative team trying to second guess what a largely male audience wants, and coming up with a febrile funhouse mirror version of someone else's fantasy. Which, in this case, means smacking the crap out of nuns in latex.

If that's your thing too, then get on the preorder list, but Hitman Absolution can count me out.