If you’re anything like me, in addition to playing Magic the Gathering you occasionally partake in other hobbies. For me, it’s gaming. I like to game, on my XBone. Does that make me a gamer? Well, it did before Gamergate. These days it just makes me a normal young adult, trying to pass the time with something pleasurable before I’m called to action once again.


Ideally, I spend much of my gaming time in flow state. I am not alone in this. People have suggested that spending a lot of time in flow state correlates to happiness with one’s life. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I know that my work environment got a hell of a lot more enjoyable when I moved into writing and data analysis. I flow all the time when I’m at work.


Given that, to me, this is the point of gaming, I find misogyny in games to be viscerally unpleasant. It knocks me out of flow state, because my mind starts engaging critically with the subject matter.


Also, it’s hard to be in flow state when you’re yelling at a television screen. Although maybe that one’s just me.


For a while I had been looking forward to Batman: Arkham Knight. I was so excited for it that I preordered a package that included a Season Pass for the DLC, despite disliking the pornographic way that it had represented the Gotham City Sirens (shades of Cougar Town and Trophy Wife) in the past. Arkham City in particular maintained many aspects of the pre-New 52 mythos that I had enjoyed, like Oracle and the Carpenter… neither of whom survived the great purge. Arkham City also let you play as Catwoman for most of the game, and that too was an enjoyable evolution of the franchise. Given that Jason Todd was getting a DLC and it seemed like the storyline was drawing heavily from No Man’s Land, I had hoped that this particular iteration would have Cassandra Cain, Helena Bertinelli, or Question-era Renee Montoya as playable characters. I wasn’t expecting Kate Kane, Kate Spencer, Katana, or Zatanna, but I figured at least one of the aforementioned badasses would make a playable appearance, since all three of them played fairly major roles in the No Man’s Land storyline.


(I mean, obviously the real goal is a Birds of Prey videogame, but I have reasonable expectations. Reasonable in this context means “no actual faith or belief that anyone at DC cares about women.”)

This is the first synopsis card given to a woman, and it's Batman leading a goddess by the arm as she flirts with him. Maybe it won't be that bad?

Hrm, Batman’s leading a goddess by the arm as she flirts with him. Maybe it won’t be that bad?


Cleavage stun!

Cleavage stun!

Not only did Batman: Arkham Knight fail to add any notable NPC women to the game who had not been in previous iterations, but literally every notable woman in the story spends at least some of the game imperiled. Many die. The following rundown has plenty of Spoilers, and yet no Stephanie Brown.

In the comics, Oracle beats the shit out of Joker when he breaches her hideout. There are no signs of resistance in this telling.

Oh look, Batman maybe wouldn’t have let Babs get captured if he wanted to put his dick in her.

Let’s start with Catwoman, the main playable woman from Arkham City. Good news! She is a playable character in this game as well. Bad news! She spends the game trapped as bait in a Riddler deathtrap, with an explosive collar around her neck. I was talking to a friend and I mentioned this, and she goggled at that, because Catwoman’s whole thing is she’s an amazing thief. Having your thief-class character be put in mortal danger by a lock is just idiotic. You can play as her in the Riddler deathtrap, but once you extract her from the situation you’re not given the option of free-play, like you had in Arkham City.

50 Shades of fuck you Arkham!

50 Shades of fuck you Arkham!

Next up, Harley Quinn, another No Man’s Land character. The good news is that Harley has her own DLC, though, having played through it, yikes.* The bad news is that Harley is basically the most empowered woman in the entire game, and she gets held at gunpoint by a Joker clone (long story) in order to keep Batman in line. Yes, that’s right, the acrobatic aerialist has a gun shoved in her ribs by an old man and it takes big old Batman to save her. Contemptible.

And she's dumb, too!

And she’s dumb, too!

The third Gotham City Siren, Poison Ivy, is perhaps the most ill-served of the three. Which is saying something. She spends much of the early game in lockup, after you rescue her from the Scarecrow in the first act. In the third act, she sacrifices her life because… Scarecrow’s evil plan will also kill all the plants in the city? Her motivations are childlike, and her death is completely unnecessary.

Worst. Caption. Ever. Ivy has here sacrificed herself, against her nature, to save Gotham… I don’t think Nature chalks this one up as a win, any way you look at it.

And no, providing Batman with more pathos really isn’t necessary. Because by that point in the game…

This is the recap image of this atrocity. This is how the makers view the death of Oracle!

Oracle, Barbra Gordon, gets captured and then scared into shooting herself in the head. I kid you the fuck not. The worst part is that, while she’s captured, they do one of their hallucinatory flashback things specifically referencing the Killing Joke. Now, I thought it was pretty clear that the Killing Joke was generally considered to be one of the more fucked up pieces of misogyny in comic book history. “Cripple the bitch,” and whatnot. So when I saw that, I thought, “wow, okay, they know what they’re working with. There’s no way they let Barbara die.” Then, not only do they kill her, but they do it in the most fucked up way possible, making one of the bravest characters in the Bat-mythos kill herself because she’s on a bad drug trip.

"Because it's impossible for the writers to see me as anything other than an extension of the men in my life!"

“Because it’s impossible for the writers to see me as anything other than an extension of the men in my life!”

It was truly horrifying, and not in any deep or interesting way.

There's a DCAU episode where Babs goes on a fear toxin trip, and her nightmare is basically the plot of Gordon's interactions with Batman.

There’s a DCAU episode where Babs goes on a fear toxin trip, and her nightmare is basically the plot of Gordon’s interactions with Batman.

That’s the worst part of all this misogyny: it doesn’t move the story in any novel, unique, or even interesting direction. It’s like they looked at the male half of the cast (none of whom seem to die, although I’ve not yet finished the final mission), and were like “hey, each one of these people should have a woman they love die, because then the stakes are for real!” And that’s fucking boring. It’s bad storytelling. And it’s unnecessary. The Batfamily in general is not at a loss for pathos, especially when said pathos comes at the expense of the distaff half of that family.

Even the plants are imperiled women!

Even the plants are imperiled women!

The worst part is the way in which even minor characters are dispatched. Early in the game Lucius Fox makes some comment about his secretary staying behind in the Wayne Tower, because it’s the safest place in Gotham. Hush shoots her in the head, and no one even bothers to check on her body. Man-Bat is in the game, and the backstory you find out when you raid his lab includes him murdering his wife after he transforms. In all other continuities, Francine Langstrom does not die, and in the DCAU she even spent some time as Man-Bat herself. Finally, there’s a lady Joker-clone (again, long story), and she gets killed offscreen by the same asshole who later holds Harley hostage. And that’s basically it for women!**

That's right, there are two separate story cards for imperiled female plants.

That’s right, there are two separate story cards for imperiled female plants.

All of it was unnecessary, this parade of fridged women. In fact, the entire game fails to have anything close to a compelling narrative. The arc-villain is the most obvious choice possible, you spend the game with a spectral Joker egging you on like a Greek chorus, and Batman’s a colossal dick to all his allies. It’s a shame… there’s some interesting puzzle work in this one because of the addition of a tank-like Batmobile, but again it adds more questions than answers. Apparently Arkham Batman has developed the Batman 1989 loophole around guns: they’re just dandy on a vehicle.

Of course the lady Joker wants to fuck Batman. I bet the writer thought they were being clever when they made one of them a woman for this reason.

Of course the lady Joker wants to fuck Batman. I bet the writer thought they were being clever when they made one of them a woman for this reason.

The gameplay is solid, if bedeviled by a control scheme that requires a fundamentally different hand positioning depending on what you’re doing. For example, when you’re on foot the Right Trigger is the stealth (slow) button, when you’re in the air it’s divebomb, when you’re in the Batmobile normally it’s the accelerator, but when the Batmobile is in “Battle Mode” it fires your main gun. The same button does all these things. That’s poor design, and it disrupts natural flow between those different roles.


But again, underneath it all it could have been a fine game if they had just lightened the fuck up! Instead of trying to up the ante from the previous two games in the franchise (Origins doesn’t count), if they had just been like “hey, this is a normal night for Batman, save as many people as you can,” that would have been a fine game. But this Batman saves maybe a quarter of the men he comes into contact with… and none of the women.


If you take away the “saving people” part of Batman’s job away, you’re left with a rich dude with a bat fixation who likes to beat on crazy people and poor people. What a morally grotesque protagonist. What a fundamentally flawed narrative they’ve planted on top of an otherwise decent game.


Jess Stirba was an avid reader of Bat comics, before New 52 eliminated most of her favorite characters.



*No, you know what? I had a long explanation of why Harley’s DLC was terrible, primarily due to it being a shitty characterization, but it’s so bad it deserves its own post. So, next week!

**Basically. I don’t really feel like going into the whole Professor Pyg/Dollotron storyline. Suffice it to say it is horrific, literally dehumanizing, and Batman’s morality system is as full of holes as an unpatched version of Windows XP.

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