Free DLC!: Feminist Frequency’s “DLC” Add-On Episode

16 Sep

Most gamers are more than familiar with the concept of DLC, or Down-Loadable Content. DLC is a thing that more and more games have, sometimes in the form of “add-on” content such as new weapon sets, alternate clothing sets, or bonuses. Sometimes DLC includes new side-quests or story missions, and sometimes–as with Dragon Age: Inquisition‘s most recent DLC, “Trespasser,” more of the main narrative (damn you for only releasing that on next-gen consoles, BioWare).

Well, Feminist Frequency has decided to release some DLC (fortunately free of charge, unlike most DLC) to its most recent episode of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, “Women as Reward” (see my review on TLF here). In the DLC sub-episode, Anita Sarkeesian talks about, naturally, DLC.

In the mini-episode, Sarkeesian talks about how women are used as enticement for players to purchase DLC, particularly costume packs which offer “sexy” outfits for the protagonist, for a cost. Sarkeesian mentions a DLC costume pack for Resident Evil Evolution 2 (the same game which included the ridiculous “urban ninja” outfit unlockable in the game) which features a floral “beachwear” costume, and then moves on to DLC for Saint’s Row: The Third which includes several Penthouse models (“Pets”).

I was right there with her until she mentioned Saint’s Row. Full disclosure: I don’t play SR, but I know plenty of people who do and have seen it played more than once. The take-away I got from SR is that it is deliberately mocking the tropes associated with Grand Theft Auto, which essentially means that SR games are never taking themselves seriously (the gameplay design is serious, which is why it’s fun, but that gameplay is held within a genre that is almost entirely satire and parody). By extension, then, the DLC featuring Penthouse models is aware if the ludicrousness of having Penthouse models as gang members. It’s mocking the very DLC that Sarkeesian is criticizing, and that is a point that she either seems to have missed or doesn’t appreciate nearly enough.

Sarkeesian also talks about pre-order bonus packs, which also sometimes include sexually objectified characters or “sexy” outfits (like the “Big Bikini Bundle”). Or, in the case of Tekken, a “sexy” pre-recorded phone call from one of the game’s female characters (which was rather… awkwardly horrifying). She also uses the example of Mass Effect 2‘s DLC costume pack as a counter-point: both Jack’s and Miranda’s alternate costumes are less revealing than their original outfits.

The key component of this episode is that “sex sells,” quite literally, and–apparently–without any secondary value. Sarkeesian rephrases this to “sexism sells,” since the vast majority of these instances are the sexualization of women, not men, and not both.

I don’t know that Sarkeesian really needed to do a DLC episode. At about eight-and-a-half minutes, it wasn’t very long, nor did it really cover any points that weren’t already contained in the original episode… other than explicitly mentioning DLC. The idea was cute (DLC on DLC), but, to me, it actually deflated the effectiveness of the original episode (which I actually thought was her best so far) by creating the “laundry list” feeling to which so many viewers originally objected.

So, as with many games’ DLC, Feminist Frequency’s DLC was ultimately unnecessary and not worth the time.