So when I went off to Canada for Pycon, I bought a PS Vita for the plane trip. This was the second time I’d had a portable PS device, the first (a PSP) being really dull and uninteresting. My Nintendo DS was equally dull and uninteresting, when I had one. I had games I loved, it was just … small, and low resolution, and boring. None of the games were nearly as much fun as they would have been on a TV or other sensible device.
So the Vita has been surprising in that I rather like playing games on it, and the games available are very pleasing in that odd sort of way. It has me excited for the Playstation TV, the device that will let me play Vita games on the TV instead of acquiring hand cramps and visual oddities from holding a poorly designed device.
But I digress.
One of the launch games from the Vita was Gravity Rush, a third-person platformer game where your avatar has control over her gravity, which allows for walking on walls, under eaves, and moving around with considerable freedom.
Also, the lead character is a her. Being able to play a woman by default is such a marked change from the White Cishet Dudebro as to be almost worth purchasing on those grounds alone.
I’ll get back to almost in a second.
Game and World
Gravity Rush is fun. Flat out, I’m really enjoying the mechanics for gravity control and the freedom it provides. Flying around, running and gravity skating on walls, exploring a relatively large world for upgrade gems, even the weirdness of combat when you’re floating? Excellently implemented and fun to play.
The setting is also extremely interesting, an anime-styled city with relatively normal people just, floating in an endless void. It’s people, building things and making the best of life in a decidedly odd environment, but still just being people. The art style is also quite enjoyable, having a sort of Art Deco-Punk aesthetic, like being able to fly around in the 1930s.
Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
The “almost” in Gravity Rush is that it is a deeply, deeply sexist game, to the point where it’s ruining the fun of the rest of the game.
Let’s have some examples.
During the intro sequence, we watch an apple falling through this weird floating city, past a number of citizens and locations, giving us a really good look at the world we’re going to be exploring.
Eventually the apple bumps into the head of an unconscious woman, the protagonist Kat, and there the sexism smacks us firmly in the face. Instead of the reasonable clothes we’ve seen people to this point wearing, Kat is “dressed”1 in a tight-fitting bodysuit that displays the entirety of her legs, arms, and cleavage.
The bodysuit itself is decorated with accents that draw the eye to the center of her breasts, and down between her legs. There are also metal accents wrapped around her thighs, and the outfit is completed with heels.
This design is intensely objectifying, demeaning and entirely meant to titillate cishet males who would be playing the game. There is no in-game rationale for this demeaning garbage.
Later on Kat puts on a schoolgirl uniform and the player is treated to watching her skirt be blown up by the wind while flying around in the gameworld.
There’s even a DLC to put Kat into a maid’s uniform, and a “spy” costume that’s very reminscent of Catgirl.2
More than Kat
There’s an antagonist in the early game, named Raven. Her outfit is just as ridiculous as Kat’s3, showing off upper legs and midriff, barely concealing her breasts and genital region.
Again, no reason is given. It’s pure objectification and titillation.
Am I going to keep playing?
It’s debatable. Gravity Rush had a time-to-sexism of under 5 minutes and the last game I played like this (Velvet Assassin, if you’re curious) I quit and deleted almost immediately.
But I’m still enjoying the gameplay, making it a struggle to reconcile the toxic and harmful elements of a work with the parts that are good and well-executed.
Time to Sexism: Less than 5 Minutes