Many people argue that today’s blockbuster “violent” video games are mainly created for boys and young men. As the market becomes saturated with more games of this type, it’s hard to tell them apart. “Hey Baby”, is one “violent” video game that you would never confuse with the others that are topping the sales charts. Imagine a game where a female character is the aggressor. Further still, instead of taking out waves of soldiers or zombies, you mow down hordes of men hollering obscene, sexual remarks towards you.
Unlike many of its counterparts, the action in Hey Baby is unrealistic and satirical. To get a better idea about the origins of this unique video game, I talked to creator Suyin Looui about how and why she created Hey Baby.
1. Your game is meant to act as a response to the constant “cat calling” that most women face on a daily basis. What inspired you to make a game to respond to this issue?
Hey Baby is a very personal and playful response to an encounter I had on the NYC subway a few years ago. It was this moment where the humorous revenge fantasies running through my head were physically transformed into the energy to make this project. It has been such an intense process—starting with the documentation of real stories from women all over the world, and then learning from scratch to program this experimental execution of a first person shooter game.
I have such a deep love for public space, and the possibilities for unexpected encounters and meaningful interactions that can be found on the streets. Cities amaze me. What I found unnerving was the subtle ways that women can feel unsafe or uncomfortable as they walk through the city. From this experience, I playfully created the game world of Hey Baby as a fictional space where women could freely roam the streets without consequence.
2. On the surface, Hey Baby is particularly violent. While most commercial first person shooters offer similar amounts of violence, why is the action in this game different?
Hey Baby is a satirical game, so the graphic violence is intended to be totally over the top and ridiculous! The spoof website and the game are very much based on the graphic violence and conventions of commercial video games such as Grand Theft Auto, where players have the ability to transgress without consequence, but which never cross over into the real world. These fantasy game worlds such as GTA have such an intense connection with players, which I find fascinating.
It is very important that in Hey Baby, the Players can exist in this parallel fantasy world, where they can shoot or thank creepy aggressors with a flutter of hearts, but they can never be wounded or killed during gameplay. As an experimental “game experience”, I intended Hey Baby to repurpose the mechanics of the first person shooter, and transform this typically male form into a space for women to transgress.
3. What has been the reaction to this game from both the feminist and women’s issues community? How have men reacted to this game?
The public response has been incredibly interesting and complex, as the gendered issue of access to public space itself is so complex and contentious. People who play this game tend to have a very strong response to it. To be honest, I’ve been surprised to have so much strong male support of the game, and I’ve had really amazing emails and blog posts from male players who have shared it with their friends because they thought it was important to. Hey Baby has been an experiment in many ways, and the real heart of the project has always been about finding ways to use pop culture to create meaningful conversations.
To play the full version of Hey Baby, visit its official website here.
Update: The website is no longer active.