With Big Bucks Come Big Racks

It’s a sad fact that arcades are becoming increasingly rare in the world of gaming. These days, brick-and-mortar arcades tend to be sprawling megaplexes since the small neighborhood arcades of yesteryear don’t generate enough business to support themselves, but even finding a large arcade can be difficult. I couldn’t even find current statistics on the business rates, as the top-billed website‘s data was a decade old.

Despite all this, arcade cabinets continue to see use, but often in the form of a small nook in a non-gaming business to scrape up a few extra bucks. And speaking of bucks, I’d like to talk about an arcade game that crossed my path recently: Big Buck Safari.

safari-9

I encountered this game while eating at a restaurant with my best friend. Although neither of us are typically into hunting games, we were in a giggly mood and the game screen just seemed so enthusiastic about blowing the brains out of grazing wildebeests. We decided it was worth forking over a big buck for a quick play session.

The game was average enough. It played as well as any other 90’s-style shooter that utilized a plastic gun, had decent graphics, and managed to retain that grandiose over-the-top feel that arcade games are known for. However, it wasn’t long before we encountered this.

safari-2

When we said we wanted more women in the gaming industry, this isn’t what we had in mind.

I have to admit, our first reaction was to laugh hysterically. The scantily-clad safari girl flew directly in the face of the game’s tone, and as a result, her appearance was so non-sequitur that they could’ve had us shooting turtles out of their shells and gotten the same effect. (Oh, wait, this game actually did that, too.)

As we continued, we quickly found that this was not an isolated incident; in fact, there was a whole clan of safari gals ready and waiting to strike poses for the player in between hunts.

The longer I watched these women, the less I knew what the make of the game. In the intro sequence, there’s absolutely no indication that these women exist, nor do any of them appear on the arcade cabinet itself. Pretty much all first impressions with the game indicate that its focus is to give the player a serious (well, as serious as arcade games can get) hunting experience; there was nothing to suggest it contained any form of eye candy. The women only turned up in between the hunts — typically on the screens suggesting where the player shoot to kill, which I found kind of creepy. To their credit, the ladies themselves looked like they could burst out laughing any moment. I don’t think any of them were taking their jobs all that seriously (which, admittedly, is hard to do when you’re posing with a children’s toy).

Big Buck Safari was produced by Play Mechanix in 2007. Out of curiosity, I decided to look the company up, and I managed to find a page on their website detailing this very game. I couldn’t help but notice that they had some very well-crafted copy.

“Big Buck Safari® takes hunting to a new extreme! Big Buck Safari® builds on the strong foundation of the massive hit Big Buck Hunter PRO® by adding more and varied game, new trophy animals, and hot new visuals.”

“Hot visuals,” indeed.

In the end, I still don’t know what to think about the experience. It’s always odd to find yourself face-to-face with blatant objectification, and while I don’t think it’s a laughing matter, I was amused by how obviously it was ham-fisted into the game for literally no purpose but to objectify the women. Gaming has problems with sexism already, but in a lot of cases it’s layered in with some other legitimate need; Big Buck Safari has no excuses to speak of. You could’ve deleted the pin-up girls entirely and it would’ve been exactly the same game. It makes you wonder just what Play Mechanix expected when they made the call to add fan service to the loading screens. Was the goal to not only get men to shoot wild animals, but to shoot wild animals ~*with erections*~? Yeah, I bet that would’ve gone over well, given that arcade games are played IN PUBLIC by definition.

I certainly don’t condone the practice of using women like this, but if nothing else, I think this game is great if just because it illustrates exactly how pathetic the practice has become. And apparently, someone out there either agrees with me, or has some very unfortunate initials.

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You might want to sanitize your hands before picking up that gun…

 

Obligatory Legal Crap

Big Buck Safari, as noted on the press page I quoted, is the property of Play Mechanix. I was going to include a witty joke here like I usually do, but I don’t think I can come up with a joke bigger than the game itself.

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About Leedzie

Leda "Leedzie" Clark is a writer and game designer with a sharp eye for detail and a kooky sense of humor. She's been a nerd as long as she can remember, and always seems to notice the wrong thing first in any given situation.

Posted on February 27, 2014, in Feature Articles, Game Characters, Journalism, Video Games, Women & Gaming and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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