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Thoughts on GoW: Ascension Trophy, 'Bros Before Hos.'
by Nate Paolasso on 03/07/13 09:14:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


This article was originally posted on N4G.

Before I start, let me point out that these are, very literally, my first thoughts on the topic. I am open to other points of view, and encourage them. So yeah, thanks and enjoy reading. 
God of War: Ascension
'Bros Before Hos.' The phrase often used to guilt a buddy into hanging in the man-cave, rather than going out to dinner with his girlfriend. To those who don't know, however, it is also the title of a Playstation 3 Trophy for God of War: Ascension. This particular trophy is awarded for brutally boot-stomping one of the Furies heads into a pulp. Apparently, it's one of the most graphic scenes in video games to-date, but with God of War, that's to be expected. GoW has always had this sense of grandeur, of epicness, of violence. But this one trophy, three simple words and a ding, awarded for committing an act of violence, pushed it over the edge for many people and loyal fans. I'm hear to share my immediate thoughts on the topic, and explain why, for me, it didn't cross the proverbial line. 

Pure misogyny is probably the first phrase that comes to peoples' minds when they see this trophy or read about it. The simple, albeit brutal, act of bashing the Furies head in was completely transformed when the player saw the title of the trophy, into something nasty and evil. No longer were they simply killing a fictional beast, but they were murdering a woman. And not only were they murdering a woman, they were being rewarded for it with a ill-titled trophy. I'm sure a lot of people put the game down right then and there, just too appalled to continue. 
What upsets me, however, isn't the gore for which the trophy is awarded, or even the title of the trophy. It makes me sick that so many people can be so hypocritical of what just happened when they got the trophy. Like all of the people playing it have never said anything that bashed someone in one way or another. It begs the question of how people would have reacted if that trophy would not have been in place. Would people still be appalled? Because obviously the tone changed immediately for people when they saw the title of the trophy, and not for the better. Would they still have ranted about how wrong the scene was? Getting a poorly titled trophy, seemingly, made everyone realize just how brutal and violent GoW can be. Why are they just now becoming concerned with what they see and do in a GoW title? In God of War 3, Kratos snaps Hera's neck like a twig and the Internet didn't explode over it. And finally, why is the phrase, 'Bros Before Hos,' cutting so deep, when most people have used it jokingly in regular conversation? It's a stretch, but maybe it's possible that Santa Monica Studios was also using it jokingly. 

Now, I'm not condoning misogynistic behavior in the slightest. Woman are obviously equal to men and, often times, they surpass men. But I think people and gamers alike are taking this trophy a little too seriously. Yes, it is awarded right after the death of a woman. And yes it has a title that could be interpreted as woman-bashing and hateful. I think that gamers shouldn't take the news of this trophy as hurtful or wrongful, but simply as a game studio using a popular phrase as a joke. Now, if a person playing this game is upset with the content for which the trophy was given, I completely understand and they have the right to be upset (although, GoW is sort of know for violent content). But, honestly, if a gamer is only disgusted with the content after the trophy was awarded, then they should come down off their pedestal and be a little more reasonable. Everything is taken in context and people who are desperately looking for misogynistic behavior are, more than likely, going to find it.

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Michael Joseph
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I've not played the game but going off your description...

It sounds to me like the sophomoric joke from a game designer breaking through the 4th wall resulting in an abrupt and disruptive collision between an ultra violent fantasy realm (where violence can be easily rationalized) and reality (where it cannot). This is why claims that outraged gamers are hypocrites doesn't wash. Many gamers want their fantasy violence to remain in the realm of fantasy, not to break character with a message that comes off as editorializing and crossing into reality where it is ugly and unwanted.

This makes the b before h inclusion a bad desgin decision. It's perfectly legitimate and consistant for customers to want that the interactive fantasies they purchase stay on their side of the wall.

Nick McKergow
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I think this pretty much nails it. Plus pushing "bros before hoes" to murderous extremes feels like it would only be funny if the intent was to satirize it. This feels more like you're supposed to appreciate it like an in-joke.

Eric Schwarz
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This. Regardless of any sexism or cultural context, the fact is first and foremost the achievement title (and even its appearance during that scene) breaks the fantasy of the world in a way that is not appropriate to the game.

Modern game designers seem to be constantly striving for more believable, serious characters, yet actions like this completely undermine all of those efforts. Someone needs to teach designers and writers in the games industry what "tone" means.

E Zachary Knight
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So is the achievement only given when you head stomp the female monster or is it possible without doing so? Is it perhaps given by completing some other objective that includes but does not require the head stomping?

Jamie Mann
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Generally, there's several fundamental issues with the achievement name:
1) It's very american-centric - and worse, it's only funny/appealing to young males
2) It's sexist
3) It's not appropriate for the context [*]

There's plenty of alternatives which could have been picked and would have been entertaining - "headbanging", "monster mash", "pulp fiction" all come very quickly to mind.

Overall, picking "B B4 H" seems like an oddly crude choice in a high-budget, heavily polished and headline title such as GoW. Admittedly, it's relatively minor thing in and among the thousands of elements which go together to make the game, but in some ways, that makes it worse, given how everything else was done correctly...

[*] I haven't played the game, but I'm assuming Kratos isn't stomping monster heads for someone else's benefit. And it's also overly anachronistic, as over people have highlighted above

Kyle Redd
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On its own, the phrase "bros before hos" isn't really sexist. I can't recall ever hearing it in a context (except for maybe in this game) that would make it seem offensive in any way at all. It's just jokey word play among guys and nothing more. There is a female equivalent - "chicks before dicks" that is similarly harmless.

Neither phrase is saying anything mean-spirited or derogatory about one gender or the other, which I would think is a pretty basic requirement for something to qualify as sexist.

Adam Bishop
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I've never heard the phrase "chicks before dicks" in my life. The phrase "bros before hos" uses the word "hos" as a stand-in for "women" so I don't know how you could seriously say it isn't sexist.

Kyle Redd
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You may not have heard of it, but it has been around for a very long time:

The word "hos" is used in this case because it rhymes with "bros," not because the author was trying to slander women. I would think that would be pretty obvious. Just as other slang, like the n-word, can similarly be used as both a derogatory attack or as a term of endearment, depending on who is using it, who it is directed towards and in what context.

Gawel Ciepielewski
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The thing is, Kratos modus operandi normally is "kill everything that stands in my way", and rewarding you for killing a specific monster as Kratos should be only done if the monster in question is in a considerable challenge, but as I understand from this article, it's just a fairly common enemy, not anything to boast about.
Achievements are, supposedly, badges of merit. "You saved the world", "your aim is good", you're bloody persistent", "you're sneaky as hell" - these are regular takeaways from achievements.
What does this achievement say the merit of our badge is? "You brutally murdered a woman, and are therefore a service to men".
This is what the designer is telling you.
Don't get me wrong, the series iruns with ultra-violence as it's thing, and that's cool, but the general, IMPARTIAL brutality that is Kratos's rage is accented with "it's cool to be brutal, but it's even cooler to be brutal to women".

Also, complete digression:
The phrase "bros before hos" is a simplification and bastardization of an actually good rule to live by for either gender and/or sexual orientation: finding and settling down with a significant should not make you neglect your friends. This doesn't mean you should do the opposite and disregard your significant other for said friends, but this qualifying statement didn't register with some simpler people and thus "bros before hos" became widespread.

Nate Paolasso
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Sorry, I should have clarified. The Furies are the primary bosses in this game, and so I assume that killing them is a pretty big deal in the overall story/plot.

Ali Afshari
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This was a stupid title for a trophy. Sony Santa Monica should know better. Context is important, and so with all the sexism issues, the game about beating up Anita Sarkeesian, the PR rep claiming Lara would get raped in Tomb Raider, etc., the developer should have a clue. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should.

I played and liked the previous GoW games (haven't played the PSP ones), but I won't be picking this one up.

Val Reznitskaya
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Interestingly, this discussion lies at the crossroads of what a game is trying to be and what it "should" be.

On the one hand, the God of War games are unabashed testosterone-filled power fantasies. In themselves, they are pretty misogynistic, but plenty of fans might argue that gender equality is irrelevant when you're brutally murdering everything that moves. From this perspective, the achievement was a pretty bad design decision, as Michael said. While a crude joke like that might work in the context of the game world, the achievement breaks the fourth wall. It comments on how the player might feel about the experience of playing the game, and in the process makes him wonder about how he actually feels. So the player has two options - agree that he enjoys bashing women's heads in, or be disgusted at the insinuation. Hello, Rock and Hard Place.

On the other hand, the achievement makes some interesting commentary on the game itself. It's a wake-up call that might make people wonder why they're getting enjoyment out of such a game in the first place. If people put the game down in outrage, I don't think it's because they're angry at the achievement. I want to believe it's because they're angry at themselves for just having had a lot of fun turning a woman into mashed potatoes. I wouldn't really call that hypocrisy.

While there are games that strive to comment on their respective genres, like Spec Ops: The Line, I can't imagine this being an intended consequence. It just adds more proof for how achievements can have lots of unintended side-effects. As to whether the side-effects were good in this particular instance - well, I guess it depends entirely on whether you believe the God of War games are a hazard to society.

Adam Bishop
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I wonder if the fact that AAA game developers often act like their entire audience is 16 year old bros has anything to do with the fact that the AAA market is shrinking.

Michael DeFazio
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in a nutshell:
it is par for the course to curb-stomp a woman to death in a game. (that's just what Kratos does)
...but clearly NOT ok to say "bros before hos" after (that is just callous and crossing the line).

i'm sorta reminded by how people get so caught up in language:

i.e. It would be terrible for the U.S. to use drone strikes to kill people who are "freedom-fighters"... but we would celebrate the death of these same people provided we label them "militants".

(IMHO the whole "uproar"/backlash seems silly)

Michael DeFazio
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the context you describe for getting this achievement:
"This particular trophy is awarded for brutally boot-stomping one of the Furies heads into a pulp." incorrect:

Orkos intervenes and saves Kratos from the Furies and specifically his mother (when Kratos is captured in goo)... hence Bros before Hoes.

here is a link to a video of a player getting the achievement:

Toby Grierson
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"t is par for the course to curb-stomp a woman to death in a game. (that's just what Kratos does) ...but clearly NOT ok to say bros before hos after"

Well it's certainly not intrinsically less OK to smash the women than the men. Unless one suggests that the Furies, due to being female, lack the moral agency and/or legitimacy as opponents that men have. Which would be sexist.

Against everybody.

I'm a bit bothered by the tone among some that God of War is somehow all OK until something bad happens to a woman. I played God of War once and a few minutes in Kratos encounters a man trapped on a ledge begging for help. When you press the only button, Kratos strikes him in the head and lets him fall to his death. I did not play a God of War game again.

That, after all, is indeed what Kratos does.

As for the achievement, I'm with Michael. When you step over the wall there, that changes things.

Kenneth Blaney
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With the number of very real issues video games have had in is portrayal of women, I can't help but feel this will be anything other than a distraction which gives detractors ammo took say "See! You can't please these people." We are already setting major backlash against anyone who wants to talk feminism in games because of "alarmist feminism", we shouldn't seem to make it worse.

Bar in mind that GoW is a series where the protagonist goes on a quest to avenge his lost wife and daughter (classic Greek tragedy stuff) but will bang any girl or group of girls he finds (once per game minimum). The problem here is the narrative shoots itself in the foot for fan service and this is much MUCH deeper a problem than the name of a trophy. In general, I think the problem with feminism in games itself is mirrored by this. That is, bad writing makes for shallow characters in general which his up against a noted history of misogyny and a false targeting of adolescent males as the primary players of video games.