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 Hitman: Absolution  director on controversial trailer: 'We didn't mean to offend anyone'
Hitman: Absolution director on controversial trailer: 'We didn't mean to offend anyone'
June 7, 2012 | By Brandon Sheffield

June 7, 2012 | By Brandon Sheffield
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Tore Blystad, IO Interactive game director for Hitman: Absolution admits the team didn't consider all the angles when releasing its controversial trailer, which depicts sexy dominatrix nuns getting violently killed by the game's protagonist, Agent 47.

"It was kind of a shock to us back in Copenhagen when we got the response to that trailer," Blystad told Gamasutra. "We honestly didn't mean to offend anyone, this is a game that has its roots in a kind of cartoony extreme universe.

"If you look at the old Hitman games, they have similar scenes to this throughout all the series. So for us we didn't feel like we were doing something new, it was kind of just a part of the whole DNA of the title, but playing on more of a Grindhouse style."

While Blystad was primarily surprised people were upset with the violence, he also addressed the fact that the female characters are all dressed in sexy outfits under their nun habits. Agent 47 uses disguises all the time, Blystad notes, asserting that "It's the same here with these nuns dressing as something less conspicuous, getting up to their mark, and revealing their true colors."

He was also sure to mention that the game could play out in a different way, when you actually get to the scene represented. "It's an actual level within the game," said Blystad, "and the way it's portrayed in the trailer is one of the ways of going about it. But the game is about choice, so that's only one of the solutions."

What did the company learn from this experience? "Sometimes your own judgment means nothing," he says. "When you release something out there it can go in any direction, and I think... We were pretty shocked and kind of like 'oh no, it's like that?'"

While the team didn't appear to take any specific learnings about portrayal of women in games, which was the primary concern, Blystad did specifically apologize, saying, " All I can say is we didn't mean to offend anyone, and we're sorry!"

A full interview with Blystad is forthcoming. For more reports from E3 2012, be sure to check out Gamasutra's live coverage.


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Comments


Michiel Hendriks
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Controversy is excellent PR.

Kyle Killian
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Honestly, I didn't watch this trailer until I heard about the controversy behind it and once I did, I got rather excited about the game. So I totally agree with you.

Honestly though, I don't see how this is all that controversial. Is it because of the nuns? I've seen this same "ploy" is plenty of movies and they never seem to get any controversy because of it. Maybe I just don't get it, but it doesn't seem like that big of a deal.

Mark Desmarais
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"It's the same here with these nuns dressing as something less conspicuous, getting up to their mark, and revealing their true colors."

What.

Raymond Ortgiesen
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Nothing says conspicuous like 9 nuns in high heels walking across empty parking lots late at night.

EnDian Neo
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Video game logic.

James Hofmann
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I think I understand now. In this game, Agent 47 will wear a sexy dress underneath the suit and discard it in a cutscene right before stabbing people in the neck.

Right?

Joe Cooper
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I assumed so... If he doesn't, my preorder was wasted.

Kat Sanders
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I'd be interested to know how many women are working on the Hitman series. I'm not saying that doing this sort of base, pulp exploitation of women in games is surprising and it's unfortunately the norm in AAA games (this doesn't make it correct. It makes it even more abhorrent, actually). The part that I find so disheartening is their seeming inability to understand WHY it is offensive. Their shock at the public objections and their own anemic, "Sorry you're offended. We didn't mean to offend" response is what makes me furious. I'd rather they own up to it. "Tits and guns sell games. We aren't trying to do anything remotely new. We're targeting the lowest common denominator."

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Dave Bellinger
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You're certainly entitled to your opinion, Kat, and if you were offended I imagine it's not as if that's something you have control over. However, that circumstance goes both ways, and to imply that anyone pushing to sell an established product has a responsibility to a appeal to a demographic they are not targeting, in this case individuals that would be offended by this type of content and thus not interested in purchasing their product, is not very reasonable.

Additionally, perhaps "their inability to understand WHY it is offensive" should be revealing to one of the core issues over this trailer in the first place: whether or not there is an issue. Ultimately, raising awareness that there are people who find this type of content offensive is fine, however I'm not sure what more can be done beyond streaming video clearly labeled and necessitating a user clicking "play" to view (most links even require an age gate) to satisfy that crowd's desire to navigate their favorite sites and/or the internet in general without being exposed to such 'offensive' content. I'd say the system in place is rather convenient to ensure you don't run into that situation under normal circumstances.

If you're suggesting the content shouldn't be created in the first place due to it being offensive, I'm sorry, but that's a level of censorship I'm not willing to get behind.

Kat Sanders
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"Is it your position that anytime a woman is shown wearing something sexy in a game it automatically renders it exploitive?"

@bill I love that sort of straw man. Boil everything down and imply that I must want women covered up. We also have different opinions on what is "sexy", but I'll save that for a different random internet comment debate.
If you sincerely believe that what they were going for was "heady" and that they nailed it with this hyperbolic tripe then you're simply supporting my point about the LCD. This trailer hasn't set any sort of high water mark for the swampy dregs of game industry exploitation.

However, even if I agreed with you-- my being offended by it wasn't my point. We all need to start talking about this stuff when it does bother us. We also need to start listening to each other and recogizing what someone might find troubling about it. Because there are better ways to be sexy, controversial, and exciting. New ways that maybe we haven't seen a million times before. There are even ways that might be *gasp* inclusive. Madness, I know.

Perhaps it was PR that told him to use the "ErrHURR HURR BEWBZ IS FUN. Y so SRS? SoRRY that YOU'RE offended" crap, but that's not an excuse. If that's true then I'm also calling out that moronic PR person.

If you're going to create something like this that you know will generate controversy... OWN IT. Be prepared for my condemnation and attempt to defend it intelligently. If you can't or won't -- then examine why you're putting this into the game at all.

Michael Rooney
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Honestly I agree with Bill's point. I'm surprised by how offended people are getting over Hitman, which has always had it's fair share of violence as well as female objectification, compared to Dead or Alive or it's ilk. I actually took the trailer to be much more a juxtaposition between the objectification of female beauty (implied by their outfits), the harsh grime of reality (lady getting her nose broken etc.), and religion (always been a large part of the Hitman series).

There's also something to be said for the fact that these women dressing like bimbos lose to someone dressed in a suit; they are quite literally punching the symbols of objectification in the face. This paragraph is much more hyperbole, but I legitimately took the trailer the way I presented in my first paragraph the first time I saw it.

Joe Cooper
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The "true colors" remark is terrible, lord have mercy.

They may've made the video but a whole culture made those tropes. Maybe the controversies'll inspire some more careful thought instead of mindless regurgitation.

Aaron Casillas
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Killing is the ultimate offense, but that aside, the trailer as a phenomena (at face value) says "nuns walk into a refinery" for some reason "they remove the bottom of their clothing revealing their sexy curves, leggings etc..." "hero kills them violently."

I love the Hitman IP, but I hope if there are Killer Nuns it's a greater suprise to me as the player and not cheesy.

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Brett Williams
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A 30 second fight scene in a video game trailer is hardly the most insulting thing we as a society have created or experienced. People have paid money to view much worse in movie theaters across the world year after year after year, and people have bought games on much worse creative premise.

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Michael Rooney
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@ Dave Smith: Right... not as pandering........................ /taps nose

Brian Lockhart
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I'm just glad they didn't use sexy priests instead...

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R. Hunter Gough
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"It's an actual level within the game," said Blystad, "and the way it's portrayed in the trailer is one of the ways of going about it. But the game is about choice, so that's only one of the solutions."

Sweet! I'm looking forward to the alternate solution where I take them all out for a nice dinner, and we have a very heartfelt discussion over wine and cheesecake, and all decide to give up being assassins and pool all our assassination earnings to start a food co-op, a basketball league for troubled inner-city youth, and a grant fund for leukemia research.

Troy Walker
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if the world is to be governed by political correctness, we might as well not try to do anything.. even then, someone would be offended.

some people just can not get past their own prejudices and see things for the art form and storyline without injecting a personal twist.

i'm glad our Danish friends pump out quality (perhaps controversial) content... but don't apologize for it. no need too.

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warren blyth
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it seems the key problem is that Hitman used to be considered some sort of serious and tasteful genre of game.? But this trailer announces a new grindhouse direction, and everyone is upset - because they weren't warned it would be changing genres. ?

I'm guessing here, because I never got into the Hitman franchise. (demos for older games made me think it was a tacky murder simulator that took itself way too seriously).

I'm guessing the critics feel their treasured Hitman series lost something when it took itself less seriously. Or maybe you just don't want the genre of "grindhouse" or "exploitation film" to exist anymore. or you think Grindhouse has is a film-only movement, and has no place in games? Or you don't recognize this trailer as being DEEPLY grinhouse-y, because they didn't slap a ton of film-grain filters on it? ...?!

but if you're really saying "grindhouse entertainment should be done with more wit and irony" - i don't think you understand grindhouse. they weren't all highbrow ironic statements. grindhouse defines itself by being outrageously lowbrow.

If you study the history of film, this genre was invented by filmmakers who needed to go way over the top in order to help their lower budget creations compete with mainstream fare. I expect the makers of this Hitman game saw themselves in a similar spot (ie., i'm guessing their franchise was flagging, so they thought "why not go exploitation route? Rodriguez and Tarantino made it work").

@DaveSmith - you seem to think this was purely made by marketing? ie., some calculating PR fiend, far removed from game development? but the developer has confirmed it reflects an actual level in the game. and the person or group who took the time to model, texture and animate the commercial probably doesn't consider themselves a marketing guru. they probably think of themselves more as artists.

it seems like people can accept grindhouse in games as long as it uses the aging-film-reel fx of HouseOfTheDamned:OverKill. But as soon as you give it a slick polished visual aesthetic, without groaner dialogue/gags, people don't think of it as Grindhouse anymore.

(my point is: wit and irony are mores in the eye of the beholder, yes?)

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Jeremie Sinic
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And now I watched the trailer...

Pieterjan Spoelders
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edit: ok nevermind :)

All that aside I'm still very curious to the game ofcourse and I'm sure I'll enjoy it.

Maria Jayne
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Seemed like the kind of imagary Quentin Tarantino would have in one of his movies.....we all know how horribly unpopular he is right?

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Joerg Reisig
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Hmmmm, i assume that quite a big creative team plus a couple of marketing persons worked quite a while on this trailer, so i don't really buy the "We honestly didn't mean to offend anyone" thing.

But there seems to be a lot of people who think if gory violence is cool and supersexy characters are cool so violence against supersexy characters is of course also cool. Thats puzzling me and and i think it is pretty creepy.

I can completely understand the outrage from the side of Hitman fans because the trailer did not make sense and from the side of people who are sick of misogynistic stuff in pop culture.

At least they apologized that's a start.

Christiaan Moleman
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Clearly this trailer is a satire of this year's E3.

Stéphane Lafleur
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my guess is the outrage comes from some people who dont play video games much or have little knowledge of the gamer culture or respect for it ..... there are other things people should get upset at in this world and this is not one of them...not if you prioritise

Jonathan Jennings
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I wasn't offended definitely dissapointed as a fan, one of the writers of Giantbomb stated it best " GEEZ THIS SAINTS ROW 3 DEMO SURE IS GREAT " did not excite me for absolution 9 which i have already preordered ) at ll .


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