Gender Bias in Video Games: Metro Last Light

metro ll

Let us skip the formalities shall we?

Getting right to it, Metro: Last Light may seem like the average shooter on first glance, but if you’re like me and are always looking for bigger themes in media, you may find it offensive. First off, let me be clear, I am not a feminist activist or a guy who gets up in arms about every little trope in media, but sometimes you gotta draw a line and point out and speak your mind.

*The following covers and shows video game nudity within the article. Reader discretion is advised. You’ve been warned.*

Here’s my case with Metro

The leading lady in Metro: Last Light is met in the early stages of the game, but isn’t seen for many chapters after the main character and her get separated- Nothing wrong with that. They briefly “talk” before getting separated, and didn’t have a relationship beforehand. After many events, the two reunite. The girl then gets kidnapped and eventually you save her (Mario style). She thanks the main character for the rescue… And then has sex with him. Yup. Don’t read that paragraph over to see if you missed anything, because that is it. No romance involved. After they “do the nasty,” they never talk for the rest of the game. Oops… Spoiler I guess. Anyway, in the bad ending, the guy dies and the player is treated with a scene where the woman is telling her son (Guess whose the father) that his father was the bravest man she had ever met. In the good ending you don’t even see the lady ever again. IN THE GOOD ENDING. You only see the woman in the bad ending? Wow. So I’m supposed to believe that these two built a strong relationship between two kidnappings with brief gratitude and conversations. My God, the main character doesn’t even talk. Outside of narrating the loading screens, you don’t hear this guy utter a word. A silent protagonist works in most first-person shooters nowadays, but not in this one. Having a protagonist who could actually hold a conversation would have benefited the game greatly, as it would have sold the relationship between he and her. But this silent man who just follows orders feels so damn disjointed in the story.

metro ll nude

This is the sex scene in question. This woman is essentially having sex with a guy who hasn’t said a word to her.

Another thing to support my case, the other females in the game are either no-name poor folk… or prostitutes. I’m not making this up, people. You can choose to get a lap dance from one girl… wait, wait, wait. Let me set the mood for you. The main character has followed a man he needs to kill(?) I’m actually not 100% sure; the story isn’t very engaging either. Anyway, the main character follows the guy into an underground strip club of sorts. While eavesdropping on the presumably evil man, a “trickster” comes up to him and asks him why he is alone. Since the character is trying to be all allusive and stuff, he pushes her against the wall and covers her mouth forcibly until the shady man leaves the area. As he releases her from his death grip, she still assumes that this somehow meant he “wanted to touch her.” (How daft can you be?) Moving on, you can either ignore her advances and keep it moving, or get that dance she’s been pushing on you. I have no problem with provocative scenes in media, such as God of War, Grand Theft Auto and Dishonored, but the way it was executed in this instance was poor. The woman wasn’t at all terrified that this man basically assaulted her.

metro ll pros

At this moment, do you really want me to believe that she is thinking: “Oh, he must really want a lap dance!”

Besides the game being a below par shooter, these are my main problems with Metro Last Light. Going with the “Bechdel Test,” Metro Last Light is guilty of gender bias. I use the bechdel test to recognize gender bias because it is simple but effective. Of course, there are other ways and better ways to identify bias, and you are free to use which ever way you’d like to compare with this test. The guidelines for the test is as follows.

Bechdel Test: 

  1. The movie has to have two [named] women in it. 
  2. The women must talk to each other. 
  3. The women must talk to each other about something besides a man. 

Metro fails the test with flying colors, as it doesn’t meet any of the standards. Metro may be set in a post apocalyptic Moscow, but if I’m not mistaken, women still have a role there.

Again, I must stress that tropes like this don’t usually get so riled up, but Metro: Last Light in particular got me heated under the collar. As a guy, I was offended, I’ve seen a lot of misogynistic stuff in my day watching anime and playing games, but Metro crossed a line with me. Combine it with a poor story and mediocre gameplay, and Metro makes my very short list of worst video games I’ve ever played.

So what do you think? Is Metro Last Light guilty of gender bias, or am I the one who is in the wrong here? Feel free to comment or reach out to me in anyway. Also, if you have a better way to identify a bias form of media, please share your knowledge with me. Feel free to comment or reach out to me in anyway.

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3 thoughts on “Gender Bias in Video Games: Metro Last Light

  1. I think with due respect that it is slightly unfair to critique Metro Last Light solely on the basis of having a strong gender bias. There are undoubtedly valid concerns in regards to gender roles in the game however judging from the actual book series that it is based upon it seems that women are viewed as commodities due to their ability to bear children.

    It is also worth noting that in the DLC the main female lead is a playable character; I am unsure as to whether that dilutes your criticism however, it can be argued that the designers are not being deliberately biased.

    • First off, thanks for the meaningful argument. I’m not trying to discredit metro in the slightest, but I just thought it was REALLY weird how they handled the women in the game. I’m aware that the game is loosely based on the book (I’ve never read it though) but if women are seen as commodity, shouldn’t they try to explain that a little bit in the game? I wasn’t aware about the dlc though, thanks for bringing that to my attention. I don’t think that the developers did it deliberately, I just personally thought that the women in the main game could have been handled with more respect.

      • I would not presume as to why the developers made the decision to portray women this way. I have my suspicion that the developers believe most post apocalyptic worlds depict women as little more than tools to rebuild society.

        I think the issue of portraying women in video games seemed to overly exaggerated at the expense of racism, ageism and such. Games such. Though I suspect I might be a bit misogynistic. This is not to say bias is not rampant it is just that the sheer focous being dedicated towards it is unfair to others.

        Would people have backed a Kickstarter about minority tropes as opposed to the tropes about females like Annita Sarkesian has done?

        I suspect not.

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