I think we can agree that street harassment is a universal annoyance for all women, be it in the form of catcalls, come-hither hisses, overt sexual threats, or lasciviously intoned commentary like "you’re so beautiful" when you know you’re not, outfitted as you are in sweat pants for a 7-Eleven run.
A new video game by New York artist and producer Suyin Fong isn’t going to teach the sort of men that say, “I want to lick you all over,” the art of conversation. But it does attempt to give women and girls a virtual outlet to vent their frustrations.
Hey Baby is a first-person shooter game about street harassment. It's based on real stories from women all over the world and seeks to spark conversation about the occasionally threatening experience of leaving the house with a vulva.
Upon embarking on a walk through Any City, USA, the player immediately encounters an endless stream of sinister men who mouth off commentary of varying extremes, ranging from “I like your bounce, baby” to “I want to rape you, bitch!”
You have the choice to shoot them, shower them with love, or ignore them. Player beware, if you attempt the latter as I did when I played the game for free online, you’ll eventually find yourself backed up against a wall unable to choose flight over fight. Not a fan of bloody video games myself, I must admit that it was extremely gratifying to shoot my way out of that one.
Violence, of course, is never the right way to respond to a stranger that suggests, “You should leave your man and come with me.” It’s not even the point of the game, really, even though the player’s point of view is from behind an automatic machine gun, rather claustrophobically so.
The point, I would say, is that no matter how you respond to insurgent jerks on the street, they will keep coming.
Studies indicate that in the real world, 80 percent of women have experienced some form of harassment on the street. In Hey Baby, the definition of what constitutes street harassment is broadly pixelated. Does a man who says “very attractive” deserve to die in a hail of gunfire? How about “you know you want it?”
That depends on how you want to play it.