The issues of representation and how we treat the women who work in and around the video game industry are controversial subjects in 2014, and that fact alone is disheartening, but it's also important to look back at how utterly unconcerned gaming once was with the idea that it was being marketed directly to young, perhaps sexually frustrated men.
I recently stumbled upon a video that isolated the "sexy female voice" option from Unreal Tournament 2004 and, while it may have been fun to have a laugh at its expense, without the context of the game the voice acting is creepy as heck.
I was curious about what it looked like in-game, so I tracked down a video of that as well. Take a look.
It's just as bad, if not worse, if seen while someone is playing, and doing well.
It was enlightening to dig through even a small portion of the nine years of forums posts about Unreal Tournament that have taken place since the game's launch. People remember this announcer pack fondly, and discuss how much they miss it. It might have been meant as a joke, but it made a dent in the culture around the Unreal Tournament franchise. People are still talking about it.
This is what it looked like when video games were 100 percent comfortable being the power fantasies of young men. The gruff voice telling "bitches" to die, the ramping up of kills that made the announcer orgasmic ... the combination of the game play, which now feels like an anachronism in the world of level-based first-person shooters, with the over the top male and female voice actors almost feels like the sort of sad satire you see in a mainstream film meant to poke fun at games.
It feels like an uncomfortable relic from gaming's past. Something like this would likely never happen today, or at the very least it would be met with a storm of criticism upon release. But since it happened a little under a decade ago many people treat it as a pleasant reminder of our gaming past.
"Maybe I am just a guy who is desperate, maybe I am sick thinking killing and sex should go together, maybe I am screwy getting hot blowing things up and wanting to hear a woman's orgasm while massively destroying my enemy base," one commenter wrote in 2010, "But I know i am NOT alone." The comments after his post prove him right.
Looking through these videos and reading about the announcer pack online felt like going through your grandfather's old things and stumbling upon some racist or offensive piece of pop culture that was normal when he was younger. It may be an interesting piece of history, but your first reaction is still to recoil a bit before putting it in proper context, and taking at least a tiny bit of comfort that things are getting better.