Lloyd Mangram’s Forum

No sex please, we’re CRASH readers — is that the message? Lloyd prints your titbits on the great Split Screen sex scandal, and splits some hairs himself!

A saying in the Mangram family is ‘charity begins at home’. Yet everyone seems determined to sort out the problems of the world at large, while their own and their friends’ lives remain in chaos...

Nothing has shown me this more vividly than the small hill of letters I received on the subject of sex in software — which means sex in software ads, really. A lot of it was reaction to the Split Screen article in issue 55.

I’ve had to cut many of the letters to get as many as possible In. But though you’ll see that my own views are completely different, the £30 Letter Of The Month prize goes to Rachel Jones, who has been buying CRASH since issue 15.

Rachel wrote about US Gold’s now-notorious Psycho Pigs UXB ad - ‘what I can only describe as a disgusting piece of filth.’

‘I am not a feminist of particularly strong sensibilities’, says Rachel. She continues... ‘Women are not playthings, to be picked up or put down like a computer game. What this advert is saying is that although the two Jack The Lads want the woman they can have the game instead, or indeed as well, she is after all holding it in a ‘take me, take my game’ fashion.

US Gold are telling us that a gamer can buy a woman or buy a game and THAT IT ALL AMOUNTS TO THE SAME THING; pick it up for a tenner, throw it away and buy another one when it is superseded by a superior game.

Ian Phillipson, in your Split Screen article, does not seem to think it worthwhile to worry about the effects of such adverts on women. What he is saying is ‘Who cares? They’re only women making a fuss. Mr Phillipson contends that ‘tolerance should be shown to what others do, even of you don’t like it’. He goes on to argue that this is a principle of a democratic society.

But another principle is that people should be able to object to what they disagree with.

Psycho Pigs UXB is not even a game with a woman in it. This is naked femininity purely for the sake of it. Maybe the US Gold promoters enjoy this sort of thing and think the rest of us do. I do not believe in censorship but instead I feel that people should vote with their feet.

Which is probably a more constructive way to vote than getting hot under the collar. Ian Walsh sent in a step-by-step guide to voting with your feet...

  1. Don’t buy the game.
  2. See if it is possible to get the backing of certain chain stores. (Martech soon changed the cover of Vixen when Boots refused to stock it.)
  3. Complain to the actual software company.
  4. Write to the advertising companies or even Mary Whitehouse.

If enough people follow these actions CRASH may be able to concentrate on the games more and the adverts less.

Well said Ian!

Speaking of voting with your feet, or in this case with your mouth, I was sorry to hear from Catherine Davidson ...

I am writing to say how distressed I am at the picture on the front of the June issue of CRASH. I intend to cancel the order.

That wasn’t sex, of course. but so-called gratuitous Oliviolence — something for another Split Screen, Ed?

Many people compared Psycho Pigs UXB with the ads for Palace’s Barbarian games and Martech’s Vixen (the central subject of Split Screen).

One David Lascelles wrote ...

At least the page 3 beauties on Barbarian and Vixen had something to do with the plot, while the ugly so-and-so on the US Gold advert is a pointless expense.

Honesty is the best policy in more ways than one, it seems. One of our Spanish readers, Jorge Gonzalez. took a similar view.

Don’t you prefer to see an almost topless (whoops, sorry, I meant very good-looking) lady, instead of the bloody mouth of an alien, or the typical couple of men/women covered with bleeding cuts and using the very, very typical space-gun?

Fair point Jorge — at least these ‘sexist’ ads haven’t become a software cliché — yet. Another obvious point, which is often ignored amidst the hysteria, came from Ian Bentley. He addressed his comments to parents who stop their family getting CRASH...

Barbarian inlay

If they are going to stop their children reading CRASH and other computer magazines because of these adverts, did they stop their children going onto the beach on their summer holidays, where the women are wearing exactly the same amount of clothing, or even less in some cases where they are just wearing the bottom half of their swimsuit?

Oh, and another point — did these mothers notice the bloke on the Barbarian advert? He was wearing less than the woman.

Another fair point Ian, though I’ll say later why I think half-naked women in ads are on a different level from real-life sunbathers.

B Cooper also observed that there are men in the ‘offending’ ads...

Everyone is complaining about the use of women on software ads, but what about men?? Has nobody noticed that the Barbarian ads also feature a man dressed in nothing but furry underpants???

B also gave a very personal objection to top-shelf inlays ...

Every time you go into a shop and buy a game with a half-naked person on it you get funny looks and ‘pervo’ comments.

Which, I agree, is hardly fair — considering that the games are nothing like they look! Granny’s very well, by the way, and thanks for asking, B.

Paul Chapman made a similar point about packaging artwork...

Boots are prejudiced against the Speccy and other such ‘monsters’. They refused to sell Vixen with its old cover of a leopard-skin bikini top and loincloth-clad girl, yet they had Prince’s album with him pictured in his (not so glorious) altogether. And even ye famous soap/shampoo adverts contain more porn than computer-game adverts.

Now a slight aside from John Hicks.

I cannot recall half as much fuss when in 1986 Sam Fox Strip Poker was released.

Nor can I! Neil Manson puts it all in context too:

Vixen inlay

I don’t see the connection between sex and slash-’em-up games, but I don’t mind the odd page 3 beauty spread across the pages of CRASH. When it gets as bad as Sunday Sport then they’ve got something to complain about.

From historic York, city of walls, cathedral and (as I recall) excellent hamburgers. Andrew Dowd took a similarly cool view.

It’s about time all this nonsense stopped. The women in these adverts are not being exploited by predominantly male ad men. They appear, of their own accord, in adverts which are chosen purely because of their commercial viability. Most people, whether to admire or express disgust, take a second look at such adverts, which proves they do their job well.

And Francis Moon put the same point well with regard to Psycho Pigs UXB...

The amount of naked flesh in an advert is really meant to give them the incentive to buy the game, not turn them into rampant sex beasts. She is merely a professional model working and earning money.

Exactly the point Andrew and Francis — let’s not forget that these ads are produced to sell games, not to exploit women or anybody for that matter!

Matthew Scholes spoke for many, including me...

You see worse than the Barbarian and Vixen game adverts every day in The Sun and The Star. Corinne Russell in a bikini is hardly called porn or even risqué for that matter. And these women who whinge that these adverts are sexist are the whingers ashamed of the female body.

Now an opinion from the other side of the fence (and by the way, the balance of letters in this section represents the balance of YOUR views, not of mine... though they seem to be the same...)

Ian Fletcher gave Kati congratulations on a tightly-argued case. He continued...

Surely the point is that the form of adverts such as Barbarian I and II, Vixen and Psycho Pigs UXB is irrelevant to the fun aspects of computer gaming. The adverts just don’t fit.

Finally, before I get my say, what must be the strangest letter of all, is it tongue-in-cheek? Or does Stephen Wilcox really not recognise sexism in himself when he writes it?

Bring back the girlie tipster and get rid of the sexist ads as they must be degrading for female readers.

As you can guess, after all that I had plenty of food for thought of my own. And what follows is based on my own opinions formed over the last couple of decades or so, as well as some discussion with people here at the Towers.

I don’t particularly approve of sexist ads — in fact, I think they’re worse than page 3 girls and porn magazines, because ads actually exploit people’s unconscious sexism while porn is a simple matter of ‘you pays your money, you takes your choice’.

Having said that, I quite liked the Psycho Pigs UXB ad — the way I took it, it seemed to be making fun of the idiocy of sexism just as much as exploiting it. But frankly, there are very few people who do not take a so-called ‘sexist’ attitude in their inner self — that is, they sometimes see other people as bodies rather than characters. As some of you pointed out, probably a lot of the protest over sexist ads is hypocritical in that sense.

And what still puzzles me is that people starve, innocent airliners get shot down, the world is damaged as thousands of miles of forests are demolished — yes, even to print magazines like CRASH — young (and old) people are failing victim to the far worse problems of drugs. alcohol and smoking... yet all we can fuss about Is sex, that old taboo.

Obsession with sexism is just another form of obsession with sex. And so, underneath, the protestors are no different from the people they criticise.

IN THE BIN

Dear Lloyd
Games that are really rubbish should get awarded the CRASH Trash. Would Piggy get one?

Do CRASH Back Numbers provide the full magazine or part of the mag?
Cheuk Man Li

Well, we’ve had the Smash and the Splash so I don’t see why not the Trash — perhaps the Bash for beat-’em-ups and the Mash for games Nick can play over a nice plate of fattening potatoes? I’ll suggest it to Ed, but he’ll probably just sigh and look impatient as he always does when I come up with these ideas. CRASH Back Numbers supply the whole Issue complete with Olicover (and CRASH Trashes!).
LM

Action Force 2 screenshot

MAIL ORDER ALL IN ORDER

Dear Lloyd
I am writing in response to Neill Stone’s letter (Issue 55) which treats mail-order companies very unfairly. I have found through past experience that they have a lot to offer.

Neill bases his argument on three points, that mail-order companies offer negligible discounts, that they are unreliable and that they are slow.

The first point should be easy to check. If you turn to the Megasave advert on page 106, you will be able to see that the discounts are, in fact, considerable. Action Force II, reduced from £7.95 to £4.95; Driller reduced from £14.95 to £9.95. In fact you will find that most mail-order companies offer at least one third off the price of new releases.

Are these companies unreliable? Some may have been, but they would never last long, and you should have nothing to fear from the well-established companies. I have ordered nine games from eight different companies, and I received all but one, and on the ninth occasion I got a letter of apology and my money back, plus a voucher entitling me to a further 10% discount on any order as compensation! Anyway, even if one in ten of your orders go to a corrupt company, you will see that you still save far more than you lose.

Speed of reply varies from company to company, but five of my eight games had come back within a week, and the rest had arrived before the month was over, not an altogether bad record.
Roger King

Mail-order firms used to have a terrible reputation but as you say Roger, they’re getting better. One reason is that magazines like CRASH are legally responsible to make sure that mail-order companies who advertise in them don’t rip off customers.
LM

UH-OH!

‘Mr Scrooge’ — sounds like Franco Frey to me — sent in a chart of his top five budget games which we haven’t reviewed yet...

FINISHED ATHENA?

Dear Lloyd
I’m writing to find out if anyone has completed Athena without the aid of a POKE etc. I can reach the last level — The Lost World — but it is very long and I always run out of time.
Paul Calvert

FEAR magazine cover illustration

HELP!

Dear Lloyd
What on earth happened to FEAR?
Dave Bunce

I’m too scared to tell you. No seriously — the first issue of FEAR has been on newsagents’ shelves for many weeks and Them Upstairs are just finishing off the second one, full of slugs and snails and other things too disgusting to go into. (Goon — Ed.) Not all small newsagents stock it though, so try a big branch of WH Smith.
LM

A PROGRAMMER COMPLAINS

Dear Lloyd
I would like to thank CRASH for reviewing my CRL game Cyberknights in the June issue. I would however, like to make a few points concerning the program. Although your reviewers weren’t very enthusiastic about the game, I did feel that their views were a fair reflection of the game’s worth as a one-player game.

However, the game is intended for two players, with the one-player version being an introduction. I did point this out to CRL but unfortunately they saw fit not to mention it on the packaging. This being so it is hardly surprising that your reviewers chose to review it only as a one-player game.

The review also made little mention of the design program part of the package. This program is not a freebie thrown in as an afterthought, but is crucial to the concept of Cyberknights. I expended a great deal of effort to make sure that it would be easy and fun to use, since I envisaged it being loaded before each play session in order to design a new pair of protagonists.

Although superficially the game is about finding your opponent and blasting him, the essence of it lies in producing an effective robot design for yourself, and in discovering the correct tactics to counter the types of hardware that your opponent has chosen.

Cyberknights may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it does have a lot more to it than your review suggested. Perhaps your reviewers could try it with two players and let us know what they think.
R T Smith

Nonsense RT, we hardly made ‘little mention’ of the design program — Paul and Nick both mentioned it in detail but they thought it was pointless. It may well be CRL’s fault as you say, but to be fair we have to review games the way people buy them — which isn’t always as the programmer intended them. Because the packaging didn’t say Cyberknights is a two-player game most people will buy it as a one-player game! And as you admit not a very good one! Better luck with your software house next time, though.
LM

Show in September, snow in November — that’s what I told grandma the other day. Not that she knew what the PC Show is, mind you, I was just trying to show her I could make up proverbs too!

I’ve got to keep it brief this time, or should I say I’ve got to keep it out of briefs and fully-clothed? The reason is, there were so many letters on the sex/Psycho Pigs UXB/Split Screen debate that there’s not much room for the ordinary ones!

More of those next month.