Monaco and Feminism, or, Give Me A Female Cleaner and A Smashburger and You Can Have All the Redheads You Want

April 19, 2013

ETA: Hi, random dude out looking for a feminist to say mean things to, who has discovered this almost two-year-old (as I write this) blog post!  If you read the comments, you will note that the guy who made the game wrote back to me.  If anyone gets to tell me to fuck off, it’s that guy, but he was really, really nice and gracious and we had a good conversation like reasonable people and that was awesome.

I think there is a chance that you, personally, are not terrible, but your hobby is shitty and I suggest taking the rest of the evening off and playing video games.  Video games are really fun!  Have you played Monaco yet?

[more words if you click a thing]

I just preordered Monaco, a single-player/co-op heist game that I am SUPER excited about.   Then I checked out the development vlog, hoping to find more info on the various classes and how they played.  What I found was this very motion-sicknessy video in which Andy Schatz attempts to defend the redhead class from accusations of misogyny and does kind of a terrible job.

I’ll back up and provide context.  There are eight classes in the game, all based on classic heist tropes.  You have your locksmith, your pickpocket, your computer hacker, your guy who comes in and basically mows everybody down with a shotgun and they turn into skellingtons (can you tell which class I am most excited about?)  Then you have the redhead, whose power is seducing men as a distraction, a la Cinnamon from Mission: Impossible, etc.

There is an argument to be made in defense of the redhead, and it goes something like this:  “Look, these characters are not supposed to be three-dimensional, they are supposed to be classic heist tropes.  The pickpocket is a frigging hobo with a monkey!  A hobo with a monkey!  I also have a dumb guy who is good with locks and a dumb guy who is good with a shovel.  What more do you want from me?”

(The counter-argument you could make to this is “Yes, but you had an opportunity here to come up with creative takes on these classic stereotypes instead of perpetuating them whole cloth,” the counter-counter-argument to that is “Sure, but I didn’t.  Oh well!  Game’s still gonna be fun,” and the response to that is “Yes, and I am still very excited about it!  I will shut up now!”)

Schatz touches on the classic tropes defense briefly, but spends most of the video arguing various other things rather unconvincingly, as though he’s hoping something will stick and Anita Sarkeesian will call off her squad of death muppets and he will be able to go outside again and see his family.  And get a Smashburger, he really misses Smashburger.  (Okay, I will stop making shit up about Andy Schatz for no reason.)

His arguments as I understood them:

1)  The redhead is actually progressive, because she uses her sexuality as a tool and um Leigh Alexander wrote an article about Bayonetta and it probably also applies here.  God, I hope so.  (Maybe tonight I will try to sneak past the feminists and see if my dog is okay.)

I didn’t read Leigh Alexander on Bayonetta, or play Bayonetta, so I can’t speak to that bit, but whenever someone makes the argument that wielding your sexuality as a weapon necessarily empowers you as a female, I am like “oh dear God I was with you before you said that please stop talking.”

The kind of power that women want — I’m’a just speak for all women quick — involves shit like being treated as a fully equivalent human and being taken seriously and just maybe, sometimes, being the one who gets to do all the cool shit.  Being able to distract guys with our tits so other people can do cool shit is down there with being Aquaman, on the big cosmic list of superpowers.

(We are also, especially since the redhead is defined as a manipulative character, getting a little too close to the idea that women are all evil bitches who use their cunts to get what they want.  This is in my personal opinion the absolute most offensive thing you can say about us as a gender, and I have heard plenty of dudes on the internet saying it as though it were a proven fact.  I don’t think that’s at all where Schatz was going with this, I don’t think he’s a bad dude, I also love Smashburger, I’m just saying.)

2)  It is okay if the redhead is problematic, because there is another female character, the lookout!  Did you know she was female?  Is that made clear in the marketing materials, that the lookout is female?  Let me quick make that really weirdly explicit in all the marketing materials, that the lookout is female.  (Please, will you just tell my mom I’m still alive?)

So, okay, two out of eight characters are female.  One is real good at distracting guys so the others can do cool shit elsewhere, but the other one is much more of a badass, in that she is real good at, um, looking out for guys so the others can do cool shit elsewhere.


I’m a little bit reminded of a boy playing a heist game with his friends.  The only girls there are his crush and his little sister, whom he relegates to support positions so they don’t get in the way of the Big Important Fun Stuff, which everyone knows only boys are physically and psychologically equipped to deal with.  Maybe his crush enjoys being a seductress (I know I was super sold on the idea of having boobs before I got them), but I’ll bet you a Smashburger his little sister would rather be the hobo with the monkey.

(Side note:  The description of the lookout in the video is “Trained from youth to see danger around every corner.”  This is actually really relevant to the female experience!)

3)  It’s hard to do a female character, because either they are a damsel in distress, or they are a fake damsel in distress who turns out to be a badass, and that second one is actually pretty sexist because it shouldn’t be funny or punchy that a woman is a badass, she should just be a badass.  (Oh God OH GOD put the hammer down I swear I won’t touch your penguin ever again)

The fake-damsel-in-distress reversal gets more of its punch from people being sick of damsel-in-distress tropes, I think, but I absolutely agree that a woman who is a badass should just be a badass.  (See:  that chick from that dumb Priest movie, basically anyone from Kill Bill, Samus, FemShep, etc.)

You know what else is badass?  Remember that sociopath I was talking about earlier who just kills the shit out of people with a shotgun?  Make him a lady.  Or the computer hacker, “a modern-day wizard!”  That’s pretty badass!  He could be a lady!  Angelina Jolie did it!  Come on, Andy Schatz, you like lady badasses, right?

I bet a female Cleaner would be just the thing to convince Anita to sew your legs back on, or at least tell you where she put them!


This gender stuff isn’t a dealbreaker; I am still really excited for Monaco.  You learn pretty early on as a chick who plays video games that if you insist on being a lady badass or a lady not-sex-object, or even just a lady, you do not get to play nearly as many video games, so you suck it up and deal.

I look forward to a future in which our granddaughters get to stop friggin’ having to do that, though, and I’m a little sad that Monaco missed an opportunity to do something cool and subversive along lady badass lines.

(I’m also sad to have gotten absolutely zero free Smashburgers for having written this.  I gotta stop writing feminist diatribes hungry, they go to some weird places.)


  1. Hi there! This is Andy. Thanks for your in-depth thoughts! To be honest, I actually agree with them, for the most part.

    I actually regret making that video a little I didn’t’ have my thoughts together before I made it… usually when I make those vlogs I just speak off the cuff. But I was approaching a subject that was going to piss people off more than if I were wrong about, for instance, occlusion queries.

    The reason I made it is that a few people had complaints about the female characters in Monaco that I felt were a little unfair, and I wanted to defend those characters as kind of awesome.

    The original version of Monaco just had the Lookout, the Locksmith, the Hacker and the Cleaner. The Lookout was a character I built for my wife, and she is modeled after her in my head. Her play style suits the way my wife plays Monaco. Over time, I went through many iterations of the fiction behind this character – she was Snoop from the wire, she was daughter of a Latin soap star that was addicted to gambling at the races, she was a lookout from a gang in the Brazilian favelas. In the end, I had a REALLY hard time discovering her narrative voice, though, as I didn’t feel I could write those regional mannerisms convincingly.

    I also experimented with her character. Originally she was actually The Prowler, and her main ability was parkour. She was, in heist lingo, the Greaseman. But was cut those parkour features for a number of reasons (partially technical).

    Originally it was actually the Hacker with the Lookout’s ability to see through walls. But I ended up splitting off the hacker’s ability to create the Lookout.

    Later, I added four more characters. With the later four characters I designed things from a thematic approach rather than a mechanical one. Each one was based on a favorite character of mine (or an amalgam) from a heist movie. The Good Thief has a trans brawler whose expertise is digging but who is afraid of spiders (awesome, right?) and a pair of twins. These two characters became the Mole and The Pickpocket (a man with a monkey) The Redhead is based on Rachel Weisz’ character from Confidence. The Gentleman is the smooth mastermind… and he is my own little fantasy character (the guy I secretly like to picture myself as even though I could never be so smooth). Their mechanics were all much harder to nail down.

    By the way, the reason I liked Rachel Weisz’ character in Confidence… she is a brunette the whole movie, and the boys club of con men continually dismisses her. And then on the day of the big heist, she shows up to the meeting place having dyed her hair red and the boys throw a hissy fit because “red hair is bad luck”. It’s really a great freakin movie (and the inspiration for much of Monaco’s visual style).

    I ahve a soft spot in my heart for dominant (even domineering!) women, probably stemming from my relationship to my older sister. She is a pretty dominant personality, but I always felt defensive towards her because she made it through a tougher childhood than I — I had every advantage in the book, being a white dude, well liked by my teachers. My sister, who is gay (and with the most wonderful partner and little daughter in the world) didn’t always feel she had those advantages.

    So I kind of LIKE the story of a woman who uses her charms to seduce and get ahead. Sure, in real life, people that do that are kind of awful too, but she’s definitely NOT a damsel in distress (though she pretends to be one at points in the story, which the Gentleman is a sucker for)

    There actually WAS a point that we tried out the Hacker as a woman. (she was a woman for about 3 weeks). Originally the Hacker was one of the original four unlocked characters, and you had to rescue (unlock) the cleaner from the pysch ward at a hospital. The cleaner is based on this crazy ass story involving an actual prison break in Monaco of an American special forces dude that snapped and killed a billionaire banker and then stabbed himself to try to cover his tracks:

    But late in development we realized that the hacker was useless in the early missions and the cleaner was GREAT in the early missions. So we switched their places. When i did this, I actually came to realize that the Hacker’s portrait art worked better for the lookout character, so I switched their narrative characters. But due to elements of the story that I don’t want to spoil, it didn’t sit right with me to have the original four characters all be male and have 2 of the 4 unlockable characters be female. So I switched it back.

    So anyways… I regret making that video because I didn’t have a coherent thought and I was just babbling about something… something that I felt, and believed, but hadn’t formulated a particularly coherent argument as to why I felt that the criticism of those characters was a bit too boiled down. The character design and creation process was long and involved… and what I ended up with was the product of many many factors. It wasn’t just me sitting down one day and deciding that this was the perfect balance that would appeal to everyone.

    But in the end, you are right too! The Cleaner would be awesome as a woman! The Mole too! (the mole’s source inspiration is WAY more interesting than the mole himself!) I do wish I had the writing chops to be able to pull off a Snoop or a Brazilian gang lookout. I really struggled with writing the female characters, and I will readily admit that I don’t think I succeeded.

    So if there’s a failing here, it’s that process pushed me into certain mental notions of the characters, and I didn’t have the writing chops to really raise the bar on characterization. I hope you’ll enjoy the game anyways!

    • Hi Andy! Thanks for your response; it’s a lot clearer how much thought went into the character choices. Hope I wasn’t too much of a dick about it. I realize it’s gotta be pretty hard to write a specific evil seductress character without being accused of making blanket statements about an entire gender and being an agent of the patriarchy or what have you.

      Like I said, SUPER excited to play Monaco. It looks like exactly the kind of crazy fun online multiplayer experience my friends and I have been wanting forever, and I’m stoked to hear people have been getting 200+ hours out of the single-player as well. Because sometimes you feel like a nut, right?

      • Haha, yeah. Oh chances are I am and my game is in some way unknowingly an agent of the patriarchy, I am after all, this dude:

        I appreciate the honest criticism and I hope for whatever my failings are I can be a collaborator and not a perpetrator… Thanks for preordering 😀

      • At least you’re that dude in a nice suit!

  2. Oh and to be clear, the Redhead is NOT based on my sister, I was just trying to describe an admiration I have for kick ass women outside the mainstream.

  3. To the stupid feminist who wrote this, shut the fuck up, please and thanks.

  4. If you want a game with a badass female (lmfao XD) go make one yourself and quit bitching about how bad women have it.

    • Did you have a non-hostile point you wanted to have a reasonable discussion about, or should I write you off as a troll not worth engaging? Your call.

  5. You feminists are as bad as vegetarians complaing about shit that doesnt matter

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