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#1 Edited by LiquidPrince (17073 posts) -

EDIT: The original thread title was, "A fundamental misunderstanding of the female characters of God of War!" which I have edited due to the fact that certain individuals claim it comes off as too aggressive. It was not my intention to belittle other peoples point of view, but to challenge the criticism leveled against God of War's treatment of women in the game of the year podcasts. I will not be changing the text in the original post which still says that I felt that some people fundamentally misunderstood the treatment of women because I still believe that some people did and I want the discussion below to continue as it had originally.

ORIGINAL POST:

I think that there was a fundamental misunderstanding of the female characters of God of War expressed in the game of the year discussions that I wanted to express my opinion on. This isn't meant to hate on anyone, but just to give my two cents sort of breaking it down character by character in a game which I think has some of the strongest and most nuanced female characters of the year. There will be spoilers, just so you know.

Faye (mom of boy)

The first and most important character that I'd like to discuss is Faye, the mother of Atreus and wife of Kratos. Traditionally in more cliche games you might expect that the protagonists are fueled by revenge for someone having killed the female character in their lives. In fact this trope was used as the primary motivation for Kratos in the original God of War game, where a guilt ridden Kratos was hellbent on killing Ares after he had tricked him into killing his wife and daughter. The difference in the new God of War game is that there is no quest for revenge, and no particular enemy that Kratos or Atreus can lash out against for having killed Faye. Faye has died as far as we know, of natural causes and the entire goal of the duo is honor her final wishes of having her ashes taken to the top of the mountain, which unbeknownst to them is actually a journey of returning Faye to her home.

It ends up being a story about two characters who have lost someone who was clearly the most important person in both of their lives when they just weren't ready to lose them and they have to learn to deal with it together. The most interesting part being that Faye doesn't send them on this journey for no reason. She has such a complete understanding of who Kratos is and ultimately who Atreus might end up becoming without her influence that she sets the entire journey up for them knowing full well that without a task to bind them together, they might fall apart. The final scenes of the game demonstrate that she knew in great detail that her passing would put them into disarray, and that they needed to make this journey to grow together.

The game also demonstrates her understanding of the males in her life throughout multiple different gameplay points. All those times Atreus lashes out against Kratos, or becomes a pompous dickbag after learning he is a god are put there for a reason. He becomes insufferable because we as players need to see him like that. If the task of delivering the ashes didn't exist to drive Atreus and Kratos closer together, then you can see what a terrible person Atreus might become, especially with the reveal that Atreus is actually Loki, the Norse trickster god. Faye's final act was designed to drive the men in her life together and have them grow past the things that could haunt them both.

Freya (mom of other boy)

The next character I'd like to talk about is Freya. Freya's character was meant to be tragic from the very beginning. She is so worried that her son Baldur will end up dying (due to a prophecy) that she literally goes around asking every creature in existence that they need to promise to not kill her son. She knew that Baldur being under the influence of Odin had no path but to become a misogynistic, pompous and violent asshole (like himself) which would eventually lead to his own death. Her love for her son was so great and so selfish that she essentially cursed him to never feel again to make him immortal. And this is the thing that ultimately drives Baldur insane. Not the influence of Odin, but the love of his mother damning him to an eternity of living but not feeling anything.

The scene at the end of the game where Baldur is choking Freya, might seem like some weird uncomfortable moment where a man is dominating a women, but I feel that that is a very shallow way of looking at it. Freya's irrational fear caused a type of insanity in her as well, and her love for Baldur was so great that she would rather let him kill her and keep him immortal then do the thing that he longed for, but put him in danger by freeing him from her spell. I'm not exactly sure what other people consider as strong character traits, but to me self sacrifice is usually seen as an admirable or noble one, even though in this particular set of events was meant to be seen as warped and tragic.

Valkyries (aka damn it stop throwing that shit at me... oh god dodge)

The final characters I'd like to talk about are the Valkyries. In the GOTY discussions it was mentioned that these characters thanked Kratos for killing them. This is completely untrue and is a complete misunderstanding of what those fights are. Firstly the fact that the strongest enemies in the game bar none are the female Valkyries is a point that should be applauded I think, when we're specifically talking in the context of how female characters were treated in God of War.

Secondly and perhaps more importantly Kratos is not killing the Valkyries. It is mentioned in the game that the Valkyries are supposed to be incorporeal spirits, but Odin has trapped then in physical bodies which has corrupted them. By Kratos destroying the corrupt physical forms, he's freeing them to return to Valhalla. The thank you is for helping them get released, not because you're killing them.

Final Thoughts

I'm not really sure what other people expect constitutes strong female characters, but having two characters both trying to protect the men in their family in two very different but perhaps oddly mirrored displays of maternal love is pretty strong in my opinion. And then there are the other female characters that will kick your ass, over and over... and over... and OVER again in a different display of strength.

If strong female character just means having a female version of Kratos, then that definition is too close minded and frankly a tad insulting I feel. I have no problem with super over the top powerful god like female characters existing, but to dismiss Faye and Freya's differing but ultimately mirrored displays of maternal love, is weird. The female characters were the glue that held the story together and the ones that propelled it forward.

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#2 Posted by Efesell (4261 posts) -

My primary issue with Faye as a strong character is really just that she isn't a character at all. It's all informed, it's all trust us she's really great. The player is given very little actual insight of their own and they designed the game in a way that was impossible to allow it.

Show us characters being awesome, let us see how rad she was.

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#3 Posted by LiquidPrince (17073 posts) -

@efesell said:

My primary issue with Faye as a strong character is really just that she isn't a character at all. It's all informed, it's all trust us she's really great. The player is given very little actual insight of their own and they designed the game in a way that was impossible to allow it.

Show us characters being awesome, let us see how rad she was.

But that's where the subtlety of the character development comes in, in my opinion. Faye is not a great character because she's running around ripping off Ogre heads, but rather she's a great character because of how she has affected the people in her life. The fact that she has set up this grand adventure and the two protagonists are set on honoring her final wishes says a lot about the person she was.

Could she have been a demon slaying badass? Sure, why not? In fact it was implied that she was, considering the Axe Kratos wields belonged to her originally. But an awesome character is more then just someone running around ripping off heads. The fact that her influence single handedly makes Kratos come off as more then a rage monster says a lot about what type of character she was. And the mystery and empty spots we have with regards to her back story can always be expanded upon in future games.

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#4 Posted by Efesell (4261 posts) -

She wouldn't have had to be in the game fighting gods or whatever alongside Kratos to be great but as it stands she's basically nothing to me. She as endearing as a giant hand of the script writers pushing the characters forward would be.

I don't just want to be told how great and amazing characters are.

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#5 Posted by simmant (79 posts) -

I think claiming anyone, except possibly Dan who seems to have no clue what was happening in the story, had a fundamental understanding of the women in that game is incorrect and insulting. If you go back and look at the discourse around this game when it came out, this was one of the most frequently brought up criticisms and was written about extensively. It isn't something that some of the staff just invented for the GOTY discussions.

Faye isn't a character, she is the implication that at one point there was a character and the idea that she is a strong female character because there are implications that she knows what would come out of her husband and son's journey is nonsense.

As for Freya, I honestly liked her for a lot of the game and thought the had a lot of room to make her a strong and dynamic character, which is what makes that ending such a total bummer. The strangling scene plays off a long history of imagery of violence against women in media. And the way the the whole ending is presented, for me at least, removed any subtly or intrigue around her character in favor of some ham fisted point that Mom's can be just as shitty as dad's, just in different ways.

All your points are just rehashing exactly what the game tells you, like you assume no one else was paying attention to it's explanation. But that isn't problem. The problem is that the games's explanations for the actions of its very, very few female characters are often bad or half baked and none of them are actually written as strong characters.

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#6 Posted by LiquidPrince (17073 posts) -

@efesell said:

I don't just want to be told how great and amazing characters are.

Hopefully I'm not coming off as dismissive of your opinion or anything but the case I made above isn't about being told she was great. It was about reading between the lines and seeing what the influence of that character had over Kratos and Atreus. There was never a line of dialog that was needed that was like, "man, Faye was just such a badass. You shoulda seen her." My whole argument was that the characters strength could be seen through every other aspect of the characters growth and the importance of their journey.

If you want to argue that how she propelled Kratos and Atreus and the intentions she had that were hinted at at the end of the game wasn't enough to make her a distinct character in her own right, I could buy that. But that doesn't make her a weak character. Just one that has more room to be fleshed out in sequels.

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#7 Posted by Efesell (4261 posts) -

I understand the point you're trying to make and can see you saw something more there.

I did not.

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#8 Posted by LiquidPrince (17073 posts) -

@simmant said:

I think claiming anyone, except possibly Dan who seems to have no clue what was happening in the story, had a fundamental understanding of the women in that game is incorrect and insulting. If you go back and look at the discourse around this game when it came out, this was one of the most frequently brought up criticisms and was written about extensively. It isn't something that some of the staff just invented for the GOTY discussions.

Faye isn't a character, she is the implication that at one point there was a character and the idea that she is a strong female character because there are implications that she knows what would come out of her husband and son's journey is nonsense.

As for Freya, I honestly liked her for a lot of the game and thought the had a lot of room to make her a strong and dynamic character, which is what makes that ending such a total bummer. The strangling scene plays off a long history of imagery of violence against women in media. And the way the the whole ending is presented, for me at least, removed any subtly or intrigue around her character in favor of some ham fisted point that Mom's can be just as shitty as dad's, just in different ways.

All your points are just rehashing exactly what the game tells you, like you assume no one else was paying attention to it's explanation. But that isn't problem. The problem is that the games's explanations for the actions of its very, very few female characters are often bad or half baked and none of them are actually written as strong characters.

This really depends on what your definition of a strong female character is then. Because it seems to me that in a lot of discussions similar to this one, a female acting feminine or maternal is often considered bad writing nowadays in favor of just having women as reskinned men. I remember the following video making some points that I feel are relevant to this discussion.

Loading Video...

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#9 Posted by simmant (79 posts) -

@liquidprince: I don't disagree with the premise that you can have strong female characters who are feminine or maternal, but I think a woman thanking her child for trying to kill her and getting enraged when you stop him is an awful way to illustrate that character's maternal nature.

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#10 Edited by LiquidPrince (17073 posts) -

@simmant said:

@liquidprince: I don't disagree with the premise that you can have strong female characters who are feminine or maternal, but I think a woman thanking her child for trying to kill her and getting enraged when you stop him is an awful way to illustrate that character's maternal nature.

I think the flaw in your argument is... that that never happened. You are remembering something that never happened in the game in order to make what was actually a heartbreaking and tragic moment fit into your narrative of how God of War treats its women poorly. She never thanks him... She says she loves him and is willing to die for him if that means that he can move on from the torment that she had inflicted upon him. There's a big difference between someone being choked out and thanking the person doing it, then just taking it and with your final moments telling them that despite events transpiring, you still love them. Like I said in my write up above, Freya's story was the a dark mirror of Faye's and was meant to be tragic all around.

Loading Video...

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#11 Posted by Chaser324 (8623 posts) -

Faye is almost the definition of a MacGuffin. She's barely a character at all. A few little details about her are revealed along the way, but trying to hold her up as a good character seems like a huge stretch.

Freya is a pretty solid female character throughout most of the game, especially given this franchise's history of some truly awful treatment of women, but it is really undercut by the turn at the end.

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#12 Edited by LiquidPrince (17073 posts) -

@chaser324 said:

Faye is almost the definition of a MacGuffin. She's barely a character at all. A few little details about her are revealed along the way, but trying to hold her up as a good character seems like a huge stretch.

Freya is a pretty solid female character throughout most of the game, especially given this franchise's history of some truly awful treatment of women, but it is really undercut by the turn at the end.

Like I said above, I think a lot of what makes Faye a good or interesting character is read in between the lines. It's the affect that she has had on Kratos and Atreus. Having seen Kratos in multiple games prior and seeing him in this one as an actual character with pathos says a lot about the female influence in his life. Is Faye the greatest female character? No, not even close. But what we know of her is a good basis for what we can expect of her in future games.

As for Freya, I honestly don't know what more to say then I have above. If you or anyone wants to tell me how they would change the scene at he end there and have it maintain the same level of emotional tragedy, I'm all ears. For the record I'm not saying, it's your duty to write a better ending or anything, but I thought the ending was handled pretty well, but there are people twisting and turning the end calling it bad, but not really saying how it could be better.

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#13 Posted by imhungry (1096 posts) -

People can take away all sorts of different readings when engaging with any media, so just as I understand that you came away with your thoughts written above, you should probably understand too that other people, myself included, came away from this game with very different feelings on the women and are not 'fundamentally misunderstanding' anything.

Everything that you've written, in fact, to me reads as precisely hitting on some of the big problems with the women! It's true that by the end of the game we know Faye isn't a woman-in-a-refrigerator in the typical sense of the term in that, as you say, it isn't really a revenge story. What we learn instead is that she's essentially orchestrated the entire events of the game which, to me, makes her even more poorly written. She isn't killed in service of a revenge plot, instead she sets it up so that her death will bring Dad and Boy on a journey of manhood. Only by taking down her protective warding around the home can the game, and by extension the lives of Kratos and Atreus, continue. It's the game's writing saying flat out that only through her death can Dad and Boy grow and, worse still, that this idea was something Faye herself bought into too (apparently, since we never actually get to see her).

On the flip side, Freya is then laden with all the typical tropes of a manipulative, toxic mother negatively affecting her son's life for her own personal gain (by her own admission!). Look, it's great that you viewed her as a primarily loving and self-sacrificial character but she's such an obvious collection of 'overprotective mother' traits in the worst way. She's manipulative, incredibly secretive, desperate, and exerts her power on her son by her own will in a ultimately twisted and negative way.

All this is made even worse by having these two be the only women in the game, blatantly asking you to compare them. You have Faye, the mother who knew her place was to disappear from the life of her son, painted as a hero and a great woman. Then you have Freya, who was overly controlling of her son's life and couldn't let him go, eventually being presented as warped and twisted, tragic, villainous. The underlying message there being that these women have no place in the lives of their children after they grow up, if they want to be remembered fondly they should know their place.

As for the Valkyries, I'll just say that creating an in-game lore justification doesn't really make me feel any more positive about using tired imagery of women thanking someone for killing them.

Again, I'm not here to disagree with you or invalidate your opinion, just to say that other opinions do in fact exist and to write them off as somehow misunderstanding the game seems pretty strange. It's fine if you don't agree with anything I've written.

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#14 Edited by Efesell (4261 posts) -

I just don't think you can hide an entire character between the lines and expect everyone to care about them at all.

As for Freya that ending may well fit within the arc but I don't think it's good enough for some folks to overcome just the pure optics of what is going on.

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#15 Posted by Chaser324 (8623 posts) -

@imhungry said:

Again, I'm not here to disagree with you or invalidate your opinion, just to say that other opinions do in fact exist and to write them off as somehow misunderstanding the game seems pretty strange. It's fine if you don't agree with anything I've written.

I definitely agree with this point. Someone having a different opinion doesn't imply they had a fundamental misunderstanding of anything.

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#16 Posted by LiquidPrince (17073 posts) -

@imhungry said:

People can take away all sorts of different readings when engaging with any media, so just as I understand that you came away with your thoughts written above, you should probably understand too that other people, myself included, came away from this game with very different feelings on the women and are not 'fundamentally misunderstanding' anything.

Everything that you've written, in fact, to me reads as precisely hitting on some of the big problems with the women! It's true that by the end of the game we know Faye isn't a woman-in-a-refrigerator in the typical sense of the term in that, as you say, it isn't really a revenge story. What we learn instead is that she's essentially orchestrated the entire events of the game which, to me, makes her even more poorly written. She isn't killed in service of a revenge plot, instead she sets it up so that her death will bring Dad and Boy on a journey of manhood. Only by taking down her protective warding around the home can the game, and by extension the lives of Kratos and Atreus, continue. It's the game's writing saying flat out that only through her death can Dad and Boy grow and, worse still, that this idea was something Faye herself bought into too (apparently, since we never actually get to see her).

On the flip side, Freya is then laden with all the typical tropes of a manipulative, toxic mother negatively affecting her son's life for her own personal gain (by her own admission!). Look, it's great that you viewed her as a primarily loving and self-sacrificial character but she's such an obvious collection of 'overprotective mother' traits in the worst way. She's manipulative, incredibly secretive, desperate, and exerts her power on her son by her own will in a ultimately twisted and negative way.

All this is made even worse by having these two be the only women in the game, blatantly asking you to compare them. You have Faye, the mother who knew her place was to disappear from the life of her son, painted as a hero and a great woman. Then you have Freya, who was overly controlling of her son's life and couldn't let him go, eventually being presented as warped and twisted, tragic, villainous. The underlying message there being that these women have no place in the lives of their children after they grow up, if they want to be remembered fondly they should know their place.

As for the Valkyries, I'll just say that creating an in-game lore justification doesn't really make me feel any more positive about using tired imagery of women thanking someone for killing them.

Again, I'm not here to disagree with you or invalidate your opinion, just to say that other opinions do in fact exist and to write them off as somehow misunderstanding the game seems pretty strange. It's fine if you don't agree with anything I've written.

You could look at Faye like that. Or you can look at it as Faye was inevitably going to die, since all the Giants were slowly dying out, (with the world serpent literally being the last living giant) and instead of Faye, who could have very well shaped a positive relationship with her family if she were still going to be alive, letting her family crumble after her death, she proactively sets them upon a mission that she knew could help them grow. It's not like Faye purposefully committed suicide in order to jump start the adventure. She was one of the last of a dying race.

As for Freya... You do realize that the character is based on a pre-existing mythological figure right? This is literally the character that went around and made every living thing in existence promise they wouldn't harm her son. She is flawed, twisted, villainous and warped by design. It's what makes her character tragic. If they were gonna change those traits, they probably wouldn't have used Freya and Baldur in the first place, which would mean an entirely different game.

As for the Valkyries, again, they're literally not being killed. They're being freed from their corrupted physical bodies. You can put a negative spin on anything if you really want to. And in this case there really doesn't seem like a game developer can win. The strongest enemies in the game are female, cool, but why does Kratos actually have to kill them?

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#17 Posted by LiquidPrince (17073 posts) -

@efesell said:

I just don't think you can hide an entire character between the lines and expect everyone to care about them at all.

As for Freya that ending may well fit within the arc but I don't think it's good enough for some folks to overcome just the pure optics of what is going on.

Sure, I could buy that. But that doesn't make her a bad character in the way that she was being discussed in the podcast. Just one that needs to be fleshed out in future games. What we know of her so far indicates a strong and loving character and I think it's a bit cheap and unfair to call it out as straight up bad or poor representation, simply because the focus of this first game was to establish the relationship of father and son while laying the ground work for more.

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#18 Posted by Efesell (4261 posts) -

Well... "They'll do better in the next game" does not do anything to change my current opinion of the character.

There feels like a real theme of counting on things that aren't actually there in this discussion.

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#19 Posted by LiquidPrince (17073 posts) -

@efesell said:

Well... "They'll do better in the next game" does not do anything to change my current opinion of the character.

There feels like a real theme of counting on things that aren't actually there in this discussion.

I mean, for a character that was unseen, there was PLENTY of back story that was plainly expanded upon in the game, on top of what was more subtly implied. If you want to argue that wasn't enough, that's not something I can really try and change your mind on, but for a character you don't actually see, you still get plenty of explicit history, back story, character traits, personality etc...

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#20 Posted by SSully (5622 posts) -

@efesell said:

Well... "They'll do better in the next game" does not do anything to change my current opinion of the character.

There feels like a real theme of counting on things that aren't actually there in this discussion.

I think the "They'll do better in the next game" is even worse considering this is the 5th ( 7th if you count psp games) in a series of games that has a strong history of women characters either being A. Dead B. Sex mini games. They could have done better with this game, but didn't.

I say this as someone who probably puts God of War up there as my GOTY. It was a great game, and I think some of Freya's character work is really solid, but overall it ended up being pretty poor.

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#21 Posted by not_a_bumblebee (85 posts) -

A great leap forward for the God of War series when it comes to the treatment of women compared to the past, the sex mini game, but they still got a long way to go. This is one of my favorite games of the year but like a favorite novel or movie you tend to want to gloss over the troublesome parts. Sometimes you even want to get defensive when someone points out the glaring flaws in something you love but that doesn't make it any less true.

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#22 Posted by Ares42 (4241 posts) -

I don't wanna stir the pot too much, but only looking at the Valkyries as "those bad ass female enemies that kill you over and over" is short-selling their roles quite heavily. I'm guessing most people who criticize their inclusion never got the point of learning more about them, so here's a video to catch people up.

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The Valkyries are highly important powerful figures in Norse Mythology. And much of the chaos going on during the story of the game is caused by their absence. While the main story of the game is about Kratos and Atreus and their journey there's a full sub-story going on about how the Gods are fucking everything up due to their megalomania and greed and freeing the Valkyries from their imprisonment to impose some checks and balances is the resolution of that story.

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#23 Edited by Stephen_Von_Cloud (1642 posts) -

The thing is it's a different reading of the game with someone having a certain focus. You can certainly disagree and I understand all your reasoning reading through it, but calling it a misunderstanding is wrong.

Sometimes a story can be about certain things and not others, and not everyone will be pleased with representation or things across it. I think implying so much about a character throughout a game is really interesting and well done in the game myself. Is it the best developed female character? No, and the criticism is fair but for me the story in the game is very well done with what it does do.

Games are certainly improving overall I would say and the fact that we are discussing any nuance about female characters in a game in a series which you had stupid threesome minigames in before is good.

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#24 Posted by nutter (1815 posts) -

I have a TON of thoughts about God of War. It’s a game that feels like it was written for me.

My take is that it’s a pretty feminist game. It’s a rejection of classicial manhood (toxic masculinity, whatever you want to call it), that places its women in its most important roles.

Faye is presented with love and reverence from everyone aside from antagonist Aesir gods. She’s told to be virtuous, strong, and a leader and protector. Sindri pretty much threatens a hulking Kratos when he fears he took her axe through force. She’s the driving force for the story for her lineage, impact on the world during her life, and her will (being seen to by Kratos and Atreus).

Freya is a mother consumed with protecting her child, Baldur. In norse mythology, he was the golden child and his prophesied death would bring about ragnarok. She acts in the name of kindness and compassion throughout, and refuses to lift her hands against her son to save her own life, saving her son AND the world. She also weds Odin as part of a gambit to make peace. So really, she’s constantly trying to save the world.

I really don’t see any of this as “problematic.”

As for the men, the game is a condemnation of classical manhood. I read Kratos’ fear of his boy’s godhood as a fear of his impending manhood. Kratos thinks men are evil, selfish creatures, himself included. He’s ashamed of his unfettered manliness, in a way. Becoming the “dad of war,” he’s a single father trying to keep his son from his path and the path of other gods. Even leaving his culture and his godhood behind for a life of exile, there are gods in these lands that possess the same traits he wants his son to avoid.

The curse of godhood really does read as toxic masculinity to me. His boy will mature, will realize his nature as a god, and act accordingly. Kratos is trying to break the cycle. This includes new challenges for Kratos, like talking, sharing and feeling, especially with another male. He feels shame and takes most of the game before he can confess his past to his son, using his own story as a cautionary tale.

There’s a ton to unpack in this game, and none of it is really hidden. The layers are pretty surface level, but intermesh nicely.

As a father to a boy who is just starting to struggle with becoming a man, I find the game incredibly relatable and sweet. My wife watched the overwhelming majority of the game and felt the same way as a mother.

On the subject of men talking about feelings, I’m a talker. But I’m REALLY uncomfortable opening up to men. It’s not how I was raised, and not how I lean at all. I can speak openly about emotion with women all day, though. My son is the only man I’ve actually really opened up to. He takes some lessons from it, which is great to see. He’s sometimes uncomfortable about it, which I understand. It’s the right thing to do, though. The only tears or pain I recall father acknowledging were those of physical pain...mine or his.

I teach both my son and daughter, it’s okay to feel, to cry. It just shows that you care or are invested. It’s not weak (though there’s a time and a place). It’s great to win a game, but it’s better to win respect, even in defeat. It’s best of all to keep your self-respect by being fair and honest and continuing to like yourself.

I thought Ben’s insight regarding Atreus’ curse being weakness rooted in confusion about his nature, and realizing that he’s a god makes him (understandably) a jackass was totally on-point. I also think Abby and Jeff’s basic rejection of children really hurts the ability to read the game. I say this considering what I’ve read about Cory Barlog and his relationship with his son. Maybe I’m wrong, but hey, interpretation!

I’m curious if Vinny’s take might change once Max is a little older. It makes me wish there were more...senior...parents on staff to weigh in on this one, as I’d love to hear what a slightly older Vinny or Jason might say.

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#25 Posted by csl316 (14928 posts) -

I agree with the stuff you said.

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#26 Posted by FrostyRyan (2884 posts) -

I think observing Faye as an actual character is a mistake. She's interesting yes but we are only told about her and that's where her true power lies. She absolutely is not a "character" at least on the same level as the rest of them though.

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#27 Edited by BoOzak (2494 posts) -

@frostyryan: I dont think you have to see a character for them to be character, if the game opened with a flashback of Faye carving the ward or whatever on the tree that wouldnt have made her any more or less of a character. I think it would have hurt the story and pace though.

@nutter said:

I’m curious if Vinny’s take might change once Max is a little older. It makes me wish there were more...senior...parents on staff to weigh in on this one, as I’d love to hear what a slightly older Vinny or Jason might say.

I could be wrong (I dont follow any of them on social media) but I think Jason has a son that is much older than Atreus. I seem to remember him talking about when his son was a teenager he made him watch The Friday the 13th movies as a cationary tale of partying too hard or something to that effect.

Anyway, I agree with everything you've said but I havent listened to all of the GOTY stuff yet (i'm amazed how so many have!) so I cant comment on any of the takes by the staff.

I will say that I enjoyed the story and I love how they decided to build the world and its characters.

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#28 Edited by nutter (1815 posts) -

@boozak: I’m at the end of day two, so I’m super curious to hear where the God of War discussions go from here.

I gave up on social media some years ago, so I’m in the same boat on the staff. I was under the impression Jason had a baby boy from the Monster Hunter World streams he did from home.

If he has an older son, coupled with what he’s mentioned of his own teenage years, I’ll be extra super curious to hear his take.

I really do think raising a boy (my daughter is only 8) has a tremendous impact on how one views Atreus. I should probably add that I volunteer with kids, and while I don’t know those kids as personally as my son (I’ve worked with them from 2-5 years), Seeing them act out and struggle with their own situations...I can see them in Atreus as well.

EDIT: I also agree a character doesn’t need screen time to be a character. Is that rule for visual media? What makes a character a character in film? games? litterature? plays?

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#29 Edited by conmulligan (1890 posts) -

@ares42 said:

The Valkyries are highly important powerful figures in Norse Mythology. And much of the chaos going on during the story of the game is caused by their absence. While the main story of the game is about Kratos and Atreus and their journey there's a full sub-story going on about how the Gods are fucking everything up due to their megalomania and greed and freeing the Valkyries from their imprisonment to impose some checks and balances is the resolution of that story.

I hate how the Valkyries are treated in God of War; one of the most unique and compelling ideas in Norse mythology reduced to optional bosses with little or no characterisation. Say what you want about Freya, but to me the biggest misstep Sony Santa Monica made was passing up opportunity after opportunity to weave women into the plot in a way that doesn't just serve Kratos and Atreus's story. Imagine if the Valkyries had received even a fraction of the narrative effort put into fleshing out Brock, Sindri or Mimir.

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#30 Posted by burncoat (540 posts) -

We get more characterization from Mimir about how Thor, Odin, and most of the Aesir than we do for Faye. Odin comes off as a paranoid despot while Thor comes across as a mean asshole that gets wasted all the time.

Faye just gets mystery for mystery's sake. I'd be fine if they correct this in future games and at least explain a little bit about what kind of woman she was, but as it is, with one game, we know more about the motivations and personality of Odin than Faye. They screwed up this time and them possibly righting it in the future doesn't change it as it is now.

As far as the Valkyrie's go, I put it in the same box as why Quiet is naked all the time. Because the creator wrote a reason to explain what they wanted. I don't think it was for malicious or fanservice reasons, though, and think it was just a way to include a way to fight Valkyries but not make them permanently killed off in the future. They're a huge part of Norse lore, so it makes sense that they wouldn't want Kratos to kill them off, but they probably could have found a way to do that without having the whole "brutally destroyed and thanking their killer" part in it.

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#31 Posted by nutter (1815 posts) -

@conmulligan: I am curious to see if they do more with them in a sequel. They clearly mess with the mythology in the game, and part of that is Kratos’ impact on their world.

Valkyries fought by Odin’s side in Ragnarok. In the God of War fiction, Odin corrupted them. Surely, once freed, they wouldn’t fight by his side in a sequel. Could they have a more key and empowered role in a sequel? Baldur’s death is supposed to lead to Ragnarok, so I’m guessing they’ll tackle that.

Even then, I’m assuming the events would be all over the place if Loki is actually reformed during the events of God of War...kind of ironic that someone responsible for so much death (especially of gods) would be reformed by renouned god-hater, Kratos.

I’d be totally happy with no God of War sequel. But I’m assuming they’ll make one...

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#32 Posted by imhungry (1096 posts) -

@liquidprince: Faye was the last of a dying race yet we actually know nothing about the circumstances of her death. Sure she didn't commit suicide but it also sounds like she was well enough before her death to do some family bonding in a constructive way. Instead, we're presented with the implied image of a woman who is secretive and manipulative who leverages her death as apparently the only possible solution to having Atreus and Kratos grow.

Also, yes I'm aware that characters in the God of War series are based around mythological figures. I mean, really? I'm not actually sure why you brought this up because at least in the specific context of the Frigg and Baldr story, Frigg isn't at all a villainous figure. She is, in fact, largely the victim (alongside Baldr) to Loki's schemes, she doesn't hurt Baldr at all. You're right that the overprotective mother trait is ripped straight from the myth but it was absolutely a choice by the writers to change her story the way and emphasize her negative characteristics the way they did.

Finally, I don't know what else to say about the Valkyries other than to repeat that having a flimsy lore justification does about as much for me as Quiet breathing through her skin. The way a developer can 'win', as you put it, is to not write your subplot in such a way that involves Kratos brutally killing these women and then having them thank him for it. It doesn't matter that in-universe they aren't really dying because that doesn't change what is literally happening on screen and the themes that come along with it. Writing your subplot in such a way as to not lean on tired tropes isn't that hard.

We're clearly reading the game fairly differently and that's fine, doesn't make either experience less valid.

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#33 Posted by LiquidPrince (17073 posts) -

@imhungry said:

@liquidprince: Faye was the last of a dying race yet we actually know nothing about the circumstances of her death. Sure she didn't commit suicide but it also sounds like she was well enough before her death to do some family bonding in a constructive way. Instead, we're presented with the implied image of a woman who is secretive and manipulative who leverages her death as apparently the only possible solution to having Atreus and Kratos grow.

Also, yes I'm aware that characters in the God of War series are based around mythological figures. I mean, really? I'm not actually sure why you brought this up because at least in the specific context of the Frigg and Baldr story, Frigg isn't at all a villainous figure. She is, in fact, largely the victim (alongside Baldr) to Loki's schemes, she doesn't hurt Baldr at all. You're right that the overprotective mother trait is ripped straight from the myth but it was absolutely a choice by the writers to change her story the way and emphasize her negative characteristics the way they did.

Finally, I don't know what else to say about the Valkyries other than to repeat that having a flimsy lore justification does about as much for me as Quiet breathing through her skin. The way a developer can 'win', as you put it, is to not write your subplot in such a way that involves Kratos brutally killing these women and then having them thank him for it. It doesn't matter that in-universe they aren't really dying because that doesn't change what is literally happening on screen and the themes that come along with it. Writing your subplot in such a way as to not lean on tired tropes isn't that hard.

We're clearly reading the game fairly differently and that's fine, doesn't make either experience less valid.

Not fully fleshing out Faye's backstory in a game that is primarily about the relationship between a father and son doesn't make her a poor female character. You get plenty of information about the kind of person she was, the skills she possessed and the things she accomplished all through out the game via the Lore Markers, Mimir and through Kratos and Atreus themselves. To say she was a poor representation of women in the game because she wasn't ever present is kind of a weak argument to me. Do we have more to learn? Sure. But what we know is she was strong, capable, loving and nurturing.

As for your Valkyrie argument, you can twist anything to seem more perverse or gross if you try hard enough. There is a big difference between them thanking them for him killing them, and them thanking him for helping them get released. I remember one of my English professors back in the day making a comment that the words fuck, sex, love, bang etc... all referred to the essentially the same action, and yet the meaning behind the use of each term was vastly different. Making love and fucking someone are in action two similar things, and yet context is everything. How that applies in this conversation is you're choosing to take an innocent moment of the Valkyries thanking Kratos for helping them get free, and twisting it to sound creepy and perverse. Kratos as a character doesn't even want to engage with the Valkyries if you remember and it is Atreus and Mimir begging to help them go free that makes him do it.

So then would the solution just be to have the Valkyries not thank him for what happened? Kratos frees them and they just go alright peace out? Would that somehow drastically change the actual fact that the Valkyries both in terms of lore and in terms of gameplay are some of the most formidable opponents around? It's honestly nitpicks like this that drive a lot of game developers to prefer not having female characters in the first place. They're damned if they do and damned if they don't. "The Valkryies thanked Kratos for helping them go free, how despicable. A proud Valkryrie would never stoop so low as to thank the man who helped them. Now if Lara Croft was the one ripping off their wings, we're in business."

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#34 Posted by doctordonkey (1786 posts) -

It'll be interesting to read about this topic once the sequel comes out, because if you were paying attention to the story you'd see what they are setting up. The Valkyrie's and Freya (who was also a Valkyrie before Odin put the pacifistic curse on her) are going to play huge roles in the story. It'll be cool to see how that all unfolds. I just kinda feel like the people that had issues with this stuff just weren't...paying attention, I guess.

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#35 Posted by Ares42 (4241 posts) -

but to me the biggest misstep Sony Santa Monica made was passing up opportunity after opportunity to weave women into the plot in a way that doesn't just serve Kratos and Atreus's story. Imagine if the Valkyries had received even a fraction of the narrative effort put into fleshing out Brock, Sindri or Mimir.

They did though. Most people just choose to ignore it because it's doled out in small pieces, and the resolution is behind an end-game wall most people didn't bother doing. There's a few moments during the main story that's not so obviously telling the story of the Valkyries which you won't get unless you've seen the conclusion, much like how the context of the first fight with Baldur changes once you've seen the conclusion of that story. Sure, they could've focused the main story around them and made a much bigger deal out of it, but this is a Norse mythology game that side-lines Thor and Odin in favor of telling a very personal story focused on a very minimal cast of characters.

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#36 Posted by BladeOfCreation (1222 posts) -

@liquidprince: Devs aren't "damned if they do and damned if they don't." That's ridiculous. All people are saying is yeah, include female characters and ALSO make them actual, you know, characters. Not just bundles of tropes. I don't necessarily agree with the criticism of the Valkyries thanking Kratos for "killing" them. But you know what? These are the most powerful non-deity entities in Norse mythology...and Kratos has to save them. Of the eleven female characters in the game, one is a crazy mother whose character arc at the end makes no sense, one is a manipulative liar who kept the truth from her husband for years, and nine of them are reduced to the role of needing to be saved.

God of War is great and is rightfully on GoTY lists. It's also full of tired tropes that the series, despite moving to a new mythology, can't seem to get rid of.

THAT'S what people are talking about. It's literally the point Abby was making all along: female characters don't have to be perfect. When one of them dies (off screen and before the story even starts) to set the men off on their quest and the only other female character with any significant screen time is a crazy mom trope, that's just plain unimaginative writing.

That's actually what a lot of the discussion around tropes in media is. Take Game of Thrones. Cersei is monstrous and does awful things to protect her children. So she's an overprotective mother, yeah...and there's a ton of other women in the show who exhibit a variety of personality traits.

And again...it's not even the first time Kratos' wife dying was the what set off the story. That's lazy. What are they gonna do when he goes to Egypt? Jump the story ahead ten years and open the game as he buries his wife?

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#37 Posted by LiquidPrince (17073 posts) -

@bladeofcreation: Sorry, but everything you stated, I've already refuted and explained why that isn't the case in my eyes. Saying the women are a bundle of tired tropes is looking at what the story presents to you in a very shallow way that willfully ignores all the positive aspects in order to paint some picture that just isn't true.

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#38 Posted by conmulligan (1890 posts) -

@ares42 said:

They did though. Most people just choose to ignore it because it's doled out in small pieces, and the resolution is behind an end-game wall most people didn't bother doing. There's a few moments during the main story that's not so obviously telling the story of the Valkyries which you won't get unless you've seen the conclusion, much like how the context of the first fight with Baldur changes once you've seen the conclusion of that story. Sure, they could've focused the main story around them and made a much bigger deal out of it, but this is a Norse mythology game that side-lines Thor and Odin in favor of telling a very personal story focused on a very minimal cast of characters.

That's just lore, though. The Valkyries don't have personalities, relationships or character arcs, just lowercase m mythology. You say Thor and Odin are sidelined, but you get a much fuller picture of who they are as people through Mimir's stories than you do any of the Valkyries.

So then would the solution just be to have the Valkyries not thank him for what happened? Kratos frees them and they just go alright peace out? Would that somehow drastically change the actual fact that the Valkyries both in terms of lore and in terms of gameplay are some of the most formidable opponents around? It's honestly nitpicks like this that drive a lot of game developers to prefer not having female characters in the first place. They're damned if they do and damned if they don't. "The Valkryies thanked Kratos for helping them go free, how despicable. A proud Valkryrie would never stoop so low as to thank the man who helped them. Now if Lara Croft was the one ripping off their wings, we're in business."

I'm repeating myself at this point, but an actual solution would be to flesh out the Valkyries as characters instead of basically just another thing to kill and loot. Also, people stay stuff like "nitpicks like this that drive a lot of game developers to prefer not having female characters in the first place" all the time but it's bullshit. Are Rockstar not going to have shooting in their next game because people like to nickpick the combat in RDR?

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#39 Posted by Ares42 (4241 posts) -

@conmulligan: You don't get to know them as individuals, no, because fleshing out 9 separate Valkyries would be more character work than the entire game combined. You get to know them as a group, what their purpose is, what their fate has been, what motivations they have and ultimately what happens to them. As a single entity they don't have quite as much story behind them as Thor or Odin, but it's not like they're some side note in comparison.

In some way I think much of the reason people notice their "lack" of development is because they're actually in the game. You go along through the story of the game listening to all the stories etc, but it's sort of background noise because you don't actually meet or interact Thor or Odin or Tyr (for the most part). So you're ok with it since it's this own little sub-story. But once the Valkyries actually manifest as part of the game they appear under-developed in comparison to the cast of the main story, even though they're not for the story-line involving them.

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#40 Posted by nutter (1815 posts) -

@bladeofcreation: I just don’t see Freya in a negative light. Her son’s death was prophesied and she took on a parent’s role as a protector. Yeah, the impact on his life is murkey at best, but she made a choice as a mother. It’s complicated, but I didn’t judge her for it.

At the end of the game, she’s trying to keep the peace between her new allies and her son. She’s clearly powerful, badass, and well-intentioned, looking for a third way.

When it becomes clear that Baldur needs revenge, she lets her son take what he needs to maybe make him whole. She’s likely guilt-ridden over his anguish and basically says “I love you, if my death will give you peace, so be it.”

At that point, Kratos makes a choice I don’t entirely understand (driven by a need to win?) and re-engages with Baldur, murdering him.

In any event, I don’t think Freya was limited to a trope or presented in a negative light. I thoight she was well-intentioned and powerful.

I’ve had that helpless in the hospital life and death moment with my child. With zero power to help him, with the helpless prayers I offered up, I can completely understand making a well-intentioned but bad decision to save the life of your child.

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#41 Posted by nutter (1815 posts) -

@ares42: Good point about the valkyries suddenly becoming “real” at the end of the game.

I didn’t see Faye, Odin, Thor, Tyr, or the Valkyries as any less real by not seeing them, but I understand how someone could feel that way, and how suddenly seeing Valkyries might make them feel less fleshed out than characters you’ve had cut scenes with throughout the game.

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#42 Posted by SethMode (1876 posts) -

I think that this thread has overall been very interesting to read. I personally didn't have the takeaway that Abby did on my playthrough, but her perspective (as well as Dia Lacina's) really made me appreciate some of the places the game could have improved.

The one bummer about this thread is that it feels like little respect is being given to the idea that it's okay to have differing takeaways from a work of fiction. No offense to the thread creator intended but, this has been stated several times and it's a little bizarre that you choose to ignore it and continue to claim that you have refuted all people that took away different things from the game than you did. It gives the thread a more "Debate me! Convince me I'm wrong!" vibe which doesn't really feel all that conducive to a good discussion, something a game as good as God of War deserves.

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#43 Edited by LiquidPrince (17073 posts) -

@sethmode: I have absolute respect for anyone who has a differing opinion. A lot of other people seem to be a bit dismissive of my points though with a sort of, "Yeah well... that's just like your opinion man..." attitude. People who are set on believing that it treats its female characters poorly don't much seem to care and think differently.

Due to certain responses I've already admitted that Faye is not necessarily as fleshed out as she could be. But I reject the idea that she is just a Maguffin to set off Kratos and Atreus' journey. The game has plenty to say about her via the lore markers, through Mimir and even through Kratos and Atreus themselves. Even if sometimes it requires you to do a little bit of unpacking and isn't just explicitly stated.

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#44 Posted by simmant (79 posts) -

@liquidprince: It literally is "Just your opinion" though and it can never and will never be anything more. That's the whole point. No one is dismissing your right to feel a certain way about the female characters in this game. On the other hand, you have spent this entire thread trying to explain to other people why the way they feel is incorrect and defending your take on the women in this game as though it is the only reasonable and valid way to feel. Ever post you write has the tone of speaking down to the person you are responding to and it really, truly seems like you think anyone posting to disagree with you is stupid.

And to be honest, your defenses of your position are extremely weak. Most of the boil down to "they justified that in the game, you must just not have been paying attention". But for myself and, it seems, a lot of the people disagreeing with you in this thread, our problem isn't that we missed the justification or that we just weren't smart enough to understand it, our problem is that we wish the writers had done a better job of writing those characters so that those justifications were not necessary.

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#45 Posted by LiquidPrince (17073 posts) -

@simmant: I've never once said that anyone is incorrect in feeling however they do. But I have shared my opinions on things they've pointed out as weaknesses and how I didn't see them as such. It's kind of the whole premise of the thread... wouldn't be much of a debate or back and forth if I just agreed or backed down on my opinions as soon as someone said they didn't share them.

There were plenty of people, you included, who were just saying yeah I don't like how it was done, Faye wasn't a character and Freya's turn sucked and so on and so on. The whole point of this thread was to give a counter opinion respectfully and point out my reasons for thinking so.

For the record every argument you've posted in this thread, I've also felt is real hand wavey and weak. I never really dismissed anything about it though by just going, well like that's just your opinion man... like you have multiple times towards me.

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#46 Posted by simmant (79 posts) -

@liquidprince: What??? You named the thread "A Fundamental misunderstanding of the female characters of god of war". You don't get to claim that you "never once said that anyone is incorrect in feeling however they do" because you literally did it in the thread title!!! Do you seriously not understand that the reason people keep telling you that it is "just your opinion" is because you started from a place of telling people that their opinions are wrong?

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#47 Posted by CabooseMSG (100 posts) -

The female characters in God of War are there to serve a purpose, that is it. What little character development occurs in the game doesn't occur with Faye (she's dead) or Freya (she is a poor excuse for a character). The little character development that was there served to fail at making you care about a character with no redeeming traits and his father.

The writing in the game is honestly laughable, it completely butcher's the creation of any semblance of character for the females, and does a poor job at tryinf to make you care about the boy and titular character

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#48 Posted by LiquidPrince (17073 posts) -

@simmant said:

@liquidprince: What??? You named the thread "A Fundamental misunderstanding of the female characters of god of war". You don't get to claim that you "never once said that anyone is incorrect in feeling however they do" because you literally did it in the thread title!!! Do you seriously not understand that the reason people keep telling you that it is "just your opinion" is because you started from a place of telling people that their opinions are wrong?

Maybe the nuances of language escape you, but telling people that I think they misunderstood something isn't the same as me telling everyone they're wrong. I made a claim, supported with what I thought was reasonable evidence and then left it open for discussion. I didn't name the thread, "You're all idiots and obviously don't understand how God of Wars treatment of women."

It's a thread meant for open discussion and I've tried to be reasonable with every person I've responded too and never dismissed what they were saying. Me disagreeing isn't the same as me claiming everyone is wrong.

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#49 Posted by simmant (79 posts) -

Maybe the nuances of language escape you, but telling people that I think they misunderstood something isn't the same as me telling everyone they're wrong. I made a claim, supported with what I thought was reasonable evidence and then left it open for discussion. I didn't name the thread, "You're all idiots and obviously don't understand how God of Wars treatment of women."

The only difference between that title and the actual title that you chose to give this thread is that in the actual title "you're all idiots" is only implied by telling anyone who disagrees with you that they have a fundamental misunderstanding.

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#50 Posted by LiquidPrince (17073 posts) -

@simmant said:
@liquidprince said:

Maybe the nuances of language escape you, but telling people that I think they misunderstood something isn't the same as me telling everyone they're wrong. I made a claim, supported with what I thought was reasonable evidence and then left it open for discussion. I didn't name the thread, "You're all idiots and obviously don't understand how God of Wars treatment of women."

The only difference between that title and the actual title that you chose to give this thread is that in the actual title "you're all idiots" is only implied by telling anyone who disagrees with you that they have a fundamental misunderstanding.

Whatever you say bud. I have no intention of arguing with you about what my thread title meant.