Friday, October 17, 2014

Pinball Art and the Whoa Nellie Controversy


Whoa Nellie! The game that is fruitful for some and rotten for others. - Photo courtesy of Whizbang Pinball

This week on Pinball Aficionado, we're going to look at a controversy that has developed in recent hours online. It was during Pinball Expo and involves Stern's announcement of a game they will soon be manufacturing in early 2015 for Whizbang Pinball (the design duo comprised of Dennis Nordman and Greg Freres).

It's Whoa Nellie, an older electromechanical style design that's been in the works in one form or another for over 4 years. As soon as the announcement was made on Facebook there were many who lauded the move, as it's essentially an original theme with a homage to classic pinball art of the 1970's. There were also dozens of comments by people who found the artwork offensive, misogynistic, even one person alluding that it fed into rape culture.

Whoa indeed!

It's an interesting debate, and could prove a very slippery slope for Stern. On the one hand, having a simpler, EM style game with "classic art" could definitely appeal to the hobby's prime demographic, older white men (statistically the average pinballer's age today is around 42) who grew up on games with that visual style. 

The  Warrior's Bride in Paragon

Slave girl from Hercules

Sacrifice in Gorgar

Girl in Genie
The Fire Queen.............She might be sexualized, but is she a "victim" or "inferior"???

On the other hand, this kind of art today could definitely rub some the wrong way. Today more people, especially women are now in the hobby, and they find these visuals to not have any redeeming or artistic value, and as such find that this older graphic style is offensive and outdated. It's a valid point, more people are trying to move past older stereotypes and trying to be more inclusive and respectful. There was even an article written for Skill-Shot.com showing female player Kayla Greet's view toward the sexualization of the feminine form in games past and present (including contemporary titles such as ACDC Luci) and how it was distracting, demeaning, and did not leave a positive impact for young people in general.

So that possibly leaves Stern in a vulnerable place, cater to the largest pinball playing demographic, or try to appeal to a wider audience. In a relatively small hobby like pinball, Stern's obviously catering to their largest audience, though if they continue to focus on them, its likely to remain small. Time will tell if it was the right move or not. 

The Playfield..... - Photo courtesy of Ministry of Pinball

Anyway, what does everyone think of this controversy, is it legitimate? Blown out of proportion? What's your view of the debate??? Comment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Until Next time!

-- Special Thanks to Amanda Kotchon for contributing to this entry.



9 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's art, Man! Why can't the politically correct police see it for what it is.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, the way they show the Men, drooling and acting like complete idiots might even out the stereotypes in this case....as for Stern, I am sure they are better off catering to their demo, then trying to appease the small minority that find it offensive...

Anonymous said...

I believe that it is just fine and way more classy than Miley Cyrus Flaunting here Not covered body all over everywhere . So since it is in our culture now, Stern has no problem to worry about

Daniel H. said...

Pinball design is an art form. Guess what? Only a small section of the art world is dedicated to what is "realistic". I doubt the legions of romance novel readers have any complaints about the artwork on the front of their books, most of which equally as stylized and "sexist" as any pinball art ever created. The thing is, most artwork created does not portray a realistic world, it portrays a stylized ideal. Portraying women with breasts and rear ends that defy gravity, and men with six-packs and bulges that defy Fruit-of-the-loom, is not a realistic portrayal, but many people find it enjoyable to look at, which is the purpose of art. And anybody with an IQ well into the double digits is capable of grasping the concept of "This is what is real, and that is make-believe." Have the decency to let your fellow man, or fellow woman, enjoy their artwork, even if it includes the unrealistic.

-Daniel H.

Daniel H. said...

Pinball design is an art form. Guess what? Only a small section of the art world is dedicated to what is "realistic". Most artwork created does not portray a realistic world, it portrays a stylized ideal. This same stylized ideal is seen over and over on the covers of Romance Novels, a Multi-Billion dollar industry, so they must be doing something right. Portraying women with breasts and rear ends that defy gravity, and men with six-packs and bulges that defy Fruit-of-the-loom, is not a realistic portrayal. However, anybody with an IQ well into the double digits is capable of grasping the concept of "This is what is real, and that is make-believe." If it is unappealing or unattractive to you, at least have the decency to let your fellow man, or fellow woman, enjoy their unrealistic art.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather they steered clear. Particularly in a game like ACDC, having Luci on the box adds nothing to the game. I'd rather Pinball be a game that everyone feels like they can play, I am not a 42 year old man and I'd prefer a bit more diversity in the hobby. I get that it's just art but I'd like my girlfriend to be able to come play pinball with me and not feel creeped out.

Pinball Belle said...

Thank you for continuing the conversation around this shameful debacle. It's crucial that more male voices engage in this topic because a male pinball enthusiast and I may say the exact same thing but other male pinheads will only listen to his words, not mine. Those who don't think these games are offensive are entitled to their opinion but they are being very short-sighted. There is no excuse for sexism and the perpetuation of misogyny. We stopped making, buying, and playing racist games and the dialogue around racism in gaming is still a topic that's far from exhausted. Instead of belittling those who are offended, try thinking about it from their perspective. Try imagining yourself as a woman walking into a male-dominated culture and community and looking at the *NEW* games that feature "sex sells" artwork. Try imagining what young girls think or feel or understand to be true by looking at these depictions of women. If you can't put yourself in that situation, if you truly think it's not a problem, then simply keep your sexist ideas to yourself.

Daniel H. said...

Your ideals are fine, but your logic is slippery. At what defining point is art considered art? And why does this portrayal of women automatically mean that the artists are somehow misogynistic? It would seem that these artists love women, rather than the implication. The basic female form has been a subject of interest to the art world since time began... does that mean we need to shake it up now and censor it for only what is approved? The humor behind the artwork in B.J.M. is not really my style, but I understand it. Would that stop me from letting my girls play it? No. I would not stop them from playing with Barbie dolls or enjoying anything else labeled as "sexist" either. I have enough dragons to help them slay in this world, I don't need to dream up new ones out of nothing.

John Wilson said...

I love the cabinet of Whoa Nellie with the real wood and crate. I also like the idea of an older style pin with newer tech. If it had different art I would have purchased it already. I get that it can be argued that it is poking fun at sexism but not everyone who comes in my home may feel the same. I'd love to see them sell a similar version with a change in art. It would be interesting to see how it would sell.