Is Reason's New Video Game Cover Sexist?



Over at Huffington Post, Taylor Casti writes that Reason's latest cover shows "the modern gamer as male, sexist pot smokers"—a choice she describes as "odd." (UPDATE: The piece seems to have been pulled. Here's an archived version, with weird in-line editing notes.) @HuffPostTech puts a finer point on it with the phrase "disgustingly sexist."

Casti is right about one thing: we certainly did mean to imply that gamers disproportionately support pot legalization—that's what we found in our latest Reason-Rupe poll. We found in the same poll (and noted in the same write-up) that the game-playing population is split about 50-50 these days.

As for the charges of sexism in art decisions, well, here's what Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch told Casti when she called him for comment:

According to the Editor-in-Chief of "Reason," Matt Welch, the cover was chosen to reflect an image style that would be familiar and recognizable as well as reflect the idea that gamers were becoming "more mainstream." Welch said that the magazine "cleaned up" the original image [from Grand Theft Auto V], removing the bikini clad poster girl in the background and changing his middle finger to an index finger in a "hold on, wait one second" gesture.

The character himself was cleaned up to appear more well-off, successful businessman: who "Reason" sees as the modern gamer, rather than the stereotypical image Welch describes as "some guy in his mother's basement."


The cover is a riff on promotional art for GTAV, the biggest-selling game of all time.

"You can't recreate the 3D experience of playing a game in a 2D print magazine," [Welch] tells the Huffington Post, but that "GTA V" as a "cultural phenomenon is huge—we're paying respect to that culture." 

Cracking open the issue reveals a take on gamer culture that's plenty nuanced, including some tidbits about gender. In a review of a new book about massively multiplayer online games, The Proteus Paradox, author Bryan Alexander writes: 

Proteus outlines how male players denigrate, harass, and drive off female players. But Yee offers two twists to this sadly familiar story. First, women report wanting to play for many of the same reasons men do—achievement, social interaction, and immersion-going against essentialist expectations of gender behavior difference. And second, MMOs offer a pedagogical benefit of sorts to male gamers who play under female avatars.

Males do this switching with some frequency—"men gender-bend roughly three to four times more than women"—mostly to enjoy the eye candy of an attractive female avatar displayed in a game's third-person perspective. That gaze is then reversed, as it were, as other players ogle the same avatar from their own avatars' perspectives. It's a surprising opportunity to experience the kinds of sexual harassment that real-world women know too well.

Heck,'s Nick Gillespie even anticipates Casti's critique in "Are Video Games Art?":

Game-Spot's Carolyn Petit, even while hailing the game's "vast, varied, beautiful open world" and perspective shifts, zeroed in on what she saw as an "unnecessary strain of misogynistic nastiness." GTAV, Petit wrote, "has little room for women except to portray them as strippers, prostitutes, long-suffering wives, humorless girlfriends and goofy, new-age feminists we're meant to laugh at." Perhaps the surest sign that a form of expression is approaching the status of "art" is the creation of a robust community of critics and explicators who aid the audience in thinking through the significance of their shared object of contemplation.

Mostly, though, the issue is about some seriously fascinating shifts in how the world views a medium that has long since been embraced by both genders and people of all ages. Our featured profile is of libertarian-leaning Rep. Jared Polis, hardly the typical gamer jerk of Casti's nightmares:

Close your eyes and think of a stereotypical gamer. Is he a bowtie-wearing gay father of one with a penchant for beekeeping who represents Colorado's 2nd District in the House of Representatives? Probably not. But maybe he should be.

Of course, Taylor Casti may be indulging in a little stereotyping of her own. Maybe she thinks of libertarians as "male, sexist pot smokers" who lacked the sensitivity to see how women were being mistreated in this cover image? You know, people like our Art Director Barb Burch, who commissioned the image. Or me, the managing editor of the magazine and a possessor of two X chromosomes, who approved the image. 

Other folks who took notice of the eye-catching parody cover managed to make a note of the bikini babe and bong—and then move on to the guts of the issue, including The Washington Post, Ars Technica, and Electronic Gaming Monthly

NEXT: Production Company Suing Elizabeth Banks Over Walk of Shame, Say She Stole Their Idea

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  1. ?..disgustingly sexist?

    Shut up bitch?.

    1. You can’t expect her to read the articles. She is too busy being offended.

  2. Not being a gamer, I was unaware of the Grand Theft Auto promotional art.

    I had assumed that the artist was making some complicated “fat Al Gore” reference.

    1. Also, so removed from gaming that I tried to look up what “GATV” actually stood for.

      1. Isn’t it GTA?

        1. Grand Theft Auto V (where V = Roman numeral 5)

          1. Yeah, but they said GATV.

            1. Which I believe is a FABULOUS television station!

              1. Now it’s back to GTAV.

      2. Not a Libertarian|5.8.14 @ 7:33PM|#
        “Also, so removed from gaming that I tried to look up what “GATV” actually stood for.”

        Humble-bragging by any chance?
        The last game I played was Pong, but it’s hard to miss GAT-V or the shortened version.

        1. Ooops:

    2. I thought it was an Al Gore thing too.

  3. Phony outrage is phony:

    @GabrielRossman I knew it was an inside joke — too overboard not to be. But I’ll gladly piss into this particular tent.

    ? Matt Frost (@mattfrost) May 8, 2014


    1. Sounds like covering one’s ass for not knowing it was a parody to me. “Oh of COURSE I knew it was from GTAV. BUt I overreacted because it deserved it!”

      Watching idiots like this squirm is delicious.

  4. NO.

    But it’s just as good of an excuse as any to post this for the 3 time in 2 days.

  5. Not knowing that the image was based off of GTA, my first thought was that the girl was wearing too much to entice the guy to stop playing and have sex, but too little for everyday things. Which made the whole picture really confusing.

    1. Considering they’re siblings, I hope that’s not the subtext of the picture.

  6. The guy is a pot addict *and* has a 3D printed gun? Better call BATF…

    1. Is that a giant can of 4-LOKO? If not, why not?

  7. Uh, I didn’t play much of Grand Theft Auto 5, but from what I saw it seems a pretty self-aware about its ‘offensive’ content. Half the game is basically a poorly written deconstruction of modern masculinity.

  8. Who gives a flying fuck what some concern-troll at HuffPo has her panties in a wad about? It’s always something and if it wan’t this cover it would be something else. Why don’t you concern-troll about the kidnappings of girls in Nigeria instead of this – maybe a little bit more worth everyone’s time.

    I thought the cover was a riff on Archer, personally…

    1. Mangu-Ward may be a bit disconcerted about being on the social left’s bad side.

  9. Yes. She’s wearing Uggs.

  10. Daisy dukes and Uggs, yes, it’s a sexist statement on the complete lack of fashion sense of today’s young woman.

    1. Except when they wear yoga pants. Well, the thin ones, anyway.

      1. Because KOCH INDUSTRIES owns the patent to Lycra. The only reason we find yoga pants to be sexy as all hell is because KOCH BRAIN CONTROLZ!

        1. Oh, man, I am going to spread this particular conspiracy theory far and wide.

  11. A commenter on the Washington Post seems to be a bit confused, albeit in a somewhat refreshing way:

    The scene depicted on the cover of Reason could never exist in a Libertarian world. Libertarians despise structure – anything that infringes on their freedom – but structure is what made most of the items depicted possible. Without some of those soul-sucking companies and governments, with all their stinking rules, the man in the cover would be sitting in a cave or a wattle-and-daub hut roasting a hedgehog over an open flame. Civilization produced the 3-D gun, the game controller and the game, the mattress, the bong, the bed-sheets, etc., and civilization requires structure – government, a stable currency, access to capital markets, rule of law, respect for private property, all that stuff Libertarians claim to hate.
    What Libertarians want is for the rest of us to keep doing what we’re doing, and let them do whatever it is they want. It’s a sham political philosophy./blockquote

    1. I can’t help but think such a total misunderstanding of libertarianism must be purposeful. How can a person apparently be aware of the details of libertarianism, private property rights etc, but then get the substance of it so backward.

      1. Sounds like projection.

      2. Maybe that commenter veered into the reason comment section at one point two years ago and noticed WI’s rants and thought that’s what a libertarian is, someone who argues against the city-state.

    2. I’ve come to realize that the people that blindly hate on libertarians, who we know haven’t the slightest idea what libertarians stand for, just project everything they think they’re against onto the mythical “libertarian” in their head and go to town. This guy finds lack of structure and order offensive, so…that’s what libertarians are for! He’s a genius! Because according to him, libertarians hate private property and rule of law!

      These people just want someone to hate, and unfortunately for libertarians, they’ve been picked for the job.

      1. How many time do we get some newbie posting some ‘clever’ argument that’s just bound to demolish the core tenants of libertarianism, and s/he thinks we haven’t read the same, tired crap a hundred times already?
        They read a review of Atlas Shrugged, read some cockamamie column by Krugman, or some such and know all about libertarianism.
        We we get lefty crapola jammed in our face from the time we get up until we go to bed, but we ‘don’t know what proggies really think’!


      3. It’s not even that coherent, because by that logic this guy loves capital markets and private property rights. And something tells me that isn’t the case. “It isn’t even wrong” seems apt here.

    3. I’m confused. I thought libertarians were in the pocket of the 1% and pawns of the Koch brothers. I mean, who the hell has been sending me checks in exchange for my votes? And why the hell do I even keep cashing them?

  12. The girl is mad because she wants to play Shoplifting Clothes, where your character steals shoes and dresses from a fancy department store and thus is able to show up the stuck-up bitch whom you hate by wearing a better outfit than hers.

  13. Um, what?

    According to Welch, that same line of defense holds true here: “You can’t recreate the 3D experience of playing a game in a 2D print magazine,” he told HuffPost, adding that “GTA V” as a “cultural phenomenon is huge — we’re paying respect to that culture.” [IM CONFUSED HERE. HE’S AGREEING W/ YOUR ARGUMENT THAT THE MAGAZINE CAN’T DO WHAT GTA V DOES BY IMMERSING PPL, RIGHT? OR IS HE AGREEING W/ HOGGINS’ LINE OF THINKING? WE NEED TO MAKE THAT MORE CLEAR IN TRANSITION. MAYBE SOMETHING LIKE ‘WELCH SEEMED TO AGREE:’]

    The issue deals with video games as a medium to transgress [TO TRANSGRESSION? LIKE, TO SIN?] and takes gamers to places that make them uncomfortable. It also explores video games as a form of artistic expression.

    Markup from the editor?

    1. archived for epic fail posterity

      1. “Jesus, you actually posted the redline on the live site? What do I not pay you people for!?”

  14. Of course, Taylor Casti may be indulging in a little stereotyping of her own. Maybe she thinks of libertarians as “male, sexist pot smokers” who lacked the sensitivity to see how women were being mistreated in this cover image?

    There’s a lot of words that I could use to describe Taylor Casti, but only one is required: IRRELEVANT.

  15. Just don’t spell the name wrong.

  16. BTW, that girl suffers from bitchy resting face.

      1. 5.7.14 @ 2:29AM if the link doesn’t work

        1. Thanks for the response. Yes, I saw that. However, it’s still not working for me. I sent you an email with the details.

  17. The end of season 3 of breaking bad where both Walt and Jesse murder people they don’t even know…?

    …am having trouble justifying the whole thing.

    It feels like the writers needed to accelerate the whole plot structure by like a year, and just squeezed it into 2 episodes.

    1. By contrast the decision where Skyler decides to ‘get in on the money laundering business’ is actually pretty well-coincided with Hank getting shot. Its believable (the whole ‘family first’ theme)

  18. CLICK BAIT!!!

  19. Grand Theft Copyright, I like it, lol

  20. Of course, Taylor Casti may be indulging in a little stereotyping of her own.

    Possibly. What is curious is that Reason would occupy so much space (754 words, 16 paragraphs) to explain to us Reason’s thinking when choosing the cover of the magazine, instead of olympically ignore the stupid bitch like she justly deserves.

  21. As a person who has played video games and probably will in the future i am offended that Reason used the likeness of Jimmy De Santa to portray video game players like me.

    Jimmy is a fat tub of shit d-bag.

  22. “GATV, Petit wrote, “has little room for women except to portray them as strippers, prostitutes, long-suffering wives, humorless girlfriends and goofy, new-age feminists we’re meant to laugh at.”

    For a popular medium, that’s actually a pretty broad range of roles. If they’d included an executive ice princess, would that have made it better?

    I see a lot of these games as being kind of like porn. They’re a fantasy world where you’re the ultimate bad ass and the world’s women all (secretly or not so secretly) want to sleep with you. Yeah, that’s the real world for me, but for all the other guys out there, what do you want them to do? They’re not even supposed to fantasize about such things?

    Is it a guy’s fantasies that make him a misogynist? Surely there are guys out there who play GTA, love it while they’re playing, and still treat their female subordinates, bosses, wives, girlfriends, and coworkers as well as anyone.

    1. If they’d included an executive ice princess

      They did. Molly_Schultz. She is a vinewood (hollywood) assistant to a film producer. She steals film negatives freaks out leads the cops and Micheal on a high speed chase and and ends up getting sucked into a jet of an air liner.

      1. I just noticed she has the same last name as you.


      2. Yeah, it’s basically drawing from the film noir genre.

        You average sitcom doesn’t have anywhere near that range.

        It’s a credit to GTA that they’re using such a wide array of stock characters to appeal to wide audience. Most of television seems to be dominated by housewives, school girls, and young women who want to get married.

  23. This is the old leftist canard: when you cannot argue against your opponent’s point, summarily declare your opponent to be racist, sexist, homophobic, etc, and therefore unworthy of attention.

    What the hell is a Taylor Casti anyway and why do I care what it thinks?

  24. “Petit wrote, “has little room for women except to portray them as strippers, prostitutes, long-suffering wives, humorless girlfriends and goofy, new-age feminists we’re meant to laugh at.”

    Has Petit played the game? Does he realize that there are NO decent people in this game? Male or female, every character is some form of asshole.

  25. Whiners gonna whine.

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