Gynophobia is a strange game that leaves me rather conflicted. There are some things that it does really well that puts it above most of the Steam Greenlight trash I cover, but at the same time I’m hesitant to recommend it. If anything, it deserves points for originality given that you don’t see too many games based around the fear of women.
Gynophobia is part environmental narrative game and part FPS. The walking simulator portions are used to tell the main story and it mostly does so to decent effect without spelling everything out for you. You play as a man who suffers from a literal phobia of women. He also has a deep fear of spiders and his fear is compared to arachnophobia so that his gynophobia is not conflated with misogyny. His fear of spiders is showcased by having a loud heartbeat sound effect play as the MC walks towards a spider on the ground.
Did I mention that gynophobia IS NOT misogyny? I can’t stress that enough. I’ve seen some horrendous TERF tier radfems who harass gynophobes because they don’t realize that gynophobia is a serious disorder. It’s an unbelievably shitty thing to do and you’re a terrible person if you do so.
That being said, misogyny can play into gynophobia. Having been a gynophobe during a brief period pre transition, I know firsthand that it is much more likely to do with patriarchal stereotypes and propaganda spread about women. There are some women who are fearful of men due to the abuse they suffered at their hands, and in these cases feminism likely only makes it worse since it emphasizes all of the horrible things done to women by men as normal (not that it isn’t justified). The truth is that a vast majority of men don’t mean any harm and are good and upstanding people, but rather that our society normalizes and justifies sexist behavior on. Translation: it’s not men that’s the problem, it’s patriarchy.
From my own experience, I can attest that my gynophobia manifested in a similar way to which androphobia manifested in many women (and possibly men). I felt that women held a certain power over men and that they could freely abuse them and get away with it. This lead to an irrational insecurity and fear of abuse that would manifest in unhealthy ways often resulting in a good deal of stress. I got over this gynophobia and started to slowly distance myself from any MRA bullshit even prior to GG, but it was not until recently that I fully detoxed.
Just because my own brief case of it was caused by MRA propaganda does not mean that everyone else’s was. Oftentimes it could be a result of someone being abused or taken advantage of by many women in his life. Many of people who suffer from gynophobia or androphobia know that their fear is irrational given that both of us make up close to half the population (gotta leave some room for enbies), yet the fear will still persist.
Gynophobia (the game) is about a man overcoming his gynophobia as it is represented through 5 FPS stages meant to serve as an abstract metaphor for his fear. The first two stages are of a game within a game that don’t contribute to the metaphor at all and are just there to have something to play. The rest of the stages take place in the MC’s dream and every enemy is either a spider or a woman. The fifth stage is the final boss where you fight Rachnera’s 2nd cousin.
Aside from the final boss, most enemies look creepy and unsettling as all hell and make blood curdling sound effects. The music is also ominous and unnerving and the game requires that you stay on your toes at all times. The levels are not easy in the slightest and if you will be killed in an instant if you are not paying enough attention. I wouldn’t say that it’s scary, it’s certainly no Penumbra after all, but it does keep you on edge.
The only major problem with this game was that there were a lot of bugs and I kept getting either launched into the air, on top of enemies where they cannot attack you, or clipping through the floor into a black void and needing to start over again. Also the game does not refill your HP when you start a new level AND when you die on the next level, you restart with the same amount of HP you started with. I went into stage 4 with 3% of my HP for instance. The devs clearly knew this because they gave you a health pack right before the end of the stage 4 so you can fight Muffet’s exhibitionist aunt at full HP. This game was released in 2014; it really should have been patched by now.
I don’t really have much to say about Gynophobia. It does some interesting things and I enjoyed it, but I’m hesitant to say that it’s “good.” Aside from the bugs and clipping, a lot of it just feels awkward. I can recognize the uniqueness of its premise but gameplay wise this does not feel like anything special and that the game is just a hodgepodge of experimental nonsense with no clear direction. It’s similar to how I felt about Doki Doki Literature Club! except that game had a clear identity and was memorable. Gynophobia can be enjoyable and I can appreciate the individual pieces, but they only work when there’s a complete puzzle. Short version: it takes more than a few FPS levels slapped together in unity and a vague allegory to make your game stand out. However I can still suggest Gynophobia if you are looking for something different or want to play an old school style FPS.
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