Fox News has a post on upcoming game information about Duke Nukem Forever, the long awaited sequel to the successful Duke Nukem series. The original Duke Nukem was released in 1991. Per Wiki, “Dr. Proton is a madman, determined to take over the world with his army of Techbots. Duke Nukem, the eponymous hero, takes upon the task of stopping him.” The main objection to this original version, if any, was violence. The objection to the newest version is sexism. According to Fox, there are scenes where the player can kidnap women. If the women get too unruly, you can slap them. They also say there are scenes of strippers and apparently two women go down on Duke.
Wow! Duke Nukem Forever seems to want to outdo its predecessors in the “anything goes” game player mode. We’re speaking of course of Grand Theft Auto.
I’m not sure how I feel about this yet. Most certainly it is sexist, but it is also a fantasy game world. There are many indulgences in fantasy that are not in sync with reality. We all know that some individuals with mental deficiencies can blur the two worlds, but this is rare. Most game players get that in the games that there are things you can do that are immoral. Killing everything in sight is the best example. Kidnapping women is another, though it falls into a newer area of discussion because at least with killing you are usually on the right side of the battle–good versus evil.
So in the game, are these women evil? Is Duke stealing them away for some particular reason. Or is it simply to be perverse?
It is our modern morality that quickly pounces on these games when, in fact, we may want to take one step back first. There are several reasons, the most obvious is that the more taboo you make a game the more people want it, especially young kids. But the other is the question of interactive violence and crime versus viewing movies depicting violence and crime. There has been a longstanding moral war against horror movies which have been blamed for a variety of social ills and yet, we seem to be slowly getting over that particular villain and looking towards games as our next villain. I’ve never seen evidence that conclusively shows that horror movies depicting violence and rape against women have damaged our society. They seem to be there to release our inner demons (please note, figuratively speaking) and to experience our worst nightmares which much like our bedtime nightmares is a way of working through something unspeakable. It is a sort of therapy both for a perpetrator and a victim.
The question is if we go further than a movie, if the violence and crime is interactive, does that work in the same capacity? I just don’t know. Interactive games are different than movies or even the more violent comic books that have come out over the years (try reading anything by Garth Ennis).
I believe it’s fair to inform parents and sell these games only to adults. This will make us feel better BUT, we all know they will find their way into the hands of kids no matter how hard government or parental groups try to ban them–this is the Internet age, after all. Certainly, without providing strong female characters to contrast with female victims (which in this case may be strippers or prostitutes) that the game makers know they’re being sexist. They want to push a male fantasy that will sell and even men who are not sexists will be attracted to this taboo.
I just find myself not worrying about the sexism taboo in this context. I kind of wonder if doing it in a game gets rid of the urge to be a jackass in real life? It’s like an exorcism but without religion; purely psychological. The only broad example I can give that most people might understand is that sports are often a replacement for real violence, or in the case of football–war itself. We partake in the war, either by being the spectator or by being the player, without actually killing or doing real harm. Otherwise, ask yourself, what is the point of football and why are we so obsessed with it as a nation? Remember that I didn’t say all sports, competition has its place, but boxing, football, wrestling, ultimate fighting and possibly even hockey have an element of violence in a society where violence is declining. Why do we feel the need to see two men strategically punch each other bloody in a ring until one of them is knocked out or surrenders in humiliation? Why aren’t there pacifists with signs protesting each boxing game, football game or ultimate fighting match?
Interactive violence, even with immoral intent such as rape or crime, may serve a psychological purpose. I hate to say I’m condoning it, but I believe what I’m saying is that I’m reserving judgment as so many other controversial genres have caused outrage in the last 100 years that instead of jumping to the same old conclusion I want to see some real evidence–not just scattered incidents of some nutty kid going off the deep end. I also find it interesting that some of the most extreme violent crimes rear their ugly heads in societies that don’t have the ability to blame it on video games or movies. If anything, it would be religion, and of course I’m referring to Islam and the violence done in the name of it against women and believers of other faiths.
SIDENOTE: Some research links violent video games to aggression in kids, particularly little boys. I find this highly questionable as I grew up in the transition period from Atari to Nintendo to PC Games. Boys were aggressive on the playground after a game of dodgeball. Boys were aggressive after school from sitting in a classroom all day. Boys were aggressive after watching their favorite cartoon. What is this aggression we’re talking about? Boys can be very physical, play-punching, wrestling, throwing things–this is not the same as a boy finding a real gun and shooting his classmates or a boy beating a girl to death. If we are to demonize violent video games the link has to be more defined. “Aggression” is too ambiguous. The link has to be to real violence and it has to be overwhelming–the majority of players–to be substantial. If there is only a minority affected then it’s a good bet there are other factors in play.