Tag Archives: rape

Oh Far Cry 3, We Weren’t Meant To Be

*Pretty much spoiler free, but trigger warning for racism and rape*

A black man with glasses (notably the only black man in the game from what I’ve read) who is shown healing the main character Jason.

In a blatant disregard for my backlog of unfinished and untouched games, I bought Far Cry 3 this week.  I don’t even know why — I am not a big FPS fan, I’m quite poorly skilled with a gun in my hands, and I haven’t played any of the other games in the series.  Something about it just lured me in.  I’d say it was the animals, but that would make me a sick individual considering how many of them I have skinned for precious crafting materials.

I’m a few hours in, maybe 4-5 hours if I’m lucky.  I picked the easy difficulty level, knowing my complete inability to line up crosshairs on a target and manage to click my mouse button at the right time.  The intro scene is a bit intense, with some harsh language and some brutal moments that made me a little bit uncomfortable.  After that, my character Jason (who was supposedly vacationing on this island with his friends before being kidnapped and suddenly gaining superior manslaughter and hunting skills) is thrown out into this world in which he must save all of the native people with his “white man know-how” and manage to survive.  So far, this has meant doing challenges to convince the native ‘savages’ that I’m somehow magical and superior to everyone else and therefore the savior they’ve been waiting for.  There have been several writeups out there already about the problematic racism in Far Cry 3, such as this one on Rock Paper Shotgun.

I said, rather flippantly, that the people of this island are the race they are, because it’s the island they’re native to. It is what it is, essentially. And that’s the case – that’s really not the issue here. It had to be set somewhere. The issue is the horribly worn tropes it so lazily kicks around when it gets there. As it is, you have the simple-folk-natives, and the immigrant white men with their mixture of South African and Australian accents. And one black guy. White people ask you to get involved in enormously elaborate machinations, ancient mysteries, and local politics. Locals ask you to help them kill endangered species, find their missing daughters, and point out when their husbands are gay. Essentially, the locals behave as if they’re helpless without you, but when you wield their tattoo-based magical powers then true greatness appears. And it’s here that the problems really kick in.

There’s a term for it. It’s “Noble Savage“. And it also falls under the remit of the “Magical Negro“. The trope is that the non-white character possesses mystical insight, magical abilities, or simply a wisdom derived from such a ‘simple life’, that can enlighten the white man. And it’s pretty icky. The premise relies on the belief that the individual’s race is in some way debilitating, something their noble/mystical abilities are able to ‘overcome’.

There’s also mention of some implied rape, which I haven’t gotten to in the game yet but I believe is the rape of a man by another man.  I’m really not far enough into the game to give this a ton of critical thought, but this game screams out red flags to me.

Gameplay wise, is it fun?  I think there are hints of a really enjoyable experience in there.  It’s surprisingly fun to track down the different animals, though pretty disgusting and graphic when you skin them.  I enjoy sneaking up on the tapirs and the pigs and just watching them enjoy their time in their natural element.  There are some other moments that made me yell out with triumph, such as some interesting ‘challenges’ and missions and sliding down a zipline while shooting a gun at everything below.  And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy speeding around in Jeeps and other vehicles, slamming into and running over just about everything in sight.  I know they used “Skyrim in the jungle” as a marketing ploy, but it doesn’t feel that far off.  There are some serious hints of that open world exploration that are very reminiscent of my Christmas 2011 in which leaving the house for food required too much time away from Skyrim.  Generally speaking, any game that lets me mindlessly run around the world, uncovering the fog-of-war on the map while looting ALL THE THINGS is going to be elicit some positive feelings.  The game is also quite pretty on my PC, so I can’t fault it there.

But there are some serious annoyances with the game, mostly surrounding the save system and its innate ability to make me die and lose all my progress.  I don’t know about you, but when a game rolls back to 20 minutes prior and makes me redo everything I just did, I get mad and close out the game.  That’s happened to me 4 times now and each time I’ve sworn off the game entirely.  Granted, I do die more than the average player.  I have an uncanny knack for running away from a bad guy, into a tiger, then into an alligator, then into a komodo dragon, then into a dog that eats my arm off.  I’m just not sure the game is worth that frustration when I’m already pretty pissed off at the racist narrative and have some rape content awaiting me if I play much further.  Considering a Skyrim DLC just came out — if I want to play an open-worldy game I think I’d rather it be in an Elder Scrolls world with my bow & arrow than rumbling in the jungle as a white savior in Far Cry 3.

Is anyone else playing this game?  If so, what are your thoughts?

[WoW] Rescuing Mina Mudclaw from a rape joke

I’ve been slowly wandering through the new World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria.  Cultural appropriation aside, I’ve been quite enjoying myself.  The pace is nice and relaxed, the quests have been charming, the world is beautifully designed with bright colors and attention to detail.  However, I ran into a quest line in Valley of Four Winds that felt just a little too problematic to completely ignore.

In The Farmer’s Daughter, Den Mudclaw (a Pandaren farmer) asks you to sneak down into a virmen hole to rescue his daughter.  Naturally.  Virmen are these creepy rat-mouse looking critters that are obsessed with carrots and stealing things from farms around the Valley of the Four Winds.  Yes, it’s a damsel in distress again.  The farmer’s daughter character stereotype is problematic in itself, being that it references a naive yet promiscuous young women who is always the object of sexual attention to provide the hero with a always willing yet “girl next door” romantic love interest.

However, it gets worse.  When you finally get past all of the virmin in this hidey-hole and find Mina Mudclaw, she is standing up on a raised area of the cave surrounded by these creepy rat people.  Who have been forcefully making her do “horrible, horrible, silly things” with carrots.

A screenshot of the quest journal in WoW. Quest name: “Seeing Orange”. Text: “Those virmen….they make me do horrible, horrible, silly things. All involving carrots. I couldn’t tell you how many carrots they threw at me. Let’s not waste anymore time, Get me out of here!”

You could see this through a pretty innocent lens, since she also mentions that they keep throwing carrots at her.  It’s not an ultra blatant rape-joke, but it’s quite clear what the innuendo was supposed to be here.  You are seeking out the naive farmer’s daughter, the object of all sexual affections, who happens to be captured by a group of rabbitpeople who are making her do horrible things with carrots.  It doesn’t involve much imagination to figure out what Blizzard was trying to hint at here.  And I’m not the only one who caught on.

The top most-upvoted comment on the quest on WoWhead.com. A player says “Horrible, horrible silly things involving carrots. My imagination is running a mile a minute.” Another player replies “Dirty Blizz, very dirty”. A third player says “I just completed this quest and came here to check the comments!”

I was hoping Blizzard had learned from previous critical analysis of problematic quests within World of Warcraft.  It’s not a game that generally features strong female character design, so I don’t look to it as the shining example of how things should be done.  But it definitely took me out of my zenlike experience in Pandaria when I stumbled across this quest.

Should game developers avoid triggering players’ PTSD?

This post might contain triggers due to discussions of PTSD.

Photograph of an orange sky with dark clouds covering the sun and a flock of birds flying away.

It’s nice on a blog like this to be able to see a trigger warning and then make an informed decision about whether or not to read on. Edge magazine doesn’t give you the same luxury, instead in this month’s issue plunging you feet first into a graphic description of the Lara Croft sexual assault scene right at the start of the article. It’s a writing strategy perhaps intended to intrigue the reader and make them want to read on. Instead it caused me to curse loudly on a crowded train and then angrily throw the magazine on the floor in a kind of post-traumatic hulk smash reflex.

I want to pose a question. It’s not something I want to attempt to answer on my own, but it’s something I want to talk about.

The discussion about rape in games took an interesting turn when someone very generously wrote a difficult and emotional post for The Escapist explaining to the unaware what it feels like to hear the rape discourse in and around games if you are a rape survivor suffering from PTSD.

The writer didn’t say that game developers should avoid triggering his PTSD, rather that there should be a greater awareness of what rape survival is like, and a greater sensitivity in the wider gaming community about possible harm caused to the invisible masses of survivors.

Still, it’s worth considering the question: should game developers – and other media producers for that matter – be more careful to avoid triggering PTSD in their audience?

Continue reading

A screenshot of the new Lara Croft, for once not bloodied.

Lara Croft Reboot Link Roundup

A screenshot of the new Lara Croft, for once not bloodied.

A screenshot of the new Lara Croft, for once not bloodied. She is a white woman with straight brown hair, pulled back. She frowns and looks serious, with her gaze slightly away from the camera.

Trigger warnings: discussions of rape.

I quickly wrote my post last week, Lara Croft Reboot: Vulnerability Galore!, in order to make a quick assessment of the new Tomb Raider trailer and now widely sited Kotaku E3 interview with the game’s executive producer Ron Rosenberg.  In the past week, bloggers have written many thoughtful and analytical responses to the trailer and interview.

On June 12, Kat Howard of Strange Ink wrote When you don’t get to hit the replay button, where she linked Rosenberg’s comments to the type of victim blaming that suggests rape victims don’t fight back enough:

But I have a huge problem with there being a game where, if your female character doesn’t fight back well enough, she gets punished by being raped. And my problem is because this hews too closely to the actual reactions rape survivors get.

Also from June 13, see So We Replaced Sexy Lara Croft with Victim Lara Croft by Kellie Foxx-Gonzalez on The Mary Sue.  Foxx-Gonzalez wants her feminist hero back:

Personally, the worst part about this reboot is that it is taking a traditionally feminist character (who has been embraced as a empowering fantasy in spite of the canonical hypersexualization of her character), one of the most beloved ass-kicking female protagonists in gaming, and warping her and her story to cater to a male-dominated gaming culture (and culture at large). Instead of offering women gamers a game in which we can relate to the protagonist, share her hopes and despairs, we’re left with the promise of  veritable torture porn. The promise of a new Tomb Raider held so much potential to add to a growing selection of awesome women protagonists, especially for women gamers. Ron Rosenburg, I would like my strong women protagonists back, and I would like them without having to experience the threat of rape and rape culture, even in a game. I’ve had enough of that in real life as it is.

You’ve probably heard by now that on June 13, the same day the Kotaku article was widely linked by other journalists, Crystal Dynamics retracted their interview with Kotaku.

retraction

We had a great E3 with Tomb Raider and received a fantastic public and press response, with the game picking up numerous game of the show awards based on the new direction taken with the franchise. Unfortunately we were not clear in a recent E3 press interview and things have been misunderstood. Before this gets out of hand, let me explain. In making this Tomb Raider origins story our aim was to take Lara Croft on an exploration of what makes her the character she embodies in late Tomb Raider games. One of the character defining moments for Lara in the game, which has incorrectly been referred to as an ‘attempted rape’ scene is the content we showed at this year’s E3 and which over a million people have now seen in our recent trailer entitled ‘Crossroads’.This is where Lara is forced to kill another human for the first time. In this particular section, while there is a threatening undertone in the sequence and surrounding drama, it never goes any further than the scenes that we have already shown publicly. Sexual assault of any kind of categorically not a theme that we cover in this game."

 

Kotaku went on to provide the original interview, where Rosenberg does state that there is an attempted rape in the game.  Foxx-Gonzalez responds to the retraction:

To be clear: a member of the Crystal Dynamic team stated that scavengers “try to rape her” and in response to being asked to clarify that point, stated that “she’s either forced to fight back or die.” This hardly seems like a statement that was misunderstood and taken out of context. Furthermore, regardless of whether we are calling it an attempted rape, sexual assault, or a “threatening undertone,” in the aforementioned trailer, a man makes a movement toward Lara Croft’s hips in a way that simultaneously threatens her life and conveys sexual assault. Call it whatever you’d like, that is sexual violence.

On June 14, Alyssa Rosenberg (no relation to Ron, I presume) of Think Progress wrote, Lara Croft Will Be Threatened With Rape In the Next Tomb Raider–But Don’t Worry Guys, You Can Rescue Her.  Apparently, a number of blokes responded with glee at the speculation they might be able to watch Lara be raped.  Yesterday, Alyssa Rosenberg wrote them an open letter:

So, in all seriousness, why do you want to see Lara Croft get raped?

Do you think she has an obligation to be sexually available, if not to you in real life, to someone else in-game, and if she violates that obligation, that it should be enforced upon her? One of the hard, immutable truths of adulthood is that no one owes you, and there is no mechanism to guarantee that everyone gets some mysteriously-allotted fair share of happiness and sexual satisfaction. I get that there’s this fantasy of a time before feminism when women were more broadly sexually available to men, when some men think they would have experienced less of that pain of loneliness and that fear of rejection that is baked into modern life. But I’d bet if you think about it carefully, you’ll acknowledge to yourself that it’s not really true, that participation in that fantasy was limited to certain very powerful and wealthy men, that it probably wouldn’t have served you as well as you think it would, that then, as now, you would have been required to exercise persuasion and charm and negotiation to get what you wanted. This fantasy of yours, it’s a fantasy. And nothing, not pretending you’re owed something, not seeing a video game character get raped, is ever going to bring it back.

On June 15, Doone of T.R. Red Skies posted a lengthy article, The Story of a Woman: Lara Croft, in which he analyzes both the official screenshots of Tomb Raider, which predominately feature women experiencing violence, and Ron Rosenberg’s comments, line by line.  I recommend reading his whole post, but here is an excerpt from his concluding section:

So …Why?

It’s because we don’t question masculinity; we just reinvent, and redo, and rework women. We add qualities we value to women in order to make them “more real”.  And because we don’t question masculinity, we haven’t fully deconstructed the concept of hero in order to build it up to androgyny; to a set of human values and characteristics in which males and females are equals, are only humans. We’ve resorted to making Heroes and Others Who Can Do Cool Things if We Make Them More Like “Us”. I mean we’re not even supposed to identify with Lara according to Rosenberg, but to feel like her little chivalrous helper. Even the most hardcore holdouts among us shouldn’t fail to see this.

This is why on Lara’s road to heroism, that road will be defined by her capacity for carnage, just like most other male heroes. It will be defined by stoicism and vengeance streaks (angry ones). She will have to shed all those softer qualities and emotions that are clearly the source of her weakness; the reason she’s not a hero to begin with. And this will happen because we define heroic as masculine and violent, realistic. That’s why there’s a rape threat scene. That’s realism. That’s why there will be brutal punchings in the face for Lara; because it makes us chivalrous men cringe …that’s realism. That’s why we will feel like her “helper” because that’s realism. To be a real hero is to be strong and to be strong is to be violent. To be violent is to dominate  and to dominate is to be a real hero. Lara Croft’s Rites of Heroism will follow this tired trope in the image of men, not as the story of a triumphant woman. This is why I say we fall into this trap because we don’t examine the behavior and perceptions of ourselves. We instead choose to remake woman in our image. Lara’s story isn’t about a woman. It’s a man’s perception of the story of a woman wrought with some masculinity in order to create a heroine.

(By the way, if you like Doone’s post, and are irritated by the fellows who whine, “But men are unrealistically portrayed in videogames too!!!”, you might join in the discussion he’s started on his blog where he asks, What Would a Realistic Male Portrayal Be Like?)

For another in depth analysis, see Laurie Penny’s Lara Croft and rape stories: breaking down the bitch, published yesterday:

This isn’t a story that was dreamed up out of nowhere. It’s a response to a familiar industry dilemma (how to rescue an ailing franchise?) with an equally familiar solution (hurt a beloved character). So what does all this mean for the many prospective players who will already have played or watched Lara Croft do her deadly thing in tiny hotpants?

Well, for one thing, it makes her suddenly vulnerable. For all the players who ever stroked themselves into a frenzy over this unattainable pixellated fighting fuck-toy, it’s an opportunity to see sexual violence done to her. It makes her weak, explaining away a ritualised savagery that needed no explanation before; it makes her an object of pity as well as lust and envy, someone who needs your “protection”. Industry mandarins seem to have assumed that gamers, by which they mean male gamers, can only carry on loving cold, powerful, beautiful Lara Croft if someone “break[s] her down”.  And that is frankly offensive to men everywhere.

Finally, there is still an excellent conversation happening in the comments of The Border House post from last week.

Did I miss any links?  Let us know in the comments!

The 2006 Lara Croft reboot. She is a busty, small-waisted white woman swinging from a rope as she aims a pistol.

Lara Croft Reboot: Vulnerability Galore!

Angelina Jolie's Lara Croft on a motorcycle.

Angelina Jolie's Lara Croft on a motorcycle.

Trigger warnings: rape, violence against women.

Tomb Raider holds a fond place in my heart as a cultural icon, if only for the sexual awakening I shared with many other teen girls when I found myself infatuated with Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft.  However, I never could get into the videogames due to my own prejudice against games that screamed “boys only!”  As a teen girl, I couldn’t get past her giant tits long enough to take the game seriously.  Later, 2006, game designers acknowledged Lara was unrealistic, and responded with a redesign of supposed realism, I still snubbed Lara Croft:

As a gaming woman, I don’t find Lara Croft’s new proportions especially empowering or representative of me. It’s another message of how I ought to look so I can be sexy, confident, and poised. The consensus was that Croft was ridiculous, even from those who found her aesthetically pleasing. Now, she’s “realistic.” I could, theoretically, look like the new Lara Croft; she’s become within the realm of possibility existing. I’ve already “won” genetic lottery—I’m white, brunette, not fat—and now I just need to get breast implants, work out more, and stop eating.

If you don’t remember the 2006, here’s an image of how “realistic” the then-new Lara was:

The 2006 Lara Croft reboot.  She is a busty, small-waisted white woman swinging from a rope as she aims a pistol.

The 2006 Lara Croft reboot. She is a busty, small-waisted white woman swinging from a rope as she aims a pistol.

So game designers acknowledged that a pin-up girl was problematic, but responded with “realism” that was not so real.  Now, in 2012, Tomb Raider has another reboot that attempts to make Lara realistic through… vulnerability? Continue reading

Kickstarter Cancels Tentacle Rape Card Game

An adorable red panda with its paw to its face.

Red panda facepalms at SPM, does not approve of rape culture.

(Trigger warning: sexual assault.)

A few days ago, the existence of a project on Kickstarter–a card game where players take the role of a tentacle monster and attempt to rape high school girls called Tentacle Bento–started to attract some attention. After Brandon Sheffield at Insert Credit, and later Luke Plunkett at Kotaku, wrote negatively about the game, Kickstarter cancelled its funding.

Good on Kickstarter for doing the right thing. They have no obligation to host funding for a game that trivializes rape by turning it into a cutesy game (and also offers as one of the backer rewards the option to put “yourself or your wife/girlfriend” in the game as a target, just putting that out there), and when people spoke out about it, they took it down. I hope that in light of this, they develop more guidelines for screening misogynist and other hateful content in the future.

The story doesn’t end there, however. Unwilling to miss a chance to show his support for rape culture, Gabe from Penny Arcade tweeted in support of the company behind the game, Soda Pop Miniatures, who set up a donation page on their own website after their Kickstarter was closed. When someone tried to engage with him and explain the problem people have with the game, he insisted that “censorship… is wrong” (despite the fact that no censorship has taken place, since Kickstarter isn’t the government), and literally called the individual “a crazy person.” He also brought out the old “no one complains about murder in games!” canard, despite the fact that actually, people do, and murder in general is not treated as trivial or a joke in the same way that rape is. Great job, Gabe! Keep on taking a noble stand against those mean, powerful rape survivors and their allies who just want to keep nerds like you down.

(By the way: a quick perusal of the SPM website shows that they are recruiting women to volunteer as “booth babes” at conventions for them. If you’re going to have booth staff the least you can do is pay them.)

On her Formspring, anna anthropy points out the vast difference between games about sex, like those she makes, and games that trivialize rape like Tentacle Bento.

The point is, we live in a rape culture, a world where rape is constantly treated as trivial or a joke, where victims are blamed for their own assaults, and where the conviction rate for rapists is distressingly low. Games like Tentacle Bento further trivialize rape and uphold rape culture. Tentacle Bento may just be a drop in the ocean of rape culture, but every drop counts, and no individual or private company is obligated to support such a game. The fact that many in the game community spoke out against this game, and that Kickstarter listened, is a good thing.

Further reading (Updated 5/17):
A Tentacle Rape Game — Why are People Supporting This Again? — Alli Thresher at Think Progress
Tentacle Bento, the Card Game About Rape — Mat (@pillowfort) at Oh No! Video Games!
Penny Arcade, Tentacle Bento, A Summation — Mat at Oh No! Video Games!

You OK, Princess? Rape Imagery in Metroid: Other M

Anna Anthropy is a white transwoman, game designer, critic and sadist, a classic dyke in the “Elizabeth Bathory” mode. Did you know her first book is coming out in March? Now you do, and you’re so excited for it!

A friend loaned me his copy of Metroid: Other M, which has been out for a year now, so that I could play it without having to buy it. I was, of course, expecting the game to be sexist and stupid. I’m unfortunately accustomed to most mainstream games being casually sexist and designed by men who have unhealthy, unrealistic ideas about how human relationships work. I played the game Sunday night while my partner / consensual slave and our friend watched, with a few more people spectating on the internet via webcam. I was totally prepared for the game to be sexist and misguided. I was not prepared for a scene in which the protagonist was held down and raped by a dinosaur.

If the discussion of rape imagery in games is triggering for you, you might not want to read further. I won’t be including any images or video of the scene in question, but I will provide links to videos of the scenes I discuss.

Even before the game begins, Metroid: Other M has placed a huge emphasis on its protagonist’s femininity. “Other M” is an anagram for “Mother,” the game’s title acronyms as “MOM,” the word “Mother” is said not a minute into the game. Samus Aran, the battle-hardened mercenary protagonist of the Metroid series, typically depicted in her genderless robot “power suit,” appears at the outset of Other M in a skin-tight catsuit with high heels. She then flies to a spaceship called the “Bottle Ship” on a mission dubbed “Operation: Crying Baby.” On the Bottle Ship, she meets some Men.

The Men are some sort of soldiers in Halo-style combat armor. One of them, Adam Malkovich, is revealed to be Samus’s former instructor and commanding officer. Samus Aran, battle-hardened independent mercenary, immediately begins attempting to prove herself to a domineering, callous Adam – whom she describes in a flashback as a “father figure” – taking his orders even at the expense of her own safety. For example, if you try to press the “bomb” button before Adam’s given Samus permission, the message “Adam has not yet authorized the use of bombs” appears on screen. There is a scene later in the game where Adam knowingly lets Samus suffer in the heat of a fiery lava hell for minutes before authorizing the use of her heat-resistant Varia suit.

Snapshot from our webcam broadcast of Other M. The television is obscured by a piece of paper on which a penis has been drawn. It is labelled "Adam's cock."

Typical play screen of Metroid: Other M.

 

Adam’s abusive manipulation of Samus reaches a climax late in the game when, apparently, he shoots her in the back, to keep her from entering a dangerous room and, seemingly, because he enjoys humiliating her. I didn’t get to see this scene for myself, as I didn’t play that far. This link provides a good summary of Samus and Adam’s unhealthy relationship and how it’s portrayed in the game. I didn’t get to that point because I quit shortly after the dinosaur rape scene.

Here’s a summary: Samus, looking out the window of some sort of control tower, sees her compatriots, the Halo bros, fighting a huge monster lizard. She rushes out to aid them. The lizard, spying a female, jumps on top of her, pinning her to the ground with its huge mass. The game then switches to a first-person perspective, in which the player is asked to shoot at the lizard’s tail as it penetrates her over and over. I actually “died” during this scene, and had to start over. Eventually one of her male teammates shoots the creature off of her. He then asks, with a smirk, “You OK, Princess?”

To Samus’ credit, she immediately punches him.

Of course, since the object that the creature uses to assault Samus is a prehensile tail which jabs at her face – there’s nothing a medical textbook would describe as “sexual” depicted her – people will ask why I identify this as “rape” imagery instead of simple violence. Rape, of course, isn’t about sex but about power. And there are a number of reasons why this scene, especially in the context of the larger game, screams “rape” at me.

There’s the way the creature, who is much larger and heavier, pins her down with its weight. There’s the helplessness. The player – seeing through Samus’ eyes from a first-person perspective – is unable to actually attack the creature itself, but can only try and fend off the appendage with which it tries repeatedly to penetrate her. She’s helpless to stop her assault until a man rescues her. Then there’s the creature’s leering face, a thick drooling tongue hanging from its grinning mouth, which dominates Samus’ view and hence the player’s television. And this scene is backgrounded against the overemphasis on Samus’ femininity that pervades the game, and the unhealthy relationship with her “father figure” who repeatedly infantilizes and humiliates her. And of course, in the aftermath of the assault, a dude calls her “princess.”

Screenshot from Other M. A dude in Halo-style combat armor (that is, it looks kind of like a college Football uniform) has flipped up his visor to ask, "You OK, Princess?"

Are you fucking kidding.

 

I played through the scene with my two friends, neither of whom is unfortunately a stranger to sexual assault. We all agreed on what we were seeing. “This is making me really uncomfortable,” my partner said. You can see the scene for yourself here.  One can argue that we’re reading the scene in a way the developers hadn’t intended, but nevertheless we all saw it as triggering, sexualized violence, and who is “one” to tell us that what we saw wasn’t there, or to tell us what should and should not be triggering?

There’s another, similar scene later in the game where Samus cowers in terror before another (or the same?) giant lizard monsters, who beats her and picks her up, her armor disintegrating until she’s in her skin-tight catsuit again. This scene has received much greater attention, to the effect that when I tweeted my anger over a “dinosaur rape scene” in Other M, people thought I was referring to it. (It’s worth mentioning here that Metroid: Other M received a “T for Teen” rating from the ESRB.) But I think the earlier scene, the one the player is forced to play instead of merely watch, is far more troubling, especially in light of just how little it’s been discussed.

People have assured me, in defense of the games press, that most media outlets gave very little praise to Other M. (Although IGN gave it an Editor’s Choice Award.) But neither do they seem to have devoted many words to the fact that it’s a very fucked up game, one that not only depicts a romanticized abusive relationship, but also a triggering sexual assault scene. It’s disturbing and hopefully alarming that games culture can have such a unilaterally male eye that neither game designers nor games journalists even blinked at what, to us, seemed so clearly an image of rape.

(NSFW) Kotaku: Too bad Sheva in Resident Evil V wasn’t raped

[Trigger Warning: Rape, and pictures of simulated rape and violence towards women]

On the left: a fully clothed Jill Valentine from Resident Evil V is shown shooting a large gun towards a headless figure on the right. The figure is Michael Jackson from the music video for Thriller.

Another day, another game journalism complete fail.  And not just an “oops” kind of fail, but a “fall flat on their face” style of fail.  In an article posted today, Brian Ashcraft at Kotaku talks about a recent exhibition in Tokyo at which a diorama was on display that combined Resident Evil V with Michael Jackson.  Yes, that’s kind of weird anyway, but it must have been a slow news day since he posted two other articles that were full of fail.

The exhibition, which was a 10 year anniversary event for a Japanese toy company named Hot Toys, featured a few diorama scenes of characters from Resident Evil combined with black zombies from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.  On one floor, Jill Valentine is shown shooting the heads off of the Michael Jacksons.  On another floor, multiple depictions of Michael Jackson are shown molesting Sheva Alomar.

Read more to see the images (which are potentially triggering and NSFW)

Sheva from Resident Evil V is in the middle, her tiny white see-through shirt showing the underside of her boobs, bleeding scrapes on her skin. On each side of her is a Michael Jackson figurine, reaching towards her and touching her. She leans back, obviously struggling to get away while one Michael Jackson has his hand on her breast. Her pants are ripped to pieces.

A closeup of the previous image, focusing on Sheva's scratched face, the underside of her breasts, and a zombie Michael Jackson with bloody hands attempting to devour her.

I don’t even know where to start.  This situation is a complete fail all around.  While it’s disgusting that the exhibition showed this diorama portraying the obvious rape and abuse of a female character (as an obvious promotion of their action figure toys), I don’t speak Japanese therefore I don’t know what the context is around the diorama.  What was even more upsetting to me was the way in which Kotaku covered this.

The post is titled “Too Bad Zombie Michael Jackson Wasn’t in Resident Evil V”.  That alone is a giant pile of what. the. fuck.   It’s “too bad” that Sheva wasn’t raped for the players to see?  What does that even mean?  The commentary that Ashcraft wrote was:

On the second floor, Resident Evil’s Jill shoots zombie Jacko’s head plum off, while on the ground floor, a horde of Michael Jackson zombies takes great interest in a ravaged Sheva.

Takes a great interest?  How about rapes a woman?  Or molests and abuses Sheva?  How about some commentary about how completely fucked up this is?  No, instead we get a gallery with ten images, four of which focus on different angles of Sheva being groped by Jackson while trying to get away.   The obvious molestation of Sheva in these images and at this exhibition is just taken as the norm, it’s the status quo.  Don’t even get me started on the comments, with such atrocities and rape jokes such as “I bet he’s singing Beat It” and tons of homophobia when referring to Michael Jackson.  Ugh.

I’m thankful that I don’t find a lot of things triggering personally, but I have immense empathy for those who do.  I couldn’t imagine trying to get my latest video game news and running across images like this.  No trigger warnings, no commentary about how disturbing the images are, no “don’t try this at home” disclaimers, nothing.  Just another woman being abused by men like it’s no big deal.  Carry on, there’s nothing more to see here.  Sigh.

On Amazon and the availability of pedophilia on the web

[Trigger warning for rape, pedophilia, child molestation]

All of the news and tech sites have been in a fluster over an e-book on Amazon titled The Pedophiles Guide to Love & Pleasure: a Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct.  Originally, Amazon defended the title despite the media pushback, saying that they support the right of consumers to make their own purchasing decisions.  That’s like saying that web hosts support the right of internet users to make their own web browsing decisions and allowing instructional terrorist guides.  Either way, Amazon pulled the book after all, in response to a potential boycott and the book is now nowhere to be found on Amazon.

This couldn’t have come at a more coincidental time.  Last week, I had a horrific Facebook experience that might have scarred me for life.  I have an alternate Facebook account that I use for playing social games.  I have over 2,000 friends there, people who I trade FarmVille nails and boards with and befriend for the purpose of playing social games.  I don’t know these people in real life, and I accept any friend request that comes in.  I don’t share any personal information, not even my real name.  Last week, amongst the requests for helping to build FarmVille barns and adopt lost animals, some child pornography showed up in my Facebook newsfeed.  I’m not talking about that creepy kind of porn where women who are obviously 21+ are wearing pigtails and school uniforms.  I’m talking, these were children younger than 10 doing things that children should never be doing.

I wanted to just close the browser and run away screaming, but I needed to report this guy.  I clicked on his profile and saw that his entire profile was FILLED with these kind of pictures.  His latest status said “I’m sharing some pictures to prove that I’m not a cop, who has more pics to trade?” and he had albums and albums of these pictures.  I reported him twice, because the first time I selected “nudity” and the second time I selected “illegal activity”.  Then I noticed that all of his posts had dozens of “likes”.  Who the hell would like these posts?  I had to know.  And that’s when I dove into treacherous territory for the sake of reporting as many pedophiles as I could.  This guy had OVER 600 FRIENDS who were just as perverse as he is.  I’m talking the most disgusting and vile profile content, the most illegal pictures I have ever seen.  Chances are I could get arrested simply for having these images in my browser cache, but you better believe I reported every single one of these people to Facebook and then promptly cleared my cache.  These guys were all saying they had thousands of pictures to trade.  ”Real Pictures”, they claimed.

This completely broke my heart.  I have no idea who these children are.  These weren’t just nude pictures of children, they were pictures of kids being raped and forced to rape other kids.  Little precious kids.  Were they kidnapping victims?  Were they being babysat at the time?  Did they trust and love the person taking these pictures?  Are these their fathers and mothers who are posting these pictures?  Who are these kids, and how can they be saved?  These questions were flying through my head as I was spam clicking “report” on all these profiles.

What freaks me out, is that I stumbled across this guy randomly who connected me to all these other people.  This was just ONE ring of these people.  For every one I found, I bet there are hundreds on Facebook.   I’m not even going to go on a limb and blame Facebook, these people are all over the internet.  I’ve done my research on this in the past, if you want to connect with pedophiles on the web it is astonishingly mind-blowingly easy to do so.  That scares the shit out of me.  This isn’t a social network problem, this is a worldwide problem.  In Facebook’s credit, all of these profiles were banned within 5 minutes of me reporting them.  That’s some fast turnaround time.

The rest of this post is not to draw attention to these sites and people so that pedophiles can connect with them.  It’s to prove that with a simple Google search for “boylove” (which is a common term that pedophiles use to refer to their perversions) can bring up thousands and thousands of sites.  [Warning: All of these links are NSFW and disgusting and not recommended for clicking]  There are organizations like the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) who defends pedophilia as a “mutually consensual relationship between men and boys”.  There are message boards for these people.  There are “Christian” message boards for these people.  There are pages of resource links.  There are websites that claim to be “by boylovers for boylovers”.  There is an entire wiki dedicated to exposing these “pro-pedophilia” websites which also outs known pedophiles who are frequenting websites and writing their own blogs.

And guess what?  Amazon might have banned ONE pedophile book, but there many many more on Amazon.  One that has been frequently boycotted in the past is Viamund the Boy-Love Vampyre Says.. which is a sick poetry book written by a member of NAMBLA.  Or Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers.  Or Adam and the Paradise Garden: A Boy-Love Novel.  And all the wealth of erotic boylove fiction?   There are over 60 more books on Amazon just with the term “boylove”.  And don’t get me wrong, there are just as many “GirlLover” websites and books out there which focus on grooming and primping female children into pedophilia.

Maybe I’m completely in the wrong for posting all these links.  But you know what?  I found them in 5 minutes after seeing the names of the websites on these creepy pedophile Facebook profiles.  They are all over Google.  They are all over the web.  All this focus on banning this one book is a good start, but there are hundreds and thousands more out there.  The internet is a truly disgusting place if you wade into unfamiliar territory.  This unfamiliar territory was forced upon me by accidentally accepting a friend request from someone on Facebook that I didn’t know.  I have now seen things that I can never, ever, possibly un-see.  You hear about this stuff on the news, you read about it on CNN, but you never ever expect to come face to face with it.

What can be done?  Most of these sites are self-hosted so you can’t attack the web host.  They hide behind their “freedom of speech” and their strength in numbers and their internet anonymity, and they are self contained and fed emotionally by other pedophiles who feel the same way they do.  They are on YouTube and Facebook and Blogger and MySpace.  These are predators who often are on parole or suspensions due to previous acts of molestation or child pornography, and they’re easily accessible on the internet.  After seeing what I saw, I can understand parents keeping their children away from the internet while unsupervised.  If I had seen those images when I was a child, I would have been scarred even worse than I am now.

Two recent gaming related deaths [trigger warnings]

Memorial for Kimberly Proctor, whose murder was plotted online and confessed in World of Warcraft.

Memorial for Kimberly Proctor, whose murder was plotted online and confessed in World of Warcraft.

Every so often, a gaming-related death makes the news and there is a public outcry vs. gamers defending their hobby.  There were two in the news this week.

A 22-year-old woman from Jacksonville, Florida, recently pleaded guilty to killing her baby because its crying interrupted Farmville.  She shook baby Dylan to death.  Read more on Kotaku or Jacksonville.com.  Be warned, the comments are (as you might expect), offensive.  They range from classist jokes suggesting mandatory birth control to blaming the woman, Alexandra Tobias, for being an unwed mother.  On Kotaku, readers know better than to blame the videogame, but they are quick to blame Tobias for failing to confirm to the ideals of middle class white motherhood.  Certainly Tobias ultimately responsible for murdering a baby, but I am sure that being stigmatized for her lifestyle choices did not help manage her stress levels.

What’s worst is that 114,972 people and counting “like” this story on Facebook.  You can share stuff on FB without clicking “like,” so why would people “like” that this woman killed her child?

Then yesterday, CTV reports that two teenage boys in Vancouver, BC, admitted to raping and murdering 18-year-old Kimberly Proctor in March.  Apparently they planned her murder online, and then one of the boys admitted it in World of Warcraft.  CTV reports that “experts say it’s likely the line between fantasy and reality became blurred” and quote University of British Columbia psychology professor Bonnie Leadbeater: “You don’t know which aggressive kid is going to take the fantasies of video games and try them out in reality. You just can’t predict those very rare occurrences.”

My initial reaction is to scoff and say these experts don’t know anything about videogames, but on the other hand, I do believe that fantasy worlds have an impact on reality.  Take the phenomenon of gold farming, for example, which is a multimillion dollar economy, making what happens in a virtual world have a material impact on people’s real lives.  Is it so farfetched that violence enacted in a virtual world would inform real world violence?  The rationale “it’s just a game” doesn’t fly for me.

While I agree with most gamers who know videogames are not to blame for violence, videogames are not innocent toys, either.  Games exist in the same culture that demonizes single moms or treats women as rapable objects.  I’m not going to quit violent games anytime soon because I can’t divorce myself from every problematic piece of media that represents the fucked up values of my culture at large.  But I will continue to game with diligence, denounce offensive portrayals of women and other marginalized people, and confront rape culture online and off.