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Author Topic: Social Issues in Games  (Read 11868 times)

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Büge

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Social Issues in Games
« on: January 29, 2013, 09:54:59 PM »

SINCE IT DOESN'T FIT ANYWHERE ELSE

I just sent an email to the Escapist Podcast people regarding... well...

Quote
Hi, podcast gang. I was listening to you last week and I felt compelled to respond to the discussion you had regarding the upcoming Tomb Raider game. I normally wouldn't do this, but I feel very strongly about the issues you raised and subsequently dismissed out of hand.

Susan seems to be forgetting that a game like Tomb Raider doesn't exist in a cultural vacuum. There are other forces at work here. Lara Croft has always existed as an idealized female written primarily for a male perspective. It's true that male characters experience violence. But historically, violence against males has not been sexualized the way violence against females have.

I'm nod "demanding that women be treated differently from men" as you guys put it in the podcast. In fact, I'd like to see women get better, more equal treatment. The trailer includes a moment where a bound Lara Croft is practically getting groped by one of the bad guys with the implication that he's going to have his way with her. Characters like Nathan Drake or Master Chief never have to worry about getting raped. Why should Lara Croft?

See, what I'm objecting to isn't the violence. I expect violence in games. Most women won't be trapped on an island and have to fight off wolves or drug-runners. Neither will most men! But 1 in 5 women in the USA will experience rape in their lifetime, compared to 1 in 71 men. That's what the CDC reported in their National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey in 2010. So if, like you say, women live with the threat of rape every day, WHY SHOULD THEY IN A VIDEOGAME? It doesn't make the game more "real", it's just exploiting a very real problem for the sake of titillation and controversy.

The fact that the game is written by a woman doesn't excuse the problem. Women can write bad, exploitative fiction about females just as well as men can. Stephanie Meyer's career is testament to that.

So why does Lara Croft need a scene where there's the threat of sexual assault? Furthermore, why does the trailer need to focus on THAT? There's a scene in Casino Royale where James Bond's testicles are whipped as torture. That never showed up in the trailer for Casino Royale, I'll tell you that much. I'm not saying that it SHOULD have, but why couldn't the producers of Tomb Raider focus on Lara-as-Agent rather than Lara-as-Victim, as they do for Bond? They could have done a very cool montage of Lara learning to survive, fighting off a pack of wolves with a hunting knife, and taking out the enemies guerrilla style. Instead they chose to focus on her vulnerability AS A WOMAN in the climax of the trailer. That speaks to me as symptomatic of a larger societal issue, one that we as consumers shouldn't dismiss.

Thank you for reading.

What do you think? How solid is my argument here?
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Thad

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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2013, 10:52:43 PM »

Plenty solid and concisely put.

I haven't been following the controversy (I stopped reading game news sites around the time Sharkey left 1up); the first I heard about it was when Gail Simone reblogged Greg Rucka's excellent comments on the subject.

In part:

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Yes, certainly, there are characters where being a rape survivor is a crucial element of who they are. For some, it is even their core motivation. In the right hands, written with the proper thought and care and - in my opinion, and most crucially - honesty, yes, there is a place.

But as a short-hand for “justifying” why a character - specifically a female character - is who she is, or does what she does? I hate it. I’m inherently very suspicious of it, to the point of active hostility. I am leery of the prurient interest, and in the case of Lara specifically, I cannot escape feeling that is hard at work here. I read a quote where one of the developers, I believe, claimed that putting Lara in this position, under this threat, would make the player “want to protect her.” I found that both condescending and remarkably ignorant. Having not played the game, I can’t speak with any authority on it, but I find it hard to believe that was their motive to begin with.

but his whole post is well worth reading.

(The fortunate corollary to "Women can write bad, exploitative fiction about females just as well as men can": men can write thoughtful, nuanced fiction about females just as well as women can.  Greg Rucka's career is testament to that.)

Another point: I've been looking at "It makes the games MORE REALISTIC!" as justification for violence since the days of Mortal Kombat and Doom.  It's usually an argument made by mouth-breathers in defense of games that are not remotely realistic.  (That's not to criticize Doom, of course -- or Mortal Kombat, though I was always more of a Street Fighter guy.  It's just to criticize people who would describe those games as "realistic".)

And not just violence.  Try bringing up the gratuitous use of the word "bitch" in the Catwoman campaign in Arkham City and I give you three posts before someone argues that that's just realistic.

Because you know, when you're in a giant insane asylum/prison that contains its own amusement park and natural history museum, and a guy with mismatched clothes and half his face burned off is hanging a woman in a skintight catsuit upside-down (a point which her goggles, breasts, and stray strand of hair do not seem to notice) over a vat of glowing green acid, well, I mean, he HAS to call her a bitch.  Otherwise it would be unrealistic.
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Friday

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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2013, 06:21:40 AM »

Quote
But 1 in 5 women in the USA will experience rape in their lifetime, compared to 1 in 71 men.

Not calling you a liar, but I've heard (elsewhere on this board, in fact) that men are more likely to be raped statistically, because of prison. Of course, you have to go to prison for that to be true, so maybe those stats are cutting that possibility out.
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Zaratustra

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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2013, 07:28:40 AM »

I would also point out the problem of symmetrical vs. assymetrical violence.

Gabe of Penny Arcade was all "HURR YOU SHOOT PEOPLE IN CALL OF DUTY". Except these people are shooting you back. By all measures except the most philosophical ones, they consent to retaliation. The few games where you're allowed to gun down unarmed civilians get quite a counter-reaction.

Brentai

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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2013, 09:35:40 AM »

My only problem with this argument is that you're going to look kind of petty focusing on the rape aspect of Tomb Waif, because the rape thing in the trailer is like a single dumbass's fumbling attempt to cop a feel which just ends up netting him a groin full of knee.  The entire rest of the trailer/game is a nonstop chain of "Lara gets beaten/stabbed/shot/bloodied/mopey" that's not really presented in the "sympathetic" way they're trying to claim.

It's not like rape hasn't been tossed casually into a video game for no good reason before.  [Removed - a bunch of examples people would use to strawman this conversation into oblivion.]  So why is Tomb Raider getting the shit for it when they get only a murmur?  Because Lara Croft is more sexualized?  Because it's blended into the greater abuse fantasy of the whole product?  Because it wasn't in the trailer?  Yes, yes, and yes, sure, but it also kind of feels that Tomb Raider has become a lightning rod for people's specific agendas, because, well... it's kind of an easy target.  Nobody's rushing to defend Lara Croft's modesty here.

I dunno man, it just feels like zeroing in on the shitty attempted molesting is missing the "JESUS" forest for the "Ew" tree.  Would you really think Tomb Raider is an okay thing if they had just avoided that one scene?  Because that's more or less the argument you made by saying that the rest of the violence is fantastic enough to be okay.

Personally I kind of just wish they'd scrub all of it and have Lara go back to jumping around on high things.  That's what I signed up for, damn it.
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Büge

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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2013, 09:30:05 PM »

I got a response.

Quote
Because the threat of sexual assault is realistic to the situation. Men use sexual assault as a way to frighten women *because it works.* It’s a threat that’s almost guaranteed to unnerve any woman and keep them cowed. Certain kinds of threats work better than others – threaten to harm a child, and that child’s parent will almost assuredly fall in line immediately. Threaten to rape a woman, and she, too, will almost certainly fall in line immediately. Especially if up until that point, the woman has experienced a fairly normal life.
 
There’s no reason for the threat to not be in the game. In a situation where she’s surrounded by very bad men, it narratively makes sense. Also, when coupled with the fact that the man who gropes her is also the first man that Lara kills, it carries a great deal of weight. As I said on the podcast, we take killing very much for granted in games, but in real life, being pushed to the point that you actually have to kill someone to save yourself is monumental. I entirely disagree that the situation is in there for titillation and exploitation. It’s in there because it’s something that Lara would legitimately encounter.
 
And no one *has* to play through it – male or female. This is a piece of entertainment, and it’s up to the consumer to decide if it’s something they want to encounter or not.
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Brentai

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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2013, 12:33:53 AM »

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Beat Bandit

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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2013, 04:45:18 AM »

Quote
Also, when coupled with the fact that the man who gropes her is also the first man that Lara kills, it carries a great deal of weight. As I said on the podcast, we take killing very much for granted in games, but in real life, being pushed to the point that you actually have to kill someone to save yourself is monumental.
If that is actually Lara's first kill and she spends the next few hours of the game dealing with what she's just done and not, say, clearing out every other living thing she sees (possibly while making one-liners) this actually makes sense.

Quote
Threaten to rape a woman, and she, too, will almost certainly fall in line immediately.
Someone report that man to the police.
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Friday

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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2013, 01:01:59 PM »

I can't even parse what he (or she) is saying. The best I can come up with is

"It's ok that rape is in this videogame because rape occurs in real life, and also rape is a really strong threat to get women to do what you want."
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NexAdruin

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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2013, 01:03:01 PM »

And also if someone threatens to rape you, you can just kill them.
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Thad

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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2013, 04:58:29 PM »

Gail Simone says that, as squicky as the early promotion was, the game's not like that at all and depicts Lara as a strong protagonist -- but acknowledges that she hasn't gotten to the attempted-assault bit yet.
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Royal☭

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Re: Videodrome
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2013, 06:13:28 PM »

Anita Sarkeesian released the first of her Tropes vs Women in Video Games today. I'm sure it's going to be a vicious, anti-man hit-job.

Damsel in Distress: Part 1 - Tropes vs Women in Video Games

Or, you know, a reasoned, well-crafted look at a storytelling trope by an intelligent, well-spoken individual. Who would have guessed?

Beat Bandit

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Re: Re: Videodrome
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2013, 07:02:24 PM »

No one that's seen her youtube channel.
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Caithness

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Re: Re: Videodrome
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2013, 09:46:50 PM »

My first thought on seeing the preview still was "Oh wow, are they letting you combine characters in the next Smash Bros.?"
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Ted Belmont

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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2013, 10:33:04 AM »

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R^2

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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #15 on: March 08, 2013, 11:23:40 AM »

I like to think that for every enraged frothing Redditor there's a person going "Huh, yeah. The only time Princess Peach was in a starring role her superpower was volatile lady moodswings. Hadn't thought about it like that. That's... kind of shitty."
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Classic

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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2013, 12:36:04 PM »

Having never played it, the gameplay you describe could either read, "Being in touch with your emotions is important and powerful," OR , "Man those on-the-rag dames amirite?"

I'm guessing the former interpretation is let down by other decisions throughout the game, right?
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Brentai

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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2013, 02:39:19 PM »

Wait, it took a crowdfunded YouTube video for people to realize that Super Princess Peach was fucked up?
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R^2

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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2013, 03:30:48 PM »

People like us, no. But when she mentioned it in the video I laughed, then had to explain to my fiancee why it was funny to even mention Peach's turn as protagonist.
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Re: Social Issues in Games
« Reply #19 on: March 08, 2013, 03:44:57 PM »

I'd say it's kind of a good window into the Japanese mindset.
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