Limit Break Reached

Whenever there is some massive gaming controversy, I tend to find myself at the back of the queue when it comes to to reaching for the pitchforks. I wouldn’t say I’m blind to the issues people bring up, I just tend to think people are being overly sensitive. They’ve taken offence to something and they’ve decided the content is to blame. It’s the content that needs to change.  I see it as people wanting to bend the medium to their exceptions; their comfort level.

My thoughts are: OK, so what are the acceptable levels? What cup size can Lara’s tits be? What’s the correct male to female ratio? What is an acceptable way to represent that minority? Who gets to decide these things?

I’m of the “art for arts sake” opinion. If I don’t like something, or something offends me,  I tend look introspectively. My issue with that entity, doesn’t make the thing to blame. I don’t blame it for existing to validate my own hang ups. My issue, is my issue – and to be fair, it doesn’t happen very often, as if would appear I’m not very easily offended.

This got me thinking though; when is my issue not my issue. Where should content draw the line and what makes it cross that line? I was reading about the game star citizen (a sandbox space sim) and some of it’s fans requesting that rape be included in the game. The argument for rape being: the game allows you to be a “space pirate” and this is the kind of activity such a character would get up to.

This caused alarm with me, but then I questioned why. A little while back, the new Tomb Raider game caused controversy when it was hinted at containing rape in the game. As it turns out, the game doesn’t actually contain rape, but then the idea of Lara getting raped didn’t instinctively come across as an unacceptable thing to me. Why can’t games for a mature audience contain mature content?

Maybe it’s the idea of being the rapist, or to be specific, the power to interactively decide to carry out the rape that sits so badly with me? Including rape as a well thought out plot point is one thing – to give “GAMERS” the power to rape people just seems so fundamentally fucked up. Who wants to rape people for entertainment? (and should we let them?)

But then who wants to kill people for entertainment? Admittedly, the majority of games have you killing for the greater good. You’re defending the planet, or yourself or eradicating some evil – but that’s not always the case. I’ve happily taken a rocket launcher to a passer by in GTA before? I won’t bat an eye lid as a chain reaction of explosions causes the death of 20 innocent pedestrians – but the idea of raping someone disgusts me. There is a massive contradiction there.

I’ve shagged hookers in GTA before and then run them over to get my money back. That is fucking messed up – yet, to me, it doesn’t seem anyway near as bad as “Press X to rape” – and I honestly can’t tell you why.

Any argument I have to why virtual murder is acceptable, doesn’t do anything to convince me or change my feeling towards virtually raping someone. It doesn’t matter that it’s not real.

The only train of thought I have that remotely seems to make sense is the mindfulness of the act. In the context of a video game, and as worrying as this statement is, I think you can mindlessly kill people. The act is pretty much instantaneous, there is no emotion attached – it’s easier to detach the act from reality. We’re possibly more conditioned to it as well, from all the endless years of killing monsters and other evil things from gaming history.

Rape on the other hand, I have no experience of – I cant write it off so easily. If anything, I’d relate it to [SPOILER WARNING] the torture scene in GTA V. Despite doing some pretty messed up things in that game, the torture scene made me the most uncomfortable -to me, it actually felt almost out of place in the game. The act is longer lasting, more intense, more involved and with more investment from the player. The victim is more real. To put it another way; it’s not a mindless act – and I think that is how rape differs as well.

And yet, if this vile act is so nasty, so disgusting, so emotionally messed up that it can (or should) never just be a frivolous act of mindless computer game interaction – how is it I’ve played a game through the eyes of a rape victim and I didn’t even notice? Chances are, you may have played this game as well. You go meet a person – a person that is known to you, a friend if you like. They hand you a drink, you take it, drink it and then pass out – going into a dream like state. As you come to, your friend is now on top of you, fucking you, non consensually. Remember that game – sound familiar? No? It’s Far Cry 3 and it’s a main story mission.

Admittedly, Jason – the guy you play as – doesn’t seem too bothered by it. You come to in a bit of daze, but then you simply get up and carry about your business (of killing, hunting, skinning animals etc). I can’t help but think that if the roles were reversed – if that was Lara Croft in that situation – that it wouldn’t have gone under the radar. Lara never even got raped, but it caused a media shit storm – it it OK because Jason is a guy?

On a side note, Far Cry 3 could be the most controversial mainstream game on the market. The game contains murder, two rapes, slavery, stereotypes, I’m pretty sure some of the animals you hunt are endangered and one of the optional endings [SPOILER] has you brutally murdered during sex – slightly reminiscent of the ice pick scene in the film Basic Instinct*.

I don’t think I’m any closer to really knowing where, or more importantly why,  I draw the line with what is acceptable. I think the problem is, I’m looking for black and white answers to a shades of grey question. I’m trying to apply cold logic to something that is much more emotionally complex – more complex than virtual death. It’s not the act itself, or it’s application or how it’s handled, it’s a combination of those things.

One thing I am certain about though, if you are to include such a complicated subject matter in a game, it requires and deserves the time and consideration relative to it’s complexity.


*that’s not the only thing the game and film have in common. There is also a “is she wearing underwear?” gash-flash (sorry) scene in the game, not dissimilar from what happens in the iconic movie scene.