Three video games have come under fire recently, Manhunt II (by the makers of Grand Theft Auto, Rock Star Games), Law and Order: Double or Nothing (Global Software) and Resistance: Fall of Man.
The first has been banned for “sustained and cumulative casual sadism” in it’s depictions of violence. The BBFC (who give certificates to games as well as films said:
Issuing a certificate to Manhunt 2 would risk the possibility of “unjustifiable harm” to adults and minors. Manhunt 2 is distinguishable from recent high-end video games by its unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone in an overall game context which constantly encourages visceral killing with exceptionally little alleviation or distancing. There is sustained and cumulative casual sadism in the way in which these killings are committed, and encouraged, in the game.”
The second, the Law and Order game purportedly uses footage of Jamie Bulgers kidnap as part of the game play. Denis Fergus, James’s mother, has called for the game to be withdrawn and scrapped.
She also complained to its manufacturer, Global Software, demanding that the image be removed and appealed for anyone who owns the game to destroy it. “It dehumanises the memory of my lovely son I want it stopped immediately. What on earth were they thinking when they did this beggars belief,” she said.
The third is the game which uses the interior of Manchester City cathedral as a backdrop to a shoot-out and Sony has apologised for it’s use.
However video games continue to casually use negative gendered and racist portrayals without a problem. So long as you don’t use real-life settings (even if you are depicting real life events (see Custer’s Revenge below) and so long as you’re not killing men then it seems, according to the BBFC, that you’re OK. As one commentator says:
Sexism and racism are still really common in games- and not just in the really explicit Grand Theft Auto sense. Honestly, Grand Theft Auto is almost the least of my concerns- it’s so blatantly sexist and racist, that it’s easy to avoid it, and it’s really easy to criticize and make a case for why I object to it. The problem with video gaming is that some of the sexism and racism is harder to make people grasp.
From Feministe; the rest of the article is well worth reading…
But to some extent the commentator is wrong about dismissing the grossly sexist, racist or homophobic. Take this creation from Japan, called RapeLay, which as the name suggests puts the player as a rapist.
RapeLay is a disturbing rape simulator developed by the same misogynistic dickheads who brought us Battle Raper 2 which, oddly enough, didn’t contain any actual rape. I think they’re making up for that. I think they’ve overcompensated.
And here is a good analysis of why we should be concerned about games like Grand Theft Auto which, in case you missed the controversy, you can buy the services of prostitutes to increase your health scores and then, if in a suitably isolated place, beat them to death and take your money back in a rape-murder fantasy.
Previous games to cause controversy include Custer’s Revenge in which players rape native american woman tied to various objects; Ethnic Cleansing in which Klansmen or Neo-Nazi characters kill Latino’s, black people and Jewish people (more on these two here; and games originating from the Playboy stable . Even the American Psychological Association has issued a resolution stating that:
studies further suggest that sexualized violence in the media has been linked to increases in violence towards women, rape myth acceptance and anti-women attitudes. Research on interactive video games suggests that the most popular video games contain aggressive and violent content; depict women and girls, men and boys, and minorities in exaggerated stereotypical ways; and reward, glamorize and depict as humorous sexualized aggression against women, including assault, rape and murder.
And the thing is that these games aren’t isolated, one-off things. Take this exchange from Snopes where the original poster asked:
some time in the 1980’s this section had a story that claimed that there existed a video console (think Space Invaders) called ‘Lover Boy’, which of course only existed in Japan because it had been banned everywhere else. Supposedly you guided a naked man around a maze avoiding a dog and a policeman while trying to catch women, if the player succeeded the words “Help! Help!” appeared on the screen followed by a female name. This got you to part two, which was a (8-bit resolution?) player controlled sexual assault. Then you went back to the maze…. This is pretty much from memory, but as you might guess I’ve asked this one of a lot of people over the years, was this real, or was this just some newspaper hacks idea of a sick joke….
In response readers suggest various possible software titles with various names like Lover Boy, Orgasm Girl, Gigolo, Animate, Bachelor Party , Bachelorette Party, Beat ’em and Eat ’em and X-Man (where apparently you also had to avoid being raped by other men by shooting them). In other posts Phantasmagoria is named for showing sexual assault of a woman by a man possessed by evil spirits (how long until we see that resurfacing as a defence in Court?) and Night Trap is named for a rape scene and Watch Out Behind You, Hunter. Surely the fact that so many games were given in answer to the question we have to question the situation with video games.