In my little blog about video games having a bit of a problem with women from a few weeks back, I remembered Hotline Miami 2 having a playable character that used rape as a finishing move on an enemy. The developer later cut that, and one of the comments on a gaming website said something along the lines of “people are being sensitive, it’s not that big a deal, grow up.”
Leaving aside the glaringly obvious lack of empathy on this guy’s behalf, I don’t really think that’s something video games are ready to handle just yet. Hotline 2 aside, there was the Tomb Raider fiasco from June 2012 that, had that gotten out to larger mainstream outlets, would’ve probably made it a legitimate financial failure for Square Enix. Say whatever you will about the state of games journalism in that particular scenario, but when there are comments saying that they would’ve let Lara get raped, that’s probably a stink you don’t want your game to have as a developer.
Another problem is that a good number of video games aren’t able to keep a real conistent tone. A game like Grand Theft Auto IV, for example, often went for a serious tone while occasionally throwing in some cheap humor like a man being sexually dominated by his wife. Tomb Raider had a bit of an inconsitent tone itself; after Lara makes her first kill and cries, she just starts gunning down her enemies with no remorse at all. People have joked that she may even take some joy in shooting dudes in the eye with an arrow or having them get to second base with a shotgun, and playing it myself, I can’t deny that it feels a bit odd that the girl who’s killed off the island’s human population is the same woman who seems to be crying every fourth cutscene.
It also doesn’t help that right now, video games and women don’t exactly have the best relationship. The dickwolves scenario is too easy of a target, but there are other situations. “Fake geek girls” are still a thing, and it feels like every other con, some cosplayer is getting harassed or groped before the groper acts like that’s their right. The #1reasonwhy hashtag on Twitter is more than a good example of the sexism in the industry that’s still going on. “This is just the vocal minority” may not be enough of a rebuttal when you’ve got situations like Jennifer Hepler getting death threats or having people say they’ll eat her children making its way across the news.
And speaking of news, imagine what would happen if a wide news outlet learned there was a game that featured rape. Think about the massive shitstorm that would cause; if you thought Fox News asking for a “video game registration” was bad, think about having that from all news outlets, even the “non-biased” ones. Video games are already blamed for some awful tragedies, and I don’t think this is one it needs to be associated with. You may think it’s a bit extreme, but the aforementioned Fox News registration and the repeated attempts to get video games banned shows that there are people that think video games really are the root of all evil, just like rock and roll and drugs before it.
Video games can and should poke fun or tackle some heavy subjects. Mass Effect handles racism, Binding of Isaac takes on child abuse, and Spec Ops: The Line goes for asking the player if their actions in the name of the US military truly are justified. There are other subjects that could be properly explored in games, but for now, I think it’s best if rape and video games stay away as far as possible.