Welcome to Objection! This is where we take the time to go on-depth on current gaming issues, and let you guys continue the discussion in the comments section. This week we're discussing the 'controversy' over Duke Nukem Forever and the game's 'spanking' mechanic.
To help us out we've brought in Tracey Lien, who you might remember from such TV shows as Good Game, and publications such as Hyper and Atomic.
MARK: So, Duke Nukem Forever allows you to spank women to keep them under control in a multiplayer mode. You're typically quite laissez-faire, but how do you feel about this sort of thing?
TRACEY: Once again we're talking about a game that hasn't come out yet, so any opinions I offer are based purely on what I've seen and read.
So, spanking women to keep them under control... I can already imagine people getting offended just hearing about it, waving their arms wildly and pointing to this as evidence of videogames being sexist, degenerative, and OH WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!! But I think we need to be careful not to jump the gun and accuse the game of being sexist and misogynist because it might not be.
A game can contain sexist elements without the game itself being sexist. As Laura Parker over at GameSpot wrote, it all comes down to context. Duke is a sexist character - we all know that he is consistently politically incorrect and full of jerkery, and a mature player would also understand that the world he inhabits is similarly politically incorrect, ridiculous, and just so far removed from our own world. In this context, spanking lady buns is a ridiculous activity that is consistent with this equally ridiculous world. And as long as players understand this and are aware of the nature of the game and the characters, I don't think there's a need to panic.
Personally, though, I do wish they had come up with a slightly different ridiculous activity to do, because I'm not sure what this adds to the game. I'm willing to (pre-maturely) defend it as being harmless (for mature players), but I won't defend it for being tasteless. But hey, maybe I am just Some Female Who Is A Bun Spanking Prude.
I'm curious to hear what you think of this feature in the game. Your opinions - SHOW THEM TO US.
MARK: Wow. This is interesting. Both yourself, and Laura over at Gamespot, have condoned the whole thing - and you are both 'ladies'. I, on the other hand, am a 'gentleman' - and I find the whole thing... a bit stupid. Personally, I'm not offended, but I do think the 'spanking' mode is completely unnecessary - those that love to stir up the media moral panic are rubbing their hands with a perverse glee. Why give them this opportunity on a silver platter?
When I saw this part of the game in action, the first thing that entered my head was the movie Goldfinger. In one particular scene this happens: Sean Connery sunbathes (he is the only Scottish person in our history who can 'sunbathe'), an associate arrives. Sean Connery stops sunbathing. He slaps his female companion firmly on the arse, says something to the effect of "man talk", and sends her on her way.
Today, I watch that scene and completely piss myself laughing. Firstly, because Scottish people don't belong in the sun - shilly Shean - but secondly because the whole scene is just hilariously anachronistic. I'm laughing at how ridiculous it is - at the fact that, in the 60s, this whole scene was actually acceptable.
I'm not laughing at the act itself. I'm laughing at how stupid and unacceptably sexist it is.
But to attempt that same move today? In 2011? I think it's a poor move. It doesn't make me angry, it doesn't offend me. It just feels unnecessary - a blatant attempt at shit stirring, and that's not cool.
TRACEY: This is tricky. When I watched the latest Duke Nukem footage, a similar thought did go through my mind: that the mainstream media is going to gobble this up and spit out some really condemning material, that this is just going to further the image of the gamer as some perverse, regressive boofhead who likes violence and animated knockers. And to be honest, the game is probably going to cause a stir and possibly make it that little bit more difficult for some gamers to be taken seriously. But I think it would be unfair to hold this against the game.
Developers have the right to make their own art - they've gone into the business because they've got their own ideas that they want to see come to fruition and I support their right to make the games they make, as long as it falls within legal boundaries. They shouldn't have to change their ideas or self-censor because of what people might say or think. I think that's what's often left out of these discussions. Everyone worries about what the mainstream media or non-gamers will think about "us" because of some game that has been released, but what about the developer? Doesn't he have a right to make games without having to take my insecurities as a gamer into account?
For all we know it *could* be blatant shit-stirring, and it would be something worth talking to the developers themselves about. And while I don't really take issue with it, I can't say it appeals to me, either. Watching the latest game footage, I was reminded of some contemporary music video clips where beechez 'n' hoez gyrate all over rappers like it's a thing to do: in context, I can understand that the video clip is establishing that Rapper X is shit hot and thus the ladeez need to give him their boobies, rather than suggesting that all women are easy and will rub up against a musician's privates just because his lyrics say so. But I still find it tasteless and off-putting.
MARK: I think you make a great point there – no-one ever questions the artistic integrity of documentaries when Girls Gone Wild: Surf Sluts is released on DVD, so why should we be questioning what video games do in the same way?
You’re right – it’s to do with our insecurities as gamers. Because games are a relatively new type of media we’re constantly striving for acceptance in a bizarre, almost desperate manner, we often have to resort to po-faced, pompous defences of video games that should totally be allowed to exist in the grand spectrum of things. Video games don’t have to be one specific thing - they can’t all be The Last Guardian and neither should they. Why can’t we have our version of Adam Sandler comedies without having to defend ourselves?
Part of the problem seems to be our own insecurities as gamers, as you mentioned, but the other is mainstream media’s fear of the new - it’s video nasties, dime novels, comic books all over again. Attacking video games is an easy story for news outlets looking to peddle the easy, fear-mongering option. I think we’re almost getting to the point where gaming is old enough, and mainstream enough, to deflect this sort of nonsense – but we’re not quite there yet and, in a sense, Duke Nukem Forever is taking us a step back.
Let me clarify - my only problem is with the smacking of women on the botty. For the love of God I want to live in a world where Duke exists, where he can smear shit over the walls, crack lame jokes and tip strippers generously – I just feel like the arse smacking mechanic is a weird attempt for the kind of publicity gaming doesn’t need, and I’d rather we didn’t make it so easy for Conservatives to derail the hobby I love on national television.