E3: Now with more rape jokes!

In an absolutely brilliant move, someone on stage at the E3 conference made a joke about rape. A female player was onstage demonstrating a fighting game, and the terribly scripted dialogue was more than cringe-worthy.

“Just let it happen; it’ll be over soon.”

[EDIT: The video I embedded is broken, so check out the one on Kotaku]

I haven’t really posted about rape jokes before, but in a post-Dane-Cook-being-an-asshole world, they’ve become their own thing.

You can find years’ worth of reading on them all over the Web. These are some of the best, if you’re interested.

If you’re not, here’s a little wrap-up:

They’re often labelled as edgy and hilarious. But they’re really just tired, outdated and sad, much like the people who insist on making them.

Rape jokes aren’t okay. They’re not the equivalent of an edgy “your mom” joke. Rape, believe it or not, has victims.

Putting this drivel on stage at a huge tech conference is just another way to say that it’s for straight men only, kthxbye. It’s another way to say that we play by frat boy rules, or we don’t play at all.

I’m sick of it. I’m waiting for the day when humor is funny again, and not just the same old misogynistic refrain.

Update: Apparently the rape joke wasn’t scripted. I’m not sure that this makes it less offensive.


Halo revolutionizes gaming with sexism ban

Back in the day, Halo revolutionized gaming. It took a landscape dotted with adventure games, platformers and racing games, and added an entirely new genre: first person shooters. Now, FPS games are the among the most popular formats. However, that was 2001. No one really expected Halo 4 (to be released 11 years later) to revolutionize the gaming landscape again.

But–that’s just what it’s set to do. In an interview with Gamespot, two execs stated that Microsoft will be banning anyone who uses sexist language. Permanently. As in–for life. Currently, bannings haven’t really been taken that seriously. Being threatened with not being able to play Halo 4 should be enough to keep folks who shouldn’t be opening their mouths quiet.

Though adolescents aren’t known for being long-sighted, it’s a brilliant start. Bonnie Ross, head of 343 Industries (and thus, head of Halo), said that she’s seen sites like Fat, Ugly or Slutty, and that it’s “offensive and completely unacceptable.” She partially blames the issue on jerks (also known as bullies, misogynists and Napoleon-complex wannabes) an anonymous voice. Interestingly, she also puts a bit of blame on studios, saying that the gaming culture can reflect that of the developers behind them.

In an effort to do their part, Ross’ studio carefully examined the gender of each of the characters in the campaign. If they felt like they had made the choice based on stereotypes, they re-evaluated the choice. It seems small, but when so many developers are working with stereotypes instead of against them, it’s a small miracle.

So–let’s all take a moment to ponder just how awesome Bonnie Ross is. I’d love to see her on Kotaku’s list of the most influential people in the gaming industry (which currently only has one female member), and I’d love to see more interviews with her. In the meantime, I’ll be purchasing Halo 4 to support such an awesome project.

Why you won’t find my gamertag

I play a variety of games on Xbox almost every night, assuming carpal tunnel hasn’t claimed my fingers by the end of the 10 hour work day. I’ve played online a total of four times in my life, all from my husband’s account (and thus his manly-sounding gamertag). Three of those times were so that Commander Shepard could have a better chance at saving the galaxy, the fourth was a round of Call of Duty with Zach’s friends.

For a long time, I thought it was just me, that I was being silly, to put it nicely. After all, I am a quiet sort of person, though I wouldn’t describe myself as reclusive by any means. I enjoy people, and I’ve participated in online forums since I was a youngster on Neopets. But Xbox Live just isn’t for me.

Have you heard of the site Fat, Ugly or Slutty? It chronicles the types of things that men (and boys) say to the women (and girls) who play online. When women do well, they’re most likely rewarded with particularly crass insults about their sex lives and/or bodies. When they’re simply identified as female, they’re often asked to show fellow gamers their umm…assets. Communiques range from the sad “do u want to be my xbox live gf?” to the disturbing, to the downright creepy. Some of them even think they’re being nice¬†and complimenting a player (Here’s a hint: If she’s not your girlfriend or wife in real life, she doesn’t want to know your opinion of her chest).

Beyond the fact that these idiots are more likely to get struck by lighting while shaking hands with Mitt Romney twice than to receive a positive response to these sorts of propositions, these types of insults are ruining gamer culture. They’re completely unnecessary for the gaming experience, and they’re the worst sort of distraction from what games are trying to accomplish.

Men, of course, are the subject of Xbox Live ridicule, too. I’m not trying to downplay any bad experiences they’ve had. I’m guessing some individual men have had horrible, awful things happen to them while playing online. They may have even had to give up a game. But, overall, the pattern of threats, insults and sexual harassment seem to happen much more to female gamers.

And, honestly, my life is fine without any of that. I’ll just keep sneaking around using Zach’s ever-so-manly gamertag with the mic off when I need some extra points for a campaign mode. I’ll stand back and salute the women who choose to play online. They’re braver than I am. Maybe someday the culture will be able to police itself or control its members. Maybe games will even start implementing systems like the ones suggested in this Jezebel article. Send me a raven, though, because I’ll be offline.