The bottom half of the webpage: Duke Nukem gets a reassuring slap

28Mar11

I avoid forums like the plague. I can’t stand the cliques, the bitching, the unattractive quote box within a quote box within a quote box punctuated by 20 or so smiley faces and one animated devil.

All too often posting an opinion on a forum or beneath an article feels like being dressed as a postman and thrust into a kennel full of hungry Dobermans* with hot dogs stuffed in your khakis.

And while, as Charlie Brooker this morning pointed out, there are plenty of unpleasant characters on social networks like Twitter, to me it feels less like a pressure cooker of penned-in attitudes. I’m sorry if I’m doing your forum experience a disservice, but I’ve seen far too many aggressive campaigns against innocuous comments to defend them strongly. Context is everything of course.

This weekend I was particularly amused/frustrated/surprised by the comments on the Eurogamer website in response to Rob Fahey’s article denouncing Duke Nukem Forever’s ‘Capture the Babe’ mode.

For those of you who haven’t heard, the long-awaited Duke Nukem Forever has a controversial multiplayer mode entitled ‘Capture the Babe.’ You can guess the format: Instead of capturing a flag, you capture a woman. However these ladies may get hysterical and when they do you must administer a “reassuring slap” on the bottom to calm them down.

So far so… oh lord.

 

Rob’s article argued that the mode is misogynistic. He’s had hundreds of comments in response to the article, many decrying it as the worst the site has ever published.

A “reassuring” slap

The slap is supposed to be “reassuring”, playful even. Does that not sound a little off to you? Bringing a hysterical woman to heel by a spanking, under the pretence that it’s for her own good? Hyper reality is one thing but normalising that concept doesn’t exactly make me feel comfortable. I get the Duke Nukem house style, but is that all there is? Compounded expectations and “c’maaan, it’s satire honest” winks to camera?

But isn’t gaming an art form just like any other, and shouldn’t it be allowed to reflect anything and everything, including cartoonish sexism?  True, but it’s safe to say that gaming has for a long time been a male-dominated pastime. The industry is trying to shake the image of being run by the desires of 15 year old boys and their penises. By including a mode as objectifying as this arguably is, Duke Nukem Forever is in danger of looking like an ugly throwback whose only defence is nostalgia.

Because I have breasts, expressing these opinions leaves me open to the following abuses:

  • I have no sense of humour
  • I am possibly on my period
  • I have not had sex recently
  • Perhaps my mother and father were related
  • I prefer the company of women
  • That I am fat, ugly and never leave the house/an attention-seeking whore (delete as appropriate)
  • I may or may not be a poopy head

If any of these sound familiar, perhaps you’re a woman who has experienced Xbox Live co-op play.

Anyway some of my favourite comments so far:

“My girlfriend says you are a bit too sensitive!”

Yes Rob, even a GIRL thinks you’re a pussy.

“It’s harmless fun – I’ve asked my wife about it and she thought it was typical, but pretty funny… Should we ban Carry on Camping too?”

If you have to cite Barbara Windsor boob comedy… There are scores of “I asked my sister/girlfriend/mum about this and they think it’s a big fuss over nothing” posts.

“Duke without sexism is like the Bible without Jesus.”

Jesus would turn the other cheek of course.

“What is this pinko brigade article? Fucking hilarious shit!”

Pinko Brigade will be appearing at Glastonbury this year.

For the most part these comments made me laugh (and I hope they did the same for you). Where it isn’t funny is that there seems to be a complete lack of balance: you’re either a PC asshole who can’t see the funny side, or an insensitive potential wife beater. You’re either for ass slapping or you demand industry-wide censorship. The few people willing to tred the middle ground get an earful for their trouble.

This story has once again shown up an ugly side to the bottom half of the webpage. Comment after comment suggesting everything from Rob’s state of mind to calling for his sacking from Eurogamer. The real story here is not the article but the response to the article and what it says about how we debate these issues among ourselves.

Damsels. Rob Fahey not pictured

One of the best comments I read said: “while I don’t share his outrage…I do share his frustration.” That’s really the point. I don’t think Rob was trying to act the white knight and rescue (or impress) us damsels, and I don’t think his was a poor article. A piece like this reminds us how things have changed, how attitudes have moved on (why else would people complain?). I believe it’s important to move away from certain stereotypes and I can’t defend an ass slap, regardless of Duke’s reputation.

I haven’t played the game yet, I’ve seen footage and read the press releases, and I’m not going to dismiss the entire game because of what is in all probability a feature added to stir up controversy and gain column inches but I can’t say I’m impressed. Nor am I impressed by the aggressive personal attacks on Fahey for what is after all an editorial opinion.

Games are fantasy and a platform to be someone entirely different, and act as you wouldn’t necessarily act in real life. But there’s something about ‘Capture the Babe’ that makes me feel uncomfortable.

What I will say is that times have changed since Duke last graced consoles. I don’t think this mode is particularly inventive. It feels more like a cheap marketing tool from an era we outgrew long ago. I’m all for a bit of fun, but not like this.

Oh and while I remember, here is an example of sexism used for satirical purposes:

And here is the Duke Nukem cover art:

I’m not feeling it guys.

*No offence intended to Dobermans. They are quite nice when you get to know them.

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22 Responses to “The bottom half of the webpage: Duke Nukem gets a reassuring slap”

  1. 1 Rosco

    Agree with most of what you write here, especially the last few paragraphs which cover some key points that Rob Fahey’s somewhat rambling article fails to point out.

    Ultimately, little plot devices (ok, blatant controversy seeking) bits like these have been thrown into computer games for years now. It’s unlikely to change, considering the success of MW2 following the outcry over the terrorist attack “mission” and pretty much all of the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

    I’d argue here that Duke Nukem’s creators have tried to keep to the cartoonish style of the original, and that anyone supposedly mimicking the characters antics owes more of their dysfunction to being poorly raised or a position on the sociopathic spectrum.

    Does Fahey realise that by drawing attention to a puerile, misogynstic sub-game – and the subsequent reader backlash – he’s playing into Gearbox’s hands?

  2. I understand your point of view, but to me, it’s “meh”.

    DN is an icon. He doesn’t live in the same time/world and fortunately he doesn’t depict men’s real behavior. Okay, I’ll grant you that some men are idiots, but not most of them.

    This is entertainment. It has, as a main goal, to divert attention from mundane things, unhook me from real life, make me smile, laugh. In short divert my senses in a good way. It’s even possible to do that in a negative context. Although I personally wouldn’t bite that bait, but it could done and I’m sure it is done, it just doesn’t work for me.

    Anyway. Why would it be okay, or normal or acceptable to torture a human being in a movie, knowing full well that it should not be done in reality? Or murdering babies in a TV series? Again, unacceptable in real-life, but portrayed on TV.

    Another thing is, you just can’t segregate a type of behavior from one media and use that as a weapon. If you want to use a bad behavior and decry it, you’ve got to bundle it inside all the medias. Not just “games”, or “TV”, or “Movies”.

    Finally, it’s all a matter of personal opinion, likes, and tolerance I guess.

    Oh and before I forget, that last video? THAT offends me a lot more than any of the described Duke Nukem’s antics. Satirical or not, it grates on my nerves and makes me shake my head in disgust.

  3. I agree Ross, I think it’s a gimmick and it’s pretty much done its job.

    MadJack, I have no idea how a fake 40s public information video could possibly warrant disgust and where on earth did murdering babies come into this? I understand entertainment is a diversion, I even say that in the article. I do not think drawing in other media is at all helpful – I’m not here to be a moral guardian. I have an issue with this game, so I’m going to discuss this game.

    Duke Nukem, iconic status or not, is not above criticism. Capture the Babe reinforces stereotypes about games and gamers, which I don’t believe is helpful in 2011. The landscape has shifted, this sounds terribly dated and it strikes me as fairly unimaginative.

  4. 4 Jakal323

    With the retro gaming genre being so big in the past decade, is it so hard to believe that Duke Nukem Forever is a celebration of the 90s?

  5. Most of the sexual content in Duke 3D really was just silly and saucy, but judging from what I’ve read about DNF, Gearbox have totally failed to grasp why that worked. I would be upset if this game DIDN’T feature scantily-clad women – it’s part of Duke’s character, he’s a pillar of sweaty, musclebound, macho sexuality – but the context here sounds totally out of place. Duke used to kill aliens for kidnapping women… now, he kidnaps women??

    I guess it comes down what ‘freaking out’ means exactly? Right now it sounds like he carrys her off, she tries to resist, and he has to spank her into submission… if she was squealing with delight, at least that would mark her as a willing participant? It would make the whole thing seem a lot less rapey.

  6. 7 Dean

    The problem I see with the whole game is it’s trying to have its cake and eat it. It inverts the normal approach to satire: the talk is all “ooh, it’s a satirical fiction and we’re really mocking this sort of behaviour” but the subtext is all “eh lads?”

    And the problem with the arse-slapping in this instance compared to worse things on TV is that it’s repeated and it’s necessary. If it were just a single cut-scene where it flashed up “press A” and then Duke slapped a girl on the bum, you can just about argue it’s just part of the plot and the character. But here it’s being turned in to a mechanic. You have to slap the girl on the arse to win. It’s not seen part of the character, or a just a neutral observation, but a good thing.

  7. 8 caruga

    Guess some women don’t like dominance. If men needed consent every time they did something physical to a woman you wouldn’t be here today.

    • Way to advocate rape, bro.

      • 10 caruga

        Not afraid of that word. Wait, so you’re saying you require a formal written contract before a man enters you (or speaking for any other woman)? Consent means words, sometimes you fuck without words. Any man who’s ever done it without words, then, is a rapist. The word is fucked up definition-wise. I think it should only be defined by whether she regrets it afterward; if she does, it was rape and he should have his Johnson in a meat-grinder. Otherwise, well, you know.

  8. Woah woah woah. How did you get from consent to a written contract? No means no. Simple as. And to try and make rape relevant to an article on spanking is a bit… you know… creepy.

    Also, you clearly have no clue about the nature of dominance versus being an arsehat. There are plenty of ways to be dominant without laying the smack down. If we were to use your logic, then if you were given a slap every time you said something jerky on the internet, perhaps you wouldn’t be around to say jerky things on the internet.

    • 12 caruga

      How did I: by reductio-ad-absurdem.

      I clearly have no clue about many things, but not that.

      You responded negatively to the suggestions between the lines, acknowledged.

      Wit: No means no -> dominance means dominance. Form doesn’t matter except wherein it follows function.

      • So if a man is so dominant over a woman that she finds herself physically restrained from saying no, that’s cool bro?

      • Wow, you’re clueless.

      • 15 caruga

        I’ve enjoyed this debate, but it’s time to bring in some closure. This may fly over your heads as your insults fly over mine… but we’ll see.

        First of all, women’s immune systems are weakened both when merely contemplating rape and after being raped, to help weaken the chances of future offspring (as well as giving off an appearance of her lacking vitality and attracting fewer possible mates). This weakening of the immune system makes a woman feel literally sick in the stomach, as just one physical symptom. All lesser instances of being coerced or contemplating that coercion also bring in lesser feelings of that same sickness, with rape being the gold standard.

        It is also in a woman’s sexual nature to not help men understand women, at least never directly (their frustrated intellect will try to surmount this instinct by giving off a ridiculous amount of subverbal hints–which is constrained in the online medium). It is supposed to be the measure of a man that he figures, or fails to figure women out for himself.

        Women will only say explicit statements to screen out the wrong men, not to invite in the right men (barring very few exceptions, usually where they slip up).

        This is also why a woman will only ever say ‘no means no’ even if there’s more to it than that. The fact is, if a woman feels full and contended after lovemaking, rather than distraught, then she wasn’t raped (as defined in the first paragraph)–even if she happens to have said ‘no’.

        ‘no means no’ is applicable to all men by default, but that’s a woman’s instinct to screen out the wrong men, not to bring in the right men. Not that women have a habit of saying ‘no’ when they actually mean ‘yes’–I’m merely speaking hypothetically, but the right men will also know when ‘no’ is an indication to go ahead in the few seldom cases her body language communicates a different thing. An actual small handful of women, in the company of a very small handful of certain men, would actually would utter ‘no’ (and it’s seldom premeditated) and want that ‘no’ to be overcome.

        Beta males are very much defined by being poor readers of body language, they only listen to explicit words–so if you encourage them to not listen to your words but rather your body language, you’ll be doing a poor job of guarding your vagina. So if you’re a woman, your first instinct will be to prevent any beta males from having ideas put in their heads that would invite actual rape upon yourself or give them the idea that you could possibly be among a small company of women who want to be raped (remember, _no_ woman ACTUALLY wants to be raped, as defined in the first paragraph–but as defined as absence of consent, they actually sometimes do), so your first instinct will be to dispute everything I’ve just said and reassert that ‘no always means no’ — which is exactly what should be in their heads, because they would be neither fit to distinguish the few cases where it means otherwise nor are they capable of eliciting such a level of desire from a woman anyway.

        That also would imply that it’s in your nature to dispute everything I’m saying, and I forgive you in advance for disagreeing with me again. Could you throw rotting vegetables at me next time? It would make a variation from the lame insults. 🙂

      • 16 caruga

        It’s probably worth saying that I am clueless if my goal is to win you over. I didn’t actually think about it that way, I was just thinking out loud. I can fully understand why what I’m saying would be met with wholely negative emotions. I needn’t tell you that this isn’t how I interact with women normally, by intellectualizing everything–or perhaps I do?

      • 17 mijetman

        You clearly have some very strong ideas about male/female sexual relationships, but this isn’t the place to express them.
        This is an article about a multiplayer mode in a video game. A mode in which you spank a virtual woman’s bottom that you have managed to turn into an argument about rape, body language and sexual politics.
        I respect your right to an opinion, but I do not agree with it.
        I think it would be in everyone’s best interests if you let this one slide and found a better outlet for your views, other than the comment section on a stranger’s blog.

      • 18 Dawn Foster

        [CITATION NEEDED]

  9. 19 Mtrh

    *throws wheelie bin of rotting veg* Mental.

  10. 20 Lordy

    I rarely post blog replies, but Caruga, rarely have I read such an arrogant, misogynistic, misinformed, insensitive, patronising croc of shit as this on a blog. And that really is saying something. Still, at the end of the day, it’s just an opinion, for all that it’s worth.

    Who on Earth refers to rape as the ‘gold standard’ – in any context? And referring to women as having a ‘frustrated intellect’? Your pompous regurgitation around the different approaches of Beta (and by implication, ‘Alpha’ males) smacks of Nietzsche Lite. And as for asserting the idea that in some instances, women actually WANT to be raped? At the very least, you must be trolling – or a rapist apologist.

    Your rantings come across as those of a rejected and frustrated man whose friendship with women is minimal. And your parting comment that ‘I forgive you in advance for disagreeing with me’ truly smacks of one who has his head firmly up his own arse. It’s evidently a lonely existence up there.

    Re-reading your post, and I’m still struck by its breathtaking drivel. Enough. Too much time wasted on this nonsense already.

    And throwing rotting vegetables at you? A horrific waste of rotting vegetables.

  11. Can I just take this opportunity to point out that person up there (You know the one) doesn’t speak for the whole male gender?
    I mean, it’s pretty obvious they don’t, but in case there are other similar-minded lunatics out there thinking this validates their opinion as normal – No.
    No, it doesn’t.
    Go see a psychiatrist.
    If you’re saying these thing because you honestly believe them and not ‘just’ because you’re trolling then people should be made aware that you shouldn’t be allowed out in polite society.
    And if you’re just trolling, I guess the same applies. Grow up.

    As for the whole Duke Nukem/abduction/bottom slap debacle, I don’t know. I’ll wait til the game’s out to see what kind of outrageous things actually happen in it and judge it then.

    I’ll occasionally pat my wife’s bottom but only in a flirtatious/appreciative/ironic sense. (In the same why I’ll ask her if she’s ‘heppy’ and she responds “Yes dear, terribly heppy”) Am I a bad man?

  12. 22 Nettofabulous

    Through all of this, one thing has becomes clear. Somebody on this board has very little understanding of evolutionary psychology and uterinal biology. Just enough information to be able to thoroughly misunderstand what they know and slam down “facts” completely out of context.

    It’s what the internet was made for.

    I feel I should probably try and do an insult, like “clown’s arse abortion” or “wank bobble” but I don’t think I’ll bother. I’m sure he knows what a disappointment he is.


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