Would Someone Tell Me Who Greenlit the Rape Joke at Microsoft's E3 Press Conference?
This week is one of the biggest weeks of the year when it comes to gaming and technology, thanks to E3, and it's already off to a memorable start. Microsoft and EA have both held their press conferences (with Ubisoft holding theirs shortly) and so far quite a few things have leaped out at me. As much as I'd like to talk about the new Dragon Age game coming in fall 2014, or the potentially innovative and ultra-creative Project Spark (which I bet Hamlet will dig pretty hard), when I think about what stands out most from the events so far there's one thing comes to mind immediately: The incredibly creepy little rape joke delivered at the Microsoft event, during a presentation for a new version of the classic fighting game Killer Instinct.
If you missed it, you'll find the Killer Instinct segment at about 1:12:00 in this recorded version of the stream. If you're not able to watch, I'll summarize what happened: A man and a woman are playing the game, he's winning and he says to her, "Just let it happen, it'll be over soon." He goes on to say "Wow, you like this," to which she replies "No I don't like this," upping the already-high creepiness factor by about 100.
I know this might seem like an innocuous comment to some people (and if you're one of them I highly suggest reading this piece from Jezebel), but I found myself cringing quite hard. I immediately asked others if they found that moment a bit... uncomfortable. Maybe I was being oversensitive? But there's been a pretty sizable group of people agreeing that no, that was very creepy and incredibly inappropriate. There was a deluge of "Wait, what the fuck was that?" tweets at the time, and even Jonathan Blow, creator of acclaimed indie platformer Braid, commented on the skin-crawling quip.
"Let's bring a woman on stage and joke about how she's bad at games, and say stuff like 'relax, just let it happen, it'll be over soon'"??— Jonathan Blow (@Jonathan_Blow) June 10, 2013
Honestly if they had just been ad-libbing it might be a little more understandable -- just some poor developer getting nervous on stage and saying something awful without thinking -- but their banter feels painfully scripted to me. They are industry workers, not actors, and it shows like students doing a skit. It really feels like someone wrote that line. Someone wrote it, someone edited it, someone rehearsed it, and at no point did anyone say "Wait, maybe this is not okay. Maybe this will make people uncomfortable."
And if you ask me, that is kind of shitty.
[Update: Check out this excellent post from Gamers Against Bigotry for a broader perspective on this issue and why it matters]
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.