Monday, June 10, 2013

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Would Someone Tell Me Who Greenlit the Rape Joke at Microsoft's E3 Press Conference?

E3 Microsoft press conference Killer Instinct
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

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.

Yikes.

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.

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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Mixed reality iris 2013Iris 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.

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Vaki

Wait. Wait. I saw people talking about that, and I rolled my eyes thinking, oh, just another stupid gamer dudebro making another stupid gamer dudebro rape joke off the cuff without thinking, there'll be some defensive bitching about how girls can't take jokes and it'll blow over.

But...somebody actually scripted that? That was purposeful? Somebody thought that would be a funny, appropriate thing to say at a corporate-sponsored launch?

What. The. Camel-humping. Fuck.

Madagascar Few

Just, seriously, what the fuck, exactly, is wrong with these fucking toolboxes?

Wagner James Au

They are soaking in a culture of fucking toolboxness is the problem, and didn't even realize it was a problem.

Arcadia Codesmith

I guess we now know definitively what "microsoft" actually refers to.

Iggy

Microsoft's game division has been a bright spot in what is otherwise a lumbering, tone-deaf colossus.

Gamer-boys have always needed to grow up. Here's proof that the rot goes all the way to the top of the industry. I hope the ladies can change this.

Iris Ophelia

I'd argue it's not *just* up to the ladies to change it. Jonathan Blow sure isn't a lady. :)

James Sweet

@Vaki: Just to be clear, the OP is *speculating* that it was scripted. We don't actually know for sure.

In either case, Microsoft has some 'splaining to do. Even if it was an off-the-cuff remark, they ought to apologize.

Ezra

While watching I didn't get that impression at all. The whole script before the comment was how one person was the game's producer using a promoted Mad Catz arcade stick and the other person was neither the game's producer or using the new-fangled promoted product.

So for me it came off very much the same as every other E3 demo where an expert is pitted against a common Joe for entertainment value. Like when Shaun White played that snowboarding game on the Wii Board with Nintendo's Cammie some years ago. It didn't give me a vibe of "oh look a male overpowering a female because girls aren't good at games".

But, its impossible to tell someone how they should feel about a comment. Anyone who was offended by it can't be anything but right since they were infact offended. I especially think the ones that watched live and saw it in context without reading any backlash first are genuine in their feelings and it's unfortunate and hopefully Microsoft and other future speakers period learn from it, but, I bet a lot less people would be offended if this whole thing hadn't snowballed far from full context. And largely beginning with one indie developer, Jonathan Blow, who does little else than harp on Microsoft endlessly anyway.

Flo3

I have heard that the "booth babes" (pretty girls in game costumes, flashing cleavage or thighs) completely disappeared from E3. Is it true? Isn't it a good sign that game industry has realized that "player" is not the same as "man"?

Iris Ophelia

@Flo3 Sadly not true. There are definitely fewer than there once were, and they're not hanging out in bikinis and shit anymore, but they're still there. Actually for some demos, they have the hardware (like handheld consoles) tethered to the booth babe, like her wrist or her waist? Kinda creepy. Some also had straps that said "booth babe" right on them. This info is all according to some journalists/developers I've heard talking about it and, to their credit, acknowledging how gross and tone deaf it is.

Nightwish

Even if it was two dudes, it still wouldn't be ok. Rape isn't funny.

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