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Have gamers become too sensitive?

crying baby

It’s no secret that humanity, as a whole, is becoming a lot more sensitive. Everything that is intended for public consumption has to be heavily screened for political correctness – set one foot wrong, make one ambiguous statement and some affronted group of individuals is going to take offense.

This isn’t exactly new – it’s human nature to look for the negative; people like to have something to protest. The difference today is that society is accepting these complaints; we nurture them and lift them up and make them rational – they’re not.

At this point you may be wondering if you’ve clicked the wrong link, or if I took my medication (or indeed, too much of it) this morning. “Chris,” you may be asking your monitor like a deranged hermit, “what the hell does this have to do with gaming?” I’m getting there.

Does anyone remember a Nando’s ad from a while back with a blind woman and her seeing-eye dog? The dog was so overpowered by the smell of Nando’s it made a sharp left into the store and the blind woman walked into a pole or fell down a manhole or something. There was an outcry – this ad was offensive to blind people. I’d make a joke about blind people watching television, but of course that would be offensive. It would be politically incorrect.

If your poster at KFC doesn’t have an inexplicable family made up of a White, an Indian, a Coloured and a Black person, well then clearly it’s a racist establishment. In fact, this KFC clearly hates Asian people.

This type of obsessive sensitivity has spilled over into our domain as well, into gaming. Now of course we’re all used to those American politicians hoping to appeal to conservatives by going on a crusade against the “rampant sodomy” in Mass Effect or the “rape simulation” in Grand Theft Auto, as well as their entourage of litigation fanatics like Jack Thompson (who has since been disbarred, you’ll all be delighted to hear). But I’m not talking about those people. I’m talking about us.

Just recently developer Deep Silver unveiled a special collector’s edition for their upcoming title, Dead Island Riptide – a dismembered female torso statue. If you somehow haven’t seen it, or just need another look, here you go:

dead island riptide collectors edition

Are you offended? Because everybody else was. The backlash was so bad that Deep Silver had to release a no-doubt insincere apology statement: “We deeply apologize for any offense caused by the Dead Island Riptide Zombie Bait Edition. We sincerely regret this choice, and we are committed to making sure this will never happen again.”

Seriously? This is a game series about people-eating zombies, unleashed on a Caribbean holiday resort. It’s fine for people/zombies to be dismembered and killed in-game, but a harmless piece of gory merchandise is offending your delicate sensibilities?

Perhaps it’s another angle, perhaps it’s because it’s a female torso, and a scantily clad one at that. I have no doubt there are a lot of woman who roll their eyes at more of this “sex-sells” attitude towards merchandise and media. The fact is, half-naked co-eds getting killed has been a horror movie trope for decades – it’s literally become part of the genre. Hell, look at recent movie releases such as Piranha: 3DD; that title even offends me, if only because it’s so lame.

Personally, I don’t really care for crap like that myself. I’m not going to watch a horror movie ‘cause boobs, and I’m not going to buy the Collector’s Edition ‘cause boobs. I opened a Heat magazine the other day (that was my first mistake) and I happened upon Heat’s “Torso of the Week”, and came face to not-face with bare-chested Taylor Lautner (or some other vapid celebrity). But I wasn’t offended. I thought it was a bit immature, but I think the same of “men’s magazines” like FHM. I can’t read that magazine without cringing. I think it makes men look like idiots, but I’m not offended. Because a lot of us are idiots – it’s not gender specific.

Get laid all day! Everywhere!

Pictured above: “Sweet and juicy”

I will say however that there ARE a lot of genuine, need-to-be-addressed issues with sexism within the gaming community and industry – but I’m not going to go into that, because gory-zombie-bikini-girl statue is not one of them.

Another recent example of this over-sensitive lunacy is the now infamous “torture scene” from Splinter Cell: Blacklist, which the developer was forced to remove after another public outcry. In the scene, protagonist Sam Black tortures information out of a terrorist by twisting a knife in the man’s collarbone. Gears of War Judgment co-writer Tom Bissell took his criticism completely over the top, calling the scene “a blithe, shrugging presentation of the very definition of human evil, all in the name of ‘entertainment.”

About four seconds before this guy gets a knife in his collarbone, two terrorists get shot in the head. Not 30 seconds after the “torture”, six more people get promptly dispatched, and no one gives a damn. Yes, the torture scene is more gritty and more personal, but it’s also a lot more realistic than a one-man army playing whack-a-mole with Middle Eastern rebels. Beating people to death with baseball bats and mowing down hordes of innocent civilians in Grand Theft Auto is just a fun stress reliever after a hard day’s work, but a soldier violently forcing information from a terrorist is the “very definition of human evil”.

This kind of hypocritical response from gamers happens all the time, and it sets the industry back. There are passionate developers out there that want to produce something gritty, something real. They want to treat games as more than entertainment; they want to make them an art form, they want to make a statement. Close-minded people like Tom Bissell and other internet white knights are holding them back. Schindler’s List and The Passion of the Christ win Oscars for 120 minutes of on-screen torture; Splinter Cell is reviled for 20 seconds of it.

We need to grow up. We need to stop trying so hard to find a way to criticise something. We need to be more open-minded and less naive. Next time you find yourself hastily scrolling to the comments section to tell the world how you offended you are, ask yourself, “Do I really actually care?”

Well, do you?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jamesoosterbaan James Andre Oosterbaan

    Brilliant article, I agree with pretty much everything said here! If it is offensive to someone, they just shouldn’t buy the product/game

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1224633499 David Zacky Collins

    I agree with the article. If it offends shut the hell up and stay away from it, don’t spoil it for the people who appreciate the work that has been put into a game.

  • nukehead

    As has been discussed at length on the forums here: http://www.nag.co.za/forums/showthread.php?19116-Dead-Island-Riptide-special-edition-revealed-apology-follows. That thread highlights the problem in the Deep Silver case. It really isn’t that it is offensive but rather that it illuminates a pervasive thought pattern still tightly ingrained in society.

    Did people over-react or is it maybe frustration that there are still so many people that are blissfully oblivious to the derogatory thought-patterns that affect half the population?

    Having said that I do think that being offended is reactive and only affects the offended. But if it can shed light on some destructive streams of collective consciousness being offended can’t be all bad.

  • Yobbo

    I find this article very offensive… please censor it.

  • harro

    Great article! To me, your highlighting of people finding a need to protest at anything and everything especially drove home. Maybe this need stems from our taking our survival and comfort for granted; maybe there are a lot of just very-bored people out there.

    Either way, I am an avid supporter of the efforts made by developers to introduce material that is ‘real and gritty’ – even in the instances in which I myself find the scenes offensive. How are we to better understand where the line is drawn than by constantly testing the boundaries?

  • Marius Nell

    Is there a local supplier for the dead island edition? I need a new spooning partner.

    • http://twitter.com/Mikit0707 Miklós Szecsei

      HAHAHAHA eeeeeew. That made me chuckle and gag at the same time.

  • DustyDog

    Exactly what I think, people are all “ooooh why did you have to add this man being shot in the legs with a shotgun and then have a tomahawk stabbed into hid hands and then electrocuted alive?” but I meen if you don’t like that scene skip it and keep your thoughts to yourself!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wesley-Fick/184346154999538 Wesley Fick

    I honestly think the people who are too sensitive on things like violence, sex and murder in games shouldn’t be complaining about it – they’re not the target market for the games and, in most cases, (especially with Jack Thompson) they’re not actually playing the games either. I like the fact that The Last of Us portrays violence so well that it gives me chills just watching that first gameplay trailer to the end. Bioshock Ultimate contrasts a nice, quiet and beautiful city with you driving a grappling hook into a goon’s face to stay alive.

    I find the whole violence in games issue to be in the same vein as the discussion we had years back on cursing in the forums. In the end, the best decision was to leave things as they are, but give people the option to turn it off. In games, you get much the same option. Alternatively, don’t play it at all if it bothers you that much.

    Leave me and my games alone and go annoy some other industry that needs it, thanks very much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sebastian.lasevicius Sebastian Lasevicius

    I agree completely, if you aren’t going to play it or watch it then it no concern of yours and you shouldn’t get involved. People need to stop worrying about what other people want to watch or play and live their own lives. It just ruins it for those who want that kind of entertainment in their lives.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christopher.buchanan.589 Christopher Buchanan

    I wholly agree that violence in games are watered down tropes compared to what is on television. Imagine being in a life threatening situation and the only way to escape was to kill the terrorist (for lack of comparrison to other dangerous individuals) guarding you. I choose me thank you very much. Realism in games is not real at all if fools think they control the internet.

  • Armand

    If I work every day, earn my own money to buy games, pay my taxes. What does it have to do with any one else? Why don’t they go waist their breath on something important, like taking a breath between that Mcdees burger

  • Armand

    i Hate this article………NAH just kidding around…the simple truth.
    all they wanna do is complain.

  • http://www.mygaming.co.za Chris Kemp

    Thanks for all the responses guys! Surprised to see that nobody disagreed with me, but I’m not complaining ;) A lot of good points raised here, thanks for the feedback :)

  • http://twitter.com/GraalZA JJ Steyn

    I both agree and disagree with you on this opinion piece. The Blacklist torture issue was a bit over the top, because it’s senseless to complain about violence in a game about violence.

    However, I do not agree with your Dead Island example. It is yet another example of the objectification of women in videogames and the issue cannot be brushed aside be saying ‘but the zombies in the game wear bikinis and anyway you kill people.’ There is a pretty big difference between something being sexist and something containing sexism as part of the game. Including bikini-clad zombies in a game about a zombie outbreak on an island resort is not sexist. Promoting the game by including a limited edition bust of a decapitated torso with only the boobs unscathed is something entirely different. It is merely evidence that the gaming industry still doesn’t consider females as part of their target audience and objectifies them to pander to the stereotype of the 15 year old heterosexual male.

    • http://www.mygaming.co.za Chris Kemp

      I think the problem here is that the target audience for this game IS adolescent males – there are girls who play these kinds of games, but they are in the minority. You have to market your product at your biggest audience group, it just makes good business sense.

      I don’t think it’s any different from Hollywood gossip magazines like Heat being marketed at women – that’s their main demographic.

      You can’t cater to everyone, so you cater to where the most money is. Also, as I said in the column, I feel that this kind of content has become a staple of the horror genre, not contained to video games – one might take issue with that, but that’s probably a different matter altogether.

  • Chris

    Hey, are you trying to tell me that “C” students are ruling the world?

  • RedReaper

    Did any body play far cry 3 at one point Jason brody was forced to stab is finger into is baby brothers bullet wound in his sholder that’s the same as sam from splinter cell with a knife but no that crossed the line it’s the same F*ng thing

  • http://twitter.com/klompy911 giraffe man

    lol this is out of date but Oh well. I agree a lot with this article. what happened with Resident Evil 5 is a perfect example. people being ridiculous because there were an abundance of black zombies IN AFRICA. it might surprise people but there are a lot of black people here, espicially in rural places like where the game was set. It’s not racist it is fact. also you have to think about this, did the developers mean for it to be offence in the way it was? Did capcom say “you know what? we don’t like people lets make a game where you kill hundreds of them!” or did deep silver decide all girls are just tits so lets show how much we think of them? it is very doubtful. more recently Sony got flak for not having any girls presenting anything for the ps4 launch. Again you gotta ask yourself did Sony specifically say ‘we don’t like girls so we are banning them from our show” I’m hoping that sounded retarded to people because I honestly believe it is. that was a bloody long post that nobody is going to read. YAY!!!

  • Gringo

    Agree, 100%

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