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?