I’m going to begin with a disclaimer in that I hate saying things like the topic of this article. I hate the idea of discrediting someone else’s opinion on account of privilege, as much as I hate discrediting anyone for any reason; however, logic states that some parties are more eligible to speak on certain subjects than others. There’s nothing biased about that, I think. We have subject matter experts who speak on subjects that they know about more than others frequently–they have taken the time to study, invested experience into their field of study, and may even have more of a personal investment in some matters than other.
That being said, I know virtually nothing else about IGN Editor Colin Moriarty, other than the above topic. The terms “heterosexual cisgendered white man” can become misconstrued as insults with the venomous way they’re spouted by Social Justice bloggers across the blogosphere, but they’re not. They are simply statements of fact, and are not attacks against his character. I have nothing to say about his game reviews or what Colin Moriarty is an expert in, and I’m assuming that is on the subject of video game criticism.
The latter bit is what confuses me most about the opinion piece he posted yesterday at IGN’s website: The Problem with Political Correctness in Video Games, click text for the full article.
If the subtitle beneath the article wasn’t enough to give one pause at its content “Don’t let the few ruin everything for the many” then the photo IGN shared to accompany the piece did. On one side of the shared picture was an image of an organized pretty pink wardrobe stocked full with clothes and shoes, and a cartoon “RAGE FACE” meme girl complaining about having nothing to wear; and on the other side an image of a stack of XBOX 360 and Playstation 3 games, and a “RAGE FACE” meme guy complaining about having no games to play. Not only are we opening with inaccurate gender stereotyping that depicts women as vain and shallow, but also implicates that women are not gamers themselves. The subtitle also completely alienates minority groups who might have problems in the video game industry, suggesting that because they are the few they have no voice over that of the many. These are both severe issues I have about the piece, and we’re not even into the full article yet.
Now the article opens innocently and objectively enough:
It goes without saying, but everything offends someone. It’s an unavoidable truth. Even the most mundane and inconsequential something can send a person into a tizzy. Of course, the more controversial something gets, the more likely people will be offended by it. And this raises obvious and worthwhile questions. Should someone being offended by something actually matter? Moreover, should we let it affect how we approach our art, our creativity and the outlets by which we experience the unlikely, the outrageous and the utterly fictional?
In short, should we let the fact that “everything offends someone” alter the landscape of gaming, trashing ideas in the process because it upsets someone?
This is not the end of the valid statements actually made in the article, or that there aren’t some thoughts contained within that I don’t agree with, such as this snippet quoted on the article’s page:
But I say to game developers, make me think. Challenge me. Make me uncomfortable.
Some might argue with me, but I agree with that statement in full. I want to be disturbed, to be shocked, made uncomfortable. I want boundaries to be pushed; however, the cases he brings up to defend his statements I fail to find innovative or boundary-stretching in the slightest.
Moriarty brings up the recent case in which the developer of the upcoming Tomb Raider game, Crystal Dynamics alluded to a segment of the game where the titular (and infamously titillating) protagonist Laura Croft would suffer sexual assault in a play-through sequence. The response to this was rightly controversial, with many snarling behemoths and pigs crawling forth from their basements to say that they’d been wanting a chance to see her sexually assaulted and “raped” for years, while thankfully many more others voiced their outrage at this grotesque example of trivializing sexual violence towards women.
Moriarty acts like this is a bad thing:
The recent episode over Tomb Raider illustrates this point rather vividly. Developer Crystal Dynamics dared to allude to sexual assault in protagonist Lara Croft’s story, something deemed over-the-top and inappropriate in gaming by some commentators. This even coerced one of the game’s producers to backtrack on earlier comments, stating that the game has no undertones of sexual assault even though it clearly does. But why should someone feel bad about including something like this in a game? Have you ever seen an episode of Law & Order: SVU? How about the movie The Accused? Why are games held to an entirely different – and completely hypocritical and unfair – standard?
This is probably the paragraph I have the most amount of problems with in this article. I can’t speak for Law & Order, but I have seen the Accused, and the primary and probably most obvious difference between Jodie Foster’s character and Laura Croft is that never once in that movie is Jodie Foster objectified and reduced to a sexual plaything for male gaze. She’s depicted as a human being with emotions who suffered an outrageous crime that happens far too often to women on a daily basis, and then had to face a society that blames the victims of sexual assault and a justice system that defends the perpetrators before the accusers. Tomb Raider is a series of games who’s screaming success has truthfully had less to do with innovative gameplay and riveting storytelling, and more to do with being able to watch a hot woman’s CGI ass for eight hours.
If Laura Croft had never once been an object of sexual desire, then perhaps sexual assault could be addressed within her storyline, but there still comes into the question of taste and motivation. Why is it compelling to the plot or game for her to be sexually assaulted, or to survive sexual assault? Why are we including this? Are we trying to be innovative for the sake of innovation, shocking and controversial for its own sake? That’s my burning question, why would you? Yes, you can, but a serious and incredibly important topic such as rape should not be handled lightly, without sensitivity, and for no reason other than you think it will be cool. That is trivializing a traumatic experience that happens to 1 in 4 women, in the United States alone.
There’s a lot of considerations that need to go into delving into a controversial subject such as, “How will my female audience react to this? Am I approaching this in a tasteful manner?”
I think these are all valid criticisms. Moriarty mentions in his articles that many of the offended parties seek to act as a thought police towards art that offends them, and while this is true in some cases, it is an unjustly unfair response to what is in many cases a legitimate beef with the created product. Moreover, in the case of the Tomb Raider sexual assault controversy, I’ve seen more legitimate criticism than the outrageous outrage of social justice bloggers thought-policing methods.
Colin Moriarty, as someone who is a game critic, you above all people should understand the difference between trying to shut down something out of political correctness, and legitimate criticisms. Your response is that basically anyone who doesn’t respond positively to controversial subject matter doesn’t count because the majority finds everything completely acceptable.
Would you feel the same way if it was a male character being sexually assaulted? I’m going to let you answer that question. While I do share the thought that all art needs to continue to push boundaries and explore new and uncharted territories, I don’t believe that sexual assaulting a woman in a video game is a brave and courageous step forwards. I think it’s pitiful. I think it’s pathetic and cheap, a shoddy and tasteless gimmick.
How about this: make a video game about a woman who works in the gaming industry and has to sit there in the room of all her fellow male employees watching a game where another woman is sexually assaulted. She has to look at each of her co-workers, the ones who animated the sequence, the ones who make tasteless jokes about how much they wish they were the one raping the on-screen character. Then the player has to be this woman as she walks home at night, and then lies awake terrified of going into work the next morning, because the threat of being sexually assaulted by one of her co-workers is valid and real.
The problem with that is, for most women in America, that’s not a video game. That is their life.
Colin Moriarty has a right to his opinion, and I respect that right, but I feel that his opinion comes from an ignorant standpoint and he is grossly misinformed.