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Edmund
September 12, 2009 2:27 PM   Subscribe

To jump straight into it, what made you decide to make a game involving rape? Inspiration was mostly personal, I’ve known a few girls who have been through similar situations, which sparked the concept. As far as the experience, I wanted to inspire emotion in the player, even if its vile and disgusting.
Edmund is game designer Paul Greasley's contribution to indie PC gaming web site TIGSource's competition's adult section. Gamers react.

In 2006 RapeLay became notorious as it simulated the rape of a mother and her two daughters.
posted by Foci for Analysis (119 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I suppose if game design is an art, it has just as much right to use this subject as Shakespeare had to write "The Rape of Lucrece".

So I guess I've decided that game design isn't an art.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:36 PM on September 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


I'm a pretty liberal guy, so it's always interesting to have a gut level "that is wrong and shouldn't be allowed" reaction.
posted by Shutter at 2:41 PM on September 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'd hope gamers would be so individually repulsed by the concept of this game that they'd all refuse to buy it and it would drop out of sight immediately, but I know how baseless that hope is.
posted by orange swan at 2:51 PM on September 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ugh. Somehow I don't think gamers would be praising this for, as one commenter put it in the cinemablend article, "carry[ing] off a social message elegantly and succinctly," if the gendered violence were reversed and the game was based on, say, the S.C.U.M. Manifesto? I'm sure most gamers are not so completely tonedeaf as to think this is some kind of valuable social commentary but... Jesus Christ.
posted by hegemone at 2:51 PM on September 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


Gamer Limit indeed. The squeamishness I have with this is that I have been a teenage boy before, and I know the culture that surrounds mainstream video gaming, and I have zero trust that that audience can handle this subject matter without severely degrading themselves, and by extension, the entirety of humanity.

You cannot put anything in a video game and not expect it not to be the subject of hundreds of bad jokes. And the world has enough bad rape jokes already.
posted by idiopath at 2:53 PM on September 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


stupid quadruple negatives, "not expect it to be"
posted by idiopath at 2:54 PM on September 12, 2009


Not to derail, but I want to say -- as a non-gamer who doesn't see a lot of journalism about video games, and has no idea where cinemablend ranks -- that that last-linked article is such a bad piece of writing that I presumed it was a post on some video game enthusiast's blog.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:56 PM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just what we need: an almost-concrete way for angry people to realize their rape fantasies. I really, really, really hate this and would like for it to disappear.

Not to derail, but

I find it hard to believe that anyone, even anyone on Metafilter, would look at this post and decide to comment on the quality of the writing.

Derail: complete.

posted by nosila at 3:03 PM on September 12, 2009


Violence is violence. I think maybe that is his point. I hope this sparks serious discussion and not just knee jerk dismissal and defense of killing games because that would be kind of like saying a raped woman would be better off dead.
posted by figment of my conation at 3:04 PM on September 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Without discussing the larger question of whether or not one should portray rape in a game, a vital distinction between Edmund and RapeLay is that Edmund is supposed to be disturbing, whereas in RapeLay it seems as though the rape is supposed to be . . . fun. Of course, this is just based on reading the articles in the FPP, so I might be missing something.

This is the distinction I would make between a movie like Irreversible and a movie like Ichi the Killer. While I completely recognize that many people will never want to see either movie, I find Ichi the Killer's treatment of rape as a hilarious joke to be utterly reprehensible, whereas in Irreversible the filmmakers treat rape as a genuinely horrific act. That is, in Irreversible the filmmakers want the viewer to have a rational, humane response to the acts that are portrayed, whereas in Ichi the Killer the filmmakers want viewers to have a perverse, fucked-up response.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 3:06 PM on September 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


Coming in at number three in the same competition is the even more err ... something game, I HAVE CANDY GET IN THE VAN. It's a game that's about driving around town, picking up schoolkids in your van, and giving them special tutoring in math, history, etc. No really! That's all it's about! Nothing nasty happens to the kids unless you do it very very wrong.

Did I mention that doing it very very wrong is possible? And likely to have horrible long-term consequences for the children?
posted by CrunchyFrog at 3:09 PM on September 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Violence is violence.

I agree but you're going up against several thousand years of cultural conditioning which delineates between types of violence and shuffles them into "acceptable" and "unacceptable" categories. We've become conditioned to accept sexualized violence as being wrong and always unnecessary (this is A Good Thing) but "regular" violence is still widely viewed as being inevitable, often necessary and, when called for, praiseworthy.

It's going to take a long time to change that.
posted by Avenger at 3:10 PM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


A profoundly bad idea in profoundly bad taste.
posted by SuzB at 3:12 PM on September 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I find it hard to believe that anyone, even anyone on Metafilter, would look at this post and decide to comment on the quality of the writing.

Well, here's why: The internet abounds with rape fantasies of all sorts -- from fanfic to...well, fanfic, primarily, but also some of the creepier species of porn, whether that be hentai or stuff with, like, actual live people -- but it's scarier when it's a video game, because video games are really, really popular. It's a baby, as a medium, and for the short life that medium has had it has become a huge and hugely influential cultural force. Video games are important. I believe that, and I don't even play the damn things. And if the general caliber of journalism about video games is this, I find that appalling and -- when it comes to a subject like this -- worse than useless, because you read it and walk away from it less informed than you were walking in. Cultural critics who are worth a damn should be talking about this medium. Are they?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:12 PM on September 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


It doesn't seem much worse than the sadistic violence in a lot of video games. Long ago I came up with a game idea in which the goal was to remain undetected. You would be armed, but using your weapon to kill someone who spotted you would be almost automatically game-losing. (Notice I said almost) Realized it would probably be unmarketable... unlike this game.
posted by wendell at 3:13 PM on September 12, 2009


Violence is violence.

I don't think it is quite that simple. Whether or not you agree with it, I think you have to admit that our society has attempted to teach us that violence is sometimes appropriate. Most games (I know not all) that involve killing involve killing 'bad guys'. The victims are bad people or things that will hurt you if you don't hurt them. That, we're told, is appropriate and even heroic.

I've not played this game and don't intend to (I only made it half way through the 26 second sample video), but I think this is different because the victim of the player's violent acts are innocent and largely helpless. That makes this a very different scenario. That's why it turns our stomachs.
posted by ghiacursed at 3:16 PM on September 12, 2009


Violence is violence...

Eh, I understand where you're coming from but I don't think I agree. Domestic violence (of either gender) is not the same as a bar brawl. A lynching is not the same as a street mob throwing rocks. Rape used as a war tactic is not the same as firefight. Certainly we've all become somewhat desensitized to the visuals of violence because it is all over our media, but this is not the way to prove that point, or really to spark serious anything other than a lot of condemnation and questioning of basic sense.
posted by hegemone at 3:17 PM on September 12, 2009


Long ago I came up with a game idea in which the goal was to remain undetected.

Wendell, that is the game Thief. It was a good idea on your part and was fairly marketable.
posted by ghiacursed at 3:23 PM on September 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


The violence in video games is frequently contextualized in situations where it is (usually) acceptable in reality: a martial arts tournament (Street Fiighter, Mortal Kombat), war (Contra, Call of Duty), or self defense (Half Life, Bad Dudes). Games which break out of these molds have attracted the same sort of is-this-really-acceptable scrutiny: Manhunt, Postal, the Grand Theft Auto series have all to some extent glamorized violence-for-its-own-sake but garnered a fair share of finger wagging. So I call bullshit on the "oh but violence is always ok" premise. Oh, and that game is fucking vile and its creator should feel fucking vile for making it.
posted by waraw at 3:27 PM on September 12, 2009


This makes me sad for humanity. It also sucks that all of this attention the game is getting is precisely what Greasley wanted when he decided this would be a good thing to do.

That said, I hardly see why this is so much worse than games in which you violently and graphically slaughter people. It's a sign of our culture's sick logic that we all drop our jaws at this, and yet games in which the player ruthlessly kills Arabs are perfectly acceptable.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:30 PM on September 12, 2009


Okay, I played this a month back, here are my impressions:

The game handles the act of raping as a controllable sequence, one's avatar leaves a taxi and you attack a young woman waiting for the bus. One then has to use the "attack" button to slap the woman until she stops moving, one then holds down the "action" button to, yes, rape. You can not advance through the game without completing the "rape" , and you have to hold the "action" button down until the sequence ends.
After this, one takes control of the taxi driver, who brandishes a pistol and chases the raper through the city, this sequence lasts around 8x longer than the initial scene. Once you reach the end, you shoot the rapist dead. The game reveals that the taxi driver is a Vietnam veteran, and the next sequence has the player shooting through the jungles as Our Hero the taxi driver. I did not go further than this, as I would end up getting shot by enemies who I couldn't see in time to react to. The whole game was generally frustrating.

This whole rape sequence could have been done with an in-game scripted event, or something else. I'm not sure why the designer thought it was a bright idea to make the player rape somebody. In the Grand Theft Auto series, players can shoot random people, steal cars, and whip up a great deal of mayhem. It's not because the character they are playing in these games are dealers of mayhem, it's because it's fun to do these things and get away with it. You shoot people who are shooting at you, and if those people are innocent then you suffer the consequences (police, rivals, what have you). In Edmund, the rapist suffers the consequences, but not as a player controlled avatar.

The game made me feel genuinely sick and, beyond some basic platforming jumping and shooting, it wasn't fun. At the very least, this game explores an idea, but I feel it handles it poorly. I think it's trying too hard to be 'art'. Comparing this game to RapeLay is misguided, I feel, since RapeLay seems to be more an exploitative/pornographic kind of experience (I wouldn't know the particulars having never played it). I would say Edmund is an experiment gone wrong.

Final thought: I play games in part for escapism, I want to go to a world that's better/funner than this one. I feel that making a game world that's worse than the one I live in betrays the point of it's existence.
posted by hellojed at 3:31 PM on September 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


I have a Mac and so can't play the game, but I feel like some people don't quite understand what this game is. Edmund is a short, free pixel-art indie game that is more like a visual choose your own adventure that involves rape presented as a horrible thing and with possibly horrible consequences to the rapist. It's not marketed and it's not "fun" per se.

And wendell, such games as you describe are actually pretty plentiful. In fact, the genre is generally referred to as "stealth" games. Some are more tolerant of weapon-using than others, but some of them (Thief, Assassin's Creed) are very popular, well known games.
posted by Schismatic at 3:32 PM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


The violence in video games is frequently contextualized in situations where it is (usually) acceptable in reality: a martial arts tournament (Street Fiighter, Mortal Kombat), war (Contra, Call of Duty), or self defense (Half Life, Bad Dudes). Games which break out of these molds have attracted the same sort of is-this-really-acceptable scrutiny: Manhunt, Postal, the Grand Theft Auto series have all to some extent glamorized violence-for-its-own-sake but garnered a fair share of finger wagging. So I call bullshit on the "oh but violence is always ok" premise. Oh, and that game is fucking vile and its creator should feel fucking vile for making it.

Ah, good point waraw. And not being a gamer of any sort, I was unaware games depicting pointless carnage were stirring the same kind of controversy, which I suppose is a *good* thing.

And yes, I hope Mr. Greasley feels incredibly fucking vile, but I am so, so afraid that he probably doesn't. He seems to have deluded himself into thinking he's making some kind of profound point.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:34 PM on September 12, 2009


No matter how tastefully and well intended any game's usage of rape as a plot point, the current culture of mainstream gaming would make a despicable travesty of it.
posted by idiopath at 3:38 PM on September 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Has any of the people commenting bothered to actually *play* the game? It's about two minutes long.
A few notes:
- you can not rape anyone. Your character will have a nice evening, and that's it.
- should you decide to drive the character in this direction anyway, the rape scene is *extremely*disturbing, purposely so. Rape is bad, and for once, you don't feel good *at all* after having done a bad thing in *a game*. Unlike, say, GTA where using a flamethrower on pedestrians is portrayed as actually, you know, fun. So, to summarize, portraying murder by immolation as fun is OK, because, you know, it's just a game, but showing rape in a -to say the less- negative light is beyond the pale?

Was "Squeal like a pig", err, Deliverance, promoting rape? Was it exploitation? Should it be banned, now that we live in a more enlightened society?

Oh and i don't think the author expects to make money from this: it's a 2 minute FREEWARE game.
posted by vivelame at 3:42 PM on September 12, 2009 [13 favorites]


Well, it's sparked quite the discussion already.

So yes, let's condemn it to the furthest reaches of hell! or whatever. But let's not go back in time and undo that the game was made. Because it worked.
posted by krilli at 3:42 PM on September 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


waraw: yeah, manhunt, GTA, and so on, were so rejected by gamers they barely sold any copy! Let's not event talk about parents buying these games for their f-in' kids.
posted by vivelame at 3:44 PM on September 12, 2009


kittens for breakfast: "It's a baby, as a medium, and for the short life that medium has had it has become a huge and hugely influential cultural force. Video games are important."

Exactly. I think videogames have the potential to discuss rape in a thoughtful manner, but we're definitely not there yet. If you were to shortlist the games that provoke a serious emotional response, you'd end up with Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and a handful of other titles. And this guy thinks he can do rape? Maybe in a few years we'll get there, but right now Edmund feels premature and gimmicky.
posted by yaymukund at 4:12 PM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is not a mainstream game. This is one guy experimenting with the idea of creating a game about the topic of rape. I think the ad hominem attacks on his character are completely uncalled for. If you want to criticize the work, then criticize the work.

Games do not always have to be fun. Sometimes games can be profound meditations on life, such as in 'Passage'. If this had been in a museum as an 'interactive art' piece, I don't think any of you would have had any objection to it.

It's not being marketed to children and it isn't being sold.

That out of the way, is it possible to make a good game that addresses the topic of rape? I imagine that it probably is. I think games can theoretically be about anything. One possible way of approaching it would be to make the player a victim of rape, rather than the perpetrator.

There actually has been a commercial game that tried to address it before, and there was controversy over that.

I really wish people wouldn't assume that all games are meant to be fun diversions for children.
posted by empath at 4:15 PM on September 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, the concern about these kinds of games are misplaced. I don't think there's any danger of rape simulators become popular entertainment. Most people don't want to be rapists and don't want to pretend to be rapists.
posted by empath at 4:17 PM on September 12, 2009


Seconding vivelame. People need to understand this game isn't for profit and maybe, just maybe, play the game. I did. And despite the fact that it was just pixels, it made me feel a little sick, too.

If anything, it's certainly not glorifying the act.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 4:22 PM on September 12, 2009


It's not like there's anything new about this. If you want computer games about rape, you can find dozens in the doujinsoft section of Comiket, with new ones appearing every year.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:27 PM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you were to shortlist the games that provoke a serious emotional response, you'd end up with Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and a handful of other titles.

What about Braid, Passage, Today I Die, Dear Esther and The Path?

Videogames are bigger than what you can buy at your local Walmart.
posted by empath at 4:33 PM on September 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle: No. You obviously missed the point entirely.
Let's put it this way:
If this was a game which made you feel sick because you shot someone in the head (hint: it can do that too), you would be dismissing it with "well it's not like there aren't any FPS out there where one can do headshots".
posted by vivelame at 4:33 PM on September 12, 2009


The difference between non-consensual erotica, fanfic, video porn, etc. & a game where you rape is that there's a massive massive difference in your level of agency involved. This seems to be a fairly obvious point to me. Even if you think of consensual BDSM or whatever there's a difference between being an observer to an enactment and actually being a participant. It raises different questions and goes to different sections of one's psyche.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 4:36 PM on September 12, 2009


Maybe because people are desensitized to violence in games, sexual violence not so much. That being said, I think the reaction for the most part is perfectly natural.

For a troll to succeed in infuriating, he has to be just within sight of reasonable. He still needs to be fed, though.
posted by felix betachat at 4:40 PM on September 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


The difference between non-consensual erotica, fanfic, video porn, etc. & a game where you rape is that there's a massive massive difference in your level of agency involved.

In other words, porn works by convincing us that we are not watching porn. We think we are inside the screen, doing the deed.

In any case, this game isn't pornography, as it's not meant to be arousing.

Personally, I found Fable II more disturbing. It built domestic abuse into the game and you get rewarded for murdering her at one point in the game (if you go through the evil path). It's all handled very jokily. I'm not sure why there was no controversy over it.
posted by empath at 4:46 PM on September 12, 2009


Here's a game that did handle rape well, by tapdancing all around the subject. I had almost forgotten about it.

The Baron
posted by empath at 4:55 PM on September 12, 2009


waraw: yeah, manhunt, GTA, and so on, were so rejected by gamers they barely sold any copy!

Not what I said. I said they caused controversy.
posted by waraw at 5:13 PM on September 12, 2009


waraw: you said violence wasn't always OK, and you point to, well, mostly Jack Thompson. I saw Jack Thompson's finger waggled, and then, record-breaking sales.
Sooo, what's the explanation? That criticism didn't amount to much? Videogamers and, in some case, their parents, are a perverted bunch?
posted by vivelame at 5:27 PM on September 12, 2009


No matter how tastefully and well intended any game's usage of rape as a plot point, the current culture of mainstream gaming would make a despicable travesty of it.

Well, it's a freeware indie game, so i'm not sure it's "mainstream gaming"?
posted by vivelame at 5:40 PM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


there's a difference between being an observer to an enactment and actually being a participant. It raises different questions and goes to different sections of one's psyche.

And that's entirely a bad thing?

Seriously. Transgressive art touches on all kinds of stuff I find unpleasant, but I recognize the value in exploring those boundaries - even if I don't choose to hang out there. How is this (entirely) different? It's now *bad* to poke a stick at gamers' casual attitude about rape? Maybe if you ignore it it'll go away - that's worked pretty well for most of human history, right?

I suppose if game design is an art, it has just as much right to use this subject as Shakespeare had to write "The Rape of Lucrece".

So I guess I've decided that game design isn't an art.


I'm just going to assume that's a well played joke, because it pretty well sums up the bullshit lazy self-satisfied attitude that makes this a worthwhile exercise. "This makes me uncomfortable, so if it's Art I might have to think a little. If it's not I can just condemn the creator as a 'Troll', a 'fucking vile' person", and the rest of the dismissive condescending crap people are entering in the righteous-indignation contest here.
posted by freebird at 5:44 PM on September 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


the current culture of mainstream gaming would make a despicable travesty of it.

Ah, so better not stir up the cesspool right? God forbid somebody actually do something to challenge what that "gamer culture" can be.
posted by freebird at 5:49 PM on September 12, 2009


kittens for breakfast, that is a fantastic answer. Thanks for clarifying.
posted by nosila at 5:51 PM on September 12, 2009


Games do not always have to be fun.

Wow, I guess games really can be Art now. Yay.
posted by nanojath at 6:00 PM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hah!
posted by freebird at 6:03 PM on September 12, 2009


empath: "Videogames are bigger than what you can buy at your local Walmart."

What's your point, or are you just challenging my nerd creds? There are some fantastic independent games, but we still have a long way to go.
posted by yaymukund at 6:03 PM on September 12, 2009


Has any of the people commenting bothered to actually *play* the game? It's about two minutes long.
A few notes:
- you can not rape anyone. Your character will have a nice evening, and that's it.


Oh, yes, the creator has established such a *wonderful* array of "choice" into his game. How brilliant he is.

Don't want to rape the girl? Get back in the taxi and you just spent 10 seconds playing a game. Don't want to kill the dude who just raped the girl? Get back in the taxi and you just spent 1 minute playing a game. There's no choice here. The only choices in this game seem to involve the rape scene itself, and that's just plain disturbing.

"But it's disturbing in a good way! It makes you think!" you'll say.
Yeah, it does. It makes me wonder why some of you seem to be gushing over a game where the only real choices I have are orifice (no I am not making this up) and "do I want to finish this unnecessarily long jumping puzzle to save the girl".
posted by graventy at 6:12 PM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think there are non-indie games sold at Wal-Mart that are meaningful and provoke an emotional response. I think some of the Bridge Too Far games made the horrific non-heroic nature of WWII combat clearer than any number of more "meaningful" artistic works. And I think that fact is made MORE important and thought-provoking by the fact that the games were a lot of fun.

Don't get me started on the global/ecological importance of people understanding things like exponential growth and limited resources, and how much better some games are at explaining this than documentaries and after-school specials.

You know who thinks games don't already touch on interesting artistic and intellectual ground? People who don't play them.
posted by freebird at 6:15 PM on September 12, 2009


some of you seem to be gushing over a game where [...]

Nice false dichotomy there. Either condemn it out of hand as evil filthy trash, or "gush over it".

-1 straw man argument
posted by freebird at 6:17 PM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Edmund features rape. And yes, the game is slightly disturbing, and uncomfortable to play. It's something the game intends to do. Iain Banks writes a lot of disturbing and uncomfortable fiction (and a lot of it in second person, too) which is excellent and praiseworthy for precisely those reasons. If the game were 'fun' in the sense most games are, I'd see what the fuss is about (as I do with RapeLay). However, Edmund doesn't glorify rape. So I seriously cannot fathom why people are so up in arms and wanting to ban this. It just doesn't make sense to me.
posted by Dysk at 6:20 PM on September 12, 2009


So I seriously cannot fathom why people are so up in arms and wanting to ban this.

I don't care to ban it. I just wanted to stress that there's no 'choice' in this game. The choice is play the game or don't. I think he loses his opportunity to deliver a message by switching main characters and removing us from direct responsibility.
posted by graventy at 6:34 PM on September 12, 2009


freebird: "I'm just going to assume that's a well played joke, because it pretty well sums up the bullshit lazy self-satisfied attitude that makes this a worthwhile exercise. "This makes me uncomfortable, so if it's Art I might have to think a little. If it's not I can just condemn the creator as a 'Troll', a 'fucking vile' person", and the rest of the dismissive condescending crap people are entering in the righteous-indignation contest here."

My favorite film of all time is Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia (see profile) - so I think I'm reasonably safe from accusations of having pollyanna taste.

In my personal opinion, even if this is a sincere artistic project, the artist has fallen offensively far short of producing work worthy of such traumatically grave material.

He risked our disgust. He has it.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:48 PM on September 12, 2009


What would you call Edmund; Expression, Art or a Game?

I would call it a experience, but others might not, I think that question is best left to the individual player.
How much hate mail have you received so far regarding Edmund, any death threats?

You would be surprised…
Currently there are four known endings for Edmund, are there still any secrets left to find?

Look harder…


He sounds like a pain in the ass.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:51 PM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I haven't played the game mentioned, but if anyone's interested, I thought I'd list some video games that, in my opinion, do deal with sexual themes in quite interesting ways.

- Silent Hill 2 - the whole game is basically a deconstruction of the protagonist's sexual issues, through the use of some very dark imagery (as anyone who's seen the "mannequin rape" scene will know). Also interesting in that it has multiple endings (so there is actually a point to it being an interactive video game) and, at heart, it has a positive and worthwhile message about dealing with the past and moving forward.

- Fahrenheit/ Indigo Prophecy - notable for being one of the only console games to have an interactive sex scene, and attempting to show the sex as part of a relationship between two adults and in the context of a wider story about how people act when their entire world gets broken apart. The game had a lot of issues, including a rushed ending, though - hopefully the upcoming Heavy Rain, by the same development team, will build on the foundation of this game.

- Michigan: Report From Hell - a very odd game that both subverts and upholds the voyeuristic tendencies of a lot of games. You play a TV cameraman, and the game varies depending on whether you actually do your job or spend all your time trying to get upskirt shots of female reporters. Based on a concept by Suda51, who has produced a lot of other really weird games.

- Fallout/ Fallout 2 - where all the sexual options in gameplay act as satire when viewed in contrast with the pseudo-1950s post-apocalyptic wasteland.

While games may not be at quite the same level as, say, novels or film (although you have to ask how many people are actually interested in psychological studies of sexuality), I do think they are already capable of saying interesting things about sexuality beyond simple exploitation or "OMG Boobs!" pandering.
posted by fearthehat at 7:15 PM on September 12, 2009


Just to reply to schismatic:
Edmund is a short, free pixel-art indie game that is more like a visual choose your own adventure that involves rape presented as a horrible thing and with possibly horrible consequences to the rapist. It's not marketed and it's not "fun" per se.
and expand on hellojed:
You shoot people who are shooting at you, and if those people are innocent then you suffer the consequences (police, rivals, what have you). In Edmund, the rapist suffers the consequences, but not as a player controlled avatar.

The player commits the act as the rapist and deals the consequences as the vietnam hero; it's like stealing candy from a store and putting it in your friend's pocket and then yelling at your friend for stealing candy, except your conscience wouldn't be as clear as when playing the game.

Also, to those claiming there are options in the game, I see that largely as bullshit. The focus of the game is the rape, the message of the game has to do with rape and the raison d'etre of the game is the rape scene. You can go ahead and play GTA without killing anyone or stealing any cars, but you're missing the point.

Also, it seems today that anyone that does something racy or taboo-breaking can call it 'art' and most of us will accept that. Just because he approaches difficult subject matter in a simple, 'artsy', 'indie', pixelized way doesn't make it any more art than porn.

Last thing I'll say on the subject is to expand on avenger:
I agree but you're going up against several thousand years of cultural conditioning which delineates between types of violence and shuffles them into "acceptable" and "unacceptable" categories. We've become conditioned to accept sexualized violence as being wrong and always unnecessary (this is A Good Thing) but "regular" violence is still widely viewed as being inevitable, often necessary and, when called for, praiseworthy.

The point is not bringing rape to the level where it's acceptable in the media (whether it be mainstream or independent) but to bring 'regular' violence to the level where it's not acceptable, at least not in such a simplified and un-thought-out way.
posted by alona at 7:20 PM on September 12, 2009


Forgetting it's a game for a moment, how many tasteful and/or well-written stories of rape have ever been written by men, exactly? Especially the psychological aspects?

It goes against my innate feeling that it should be possible, but all the stories that ring as valid to me are written by women, while any man-penned stories in which a woman gets raped seem to use it as a lame plot device for a revenge fantasy, and not much more than that. (If I'm wrong, please correct me here someone, I beg you.)

We all know someone who was raped, Paul Greasley. All of us. We don't all decide to write about it, though, because we don't have much useful to contribute on the topic.
posted by rokusan at 7:25 PM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ugh. Somehow I don't think gamers would be praising this for, as one commenter put it in the cinemablend article, "carry[ing] off a social message elegantly and succinctly," if the gendered violence were reversed and the game was based on, say, the S.C.U.M. Manifesto?
Really? I think most gamers would find it hilarious.
You would be armed, but using your weapon to kill someone who spotted you would be almost automatically game-losing. (Notice I said almost) Realized it would probably be unmarketable... unlike this game.
Sounds a lot like Metal Gear Solid, from the reviews I've read (I haven't played it)
posted by delmoi at 7:25 PM on September 12, 2009


That's almost the silliest thing I've ever read on metafilter, rokusan. What about stories where men rape men?

The only people who use rape as a plot device for semi-thrillers are the Sidney Sheldon types. There is a LOT of other literature out there.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 7:31 PM on September 12, 2009


Also, which are these women-written stories you're thinking of? Why is an extended psychological narrative about the effect of rape more authentic of a narrative technique than rape as an incident in a character's larger context?
posted by Non Prosequitur at 7:33 PM on September 12, 2009


In Nethack your character can (and likely will) get raped repeatedly by Inucubi or Succubi, depending on whether you are presently female or male, respectively.

You heard that right — the game monsters will trans-rape but not homo-rape. Non-humanoid (and thus non-gendered) monsters cannot be raped. No non-rape sex is possible, though you can intentionally get yourself raped (as it can be beneficial!). Only the two gendered rape-demons are capable of the 'Seduction' attack. The player cannot rape, even when polymorphed into a rape-demon.
posted by blasdelf at 7:41 PM on September 12, 2009


There's a part of me that thinks that the use of rape is a gimmick to get more news coverage. The indie game world is full of copy-cat plat formers that, while they have genuinely good ideas, languish in obscurity for not bringing something else to the table. A neat little game called Spelunky was featured on MeFi a week or so ago, and it's known for randomly generated levels and it's hard difficulty. It's a really nice game, it stands out for it's merits as a game, and not it's subject matter.

I mean, that's what we're discussing, rape. Nobody's mentioned the topsy-turvy difficulty level, or the banal jumping sequences. I don't think the creator had a platform game that was lying around and stuck the rape sequence in so it would get more attention. However, that's the reason this game has gotten so much attention instead of the other games in the TIG competition.

Everyone's trying to be the next Braid.
posted by hellojed at 7:45 PM on September 12, 2009


While I'd hesitate to say that Edmund has any interesting or profound thing to say, it's hardly as vile as the cavalier attitude towards prison rape that I see displayed on an almost daily basis.
posted by uri at 7:47 PM on September 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Somehow I don't think gamers would be praising this for [...] if the gendered violence were reversed and the game was based on, say, the S.C.U.M. Manifesto

Will someone please make this game?
posted by crataegus at 7:48 PM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Will someone please make this game?

If I hadn't forgot everything I knew about action script, and I still had a copy of Flash, then I'd totally stay up all night and whip it up just for you.

And I would totally use Be Your Own Pet for the soundtrack, I think they'd be cool with that.
posted by hellojed at 7:53 PM on September 12, 2009


Yeah, crataegus, I was gonna say that there's probably a lot of men and women who *would* play as a badass woman who went around going all Saw on various men. It's not that far from Tomb Raider. The sexual assault thing adds a weird angle though.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 7:57 PM on September 12, 2009


I hope I'm wrong, Non Prosequitur. I want to be wrong. Do you have examples?

I've abandoned dozens (hundreds) of screenplays halfway through when they hit the cliche "girl gets raped, boyfriend-husband-brother swears eternal revenge" plot device.

Silliest thing on MetaFilter? Come on, give me another week or so and I'll top that easily.
posted by rokusan at 7:59 PM on September 12, 2009


So, did anyone else play the vietnam scenario in the game? That sort of throws a wrench in a lot of suggestions about the narrative people have presented here.

For what it's worth, I downloaded this and tried it. There's more options -- a lot more -- than you might think. The music and general scenario remind me in the vaguest possible ways of Silent Hill.
posted by boo_radley at 8:02 PM on September 12, 2009


I got partway through Vietnam before giving up out of frustration, boo_radley. I played through one level five times only to die at the same spot each time. If you finish it let us know what you thought.
posted by hellojed at 8:06 PM on September 12, 2009


I've abandoned dozens (hundreds) of screenplays halfway through when they hit the cliche "girl gets raped, boyfriend-husband-brother swears eternal revenge" plot device.

What? How is this happening to you on a repeated basis? Why am I talking like you can abdicate responsibility for writing yourself into that corner over and over again?

If you hadn't already said the silliest thing on MetaFilter, you may have already topped it.
posted by crossoverman at 8:09 PM on September 12, 2009


What? How is this happening to you on a repeated basis?

Shrug. I read a lot of bad screenplays as part of one of my side jobs. When you read the same plot "twist" over and over again, you get tired of it. It's lazy writing and generally objectifies and flattens the female character horribly, as if it's the only "depth" a character needs. (I don't get the corner you're talking about.)

Others venting about the problem in the world of comic books, which sounds similar.

IME, bad videogame plots and bad comic book plots and bad screenplay plots have a lot in common. Rape-revenge is often used awkwardly as a heavy-handed tool.
posted by rokusan at 8:17 PM on September 12, 2009


Yeah I understand now rokusan. I was thinking more about 2millenia-plus of established literature rather than comic books and newbie-ish screenplays. A Streetcar Named Desire leapt to mind etc. What's funny is that I was going to mention Shakespeare then realized that Shakespeare did use rape as a cheap plot device often :|
posted by Non Prosequitur at 8:27 PM on September 12, 2009


Sorry, rokusan - I didn't realise you were just reading those terrible screenplays. I thought you were writing them.
posted by crossoverman at 8:52 PM on September 12, 2009


Gamer comments after the interview w/ Greasely:

I’m really glad you got this interview. After you showed me Edmund last week I was pretty horrified, not by the game but by myself for what I “appeared” to be doing. Nice stuff.

and

The game presents you with an option to rape, as does every day life.

WTF??!!


Some comments here on Mefi instruct us on the artistic value of choosing to commit a virtual rape in that there's something to be learned from the "discomfort." Um, huh? No, really, it's not computing. I would appreciate it if someone would explain what is to be gained, intellectually or as an art (as Edmund supposedly is) consumer, from this experience other than a an gross memory of a facsimile of perpetrating rape? How is it meaningful to become a rapist and gratuitously horrify ourselves? By that reasoning why don't we start playing games that involve us slowly torturing children and baby animals?

As I woman I find this totally disturbing. Show me how it's possible to see this entertainment as a positive thing. Explain with some richness how I can look at it another way.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 9:11 PM on September 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


sorry about the typos. I was a victim of rape and I'm feeling a bit pressed about this.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 9:17 PM on September 12, 2009


Also, to those claiming there are options in the game, I see that largely as bullshit. The focus of the game is the rape, the message of the game has to do with rape and the raison d'etre of the game is the rape scene.

Wouldn't it be even more irresponsible to just randomly toss a "rape button" into a game? Like, hey, btw, you can rape Princess Peach after you rescue her, but you don't have to.
posted by empath at 9:32 PM on September 12, 2009


Everyone's trying to be the next Braid.

That may very well be true, but Braid thrived on fairly innovative gameplay and puzzles, followed with a hearty dash of pretension and (fairly bullshit) storytelling.

This game is all pretension, little game.
posted by graventy at 9:39 PM on September 12, 2009


Wouldn't it be even more irresponsible to just randomly toss a "rape button" into a game? Like, hey, btw, you can rape Princess Peach after you rescue her, but you don't have to.

Well that's what people made of this game, but in a positive light. Like, hey, you don't even have to rape the girl, you can just keep playing by riding in the taxi and going into the jungle for another 90 seconds of gameplay. It's like they're saying, "hey, it's not that bad, no one's forcing you to rape her."
Well, no one's forcing me to play the game, either, yet I know that if I do I'm going to play a game in which one of the main objectives is rape.
posted by alona at 10:10 PM on September 12, 2009


Is the objective of a movie like "Irreversible" to watch a woman get raped?
posted by empath at 10:16 PM on September 12, 2009


Sorry, rokusan - I didn't realise you were just reading those terrible screenplays. I thought you were writing them.

Yeah I understand now rokusan. I was thinking more about 2millenia-plus of established literature rather than comic books and newbie-ish screenplays.

No problem, either of you. I was thinking of modern hack writing, which I deal with in screenplays for work and run into via videogames, novels, comic books, etc in general. I did leap from one medium to the other without marking the shift, though. Sloppy commenting on my part.

And no, if I dared write one, I'd be pretty hyperconcious of the cliches I've read so many times, I think. I'm just reading and giving notes (constructive criticisms) and it's remarkable how many times the same tromped-to-death tropes come up... usually from young men trying to write like Tarantino, I think.

My honest non-trolly question stands for all, though: I really would like some examples of non-cliched examples of rape in any modern story/character, where it's used for anything other than to provide a character's complete backstory (shallow) or as a cheap trick to drive a revenge plot (lazy).

Because, selfishly, I'd love some counter-examples to cite when bitching about this.
posted by rokusan at 10:21 PM on September 12, 2009


rokusan -- Kids had a scene that was neither of those things, but it was pretty vile, either way.
posted by empath at 10:30 PM on September 12, 2009


I didn't play this game. I don't think I will. But I don't think it's appropriate to talk about it without saying one way or the other.

I think that a lot of the anger I see in these comments has a lot to do with the medium. Portrayal of rape in a book or film is not something people will vilify so easily in the absence of all knowledge.

Idiopath writes that his/her discomfort comes from the gamer community: they haven't the maturity to deal with this subject matter.

Frobenius talks about Irreversible, a film, as approaching rape in a mature way.

But Irreversible is total jerk-off material for a lot of people.

Really, people are not going to respond in a single, set way to depictions of rape in any medium. Some people are going are going to get excited. (I would expect that few of these people are actually rapists.)

If I were working in a medium/culture where rape was depicted romantically, I would definitely feel the urge to portray it as unromantically as possible. That's what it sounds like this game does. Some people get off on horror porn, but there's nothing you can do about those folks-- are you going to portray rape as rainbows and unicorns?

Video games may not be mature enough to handle depictions of rape. (Are films? Are books?) But media don't mature via treading water. They mature by attempting things beyond their current capabilities. From the sounds of it, this game doesn't do justice to its subject matter. But it tried. Some of you are going to judge its author for trying? Would you rather we had more iterations of Doom?
posted by nathan v at 10:39 PM on September 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


An attempt to distill the essence of my earlier comment:

(BTW I'm not a gamer. So maybe I'm missing some important perspective. And, at least one of the comments I was responding to was deleted after I posted.) I didn't play the game, but I watched someone else do it.

I don't think it's a derail to ask those of you (e.g. freebird) who see an intrinsic value in transgressive art to please explain what qualifies as transgressive art, and what doesn't, and, if it isn't redundant, to please define the potential value of Edmund. Because, I see shock art as a tool, sometimes vile, that can ultimately force us to examine cultural default norms and practices that negatively impact and/or stigmatize ourselves and others, and then maybe reassess. Edmund just lets you choose to rape a woman. Or, choose not to and basically stop playing soon after.

I don't see how Edmund and other games where you can "experience" becoming a rapist or a caricature of a rapist, have any function beyond entertainment/ satisfying a kinda sickening curiosity. And I think it's pretty crucial to be able to elaborate on why you think this has potential to be interesting.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 10:58 PM on September 12, 2009


I don't see how Edmund and other games where you can "experience" becoming a rapist or a caricature of a rapist, have any function beyond entertainment/ satisfying a kinda sickening curiosity.

You could say the same about any depiction of rape in any artform.
posted by empath at 11:16 PM on September 12, 2009


You could say the same about any depiction of rape in any artform.

Okay, please flesh out this opinion. And also, so what? If you (not necessarily you) are going to assert that there may be some higher value to playing a rapist in Edmund- I specifically want to know what it is because I don't get it and I think it merits more definition, if it exists. I don't think it's commendable to casually discuss that Edmund and others might have worth beyond entertainment without explaining.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 11:25 PM on September 12, 2009


Let me clear that I am not a supporter of censorship or banning. I want to understand, that's all.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 11:28 PM on September 12, 2009


It's kind of a wrongheaded question. What worth beyond entertainment does anything about rape have?

I haven't actually played the game, mind (I don't have a PC). From most accounts, it wasn't handled well. But that doesn't mean the topic can't be handled well, or that people should try to address the topic in games.
posted by empath at 11:37 PM on September 12, 2009



That's not what I asked. And I think my questions are entirely relevant to this thread.

What is the potential worth to you, someone, anyone, of being a rapist in a video game? I'm asking with all sincerity. I don't have an agenda. I'm not talking about passively observed rape depictions (though maybe I will at some point if I make an AskMe out of this topic) I'm talking specifically about player-as-rapist scenarios. Specifically, what do you mean by "wasn't handled well." How could it be improved?
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 11:45 PM on September 12, 2009


"If you (not necessarily you)..."

Whew, thanks. Not that I'm going to be able to speak for Empath.

"...are going to assert that there may be some higher value to playing a rapist in Edmund- I specifically want to know what it is because I don't get it and I think it merits more definition, if it exists. I don't think it's commendable to casually discuss that Edmund and others might have worth beyond entertainment without explaining."

Some of this is cultural. I think this game is aimed at a specific part of American internet culture, one that knows what /b/ is, one that has downloaded a poorly-reviewed hentai game because somethingawful didn't lambast it TOO heavily, one that has seen more than a few depictions of rape. It's not aimed at you.

So this (sub)culture is already exposed to a lot of depictions of rape. A lot of these depictions are very, umm, unrealistic. The author is attempting to present an alternative depiction. I think you might be familiar with some of the more offensive stereotypes of rape; I'm sure you realize there are a lot of myths to counter.

Is this worthwhile? Who knows. If you never plan on raping anyone, then I guess it probably doesn't affect you very much. For all our talk about the subject, we really haven't figured out what kinds of people are guilty of rape. The author seems to think that depictions of rape with limited violence and eventual female submission are responsible for some rapes, and wants to counter that.

Is that a function? I don't know. I guess, if I were cornered, I'd have to argue that it's at least as functional as, say, some Mondrian. Or, if you'd prefer something more apples-to-apples, I'd say that it is at least as functional as "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."
posted by nathan v at 11:50 PM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good point on Kids, empath.
posted by rokusan at 12:01 AM on September 13, 2009


A History of Violence too. Now I'll be trying to think up others all night, you know.
posted by ODiV at 12:10 AM on September 13, 2009


Now I'll be trying to think up others all night, you know.

That was my goal, exactly. :)
posted by rokusan at 12:11 AM on September 13, 2009


Also, thanks for the heads up on this game, Foci for Analysis. I won't bother playing it just like I didn't bother seeing Funny Games. I couldn't say whether there's value in it, but I know for sure I wouldn't find it entertaining.
posted by ODiV at 12:16 AM on September 13, 2009


Nathan- thanks for responding with some thought. I realize it's aimed at a subset that I'm unfamiliar with, so context is important. I'm trying to get my head around defending this stuff as anything more than an gimmick. I'd rather someone say it's fun to play than say it's got artistic or social value and not explain themselves at all.

I have no idea how, and to what degree, raping in a video game influences desensitization, violent urges, or the direction of one's tastes in general. I don't think one can just suppose there is something functional about it beyond thrill. But, this sort of thrill is really creepy because rape is a specific kind of terror and torture on an individual, personal level. It's not strategic and it's not about fighting over territory or resources. There is inherently an unequal match and there is no skill mastery to display. There are no recognizable rewards in prevailing, no acquisition, no win. So, the thrill is only about inflicting violence for it's own sake, which IMO is primitive entertainment at best (stretching) and nothing more. Spade's a spade.

But, obviously, that's my perspective. I'm glad someone was willing to sorta get into it with me.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 12:17 AM on September 13, 2009


wendell: You would be armed, but using your weapon to kill someone who spotted you would be almost automatically game-losing. (Notice I said almost) Realized it would probably be unmarketable... unlike this game.

There were stages in the original Rainbow Six that actually did that to you - you automatically lost if you killed anyone in them (since the hostiles were actually good guys, military or police guards protecting corrupt politicians you were sent to spy on.) They weren't terribly popular.

Nonviolent stealth is generally an unpopular game mechanic with players. At best it's a perfectionist's mode of play that is incredibly unforgiving of error, and one that requires foreknowledge of the map that either means big flow-breaking briefing sections (if you're lucky) or game guides / internet resources (most of the time.) Any transient AI error or stupidity and/or clipping issue can instantly ruin you. You generally end up quicksaving and quickloading your way through the map if those mechanics exist, or replaying it a million times if they don't.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:54 AM on September 13, 2009


You seem to think this is Asteroids and that people are comparing high scores in the rape game.

Have you ever played a game that wasn't just about high scores and winning?

Try playing Passage. It takes 5 minutes to play. It's not a game that's 'fun' in any traditional sense. It's a downer, really. It's about life, regrets, getting old, the sacrifices you make for love, and dying. And all of that in a five minute game.

"What is the potential worth to you, someone, anyone, of being a rapist in a video game?"

The answer is that it depends on the person and depends on the game. I linked to a game above called The Baron-- the main character is someone who likely molested his own child, but you don't find out until the end of the game. What's the point of playing a child molester in a game besides a cheap thrill? Well in that game, it wasn't a cheap thrill -- it was devastating to find out, and I ended the game by having the character kill himself.

Not all games are mindless entertainment, or have entertainment as their primary purpose, and they're not always about winning, or displaying mastery or skill.

I don't know whether this particular game was good, but if it's not, then making a bad game was his sin, not making a game that addresses rape as a topic.
posted by empath at 1:07 AM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just downloaded it and played it through, it's a fairly dull platformer and not a rape'em up by any means. Storm in a teacup.
posted by Damienmce at 2:07 AM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


And on the Vietnam bit you have to crouch and machine gun the grass to see the mines.
posted by Damienmce at 2:08 AM on September 13, 2009


Rape 'em up. Now there's a category.
posted by rokusan at 2:23 AM on September 13, 2009


If someone needs to be reminded that rape hurts somebody, they are likely lost to humanity already. I have a hard time imagining anyone who could go through a rape and fail to realize they were causing the victim pain.

The way that I can see a redeeming value in a rape narrative is some insight into the victim's experience, and the longest lasting effects for the victim. Give the rape survivors among your audience a model for positive coping skills, ways to process and understand the event, ways to console and forgive him / her self and understand the pain. I don't think a platformer that gives the player the experience of the rapist and the guy that kills the rapist is going to facilitate this kind of utility.

For many rape survivors, just bringing up the subject is a traumatizing event. It is irresponsible and sadistic to knowingly traumatize an audience without offering anything in return.
posted by idiopath at 2:53 AM on September 13, 2009


idiopath: For many rape survivors, just bringing up the subject is a traumatizing event. It is irresponsible and sadistic to knowingly traumatize an audience without offering anything in return.

I'm not sure this game was written for an audience of rape victims, exactly. Much like bringing up war can be traumatising to veterans suffering from PTSD - that doesn't mean you cannot produce media that involves war.

rokusan: Forgetting it's a game for a moment, how many tasteful and/or well-written stories of rape have ever been written by men, exactly? Especially the psychological aspects?

A fair few, I imagine? Off the top of my head, I'd recommend reading virtually any of Iain Banks' early books - Complicity is probably the most blatant and uncomfortable.
posted by Dysk at 4:13 AM on September 13, 2009


Not all games are mindless entertainment, or have entertainment as their primary purpose, and they're not always about winning, or displaying mastery or skill.

I can see how that could be- I can see how the games genre can offer different experiences and sensations with multiple perspectives, including contradictory ones. And I can see how pushing the envelope serves game design and can broaden and enrich the player's experiences. And maybe it can be instructional or raise awareness.

I'm not calling out the creator or anyone else- I haven't even mentioned him. I think I've specifically stated a few times now that I want to understand the proposal that Edmund has artistic/ other merit beyond a thrill to be consumed. (Thrill, for me, includes the naughtiness of playing at crime and violence, excitement/ titillation, and all-in-good-fun of black humor and absurdity.) If it's subtle, please make the effort to express it. (I feel like a broken record.) I am really interested because I have been the victim in real life and I am trying to be flexible here and perhaps learn something, if it makes me a nuisance so be it.

I'm wondering what a game would be like if designed by the victims- I think exploring novel approaches or coming up with something half-baked about "addressing" rape would be unlikely. Rape as entertainment/ thrill doesn't address the topic.

I entered this conversation unsure of where it would end up. I think I landed among game veterans with questions that seemed like a derail, over analysis, drama, "wrongheaded" but I also think that if you're going to discuss a new video game with rape, and suggest there is intellectual value, and the discussion is on the front page of Metafilter, not on a gaming forum, you should be prepared to carefully consider questions from people like myself with firsthand experience and other members of the community.

I appreciate the efforts made in recent responses.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 7:23 AM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Slightly off-topic, but: when friends of mine first started playing GTA, I (female, non-gamer) thought it was a really interesting concept, and that the intent of the designers of the game was to present a sort of metacommentary on how other games glorify violence by equating it with heroism and teach that it's ok to ruthlessly mow down hundreds of people if you're "The Good Guy." GTA seemed, in a way, to serve as a reminder of how violence often is the the real world: not for any grand purpose.

It is possible that I was giving them a little too much credit.
posted by naoko at 7:55 AM on September 13, 2009


The most interesting and eviscerating piece I've ever read/seen concerning rape was the question and answer session in Brief Interviews With Hideous Men that ends around page 124 in the American paperback (I don't think it has a chapter heading, I'm going by google books here, as my copy is somewhere in the ether.) A narrator presents a gang-rape and, without changing voice, proceeds to change its identity from victim (female), to perpetrator, to husband of victim, to victim (male) and finally to nobody at all. Every side is presented, but at the same time, the act of violence isn't really explained or understood. The final line, "You don't know shit," reminds me of the Primo Levi quote about Auschwitz, "Hier ist kein warum," or, "Here there is no why." I haven't played Edmund (and I wonder about the title and its connection to Mamet's play of the same name, which features homosexual prison rape), and therefore I won't judge it, but I'd like to point out two things: 1) just because a piece (of game or of prose) is vile and disgusting and you hate it, doesn't mean it doesn't have worth, and 2) the more vile and disgusting a piece is, the more the author of it has to work to make it worthwhile. The Wallace story challenges the way rape is presented, not only by crap revenge movies but also by crap Lifetime movies, not only by evil jokes but also by cliched, deeply depressing news articles. I think the question when dealing with something like is, not 'Does Edmund challenge the gaming community?' or 'Does Edmund challenge our middle class mind-set?' but, 'Does Edmund challenge the act of rape?'
posted by Football Bat at 9:10 AM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


1) just because a piece (of game or of prose) is vile and disgusting and you hate it, doesn't mean it doesn't have worth,


I made a point of stating upthread that there can be value to vile transgressive art (in which I mean to include types of gaming) when it challenges individual, community, societal assumptions and stigmas.

I'm looking for substantive responses, hypothetical or personal, to the question of how, specifically, perpetrating a rape in a video game might have meaning beyond entertainment- which I also defined earlier. If there might be a variety of meanings, please name at least one. (I hope it's more sophisticated and less incomplete than "Perpetrating a rape in a video game helps one understand how evil it is.")

I don't think anyone has really answered the question yet, although, again, I appreciate and respect that some folks are trying to contribute.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 9:57 AM on September 13, 2009


hellboundforcheddar, I think I can answer your question.

If perpetrating rape in the context of the game Edmund really helped one understand how evil it was, then the game would have gone into more detail on the long term aftermath of the act, as well as the past experiences of the character to bring more into light the reasons for their actions. The game gives a very narrow view of these characters, so the player is left to impose their own personalities into them. You don't want to rape anyone, but if you don't the game is very short and rather pointless.

Which sort of bothers me. Thinking about it now, there are a million other ways I'd approach the subject.

At the last part of the Vietnam level, you shoot someone and their wife comes to mourn her dead husband. You then rape the wife, you can't exit the level any other way. On a 2nd play through I tried looking for a "secret" exit to the level, but didn't find one, I exited the game without finishing.

Perhaps the use of rape in Edmund is to make the player do something they don't want to do. As if the designer wished to make an 'anti-game' that makes you feel disgusted instead of satisfied. A game played once to see through to the end and not something to pass the time.

I still think it's a failed experiment. Most of the characters are fairly one dimensional. You don't get to play as a victim, either. It would have been a better statement had the game contained a level as the victim, a level that conveyed a tangible sense of helplessness.

I don't know. I'm done trying to figure this thing out.
posted by hellojed at 11:37 AM on September 13, 2009


Honestly (and I'm not entirely comfortable this opinion), I don't know if it's possible that it will be answered to satisfaction for you, hellboundforcheddar.

I suspect that you ask for an answer that is inherently difficult to answer beyond the ones already given but is particularly lacking for you in the same way that it will be extremely difficult to justify any game involving, say, slavery, to most members of the black community; given your specific experiences, no answer may seem sufficiently rational or justified.

That caveat being said though, there may be a few answers, though it requires a bit more than just a few sentences. I think that the main framing question that needs to be asked is what video games are. If you only look to them as entertainment, then there is little about this game that is entertaining. But they can fulfill other measures too - I'm sure we know of educational games (Typing Tutor, Number Cruncher, Oregon Trail, etc.), though that's not really my point here.

The aspect that's of interest here is the artistic one in games - games that are meant to make you sit back and simply think or appreciate, in a way that's fairly profoundly different from the more visceral 'shooting bad guys/solving puzzles' paradigm that has long been the domain of video games. These are more 'interactive art' more than 'games' so to speak, and their design reflects it. Quite a few of them have been mentioned so far: Passages, Pathways, Majesty of Colors, etc. I personally enjoyed Gravity Bone a lot, and I think it's a great example of games that are designed more for artistic sake/to make a point rather than to be 'entertaining' - much like art is created to make a point instead of simply being 'pretty'.

The rise of games like these I find almost analogous to the evolution of comics from 'juvenile superhero beat bad guy' to what we have today, where they actively confront serious issues. Watchmen, for example, and/or V for Vendetta are the name comics, though there are many more - Fell and Ex Machina come to mind as being a pertinent to this conversation. Granted, I don't think we have anything quite that mature from the games industry.

---

Narrowing down a bit, if we look at the game, Edmund, in the particular frame of reference, then perhaps it makes a bit more sense? Many pieces of art attempt to push the boundaries of what has been done, to get people to look at the art or the subject in a different light, and this is similar. Not every attempt will evoke the exact emotions that it's meant to, but that doesn't mean that there isn't any point in doing it whatsoever, does it? Otherwise, what do we see in art like Titian's the Rape of Lucretia? The key is that there is a whole story that's being told with Edmund, and it is, while centered around mutilple rapes, there is a greater story around it - the story of a man who went to war, and the story of someone who is conflicted within himself. Could it have been more? Yes. Is it jerk-off material? No, not in any of the ways that movies like Irréversible are, or 'games' like Rapelay.

Taking a different approach, I'd say that with interactive media, there's a greater chance of emotional investment - unlike passive forms of entertainment, the user must perform an action that ties him/her to the events on the screen. There are many tangible benefits (VR simulations and helping people get past fears, for example) but the more traditional one is simply greater immersion. This immersion into people/places/events that we do not experience in the real world is one of the greatest draws of all media - and noxious stimuli like rape has an equal reason of being represented as pleasant ones, like a flowery field. It is inevitable that there will be more pleasant stimuli than negative ones, because people like happy things - but there is, I think, good reason for depressing, terrible things to exist - if only to indeed remind us of how terrible they are.

Does that help?
posted by Han Tzu at 12:02 PM on September 13, 2009


I think the point of the game is that most of us here who try and play the game come away with a feeling of disgust during the rape scene. In that much I feel the game is a success. I don't need to be reminded that rape is wrong and terrible, but I feel that some people do. As stated here a dozen times, rape is too often used as a cheep plot device or a snide punchline.

Sadly though, I feel that the rest of the game takes away from the initial impact. It's as though the author felt it couldn't stand on it's own without some non-sequitur generic gaming.

To answer hellboundforcheddar's question, if this was done better, it would be in the same category as Irreversible. There the rape scene is soul crushing, one of the most disturbing scenes I've seen. And that was the point. The director used low-frequency sounds during the scene to physically induce discomfort and nausea. Or Guernica. There's a copy of this hanging in the UN security council room. Not because we want to stare up and admire the lines, but because looking at the suffering war inflicts on innocents is a good reminder to keep bombs from dropping.

This game isn't going to stop a real rapist from raping, it's not going to make a victim feel any better about themselves, but it might remind some people that it's not a joke and keep them from being insensitive to what is a terrible crime that has no excuse.
posted by doctoryes at 12:06 PM on September 13, 2009


I think the point of the game is that most of us here who try and play the game come away with a feeling of disgust during the rape scene. In that much I feel the game is a success. I don't need to be reminded that rape is wrong and terrible, but I feel that some people do. As stated here a dozen times, rape is too often used as a cheep plot device or a snide punchline.

Why? Why do you think that 'people who do need to be reminded that rape is wrong and terrible' will actually come away with that message?

Honestly, it's like rokusan mentioned above: this is just an incredibly cliche use of rape (with, I suppose, the "novel" addition that the player is the one perpetrating the crime). The only lesson I garnered from this is that if I want to make a mediocre mario clone that stands out, add rape.
posted by graventy at 12:40 PM on September 13, 2009


Slight derail: did you seriously just hold up V for Vendetta as not being "juvenile superhero beat bad guy"?
posted by kafziel at 12:55 PM on September 13, 2009


I noted this remark from Greasley himself, when asked if he had presented his art to family, friends, and other people in his social circle to solicit their thoughts, he answers:

"I did when I released it, some people took something from it, some people didn’t, and the rest didn’t play it but still held it upon themselves to “flame-on” for pages about the apparent moral outrage [imagine that!], they were then told to politely “fuck off if you don’t like it”."

I'm trying... so hard here... to come away with a positive, and I appreciate the commentary that everyone is providing, on either side of the debate. But to be honest I'm having a hard time trying to figure out what Greasley himself is saying about his reasons for creating it, aside from the insufferable-artiste-type "I wanted to inspire emotion" line. At best, as doctoryes says, it may trouble certain individuals into gaining some sensitivity about the subject, but I suspect the effect would be only short term. I have known many individuals who have no qualms with casually joking about rape and sexual assault, and people with this disposition are not going to have their worldview changed by a game.

Not all opinions are equal, and not all "art" has value. Between the poor execution and dubious attitudes of the creator, I still vote fail.
posted by hegemone at 1:15 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey all - I just finished roughly 20 hours of sexual assault hotline training over this weekend. I have another 20 to go before I "go live".

Here's another way to make another Big Statement about Rape in Society other than making crappy video games for contests:

Volunteer for a sexual assault clinic. Man a hotline. Educate pre-teens on proper touch.

Because you can either make a big statement with your video game about rape, or you might consider training to be in the room with a teenaged Down's Syndrome client dealing with deciphering the instructions on a rape kit.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 5:25 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'll believe in the sincerity of game-rape-as-social-statement when the game designer and the majority of game players who are so compelled by enacting this drama are of the same gender as the depicted victim.

Until then? Steaming shameful masturbatory crap.
posted by Miko at 7:39 PM on September 13, 2009


That seems a bit strange to me, Miko. The reason men don't rape men on the order they rape women isn't just coz they don't like hurting other men. The gender of the victim makes a difference in recreating the mental state of a type of rape.

But like I said earlier this weirds me out even as straight masturbatory material because of the level of agency involved etc.

In other words, porn works by convincing us that we are not watching porn. We think we are inside the screen, doing the deed.

This is a really tangential generalization. What role is the male person watching lesbian porn taking? How do you know? Mirror neurons explain this stuff at a different level than the "am I looking at something scripted or doing it myself" level. I guess you can say that since the character in the game doesn't really exist it's still closer to scripting to some degree and so on.

It gets closer to "this is an actual rape video" than "this is an enactment of a non-consensual scene." I find this point so obvious for some reason..
posted by Non Prosequitur at 9:00 PM on September 13, 2009


The gender of the victim makes a difference in recreating the mental state of a type of rape.

Exactly.
posted by Miko at 8:10 AM on September 14, 2009


rokusan: I really would like some examples of non-cliched examples of rape in any modern story/character, where it's used for anything other than to provide a character's complete backstory (shallow) or as a cheap trick to drive a revenge plot (lazy).

I would argue that the rape in Straw Dogs is dealt with in a significantly more nuanced fashion than either of those two options, although I understand that that's certainly not the only popular opinion on the matter.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:22 AM on September 14, 2009


Shakespeherian - is the rape in Straw Dogs (never seen the movie/book/show?) NECESSARY to the story? What is the point of showing it/adding to the character/bringing it into the overall arc of the story?
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 1:25 PM on September 14, 2009


Lipstick Thespian: Shakespeherian - is the rape in Straw Dogs (never seen the movie/book/show?) NECESSARY to the story? What is the point of showing it/adding to the character/bringing it into the overall arc of the story?

I started to reply to this and realized I was writing a fairly lengthy essay on Straw Dogs; I'll just say that, IMO, the rape in Straw Dogs is necessary to the plot, but moreso to the thematic considerations, in the same way that the gruesome violence is necessary-- it is a film about violence and the breakdown of liberal ideals of nonviolence and sexual equality when presented with extreme circumstances, and the purpose of the violence in the film (sexual and otherwise) is to position the audience at odds with itself-- desiring violent revenge fantasies and catharsis which are distinctly counter to what we initially liked about Dustin Hoffman's character and why we identified with him.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:14 PM on September 14, 2009


Why do so many people seem to think this is a horrible abomination? It's a god damned video game! Get your priorities straight, people!
posted by tehloki at 9:30 PM on September 14, 2009


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