The Average Gamer

On Games and Rape Culture

That whole Penny Arcade Dickwolves controversy has reared its ugly head again in the wake of Courtney Stanton politely explaining her reasons for declining a panel invitation at PAX East.

If you really want to make a comment on that issue, go and read this dickwolves debacle timeline first, including all the posts linked. Then come back with your informed opinion.

Trigger warning: You’ve probably already worked out that this post contains some stuff about rape.

It’s reminded me of something that profoundly disturbed me not long after the original controversy took place in August 2010. The opening sequence of Shank shows a flashback of a man, The Butcher, standing over a bloodied and defeated Shank.

“I can’t wait to try out your girlfriend, ” he says. “I’d kill you now, friend, but I want you to hear her scream.”

How is this anything other than horrific? Why is this even in a game? I can understand that some people like to push boundaries in the name of creating art. This, however, is a nasty piece of backstory followed by miles of side-scrolling beat-’em-up. The net result is for me to get totally stressed out over this poor woman while Shank wastes time battling henchmen and drinking beer. SHOOT THEM IN THE FUCKING HEAD and run, run, RUN!

[Update: I interviewed Creative Director Jeff Agala about Shank’s rape plotline]

As the commentary all over the internet has shown, many people do not understand what pro-feminist people mean when they talk about triggers and rape culture. Here’s why trigger warnings are important for people:

“Before you’re raped, rape jokes might be uncomfortable, or they might be funny, or they might be any given thing. But after you’re raped, they are a trigger. They make you remember what was done to you. And if the joke was about something that wasn’t done to you, not in quite that way, you can really easily imagine how it would feel, because you know how something exactly like that felt.
Rape jokes stop being about a thing that happens out there, somewhere, to people who don’t really exist, and if they do they probably deserved it, and they start being about you. Rape jokes are about you. Jokes about women liking it or deserving it are about how much you liked it and deserved it. And they are also jokes about how, in all likelihood, it’s going to happen to you again.”
– Harriet J, A woman walks into a rape, uh, bar

Please click Harriet J’s link above and read through the 5 options a rape survivor has when the topic comes up unexpectedly; say, in your favourite webcomic. Or in that game demo that everyone is talking about. Or in the compere’s commentary at the games media awards. Then ask yourself if that choice is something you really want to inflict that on your friends. 1 in 6 women. 1 in 33 men. How many people work at your company?

As for rape culture? A female producer says that she would feel threatened working at a convention because certain things will remind her of the time she was raped. Fans of said convention respond.

Edit 2nd Feb 2011: Some ladies have set up a site dedicated to naming and shaming abusive gamers. You want more examples of the sexual crap that gets dished out from immature gamers? look no further than