FOX News tears into Duke Nukem Forever over Capture the Babe

Saturday, 26 March 2011 17:02 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

Some things in life are inevitable. Death, taxes, not getting along with your mother-in-law, FOX News being fair and balanced. Wait. Scratch that last bit.

In the most obvious news of the day, FOX News is insulted by Duke Nukem Forver’s content. While it was only a matter of time before the network set its sights on the game’s violence and tongue-in-cheek sexual nature, what’s surprising is the fact it seems to have taken umbrage the most with the game’s multiplayer mode: Capture the Babe.

Smack my bitch up

“Brace yourself for the awfully sexist world of Duke Nukem Forever,” reads the post. “The game’s 1996 precursor Duke Nukem 3D… depicted women as strippers and prostitutes. The new iteration of the game, set for release this spring, takes sexism to a new level — starting with Duke receiving implied oral sex from twins in school uniforms.”

“It was offensive then and it’s even more offensive now,” Jamia Wilson, vice president of the Women’s Media Center, told “These depictions of women are extremely harmful, especially to young women.”

The post on FOX’s website doesn’t point out the sexual nature of the game itself in the headline, but instead focuses on the multiplayer mode Capture the Babe, citing the fact that you “slap women” but never mentioning once in the entire post that the “smack” you provide to the women is on the ass. Someone unfamiliar with the game would automatically assume the slap would be in the face.

Capture the Babe is a variation on the popular multiplayer mode Capture the Flag. Instead of rushing into another group’s base to steal their flag, you will instead steal their “babe” and toss her over your shoulder. As her hands are bound, she will be squirming a bit on your shoulder and in order to calm her down, you will give her a slap on the buttocks. Not a punch, not a hard smack, and certainly, not in the face.

Duke Nukem has always been a cheeky series, and while it does objectify women, it have never taken itself seriously and plays up the whole 80s action movie themes: one-liners, sexy scantily clad women, and over-the-top enemies and guns. One thing it has never done, and still doesn’t do, is suggest that violence against women is okay and smacking a woman on the ass is not a violent act in this situation. It is part of the tongue-in-cheek nature of the game, and all part of poking fun at the American-style steroid pumping action hero.

The women in Duke’s fictional world are strippers and prostitutes. There are no Donna Reed’s or I Dream of Jeanie, thus to include a woman of a background such as this would not fit with the whole hedonistic world in which Duke resides -just like in the action films it parodies.

Won’t someone think of the children

Duke Nukem Forever, is obviously, an M rating game and was created with the mature audience in mind, despite the fact it is full of juvenile humor.

According to the ESRB listing, a couple different missions require players to find “sex toys and pictures of topless women.” Some scenes in the game imply sexual acts such “two women [appearing] to perform fellatio on [Duke] (e.g., raising their heads from his lap).” The ESRB listing notes that there is “no actual depiction of the sex act,” meaning it is only implied. Duke will also enter strip clubs and receive lap dances from topless and thong clad women. Sounds like a normal strip club, one that we’re sure many FOX pundits have visited on occasion.

“Our job is to provide consumers with information and guidance that helps them choose games they deem suitable for themselves and their families,” ESRB spokesman Eliot Mizrachi told FOX. “This game carries a Mature rating indicating that it’s intended for ages 17 and up, and retailers overwhelmingly enforce their store policies requiring that M-rated games not be sold to a customer under that age without a parent’s consent.”

Still, FOX notes that “the game will be available in stores and online, where customers must click a button stating they are 17 years of age or older — the only barrier to children buying such a game.”

Forget parental responsibility. Self-policing in FOX’s eyes does not work. However, adolescents and children for that matter, have always found a way to get around the rules, and find the key to Daddy’s liquor cabinet or porn stash. Buying a Mature game is no different, and game developers should not be held anymore responsible for the games they create  than movie directors, or music producers. This fact gets lost to those with such a “the sky is falling” mentality.

A woman’s perspective

Tarryn van der Byl, over on South African gaming site My Gaming has responded to the blatant sexism in Duke Nukem Forever with a well written and intelligent editorial on why she won’t be playing Duke.

Her problem with Capture the Babe mode is thus: “Would we still be okay with it, if the bound, defenceless, terrified woman in the Capture the Babe multiplayer mode were swapped out for a kid, perhaps, or a black guy, or Jesus? It seems to me that, all too often, women are soft, inculpable targets – and not least because even the most polite, tentative criticism of this is almost certain to prompt its own veritable cataclysm of sneering derision.

“It’s almost impossible to open anything like an intelligent, constructive debate on the subject, because it’s invariably and instantly engulfed by hostile disregard and/or condemnation and/or exhortations to STFU and get back in the kitchen. I mean, video games aren’t for chicks, anyway, and vindication is just a random and meaningless accumulation of syllables.”

One look at the website Fat, Ugly or Slutty give credences to Tarryn’s argument, that a game like Duke Nukem Forever “might be funnier if hateful, misogynistic attitudes and casual objectification of women like those ‘parodied’ in the game weren’t actually so shamefully prevalent in reality.”

While one cannot really call her opinion on the matter wrong – because opinions are neither right or wrong – so, kudos to her for sticking up for her beliefs and opinions.

However, some women find the Duke rather funny, just for the shear fact it is absurd and not based in reality what-so-ever. Some women, the writer of this post in particular, is one of the later on the matter.

Gearbox president Randy Pitchford said it best when describing the content in DNF to Xbox Magazine: “”Our goal isn’t to shock people, but I think there’s some stuff that’ll be just a bit uncomfortable,” he said. “We try to get right up to that edge and then relax enough so people don’t reject it.”

Which is exactly the point of videogames in general. The fine line. With Duke, you get to that line and if you were to cross it, it would no longer be fun. It would be nasty, horrible, and go way beyond ridiculous, macho, sexist, eye-rolling humor to something more masochistic, ugly and just plain hateful.

Duke Nukem Forever is supposed to be entertainment, and escapism. Just like all other forms of videogames, films, music and art. If you want serious, intelligent, and artistic entertainment, just look elsewhere.

Duke Nukem Forever is out on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 in June.