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Saints Row 4: strap on the silly, not the sexually violent

Thursday, 27th June 2013 07:53 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Do we really need “alien anal probes” to have a good time? Brenna argues for a Saints Row that does what Saints Row does best – without the squick of sexual violence.

This article will discuss sexual violence in frank and potentially disturbing terms.

SAINTS ROW 4′S ALIEN ANAL PROBE: WHAT HAPPENED

Saints Row 4 has been refused classification in Australia, the first game to be so judged since the introduction of an R18+ ratings category for video games on January 1. The R18+ category was intended to demonstrate a clear demarcation between material intended for minors and material intended for adults, rather than to significantly alter Australia’s guidelines for content deemed acceptable by common community standards.

As such, Saints Row 4 has been found unacceptable because it manages to “depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified”. The content which has garnered the most attention is an “alien anal probe” weapon, described in graphic detail in the Classification Board’s ruling.

Volition and Deep Silver have confirmed that they will prepare a territory-specific version of the game for retail in Australia – and likely New Zealand.

I really like the Saints Row series. Saints Row began as an “also ran” in the crowded field of open-world, crime-themed games that sprang up in the footsteps of the titan Grand Theft Auto, trudging heavily across the landscape of the PlayStation 2 generation and changing everything forever.

But where other GTA clones ended up mostly forgotten, traded in or left dusty in a corner, Saints Row has persevered. It had something others did not: it was fun. “Here is a silly world,” it said. “Here is a world where crime pays, and the gangster lifestyle is glamourous and fancy-free. Here’s a world where violence is cartoonish and over the top. Go crazy.”

Grand Theft Auto says that, too, in its gameplay – but not in its story, and the artistic grim-dark patina Rockstar now seems to feel obliged to plaster over its often inherently humorous games is, I believe, the franchise’s weakest point. Grand Theft Auto is actually enjoyable, because Rockstar pioneered the genre and remains best in field at crafting the kind of mechanics that make open-world insanity fun. Most of the clones were not, and that’s why they’ve all died off.

Significantly Less Silly

That’s not to say that Saints Row is without its problems. As with any piece of media, it runs the risk of stepping into deeply problematic territory by taking the permissiveness of humour as a carte blanche to do whatever the hell it feels like, with no thought to consequences.

In fact, this attitude seems to have been seized upon at the highest level and turned into Saints Row’s calling card, to the exclusion of its myriad other virtues. When Jason Rubin took over as president of THQ, he made no secret of his love for the more controversial features of Saints Row. When he walked away from the cooling of ashes, he took his giant purple dildo bat with him, and new publisher Deep Silver promised to “keep the dream of the cock alive”.

This really bothers me. I’m proud to talk about so many aspects of Saints Row – its unrivalled inclusiveness, its tongue-in-cheek cultural references, its delightful writing – that I’ll discuss them over dinner with non-gamers. I’m not embarrassed to be an accessory to an industry that promotes violent media; I believe violent video games needs to be subject to the same scrutiny and criticism as other art forms, no more and no less.

I’m not embarrassed to be an accessory to an industry that promotes violent media. I am embarrassed by the purple dildo bat, and although I’m yet to see it in action, I’m very troubled by the anal probe gun.

I am embarrassed by the purple dildo bat, and although I’m yet to see it in action, I’m very troubled by the anal probe gun.

The problem is that a dildo is a sexual object. There’s really no argument here. That’s what it is. When you use a sexual object to commit an act of violence, you turn that act of violence into sexual violence. That’s extremely troubling to me. I can’t tell you with as much certainty that an anal probe is a sexual object – presumably there are some medical situations where it is not – but I am almost certain that in any instance in which a person forcibly penetrates another person’s rectum for their own gratification – shits and giggles, which is no doubt why you’d be pulling that trigger – that is sexual violence.

Do depictions of sexual violence have a place in video games? My first instinct, my gut reaction, is to say that no, they don’t – but that’s because I don’t want them there. I don’t see why you would, either, but I’m aware of the counter-arguments. “Art can have no boundaries”, you will say; it can deal with any subject matter. “Freedom of speech, and all that”, you will perhaps offer, not even bothering to make an actual case. “It is only a joke” is another one I’m expecting.

The thing is, we are mounting these arguments to defend a piece of media which depicts people having something shoved up their arse in a way that clearly causes them distress, for no reason beyond the fact that we will find it amusing. We are supposed to laugh at it. We are supposed to be so childish and so unable to have empathy that we find nothing wrong with this.

Maybe there is nothing wrong with it on its own, although I’m not convinced. But there is something wrong with it in the context of our culture – the culture of video games, and broader human culture. We live in a culture in which horrible acts of sexual violence are enacted and the perpetrators are not punished – this is overwhelming statistical fact. We live in a culture which blames victims and instead of teaching do not rape, teaches us do not get raped. There are so many seriously fucked up things going on in the way we all think, the media we consume, and the lessons we propagate, that even after hundreds of years of examination, discussion, and action we’re only just starting to understand, expose and with any luck one day eradicate them.

“What’s the difference between laughing at dozens of virtual people being virtually murdered and laughing at dozens of virtual people being virtually raped? I don’t know, actually. But I can feel the difference, whatever it is, and I’m with the Classification Board on this one.”

I think there is potential for a safe space, for a world where everyone knows, deep down in their bones, what is right and what is wrong when it comes to sexual violence. Everyone will know instinctively how to conduct themselves – what to say, what to do, when to speak out – to keep everyone around us safe. In that world, “it’s just a joke” and “it’s art” will really ring true. But that is not the world we live in today and every time we add another message (like “it’s funny to rape people”) on the wrong side of the tally we make it harder and harder to get to that world – the world where something like the anal probe gun provokes thought and discussion instead of just mindless titillation.

What’s the difference between laughing at dozens of virtual people being virtually murdered and laughing at dozens of virtual people being virtually raped? I don’t know, actually. But I can feel the difference, whatever it is, and I’m with the Classification Board on this one.

I don’t think the removal of the anal probe gun from Saints Row 4 will make the Australian version weaker than the International release. I don’t think Volition Inc showing a little sensitivity to the manifold concerns surrounding depictions of sexual violence is copping out to censorship and destroying free speech; it’s taking responsibility for the game’s position as a cultural force.

I also think Saints Row 4 is probably going to be an excellent game, and would have been even better if all along developer, publisher and fans had focused on its strengths and positive aspects instead of celebrating the crass, the childish, and the distasteful.

Volition, holster your anal probes and whip out your dubstep guns; let’s just have some fun.

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49 Comments

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  1. Ali

    I don’t need sex nor any bit of sexual themes in my games. GTAIV had a useless mindless frontal nudity, that serves nothing to push the story. It was there just to shock the gamers/media. Sexual themes never if ever are necessary. Some argued that Heavy Rain’s was important, I found em disgusting and I really sold the game because of them coming back more useless than before. Wanna show some love between two major characters, stick to a kiss better be a cheek kiss.

    That’s all for serious games, Saint Rows ain’t serious and there is only one place you hear non serious sexual jokes at these times, 1st grade elementary school and I sure as hell find that stupid and boring.

    Bring us Sleeping Dogs 2 already !

    #1 1 year ago
  2. Soong

    Sounds like something an Australian would say.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. The_Red

    “instead of celebrating the crass, the childish, and the distasteful.”
    That right there shows me that we have very different expectations from Saints Row games.

    They CAN be both super silly AND super crass and offensive.

    #3 1 year ago
  4. Not The Eyes

    There’s no actual argument or explanation here as to why it’s ‘not okay’. Just acknowledging the regular violence that games depict, then saying it ‘feels’ different is meaningless. This is for 18 year old and over. Jokes are jokes, whether they are crude/crap or not. If you are in any way offended, which I find rather childish in itself, don’t engage with the content. It is very much in keeping the style and attitude of the series and game.

    As an aside – it’s utter rubbish to say that “our culture teaches don’t get raped rather than don’t rape”. There are extremely extensive laws, campaigns, government advertising materials all ‘teaching’ people not to rape. Just because there may be (common sense) advice on how to try best to avoid getting raped, doesn’t mean there’s somehow a failure of teaching not to rape.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. Jerykk

    So… it’s okay to brutally murder hordes of innocent and defenseless civilians but probe one of them with an alien anal probe and all of a sudden, we’re crossing the line?

    Some people have the strangest priorities. Murder is worse than rape. You can recover from being raped. You can’t recover from being murdered. Yet somehow, rape is viewed as the more heinous and vile act. Maybe this is due to the general public being so desensitized to murder after years of seeing it on TV, in film and in games. Rape (and I use the term loosely in relation to alien anal probes) is far less prevalent in popular media so we have yet to be desensitized to it.

    If you want to ban depictions of rape in videogames, then you should also ban violence of any sort or any other act that causes pain and suffering, whether physical or psychological. Consistency is important, otherwise your moral high-ground falls apart.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. jmg24bad

    Oh so its ok to dismember humans, headshot them, blow them to bits, but dont let someone pull out a fucking dildo, thats TOO MUCH. Really? GTFO

    #6 1 year ago
  7. jmg24bad

    @#5 I didnt read your comment , but we said the exact same thing lol

    #7 1 year ago
  8. Wertisdk

    Let me just start out by stating, that there is almost nothing that I despise more than any kind of sexual-abuse. That should go without saying, but still.
    I played Saints Row: The Third and I enjoyed it, and while I didn’t giggle every time I used the Purple Dildo Bat™, I did appreciate the wobbly rubber
    effect it had every time you swung it – from a purely technical perspective.

    I don’t find the Purple Dildo Bat™ and the Alien Anal Probe™ especially funny, but neither am I offended by them.

    They are so silly and so over the top, that I do not associate them with an actual real-life sexual abuse, or at least I can clearly distinguish the difference.

    Is this worse than some of the other stuff you can do in the game, like murdering people at random and blowing up the city? I would argue that it is not, and that they at least do it in a way so crazy and silly, that any sane person would be able to clearly understand the difference between this and real life and that you shouldn’t do ANY of the stuff in that game. In that regard, I think pseudo-realistic games like GTA IV or games that promote sadistic violence like Manhunt are way more “troublesome”.

    Leaving out the general discussion about unethical or wrong stuff like violence and murder in video games, I don’t see how this is any different than murder, torture and the likes in video games.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. OmegaSlayer

    @1
    Geez, you have less libido than the Pope.

    #9 1 year ago
  10. BlueMaxima

    We, as adult gamers, are old enough to decide what we want in games, we are old enough to determine fantasy from reality, and we can’t have people who probably have no idea how relevant video games are in today’s media pick what we should be allowed to play.

    #10 1 year ago
  11. MidlifeAxe

    @5, @8, @10 Amen to that.

    #11 1 year ago
  12. broomburgo

    The point is: there’s no place for sexual violence in videogames. Period. There’s no place for rape. If you enjoy a scene in a videogame in which you get to rape someone, you have problems. To be clear, it’s not that rape and sexual violence in general shouldn’t be depicted in art: they should be, it’s art, but they should NOT be glorified, and their representation is not there for you to enjoy, but to despise, to show the horror of someone that’s undergoing something like that (e.g. the rape scene from the Sopranos).

    Videogames are DIFFERENT from other media, because they’re interactive, and you enjoy playing them. But murder and rape are not the same thing, even in videogames, even in fantasy. There’s a very nice Jimquisition about the topic, go and watch: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/jimquisition/5972-Rape-vs-Murder

    #12 1 year ago
  13. Wertisdk

    @12
    Could you please elaborate why YOU believe there’s a big difference between murder and sexual abuse in video games?

    I’m not asking because I wan’t to be a jerk, but rather because you don’t bring any arguments that supports your point other than “it’s wrong”, so it’s hard to argue against.

    My personal limit would be a “realistic” game that portrayed or enabled you to actually rape someone or sexually abuse them.

    #13 1 year ago
  14. Belmont

    I think a game developer has the right to portray what it wants in its game and it should be released everywhere with but with the Age Ratings (and perhaps in-game warnings like the two Modern Warfare titles). However no Classification Board or whatever else has the right to decide what is extreme and what is passable. It is the consumer of the media that decides.

    The argument held here is stupid . It IS ok to kill thousands in games, to stab them with knifes, jabbing knifes into their eye sockets, cutting them in half with chainsaws, setting them on fire,dropping nuclear bombs on them, killing them with electricity,blasting their heads off. It is all fine and ok and it is accepted by Classification Board !

    #14 1 year ago
  15. Not The Eyes

    @12 “there’s no place for sexual violence in videogames”. Even going on the tenuous premise that this constitutes serious sexual violence, who are you to say what any medium should and shouldn’t portray?

    Sure, if they were presenting a game that was “rape anyone you want”, then it would be far more questionable, but with something as silly and surreal as this, and with a 18+ certificate, there’s no question to me that the developers should be able present it.

    #15 1 year ago
  16. DSB

    Whether the classification board was on the side of good taste or not was never the question. The fact that they truly believe themselves to be rulers of how grown men and women, and how they consume entertainment, is.

    I don’t think the anal probe will add anything to the game either, but then I can just leave it the hell alone, and I don’t see a scenario in which Australia would be destroyed by a pandemic of brainwashed anal rapists on that account.

    Antiquated reactionary morality courts have no purpose in the 21st century. They didn’t fit into the 20th either.

    #16 1 year ago
  17. silkvg247

    Stopped reading here Brenna.. sorry, I normally respect your articles but I just can’t take your opinion seriously:

    ” am embarrassed by the purple dildo bat, and although I’m yet to see it in action, I’m very troubled by the anal probe gun.

    The problem is that a dildo is a sexual object. ”

    No sweetheart, a 40 inch long, approx 15″ girth purple dildo is not a sexual object. Certainly not for any male or female human being I’ve ever come across.

    It’s a joke, a parody. Smacking people and cars and cops with it is comedy. If it were a regular sized black dildo which you thrust into people cavities whilst they scream for you to stop, then I can see it being a problem.

    It isn’t sexual violence at all – at a push it is sexual COMEDY but largely for me it is just downright silliness and doesn’t feel sexual at all.

    If games news journalists of all people can’t differentiate between a joke and a serious and offensive theme then we’re all screwed. Next they’ll be banning actual dildos in shops for fear of them being used to rob a fucking bank. :p

    I also find it a tad daft you are commenting on the anal probe gun whilst admitting you haven’t actually seen it in action – furthermore you side with the classification board without seeing whatever it was they banned the first game for.. sorry but.. what?

    Do you think that a, the protagonist holds a victim down and anally rapes them or b, that the gun fires into a guys ass and launches him into space? I’ll give you a clue, it’s saints row. It’s b. It’s meant as fun.

    For what it’s worth I also wish they’d stuck to the 50/50 serious/fun ratio SR2 had. I do. But to pretend SR3 and SR4 are anything other than pure silliness, is rubbish. How can anyone in their right mind even try to take them seriously enough to be offended. I worry about people, I really do.

    #17 1 year ago
  18. NeoSquall

    Where were you, Brenna, when Running with Scissors allowed people in Postal 2 to use cats as pistol silencers by brutally plugging the barrel in their butts, with apparently no pixelation whatsoever?

    Postal 2 = animal brutality in its “real world”
    Saints Row IV = slapstick assault with an impossible sexual object in a virtual simulation of the game’s “real world”, with the backsides pixelated as well as all porn-ish situations

    #18 1 year ago
  19. tmac2011

    idk , but GTA san andreas you could get a purple dildo in it and beat people up. but their was more insane. for me this game will just be dlc….. its not even another city or anything.

    #19 1 year ago
  20. Meta_Dragon

    @19
    Well that’s how this sequel started was DLC. That fact that little has been changed should be reason enough to not run out and buy this title right away.

    Regardless, I don’t see this game glorifying murder or violence. And I’m pretty sure glorifying rape would do damage to a company. It’s not like the character is holding down a defenseless woman and raping them. There is not a mini-game where you rape someone.

    This game is not to be taken seriously. It’s not a documentary. If anything, the bible has more sexual violence then this game.

    #20 1 year ago
  21. ps3fanboy

    @5, @8, @10, @11 Amen to that.

    #21 1 year ago
  22. minxamo

    This article is just plain fucking retarded.

    Brenna seems to believe that rape is worse than murder, since running people down with cars is perfectly fine, but beating them round the head with an object which could potentially be used for sex is WHOLLY UNNACCEPTABLE.

    Granted rape victims are more likely to be offended than murder victims (they tend to be pretty chilled out) but that doesn’t mean that the depiction of the crime is less acceptable in a video game, especially when it is, at most, a light-hearted reference to it, in a game which prides itself on ridiculousness.

    Personally I think it’s a bit forced and immature anyway, but objecting on moral grounds is like saying large scale destruction should be omitted from Battlefield to avoid offending 9/11 victims.

    #22 1 year ago
  23. silkvg247

    It’s like accusing a little boy of being a sexual predator if he draws a cartoon penis headbutting a dude in the face.

    Really, it is.

    #23 1 year ago
  24. Schwarzerwind

    I have to agree with everyone who basically said:

    “So to recap. Murder is OOOK!

    Headshots, groin shots, automatic weapons, rocket launchers, sticky grenades, they were asking for it! They were coming right for me!

    But a giant purple dildo bat that you smack people with? WHAT KIND OF MONSTER ARE YOU?!”

    #24 1 year ago
  25. YoungZer0

    “We live in a culture which blames victims and instead of teaching do not rape, teaches us do not get raped.”

    Oh boy, it’s that silly slutwalk slogan.

    First of all: No, we really don’t. Nowhere do you see judges letting rapists go because the victim was dressed or behaved in a certain way. Rape is a crime. The end.

    The only place people are taught that rape is your fault is prison. That’s actual rape culture. For some unknown reason prison rape is nowhere to be found on any rape study. Prove again that this is actual rape culture.

    Second: The Slutwalk movement was created by dozens of morons who have poor reading skills. The movement is the reaction to Constable Michael Sanguinetti’s quote: “You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here, I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.”

    He said that to 10 students. Nowhere did he say rape. That’s actual fucking advise. He lost his job for this if remember correctly.

    It’s not victim blaming when I tell my godchild not to talk to strangers. It’s not victim blaming when I tell my friend not to wear expensive clothes in poor neighborhoods.

    It’s advice.

    Like it or not, the reality is you can increase or decrease your chance of being the victim of a crime. But no one is going to blame you for that. It’s still the criminal who choose to do you wrong.

    #enoughwiththenaivebullshitwearenotkidsanymore

    To the topic: #4 pretty much said it all.

    #25 1 year ago
  26. broomburgo

    @13, @15
    I linked the Jimquisition video becuase it represents my thoughs in the best possible way, but I’ll elaborate.

    First, I’m not saying that the censors are right: censorship is always bad, because it removes only the effect of the attitude that produced the censored content in the first place. But the fact that you are physically able to do something doesn’t mean that you should, and doesn’t mean that what you produced is necessarily good and shouldn’t be criticized and labeled as “bad”.

    I’m not supporting the Australian Classification Board, but I think Brenna is right about her concern: the article’s message is that sexual violence has no place in videogames, and I agree. In fact, I think sexual violence, much more than murder, should only be depicted as bad, evil, unrewarding, and certainly not something you can do to spend your free time, even in a interactive medium.

    In videogames, you usually murder a lot of beings: animals, humans, aliens, bad humans, good humans, so and so humans and so on. But you don’t murder “just to”: you murder for a purpose, and even if the purpose is not exactly benevolent, like expanding your turf by killing opponents, it’s still a purpose.

    Also, the violence in killing is usually depicted in a unrealistic fashion, and anybody, even a kid, is able to see to difference between and actual murder and a fantasy murder: actual murders are disturbing, gruesome, at a point that even if you score a million kills in Call of Duty, you won’t be even remotely desensitized to violence. Violence in murder is an accessory: you’re doing your duty, and it happens that to do that you were given a loaded bazooka and your target is among other unaware people. You’ll be shown a lot of gore details, but you’ll forget them after mere minutes.

    But if someone creates a videogame in which the whole goal is to kill helpless children in front of the respective crying parents, and nothing else, would you like that? No other purpose than that: just the crude violent murder of innocent kids, while their parents scream and beg for mercy. If you enjoy that game, you have problems; it’s not like you are acquiring influence, wealth and power through violence in a fantasy world: I enjoy doing that, and the means is not relevant because is a fantasy world. But gruesome murder of innocents just for the sake of it is not the same thing. Also, consider this: in the child murder example, you’ll probably have children crying and parents screaming in despair: your action has consequences, there’s a grim feedback in the same moment you are executing your targets, but you ignore that feedback, and that feedback is exactly the same that you’ll get if you do this kind of thing in the real world.

    In the real world you wouldn’t kill anybody, in the fantasy world you can without consequences, but if you actually HAVE these consequences, the same that you would have in the real world, and you ignore them, then your act is equally despicable, because you are trivializing something that in the real world would hurt anybody, except for psychopaths. And rapists, leading to my second point.

    When I say that sexual violence has no place in videogames, I mean that in our current society sexual violence is not something that should be trivialized at any level, and that’s much more important than trivializing murder. If kill someone in a game, it’s done, no consequences, no one will miss that person, and you can achieve the goal for reaching which the murder was needed; but if you practice sexual violence, you are (your character is) doing it because you enjoy the act per se: you don’t need to do that to reach your goal, it’s not needed, but you do it anyway. Now, sexual violence poses some problems that murder doesn’t:

    1) it’s mostly one way only, it imposes a supremacy of males over females in the same fashion as other psychopathic activities like christian domestic discipline and bride “ownership”;

    2) you ignore the real time consequences, like your victim begging for mercy;

    3) you are consciously doing something that burdens your victim of a lifetime of psychological damage just to have fun; in videogames, your victim is not real, but she is there anyway, you can see her and hear her;

    4) rape is not treated like a despicable activity enough in our society: blaming the victim if frequent, the “don’t dress like that” argument is frequent; I don’t mean it often happens in court, I don’t think it does, but it’s a diffused opinion among the general public;

    So I don’t think videogames as a medium are ready to treat this topic, sexual violence, with the proper weight: I mean, every time I read a gamer girl’s opinion on the topic, or I talk to one about it, the feedback is the same I receive about sexualization and objectification of females: they are bad, they make females uncomfortable, and they help perpetrate the underlying machismo in out society; so, even if I feel that these things are bad in videogames, I cannot probably really understand how much they are bad.

    I enjoy some sexual fetishes, and I’m turned on by stuff that I would never do in real life, but I think that the fact that you’re making your victim suffer with a violent act of supremacy while you basically ignore, or even enjoy, your victim cries is something that no one sane should enjoy doing. Obviously this is a superficial statement: I’m not judging anybody as a whole just by that, but I most certainly would consider it as a factor.

    #26 1 year ago
  27. salarta

    Actually, we live in a culture of “do not rape” that has some idiotic elements inside it that are doing their best to turn the culture into one of “do not get raped.” The latter are failing. This is evidenced by nothing more than the Steubenville rape case making headlines, and the “slut walks” that were a response to the one police officer’s remarks.

    Keep in mind that in some countries, it’s still entirely within the laws of those countries that a woman that gets raped is then legally punished for having been raped while the rapist goes free.

    That said, I’ve been saying time and again that formerly strong female characters are being treated horribly, especially in attempted reboots. At least in the past, strong female protagonists with their sex appeal put out there could have been interpreted as empowering. “Look at her, she’s sexy and she knows it, she wears what she wants when she wants.” They were based in male fantasy, yes, but the characters were still depicted as happy and comfortable with their bodies. Today, the running theme is to have the women wearing impractical or sexually pleasing clothes while simultaneously having them act cowardly and/or depicting them getting beat up and smacked around, torn clothes and dirt and deep cuts and all, things male characters never get.

    Back to the implications of rape in games, here’s the difference between virtual murder and virtual rape. Virtual murder is to some extent a necessary evil for most video games, and even if we took things very literally, people inherently know the boundaries that constitute murder, and that it’s bad both morally and legally. A murdered person also doesn’t have to live with having been murdered. All of that isn’t applicable for virtual rape. Virtual rape isn’t necessary for any gameplay mechanics, what counts as rape is something with undefined boundaries in society, and a rape victim has to live with the aftereffects of having been raped.

    There’s also a very real difference in that virtual murder tends to be seen in the same sphere as a carnival wooden duck shooting game because no actual people are harmed, but with virtual rape, what happens is that all the bundled issues of rape are devalued as if a person that’s been raped and everything they go through in the aftermath has the approximate value of an object free to be used and abused for the fun of others.

    Technically, rape is a perfectly legitimate topic for video games to cover, so long as it’s handled with all the seriousness and respect that such a big issue deserves. Video games could provide a sense of what it’s like to feel powerless, and to show and express the very real aftereffects.

    But that’s the problem. We’re not collectively mature enough for video games to cover rape and similar issues with the seriousness they deserve. Someone’s bound to say and think that we’re all mature adults and more than capable of mature subject material, and I would say that they’re wrong.

    Resident Evil 5 depicted a Jill Valentine that was body-controlled for two years, forced to murder her old allies and wear a highly suggestive bodysuit while taking orders from a man she hated to work against everything she ever stood for… and yet, what Jill went through is treated like it’s nothing compared to the “suffering” of Chris seeing Jill that way, and Jill gets no resolution to her trauma. Jill was essentially body-raped and RE5 handled it with the maturity of a spoiled child only concerned with how it might affect his play time. 3rd Birthday depicts an “Aya Brea” that acts terrified at the very prospect of combat, and runs around in everything from ripped jeans and a vest to maid outfits and bikinis, with the clothes tearing off her body every time she takes damage. “To be realistic,” claimed Hajime Tabata. “To titillate by showing more skin, boob and ass,” said everyone else. And of course, Tomb Raider, which treats such issues more like a gimmick to pick up the new game and start selling copies of a dead franchise, going against the way the franchise and the character used to be to follow the same logic as a teenage boy that thinks looking at boobs makes him an adult.

    Other people may see it differently, but the things I’ve seen with these games comes across to me as “hurting and traumatizing women is sexy and cool, especially if they’re expected to be tough.”

    I wish we were mature enough to handle mature subjects in a mature fashion. Sadly, we’re not. We were closer to that point ten years ago when we had games like Parasite Eve, and people had the presence of mind to make new franchises when an idea wasn’t appropriate for existing ones. Someone’s bound to disagree with me, which is perfectly within their rights, but I think we took a big intellectual and philosophical backstep this generation, and a few genuinely progressive games can’t make up for the general trend.

    #27 1 year ago
  28. broomburgo

    @27
    I agree with every single word, and I’m getting tired of seeing these things in video games: that’s why I agree with Brenna, we don’t need to trivialize something that’s disturbing and despicable, and we should not. We can actually see that, despite lots of journalists writing about sexual topics in videogames, they’re still treated very badly, and the industry is not exactly moving forward because most of the (male) audience is still acting like nothing’s wrong.

    #28 1 year ago
  29. silkvg247

    @28 I agree we shoudln’t trivialize certain things but the big mistake here is we’re putting SR4 in the spotlight when there are dozens of other worse offenders that would be far more apt when discussing rape and violence. At least SR is a piss take and everyone with sense knows it.

    #29 1 year ago
  30. salarta

    @28: Yes. I don’t think it’s much wonder that women are still treated poorly at events like E3 when we’re supporting backslide on these kinds of issues so thoroughly in the games we consume. It’s a two-way street; the games we support and the reasons we claim to support them tell the industry where to go with their games. It doesn’t require a company to go around and ask consumers individually what they like, it just takes companies seeing which games make money and which do not.

    I think there’s very occasionally some cases where certain individuals in the industry are unintentionally ignorant to the way people think and act about content in this industry. A well-meaning project can easily be perverted by corporate interests seeing something sells and more or less fetishizing it. It’s not just issues like sexual violence, it includes things like “Hey, shooters are selling, obviously we need to turn everything into a shooter even if there’s no reason to do it and it makes the franchise worse.”

    #30 1 year ago
  31. DSB

    @25 That’s not entirely true. Especially in the US where your success in court can really depend on where that court is located.

    For example a court in Texas recently ruled that it’s perfectly legitimate to kill a hooker if she takes your money and doesn’t give you sex.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/06/06/1214238/-WTF-In-Texas-you-can-shoot-an-escort-who-won-t-sleep-with-you

    #31 1 year ago
  32. Fin

    @30

    God yeah. With comments sections like these, is it any wonder women are alienated from the games industry?

    Anyway, an anal probe weapon, does anyone think that’s pushing forward the games industry? Maybe it’s funny to teenage boys, but anyone with a lick of sense or maturity should see it as crude and puerile.

    #32 1 year ago
  33. DSB

    @32 There’s a pretty huge leap from seeing something as crude and puerile, to actually making it illegal.

    #33 1 year ago
  34. fearmonkey

    Admittedly, when I saw the dildo weapon I was turned off by the game, and never tried it. I didnt care for the for two GTA type games either. I tried “The Third” on a Steam free weekend and loved it though. I ended up getting it and all the mission DLC. It’s a good game and alot of fun, and I would be happy if they took out the extremely juvenile stuff out for the next game, I won’t miss it at all.

    #34 1 year ago
  35. silkvg247

    To be honest I hope they don’t stop at anal probe guns – I won’t be happy til I have a nuclear dildo.

    @32 The saints row games are the only sandbox games I know of that don’t alienate women. Because you can be a woman. In any shape or size you want. And then you can smack people around with giant dildos or tanks.. your choice. You don’t suffer strength penalties for being female. You don’t suffer any detriment at all – you go out there and you kick ass. You are a powerful, unstoppable woman. How many other games give us that?

    @34 The dildos etc are completely optional. :)

    #35 1 year ago
  36. salarta

    @32: I think a lot of people say things and haven’t thought about the actual underlying issues. A lot of it appears to be kneejerk reaction, and a lot of it seems to be based purely in “I like this thing, therefore it’s perfect and I will defend it as such.” Which is another thing that makes me think that gamers as a collective aren’t mature enough to handle mature subjects yet. We can’t even admit when something we like simultaneously carries some really heinous elements, spend more time finding excuses to say they’re not so bad after all.

    Quite honestly, I find myself coming close to falling into that same trap sometimes, increasingly vulnerable to it if I’m arguing with someone depending on if they’re doing it. I had a kneejerk response of “SR4′s anal probe is fine” just because I’m looking forward to the game, but stopped to actually think about the issue. Likewise, I almost defended The Last Of Us using Ellen Page’s likeness (or rather, a modification of it) before I took the time to really think about why Ellen Page would be concerned about such a thing.

    #36 1 year ago
  37. Belmont

    This way of thinking that says: Rape is worse because the person has to live with it for years…
    The second part of the statement is correct,but don’t I get it. We are talking about a over-the-top and unrealistic (and probably not that graphical) portraying of something stupid. Even in that case, I think-and I strongly defend this thought- that Murder and Rape are on equal grounds in terms of their Evil.
    But by reading some comments I wonder that perhaps Rape is worse than Murder, because the person who is murdered never protests about it !
    I can cut someone in half with chainsaw(Geow) and butcher them with precise sword blows (MGR Rising)-all with intense graphical detail. But an over-the-top thing in an unrealistic games is… worrying?

    #37 1 year ago
  38. silkvg247

    @36

    Again, if the game showed actual realistic sexual violence and suffering then there’d be an issue.

    Since there doesn’t, then the actual issue here is that some people can’t tell fiction apart from reality.

    Heck, I don’t care one way or another that there is cartoon violence in SR and it happens to sometimes involve firing a cartoon probe up a cartoon guys butt and watching him fly off. I can live with or without it. it isn’t offensive.. I struggle to believe that anyone could be offended by it, and if so, surely they must also take offense to a kid drawing a cartoon dick in their Dad’s windscreen since it’s the same level of childish humour.

    #38 1 year ago
  39. PEYJ

    I feel the biggest problem in this case (and many other video game cases) is that bad taste (I think it’s fair to call SR that) is kind of “writing” contemporary history through it’s possibilities, expression and the stir it causes.

    #39 1 year ago
  40. Jerykk

    The argument that rape is worse than murder because the person continues to suffer after the act is silly. Guess what? When you’re dead, you can no longer feel joy. You will never see your loved ones again. You will never get to play with your kids again. You’ll never pet your dog again. All the experiences that make life enjoyable are no longer possible. Any potential you had is now lost. Anyone who cared about you will now suffer far more than they would if you had only been raped. The impact of murder is far more significant than the impact of rape.

    Also, there are people here that seem to think that using the anal probe in SR4 will essentially trigger a realistic and prolonged rape scene like the one in Irreversible. I seriously doubt that will be the case. It will be handled in a very quick, silly and over-the-top manner, much like everything else in the game. To even call it “rape” is ridiculous, as I seriously doubt players will be derive sexual pleasure from doing it.

    #40 1 year ago
  41. Fin

    @35

    “The saints row games are the only sandbox games I know of that don’t alienate women”

    Really? You don’t think “Whored” mode was the tiniest bit misogynistic?

    @36

    Yeah, I think the knee-jerk reaction of gamers has become quite common recently. It’s a near fundamentalist defense of games (and the industry) from any outward attack. Oh, you’re stopping us from doing something? Or you think we’re wrong? NO YOU’RE WRONG BECAUSE [insert personal attack here]!

    PS Everyone shut the fuck up about which is worse, rape or murder, its making you all look like fucking morons.

    #41 1 year ago
  42. DSB

    @38 Yeah, it’s funny how some people can be completely seduced by an unassuming title and a “noble cause”.

    Imagine if the Australian Classification Board was called the Holy Islamic Council of Morality. I’m sure some people would have a slightly different opinion.

    (It doesn’t have to be Islamic, though. Divine Catholic Morality Council would work too!)

    Censor something for “the kids” and you’re a hero. Censor something for Allah or Yahweh, and you’re a tyrant.

    There’s absolutely no difference in how or why they do what they do, both are unrepresentative, unqualified minorities who are inexplicably empowered to decide on behalf of a majority, leaving no possibility for that majority to intervene or speak for themselves.

    #42 1 year ago
  43. The Dude

    @41 Dude, you just made a point about people being fundamentalist in their defence of games and dropping personal insults… and then finish with this thoughtful gem:

    “PS Everyone shut the fuck up about which is worse, rape or murder, its making you all look like fucking morons.”

    Sorry if I’ve mistaken that quote for a joke or something, but I think it’s a totally valid discussion point in the case of this topic.

    Again, really sorry to be a “fucking moron” there, Fin.

    #43 1 year ago
  44. salarta

    @37: I think you do make a good point that murder and rape are both evil acts. Rape being bad doesn’t make murder not bad, nor does it mean that murder’s “less bad” compared to rape. But there are very different problems at play. Rape involves trauma, and traumatizing a person. If they’re still alive after having been raped, it’s a very deep wound. We have people that are still alive, that were raped, that have to see how the world depicts the kind of things they went through. You’re not going to find someone that was murdered (though you may find people that nearly died from a murder attempt).

    So, we’re not going to see people that were murdered having to watch someone turn the experience of having been murdered into a parody. But we will see people that were raped having to watch the act or one like it that made them suffer, and for many continues to do so, treated like it’s all fun and games.

    @38: The only answer I can give you, at least at the moment, is what I said above.

    @40: You make good points on the impact of murder, which shouldn’t be ignored or taken for granted, but there’s a distinct difference between observing the loss of life from an outsider’s perspective that comes with murder and experiencing and having to continue to experience the shame, violation and loss of self-dignity and self-respect that comes with rape. And note, for people not following along, that saying many rape victims feel shame is NOT the same thing as saying that being raped is something they should be ashamed of. That’s victim blaming, and my saying that many victims feel shame is pointing out that many blame themselves even though they shouldn’t.

    Though I have to be completely honest, this does make me start to question just how justified we are to have games that involve killing things. Just because it’s the standard operating procedure doesn’t mean it’s instantly appropriate.

    Rape is not about sexual pleasure. It’s about power, domination and “ownership.” People too often mistake the sexual gratification that is achieved during rape with the reason for doing it. Rape is not about sex.

    @41: While I’m glad to see your comment agreeing with me, I also agree with TheDude that I think the issue of murder vs rape is a valid topic. At this point, if I had to choose between “rape and killing things are both acceptable in games” or “rape and killing things don’t belong in games,” I’m going for the latter if those are my only options.

    #44 1 year ago
  45. TheRealMrCreeper

    Ok, I Admit It, The Dildo Bat Gone Over The Top.

    BUT WHO CARES?!

    That’s what gives Saints Row More Appeal In The Gamer’s Eyes And Mind.

    Stop Bitching about how “Sexually Violent” It is, ITS JUST A GAME!!!

    It’s not real life, Just A Game Made By A team of Developers made for the whole world’s entertainment.

    The Australian Government Needs To Calm They’re Tits.

    Its just a game, it has a warning label, the people should get to decide what they’re children play on they’re Gaming Console, Not the whole damn government.

    If i get a Gaming Company, Australia is not going to get my games if it keeps on demanding edits of completely harmless games.

    -TheRealMrCreeper From Youtube.com

    #45 1 year ago
  46. Jerykk

    @44

    Ultimately, everything you do in an action game is about power. By murdering hordes of enemies/random civilians, you feel empowered. So if empowerment is the objective of rape, then the gratification you derive from killing stuff in games isn’t all that different.

    As for the impact of rape depictions (again, I use the term loosely in regards to the anal probe) on players who have been traumatized by rape, one could easily apply the same logic to those whose friends or family have been murdered. If my brother had been murdered during a carjacking, would I not be more sensitive to carjackings in GTA or SR? If my wife had been killed in a hit and run, would I not be more sensitive to running people over in said games? If my son had been gunned down in the street, would I not be more sensitive to shootings in these games?

    Bottom line is that rape and murder are both terrible acts that cause long-term suffering to either the victims or the people that care about them. That’s why demanding the censorship of one but not the other is inherently stupid. The depictions of murder in Saints Row are comically unrealistic, making them less offensive. Likewise, the depictions of “rape” via anal probe are also comically unrealistic, making them less offensive.

    #46 1 year ago
  47. silkvg247

    @41 Have you even played the game? Whored mode pitches ridiculous waves of enemies of both genders towards the player. It’s called Whored because it’s a play on words (horde) and the “whores” are both male and female.. or not even a gender at all. Thus there’s nothing sexist about it. My female avatar loved every second of it as did the female gamer behind her.

    If you are trying to find a reason to label SR with sexism then you are way, way off base. As I’ve written before, one of the worse forms of sexism is exclusion (http://wp.me/p3l6Dk-2). SR includes women 100% as much as men, both as the targets (npcs) and the player. You can’t call sr3 sexist towards women when there’s semi naked guys in gimp suits on the street. You just can’t. It targets everyone, so that no particular audience can or should be offended. Which is what makes it great.

    If you do try and segregate out our gender in a game like SR and pretend we’re the victims, then all you do is make it out like we’re the superior gender and it’s fine to blow up guys and it’s fine for male prostitutes to be in there but don’t dare treat women like that. Trying to make us to be the stronger gender is a ridiculous notion when we’re talking about equality. SR has more equality than any game I’ve ever played, period.

    You should target your energies towards games that exclude women altogether or only cast them as a piece of eye candy or victory reward or a cheap fuck. Like GTA and it’s prostitutes. Just saying.

    SR should be celebrated for it’s versatility and the fact we can all enjoy it however the hell we please and that we are ALL targets of it’s stereotypes and humor.

    #47 1 year ago
  48. salarta

    @46: You’re stretching the definition of what you do being about power, there. That, or this is a simple misunderstanding, failure on my part to make the way it works clear enough.

    When I said rape is about power, it’s nowhere near comparable to a video game. The most obvious reason is that a video game is something that isn’t actually living, but more importantly, rape is about power as in power over the other person. Most, but not all, rape cases in developed countries come about between people that already knew each other. And I only limit to ‘developed countries’ because while I read that most rape cases involve people who knew each other, I considered war conditions in Africa and the Middle East. The act of rape isn’t merely a matter of the physical act, it’s the intentions behind the physical act, which are very personal.

    Killing enemies in a video game is impersonal, largely treated like animated cardboard cutouts because an actual person isn’t hurt in the real world. Treating rape with the same level of indifference as killing enemies is essentially saying that rape is that impersonal, that a person getting raped is fair game to be treated like it’s for kicks.

    Also as I’ve said before, the boundaries of what constitutes rape makes it even more difficult and murky. There’s absolutely no question of what constitutes murder: you kill someone, you’re a murderer. But with rape, we have actual arguments out there about if women secretly wanted sex if they get pregnant, and suggestions that a woman that got drunk and didn’t resist or went along with the suggestions made by others in that impaired state couldn’t count as rape. We know a drunk person letting someone else kill them still makes the person that killed them a murderer. And while many of us know a drunk person letting someone rape them still makes the rapist into a rapist, the overall society still entertains the idea that it’s up for debate.

    #48 1 year ago
  49. Devianza

    Here’s the thing, there’s a pretty large interest in sexual content in video games, its just there’s a stigma to it so many don’t go on Gamespot, this site, and others and go on about how they’d like it if there was sex in Saints Row. But the thing is, there are various large modding communities for Skyrim, Sims, Oblivion, Dragon Age, New Vegas, and numerous other titles that are devoted to all sorts of sex mods, from consensual sex mods to rape mods. And if one opened their eyes, they’d see that many Japanese titles are sex games, Illusion and Teatime are extremely successful. The success of the first Nude Raider mod should be evidence enough the interest is there.

    The haters like to be crude and call those who like games with sexual content losers, or they like to say they need a real life girlfriend or are juvenile. But they seem to not realize the reason some like lets say the Oblivion mods because it allows them to enjoy kinks that aren’t legal in the real world, and that sex sells in all forms. It doesn’t matter if its the real thing, a cartoon, or a video game.

    #49 1 year ago