Duke Nukem Forever: an interview with my feminist gamer boyfriend

28 Mar

SHRIEK.

It is the 90s again: mediocre video games are once again ruining Earth and all that is holy.

This game, Duke Nukem Forever, has a multiplayer mode called “Capture the Babe” that allows players to kidnap women and slap them on the ass if they don’t cooperate. The premise of the game is that aliens are come to earth to impregnate human women, and the Duke has to stop it, or something.

The usual suspects are predictably annoyed.

And some less usual suspects are annoyed: it even appears Fox News roofied its reporters into some zombie state where they woke up defenders of women’s rights.

I consulted my video-game-enthusiast (as in, plays video games until 4am three nights a week) boyfriend to see what he thought of this whole debacle. Here’s a transcript of our discussion this morning.

BF: Huh? I’ve never heard of that game.

ME: I think it was a computer game that was popular when I was in junior high or earlier. Now they made a new version.

BF: And what does the guy do?

ME: The player can grab a girl and spank her and drag her away.

BF: So you can’t kill her or rape her or anything?

ME: No.

BF: You can kill women in Grand Theft Auto.

ME: True. But it’s kind of creepy how the game singles out women as a group to be treated in that way.

BF: Yeah, but lots of video games are like that. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare kills Arabs, and in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas you are a black or Latino gang member and you kill other black guys and Latinos and fuck your girlfriends. It’s the context for the premise of the game.

ME: Right.

BF: This feels like we are having the debate again about whether or not video games make people do in real life the things that they do in video games.

ME: Eh. More than that I was just thinking that the news cycle must be kind of slow today. I think the whole discussion is pointless and counterproductive to actually changing stereotypes about women in real life. Video games are a pointless target and always have been.

BF: My character in The Sims is a lesbian.

ME: I know, dear. You are a good feminist video game dork.

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One Response to “Duke Nukem Forever: an interview with my feminist gamer boyfriend”

  1. Anonymous March 31, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    I, for one, am glad that the objectification of flags has ceased. For far too long, there has been a rather unfair focus on flags in multiplayer game modes, giving the average person this idea that flags are just things that should be owned; taken, regardless of ownership. Such barbaric acts of dominance are just disgusting.

    Flags are not just mere things; they are representation of communities. Of people. Games just do way too much to demean their symbolism and ruin what the idea of a nation is to people worldwide.

    Actually, I just find this laughable. While, I can’t help but think that stating it’s just a video game will sway you, as most feminists are about as stubborn as a mule to quit taking minuscule things like this so seriously, I’d like to instead make a different statement.

    Starcraft 2 was just released, twelve years after Starcraft. It was a generation defining video game and has inspired nerd love from all reaches of the world. In that, a human operative, Sarah Kerrigan, was infested by a race of hyper-evolving hive-mind organisms known as the Zerg. She became dominant over her own brood, and eventually overthrew the cerebrates controlling the race to become the “Queen of Blades.”

    Once Starcraft 2 was released, Kerrigan had become an image of a very powerful woman. Not that she was evil or bloodthirsty, but that she managed to overcome the shackles of both her infection and her controller to become a centrifugal character to the story. When Starcraft 2 was released, I was happy to see a conclusion of the rather cliff-hanging events of Starcraft, as I’ve spent years on and off replaying it offline and against other players.

    What happened? Jim Raynor, her gin-soaked and jilted lover rescues her from certain death, and miraculously brings her back from her monstrous self. That doesn’t sit right with me, and it’s not just because it’s poor writing. It’s an obvious example of the knight in shining armour cliche, which to me is near the apex of sexism. People are so uncreative that they fall back to this idea that women are things that need to be rescued; a frail entity whose only necessity is a masculine hand to hold.

    That being said, I always find it strange that sites like these (no offense intended, but feminist blogs are a dime a dozen on the internet) too often tend to aim for the fish in the barrel when it comes to subjects like these. Duke Nukem has always been about unapologetically non-PC gameplay, and the over-wrought outrage it inspires only causes counter-culturalists to flock towards the iconoclastic image more. However, when looking at things from an outsider’s perspective, which it’s painfully evident that you are, you miss where the actual problems lie.

    I’m playing a bit of Vanquish recently, which has a scantily-clad blonde woman in a space station doling out information to my character; a grizzled military agent, laden with puddle-deep epiphanies about war and proliferation who sports a machine gun in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Just as he is not a representation of my role in society, I doubt I’ll intercept a cosmic muse constantly keen on cosplaying who refuses to get off the bluetooth head set in my iron-man outfit.

    Ultimately, games don’t perpetuate sexism; the problem is the predisposed idea of the gender role. Pointing out acute flares of sexism in media is absolutely pointless, as sexism is not a disease. You cannot cure it by removing the symptoms, no matter how hard you try. Censorship will never be a valid replacement for the real option: education.

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