Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This Dead Horse is Starting to Smell

Since Duke Nukem Forever was released I’ve found myself doing a bit of thinking on it. I downloaded the demo, played it through, read some on-line reviews to get snippets of what I was missing by forgoing playing the entire game and at the end of it all I came to a conclusion that somewhat surprised me.

I don’t think the game is offensive. At least, not in the way you’d probably expect.

In the sense that it looks terrible, controls poorly and seems shockingly unpolished for a title that’s been in development for 12 years then hell yeah, Duke Nukem Forever is an offensive game. But in terms of its flat-out portrayal of women, I remain unconvinced. At least, in the more traditional sense.

Hear me out.

Duke Nukem Forever seems just as distasteful in its treatment of men as it does for women. In the moments I spent with Duke in the demo I watched him kick a field goal with an alien’s eyeball, piss in a urinal while making references to his penis size, and sat back while two women performed fellatio on him.

Sports. Penis. Sex.

Kinda sounds like a typical “all American” male prototype doesn’t it?

Just as the women in this game are reduced to their most stereotypical elements, Duke himself is nothing more than walking, talking testosterone. But I’ve discussed this here before. The question remains then, what’s the problem? If both genders are equally lampooned, why all the fuss?

Because the male typecast revolves around power, strength, and dominance while the female stereotype equates femininity with helplessness, weakness, and submission we aren’t as rattled when we come across a character like Duke. After all, ridiculous though he is, at the end of the day he’s still a red-blooded American man. Duke isn’t punished for his masculinity; where he gets to save the day, the women in the game are terrorized. This is why it's different.

Probably the most infamous are the alien rape scenes. Women in the game are abducted, forcibility impregnated, and then die “giving birth” (all the while moaning in pain) should Duke choose not to execute them himself.

But doesn’t that sound an awful lot like the Alien franchise? And I would dare anyone to call that series sexist.

And so, my friends, I think I’ve pinpointed exactly what it is about Duke Nukem Forever that’s pissing so many people off, myself included: it’s not funny.

Yeah, it’s not funny.

This game is obviously meant as a satire but in the hands of poor writing it comes off as heartless and cold.

Remember that scene from Seinfeld when Jerry’s dentist converts to Judaism so he can make Jewish jokes? Jerry, upset, goes to a Catholic confessional to vent. The priest concludes that Jerry is offended as a Jewish man but he responds that no, he’s offended as a comedian.

When jokes fail it’s never good but when we attempt to make light of serious issues and fail, it’s ten times worse. Duke Nukem Forever attempts to make fun of issues like rape and fails miserably.

Then again, I’ve never heard a joke about rape that’s made me laugh.

Long story short, this game is offensive for a plethora of reasons. It's immature, badly designed, and humorless. It's a bad game, folks. Does it piss me off? Yeah. Should it? Probably. But it's not like it's being hailed as game of the year:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Not That Kind of Croft

Anyone alive out there?

It’s been a crazy month in terms of personal lives and whatnot so allow me to quell your fears of this blog fading into the void of the interwebz.

So what’s been happening? What’s been going on?

Oh! E3!

Right, that little thing.

I must confess that I actually didn’t pay too much attention while everything was going on. With Twitter getting flooded with updates I went into a sort of media blackout with the entire event and am only just now starting to seek out information I’m interested in. That being said, holy shit guys – I’m excited for the new Tomb Raider:

Honestly, I’ve been excited for this reboot since the new Lara was revealed but this trailer just blew my mind. As Nicole Tanner wrote in her recent article entitled “Female Characters Get Real”, past iterations of Lara were portrayed as utterly fearless, hardened, snarky heroines. While that may be a break from the norm, it’s not real. This Lara is scared, unsure, and knows when she needs help. She cries out in pain when bandaging her wounds – the old Lara would never have done that. Yet, despite that, I dare you to watch that trailer and tell me what you see isn’t a strong character. I absolutely cannot wait to play this game. I think this new Lara is going to make a terrific example how women in games can be strong and beautiful and still be real. Somewhat ironic when you consider Ms. Croft’s history, huh?

May I also point out before I move on that I find it delightful that while buzz is being created about this new perception of women in games, Duke Nukem Forever has finally been released and is tanking? I know, cheap shot. Sue me. Actually, maybe I shouldn’t say that. Jim Redner might hear.

The only other bit of news from E3 that really got a reaction from me (other than making fire engine noises in regard to Nintendo’s new console) was the trailer for Silent Hill: Downpour:

I’m not thrilled. Yeah, sure, the trailer itself doesn’t really look too bad until you get to the end and you go, “wait, this is Silent Hill?”. There is nothing in this trailer that reminds me of the games I love from this series. Maybe it will surprise me, but after Homecoming and Shattered Memories I’m probably just going to wait and see what the reviews say before and if I pick it up. I truly, truly hope I’m wrong and the game ends up being amazing but I’m not holding my breath.

And anyway, I’ve got Tomb Raider to look forward to.