CONTENT WARNING: Graphic images and/or scenarios will be either posted or mentioned within this blog post. This post mentions certain games that may not sit well for people of a certain mind set.
THEMES IN GAMES EXPLORED:
- Mass Murder
FINAL WARNING – Please remember that the following games can be very shocking and very offensive.
While some would argue that any theme is fair play so long at is handled correctly, I would argue that game developers, writers, and storyboard artists should try to stay away from certain themes and scenarios. While it may be their sense of humor, the narratives that they create can be detrimental to certain groups or movements. Not every ideal should be published.
For starters, a look at the game Custer’s Revenge.
For those not in the know, General Custer was an American during the mid-1800s. He’s known for his morally reprehensible strategies and gruesome tactics, like slaughtering Native women and children. In the game Custer’s Revenge, the player takes the role of a naked Custer. At the other end of the screen is a naked Native woman tied to what some argue is a stake and others argue is a cactus. The goal of Mystique’s porn industry based game is to rape the native woman who is tied up.
There are several reasons why this game is not okay. For one thing, the game glorifies Custer as the protagonist, unintentionally excusing him of any wrong-doing in such battles the “Battle” of the Washita. Ignoring the excusing of Custer’s actions, the game also glorifies rape and other unwanted sexual advances on women. It encourages men to be overtly aggressive and take what they want from who they want. Such a message cannot, and should not, be defended or even created. However, the game has not only continued to live on, but has also undergone a remaster in recent years.
Rape and misogyny aside, Custer’s Revenge is not the only horrific video game out there. Another example of political incorrectness gone wrong is the 2002 game developed by Resistance Records called Ethnic Cleansing.
In this game, the player takes on the role of either a skinhead or a klansman and, you guessed it, goes on an ethnic cleansing. The plot and mechanics of the game are straight-forward: Go through an urban community and shoot and kill Black and Hispanic people, before descending into a subway to kill Jewish people. The game’s ‘deepest cave’ is something called the Jewish Control Center, wherein the chosen shooter is to kill former prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon.
In case it’s hard to tell, the images surrounding the title are highly propagandized versions of a Jewish man that’s used to dehumanize Jewish people. The protagonist shown here is a depiction of the perfect Aryan man. In the background is an image that’s meant to make white players identify with the shooter and stand against those who made it, which the game frames as the Black, Hispanic, and Jewish communities.
If these games aren’t enough to show that some scenarios and themes are just plain wrong, then maybe something a little more close to home will.
Super Columbine Massacre RPG! (SCMRPG! for short) is a game in which the player takes control of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the shooters at Columbine. The developer of the game, one Daniel Ledonne, claimed that his goal for the game was not to glorify the shooting, but rather to explore the possible reasons for the shooting by taking the player through the day of the killing. I almost believed him, until I watched a playthrough of the game.
The game is effectively in two parts, in part one the player prepares for, and executes the shooting at Columbine. Throughout this half, the player is introduced to several factors that may have played into their reasonings: Violent media, bullying, broken homes, and an outsider mentality.
The gruesome murdering of students was tough to swallow, and I tried to look past it to see the deeper meaning. It was hard to do so when the game consistently called Eric and Danny ‘brave boys’ and celebrated your obtaining new weapons. Still, the flashbacks to important events in their lives that may have played key factors seemed like Danny indeed intended to attempt a psychological profile. Until the second part, which follows Dylan and Eric killing themselves.
Part two of the game takes place in a Doom-themed Hell, wherein the player goes on a demon killing spree to grind levels and find new weapons. At certain points the player enters zones with troubled spirits that you can talk to rather than kill, which seems to be more of a critique of Christianity and American Culture than insight into the psychoses of the Columbine shooters.
Blocking one of these paths is a Cyberdemon, whom you can murder with a lazer gun. He is, of course, blocking off a portal to Friedrich Nietzsche, who will comment on the absurdity of Christianity before giving you a box of Devil’s food cake mix to give to none other than Satan himself. His representation is that of the South Park incarnation of him, and before you give him the precious mix, you of course have to battle him.
Afterwards Satan is impressed with your combat skill and invites you to ride on Moloch, who can take you to a lava island to find the Satanic Bible. Thereafter you can return it to Satan to see a press confrence on the surface about the shooting. A moment which seems to try to redeem the absurdity that the plot has taken, and might have been able to do, had it not been for the following scene in which Satan employs Harris and Klebold as his personal confidants, and implies them to be the heralds of the apocalypse destined to destroy the world as we know it.
I’m not saying that Danny Ledonne missed the mark of ‘not glorifying Columbine’, but it would seem to me that the game’s narrative is that of two murderers essentially gaining supreme power with the dark overlord through egregious acts of murder and violence across Earth and Hell. Kind of glorifying if you ask me.
Sorry for going on a tangent there, but it was to prove a point. Often times when someone tackles a controversial subject to elicit a certain message, they miss the mark and deliver a different one if not the total opposite.
These are just a few of the different games that tackle scenarios and themes that are immoral, unethical, and best to be avoided. I’m not saying that these themes are totally off limits, but it’s important to be mindful of how to represent it.
The “No Russian” mission from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in which you had to massacre an airport execute the scenario of someone well-armed massacring innocents much better. It shows them running for their lives, dragging away wounded friends, trying to surrender, anything that could get you to stop. The scene is horrifying, conversely in SCMRPG! the innocents will fight back, they’ll sometimes even come after you and attempt to kill you, dealing enough damage to deem them threats.
In The Last of Us, Ellie is at one point accosted by a sexual predator. This is not for player gratification, it is not to be exciting for the player, it is meant to disgust and horrify the player. It doesn’t glorify the rape of an unwilling woman in the way that Custer’s Revenge does. However, The Last of Us also put you in the role of the woman and not the assailant.
I can’t think of any examples in which genocide or ethnic cleansing has been handled with care, but that’s to be expected when thinking of a theme such as this. I have no doubt that genocide could be used to effectively deliver a message about the horrors of war and the atrocities that can be committed, but as with anything so sensitive that would have to be done with expert handling and great care not to deliver the wrong message.
In conclusion, the morals and ethics of a game should be handled with great care. You wouldn’t want to accidentally glorify something so awful as Columbine, or normalize rape, or worst of all have people believe that genocide is a viable solution to any problem. These are all possible outcomes in games such as the ones mentioned above, should game developers not be more careful with how they handle serious topics.