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It's uncomfortable to think about what births these fantasies of vaginal gore and dominance through aggression. We argue that Chaplin is wrong because not all men are the way she says. Mukhopadhyay is wrong because there is so much more to GTA IV than sex and killing hookers. But making these observations is not an all-or-nothing statement. When we discuss every member of the male or female gender, nothing can be totally true without exception. Likewise, no game can be reduced to a single defining label. But is it possible GTA IV contains misogynistic experiences while still being a sarcastic swipe at populist entertainment? Can it be that male gamers, while not completely defined by vaginophobia or femiphobia, still experience feelings of insecurity around women? Can we talk about those phenomena, both pointing them out and confessing to them, without condemning one another?
We take games too much for granted. It's just a game, we tell ourselves. It's just for fun. But there is much more bristling beneath the surface. Videogames are the imperfect reflections of our own imperfect vessels. The more we shy away from their ugly undersides, the more we become trapped in our own dishonest projections. We should never be defined by our most primal instincts, but the games we play offer strong proof that we have yet to surpass them.
I remember the first time I played Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. After the opening cut scene, I stepped into the polygonal metropolis and saw a woman in a bikini across the street. I approached her, as if by instinct, and then proceeded to beat her to death. I was simultaneously delighted and horrified that I could do such a thing in a videogame. Somewhere inside, I felt that old adolescent insecurity stirring inside me, the seed from which my delusional "honey magnet" persona had sprung. "It's still there," I thought.
Then I moved on to the real business of killing immigrant gangbangers and stealing their cocaine.
Michael is a freelance writer based in New York. He has written for Nerve, the ABC World News Webcast, the Brooklyn Paper, the New York Daily News, and IGN where he is a regular contributor and author of the Contrarian Corner series. You can follow Michael at his blog www.manoamondo.com.