The Needles

The Needles
You Can't Be the Hero If You're the Rapist

Andy Chalk | 2 Jun 2009 12:30
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Videogames at their core are about heroes and throughout human history our heroes, both real and fictional, have been a bloody bunch. From Beowulf to Mack Bolan, Hannibal to Audie Murphy, we look up to the men and women who don't shy away from tearing a few new ones when circumstances call for it. This is, in a sense, the redeeming value of videogames: Heroism. And rather than merely being told a tale, gamers are inserted into it and allowed to experience the role of the hero first-hand. You may be knee deep in the dead but for another day at least, humanity is saved; you are an angel of death but also an angel of mercy, killing hundreds to save millions. It's a fair bet that most gamers blowing each other to hell online in Halo 3 aren't putting quite that much thought into it but on some level, even subconsciously, that element of the heroic is at work.

Rape, on the other hand, can never be justified. There is no context that can elevate it, no noble cause served or Herculean task achieved through the commission of a brutal sexual assault. Despite what some people say, violence sometimes is the answer, but sexual violence is the sort of brutality for which there is never any reason or excuse.

I don't think rape games should be banned in Japan or anywhere else. The argument that gamers can distinguish fantasy from reality doesn't suddenly evaporate because one form of violence is more inexplicably awful than the others. By supporting a ban, as Penn Jillette recently noted, we relegate ourselves to a lower and lesser order of media consumer, only a gentle nudge away from becoming slavering animal driven by our basest urges. And ultimately, it's unnecessary; the idea that gamers as a whole would react to these games with anything more than revulsion and disinterest is outrageous in itself and does us all a disservice.

Suggesting that rape and murder are functionally equivalent when it comes to their depiction in videogames is a red herring. The difference between the two in gaming narratives is stark and resonates strongly with gamers carving their own personal swathes of heroism across the digital landscape. There are some things that just cannot be made to fit that formula and some lines that can't be crossed. That, more than any ban or outrage, is what's most important.

Andy Chalk has murdered a lot of dudes over the years but never without a good reason.

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