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A Bit of the Old Up, Up, Down, Down

Martin McLauchlan | 12 Jan 2012 09:00
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The issue of sex in games again reared its head with the regrettable decision to resurrect Duke Nukem. Now, discussing the game is a bit of a challenge since it's a nostalgic and ironic throwback to a Nineties game that was itself a nostalgic and ironic throwback to macho Eighties movies that were themselves nostalgic and ironic throwbacks to the cro-magnon period. It's a Rubik's cube of questionable humor that's able to deflect any criticism through its sheer self-awareness. We can't expect a game free of strippers since "Shake it, baby" was practically the game's slogan and we can't expect Duke's character, which was in part created as a reaction against perceived political correctness in the mid-nineties, to suddenly conform to it. So a certain amount of winking raunch is to be expected.

Even the most depraved gamer has to pause and think about the questionable implications of mashing a shotgun round into the face of a pleading young girl.

One thing's for sure though: Imprisoning two women (who can probably pass for the game's female leads) in what can only be described as a stalagmite made of rape and then having the player dispatch or ignore their deaths in service of a pun ("You're screwed") is in record-shatteringly bad taste. We can probably smile benignly at the strippers and the general leery atmosphere from a position of impenetrable superiority that comes from no longer being twelve- it's Duke, after all, the videogame equivalent of your musky smelling and vaguely sinister uncle who takes you aside when you're ten to show you a ratty porno magazine. But even the most depraved gamer has to pause and think about the questionable implications of mashing a shotgun round into the face of a pleading young girl.

Part of the sex problem in videogames have stemmed from the lopsided gender representation, after all it's hard to build any relationship in a treehouse with a "boys only" sign outside it. Games like Mass Effect and the Dragon Age series have made a point of introducing gender choices and even sexuality choices to make your character capable of being representative of your real life even if you happen to be a lady. Even Gears of War, which previously boasted precisely three women in the game - one lives in a box and appears only to swoon and then get shot in her weak womanly skull, one is a naggy voice in your ear and the last one is an evil alien queen of a grotesque underground race - has joined a world where women might actually want to play as women even while chainsawing through a worm monster from the future.

Mass Effect 2 also offered an opportunity for making a relationship. The furore surrounding the game's randy content had me thinking that I'd be engaging in hours of sci-fi fucking grudgingly punctuated by some shooting. Sleep with any of your crew? Create romantic relationships? I was intrigued, but in the end all it came down to were some suggestive dialog choices and a hilarious cutscene that had me humping a space Australian on a cold metal floor in an engine room (and then taking Garrus to my room because, c'mon, Garrus is awesome). It was an endgame bonus, a shallow little add-on with its own trophy that popped up, presumably at the point of ejaculation.

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