When the Columbine massacre rocked the nation, thousands of parents everywhere learned the name of a game that could turn their child into a monster: Doom. Apparently, there was a system in the game that allowed kids to create their own levels, and the stars of America’s latest massacre used it to recreate their own school for target practice (which later turned out to be untrue). That’s right; video games now had the power to create murderers.
Graphics were finally good enough to show people getting their spines removed as part of a fatality in Mortal Kombat. I remember my brother and I losing our collective shit the very first time we pulled this move off, terrified that our parents would find out about the pixelated atrocities we had committed. I also remember the first time I murdered a prostitute after virtual sex,albeit shown only by a car rocking back and forth, in the game Grand Theft Auto III. I was blown away (no pun intended) that this sort of thing was allowed in a game.
Later, that very same series would have its own controversy by way of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and the hidden “Hot Coffee” mini-game that allowed the protagonist to have sex with his girlfriend. This caused a huge media storm that even garnered the attention of our current presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. She and a handful of other senators created the Family Entertainment Protection Act in order to enforce the ESRB ratings system to protect children from inappropriate content. This resulted in the game’s publisher, Rockstar, to change the rating on the game to Adults Only and also re-release the game with the content removed ending in a 50 million dollar loss for the company.
That was back in 2005. Since then, I have watched my digital protagonists bang it out on a horse in Witcher 3 (among various other places including a bordello that you can revisit as much as you’d like to purchase sex), shoot school girls with an orgasm pistol in Gal Gun: Double Peace, and even receive oral sex from a prostitute in a stolen car via Grand Theft Auto V made by the same once-scandalized publisher.
It seems that outrage no longer happens over sex and violence in games anymore. Most gaming controversies from the past few years deal with liberal and feminist backlash as opposed to that of conservative uproar. Take “Buttgate” for instance, That was the big controversy over a character named Tracer’s victory pose in the game Overwatch that highlights the curvature of her rear. A concerned mother was offended by the sexualization of a strong female character and its affect on her daughter leading Blizzard, the game's creator, to remove said pose. Say what you will about “Gamergate”, but for this article’s purposes, I just want to highlight that it largely revolved around an outcry against the same sort of political correctness wars in the gaming community.
This tonal shift, in my opinion, is due to the advent of the Internet for a couple of reasons. First off, sexuality in gaming has become less of an issue because adolescents are finding other immediate ways to view pornographic materials with ease thus diminishing the focus on games as an outlet. Images of nudity and sex used to be difficult to come by. I remember as a kid, discovering a Playboy was like the arc of the covenant. Us pubescent boys became like little Gollums except replace the one ring with a VHS tape that “showed us the ropes” as you will. Today, things are quite different.
An article entitled “Digital-Sexual Revolution: Measuring The Real Effects of Internet Porn” for SBS.com states that, “30% of girls and boys see porn pictures or movies for the first time by the age of 11. By age 17, 93% of boys and 80% of girls have seen porn.” It’s clear that our youth these days wouldn’t blink twice at the blue alien sex scene in Mass Effect, since they have access to much more extreme stuff. In these strange times, you’re lucky if little Jimmy doesn’t grow up needing to wear a diaper in order to make whoopee with his incredibly accepting wife. Seriously, you spouses of diaper fetishists are modern day Mother Teresas as far as I’m concerned.
Couple this new mass exposure to pornography and violence on-line with the fact that every single person on the planet now has a mouthpiece which allows their personal opinions to not only reach ears around the world but also affect change. I’m going to spout a bunch of numbers now, but stay with me on this. In an article posted on brandwatch.com back in March of this year, they stated that there are 2.3 billion active social media users worldwide. Couple this by a statistic from the Pew Research Center that 34% of those people have used social media to post their own thoughts or comments on political and social issues. Therefore, there are 782 MILLION people screaming on-line about Donald Trump and the curvature of Tracer’s butt at any given time. Trust me. I stared at a calculator like a monkey for ten to twenty minutes in order to get that number.
Here’s another fact for you: things offend people. For every strong opinion or dirty joke, there is someone out there who is deeply personally offended by it due to the set-in-stone nature of Internet content and the wide reach it has across all nations, religions, races, and cultures. I am not here to speak for or against this issue. My personal policy is to stay the hell away from either side of this fight as much as possible so that I can live peacefully while racking up loot boxes in Overwatch. I am merely highlighting the fact that it has created a bizarre shift in gaming culture where the fight is no longer over whether violence in games leads to school shootings or sex in games leads to exposure to pornography for underage children. Rather, now the fight is over the influence of political correctness in gaming. It’s less of a moral freak-out and more of an ideological turf war. You can’t just fall somewhere in the middle either. You have to pick a side, especially if you write commissioned articles for the Internet. And therein lies the rub.
Can we not make a connection between a politician like Hillary Clinton wanting exposure by taking a stand against some weird hidden sex mini-game and the hard line, no-buts-about-it stance that either a blogger or a gamer must take for or against a feminist argument on-line to get attention? I for one wish we lived in a world that allowed for even discourse and measured responses about these sorts of issues. I get it though. It's hard to have this while also generating web traffic for precious ad dollars. I’m currently sitting here wondering about the potential popularity of this article in and of itself. It doesn’t take a side (I hope) and I sure do need to get paid for this kind of work. Sadly, the idea that the craziest people scream the loudest has never been more true than in our current lives on-line.
It’s those calm quiet ones that I really want to hear from who lie somewhere in the middle of these arguments. But we’ll never give them a chance to speak. There’s far too much screaming going on for that to happen.
Pew Research Center article: http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/politics-fact-sheet/