[Message Deleted] : Microsoft, Rape Jokes, and the Next Gen of Gamer Culture

It’s often said that you don’t read the comments section of any site for intelligent discourse, and the Twitch stream for Gamespot’s E3 coverage is no exception. What can be gleaned from it though, is just how much of gamer culture tolerates the cancer of hate speach, childish scatalogical humour, and just straight-up, ignorant, irritating showboating. Every few messages in the Twitch streams for the day’s E3 content read “<message deleted>” if you were reading it casually, and were peppered with hate speech and ascii art of ejaculating phalluses if you were fast enough to see them before they were automatically deleted.

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That’s not to say that the industry condones this kind of behaviour, but as we found out throughout the day, and particularly during Microsoft’s press conference, it’s not doing much to quash it either.

The questions that hit me during Microsoft’s event was one of complete and utter confusion. Don’t they get it? Don’t they understand that the status-quo is no longer acceptable? We’ve made a lot of strides this last console generation, both on the dev side, and that of gaming culture itself. The boys club, the petulant trash talk, and the language rooted in misogyny all need to go.

For those who missed it, Rare Inc. took to the stage, to show off a new Killer Instinct, and during a brutal combo in a match between a male producer at Rare Inc., and a female community manager for Microsoft, the producer taunted “Just let it happen. It’ll be over soon.” Original reactions were based on the assumption that the banter was scripted, which would have been an absolutely unimaginable oversight. Microsoft has since issued a statement though, saying it was spontaneous and absolutely not scripted, though it’s still telling. Did the Rare Inc. producer mean to make a rape joke? Probably not, and there certainly didn’t seem to be any malice intended, but it’s perfectly illustrative of the kind of language that’s been normalized in our culture. It’s our job to stand up to this ignorance though, and steer the ship in the right direction. The Twitter contingent of the gaming community made us proud:

AJ says it as well as anyone. The producer should have known better, and the fact that he didn’t perfectly exhibits the kind of misogyny in our culture that we need to stamp out. If that wasn’t enough, the second woman to take the stage, 343 producer Bonnie Ross, got wolf whistled by a male journalist. This particular instance isn’t Microsoft’s fault, but it turned out to be the final strike in an unsettling pattern that only those with their heads planted firmly in the ground could ignore.

What we can no longer ignore is this: There is an inherent culture of misogyny in gaming, and whether intended or not, we need to speak up and put a stop to it. Bonnie was doing her job, and while cat calling is unacceptable enough as it is, you certainly don’t do it while you’re supposed to be at least putting up the appearance that you’re not a caveman who’s just pretending that you’re on common ground. How amazing would it have been if they stopped the show, or someone had interrupted to put that journalist in his place? We’d all be singing a very different song right now, and Microsoft would be lauded as forward thinking and inclusive. As it stands though, launching a new system, with a new slew of games, in the 21st century, with no female protagonists, is unacceptable. Sexual advances at work are unacceptable. Rape jokes are unacceptable.

Call me a dreamer, but I was expecting much more from Microsoft’s E3 press conference. We’ve made immeasurable strides, and while we still have a long way to go, I figured at least a few things were understood. Among them, that the same old dude-bro killfest just won’t cut it anymore. I’ve nothing against action games, or FPS titles in general, but I was expecting new directions in game design to be brought to the table. I was expecting Microsoft to make an honest effort to reform Xbox Live as the terribly toxic platform it is, and actually make that a main selling point of the system. I was expecting the multifaceted nature of the community to be reflected by those on stage, and most of all, I was expecting at least a subtle hint of a lesson being learned.

Still, I’m left with that nagging question. Don’t they get it?

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  • Gary McLean

    When that woman came out stage I loudly told her to get back in the kitchen where she belonged. But since I was watching from home, she couldn’t hear me.

  • Manuel S. Lara Bisch

    I’m sorry, but much as I agree about catcalling being unacceptable, I feel the need to inject some realism into the discussion:
    “Bonnie was doing her job, and while cat calling is unacceptable enough as it is, you certainly don’t do it while you’re supposed to be at least putting up the appearance that you’re not a caveman who’s just pretending that you’re on common ground. How amazing would it have been if they stopped the show, or someone had interrupted to put that journalist in his place? We’d all be singing a very different song right now, and Microsoft would be lauded as forward thinking and inclusive.”

    Erm, no. While that is what might have happened in an ideal world, what *would* have happened is Microsoft becoming even more of a laughing-stock than the Xbox One reveal made them already, and being flamed as spoilsports kowtowing to the “feminazis” by 80% of their target audience.

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As a gamer, I realize I contribute to an incredibly diverse social network of gamers around the world, and that my actions have the ability to impact others. In effort to make a positive impact, and to create a community that is welcoming to all, I pledge to not use bigoted language while gaming, online and otherwise.

Bigoted language includes, but is not limited to, slurs based on race? (e.g, "chink," "nigger," "wetback"), ethnicity? (e.g., "kyke," "polock"), gender? (e.g., "cunt," "bitch," "tranny"), religion? (e.g., "dirty jew," "papist"), sexual orientation? (e.g., "gay," "fag[got]," "dyke"), and disability? (e.g., "retard[ed]").

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