I'll admit it. Duke Nukem was never intended for me.
I am, first of all, a woman, lacking the crucial genitalia for access to the Duke Nukem club. I also don't find rape jokes very funny, and I have an unhelpful and inaccessible tendency to throw words like "privilege" and "misogyny" around. I am clearly simply lacking the necessary sophistication needed to "get" the humor in Duke Nukem Forever.
I also have not played the game. This will no doubt factor largely into naysayer's dismissal on my opinion. I can already hear the comments. "You can't judge a game based on the video clips! If you haven't picked up a controller and looked into every nook and cranny, you have no right to criticize!" Maybe I don’t. But the content I have seen has no reasonable excuse, so I'm going to risk it.
Sex, I can tolerate. I've developed a healthy ability to ignore blatant sexual objectification in games, because if I was bothered by every instance of it, I couldn't play games. The fact that a lot of games reduce women to a giggling pair of tits something I've come to terms with, simply because there are great games out there that don't. Not very many, but I digress.
What I can't ignore, is this
. It's grotesque torture porn, innocent victims literally absorbed into the walls of a horrifying womb-like structure, deserving of death due to their not-so-figurative rape by an alien overlord. They moan and beg for mercy as you shoot and punch them, green breasts glistening as they protest "It was my first time - with an alien!" or "We'll take the weight off in a week, honest!" as if it is their fault they have become abominations. It is a twisted parody of which I am not sure the creators understand the subtlety. It is an attempt at frat boy humor gone tremendously awry. It is, in short, reprehensible.
My opinion is not a popular one among the target audience of Duke Nukem Forever, and I cannot help but wonder why. Why does anyone think it is inoffensive or excusable? How can anyone argue that the content doesn't stem from misogyny? Why does the excuse of "it's a joke" make such imagery ok?
I've been told I'm overreacting, which is probably true. I tend to get a little self-righteous when it comes to popular culture normalizing violence against women, I suppose I've just never seen advocating treating women as human beings as a fault.
Because the women in the above video are not treated as human beings. They are objects of scorn, sex, violence, and derision. They are sexual, and have paid the price for it. Unfortunately, protesting as much has plastered me with the label of humorless feminist, which I honestly do not understand. How can anyone not be a feminist, when faced with such frank and disgusting images, intended to entertain and amuse?
I have come to think it's simply a symptom of a larger problem within the gaming community. Games are marketed to a demographic consisting of straight, white, young-adult males. Hence the breasts, the testosterone-injecting thick-necked protagonists, and the gore. Somehow, this has become the standard for what the demographic enjoys, and it is the demographic game publishers and developers market their games to. Even if it is not necessarily the only demographic who play their games
It's a boys club, something that women in the industry can attest to
. Somehow, this has created a culture that supports a very juvenile mentality. In spite of the aging of the demographic, and the diversification of the base, games simply haven't aged with the consumer. This creates a toxic environment that not only supports homophobia, sexism, and negative gender stereotypes, but (such as in the case of Duke Nukem) encourages them. Somehow the community has become an acceptable forum for angry, narrow-minded people who are unhappy with any loss of privilege to the marginalized. This is somehow acceptable for the game industry to market to.
That Duke Nukem is an extreme case does not invalidate the argument. The fact that it was made and published without someone crying foul testifies to a culture of acceptance. The fact that I am shouted down as a liar playing the domestic violence card when I point this out demonstrates that the gaming community does not wish to change its attitude, either on women as game players or as game characters. It is simply a demonstration of what is wrong with the community at large.
That's my opinion. I'm sure it could be better worded and supported. I am also no doubt wrong, or overreacting, or lacking anything close to resembling a sense of humor. Yet I doubt I'm alone.