I hate to quote “Spider-Man,” but — with great power comes great responsibility. Apparently, however, video game companies are exempt from that.
Such is the case for “Duke Nukem Forever,” a sequel game to 1996’s “Duke Nukem 3D,” which is being made by Gearbox Software and will be sold for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and digital distribution for computers starting June 19.
The game’s premise, bluntly stated on the official website, is that drunk aliens are invading Earth and kidnapping women, “especially the hot ones!” Players take on the role of the protagonist, Duke, and “save” various women, who are depicted as prostitutes.
Yet funnily enough, according to a March 26 article from the Fox News website, one of the multiplayer modes is called “Capture the Babe,” which somehow sounds a bit more sinister than saving women. In this mode, the player abducts scantily-clad women and can slap them if they do not comply.
According to the Fox News article, an interview in the Official Xbox Magazine had Gearbox downplaying the mode, explaining that “the ‘Babe’ will sometimes freak out while you’re carrying her (somewhat understandably, we’d say), at which point you have to hit a button to gently give her a reassuring slap.”
Moreover, other modes of the game require the player to go on a quest to look for sex toys and topless photographs of women, according to the Fox News article. The very beginning of the game insinuates two twins giving oral sex.
As if all these things weren’t dreadful enough, what is worse is what Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford said in response to the obvious outcry from various religious and gender activist groups.
“Our goal isn’t to shock people, but I think there’s some stuff that’ll be just a bit uncomfortable,” he said in the Fox News article. “We try to get right up to that edge and then relax enough so people don’t reject it.”
Don’t get me wrong — “pushing the envelope” can be a useful tool when the goal is to broaden people’s perspectives or start a public dialogue. However, what is Gearbox hoping to do? Even to argue that the game is satirical would be a gross misrepresentation.
When the CEO’s defense for his allegedly sexist video game is simply that it is “meant” to be “uncomfortable,” then you know things are bad.
Given the complete lack of any possible positive outcome of this chauvinistic, violent game, it leaves people wondering how this could affect society.
“These depictions of women are extremely harmful, especially to young women,” Jamia Wilson, vice president of the Women’s Media Center, said in the Fox News article.
While I do find myself wondering how violent video games like this and countless others — such as “Grand Theft Auto” — affect the people who play it and the girls who see the outrageous representations of women, it is not really this that bothers me — it is the production company’s complete lack of remorse or regard for ethics.
The original game, “Duke Nukem 3D,” was offensive. “Duke Nukem Forever” takes it ever further, as if Gearbox is trying to see how far it can take the game’s crude premise. While the company claims it isn’t trying to appeal to shock value, I see no other explanation for why it would choose to create a game that it knows is not right.
Although the company knows there is, indeed, a market for its disgusting games, that does not mean it should cater to it.
Maybe this once, Gearbox Studios could use its power as an opportunity to help society rather than to make a quick buck.
Emily Atteberry is a freshman journalism and Spanish double major from Olathe, Kan.