Friday, February 13, 2009

values question 2

I was shocked, but then fascinated, by the game Grand Theft Auto when I first saw a version of it being played by a Korean cousin of mine. The game's freewheeling violence, its anarchic subtext, and the player's ability to do almost anything he or she wanted gave GTA its evil charm. I've never actually played the game, but I'm sure I'd be hooked if I tried it. What red-blooded male driver hasn't shouted "200 points!" when passing a pedestrian and fantasizing about mowing him down? That primal urge is what GTA plays on, and why it sells so well. Ever thought about running through the streets with a baseball bat and a sack full of bricks, just breaking store windows? Yeah-- me, too. Violent fantasies are part of the male psyche, especially in an age of milquetoast modernity. (Ladies, if you're shocked by this aspect of maleness, you obviously don't know your guy, or guys in general. And, guys, if you're shouting "200 points!" in front of your woman, you obviously don't know your woman, or women in general. Unless they're into that kind of thing, of course. And some of them are.)

So men generally respond to and indulge in fantasy violence-- wreckage, killing, and mayhem. My question is this: is it therefore inconsistent of me to react with revulsion and horror to the existence of a video game that promotes gang rape and forced abortions? Just a few minutes ago, I had a "holy fucking shit!" reaction when I learned of a game called "Rapelay" (I guess that's a lame combination of "rape" and "play"), which you can read about here (not to worry: it's just a news article, not a sample of the game, which I think Amazon was right to ban from its cyber-shelves). Whatever imaginative silliness I might engage in, I never have fantasies on the order of what this game portrays. I suppose what I'm fishing around for, though, is something that may require some uncomfortable introspection: what makes running over a video granny funny, while video game portrayals of rape are over the line? Is there a double standard at work here, or is there one single, consistent standard that accounts for both the fun of GTA-style violence (which I'm pretty sure doesn't include rape... or does it?) and the repulsiveness of Rapelay-style violence?

We could talk about the consistency of the pacifist's perspective: the dude or chick whose stomach churns at the thought of any violence, and who therefore shies away from all such video games. But this perspective is boring, and judging by the success of the GTA franchise (which must be doing well outside of America, given my Korean cousin's love of the game), it isn't the perspective of the majority. No: instead, I'd rather talk about the rest of us, the normal folks who don't think twice about playing a video game like GTA or Crazy Taxi (which also involves running over pedestrians and engaging in other forms of hazardous driving), but who, as I was, would be revolted by the mere thought of a game like Rapelay. It seems that most of us draw a line somewhere, but what is that line? How do we put it into words? Is it a legitimate line? Does it express a self-consistent morality, or are we just going to have tolerate a certain level of hypocrisy in ourselves if we refuse to become total pacifists? Color me curious.

Your thoughts are welcome.



Rhesus said...

Rapelay sounds like a typical Japanese hentai game. They very frequently involve rape, underage girls, and all sorts of creative degradation. Google "Battle Raper" and "Water Closet" for more information (you are free, however, not to do so - mercifully free).

These days I really hate to see violence and cruelty in movies or games or whatever. It actually makes me sick. And I wouldn't have any problem with GTA and similar games being censored. That sweet spot we have for the transgressive doesn't need all the stimulation it's getting.

I'm not a pacifist, though. I enjoy consensual violence in the form of fighting sports, and I've both injured others and been injured myself. Of course, this didn't involve cruelty or degradation, either.

Is this hypocritical? At any rate, I don't think people who like GTA but are repulsed by Rapelay are being hypocritical. It seems like the word hypocrisy doesn't really apply to subjective preferences.

Sorry to depart from my usual terse comments, but one last bit - there is a difference in quality between GTA-type games and hentai. When you run over someone in GTA, the design and movement of the characters are pretty realistic. In Rapelay, you'll likely be raping a two-dimensional anime character. This might be significant, but I'm not sure how.

Charles said...

Actually, though I've never played GTA either (and, honestly, I don't really have any desire to), I do know that you can pick up a hooker, do the nasty, let her out of your car, and then chase her down, beat her, and take your money back. Don't know if that qualifies as rape, but I'm guessing it's somewhere in the same moral ballpark.

At any rate, this is an interesting question, and one I've been struggling with in my study of the trickster. I have a tentative answer, but it's not fully formed yet, and would be far too long for a blog comment anyway. I will say that it has to do with the trickster's liminal nature and his transcendence of normal categories such as morality and ethics--that is, he is not immoral, he is amoral. But that's just scratching the surface.

Luisa said...

Hey Kevin, it's been a while! Hope you are well. I remembered seeing this video of a hidden scene from GTA a few months ago and thought you might be interested in it as it related to your post.

I love me some video games--geek girl that I am--but I FREAKED when i saw it. Kids aren't stupid. They can get to these hidden areas with ease.