There’s long been a back and forth over whether or not violent video games lead kids to violence. But what else might children be picking up from video games? If they play Duke Nukem, they might internalize the idea that women are objects and can be smacked around if they don’t behave.
It’s been leaked that the upcoming Duke Nukem Forever game (which, admittedly, has been “upcoming” since 1997) has a multiplayer mode, and one of the activities in this mode is a game called “Capture the Babe.” As the name might suggest, it’s capture the flag where the “flag” is a woman. But it’s not enough that women be picked up and thrown around literally like a toy. If she “freaks out” (and what woman wouldn’t when a random man decides to sling you over his shoulder), the game’s solution is to have the player give her a smack.
I used to be a huge Duke Nukem fan when it first came out as a computer game where a Hulk Hogan-esque character had to shoot up all the invading aliens. Sure, it was a bit silly, but the point of the game was to defeat the invading Dr. Proton and no babes were involved. How far we’ve come from such simple times. It appears that consequent versions have gotten more and more over the top – one of the sequels for Playstation is called Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes. It’s veered away from a simple man vs. bad guys game to one that relies on sexist tropes. In fact, the goal of this game is to save women from being raped by invading aliens. It isn’t enough to pit Duke against aliens; rape as a weapon of war is co-opted as a motivator to go get the bad guy. The Mary Sue claims that the game sees itself as “over the top in every way” and “something that considers itself satire,” and this may be true (I haven’t tried it out since the days of dial up modems). But satire can still go too far.
What “Capture the Babe” and the rest of the game shows is just how pervasive the acceptance of forcing things violently upon women is in our culture. Duke Nukem is just one shoot-em-up game, but if something like this can pop up without much fanfare, it’s clear how insidious it is. The reviewer of the game that reveals this new function, Eurogamer, isn’t even phased by it. Boys playing it aren’t going to go out and start hoisting random women and smacking them into line. But if they see these things taking place and aren’t asked to interrogate whether or not it’s okay, it becomes normalized. Women are but pawns used for the entertainment of men. Their agency over their bodies is suppressed for the sake of a game.
May I suggest a level of Angry Birds instead?