Two Steps Forward, Three Thousand Steps Back

I write a whole post celebrating the awesomeness of games that highlight exploration and investigation instead of continuing the normalization of wanton violence, and then I come across an article that makes me throw my hands up in angry frustration wondering what the fudge is wrong with men and the world.

The Motherboard article, Putting This PUA Game On PlayStation and Steam Normalizes Stalker Behavior, by Samantha Cole, talks about Super Seducer, a video game coming to Steam and PlayStation where the goal is “to test out pick-up tactics on virtual women.” There’s also a related article by Emanuel Maiberg called New ‘Pick-Up Artist’ Video Game Teaches Men How to Be Creeps.

The game features video segments that lead to dialogue choices, which then lead to different consequences. Choose the right lines, and boom, you seduce the “girl” (the game seems to always refer to adult women as girls). Based on Cole’s play-through experience, the game is rife with, and rewards, asshole/stalker behavior, like cornering women, ignoring subtle and clear messages to go away, and touching women without their permission.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Even though the game was banned from Kickstarter for violation of their rules (due to inappropriate content), as of the writing of the two articles from Motherboard (Maiberg’s: Feb 19, 2018; Cole’s: Feb 26, 2018), neither Valve nor Sony had made any statement about possibly banning the game.

Listen, I know there’s been a market for dating simulation games for years. I remember the Leisure Suit Larry games back in the 90s, so it’s not like we’re dealing with something new. But we’re supposed to get better as a society, not stay stagnant, or worse, regress. Just a few months ago we saw the emergence of the worldwide phenomenon of the #MeToo Movement as a result of some really courageous women finally coming out and deciding they had had enough of hiding their stories of sexual harassment and assault for fear of stigmatization or retaliation. And hot on the heels (pun not intended yet appropriate) of all those confessions this studio decides that it’s the right time for their game. Again, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Game creator/source inspiration/protagonist, R La Ruina (“the ruin” in Spanish, make of that what you will), claims that his product and company are victims of political correctness, that the women in his team “are cool with it,” and while I’ll grant the man’s point that “[i]t’s a surreal double standard” that “there are many violent games that are played by children which feature images as graphic as any R-rated film” (and don’t get this level of persecution, seems to be what he’s implying), two wrongs don’t make a right. Let me say that again, two wrong don’t make a right.

At the risk of yelling on the internet without having anything new to add, this crap can’t go on. It’s so frustrating seeing great tools used for unwholesome ends, and it’s infuriating seeing a company making light of what’s been traumatic experiences for so many women. If all I can do at this point is write to Valve and Sony and request they reconsider releasing the game, then so be it. Maybe you can join me as well.

We have got to be better.

Photo By Alex E. Proimos, CC BY 2.0.

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