Feature: From rape to religion, games that tackle serious issues come under a lot of scrutiny – and often find themselves in the firing line. But should this be the case? We explore games’ fear of the taboo, and look at five games that didn’t shy away from the big topics.
Lara Croft doesn’t get raped in Tomb Raider – someone on the team just got a bit confused, and dropped 2012′s biggest gaming bombshell that turned out not to be true. Instead, should you fail to fend off attackers in this particular scene, she gets murdered. No harm done.
But games do murder all the time. In fact, you could argue that murder is our favourite pastime – the sport that attracts the masses to our peculiar hobby. We gun down foe after foe without second thought, but when the other awful crime rears its head? Nope! Games have gone too far.
There are a couple of obvious reasons for this, of course. Firstly, if you are the victim of a rape, you must endure that for the rest of your life; if you have been murdered, you are dead. This glosses over the horrendous agony that the person’s friends and family will feel, certainly, but it’s still an argument worth noting. And secondly, rape has to do with sex, and sex is – despite pretty much everyone doing it and understanding that it’s fine – an act that’s still a curious taboo in our culture. Combine a taboo with such an awful act, and you’ve got your recipe for controversy when it comes to injecting it into the media.
FIVE GAMES THAT DIDN’T SHY AWAY…
1. The Binding of Isaac
WHAT IT TACKLED: Religion, and the things people do in its name.
WHAT HAPPENED: Nintendo wouldn’t release it, citing “questionable religious content”, but everyone else seemed unfazed – the creativity of the game itself garnered far more chatter than its choice to ask questions of religion.
But literature, film and even theatre can cover the likes of rape without much of an uproar. Maybe this is because they’re considered more valid forms of artistic expression, or platforms from which it’s okay to make statements. But that only explains why outsiders would consider it strange that a videogame might dare to include a rape scene.
Far more problematic than the possibility of Lara Croft being raped were accompanying comments which suggested this was so you’d want to “protect” Lara. Again, it seemed in the end to be nothing more than an unfortunate choice of words than anything more malicious – but that the gaming populace jumped on the alleged rape itself, rather than the troubling dialogue surrounding it, is something I found interesting.
FIVE GAMES THAT DIDN’T SHY AWAY…
2. The Path
WHAT IT TACKLED: Possibly the sexual abuse of children, although only very abstractly. Death and the nature of maturity, most certainly.
WHAT HAPPENED: A few mainstream outlets got wind of this artsy indie game and decided it was a game about raping children, which it definitely wasn’t. The Path caused just as much of a stir by being an abstract art game sold on Steam, though.
Are we saying that games – the things we hold so dearly – should not be subject to the same creative freedoms as other media? This certainly seemed to be the attitude behind an article I read earlier today, which began by saying games should be able to tackle any issues they wish before selecting five that they probably shouldn’t.