Bulletstorm, Rape and the Power of Childishness

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Published by Jim Sterling 11 years ago , last updated 4 years ago

Unless you’ve been isolated in deep space for crimes against the Earth (more common than you think), you’ll have doubtless heard about a recent FOX News report on Bulletstorm, painted by the right-wing news outlet as “the worst videogame in the world.” In the report, several factually inaccurate and presumptuous statements were made about games, but psychologist and author Carole Lieberman stole the show. Without providing a single shred of evidence, she stated that sexual content in videogames were a cause of the “increase” in rape attacks seen over the years.

The claims, as pointed out by Wired, hinge on the faulty belief that rape statistics have increased rather than decreased, and that the “thousands” of studies she cites actually exist, when in fact they do not. If, however, you’re willing to suspend all disbelief and swallow a pack of lies, then Carole’s assertions are most certainly credible. Unfortunately for Carole, gamers around the world were not prepared to accept slanderous assumptions as irrefutable fact, and instead responded the only way they knew how — childishly.

In an attack that mirrored the punishment Cooper Lawrence received when she attempted a character assassination on Mass Effect, Lieberman’s book Bad Girls was discovered on Amazon and bombarded with negative reviews, most of which parodied the “games = rape” sentiment expressed in her FOX News quote.

“I have it on high authority that people reading books with sexy leg outlines tends to lead to a rise in rape victims,” read one of the reviews. “Most of these victims never even saw it coming. They were casually in a store aisle questioning what millions see in Twilight when all the sudden, rape happens. Not even the fancy romantic rape, with months and months of stalking. Nope, just pure sudden rape. Must be those videogames.”

Now, there is no denying that this was an infantile response, one that does nothing to prove that gamers are fine, upstanding adults who are worth listening to. Nobody can say that this was guaranteed to change Lieberman’s mind or make FOX News take videogames seriously. Many gamers would argue that this was the wrong thing to do, that we should strive to be more adult and prove ourselves “better” than the likes of Lieberman and other hack psychologists who will say anything they’re told to by irresponsible news outlets.

I will admit that it was juvenile. I will admit that it probably won’t change many minds. However, I fully support the reviews that were written, and the silly, aggressive, ridiculous way in which they were used against Carole Lieberman.

It’s high time that we, as gamers, were honest with ourselves. Nobody at FOX News is interested in how “adult” we act. Nobody who has already decided that videogames breed psychopaths will ever change their minds, no matter how well spoken we attempt to be. In fact, I’d argue that acting mature not only achieves nothing, it actively does harm to our argument. It makes our side of the debate appear docile, limp, and thoroughly pathetic in the face of shrill, squawking, reckless people who are using buzzwords and shouting in order to villify videogames. If you don’t believe me, I suggest you re-watch the famous FOX News Mass Effect report. Geoff Keighly bravely went up against a panel of FOX pundits and author Cooper Lawrence, all of whom were already coached by producers and predisposed toward attacking the sex scenes in BioWare’s RPG.

Keighly attempted to be civil, well-spoken, and calm. Keighly didn’t stand a chance.

I applaud the man for what he did, and for at least trying, but his approach only led to his points getting utterly steamrolled. Cooper Lawrence sneered at him, laughed at his points, and stomped all over his words. Geoff attempted to counter screaming ignorance with calm, collected reason, and I don’t think any of us can honestly say that it worked. Appearing on FOX News with cool logic is like entering a nuclear war with a pointed stick. People only listen to those who shout loudest. They like characters and colorful personalities, not a laid back, “mature” individual who will attempt to speak rationally. When Lawrence admitted that she’d never played Mass Effect, Keighly was given an opportunity to go in for the kill and decimate her with a sustained attack. He took the high road, and let any opportunity to truly fight back slip by. As much as I appreciate how Keighly handled it, and even thanked him for trying after the report aired, I have to be honest and admit that the way he dealt with the issue is not the way that gains an audience’s attention.

That might be sad, it might be a disappointing indictment of Western culture, but it is what it is. Keighly’s approach failed, and had the Mass Effect debate ended there, it would’ve slipped by as a “win” for the anti-game set.

It did not end there though, as gamers took action and brought this argument down to FOX’s level. They bombarded Cooper Lawrence’s book with puerile and negative reviews on Amazon, bringing it to a one-star rating and filling the page with insulting remarks based upon her Mass Effect comments. Lawrence, who had happily gone about her business following the report, felt compelled to make a statement about the FOX report, and apologized for her statements. Not only that, but she admitted that she knew nothing of Mass Effect before the FOX segment, and was simply given a brief description by the producers. It was only after gamers fought back with the same conduct as FOX that Cooper actually researched the sexual content in Mass Effect and admitted that it wasn’t even half as bad as she believed. It was thanks to the power of childishness that FOX’s utter bullshit was exposed.

You may not like it, but it wasn’t until gamers decided to be juvenile assholes that Cooper Lawrence actually conducted herself like an adult.

There’s a reason why people like Jack Thompson are famous. It’s not because they tried to show the world they were mature and decent people. Thompson is a showman, a jackass who uses passionate rhetoric and harsh commentary in order to get his point across. Thompson once personally told me that his behavior helped him to become famous. With immature behavior comes fame, and with fame comes personal appearances and an audience willing to listen. Meanwhile, gamers sit back, smug on their intellectual high horses, believing themselves to be “better” than people like Thompson, but achieving absolutely nothing with their maturity.

Ultimately, who are we trying to prove ourselves to when we strive to be above that? People like Carole Lieberman? She’s already decided that videogames cause rape and gamers are aggressive. We’re not “proving” that to her when we bombard her book with bad reviews, because she already decided it was fact. Are we proving ourselves to FOX and its audience? I think Geoff Keighly did the best he could on that front, and he did not succeed while FOX continues to air anti-game stories. Are we proving ourselves to … ourselves? Why would we even need to do that?

Gamers are insecure, and we’re obsessed with “proving” ourselves to some mystery arbitrator of maturity and value. We talk about games being “taken seriously,” but we never stop and think about who it is that we need to convince. Videogames are a huge part of modern culture, they make billions of dollars a year — I’d say that everybody has pretty much decided which side of the fence they’re on by now, and those who still think games are terrible, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, are not going to suddenly have a change of heart because somebody looked in a Thesaurus and sent them a nice little email. Nobody’s going to take you seriously at this point, so you might as well just fire back and damn the non-existent consequences.

Acting like kids might not accomplish anything, but there is a clear precedent that says acting like adults definitely won’t. The anti-game set has succeeded in getting attention and a wide audience with their pathetic antics, and the game industry has attempted to act aloof and reserved, to its own detriment. Like it or not, I think perhaps the game industry needs its own Jack Thompson — a character who isn’t afraid of being over the top and arguing on the same degenerate level as these overly opinionated pundits. Maybe we’d get our side argued on a lot of TV stations if we offered somebody that people wanted to watch and wouldn’t let their thoughts get squashed by those who weren’t interested.

The childish approach is not harming us, ultimately. It’s vulgar and stupid for sure, but it’s changed no minds on either side of the fence. With that in mind, gamers might as well do it. It may not succeed, but it’s better than stroking our chins in ponderous superiority, complaining quietly amongst ourselves and doing our level best to look like grown-ups.

Being adult about things never works, and if you disagree with that, all I have to say is YOUR MOM!

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