If like me, you’re old enough to remember the original Grand Theft Auto games you will know that Rockstar have sometimes included sexual interactions for “shock value”. As they were going through their formative years and in an attempt to seem edgy and cool, they included game mechanisms like picking up prostitutes. A bit of suggestive car rocking later, and you could then kill the prostitute and regain the money you had spent.
These little additions were essentially meaningless except for Rockstar being a bit provocative in a very politically correct videogame industry. Then other games came out under the Rockstar development team and although they carried very mature themes, Rockstar became increasingly closeted with there inclusion of sex.
Violence, it seems, was welcomed by the gaming public, but the inclusion of sex seemed voyeuristic and a little creepy. So, matching the trend, Rockstar phased out sex from their games.
But That Was a Long Time Ago…
In terms of time frames, we are talking over ten years ago. The reason sex wasn’t sought after in games is because it wasn’t ever approached in a way that wasn’t demeaning and the limitations of games and graphics engines meant that sex scenes never quite looked right.
Sure, there were smatterings of games with a brief bit of character nudity and some even had a couple of racy scenes – I remember Fahrenheit had a reasonable attempt at trying to include it. Rockstar though… well, they just made their games more violent and crude and buried sex away in the same way that a Catholic Priest does. They adopted the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil mantra, and stuck to it.
By the time Red Dead Redemption came along, sex didn’t exist to Rockstar. Throw a stick of dynamite at an animal or help Seth root around and make friends with corpses… but like fuck were they going to allow you to take a busty bar wrench from the saloon to your lodgings upstairs. So repressed was sex, in let’s face it, a lawless and sexually active setting, that Rockstar began to look a bit odd.
There was nothing really plausible about omitting sex or relationship style interactions with other characters. Even the marriage between John and Abigail was sexless except you know they must have done it once for her to give birth to Jack. All the while, when all this sex wasn’t happening, you were free to lasso and hogtie a woman and tie her to a railway line to get an achievement when the train hits her.
All of this adds up to Rockstar being a very sexually repressed developer in the weirdest and most perverted kind of way. They very literally made themselves the creepy uncle at the family BBQ. Allowing and incentivising players to commit increasingly sadistic acts of masochist violence but making sure that everything else was kept under lock and key.
Then came the straw that broke the Camel’s back.
Red Dead Redemption Two and its Rape Scene
My relationship with Rockstar has increasingly soured over time, I love the concept of the Red Dead games and I like most of the gameplay. The stories are a bit poorly written, and the creative direction of Dan Hauser is flawed for innumerable reasons.
But then he managed to commit a cardinal sin.
In a game where no legitimate, consensual sex occurs despite being a single man that is dying (like, come on, how far are we really supposed to suspend our disbelief here??) there is a scene where you are drugged and raped if you enter a stranger’s house.
Some people argue that you don’t actually see the rape, but you would have to be a grade ‘A’ moron to not know what has just befallen your character.
Is showing rape in a game a bad thing? No, not necessarily, if it is done for a reason and it is done considerately then it is something that has its place, I am sure in some games. Given the violence of the ‘Wild West’ it might even be a good theme to add to Red Dead games.
But that is not what Rockstar did.
Is showing a rape in a game with absolutely no other allusion to sex for little more than a cheap shock reaction a bad thing? Absolutely yes. This was cynically inserted into the game to create a debate online and it was done completely out of context with the rest of the game and with no plot device at all.
In short, Rockstar had raped their main character because they thought it would be a great punchline. But here is where the joke is on them.
Problems with The Rape Scene in Red Dead Two
There are two problems with the rape scene in Red Dead Two and to be honest they aren’t even subjective ones; the scene didn’t “offend me” it was just a glaring and damning indictment of how odd Rockstar has become.
First – if the main character was a female, this scene would not be included in the game. Full stop. For those in doubt, watch the scene play out and substitute Arthur for a female lead and you will see exactly what I mean. It would never have been included if Arthur wasn’t a man which means that the ever-childish Rockstar finds male rape funny.
Secondly – there is no healthy sexual relationship depicted anywhere in the entire game. There are hardly any healthy relationships let alone healthy sexual ones. Which makes the rape scene even more glaringly obvious for what it is. A complete inability for Rockstar to grow up and make a game that treats its audience like adults. After all, it is 18 rated… what are they so afraid of?
My Message to Rockstar
Male rape isn’t the punchline to any joke you’re capable of formulating because you simply don’t have the writing skill or comedic talent to do it.
Next time either grow a pair of balls and depict a female character in the way you thought it was acceptable to depict your male character. Or, don’t do it at all and start including healthy romantic and sexual relationships in your games and become a developer that creates authentic and plausible content that allows its players to fully immerse themselves in an environment without thinking something huge is definitely missing.
Take a leaf out of developers like Bethesda’s book and treat your players like adults. Rant over. I am not normally one to pick at something but its mainstream media outlets creating a stigma about male rape and making it a mockery that ultimately make it worse for victims especially when it comes to having the confidence to report it without fear of ridicule.
In the wake of the whole #metoo, you would think that companies like Rockstar would take a more modern approach dealing with rape that helps promote less stigma and encourage more healthy relationship attitudes. It seems that Rockstar is yet to go through puberty though – the school bully (Canis Canem Edit) mentality will soon wear very thin no matter how good your games look.
If you want to read my thoughts about Red Dead Redemption overall, make sure you read my review!