You may have missed it in light of the negative backlash concerning Microsoft's new Xbox One: the mandatory 24-hour check in (but if you can't manage that, buy a 360!) the non-optional Kinect (although the company is attempting to address this), and the confusion about used games. During the Killer Instinct demo, what has since been termed as a rape joke was made. Microsoft has since stated that the comments were not scripted, that there was supposed to be friendly gameplay banter with no ill intent.
Now, with Patricia Hernandez reporting on this and many others (just do a quick Google search on "Microsoft rape joke"), is there anything left for me to say that others haven't already said? Some people believe Microsoft when they say it was unscripted; if that's the case, it doesn't do much to make the situation better. Whether or not it was intended to be a reference to rape, let alone a joke—and I can't think either of those things are true, the company has enough PR woes at the moment—no one can deny the connotation of those words.
"Just let it happen. It'll be over soon."
For me and countless others like me, those words jarred me completely out of the moment. Because of my history, they made me feel uneasy and somewhat sick. I have no doubt that some others suffered even worse reactions. Even then I thought that they couldn't possibly have understood what they'd said, but that didn't do much to dispel unwanted emotions and memories. I tried to refocus on the conference—I was live-blogging it for some friends who wouldn't be able to follow from work—but it wasn't easy. When an article concerning it went up, I was relieved: it wasn't just me seeing this.
The internet being what it is, though, my relief didn't last long. For every person that agreed it was out of line, there were those that defended Microsoft—that, I could live with. But behind them came the victim-blamers. I can understand a certain amount of defensiveness when the topic of sexism comes up, people are afraid of being cast into that role just because they happen to share commonalities with a larger group. Also, the use of certain pejoratives—"rape" among them—has become more of an issue in recent years. People are starting to question that, to suggest or even insist that it isn't right and shouldn't be swept under the rug. I do believe that there are people who honestly don't realise the impact of what they're saying, or why it should be questioned. That is excusable. But is the unwillingness to think?
What is accomplished by calling people overly sensitive? Is it really anything other than a knee-jerk response: I don't want to think about this, this doesn't apply to me. It's very easy, especially online, to marginalise those who don't see the world in the same way, to dismiss their views because they're not personally relevant. If you can't put yourself in the shoes of a survivor, imagine that someone you care about—your sister, your best friend—is the one saying these things to you. Asking you to think about what you're saying, asking you to stop. If it's someone you care about, do you really tell them to just "get over it"? Some can, and do. Others have different ways of dealing. We learn coping mechanisms, what our triggers are, and how to manage all of these things. Despite some people insisting that we're asking for the world to be bubble-wrapped for our protection, I don't find it's true. Most of us are already pretty good at protecting ourselves. But that doesn't mean that this sort of thing should be commonplace, acceptable. The fact that so many people didn't realise the implications of what was being said, or worse, did, and laughed anyway, tells me that we have a long way to go.
Someone reading this will probably want to ask why I don't address the issues of racism or homosexuality in terms of trash talk and prejudice. The answer is only because I don't belong to either of those groups, and I can't speak to that. But I know those are real problems as well, and deserve the same kind of attention that I'm now spending on this. I hope someone does address that. I hope that we, as gamers, can change. If you're not one of the ones contributing to the negativity, why not be one of the voices to say, "Hey, not cool." And a lot of you are, I think. It's not always easy, I know. I've been very fortunate on Kotaku these past few months. I've never hidden the fact that I'm female, and never felt the need to. Even better, unlike some scenarios in my past, I've never felt like I had to be one of the guys, either. But it still took me a week to speak up, because I was worried about backlash and confrontation; I'm not trying to be the next Anita Sarkeesian. But in the end, it was my passion for games, for this community, that caused me to write this. Video games and the culture surrounding them make up a large part of my world. If I reach even one person reading this, it will be worth it. And if I've made you angry, well, that wasn't my intent.
I ask honestly—to all readers—can we talk about this?
Killer Instinct Smart Glass Demo E3 2013 MS Press Conference