Is Perverted VR Worse Than Digital Violence?

Is Perverted VR Worse Than Digital Violence?

I’m not sure I want to open this Pandora’s Box, but I’m going to give it a shot. I’m betting most of you have seen the Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 PlayStation VR footage. You know, the video that shows a random dude crawling out of his chair while wearing the PS VR headset in order to get a close look at Kasumi’s breasts and butt? The footage of that same dude using some kind of weird virtual probe to touch and manipulate Kasumi’s lady parts while she recoils and yelps? Yeah, that footage.

That video has sparked dozens of rants and tirades about sexual harassment and how DOA X3 has crossed a line that should not have been crossed. It’s been called “Sexual Assault: The Game.” It’s being damned and condemned. Here’s the thing: while I completely agree that it’s distasteful, unhealthy, and creepy as hell, I don’t think that we can condemn this game in good conscience while at the same time winking at realistic depictions of violence just because it’s been normalized.

Before I say another freaking word, let me tell you what I am not saying. I’m not saying that I’m okay with a video showing a dude enjoying himself by groping a virtual woman who obviously doesn’t like what he’s doing. I’m not saying that it’s okay just because it’s a video game. I’m not saying that because we have games where you can murder people, that we should have games where you can rape or sexually assault women. I’m also not trying to shrug off gender inequality as a nonissue. Have we got all that? Let’s move on.

Here’s what I am saying: What the hell did you expect? Dead or Alive , even as a fighting game series, has always been acutely aware that the sexual appeal of its female fighters is a draw for many gamers. The Xtreme series is pretty much straight-up voyeurism. You’re either into that or you’re not, but last month it wasn’t a big deal. Hell, one of DOA Xtreme 3 ‘s main selling points from the beginning has been the realistic jiggling physics. The voyeurs have been getting off on Kasumi’s breasts for months now, and they’ve even been touching and “groping” them on the PS Vita. We’re drawing the line now because Kasumi has a negative reaction?

Don’t get me wrong, that came off as totally creepy and inappropriate to me, too. Let’s not be hypocritical, though. If we’re going to get pissed about a depiction of a virtual woman’s futile resistance to sexual attention and touching, then why aren’t we getting upset about realistic depictions of futile resistance to violence? Is it because it’s in VR? This is absolutely not a rhetorical question, I’d genuinely like to know. When it comes to me and my conscience, seeing Kasumi back away and then continue to be groped by the player makes me feel uneasy and alarmed. It makes me uncomfortable. But then, maybe that’s why the game never came out in the West.

Is Perverted VR Worse Than Digital Violence?

We’re much more comfortable with violence here. I keep seeing everyone scoff when this argument is brought up, but no one is talking about it. Why is the one seen as much worse than the other? I’m simply playing devil’s advocate because someone has to. “Stylized violence is different,” some say. “Sure, DOOM is ultra violent, but you’re ripping demons in half and punching monsters’ heads off.” The implication being that demons getting ripped apart isn’t something we see in real life, whereas women being sexually abused or raped is a real and pressing issue.

But violence isn’t a real and pressing issue? People don’t get shot in the streets and murdered in their homes? Innocent people aren’t shot and killed in airports? Yet we seem to take games like Hitman and GTA V in our stride. In these games you can fire a weapon and surrounding civilians will scream and run away shouting “Oh God!” and “Please no!” before being shot. It happens in livestreams every day.

Yes, I suspect a woman who’s been sexually assaulted would be outraged if she saw a virtual Kasumi getting touched for entertainment and not liking it, but I’m willing to bet that a public shooting survivor probably wouldn’t enjoy watching someone light up the streets of Los Santos, either. Why the double standard?

Again, this is not a rhetorical question. Let’s see if we can figure out why we’re made so uncomfortable by one, and not the other. Please keep comments civil – there’s enough dumbassery and ignorance in comments sections out there already.

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