Live Free, Play Hard: The Week’s Finest Free Indie Games

By Porpentine on April 21st, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

THIS WEEK: Fridge magnet story engine. 2012 so .exe, 2013 so .ppt. Dinosaur dating sim. “The ONLY LGBT-friendly anglerfish dating sim!”

 

Do Not Touch by Moniker

Do Not Touch is a video game.

It is a game that is a video.

It is powered by time travel.

It is made of hundreds of strangers choices traveling like sperm.

I had another paragraph typed but I deleted it because doing anything but playing this spectacular example of pure play is bullshit.

18 Cadence by Aaron Reed

18 Cadence is a story made of magnets. The setting is a house and the people who live in it over generations. A fireplace can be a magnet, and so can a woman grieving for her son killed in the war.

The magnets can cling together to form complete sentences, and you can click on them to change the phrasing. Smart words. The presentation is tactile, giving you a well-worn worktable and a knife to cut apart bonded magnets.

18 Cadence captures the body of fridge magnets (refining them in a way they could never be physically) but also the soul (leaving stuff for other people to find). I made one of my own. :~)

MY DATING SIM.PPT by DankHerbMullet

This has been an exciting year for Powerpoint. From its burgeoning popularity in the indie scene to Blizzard’s interesting decision to make Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm entirely in Powerpoint, I think we’ll see a decrease in other formats and a rise in this exciting medium.

It’s easy to see why. Powerpoint is robust, professional, and lets you use lots of cool graphics. Many people make deeply personal games in Powerpoint and share them using their computer internets.

Anyways this is a dating sim in Powerpoint.

Jurassic Heart by Hima and Piti

Dinosaurs and humans, the love that dare not speak its name…

All the Pleading Emoticons by Finny

I’m angling in on another thing I like about Finny’s games: the fusion of holy dread with the mundane?

And instead of writing purely from a position of knowing retrospect, it talks about mental illness with full immersion, looking out from that dark place, not inward (which makes the ensuing catharsis all the more powerful).

Benthic Love by Mike Joffe and Sonya Hallet

Benthic Love is about the monstrous sex life of anglerfish but they talk like human beings so it’s like sup, can you be a brainless parasite on my side while I drain your sperm? Thanks.

When I was done playing it, the obvious question ran through my mind: should humans have sex like anglerfish? (probably???)

But after that thought came another (maxing out my daily two thought quota), that this quickly made game about fish sex pulls off a more interesting, varied, ~TENDER~ romance than your average Bioware title. If the DOOMED ROMANCE OF THE ANGLERFISH has you beat, maybe sit down for a while and think about things.

 

ButtonX20 by Ninjadoodle

A button and a laser guarding a key. The button disables the laser. Get the key to open the exit.

ButtonX20 squeezes 20 levels out of this premise and how it does that may surprise you.

No One Has To Die by Stuart Madafiglio

A mysterious corporation’s HQ is burning down and you’re trying to save the people inside from your security room vantage point. Each of them has a secret. Each replay gets you closer to piecing it all together.

No One Has To Die sets itself up like a puzzle game, which threw me at first. I expected it to get harder, make me combine previous skills, but the fiddly bits are really about conveying narrative. Which is cool because I feel there’s this erroneous assumption that once puzzle mechanics are introduced, they have to be challenging, optimized, geared toward victory?

It’s not a bad way to convey people burning to death at a distance. The three squares in front of a man fleeing from fire are not a space to be gamed, there’s no crate I can push to save his life. But it is a space for spatialized despair, that is, a space where he can put his shivering back to the wall as flames lick closer and closer, more meaningful than if you clicked a link saying the same thing.

A SURVIVOR IS #REBORN by micha cárdenas

Mainstream media has this problem where they see something glitter and they grab it in their crow claws and take it to their nest. Maybe it’s your car keys or a pretty ring from a loved one. But the crow doesn’t care about the function or sentimental value of the bauble, they just want something shiny.

Bioshock Infinite had shiny racism. In Tomb Raider’s case, it’s shiny gendered violence where she screams and moans as she’s groped by men or narrow, horney corridors.

If you’re zoomed out far enough to find those things merely thrilling and not, say, serious, horrifying, mobilizing, personal, contextualized, etc–then you aren’t close enough to do the subject justice. An action movie with bad science is funny. Bad handling of violence toward women, not so funny. Micha’s game responds to this commodification of struggle with autobiography, as if to say: this is what violence looks like.

Games are great for talking about violence! The problem is a conversation dominated by voices with no experience with violence saying the same thing over and over again. Sometimes they try to comment on violence and it’s like watching someone cover their mouth with their hand and speak out the other hand in a high pitched voice.

The talkativeness of women has been gauged in comparison not with men but with silence. Women have not been judged on the grounds of whether they talk more than men, but of whether they talk more than silent women.

This suggests to me that making a thoughtful narrative demands actively seeking out intelligent voices, not just looking around the room for 1 second while yelling IS OUR GENDER SHIT GOOD? OK COOL (they probably don’t yell this(even if they did, a game design structure where people can be fired for speaking out probably isn’t helpful))

Spend millions of dollars, sure, and maybe set aside 500 bucks to pay someone to look at your game and ask why a woman needs to prove herself by fending off a sexual assault that would never happen to a male protagonist (It happens to their wives who usually die afterwards. I mean, I want to use my refrigerator for food, y’know? Give me some space in here.)

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124 Comments »

  1. YogSo says:

    I just played Do Not Touch. I don’t know if it’s a proper game, and I don’t care. I simply loved it.

    • JustAPigeon says:

      Same, loved it. It made me grin like an idiot and I don’t really know why.

    • Bhazor says:

      It’s a brilliant concept. Execution could have been better though.

      Heres Hoping the idea will be ripped off mercilessly.

    • The Random One says:

      It certainly is an improper game.

    • Sehnder says:

      This could really use a NSFW flag. I was having a jolly good time until… THAT popped up.

      • Deviija says:

        I really enjoyed Do Not Touch, but it could indeed use a NSFW tag. Nothing against nudity at all, but I was crinkling my nose at the certain bits. I think it’d be more interesting if there was male and female nudity involved, to see how people go against the directions or not on those bits.

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        Gap Gen says:

        A bunch of the pointers cover the nipples, mind.

  2. ass wasp says:

    ‘a transgender incest survivor’s response to the new Tomb Raider’
    nope

    • Quaib says:

      Miss the days when games were just games and not personal journals/diaries, “art”, social commentary and all the rest of that rubbish.

      There’s more than enough of that that we’re force fed every day in the real world, why games as well?

      • Lanfranc says:

        Too bad, because those days aren’t coming back.

        Sry.

      • Jesse L says:

        One thing you may be glad to hear is that there isn’t a limited number of games. So the kind of games you like still exist! And there are also these.

        Also, “force-fed” my ass. You talk like a Republican.

        • Phantoon says:

          You know what goes good with generalizations? More generalizations.

          Be mindful.

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        RedViv says:

        You can’t get a medium/human to evolve if you deny it any chance to grow up and think. Sorry. You’ll be “forced” to think to live, eventually. But rest assured you can always just push it back with some mindless entertainment, for that will always exist.

      • Kitsunin says:

        Because something can exist, without you needing to be offended? I’m sorry, but if someone wants to say something, you can disagree or deal with it, not just say “Oh my god shut up” because that does nothing for anybody.

        • Fred S. says:

          But that something better not to appeal to horny adolescent boys’ fantasies, and it better not reference any other sort of stereotypes unless it’s a stereotype about whites or males because those fuckers deserve it.

          • Kitsunin says:

            Well…we aren’t telling them to shut up, we’re telling them what they’re doing is wrong and why. There is a difference. One shuts down discussion of any sort, the other invites discussion, hopefully ending in the party we disagree with ceasing to do what they do, because they understand, not because they’re intimidated. I’m speaking in a general sense, though.

          • Fred S. says:

            And if they don’t agree, the “discussion” will continue until they do, because you’re right and there’s no way that you could be convinced that you’re not.

          • Kitsunin says:

            The discussion will continue until one side either decides “Fuck it” and leaves, or one side cedes to the other sides point of view, or both sides decide to meet somewhere in the middle.

            I’m always willing to accept another point of view, if I can be convinced. And I try to keep a mind that’s open enough that it only take a good enough argument to change my mind.

            But I get the feeling you’re bothered specifically by RPS’s coverage of gender issues and the like, and here I am just speaking in general.

          • Hungry Like the Wholphin says:

            The word you’re looking for is advocacy, not coverage. Coverage is broad. Advocacy is shrill and narrow minded

          • Focksbot says:

            Here’s how society works, Fred: most people carry convictions as to what is right and what is wrong, and will stand by those convictions, and confront other people with those convictions. If you saw someone strangling a baby, you would try to stop them. You wouldn’t say, “Oh, hey, it’s none of my business. I won’t step into their affairs. Maybe they have a different opinion about strangling babies to me and I shouldn’t force my views on them.”

            And so it is that we go on ‘interfering’ in each other’s lives to try to stand up for what’s right. And when people like you complain that the other side won’t shut up about it, you’re basically just being a damned hypocrite. Because you wouldn’t shut up about it either if you were acting on your convictions.

            Yes, of course, sometimes people’s convictions are wrong and they should step back, and maybe, after some discussion, they should change their minds. Yes, of course, some people are puritanical and pious. But from everything I’ve seen of the feminst/trans/gay/minority activists versus the Comfortable White Hetero Male Fraternity debate, the Comfortable White Hetero Male Fraternity is just pathetically wrong about everything. And as a white male hetero etc myself, I avowedly disown and distance myself from those of us who keep whining about ‘political correctness’ and feminists and everything else forcing themselves on us. It’s just embarrassing.

          • Fred S. says:

            Yes, I’m bothered by the stereotypes that RPS lays on about gender issues. Men aren’t rapists just because they like to look at women in sexy outfits. And I know plenty of women who like the attention they get from wearing sexy outfits. That’s not “the patriarchy trying to put women down” that’s just a biological fact about men and women.

            I’m bothered by the stereotypes the RPS lays on about responsible armed self defense. Because women can defend themselves more effectively with a gun than without one. Yes, it’s true. Now watch as those negative stereotypes roll out in response to that statement.

          • Focksbot says:

            “Men aren’t rapists just because they like to look at women in sexy outfits. And I know plenty of women who like the attention they get from wearing sexy outfits. That’s not “the patriarchy trying to put women down” that’s just a biological fact about men and women.”

            It’s not a biological fact. It’s learned behaviour, which can be challenged and changed.

            It’s very difficult to be patient with people like you, who show nothing close to an intelligent approach to the subject – instead turfing grade A bullshit like your entire last post and demonstrating a complete misunderstanding of the case you have to answer.

            Dude, I am everything you are in terms of gender and sexuality. I dig naked chicks too. So why are you the only one of us who is so upset and frightened by RPS’s coverage of these issues? Why aren’t I enraged at supposedly being accused of being a rapist? Might it be because I’ve thought about this a bit more carefully and fairly than you have?

          • Fred S. says:

            What makes you think I’m frightened or upset about gender issues? I’m bothered by the stereotypes which you are so casually applying to me. “Comfortable White Hetero Male Fraternity” indeed.

            Learned behavior? But I thought that “gender issues” teaches that sexuality is genetic, not learned. Or is it only learned by members of the “Comfortable White Hetero Male Fraternity”?

          • Focksbot says:

            “But I thought that “gender issues” teaches that sexuality is genetic, not learned.”

            What the hell are you talking about? (a) no, and (b) that has no relevance to what I just said. Fancying women doesn’t mean you’re programmed to ogle at them without any kind of self-control. Being born a woman doesn’t mean you’re programmed to dress up in skimpy outfits to impress people. *These* are the learned behaviours that you can *unlearn*, not ‘biological fact’.

            Sexuality certainly isn’t learned, but it’s not ‘gender issues’ that teaches you that. I mean, jeez, where do you get this stuff? Have you actually read anything about this subject?

            “I’m bothered by the stereotypes which you are so casually applying to me. “Comfortable White Hetero Male Fraternity” indeed.”

            That’s a collective descriptor based on your behaviour, not a stereotype, except in the sense that you’ve made yourself a stereotype by behaving like every other moron who tries to have an argument about gender issues without doing the slightest bit of research, thinking or reading around first.

            I ask you again – being that you and me are coming from the same place, why do you think we’ve reached such different conclusions? What do you think my angle on this is, except that I’ve read up on it and realised the feminists are mostly right?

          • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

            “Men aren’t rapists just because they like to look at women in sexy outfits.”

            Fred, here’s a fun game: find one example of where this has actually even been implied.

          • Fred S. says:

            I think the specific phrase was “enabling the rape culture” in reference to the appearance of particular stereotypes of female characters in games.

          • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

            That’s nice. Still waiting on an example, though. Unless you’re saying you’re a culture.

          • Focksbot says:

            “I think the specific phrase was “enabling the rape culture” in reference to the appearance of particular stereotypes of female characters in games.”

            Well, there is a rape culture. Polls show there are still crowds of men who think it’s okay or ‘not rape’ in certain circumstances, and that there are many others who are at ease enough with the concept of rape to find it entertaining when fictionalised, and for whom it doesn’t ride high on the ‘fixing society’ agenda. The ubiquity of highly sexualised stereotypes of women are a factor in this.

            That’s not anything close to saying that all men rape.

          • cptgone says:

            @ Focksbot: “The ubiquity of highly sexualised stereotypes of women are a factor in this.”
            are you saying Madonna is “a factor in enabling the rape culture”?

          • Focksbot says:

            Look up the word ‘ubiquity’, Fred. The ubiquity is the problem, not the existence of one or two disparate examples.

            I don’t really think you’re thick – just that you’re not trying.

          • cptgone says:

            i find Madonna pretty ubiquitous though. and please don’t call me Fred ;)

          • WrenBoy says:

            @Focksbot

            Fancying women doesn’t mean you’re programmed to ogle at them without any kind of self-control.

            I dont see what moral difference exists between men ogling women as learned behaviour or as their default behaviour. In general though, the action requiring self control is the learned one.

          • cptgone says:

            also, countries where a “rape culture” does seem to exist (India), often are too puritan to have such “ubiquity of highly sexualised stereotypes of women”.

          • Focksbot says:

            Sorry for the mistaken identity.

            The ubiquity of sexualised images of women is a factor in rape culture. That doesn’t mean that, absent it, no rape culture could exist. There are different routes to the same result. In our culture, the proliferation of imagery of women as coquettes surely has an impact – the association of styles of dress with wantonness, for example.

            Wrenboy:

            “I dont see what moral difference exists between men ogling women as learned behaviour or as their default behaviour.”

            Maybe there isn’t a ‘moral’ difference, but the idea that it’s biological behaviour was used above as a justification, as in: it’s biological so we cannot be blamed for it.

          • Phantoon says:

            Posting just to say no one will have their mind changed in this sort of dialogue, because it’s really just bickering.

          • WrenBoy says:

            @Focksbot
            Ignoring the fact that, as per my previous post, your choice of words is pretty unfortunate, you are both indulging in the naturalistic fallacy.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalistic_fallacy#Appeal_to_nature

            If someone defends an uncivilised action by claiming the impulse behind it is a naturally occurring aspect of human biology it is usually a better strategy to point out that shitting in public is also a naturally occurring urge.

            This is why I said “no moral difference”. Its a purely moral issue not a behavioural science one.

          • Focksbot says:

            Wrenboy – that’s one way to tackle it, but I think it cedes too readily the idea that ogling is ‘naturalistic’ or biological in origin. Sexual attraction and instinct might be, but the specific phenomenon of men publicly salivating over bits of women’s bodies isn’t something you see a lot in the animal kingdom, and therefore there’s a strong argument for it being learned behaviour – something related to the history of the commodification of women’s bodies, so that we’re, in effect, taught to size them up like goods for sale. It seems to me rather different – albeit not completely disconnected – from the biological instinct to start mounting each other.

          • WrenBoy says:

            @Focksbot
            I dont think it cedes anything actually. Quite the contrary, I think your approach risks ceding a lot.

            Imagine if it were conclusively proven that that this was actually “natural” behaviour and that changing this behaviour requires learning. Would you:

            a) shrug and say – oh ok, ogle away, guys?
            b) say – ignore everything Ive just been confidently stating as fact, Ive just realized there is something called the naturalistic fallacy?
            c) argue that science is part of the patriarchy?

            None of the above are particularly convincing and I would wager that argument c would be tempting for many people who held your position.

      • TheBarringGaffner says:

        Yes, how dare people express themselves in media? That’s not what it’s for.

        • The Random One says:

          I miss the days when books were all about Greek philosophers speaking about the insanely crazy wildlife other shirtless Greeks found when traveling abroad. Those were the days.

        • Canisa says:

          “How dare people who are not straight white men express themselves in media?”

          ftfy

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        Gap Gen says:

        Wait, are the “no wimmins” crowd for or against freedom of speech now? I am confused.

        • Triplanetary says:

          They’re for freedom of speech, but they would greatly prefer that we only say things of direct relevance to straight white men, thankyouverymuch.

  3. Jorum says:

    The superopinionated.com piece misses the point I feel.
    Bioshock isn’t really about Columbia, racism, American exceptionalism, or the mythologising of history. Those are all there as a backdrop but they are kind of camouflage for what the game is really about.

    I agree that the Vox are crudely simplified, and the writing makes them too plot-driven rather than character driven.
    But the Vox revolution has to be violent and corrupted. Otherwise it would be a simple answer to the entire situation. Either side winning the war is going to have involved horror and promise more to come which is the dilemma.

    • ckpk says:

      I definitely agree. I feel one of the main points was that the subjugation was terrible and obviously terrible, but that a violent response leads to the same place and extremism that is just as bad.

      I think maybe it would have been good to show some black/irish/chinese characters as being caught in the crossfire of the Vox, and not agreeing with the fighting. We get to see upper class white characters who aren’t smyphathetic with the Founders or their views, so that theres some distcintion between the extremism and the actual citizens.

      I think showing something similar for Finkton or somewhere during the Vox uprising would make a similar distinction between ‘coloured’ characters and the Vox, so there’s no non-white character = violence that she suggests.

    • JackShandy says:

      It picks on the point: the Founder propaganda depicts the Vox as crazy barbaric caricatures, and when you meet them – well, it turns out that they actually are caricatures.

      Bioshock: Infinite is a caricature, which means that almost everyone in it needs to be a caricature. Political cartoonists make fun of the President, and whoever opposes the President, because they’re there to poke holes in things rather than to propose a valid alternative. That’s Bioshock.

      I think it’s pretty crucial that they aren’t racist caricatures, though, they’re caricatures of revolutionaries. I don’t think there’s any evidence that BI is presenting racist ideas as truth.

    • Canisa says:

      “Bioshock isn’t really about racism. That’s there as a backdrop.”

      Think about that for a bit. Racism, a very serious social illness, that has not yet been cured and continues to kill millions and marginalise billions, is being reduced to a mere backdrop for a story about a trio of white folks. I don’t know about you, but this represents a problem to me.

      “But the Vox revolution has to be violent and corrupted. Otherwise it would be a simple answer to the entire situation.”

      What if there is a simple answer to the entire situation? What if the white people in Columbia are just plain *wrong*, and the Vox are just plain *right*? In aiming to portray the complexity of reality, games often seem to forget that in some cases, reality is actually incredibly straightforward.

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        Gap Gen says:

        Well, places that have had racial or sectarian wars are usually pretty simple. Everyone kills everyone else and it is horrble.

      • Phantoon says:

        To nitpick, racism doesn’t directly kill anyone. It may be the cause, or motive, but being disliked will not end your ultimately short time on Earth. Murder, however, will.

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    GaiusJulius394 says:

    A Survivor is #Reborn is wonderful. Only issue – at one point ‘taut’ is spelled as ‘taught’ :D I must say, I found the Tomb Raider death scenes video more uncomfortable than I was expecting – although that may have been because of the context I was viewing it in…(Disclaimer – haven’t played the game yet)

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      Mr Coot says:

      I found it interesting and thought it was a novel interactive way to convey the experiences of a TS incest survivor and increase awareness. After I’d chosen all the violent and revenge choices I went back and clicked thru the other choices. It left me a bit depressed that all choices coalesced to a single final outcome – though I’m still considering whether this is part of the art of the game and message.

      I guess the final outcome is a message of hope and re-imagining to ‘turn the game into something else’. Re-imagining can only do so much tho’ in the face of objective structural and legislative barriers that many TS ppl face.

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    Hodge says:

    No One Has To Die is great and deserves to be played.

    • Geen says:

      Agreed, just played through the whole thing. It was friggin’ magnificent. Also, the music in the (spoilers!) final timeline is awesome. Devs, take a note: This is how you tell a non-linear story.

      • cowardly says:

        Yes! Despite having read Porpentine’s description of it, I didn’t find the time to play it up till now, and had forgotten a lot of her words ^^ So I was so beautifully surprised by the way the puzzley component complemented and supported the story, and how it used the fact that it was a game to not make you think too much about the fact that you were exploring all the different options. This is not just a shining example of non-linear story-telling, it’s a piece of amazing game design!

    • Fenix says:

      Indeed. It is very similar to a NDS game called 9 hours, 9 persons, 9 doors and I suggest you guys try that out. It is one of the best games I’ve played recently.

  6. Hungry Like the Wholphin says:

    “commodification of struggle with autobiography”? This is a joke right.

    The Lara Croft tried to go to gritty realism. Gritty realism means a woman alone on an island with a bunch of bad men is going to be under threat of sexual assault.

    It’s so awful that a game tried to deal with violence against women without paying the designated activist for her take on how to make the same exact game.

    • Focksbot says:

      “The Lara Croft tried to go to gritty realism.”

      ‘Gritty realism’ is just a style, usually one that’s far from realistic. Nothing about the TR game is particularly close to realistic, so the sexual assault overtones are just cheap sensationalism, designed specifically to appeal to cosseted men who’re afraid to understand or confront anything beneath a completely superficial level.

      • DrGonzo says:

        No, it was done quite well. To suggest you’ve got crazy psychopathic murderers stranded on an island, they then discover and attractive young woman. It would be stupid to not put it in there, and it’s only really hinted at. Even if you fail the quicktime event, there is no raping, you just get killed.

        • Focksbot says:

          “To suggest you’ve got crazy psychopathic murderers stranded on an island, they then discover and attractive young woman.”

          The game is profoundly unrealistic in many, many areas – barrels exploding when wooden arrows hit them, torn ligaments magically mended, multiple drops not breaking any bones etc etc etc.

          The game would lose not one iota of authenticity if the ‘rape’ angle was completely dropped, and if Lara was treated like a man throughout. If they’d not put it in, no one – not you or anyone else – would have said, “Oh, hold on, I can’t accept this – there’s no suggestion of sexual assault. That completely breaks the spell for me.” The decision to even hint at it was therefore purely for shock value. It was not necessary.

          • DrGonzo says:

            I disagree, without addressing it you’re just being sexist by avoiding the obvious.

            And of course it was for shock value, it’s a fucking horror game.

            It doesn’t portray her as weak, or vulnerable, she is the stronger person and overpowers the nasty horny man. Where is the problem with it?

            Edit: Also, I’d actually say it wasn’t for shock, but to get the character into a position where they can justify killing someone.

          • JackShandy says:

            It’s for shock value, and so is showing her be impaled on spikes if you miss a jump. The issue is that people think sexual assault is too serious an issue to just use for shock value. It’s not actually saying anything about rape, right? Thus, it should avoid the topic altogether. Being impaled on spikes is not a serious issue, so it’s fine to use that just for the gritty realism style.

            I probably agree.

          • Focksbot says:

            “I disagree, without addressing it you’re just being sexist by avoiding the obvious.”

            Bullshit. You wouldn’t have noticed if it hadn’t been in there. You can’t deny that.

            “And of course it was for shock value, it’s a fucking horror game.”

            They could have put paedophilia or racism in there – that would have been ‘shocking’ as well, but clearly unnecessary.

            “It doesn’t portray her as weak, or vulnerable, she is the stronger person and overpowers the nasty horny man. Where is the problem with it?”

            They could have justified her killing somebody just by having her life in danger. There was no need for the rape angle – they could have made the entire game around a character who was male OR female, like Sheppard. The problem with it is that you don’t just throw in a serious topic like sexual assault unless you’re prepared to put some fucking thought and research into it, just like you don’t just chuck in child molesting.

          • thegooseking says:

            You wouldn’t have noticed if it hadn’t been in there. You can’t deny that.

            No, you wouldn’t. But why should we assume that that’s not in itself a problem? You’re arguing there that things that aren’t talked about shouldn’t be talked about. You wouldn’t notice it because the norm is to ignore that stuff, and you are actually arguing that ignoring it is a good thing.

          • Focksbot says:

            “You’re arguing there that things that aren’t talked about shouldn’t be talked about.”

            How what when?

            I’m arguing that ‘realism’ is not a good reason to just idly chuck something nasty, complex and difficult into a piece of shallow entertainment if the absence of it wouldn’t be missed by anyone.

            By all means talk about it! Talk about it seriously! That’s not what we’ve got here – we’ve got it brought up in the most glib way imaginable for purely cynical reasons.

          • Bhazor says:

            It’s like the gang rape scene in Twilight Eclipse.
            You need to *earn* the right to include a scene like that. Tacking it into a silly action game cheapens it.

            It would be like a comic book movie opening with a prolonged Auschwitz scene.

            Tomb Raider was a dumb action game that a handful of people are trying to claim is a great piece of feminism. I’m glad there are now people questioning that.

          • Hungry Like the Wholphin says:

            Comic book movie opening with Auschwitz scene? You mean like X-Men?

            And why does Lara have to die anyway? Can’t pink bubbles just come out of her body as her health reboots?

          • limimi says:

            Oh so you want a game to treat a female protagonist the same as a male protagonist? You should rethink that.

            Nevertheless, I have nfi where you guys are getting this ‘rape’ from – there was a scene where sexual assault was touched on – when a guy threatened to kill her and moved his hand suggestively. Did any of you play the game or did you just read the thousand shitty articles about what an outrage it was last year?

        • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

          Yes, we need to demand hyper realistic rape scenarios from our hyper realistic games about collectible minigames and women who’ve never fired guns before suddenly becoming the fucking Terminator.

          “It would be stupid to not put it in there.”

          You just wrote that it would be stupid to not include rape in something. Something that isn’t about rape. You actually just wrote that.

          Oh but wait, there are men in the game. So of course they would want to rape. Because that’s what men do. Except wait I thought that’s what men accused feminism of saying about men. I guess it’s OK if men say it though.

          • Dewal says:

            The game isn’t about rape, it’s about Lara (the main protagonist) going through violent experiences that will make her a really tough girl (to be able to fight bears and dinosaurs without shaking, you need to be tough).
            And it’s a reality that in extremely violent situations (let say : in wars) men get killed and women raped (and then killed), you can’t deny it.
            Now I’m not saying it was a necessity, but it’s a possibility and the authors decided to include it in the game. This game is extremely violent and you can dislike it, but you can’t be surprised to find raping or killing scenes in it.

          • Deviija says:

            @Dewal I am uncertain if you are being completely serious in that reply.

            “it’s about Lara (the main protagonist) going through violent experiences that will make her a really tough girl”

            Violent experiences, danger, but does sexual violence need to be a part of that sensationalism or shock value? And, does sexual assault need to be a motive for a woman to become a ‘really tough girl?’ There is a long-standing cliche in comic, movie, and game media that have women as sexual assault and/or rape victims as a reason for why they become tough, become warriors, to fight back. As if sexual violence is the main reason why women become strong, and become fighters. It’s really limited, imo. Especially when games do not even deal with this subject particularly well or even maturely. It’s not something you get over in a cutscene and never reference or think of or struggle with the lasting traumatic effects.

            Why can a woman not simply *want* to become a hero, or want to be strong, or want to fight for her beliefs? Those type of characters are far more rare. But we see many, many male characters display such motives. A woman needs to be *motivated* (oft in terrible ways, like mentioned in the previous paragraph) and a man is driven of his own will.

            “And it’s a reality that in extremely violent situations (let say : in wars) men get killed and women raped (and then killed), you can’t deny it.”

            Indeed, that cannot be denied. But you do know that rape is not something reserved for only women, particularly in wars, correct? It isn’t uncommon at all for men to be raped, abused, and violated in many ways in such wartimes. Rape isn’t necessarily about sex. In fact, sexuality doesn’t even have to play into the act of rape either. A rapist could consider themselves heterosexual, but still rape another of their same gender. Because it’s often about power and humiliation and control and dominance of another person.

            As such, if it is okay to have women as victims of such violence and to have such themes in extreme violent games, then why isn’t it also okay to have men victimized in such fashions of extreme violence and war and sundry? The problem therein, I feel, fits in with how games are filtered and presented through male audience eyes. Somehow it’s okay for such things to happen to women because ‘that’s just what happens to women,’ but if it were to happen to a male protagonist… somehow that makes it not okay, or that it will impact sales, or people won’t view the heroic male hero as a ‘man’ because of the act? It won’t fit into that heroic male fantasy viewpoint. Yet, when the protagonist is a woman, it’s quite fine. I find it very problematic.

          • Lokik says:

            “but if it were to happen to a male protagonist… somehow that makes it not okay, or that it will impact sales, or people won’t view the heroic male hero as a ‘man’ because of the act?”

            Well, there was that prison scene in Mafia 2 where the protagonist was going to get raped in the shower, escaping the situation by beating up the rapists. In that scene it is made very clear that rape is the intention, unlike in TR, where Lara is under the threat of being murdered. I have no idea if the scene in Mafia 2 ever stirred any controversy though.

          • Dewal says:

            As you say, Deviija, rape isn’t only about sex. It’s about domination and the impossibility for the victim to defend itself, heplessness. So I’m sorry if I don’t understand why everybody here seems to find rape worse than abduction and murder ?
            Being attacked, beaten, tied and threatened is okay, but rape isn’t ?
            And I agree, men can be raped too. But I think it’s a step lower in the scale of depravation (I’m speaking about heterosexual men raping men, not men having sex with each other).
            It’s like the story about the soldiers in the jungle :
            Soldiers lost in the jungle; their only meal is a bowl of soup every day. The first week, when an insect fell into the soup, they threw away the soup. The second week, they throw away the insect and eat the soup. The third week, they eat soup and insect at the same time. The fourth week, they were chasing after the insects.
            Raping women could be compared to eating soup with the insect inside, raping men would be chasing the insects.
            (It’s a parabole, I don’t want to debate how eating insect is just a cultural thing and how raping shouldn’t)

            And to be tough, in my opinion, you need to suffer first. I may be saying something stupid right here, but I can’t imagine someone being tough of nature, without having experienced anything before. Every badass I can think of have a past of violence and fight. It’s not for nothing that the most used stereotype for action movie/game is the one of a “retired cop/spec ops/soldier/spy”.
            So yeah, they made Lara suffer in the game so that she’ll become as tough as she is in the first games and I don’t find this abnormal.

            And yes, the game is extremely violent. Having a debate about violence in games and movies should be interesting for sure. But when you played the game you knew it was going to be violent, you knew people were going to suffer and die. I don’t like how everyone seems to focus on a rape scene, it’s not worse than the rest.

            PS : I stated in another message on this same topic that I don’t think that the “almost-rape” scene is needed. But it’s what could happen to a young and attractive women (which Lara is) when captured by merciless mercenaries, and it’s not improbable at all. The authors chose to implement it and it fits.

    • Tasloi says:

      The game handled it pretty well all things considered. It’s unfortunate certain people continue to believe there’s some universally perfect way to approach this issue. There isn’t. The negative reaction in certain places is not surprising nor is the thought that the assault scene was unnecessary in the first place. I can understand their reasoning but I think its important for writers, designers, etc not to embrace this line of thinking.

      There’s a David Cronenberg quote that comes to mind: “An artist’s responsibility is to be irresponsible. As soon as you start to think about social or political responsibility, you’ve amputated the best limbs you’ve got as an artist. You are plugging into a very restrictive system that is going to push and mold you, and is going to make your art totally useless and ineffective.”

      • tossrStu says:

        I don’t think the initial marketing helped, either. Admittedly I haven’t played it, but from what I’ve heard from the likes of Rab Florence, the game handles things way better than that first trailer would have you believe.

      • tormos says:

        The difference here is that David Cronenberg makes art and, whatever your position is on “Are games art” it’s hard to argue the most recent Tomb Raider is anything but schlocky trash. As others in the comments have said, there are in fact 2 perfect reactions. Either:
        1) give something as traumatizing and potentially life altering as rape the serious consideration that it deserves (which generally involves shooting very few people, so would not be a good fit for this game), instead of treating it as casually as this game does
        2) don’t include rape in your game

        • Dominic White says:

          There seems to be this weird idea going around that the game has some kind of hardcore rape scene.

          One villain gets faintly creepy (I think he strokes her cheek, which is fairly skeezy) for literally the three seconds before he stabs Lara to death, assuming you fail the QTE to take his gun and shoot him in the face.

          That is the full extent of the rape and/or threat of sexual violence in the entire game. How this has been blown up into months of fevered debate is beyond all reason.

          • Tagiri says:

            I’m pretty sure the reason people think that there’s a rape scene is because it was described as such during promotion before the game came out.

          • tormos says:

            there are also constant, unnecessarily rapey overtones throughout the game. look at the first death featured here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=iyVHV7ct4gU and tell me you don’t see the rape parallel. It’s not limited to this death, but it highlights the constant and in your face sexual violence Lara faces in her adventures. Also consider the fact that this is (judging by a cursory search for “Death Scenes” on youtube, the first game since Dead Space 2 whose death scene compilation has gained significant traction on youtube. Draw your own conclusions.

        • Philomelle says:

          The problem with this entire argument is that the game never includes rape or rape attempts at any point.

          1. The game’s designers and writers stated that sexual assault was never even considered as a part of that scene. The only reason rape was brought up was because of one douchebag in the marketing department who had no direct involvement with the game, but decided to run his mouth during the interview.

          2. The game’s actual dialogue involves multiple antagonists commenting on the man Lara kills as someone who loves killing people. Listening to background rambling from them confirms that all of them expected to start strangling people left and right the moment he was left with the helpless survivors. Sex is never brought up in the game’s context. The entire scene is about murder, about a man who wants to murder someone because he enjoys it (knowing Russian language will reveal to you that he assaults Lara because she reminds him of his sister, who he despises) and about a woman who is forced to murder someone in order to live.

          Insisting that anything in the game is about rape only tells me that you never actually played the game, you just love to argue about that scene because you think it makes you look feminist and progressive.

  7. cptgone says:

    that she-Cupid‘s arrow looks pretty dangerous too, though.
    and the fact that (most of the time) “sexual assault [...] would never happen to a male protagonist” isn’t caused by sexism.

    i’ve never played a Tomb Raider game, but “shiny gendered violence where she screams and moans as she’s groped by men” sounds like something that would make people empathise with the protagonist, on an instinctive level – more than they would empathise with a protagonist getting a beating.

    a male protagonist assaulted sexually by another man, would trigger a different mixture of gut reactions and emotions.
    - men are more protective of women. women’s wombs, even more so, i presume – we are animals, after all, ‘designed’ to further our genes.
    - our feelings regarding (esp. male) homosexuality are often clouded by culture, ignorance and prejudice.
    - male machismo will cloud some people’s feelings, too.
    - male homosexual assault is rare in comparison. not something our instincts care about, either.

  8. Focksbot says:

    My problem with ‘A SURVIVOR IS #REBORN’ is simply that I don’t feel it does the job it aims to do. By which I mean that although I know it’s written by a survivor of rape, it feels like something that could easily have been faked. It’s missing, to my mind, the subtlety and details, the unexpected angle, that is redolent of an authentic experience.

    This isn’t because I doubt the authenticity of the author’s experience, but because extreme experiences are very difficult to render in writing without recourse to the language of shock fiction. I’ve become inured to it. I played through it for about five minutes without really feeling anything other than Guardian-reader discomfort and empathy, when writing like this needs to reach beyond that to something more raw and powerful, something that shakes the reader down.

    As a tentative experiment, I see the point, but I think we have a way to go before – and this is what I’d like to see – a game informed by real survivor experiences becomes a break-out hit that changes our way of thinking.

    • musurca says:

      I don’t quite agree. It doesn’t have to be an extreme experience — I thought micha’s piece was very effective in evoking the sickly tension of everyday experiences that become threatening in the aftermath of trauma (the bit about the man on the stoop for instance). If you’re feeling the Guardian-readership distance, it may have to do with those passages attacking “the capitalism that commodifies my suffering” — which is not to say that it’s necessarily wrong, but just not a very persuasive argument outside of the academy.

      Anyway I’m not sure how well it works as a critique of Tomb Raider, which after all is a very specific story about a different kind of violence. And why bother wasting time criticizing mass-market, producer-driven nonsense? You are right: we need popular alternatives — games that make you go through the humiliating, infuriating experience of having an instructor call you by the wrong pronoun in an accessible way.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      I’m unsure if it’s supposed to be anything other than a personal piece. If you can empathise with the person in it to some extent, then it’s succeeded. And if you can’t, then maybe someone else did.

    • Triplanetary says:

      Well, I think think the main accomplishment of A Survivor is #Reborn was to remind us of the fact that the violence generally portrayed in video games is of an altogether different character than the violence that most people who live with violence in their lives face. Soldiers, space marines, hitmen and whatnot sign up for their jobs knowing there will be violence. Even Lara in the new TR game, though she doesn’t expect anything like the situation she ends up in, is on An Adventure. Narratively we expect An Adventure to involve some risk and even overt violence. She signed up for this adventure.

      Most people who face violence in real life don’t get a chance to opt in or out. They didn’t sign up to be who they are knowing it would heighten their risk of violence. The omnipresence of violence in some people’s lives is the fact that we as a society need to finally acknowledge and address, not so much the squishy, bone-crunching act of it. Even Tomb Raider can reasonably effectively convey what it looks and sounds like to get impaled by a spike. This is not something that’s missing from our cultural awareness. So that’s not something I was looking for in #Reborn.

      Concerns of authenticity are largely academic. Yes, I think it matters, but it’s not readily provable one way or the other so I tend to take the author’s word for it unless I have some obvious reason not to.

      • davorschwarz says:

        beautifully put my friend,

        the problem actually the many problems with TR or FC3 the LINE etc is that they are BLOODY GAMES – game by definition is ???

        A form of play or sport, esp. a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck
        An activity providing entertainment or amusement a pastime, diversion
        a contest with rules the result being determined by skill strength or chance
        etc.

        So even before we click on the TR.exe we know why we are doing this. im clicking on it with expectation of spending my free time playing a GAME, iv seen a trailer, i know there is going to be some action exploration shooting killing ill die ill hit reload.

        Its same with the line and the FC3, bioshock etc.

        The medium we are taking about here is INTERACTIVE GAMING not BOOK and not FILM although whoever made TR must have thought they are making a film with all those stupid button pressing scenes including the “rape” scene.

        All i could think about during that “rape” scene is this “please let me fkn hit the right button combo at right time so i can go back to collecting arrows, climbing walls, running through the jungle breaking boxes and lighting shit on fire.

        Do you get what im saying here. GAME is a wrong medium to try and describe a power and aftermath of heavy dramatic emotions and cast moral statements. Make a movie write a book become digital artist and exhibit your interactive pieces in a gallery where art critics and sociology students live.

        You can’t expect us to absorb and mentally act upon “rape” scene and 3 sec later request that we keep breaking boxes to ugrade our powers, and doing same old gamey thing when in reality next 6 years Lara would be popping zoloft and spending days wit her therapist.

  9. Fred S. says:

    Foxbot, you don’t know anything about my behavior.

    Not. One. Thing.

    You only know that I called you out on the stereotypes you apply to males who disagree with radical feminism. And here you are rolling into your “Comfortable White Hetero Male Fraternity”. And no, I don’t owe you or your “arguments” any response. I’m not going to defend *YOUR* stereotypes.

    • Bhazor says:

      He says after replying six times.

    • Focksbot says:

      You haven’t called me out on anything, mate, because I haven’t used any stereotypes. I just used a purely descriptive collective name for the group of keyboard warriors who spend their time raging against feminism and gender issues coverage.

  10. dE says:

    As someone that is fascinated by mass behavior… Do Not Touch is pure magic.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      It is. It’s fascinating to see how the cursors react to the instructions and (more importantly) each other.

  11. TychoCelchuuu says:

    Do Not Touch won’t load for me. I will keep trying :(

  12. 8bitbeard says:

    I played “Do Not Touch”. I did not expect nudity. Now my four year old is running around the house saying “Naked girl!” and my wife is looking at me sternly.

    • Bhazor says:

      Yeah… that was weird. Not sure where they were going with that.
      I did like that the cursors gave her a bra though.

      • Triplanetary says:

        I didn’t. That said, I’d have made it a penis just to avoid any implication that I was trying to cater to adolescent males, although in that situation I daresay even more people would have tried to cover it up. Which is a shame. Penises can be aesthetically pleasing.

    • cptgone says:

      lol!
      thanks to your reply, i gave it a whirl, and i wasn’t disappointed :)

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        There are… easier way to find pictures of boobs online, if that is your primary objective.

        • cptgone says:

          lol, i meant i wasn’t disappointed by the game. 8bitbeard ‘s funny comment tickled my curiosity for a game i already was interested in.

  13. Dewal says:

    I’m usually the first to complain about games that heavily try to appeal to their male audience by adding obvious female sexual stereotypes and I approve most of RPS articles treating this issue.

    But I’ve been kind of “shocked” by this sentence :
    “Bioshock Infinite had shiny racism. In Tomb Raider’s case, it’s shiny gendered violence where she screams and moans as she’s groped by men or narrow, horney corridors.”

    About the BInfitine part, the commenters Jorum, ckpk and Jackshandy had an interesting conversation on this topic and I completely agree with them. I could just add that the writter of the article on superopinionated.com completely missed the point of the game, as he concluded with “Why do the twins care so much about saving Manhattan?”. Trying to understand a game should be primordial before talking about it.

    About TR, now. In your sentence, you say that Lara moans, exhales and screams as if the game is purposely sexualised. Well I think that on this precise point, you are the one being sexist.
    Lara goes through stuff comparable to what happen to McLane (Die Hard) or even the main character of Spec Ops : The line. They fall, they get hit and hurt, and they exhale, moan and scream the exact same way Lara does. Except that there’s nobody to say that it’s sexualised.
    I’m sorry but at some point we’ll have to make a choice. If we want more female protagonists, then we’ll have to accept that when they scream in pain, moan and suffer it may sometines sound alike they’re having sex, but that’s how the human voice works and it’s the same for both sexes.

    And I saw that some commenters were adressing the problem of Lara being sexually attacked. I agree that the game could easily have done without it, but it doesn’t mean it was utterly out of place/context. Killing the male and raping the female is not new, and denying it won’t change anything. Rape and murder are violence, and it’s another debate that the one of gratuitous violence in games. TR is a violent game, and it’s not surprising to be confronted to violent scenes.

    • Bhazor says:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qfDiULrnjI&list=UL
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFRSruZyWGc&list=UL

      McClane: Yagghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! [sweary one liner]
      Lara: Myeh, myeh, oh ohhhhhh! [sobbing]

      The top comment on the Lara video is also telling

      “So, they capture Lara Croft in a bear snare, have her completely defenseless, and decide to slit her throat? Yeah, I could think of 50 other way more fun, nonviolent things I’d do with a woman like that. I mean, killing her? What are they trying to do, keep it an all men island? I think those guys have been in isolation with each other for too long.”

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      So I was interested in B:I when Elizabeth, who had spent her entire life in a tower on her own, expressed shock at the segregated bathrooms for different races, but apparently understood that bathrooms should be separated by gender.

      • Triplanetary says:

        Ha, yeah, it’s interesting the assumptions that remain invisible to people even as they’re trying to pick apart other assumptions. Of course, “racism is bad” isn’t the boldest statement a video game has ever made.

    • davorschwarz says:

      she screams and moans as she’s groped by men or narrow, horney corridors.”

      OMG – i am sick and tired of discrimination. Why everything has to be viewed from a Heterosexual male point of view. Why can’t we see Lara moaning while squeezing through narrow, wet, passages for what it really is – a pure expression of love between two women.

      • cjlr says:

        A pathetic creature of mean and bone, panting and sweating as you run through my corridors…

  14. Inzimus says:

    art that is meant to provoke thoughts/emotions/perspective in a certain group of people won’t do shit, unless said group actually acknowledges its existence and experience said piece of art
    if only those who already know the deeper meaning of an art-piece are the only ones experiencing and thus interpreting it, what purpose does it serve, beyond preaching to the quire?

  15. davorschwarz says:

    what a bunch of delusional hypocritical crock of shit that was – and none of you highly evolved male specimens here ever looked at pictures of sexually objectified women on porn sites and magazines none of you open your girlfriends or wife’s magazine or sit through shity rom com with fore-mentioned members of opposite sex thinking – shes fine id like to show here mine.

    Stupid wankers – next you are going to tell me you have stopped wanking after your pubbity infused hormonal imbalance has worned off – or you might admit that occasionally you would do such impure thing with your dick but you would not use such visual stimulant like sexy lady.

    instead being the new evolved male who eats only quinoa seeds due to his guilt towards killing animals – rides only bike and never drives a car due to his respect to nature – wears only a fig leaf as he could not stand dressing up in knowing how many children in india are robbed of their youth making shoes and shirts for dirty capitalistic chauvinistic men – instead you have evolved and now when you wank as to not offend any women you only think of your mum?

  16. davorschwarz says:

    Bioshock4 – coming in 2014.

    Become a member of your local Gallery for your chance to be the first to play the game and review the moral and political influences the next gaming masterpiece will reign upon the masses.

  17. davorschwarz says:

    TR2 – coming in 2014 – release date announced: 08.March

    Celebrate with women of the world on their special day 08 March 2014 i an epic adventure which will see you combat nature, have interracial sex, give birth and defeat the “boss” characters.

    Relive the story of survival written by 3 time breast cancer survivor (yes all of her 3 breasts have been removed). While on the World-vision mission in Africa Lara and her albino-african-american child have to fight for survival defeating wild animals, militia, tribes in war, the brutal character from FC2 etc

    Play either as Lara caring for a teenage albino-african-american daughter or play as the daughter and for the 1st time experience what its like to be isolated with a menopausal, rape-victim, tripple brest cancer survivior.

    Preorder now for day one access to the “wheelchair bound” DLC.

  18. davorschwarz says:

    FC4 “Far is near”- coming in 2014

    Play as a man fighting his violent urges and violent nightmares. Jason Broody is back on an tropical island. 10 years older on vacation with his wife and child when she decides to file for a divorce and reveal the truth about his child. *** spoiler alert *** The child s not his.

    How would you react?

    In an open world realized to the smallest detail where every action can change the story will you release your violent demons?

    Will you fight the lawyers and manage to loose less than 70% of your possessions, Will you find and collect enough loot to pay your alimony.

    Get ready to Cry in “Far is Near” adventure of your life.

  19. Comradebluesky says:

    Man, I love Porpentine’s way with words re: gender and race in videogames. Keep on rockin’, Porp! You’re witty and you make me think. (Apologies for not adding to the conversation in any more significant way than that – I just wanted to drop in and compliment.)

    • Comradebluesky says:

      Also, look: I started that post with a gendered noun that has essentially become grammaticalized in modern American English. Oh, the irony.

  20. NothingFunny says:

    The weeks’s Free Indie NON-Games
    *clap-clap-clap*

  21. Gearjerk says:

    Did anyone else just read through the years in 18 Cadence? I enjoyed it more than fiddling with the magnets. Some of the residents that stayed longer I got rather attached to and I found it an enjoyable read, if long. Taking my time, it took me around 3 hours to get from 1901 to 2000

  22. Premium User Badge

    Mr Coot says:

    I played Benthic Love. Woe! Too naive to hook up with the male Angler fish and too desperate for the female one. My reproductive fitness is exactly 0. And I starved to death.