Letter From The Editor: The Ick Factor – Hotline Miami 2


Dennis Wedin, one of the minds behind Hotline Miami 2, was recently … interviewed isn’t the right word … interrogated seems too strong … (conversed at?) by a writer/journalist from Rock Paper Shotgun. You can view the article here. Basically, the author in question seems disturbed or upset by the fake ‘almost’ sexual assault scene that takes place during the demo for Hotline Miami 2. Subject matter notwithstanding, this is a terrible interview. The combination of agenda pushing and assertions vaguely dressed as questions makes this article just feel ‘icky’. And what are Rock Paper Shotgun doing about it?

Nothing. Because they don’t have to do anything about it, because it’s their site, and they can do with it what they want. No matter how much I call for this to be changed, no matter how atrociously ‘entitled’ it is, no matter how badly it affected me, they don’t have to do anything about it, much in the same way that the Hotline Miami developers don’t have to change their game in any way. The interviewer thinks otherwise, their first question about reactions to the game ending in ‘what are you doing about it?’

The sheer arrogance of the statement is enough to put my teeth on edge. ‘Did you see the reactions? What are you doing about it?’ Not ‘do you have a response?’ or ‘do you think there was merit in what was said?'; it was ‘what are you doing about it? We’ve been affected by something you’ve done, so now you have to do something about it‘.

Every ‘question’ that follows holds an assertion that Wedin then has to deal with as fact, whether it’s the author saying that one of the ‘issues’ is that the ‘almost’ victim was the only female character in the “whole thing” (that’s not a question, and the only female character in the ‘whole demo’, not whole game) or that the experience necessarily defined the characters and overshadowed any nuance they might have (can you prove any of that? Isn’t it subjective? How can you know that without playing the game?).

Seriously, is this how you conduct an interview? Is this what it takes to be part of this industry now? The same industry that would say we can do better, that we should write less faff, and that it’s entitlement when you tell a dev they have to change their game? Hell, the amount of righteousness from the media that followed the outcry from Mass Effect 3 fans who wanted a better ending was palpable, yet now, when it comes to touchy subjects, subjects that are hard to deal with, it’s a necessity that they be framed in the perfect way, in the perfect light? The demo didn’t immediately make sense or appeal or properly show something happening in the exact way for you to feel comfortable with it? In the words of my boss when I told him I didn’t want to pull the wet ball of human hair out of the industrial vacuum cleaner, ‘Cry me a river’.

Dennaton, just make the game you want

Dennaton, please leave wherever you feel it needs to be, whether it adds to the experience or even if you can’t be arsed taking it out – whatever you do, make it the way you want it, because it’s your game. Having played and loved the original Hotline Miami, knowing that you’ve already proved yourselves capable of mixing hardcore violence, mental illness and drug abuse in a way that actually affected gamers beyond the simply clicking of a mouse, I have trust that you could do the same thing again with the added theme of ‘almost sexual assault’, or even realised sexual assault.

The thing is, readers, sexual assault actually happens. It’s an evil part of existence, and occurs in a lot of the animal kingdom. It is, if you have the mental capacity of a four year old, ‘icky’. But art, or story-telling, or whatever you want to call it, portrays things that happen in real life. Somehow, now that gaming has matured to a point where we can actually include adult themes, and real consequences, real evil and real tragedy, we have baulked at the idea of sexual assault in games. The outcry over Tomb Raider was probably the beginning, despite the fact it ultimately amounted to nothing, and despite the inescapable truth that sexual assault is something that Lara would have probably faced in those scenarios. It is a real problem. It wasn’t condoned, or applauded, it was shown to be what it was – a challenge, a problem, a threat, one that, as far as comments and commentary seem to show, every woman has feared or faced at one point.

The infamous 'rape' scene.

The infamous ‘rape’ scene.

I don’t pretend to know what victims of sexual assault go through, but I have empathy, and human emotions and reactions. Fear, loathing and helplessness ran through me when Lisbeth was unceremoniously raped on a desk in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the brutality and reality of murder portrayed in Snowtown made me realise that few people actually understand what it takes to be a killer, no matter how much they might fantasize about it. Why can’t or shouldn’t we expect games to be able to make us feel similarly, or gamers to react appropriately?

For those who think that there’s an audience for people that want to rape women in games, you can bet your bottom dollar that somewhere in the depths of the internet there’s a title waiting for them to download. At this point it seems common knowledge that you can buy some kind of tentacle-assault monstrosity from Japan. If that upsets you, you’d still need to investigate further to see if this actually translated to changes in thinking and behaviour in the real world – do video games make us violent? Can video games make us feel like sexual assault is ok? Why is it that we will so readily ignore any argument for creative control, ignore that we’ve been arguing against games causing us to act any differently in our lives, arguing that games can be a mature medium, if now it’s decided that sexual assault is Not Ok in games in any way, shape or form?

You know what’s really ‘icky’? When people take a shallow, contrived view on a serious subject. Go to the comments section and let the shitfight commence.

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