Thursday, February 19, 2015

Law & Order: Humiliation Game

Oh.. looks like the revolution was televised.. What's a camper?

Crime procedurals are not a favored genre of mine. I have not regularly watched one, save Elementary (because the funny cranky British man!), since my ex-wife would have them practically on non-stop repeat. Law & Order, NCIS, CSI, Homicide, you name it, she watched it. So some of it soaked in, through a form of virtual osmosis if you will, to the point that I know that Ice T is still not a good actor, that CSI is completely bonkers, and that Law & Order is not Law & Order without Jack McCoy and Lennie Brisco.

“Intimidation Game” is the 342nd episode of the 407th season of Law & Order: SVU, a show that people watch because it tickles their scandal bone, showing them things that they shouldn't find titillating as a good, decent person, yet they do. Sex crimes. You'd think of all the things that people would protest as demeaning, victimizing, and objectifying to women, Law & Order: Sport Utility Vehicle would be at the top of the list.

“These guys.. they just.. can't stand Women in Gaming

Rather than a blow-by-blow of the episode, there's a few things I want to focus on. Firstly, the reaction that the games press has had to this has been nothing short of hilarious. The tl;dr of the story is that there's a game developer, Rayna Punjabi, making a sort of strategy/MMO. She's totally focused on the game, to the point of downplaying the threats, avoiding gender politics discussions, and refusing police protection. Her launch is interfered with, she's kidnapped, raped, and in the end leaves the industry in tears. Games media reaction to this has been split. Some sites are doubling down, saying that these are events that have actually happened (they didn't). Some, maybe recognizing the irony, are bewildered as to how the public at large could have gotten that impression of gaming. Self-awareness levels at an all-time low, the gaming press has been writing this script for the last six months. When Law & Order says “ripped from the headlines,” it's the gaming press's headlines they've been ripping this story from.

“I read on Kotaku that it's better than Civ 5 with the Brave New World expansion pack.”

The thing is, I actually really like Rayna Punjabi. She's allegedly supposed to be a mix of famous names on the anti-GamerGate side, specifically Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, and Anita Sarkeesian, being a female games developer, a “face of women in gaming,” and fond of large hoop earrings. The actress even nails line delivery and hand gestures from a certain XOXO festival speech. But despite all that, I don't see it. In fact, I see the opposite. She strikes me more as a Kim Swift or Jade Raymond.

“There's always a few haters in the mix.”
“I block [the haters out] and focus on the game.”
“You're roping me into a feminist debate, I'm here to discuss my game.”
“You have officially warned me. I accept full liability.”

This is a woman who's totally focused on her game. And that game actually looks pretty good. It's not a glorified power-point presentation or eye-destroying iOS game. It looks like a proper grand strategy world-building title on the level of something Peter Molyneux would promise us but never deliver. Rayna's not interested in gender politics or 'social justice,' despite at one point being called a 'social justice warrior' by the anonymous internet gamers (dressed in masks and standing in front of a flag – Gamers are Literally ISIS, anyone?), and the anonymous internet gamers cry of "NO SOCIAL JUSTICE IN GAMING" is completely out of place here, as there is literally no one pushing any ideology in this episode save the writing staff. Which makes the ending even more insulting, not only to gamers, but to women in the gaming industry who are more focused on making an artistic product instead of stirring up drama and getting their own names out there at any cost. Women like Amy Henning, Jennifer Dawe, or Roberta Williams.

“No reset button in the real world."

I can only imagine the lens of critical theory applied to this episode. Not one but two Damsels in Distress. Rape used by a character to punish another character. Not to mention the name Rayna Punjabi itself, being used for a character of middle-Eastern descent. Sort of like having a British character named Johnny English. Completely divorced from real-world context, giving the Feminist Frequency treatment here would be brutal. 

In the end, though, this episode is so over the top, so completely ridiculous that I don't see this harming gamers, at least not any more than the gaming press has done in the eyes of the public. But the dialogue, the moral of the story... I think what we're looking at here is the Reefer Madness of gaming. A story written by people so hopelessly out of touch with the subject matter with the sole intention of fear-mongering that it falls flat on its face, and only serves to (hopefully) make the people writing the headlines it was ripped from stop and reflect on their own positions. Still, it doesn't hurt to remember that despite how insane Reefer Madness was, marijuana is *still* not legal in most places.

So I suppose I'll leave you with a slightly relevant, friendly message of tolerance and acceptance from one of the stars of the show, Ice T, in which no white women are mercilessly gunned down with minimal to no provocation. I certainly hope that fans of this can tell the difference between a game and the real world.

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