Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Controversy and gaming can almost be synonymous. Reasons why or subject matters will offend differ between parties. However, most of this thought bubble was actually inspired by an anime series I started watching and feel confused about my feelings towards it. I feel like I have accepted the 'offense' no longer or never really offended me.

Rooms with Elephants
The series that sparked these thought bubbles is called "Hetalia: Axis Powers" which is an anime series where the episodes are 5 minutes of loose history about the relations of countries during WW2 and other points in history. All countries are 'personified' as characters with certain stereotypical traits.
While the stereotypes are funny generalizations, they are generalizations made by a Japanese perspective. I've only gotten through season 2 but I keep waiting for that 'elephant in the room' to be acknowledged. The Axis powers did some pretty terrible things. Also America did something terrible to Japan. But because the show is a comedy they have continued to skirt the incident. But it looms. The fact they are poking fun at the Great Wars means something about this up and coming generation. And perhaps about the audience that enjoys the series.

I'm actually slightly ashamed that I find aspects of the series hilarious. It reminds me of stand up comedy, which can be very irreverent and that's why it's funny.

Outside of comedy, irreverent generalizations or stereotypes are not acceptable to general audiences. With the reveal of the Duke Nukem: Forever 'Capture the Babe' mini-game, had an irreverent stereotype and behavior towards women. Fans of gaming and the series, have already accepted Duke's irreverence as part of his character traits. They see it as comedy. Outside that circle, the laughs fall short. That comedy is not for them and instead it comes off as insulting, degrading and offensive.
This is the same in stand-up comedy. Personally, I can laugh at jokes and skits that poke fun at my own faith Catholicism. However, the line gets crossed when they go for the molesting priest joke. Then they stop being funny to me. And everyone has a different line. Sometimes people can be convinced to 'move this line'.

Drawing the Line
Every person has a line that when crossed upsets them. However a person can change the line and move it. What it takes is treating the subject and the audience with respect. It's important that the potential audience not feel belittled or "abused" if they don't quite like the joke or situation. If set up right, they will give it a chance and possibly change their mind.
For example, I finally did a play through of Dragon Age: Origins with a romance option. This is something that when I first played the game I had no intention of doing. But since that time, I had played other mature titled games with sex scenes (RDR caught me off guard!) and well, I told myself that I'd played Sims2 often enough that I shouldn't be surprised. And I was no longer working in an environment where sex was talked about irreverently all the time.
And when Dragon Age 2 came along, I knew right away I would have to do the romance options at some point. And I'm glad I did because I was surprised that most of the romance scenes I had seen were kind of PG and done in a way I LIKE romance scenes...and how I've written them.

So that said, I have become more lenient to sex in games since they are not really pornographic. Not worse than I've seen (or covered my eyes at) in theaters.

Basically, it really takes a mature person to ease someone's mind about an irreverent topic or addressing social taboos. There are things that I feel everyone should hold sacred and not make fun of...such as victims of domestic violence, abuse, or sexual exploitation of children. The worst move would be to accuse the offended party as over-sensitive (even if they are) or belittle them. As a creator, you have to gain the audience's trust. Once you have it, it's maintenance but losing it will cause major damage.

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