Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How to Make Duke Nukem relevant to the Human Condition

There is an Alien Life Form inside Me

I like to think of myself has having a basic grasp on human emotion and empathy. Part of what I love and keeps me going back to books and videogames is the major empathy trips that come with completely seeing the world, or a world, through another person's eyes. Books and to a greater extent videogames not only entertain us but teach us about ourselves. Despite events taking place through the eyes of Gordon Freeman, Link, or John/Jane Shepherd, very rarely will events be recalled other then: "I defeated Gannon and saved Highrule," "I defeated the combine and freed mankind from the alien dominion," "I found the reaper conspiracy and saved the galaxy." Interactivity makes videogames profoundly more about discovering things about ourselves. As opposed to books where we can feel the emotional tension along with the characters but rarely do we personalize them because the actions in books are not our actions. Nothing confused me more than the radical switch in tone that I was subjected to in Duke Nukem forever, despite the fact that I was expecting it.

There are two bimbos on the cover and advertising for DNF (you are supposed to yell all caps letters ALWAYS IN YOUR HEAD) I'm sure they're smart girls they were just in a bobbly mood WHEN THE ALIENS INVADED. But I still formed a certain kind of like for them. It seems they are doing community service or volunteer work humoring a brain damaged war vet. Before playing the game I was reading a review of DNF and in it explained that these two selfless girls die in the game to no concern of Duke at all! Though to the credit of Dukey, the article claimed that not only are the two woman kidnapped, imprisoned, and are infested with alien larva, but on top of all that actually frightening stuff that they blocked a doorway and the only way for you to proceed is to shoot them. Which, on a purely will of the player/will of the character/story expressed in gameplay reasoning REALLY PISSED ME OFF. I don't want to shoot woman that for all intenseive purposes have been raped. This made me so angry that I did not honor my preorder and did not buy the game.

To the games credit, and my disappointment in the article I read, Duke cannot shoot the girls. It is actually impossible to shoot them, instead you have to wait listening to their unanswered questions to reach the point where there words are stifled in their throats and the diminutive aliens attack you from their minced corpses. Alternatively, you can dick around the room because you found a trampoline and not notice the doorway twins popped. How’s that for will of the player shining through? The best things to come out of the whole experience, that is to say better then whatever DNF set out to do, my thoughts where dawn to a deeper understanding of aliens as a metaphor and rape.

Conceptually, I think that aliens are a very adept metaphor for rape. Rhetorical question, what accounts from real people usually say? They are in a familiar but secluded place. Strange lights appear in the sky, but what threat could lights in the sky be? Then lights surround the abductee. Then float. Gravity our constant anchor is gone leaving them powerless. The person is stunned and confused. They find themselves naked and vulnerable as if powerless was not enough. And all they can do is watch as they are embarrassed, used, and probed.

The aliens come to earth unopposed. Humanity doubts their threat. Then they make their attack and all resistance is quelled almost immediately. Any able bodied males where killed with little effort. Women are teleported away in literal blinks of light. The woman are stripped and restrained in an unfamiliar place they are powerless to stop the aliens from defiling their bodies with alien life forms.

This is the point where the game drops the ball where I am concerned. All the women, that the aliens take, die. Duke Nukem saves no one. Think of how powerful a motivator it would be if one of the twins survives, with the loss of a leg or the use of her legs, the loss of her career being a singer/dancer, loss of a chance of desire and ability for physical intimacy and the loss of her twin sister. The emotional force of a character like that would be incredible. Not only for Dukes motivation for revenge but coupled with hope. I would argue that DNF does not have a story because there is no character growth. Every character is unrepentantly stuck in their single trait. Being stuck in one trait means no change. NO change means; no growth.

As much I hate rape I see no reason why it cannot be a serious theme in a game. There are rape simulators, why not being raped? It is foreign? It won’t happen to anyone you know or meet? How about because it wouldn't be fun? Honestly at this point of reading you have metal and I should cut you more credit. The purpose of such a game would be empathy. Rape is serious and horrible. It is terrible and not a fantasy or a joke.

Bringing it back to Duke Nukem. Imagine how powerfully a sequel would be devoid of duke Nukem. Instead we are put in the perspective of a woman whom was taken by the aliens in the previous invasion. As a cruel twist the aliens’ insemination not only strains the host near death but also triggers a huge influx of hormones to feed the parasites. Hormones trigger complete consciousness of the host, adrenaline keeping their minds racing that they dwell on every detail and remember it. She survives only by mutilating herself to purge the glowing parasites from her body. Years later, when the aliens return, she has renewed pain in her scars and continues to deal with postpartum depression. She arms herself as she feels completely alone. Men and the army failed to protect her the first time. She must fight her ghosts, flashbacks, physical pain, and selfishness to help others and find hope for the future.

Duke Nukem was a huge disappointment for everyone. It was not 12 years of game. It was fun at times but over all distasteful and stupid. If we are going to make brash games lets make games that make learn about ourselves under the worst situations and give us hope in our everyday problems. If Duke cannot change let's have the emotion for the story be carried by a companion. If there is going to be terrible subject matter of force impregnation and hopelessness, let us not skirt over it. Let us let duke shut is mouth and let the player reactions do the talking. If we are stuck viewing the world through our own eyes, lets find a way learn to empathize through the mediums given us. Lets skip the rape and abortion jokes and make us feel the repercussions and tragedies of those actions.

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