Perhaps more than any segment of the technology industry, gamer culture has had its fair share of sexism problems, so it's not that surprising that a Microsoft presenter slipped an apparent rape reference into a Monday presentation at Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, the biggest video-game conference of the year. During a demo of Killer Instinct to drum up excitement for its new Xbox One, Microsoft brought out a man and a woman to battle it out on the big screen onstage in Los Angeles. In this scripted event the man, of course, kicks the woman's ass at the fighting game. "I can't even block correctly and you're too fast," she says, playing a video game like a girl. But even more problematic than those stereotypical gender roles was the part when her adversary said this: "Just let it happen. It will be over soon." You know, like a rape:
The audience chuckled. "Wow, you like those,"* the man continues, as he beats the virtual woman. And the woman, much like someone being sexually assaulted, replies: "No, I don't like this."
There has been much Internet discussion over whether rape jokes can ever be funny — that is, when coming from professional funny people, not gaming nerds on stage representing one of the biggest gaming influencers and tech companies in the world. Considering the professional setting of this particular "joke," in an industry not exactly known for welcoming women, we'd say this falls under the "not funny" category. Sadly, this marginalization of women isn't unusual for E3 either. So much so that the Devin Faraci, who first spotted the incident over at Badass Digest, added some big-picture context: "what makes this a big deal isn't the fact that it happened," he wrote suggesting this kind of thing is par for the course. Rather, Faraci continued, "it's indicative of a larger cancer eating away at the gaming community (and, to be fair, many other geek communities, but it seems most horrible in gaming). This, basically, is what institutionalized misogyny looks like."
Xbox One, in case you were wondering, goes on sale in November for $499. You can pre-order it now.
Update, June 11: Microsoft has provided the following statement, clarifying that the banter was not scripted. "Yesterday, during the Xbox E3 briefing, one of our employees made an off the cuff and inappropriate comment while demoing ‘Killer Instinct’ with another employee. This comment was offensive and we apologize," Phil Spencer, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Studios told The Atlantic Wire. The woman at the center of the controversy has also defended the situation — here's more on that.
*This post originally quoted the gamer saying "wow you like this."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.