Part of me hoped that I was able to put beating the living crap out of women behind me, especially as we look to turn the page on this year, but I guess it wasn’t to be. Soon after its sudden appearance and equally abrupt disappearance (due to being blocked for an international audience) the Danish anti-violence gamelet Hit the Bitch was discovered by the mainstream blogettantes and predictable levels of opinionifying ensued. Now, make no mistake, if you’ve read my previous post on the gamelet, you know that I found Hit the Bitch pretty disturbing on many levels and, ultimately, a tragically misguided attempt to mount a provocative intervention in the service of a cause that gets too little attention. You only have to scratch the surface of our society to find some pretty horrific levels of violence against women, and only the fact that most people engineer their lives to skate comfortably across the surface of life and society ensures that this remains invisible.
Therefore, one would hope, as the developers of the gamelet undoubtedly did, that their work would be controversial, that it would provoke discussion. But what has been obvious from the blogosphere’s reaction to Hit the Bitch is how insubstantial and inconsequential has been the nature of that discussion. But that insubstantiality is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, for those of us who study games and gaming this lack of substantive critical appraisal of games (frequently descending to the level of outright idiocy) is nothing new in the mainstream media. The mainstream media is–with only rare exceptions–incapable of discussing anything related to electronic gaming with subtlety, insight and nuance (as is abundantly obvious when the media gears up to wring its hands about gaming violence). Of course, a cynic would say that the same is true of the media’s coverage of anything. However, we are told ad nauseum that the blogosphere is supposedly the new, hip, interactive, penetraing, insightful, engaged, world-saving alternative to the mainstream media. It is, therefore, intriguing to find the blogosphere mired in the same lack of critical nous as the mainstream media when it comes to dealing with game-related controversies. In one sense this is only to be expected. It is hard to sell subtlety and complexity. It is easy to sell controversy and outrage if it’s all presented in an easily digestible package.