Sexual Violence in Games


Please note: As this article deals with issues of sexual abuse and assault, it may be triggering for some readers. Please take care of yourself.

The Silent Hill HD collection was such a disappointment that even the art director for Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 thought it was a mess; he was also an artist for the original Silent Hill, so if anybody knows what the game should look like, it’s him. But it’s not just the graphics that have players up in arms over the game – it’s also the fact that the re-release removed the Pyramid Head rape scene, which was so notorious in the original that it spawned its own meme.

The scene depicts the monster Pyramid Head sexually assaulting two Mannequin monsters. Some users are upset over the removal of the scene, saying, “It’s one of the most iconic moments in horror game history.” In the 10 Most Shocking Video Game Moments of the Decade, Games Radar writes:

“The emotionally-loaded subject of rape has never really been dealt with in games before or since Konami’s survival horror. While we applaud the Silent Hill team’s for being confident enough to broach the subject, it’s not exactly something we’re in a rush to see again. Still, even though it’s a hugely disquieting moment, there’s no question it further adds to Pyramid Head’s mystique as one of the most terrifying video game villains ever.

…it undoubtedly makes him one of the scariest characters ever to grace the medium. We’re used to our foes murdering and maiming, but throwing the sexual element into the equation adds such an uncomfortable rawness that this moment easily out shocks almost every other act of violence from the last decade.”

Despite the removal of the scene, the developers did not remove Abstract Daddy, a monster whose form is described in the Silent Hill wikia as:

“The Abstract Daddy appears as two figures lying on a bed, covered in a “blanket” of putrid skin, with the two forms apparently having intercourse. The two figures seem to be trapped in a rectangular board, with the “male” or upper figure’s arms and legs dangling out the bottom. It moves on all fours, and the lower portion of the beast has the appearance of a bed with four posts.”

Where Pyramid Head is a manifestation of James’ guilt for the death of his wife Mary and his own desire to punish himself, the Abstract Daddy is a manifestation of Angela’s sexual abuse by her father and the guilt surrounding her murder of him. The Silent Hill wikia further describes the monster as,

“[Looking] like a man towering over a child on a bed. It is noted the figure beneath screams in torment, which is likely another representation of Angela’s abuse. Their ‘mouths’ resemble a vaginal orifice, also symbolizing sexual abuse.”

While Silent Hill engages with sexual abuse as something horrific and even demonic, it’s not the case for other games. Custer’s Revenge, released in 1982 and regarded as one of the worst video games of all time, received a significant amount of backlash for its crude portrayal of the rape of a Native American woman. In fact, that’s the point of the game. Wikipedia outlines the plot as:

“…the player controls the character of General George Armstrong Custer, depicted as a man wearing nothing but a cavalry hat, boots, and a bandana, sporting a visible erection. Custer has to overcome arrow attacks to reach the other side of the screen. His goal is to have sex with a naked, large-breasted Native American woman named Revenge.”

The game also underwent a name change when the original development company as bought out, so that it was marketed as Westward Ho.

Japan also notoriously releases erotic games with rape options, with Rape Lay being the most recent controversial title because the entire premise revolves around stalking, raping and kidnapping a mother and her two daughters, tying them up and keeping them in a room as sex slaves. In a review of the game, Something Awful also notes that:

“…every time you ejaculate inside one of the girls there is a chance she will become pregnant. If she does become pregnant you’re supposed to force her to get an abortion, otherwise she gets more and more visibly pregnant each time you have sex. If you allow the child to be born then the woman will throw you in front of a train!”

They also described the defining moment of the game; the most disturbing part was, “the tears that glisten and move in the little girl’s eyes.”

All of these games considered, I have to say that Silent Hill has the best portrayal of sexual assault, if such a thing exists. It shows acts of abuse as being horrific, psychologically scarring, nightmare-inducing, traumatic and harrowing, where games like Custer’s Revenge, Rape Lay and Battle Raper use it for entertainment, as an achievement to be unlocked when you complete the game.

The removal of the Pyramid Head rape scene shouldn’t really change anything, because unlike Abstract Daddy, he doesn’t stand for any sort of sexually traumatic event. He’s a manifestation of murderer’s guilt or lament and subconscious desire for punishment. In a way, the rape could symbolize contempt for women; the contempt James felt towards his wife during her illness, and so if you want to read it like that, then the scene does serve some sort of purpose. What’s unusual is that the scene is already out there. It’s in the original, everybody knows about it and, like I said, Pyramid Head himself is the icon of a cult following. The rape scene created a meme; to remove it is like denying it existed, which in a way is extremely offensive. You can view it two ways: yes, the original was offensive as it was and removing it was a good idea. The focus wasn’t on its impact on the women; the focus was on the monster perpetrating it. The second way is to say that yeah, the original was offensive, but it portrayed rape in the nightmarish environment that every victim might see the act as existing in. It showed how terrifying it is, how monstrous rapists appear. To remove the scene from the HD re-release is like saying that rape is something we should deny, something we should hide under the rug and pretend it doesn’t happen. It removes one of the only truly horrific displays of sexual violence in gaming and leaves us with shit like Custer’s Revenge and Rape Lay.

Women’s and sexual issues in general are ignored in gaming. That’s an outright truth. The true horror of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, harassment for sexuality, assault for sexuality, eating disorders, drug abuse, child abuse–they are all rarely if ever portrayed in a true and honest way. Drug use is glorified in games like Grand Theft Auto, Fallout 3 and BioShock. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but the impact of drug use and alcoholism is never significantly analyzed or explored in gaming.

If video games want to be more than a form of entertainment, if they want to be compared to mediums like film and literature, then these are issues that need to be seriously addressed. If not, the gaming community will be cursed to exist in a hellish Spike TV nightmare, where gamers are seen as immature, insensitive, sex-obsessed men who never aged past middle school and only view the opposite gender as a pair of breasts and a fleshlight.

While we’re on the topic of trying to be decent, sophisticated people, the irreverent use of “faggot,” “rape,” and “nigger” needs to be actively reigned in. Saying that you “raped” the other team, or “raped” a dungeon is not only disgusting, but also horribly crippling for a medium that is trying to get itself taken seriously. Just because you’re online and not going to get your teeth knocked in for saying you raped someone’s mother doesn’t mean you should feel free to say it. Some servers are doing a good job of curtailing these uses by putting up rules regarding racism, sexism and homophobia, and that’s awesome. But they shouldn’t be “special rules.” It should be common sense that you don’t throw around serious issues like violence against “minorities” as an assertion of power or ability. Because that’s ultimately what it is. You’re asserting your dominance over a team or a dungeon by saying that you “raped” it, or asserting that you’re better than someone by calling them a nigger or a faggot, and that’s messed up. It’s not just the industry that needs to mature– it’s the players as well. You’re all creative and colorful people that can string together insults like nobody’s business. I’m sure you can handle dropping a few words from your roster.

I’m not arguing for the abolition of games like Custer’s Revenge or Rape Lay, or Battle Raper or Possession, or Phantasmagoria (which also portrays rape as a demonic act). I’m a big fan of freedom of speech. My point is, there is no alternative portrayal of events like this. Very, very, very few video games will interact with the issue at all, much less in a serious way. I’m advocating for developers to take issues with their deserved seriousness. Not to appeal to radical feminists, or civil rights groups, or the homosexual community, but because we are human beings with a sense of decency. Because video games shouldn’t appeal to lowest common denominator in the way that they do. Because I believe that video games can be art and they can make an impact and they can have a deep, meaningful message.

Your Comments

  • avatar
    serialbear said Apr 3rd 2012 3:50 PM

    Some disagreements as to whether or not the shots of the Pyramid Head rape were taken out on purpose or if it was a glitch. Either way, the main argument remains intact.


Leave a comment

If you're leaving an anonymous comment, be sure to throw all reasoning and rationality out the window. This is the Internet.

Listen homie, it takes about 25 seconds to register, and you can win free crap. Be awesome. Register Now