Since their beginning, video games have been a vehicle for presenting players with challenges to overcome: beat this character in a race, or defeat their score, or conquer them in a brawl. As the industry has progressed, the players have also improved, and these challenges have grown as a result. Computer players are now more brutal and intelligent, and the multiplayer options currently available to gamers have made digital showdowns more personal and extreme.
Naturally, this progression has led to players shifting up the dialogue which they use to converse with each other. Within the last decade or so, a new term has come to prominence within the territorial vernacular of video games, as defined by the players and used by the players. It’s a word you’re familiar with, and one that should deeply bother you, especially if you align yourself with Christianity.
To “rape” (or for somebody to be “raped”) in video games is the action of profoundly overwhelming an opponent, often (though not necessarily) in a highly disrespectful manner–“disrespect” being an elastic term that changes depending on the mechanics of the game, but usually involving insulting the opponent’s skill or teasing them with false hope.
Say you have two players engaged in a simple one-vs-one match-up, and they have a few bystanders spectating their match. For sake of convenience, I’m imagining a 2-D arcade fighter, such as Street Fighter. Player A is good at the game, though hardly a veteran. They know the in’s and out’s of the game mechanics and their character, but are far from being a truly formidable opponent. Player B is a few steps up, with a significantly higher level of skill and enjoys flaunting that skill whenever he gets a chance. As the match progresses, Player B gauges that they are far superior to their opponent. Not only has Player B not even been touched by Player A, but Player B has also already taken over half of Player A’s health in several swift, effortless combos. At this point, because Player B likes to toy with his food, he’ll start to make feints at his opponent, just to startle Player A into looking foolish when they try to defend themselves. Player B will hit them and retreat, and comeback just in time to hit them again a moment after Player A tries to retaliate. Player B abandons all strategy and limits himself to using only what everyone understands to be that character’s worst attack for the rest of the match… because he can. When he’s had his fun, Player B drops the shenanigans and ends the round with a precise, dominating stroke, while Player A has only managed to hit Player B once–just enough to make Player B grin.
Over their shoulders a spectator chuckles sardonically, “That was nasty. You just got raped, hardcore. It wasn’t even a contest.”
Obviously, this repaints a word with very powerful connotations to mean something barely similar and highly insensitive in light of its original definition. “Rape” is a word that makes voices hush because the implications of being raped in reality are no laughing matter. Between our horrified imaginations of such an event, and the rough supposition that nearly three-hundred thousand people are sexually assaulted per year, it’s astonishing that video game players saw fit to adopt this word and make it their own.
But while this might not be a part of my common vocabulary (even in my extensive history as a video game player), I am guilty of shedding the word a handful of times, and that is not okay. It is beneath my standards, expectations, and even my tolerances. That is why I’m writing this–because our language is full of better words, and I’d rather not see an industry I love become any more of a pariah to the world at large because we insist on letting this bad trend thrive.
Ephesians 4:29 says this: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Matthew 12:37 reinforces the notion: “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” This is not a gentle matter meant to be treated with gentle disgust. Misusing our words and intellect is threatening to ourselves, ugly toward others, and hurtful toward God.
Fortunately (and this is something I say merely out of observation), the word seems to be dying off slowly since its peak a few years ago. Still, it is far from being dead and buried. Then again, why should we even try to remove it?
Let’s start with why we do say it. Words have the natural tendency to grow stale with time and abundant use, so it makes sense that vocabulary would change. Such is the way of things. On top of that, words like “crushed” or “destroyed” quickly feel lacking and don’t fulfill the sense of absolute obliteration when someone is thoroughly defeated. Those words are common and comfortable, so everybody says them. Because everybody says them, their weight doesn’t carry any impact. People start thinking “destroyed” just isn’t cutting it anymore; there needs to be something stronger, more memorable, more shocking. And so we get “raped,” because nothing is more shocking and memorable than rape. But just because we can say it, does that mean we should? It’s insensitive, to put it mildly. And, honestly, who cares? Who cares if words aren’t up-to-par with just how hard you owned your friend (“owned” being another word that has risen and fallen out of prominence, by the way).
It’s a matter of value. Players are professing their lack of empathy, care, or interest in the hurt and pain of others who have endured an actual sexual assault. This casts an image of barbarity and misplaced priorities. If we value the magnitude of a video game accomplishment over the victims of rape, then a deep reevaluation is in order–a reevaluation of your heart, of your own social awareness, and of your vocabulary.
Reevaluating the heart is a matter to bring up with God and should not be skirted or taken with flimsy conviction. I’m not trying to make anybody “feel bad,” though if I do, I don’t apologize. In the right amounts, that feeling can lead to substantial change and help us reflect on the impact of what we do. I have already unpacked most issues regarding social awareness. Just remember the people who have an aversion to this word: rape. You don’t need to experience rape to loathe it, and, regarding those who have experienced it, we have all the more reason to rein in our tongues so as not to inadvertently slander God through our complete disregard for the suffering of His children.
As for vocabulary, crack open a dictionary. Guys, we have so many words at our disposal, and who cares if their impact isn’t on-par with “rape.” We aren’t competing, we’re replacing. I don’t care if it doesn’t measure up in terms of shock value or viciousness. A common word nowadays is “wreck,” as in “to get wrecked,” like a car. Still a little violent, certainly, but far less likely to offend or trigger somebody’s traumas. Obliterate, decimate, vanquish, upend, massacre, butcher, stomp, thrash–any of these would be better verbal substitutes for when you defeat that boss monster whose been giving you so much trouble. Now, maybe you still aren’t comfortable with some of those words. Admittedly, they are also aggressive, and you should not use them if you think they might be too much.
But as far as I’m concerned, we can deal with that another day. I just want to see this word gone from the voices of video gamers, especially Christian gamers. We are above misusing this word. We are not too numbed by society’s capricious, haphazard indifference. We are a community. We are kindred. And when we throw around this word, we are talking about something that has happened to our friends and other people we see at conventions and elsewhere. Do not treat it with such disregard.
“Rape” isn’t worthy of any of the merit we give it. So throw it away.
God bless, #GetRekt, and always remember to smile.
VERSE OF THE DAY – Joshua 1:9
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
SONG OF THE DAY – “Unbroken” by Disciple