You might have stumbled across at this point the mini-controversy (I cringe to even call it that, truth be told) around the Penny Arcade cartoon called The Sixth Slave, which makes reference to rape, as gamers are often wont to do, and Penny Arcade has never put forth an over abundance of effort at remaining politically correct.
The cartoon itself is basically about questing in MMOs where you are required to free a given number of things (be it people, slaves, etc), and how when you are done, there are inevitably those who are left behind that you walk away from. I’ll admit, I’ve had twinges of conscious at these moments, and have even gone above and beyond the quest requirements at times to free more of the digital have-nots, as it were.
But the rub comes with the reference to being, “raped to sleep by the dickwolves.” I’m not sure what a dickwolf is, and I’m pretty sure my life perfectly fine without that knowledge, but apparently the use of the “raped” word rubbed some people the wrong way, resulting in a brief verbal tussle. I know personally that Tycho and Gabe are not the kind of people whom I’d want to get into a verbal tussle with, but nonetheless, a few columnists did.
I won’t rehash the arguments, but suffice to say the feminist columnists railed against the use of rape in any but the most quite and almost revered terms, while PA comes back with the “Offensive jokes are funny till they offend me, then they aren’t anymore.”
This little back and forth, as minor and inconsequential as it was made me think about how I speak in gamer-talk. Even I don’t hesitate or cringe at the use of the word ‘rape’ in gamer-talk but the intent there seems to be somewhat different. If you take away the context of the game, the word takes on a much more somber feeling rather than meaning, “I got my ass-handed to me like it ain’t no thang,” as we typically use raped to mean in gamer-talk.
In the grand scheme, as something of a communications scholar, the use of the word rape doesn’t bother me in the gamer context, because of that context. However, I do occasionally run into trouble when talking about gaming to a non-gamer or being overheard when I use a term like raped and they don’t understand the cultural gamer context of the word.