Jim Sterling created an interesting Jimquisition video called Creative Freedom, Strings Attached. While his points are cogent and indeed should be obvious, he fails to extend this thinking to its logical conclusion
In that video he states that artists should indeed have the creative freedom to express whatever they want, but that freedom does not protect them from criticism. Thus artists needn't wail about their First Amendment rights when and if anger is leveled at a creative work that does not toe the line with internet mores.
Of course, the next stop on this train of thought would be that those very people criticizing the artist themselves don't have the right not to be forcibly rebutted in equal measure by said artist.
Freedom of speech does indeed work both ways, but continuously so: artist initiates, critics critique--but it doesn't stop there. The artist may double back around and address your critiques in any manner which pleases him. And that's fair. That doesn't mean they are claiming the right never to be bothered or questioned about their work. It only means they claim the right to respond, and express how they feel about your opinions. This is called a dialogue. If you claim the right to critique someone's free expression of themselves, well, then you must also accept their rebuttal.
I bring this up in reference to the recent reaction to Cara Ellison's PC Gamer preview of Hotline Miami 2, in which the previewer stopped their mass murder spree to editorialize her feelings on a rape scene that was ultimately revealed as fake even within the fiction of the game narrative, though this fact was not a consolation to the reviewer.
"It has made my safe space – where I am a powerful thug who isn’t accountable to anyone – no longer safe." Cara Ellis. Pictured above: A Sandy Hook Memorial.
I wish to point out that the reviewer did not call for this segment of Hotline Miami 2 to be cut, they merely stopped their preview to focus on how this scene made them feel, which is also what I am doing in response to the videos and articles referenced in this post.
"How can you enjoy yourself in a game if you are the victim of every brutal crime, and not the perpetrator of them? A horrible question – but it’s about freedom, power, and who gets to have those things." Cara Ellison.
Some would argue that an assault that is sexual in nature is worse than murder. Jim Sterling made another video saying exactly this: Rape vs. Murder. Not to be rude, but to be honest about my feelings: I find Sterling's video to be disingenuous; as if he stuck his finger in his mouth, judged which way the wind was blowing and chose a stance.
The video is disingenuous because he contrasts rape against only a specific type of killing in video games, in which the target has a chance to fight back:
"Games feature plenty of instances where you're killing people who are fighting back, rape on the other hand requires a victim. And due to the fact that that crime is a power play, it inherently requires someone who can't fight back." -- Jim Sterling.
This is a cleverly specious analogy. The comparison used here is limited to situations where the people you are killing can indeed fight back. In actuality, this is often not the case in video games (see Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, The Last of Us, etc. etc. etc.) If Mr. Sterling is sincere, then why limit his comparison to this specific type of killing, when it's always the killing of innocents in games that people point to as being the most egregious? And the disempowering notion that women "can't fight back" against rape in the way that your enemies can fight back as you attack them in a game, is simply wrong in and of itself, and is also sending the wrong message.
Women do have the power to fight back. The first step is to ignore people who say that you can not.
"Women are conditioned to believe the strong cultural message that rape resistance is both futile and dangerous."
"Death just stops us from thinking and moving, while sexual abuse can haunt and traumatize." Jim Sterling.
"We all know what murder is, and we're comfortable with that." Jim Sterling.
Trying to decide which is worse, is at base, ludicrous. They are both the highest evil, and trying to minimize the evil of murder in order to justify its preferred treatment in games is insincere or not well thought out. I'm not saying either crime should be removed from any creative work. But how about this: they are both evil, they are both crimes. Period.
Note: All of Jim's quotes come from the Rape vs. Murder video. I am a big fan of Jim Sterling, and will continue to be so. I took him at his word regarding the philosophy espoused in "Creative Freedom, Strings Attached" and this rebuttal took inspiration from that.
Jagger Gravning is a writer living in the Pacific Northwet with his wife. Among other sundry things, he co-hosts the Go For Rainbow Podcast on iTunes. He can be found on Twitter here: @GoForRainbow.