The creators of Mother Russia Bleeds, described as “an ultra violent Beat ‘Em Up game set in an alternate 1980s USSR,” have been called into question by the ever-vigilant haters of hate for their peculiar decision to allow players to harm transgendered characters. As a designated victim group, transgendered characters will always be scrutinized through the lens of social justice goodthink.
Perhaps those Ruskies were not fully aware that social justice has infected all mediums of entertainment—or maybe they simply don’t give a shit—but those who know what we do about social justice warriors could see this coming a mile away.
Hate! Hate! Hate!
Whatever the case, the creators of this “problematic” game were interviewed by those intolerant of intolerance folks at Polygon who are uncomfortable with the fact that transgendered characters can be injured… just like the scores of (normal) white males who have made up the overwhelming majority of cannon fodder for violent video games since Atari days:
As we approached the level’s end, new characters began to appear: heavyset figures with large, exposed breasts, dressed in tiny undergarments and animal masks. When I asked if they were transgender characters, Cassar replied, “That’s why they have tits.”
Uh oh, you’ve gone and done it now! That line about having tits actually makes perfect sense: you think they would actually create numerous (biological) female enemies for the player to slaughter? Now that would be breaking the mold.
The game’s representation on its own feels grossly, unnecessarily exploitative, and this response is disturbingly careless. I asked if there was any concern in including violence against transgender characters, since the transgender community experiences a lot of violence in real life.
No link was provided that could shed some light on the “lot of violence” the transgender community supposedly experiences in real life. That’s just one of those things that people are expected to believe without so much as a hint of curiosity.
But taking them at their word, what does that matter anyway? White men experience a “lot of violence,” yet no one complains when virtually all the bad guys killed by the player are white men. Is she slyly trying to claim that video games contribute to real world violence? Or simply stating that it’s bad taste for any designated victim group to be harmed in any game ever?
Devolver Digital, when contacted by Polygon, echoed this sentiment.
“We allow our developers the creative freedom every artist deserves, and always have”
Good man. Stand firm, as the jury is apparently still out on the merit of creative freedom… the enemies of which would like nothing more than to be able to severely limit it in the name of social justice.
“The game is about violently fighting your way out of a repressive regime. Enemies are of all different genders, including transgendered people, none of whom are targeted — or even called out specifically — because they are of any particular gender. The heroes fight against all oppressors with no recognition or discrimination of gender identity.”
I’m assuming by “all different genders” he probably means normal men and trans men, otherwise the horror of women being harmed would likely be mentioned as well.
Have a look at this trailer and see if you can spot a single women on the receiving end of violence:
The only girl I saw was a playable character who was, of course, delivering an ass kicking to the (entirely male) group of baddies.
We are incessantly lectured about how women suffer all this extreme violence, sexual and otherwise, on a daily basis. So by the same rational, women characters being injured in-game would be just as “problematic” as transgendered characters.
Taken to its logical conclusion, only white male characters being harmed in video games would be acceptable. Along the same lines, transgendered people absolutely cannot be oppressors in any form, only oppressed. We all know who the only suitable oppressors are.
I asked about the choice to include transgender characters in a level they considered bizarre — did they also consider trans characters bizarre?
Gotcha time. If he was being brutally honest the answer would be something like: “Yes, it doesn’t get much more bizarre than people cutting off body parts in an attempt to become a different gender, which is physically impossible.”
His more diplomatic answer:
“I’m not sure, maybe you saw a message by yourself but it’s really not our intention,” he said. “It’s about the scenario, the story. That’s all.”
She reached out to GLAAD, naturally, and got a response:
I think especially in the context of trans characters, there’s a long and sometimes really nasty history with their depiction in video games. We haven’t actually played [Mother Russia Bleeds] so we can’t say for sure, but that type of treatment of a trans character is unfortunately part of a really gross legacy.
That “gross” legacy (really poor choice of words there) is summed up in a link to a GLAAD study that doesn’t mention video games at all. One has to wonder why the linked piece focused on TV shows and not video games when they were pointing out a “sometimes really nasty” (and again) history with their depiction in video games.
I think that any creator who’s trying to go about it responsibly would think about the context as being implied when you do that.
Translation (pun intended): any creator who knows whats good for them damn well better stay on our good side by creating only gay and trans characters that we approve of.
Nick Adams, director of programs for transgender media at GLAAD, pointed to the high rates of violence against transgender women in the U.S. alone.
“When you have an incredibly marginalized community that is already subjected to staggering amounts of violence, along with high rates of poverty and discrimination, to feed into the bigotry and bias that that community already faces by making them easy targets for violence within the context of a game is unacceptable,” Adams said, speaking on the topic of transgender inclusion in games.
No elaboration on how exactly the game is “feeding into bigotry and bias” and “making them easy targets for violence within the context of a game” by simply including a couple of trans characters among the scores of bad guys the player is supposed to fight against.
He sums it up with this final gem:
There’s a big difference between making an infinite number of white non-transgender men characters that you can beat up and making transgender characters that you can beat up. It’s not equivalent.
It’s not equivalent, even when the ratio of non-transgendered men characters “you can beat up” compared to transgendered characters is probably no less than 99:1. In all the violent games I have ever played, its hard to think of many that even allowed bringing harm to anyone other than white men.
Even if white male characters make up a gigantic portion of all characters killed in video games, a single instance of a transgendered character or two being harmed is much more heinous, even unacceptable.
So developers might want to reconsider even including trans characters at all, if it will only get them into trouble in most cases. Seeing as how the transgendered only make up a tiny percentage of the population and probably even less gamers, its just not worth the hassle.
In any case, paying the social justice crowd no mind is always a solid strategy for developers.