Domestic Violence as Entertainment

It’s true.  Duke Nukem Forever will finally hit the shelves of North American stores on June 14, 2011.  This isn’t some sadistic joke either (not that sadistic jokes would be strangers to fans of the testosterone fueled game).  The real question is how well will the seemingly fraternity keg party inspired game play in an age that has become more socially conscious of the exact acts that are the cornerstone of the Duke Nukem Franchise.

            To understand the nature of this much anticipated sequel, you need to know where Duke Nukem started…which was in 1990 on pc running the MS-DOS operating system (Most of the people who will be lining up to buy the game on Tuesday won’t even know what that means).  The Duke Nukem gained steady popularity through the 1990’s with new versions and add-ons for the pc, but finally, in 1997 Duke Nukem 3D was ported as a console game.  With the success of Nuke Dukem 3D, planning and announcements for Duke Nukem Forever ensued.  Apparently, the “Forever” portion of the title was an indication of how long fans of the game would have to wait for it to actually be available.  Although the heart strings of gamers were constantly being played as video trailers and playable demos were released.  Just when the game seemed dead in the water a new announcement would be released that the rights had been picked up by another development company.  Now, 2k games has successfully overcome all the obstacles and the game is being released.

            The Duke Nukem franchise didn’t build it’s reputation with it’s simple yet satisfying game play.  Pull the trigger on big weapons and blow the crap out of aliens – it doesn’t get simpler than that.  The game did what video games are supposed to do, provide an easy escape, and what’s a better way to escape from the pressures of the real world that mass destruction in a digital world?

            Where Duke Nukem created legions of fans willing to follow the game through 14 years of on again off again development was in the humorous irreverence of the main character – a cigar smoking, gun toting misanthrope (who probably wouldn’t have a dictionary around to look up the word “misanthrope”).    However, that type of character played well in the 1980’s and 1990’s when cookie cutter action hero’s were all the rage (can anyone say Arnold Schwarzenegger). 

            We live in a different time.  We live in a time in which the NBA quickly produces public service announcements admonishing the use of homophobic slurs in immediate response to one of it’s biggest stars getting caught yelling such objectionable language at an official.  We live in a time in which the most of our culture no longer turns a blind eye to sexual or physical abuse.  Playground fights, once considered almost a right of passage, are now grounds for lawsuits.

            So, how is Nuke Dukem Forever going to play in this more socially aware culture?  Will public urination and the flinging of human excrement still be funny or just gross?  Will the titillation of female objectification through computer generated images not be plainly creepy at least and mostly offensive to anyone over the age of 13?  After all, in one preview of the game that I recently read, detailed one of the game modes entitled, “Capture the Babe,” in which you capture women and have to carry them on your back.  Once in a while, one of your captured women will begin “freaking out” and you will have to spank her into submission.  Really?  Hmmmm…sounds like hours of harmless fun right there.