Freedom and Virtual Rape in DayZ

by Jed Pressgrove

I once had no interest in DayZ. The zombie apocalypse is one of the most overplayed ideas of our time, and I would only play massively multiplayer online games if they were the last type of game on Earth. But months ago, a YouTube video titled “DayZ – rape victim 2” made me care about DayZ [after reading this article, the user temporarily removed the video from public view]. The video, along with its companion “DayZ – rape victim 1,” shows a dark side of gaming that can be difficult to watch.

The simulated rape in the video is set to a sentimental musical theme from Jurassic Park — it’s as weird as hearing “Singin’ in the Rain” while Alex and his droogs rape and torture people in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. The similarity with Kubrick’s film suggests sociopathic territory. The DayZ rape video is held up safely like a comical trophy on YouTube, in stark contrast to how video evidence of actual rape would land someone in prison. The fact remains that DayZ is a game. As disturbing as the video might be, our society regards the power and humiliation on display as an approximation of real-life cruelty and horror.

Even so, curiosity and concern dictate investigation of this video and similar occurrences in DayZ. I contacted the YouTube user who posted the video. I learned through emails that the YouTube user, Brucee Dinkleberry, was responsible for the Jurassic Park music in the video. Brucee Dinkleberry told me he would answer any questions I had via email; he also said he could get me in touch with the “guy doing the actual ‘raping.'” Unfortunately, these interviews never happened, but judging by comments that Brucee Dinkleberry left in the comment section under the video, it’s not unfair to conclude that he thinks the video is humorous: “Just like my initial suspicion was that only people with no humor goes and comments on clips that are sup[p]osed to be fun.”

Kim Correa has been on the opposite side of such activity in DayZ. She wrote a piece called “Being a lady and playing DayZ” that details her experience. Given the humorous intentions of Brucee Dinkleberry and others, Correa’s final question is poignant: “When do you stop laughing?”

One interesting thing about Correa’s piece is that she hasn’t stopped playing DayZ, which makes it tough for me to see the game from a totally negative standpoint. I still have no interest in playing the apocalyptic game, but the rape videos and Correa’s article left me with several questions. What follows is an interview that Correa graciously granted me via email.

Jed Pressgrove: In your article “Being a lady and playing DayZ,” you say that the appeal of the game is the freedom to do things without repercussions. What appeals to you personally about this freedom?

Kim Correa: More than anything in games I value the human interaction. The games other than DayZ that I’ve put the most time into have been Left for Dead 2 and Team Fortress 2, both of which I’ve had mostly good experiences with. What I enjoy about DayZ’s freedom is the freedom to interact with other players outside [of] the constricts of objective-based games like L4D2 or TF2. If we choose, we could climb a hill and sit and talk. We could go on a mission to find supplies. Or, obviously, the meeting could go not so well and we could end up in a fight to the death.

The freedom isn’t so much about the outcome for me; most times I run into dangerous areas without caring if I end up dead. I want to force the situation to see the outcome. In most games with objectives, the end result is one thing: either you win or lose. In DayZ, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Jed Pressgrove: Do you feel DayZ offers you something that no other game can?

Kim Correa: In my limited experience with games – I’m a relatively new gamer – the opportunity for interaction in DayZ is very unique. The only game I can think of that I’ve played on a scale similar to DayZ is World of Warcraft, and again, WoW is very objective based. The in-game chat is limited to text only, plus limited character animations. There are ways to find guilds to play with and to use a chat client to speak with voice, but I never did. Rust is similar, I hear, and I recently started playing 7 Days to Die, which also is apparently similar in a way, but no, nothing I’ve played so far compares to the experiences I’ve had in DayZ. I played a few hours of Arma 3 and I feel that with some of the mods that Arma has, I could probably get a similar experience, but I haven’t explored that much yet.

Jed Pressgrove: In your blog post, you write “[I]s today the day someone tells me I’m going to get raped?” Did you ask yourself this question because of previous incidents of rape on DayZ that you were aware of? Or did this question simply represent an individual fear that you had, knowing the freedom of the game and what people could do in it?

Kim Correa: I had never heard of anyone being verbally assaulted in the game before. As awful as it sounds, it seemed like a logical next step that players would take in the game. I know what happens in games that aren’t as realistic as DayZ, games that don’t provide the hyper realistic ways to torture and hurt other players. It was an individual fear, but I don’t think an unreasonable one.

Jed Pressgrove: When describing the incident that made you quit playing the game, you note that someone ordering you to take off your clothes had “happened so often I don’t even think it’s weird anymore.” Why had people in DayZ asked you to take off your clothes before? Is being ordered to take off one’s clothes a typical occurrence in the game?

Kim Correa: Asking people to take off their clothes serves two functions, at least to me: one, it makes sure that a player isn’t hiding a weapon in the pockets of their clothes, and two, it feels like a lighthearted, fun type of way to make friends. When I take off my pants, it feels like I’m making an unspoken gesture of goodwill and peace. I actually met a group of players who I ended up adding on Skype to talk to while playing by taking off my pants. We were bandits, with no pants. It was very fun. So it’s not something I usually think has sinister meaning.

Jed Pressgrove: You said you quit playing DayZ after a guy killed your character and started making “moaning and groaning noises.” Can you describe how you felt after you logged off?

Kim Correa: After I logged off I didn’t know [how] I felt. I felt sickened. I felt unsafe. I struggled with using the term “violated,” since I feel it’s such a loaded term. I know I didn’t want to play the game anymore, at least that night. I had no interested in what had just happened to happen to me again.

Jed Pressgrove: As I told you before our interview, I had watched some DayZ “rape victim” videos before I even read your post. You said that those videos gave you something else to consider. Could you expand on that?

Kim Correa: I had considered what had happened to me a more or less isolated incident; I hadn’t heard of it happening to anyone else before, though I was also more or less certain that it had happened, by virtue of it being an online game. When I watched those videos, I felt even sicker. To watch the act happen, as opposed to just hearing it, felt more devastating than possibly anything I’ve ever seen happen in a game. I felt that what happened needed to be written, somewhere, which is why I wrote about it; after watching those videos, I’m even surer it’s a situation that needs to be watched. We’re in a weird time of physical presence and virtual reality intersecting and I feel that if we’re not vigilant in deeming what is acceptable and what isn’t, we run a risk of accepting things that should in no way be accepted.

Jed Pressgrove: Some people state that interactions in DayZ aren’t “real” and that players can turn off DayZ when something’s going wrong. What would you tell people making this argument?

Kim Correa: I would say, you are correct – I can turn it off. I could even never turn the game on again. In fact, I could just not turn on my computer ever again. I might as well not even leave my house, maybe that way I won’t run into a situation that I feel unsafe in.

To me, that response is ridiculous. I know that DayZ isn’t real, I know that to lessen the chances of running into harassment online, I can choose not to play. These are things I understand. If your response to that is “it’s not real!” I feel that you’re missing the point. Everyone – particularly women and people of color – face harassment in real life and online every day. What’s your response to that? Wall yourself off completely? Never talk to another person?

There don’t have to be two extremes here. Saying “it’s not real” is an easy way to not look deeper into the issue. It’s a way to easily skate over the fact that what happens online affects human beings out in the real world and we have to deal with that. If someone says that, they need to work on their empathy skills.

———————

I hope that if you, like me, have never played DayZ, the commentary and interview above will give you a clearer understanding of the game’s unique appeal and questionable potential. In one respect, playing DayZ can lead to exhilarating moments of narrative construction on the part of the player. But due to the game’s norms (such as the practice of having people remove their clothes), playing DayZ can lead unsuspecting players to endings that they would rather forget. I do not condemn DayZ for the possibilities, but I do believe it’s important to be informed about the positive and negative consequences of such freedom.

Note: I contacted Dean Hall, creator of DayZ, via Twitter for his thoughts. He did not respond.

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12 comments

  1. I understand why you may be horrified by the idea of a rape in a game. Rape is a horrible crime. However, with your arguement does that mean that literature, movies, and plays should never depict rape? Where in the game do they suggest that raping is good fun. Maybe the people who made the video are callous and find humour where there is none to be found by most people but NO ACTUAL PERSON WAS RAPED.

    1. The depiction of rape in art is a separate issue, given that the DayZ developers didn’t include rape in the design of the game. This article only covers the freedom that DayZ allows and how that can lead to players creating their own virtual rape scenarios. But to answer your question, I am not saying art should never depict rape. In fact, one of the best movies I’ve seen, The Virgin Spring, involves the subject. However, that movie addressed the subject respectfully and for a larger moral and spiritual point.

  2. It still is not real. Nothing bad actually happened to you. It’s not real life, don’t compare it to actual harassment people suffer on real life.

      1. I don’t see anyone having qualms over virtual murder because it’s not like anyone’s actually dying. I don’t see why fake/virtual/”rape” should be treated differently specially when it’s just some guy grunting over the mic.

      2. Well, I believe it would be a critical mistake to lump all video game violence together. Some depictions of violence are more justified than others. For example, while I don’t see much of a reason to decry the violence in Mortal Kombat, I was very critical of the violence in The Slaying of Sandy Hook Elementary: http://www.fateofthegame.com/indie-review-the-slaying-of-sandy-hook-elementary/

        In the context of DayZ, virtual rape is questionable given the expectations of other players. Not to mention that setting up a virtual rape scenario as a joke aligns you with Alex and his droogs from A Clockwork Orange, who aren’t exactly paragons of good taste.

  3. Hello the owner of the Dayz Rape 1 video and 2 here… First of all you do not have permission to use my videos in such slanderus ways… secound of all it is a game, not real life so stop being such a little bag of boring.

  4. This article has got to be the biggest load of shit I’ve waded through in years. It seems that now we not only have Faux News telling the public that people can’t tell the difference between video game violence and reality — gamers themselves are joining in the fun as well.

    So it’s OK to go on a killing spree, murder every single survivor, loot their still warm corpse, but rape is somehow wrong. Even though this “rape” is just a bunch of character models taking off their trousers and sliding another character model around a virtual floor. Ever heard of a practice called tea bagging? Yeah, it’s been happening for years in numerous games and guess what — it’s not just rape. It’s rape AND necrophilia. Terrible, I know.

    Do you know how to prevent rape in a video game? ATTACK THEM AND GET YOURSELF KILLED, RESPAWN, START OVER AGAIN OR DISCONNECT, YOU OVERSENSITIVE, TECH-ILLITERATE MORON. IT’S A VIDEO GAME. IT’S NOT REAL! (and yes, that needed to be typed out in caps)

    1. In my second paragraph, I compare the “rape victim” video to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, a movie. Later in the paragraph, I point out how DayZ remains a game and cannot be equated to real life. I think I established the difference between games, movies, and real life.

      I think you make a decent point about the violence in the game; if you read my other work, you’ll see that I criticize game violence here and there. However, violence must be judged on a case-by-case basis — just like depictions of rape. DayZ is intended to be a survival game, which makes it hard to question players for murdering and looting each other. However, given that virtual rape is not a goal in the game and involves a serious subject as well as the feelings of other players, I do not think it is out of bounds to question virtual rape scenarios in DayZ.

  5. I think the that Kim is going to an extreme. Video games, are not art, they are a means of living out a fantasy life whether you absorb the story in the first person or watch another characters trials and tribulations from the third person.

    There is something humorous about those DAYZ rape videos in seeing two polygonal models haphazardly get on top of one another to simulate what would be considered intercourse. If we were to play a game of Halo and I begin to moan with pleasure as I shove my metaphorical ball sack into your mouth for the classic “teabagging” emote by crouching and standing over your face, you can’t tell me it bothers you from a sexual standpoint.

    We live in an age where dumb is synonymous with gay, asshole is synonymous with faggot and getting “pwned” is synonymous with getting raped. The world will never forget these words and what they mean and society will continue to swing verbal baseball bats at each other to break people down mentally while in competition.

    Everyone, even you… have thought about the perfect murder, the perfect bank heist, the perfect crime that you can get away with cleanly and never be caught. Everyone has had these thoughts throughout their childhood and some of us dwell on them a bit longer than others. When Kim leaves her home she has a certain expectation of what she can expect society will throw at her. To say that the thought of being raped in a video game sickens her leads me to believe that she is naive and would probably be sickened if I killed her in a match of Halo or CoD.

    What if I beat her to a pulp in a game of Street Fighter while talking about how I beat her like a jealous husband. Video Games allow us to live vicariously through the characters we choose to associate with and the actions they perform so that in someway we get a synesthesia effect and feel good about ourselves in real life. with video games we can get away with big bank heists, the perfect murder… beating someone in the middle of the street and we can feel good about ourselves without any of the guilt that comes along with committing real life crimes.

    If she cant play a game like DAYZ, get metaphorically “raped” and cant click the respawn button because she was shaken to her core, she shouldn’t be playing video games, watching movies, reading books or listening to music because she obviously cant discern the feelings that these media types convey.

    Human beings want to experience the vice without the sin. If she or anyone cant see the forest for the trees then I can’t sympathize. People don’t get what they deserve, they get what they get. end of discussion.

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