[Trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault in games and comedy and sexual slavery]
Wednesday’s Penny Arcade told this joke where a hero insisted on leaving a rape victim in his own personal hell. Why? Because there was no reward! Har har! Ho ho! See what they did there? They made someone continue to suffer because the hero wasn’t going to get paid for it! Cue the Benny Hill music already!
When the aims of the games we play award merit for actions such as murdering and raping, etc, it rewards us with positive reinforcement for the concepts of these actions.
When we’re consistantly in environments where the illusion of equating a certain deed with a certain kind of repercussion isn’t challenged, or indeed mocked; things get fuzzy.
When we’re consistantly in environments where doing the right thing such as helping survivors is the butt of a joke; things get scary.
The typical paradigm for classical conditioning involves repeatedly pairing an unconditioned stimulus (which unfailingly evokes a reflexive response) with another previously neutral stimulus (which does not normally evoke the response). Following conditioning, the response occurs both to the unconditioned stimulus and to the other, unrelated stimulus (now referred to as the “conditioned stimulus”). The response to the conditioned stimulus is termed a conditioned response. The classic example is Pavlov and his dogs. Meat powder naturally will make a dog salivate when it is put into a dog’s mouth; salivating is a reflexive response to the meat powder. Meat powder is the unconditioned stimulus (US) and the salivation is the unconditioned response (UR). Then Pavlov rang a bell before presenting the meat powder. The first time Pavlov rang the bell, the neutral stimulus, the dogs did not salivate, but once he put the meat powder in their mouths they began to salivate. After numerous pairings of the bell, and then food the dogs learned that the bell was a signal that the food was about to come and began to salivate just when the bell was rang. Once this occurs the bell becomes the conditioned stimulus (CS) and the salivation to the bell is the conditioned response (CR).
When we play, we are under the spell of this form of associative learning. We press a button and it does stuff! We will either like or not like what it does. If we liked it, we’ll probably do it again. Because it was fun! Or alternatively we’ll not like it and shun it in the future. We get rewarded with praise or something that makes us feel good when we do something we’re supposed to; we’re rewarded with adreneline for solving challenges.
Laughter releases endorphins. When we share in a joke we’re rewarded with endorphins via the laughter mechanism, a concept used in negotiation in many parts of life; from Clown Doctors to get patient cooperation in treatment, mediation to clear tension and marketing departments world over to lower consumer defensiveness.
There doesn’t have to be intent behind this triggering of a reflexive dropping of boundaries. Mere sexist jokes have been documented to “favour the mental mechanisms which urge to violence and battering against women”, in other words, make people more accepting of such behaviour. The release of endorphins gets linked to the sexist ideal, and suddenly it seems a good idea.
I personally resent having someone attempting to trigger the release of endorphins in to my brain while I’m being exposed to the concept of abandoning a victim to continue being raped.
Also, it’s not like it wasn’t already hard enough to get it across to some people that expecting cookies for basic decency is wrong.
It’s ok though, they apologised.
Zombie fuck, guys.