GAMESPACE—There is increasing concern over the recent revelation, via Reddit and then Kotuku, that Grand Theft Auto Online mods have been sexually assaulting players against their will while rendering them powerless to resist.
Mods, notes Kotoku, are granted extraordinary powers to "do really cool unintended things—like let players ride a UFO, or submerse the entire game underwater." But they can also "make things rather unpleasant for other players." Like forcing them to be the object of a simulated rape.
The manner in which these "online trolls," as Vice refers to them, commit their virtual assaults was described in detail on the aforementioned Reddit thread by a user with the moniker mrerikmattila, who also encapsulated the occurrence in bullet points:
"• He and the animation was modeled after the male character having sex in the Franklin mission Paparazzo - The Sex Tape.
• We never have seen the player before, nor were we in a party of any kind.
• It was online on the PS3.
• The player who took advantage of us was invincible. He also has trillions or quadrillions of dollars based on some online searches of his PSN user name.
• He would run up to you, get stuck to your back side—chest to back. You would then lose control and would proceed with the animation. Once finished, he would continue being stuck to you chest to back. You have the ability to "back-elbow" him as an attack, though it did nothing due to his invincibility. You would then be forced in to performing a stripper pole dance animation, then you were free to go."
Much of the reaction understandably focuses on the virtual sexual assaults themselves, which HuffPo, for instance, characterizes as a "Disturbing New Trend." Vice, on the other hand, shifts the focus, reminding its readers that while the assaults are awful, "Nobody’s getting scarred for life from seeing this." Instead, they argue, it's the "puerile" behavior that rankles the most, and that "For most players of the game, the problem will be less to do with morality than practical annoyance."
The assaults, they say, are simply new and even more childish acts of "griefing," which is "where players intentionally irritate other players with, say, deliberate friendly fire or harassment over in-game text or voice channels."
They also note that incidents of virtual rape are nothing new, arguing, "It's been around for ages, be it sexually explicit or otherwise." It is for that reason, they add, that the game's publisher, Rockstar, which has been called out repeatedly to comment, "is likely to take a pretty reserved stance on the 'rape' mods."
While none too pleased with the latest iteration of griefing, Vice takes a philosophical stance, concluding, "Games are great, but sometimes gamers are pricks. It’s always been that way and that’s how it’ll always be."
That view is not quite shared by Breitbart News' Milo Yiannopolous, who writes of the "new low" for the video game industry, "Grand Theft Auto (GTA) Online has become a sex-saturated virtual dystopia in which hackers have modified or 'modded' the game so they can 'rape' other players who in real life can be as young as 12 or 13 years old."
However, while Yiannopolous worries that "There's no doubt violent games play a part in the deeds of some wackos, such as Elliot 'killer virgin' Rodger," he also notes, "As to whether a video game might make you any more likely to go out and commit a rape, the research says probably not."
That reassurance makes him less concerned about the real-life implications of violent video games, while still feeling "a bit disturbed by the whole culture around games like Grand Theft Auto."
He's certainly not alone, though as Vice can't help but observe, "Plenty of massively popular titles have witnessed griefing—but still the players come, and the money rolls in."