Author Tom Keenan is described as an award-winning science writer and professional speaker. That he may be, but his knowledge of the game space is clearly limited. His article focuses in part on the well-known theories of retired Lt. Col Dave Grossman, who coined the term “murder simulator” to describe the first-person shooter genre.
Keenan also touches on U.S. Defense Department recruiting game, America’s Army. But it is his remarks about Custer’s Revenge that caught GP’s eye, particularly in a time when video games have been wrongly accused of including interactive rape by prominent political figures in the United States (see: Rape in Video Games? Top Aide to Boston Mayor Says Yes at Legislative Hearing) and Great Britain (see: Video Games Linked to Rape in Parliament Debate). Here’s what Keenan wrote:
You won’t see strippers suddenly appear [in America’s Army], or be encouraged to rape a virtual character, as happens in the hideous Custer’s Revenge game…
Cortisol is a naturally occurring hormone that’s related to stress, so the researchers claim their technique can “cut stress off at the pass,” at least for some people.
Unless of course, you’re busy playing America’s Army or, even worse, Custer’s Revenge. In that case, you’re on your own to manage your stress.
Playing Custer’s Revenge? Who can even find Custer’s Revenge, much less play it? The game was released 26 years ago by a publisher that no longer exists for a console that you might be able to locate on Ebay if you searched diligently.
Judging by its Wikipedia entry, Custer’s Revenge is surely a disgusting excuse for a game:
Custer’s Revenge (also known as Westward Ho) is a pornographic video game made for the Atari 2600 by Mystique, a company that produced a number of adult video game titles for the system. The game was first released on October 13, 1982 and has received significant criticism because of its crude simulation of an apparent rape of a physically restrained Native American woman.
Nasty business, to be sure. But as far as video games are concerned, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since 1982.
Most notably, the creation of the video game rating system now guides parental purchasing choices. Moreover, a game with an interactive rape scene would surely garner the retail-killing Adults Only rating. Additional factors preventing a modern Custers Revenge-like product include the entrance of increasing numbers of women into game development as well as the general maturation process of the video game industry.
That said, we don’t suspect that Tom Keenan is a bad guy, just badly-informed when it comes to games. It is distressing, however, to see this kind of nonsense regurgitated in a mainstream newspaper. Readership of such publications generally skews older. Misinformation like this simply tends to reinforce existing cultural stereotypes of gamers and their hobby as disreputable and depraved.