Since its inception, the Duke Nukem series of video games has offered raunchy ‘80s and ‘90s humor such as the series’ titular protagonist offering money to strippers and killing mutant pig cops. However, nothing in the entire franchise comes close to the alien rape in Duke Nukem Forever.
Two girls modeled after Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen—Duke’s girlfriends—are abducted by aliens, raped, impregnated and held in pods. In the now-infamous scene, the two pregnant and naked girls cry for Duke to help them and express that they don’t want to be pregnant with alien spawn. When they cry and ask what’s happening to them, Duke responds, “Looks like you’re fucked,” at which point the player can shoot them dead or simply wait until they explode into bloody chunks of meat as the alien spawn hatch from their bellies.
Speaking as someone who enjoys gratuitous violence in video games and doesn’t think they should be censored, the entire scene was far edgier than anything the series had ever presented. Duke Nukem Forever was the first game in the series to have impregnated women as part of gameplay, serving a similar purpose to booby traps. You could either kill them or watch them explode and spawn alien hatchlings.
Beyond that, Duke Nukem Forever was a really bad product. It’s considered to be one of the worst games ever made, in fact. Repeatedly delayed and released almost 15 years after its original announcement in 1997, the game was a tremendous letdown for fans of the original series. After languishing in development hell for several years, the game finally landed in the lap of Randy Pitchford’s studio, Gearbox Software. Already-developed portions of the game were stitched together into a full product and additional content was added to pad out existing, unfinished areas.
With numerous bugs and uninspired gameplay and content, the game was an unmitigated disaster that should have served as the final nail in Duke’s coffin. Instead, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford announced a revival of the ‘90s video game action hero at PAX 2016. During his announcement of a Duke Nukem 3D remaster as well as a new episode of the classic title, Pitchford took to the stage to complain about a misogynistic tweet he saw the previous week and explain that he was still upset about it and how people responded. He then whipped out a guitar and attempted to entertain the live audience with a song about bigotry.
The song was originally written by stand-up comedian David Gruber Allen, who first performed it almost a decade ago. Pitchford’s version of the song has a few minor additions, including a line about GamerGate supporters—whom he described as “judgmental agents of fear.” No one likes a bigot unless they’re “crying like a GamerGater, with self-loathing and low self-esteem. Let’s take the esteem down even lower now,” he sang.
The reception on Twitch was completely negative, and participants sitting in the audience looked less than impressed during cutaways. At one point, Pitchford urged the audience to sing along with him, but not a single person joined in. You can watch the performance for yourself:
Hold on. Are we officially in the Berenstain universe? Randy Pitchford is the same guy who not only pushed for the funding and continued development of Duke Nukem Forever after acquiring the rights to the IP, but also the one who greenlit all its content, including the alien rape scene.
It’s peculiar that someone who developed a scene making light of rape would take offense at a mildly offensive joke posted by a meme account on Twitter and suddenly pander to some of his worst critics. It’s important to note that several years ago, Anita Sarkeesian republished a fan-fiction in which Randy Pitchford gets killed by her after apologizing for his sins towards social justice.
Most gamers who saw the travesty have taken to mocking Pitchford across social media platforms, but a few people have stood up in support of him and how brave he was to stand up for what he believes in. Was it brave to have Duke Nukem make his quip during that scene? Was that empowering?
For what it’s worth, Pitchford has expressed no remorse for making that scene—or for the way he has changed his views over the past few years. I’m no feminist, but it’s hard to fathom how anyone could readily accept his newfound beliefs. Furthermore, he did so at an event intended to present a revival of Duke Nukem.
The last three out of four of Pitchford’s games were poorly received, with the once-esteemed Borderlands brand tarnished with his half-baked Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. The studio’s most recent game, Battleborn, bombed in sales and has too few players to even have a community. Now that Gearbox is in trouble and despised by gamers, it looks like the developer is throwing a Hail Mary pass for the group that hated him.
It’s not about taking sides in either side of the GamerGate debate. It’s not about us versus them. At this point, it’s literally about making sense. How can a group of people so easily offended by words, video game character outfits, and joke tweets about women in space so readily accept any of this? It’s clearly an attempt to pander to the SJW audience, and anyone who can’t see that doesn’t deserve to be on either side.
Personally, I miss when PAX was only about the games—the hype, the excitement, maybe the afterparties when everyone who get so drunk that noon the next day would seem a day too early. The show floor still is, but the panels that take place—including Gearbox’s—are now dominated by social justice discourse and other forced attempts to inject feminist politics into video games. PAX is now about strumming on a guitar and singing about how you were offended by bad tweets.
Well, there’s always TwitchCon.