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This Japanese video game is making headlines for all the wrong reasons

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While there are plenty of women who enjoy gaming, the video game industry as a whole hasn’t historically been renowned for its enlightened attitude towards women. Many games depict female characters as little more than foils or props for male leads, while some feature storylines that are actively hostile towards women in general (hello, Grand Theft Auto). And within the gaming community, female gamers and developers who dare to challenge the status quo have been – on more than one occasion – subjected to vicious online harassment.

But a new virtual reality video game has taken computer-generated misogyny to new lows.

Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, a game made for PlayStation VR [Virtual Reality], allows players to “virtually” sexually assault a woman – while she actively tells them to stop.

Disturbing clips of the game – which also allows users to “play volleyball” as a scantily-clad woman – have begun to crop up on YouTube and gaming websites. In one such video, an anime-style, computer-generated woman in a bikini can be seen walking away from the player.

When he gropes and prods her body with a PlayStation 4 motion controller, the female character squeals and physically recoils, telling the player, “I don’t like it”.

The female character also uses a Japanese word that translates directly to “bad” and is often used to deny permission, according to US technology website Engadget.

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Clips of Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 show women recoiling from players' "touch".

“[This] is basically sexual assault, the game”, says Engadget’s Sean Buckley, adding: “Apparently, ‘no means no’ doesn’t apply to virtual reality.”

Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 is currently only due for release in Japan, after its creators decided its content was too sexist for US and European markets. (In addition to bikini-clad volleyball and interactive groping, the game also apparently involves “butt fights” and “sun-tanning”.)

A spokesperson for the company that developed the game said that they were concerned about how Western audiences would react to the way the game depicted women. In a Facebook post that has since been deleted, the Koei Tecmo representative reportedly said that while he was aware of how the wider gaming industry wanted to portray women in video games, the company “did not wish to discuss such issues”.

But while Koei Tecmo might be able to dismiss the issue of sexism in video games as unimportant, research shows that misogynistic game content can have a serious impact on male players’ relationships with women.

A recent study found that high school boys who played sexist, violent games – specifically, two Grand Theft Auto games – were less likely to empathise with images of female violence victims, and more likely to identify with the character they were playing. (In Grand Theft Auto, female characters are often prostitutes or strippers, whom players can physically harm in return for extra points or “health” for their character).

One of the study authors warns that humans naturally learn faster when they’re actively involved in the progress and outcome of a situation – making misogynistic video games uniquely fertile breeding ground for real-life sexist attitudes.

“If you see a movie with a sexist character, there’s a certain distance,” Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University, told the Telegraph in June. “But, in a video game, you are physically linked to the character. You control what he does. That can have a real effect on your thoughts, feelings and behaviour, at least in the short term.”

And no kind of gaming encourages you to put yourself in a character’s shoes like virtual reality, where you’re literally seeing the world through your character’s eyes.

In summary, we can count our lucky stars that Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 won’t be hitting UK shores anytime soon – and only hope that Sony and Playstation 4 will think again about releasing it in Japan. 

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