Rage 2 is a video game that follows a post-apocalyptic tradition depicting mutants as people with birth defects. As a result, the perpetually offended woke brigade is, well, taking offense over it.
Much like Mad Max, Fallout, STALKER, and a host of other movies and video games, Rage 2 depicts its monsters with a wide array of physical deformities to emphasize that they are, in fact, mutants.
Whether they’re ‘roided up or simply deformed, the game’s monsters are intentionally ugly. It’s a wild, wild wasteland out there, and it’s packed to the gunwhales with monsters.
Game journalists, hopped up on outrage juice, have found yet another aspect of an otherwise innocuous game (assuming you’re fine with graphic violence) to be mad about, and in doing so increase their “social footprint”.
Absent any racial, sexual, or gender-based aspects, the newly-released game’s inclusion of mutants is the only thing they have. To paraphrase Jurassic Park, “Grievance expands to new territories. Painfully, perhaps even dangerously. But grievance finds a way.”
Writing for Polygon, Chris Plante complains in his review that every time he tries to immerse himself the first-person shooter, the game “finds a new way to treat him like shit.” In his case, he takes offense to its depiction of physical deformities—particularly cleft lips, which he claims to have been born with.
“…never has a game so personally, directly bummed me out,” wrote Plante
“I have no doubt we will be unpacking what makes its open-world click in the coming days, if not weeks. But never has a game so personally, directly bummed me out,” wrote Plante, who says he took the opportunity to make his grievances aware to the game developer in an interview last summer.
In the prior interview, Plante says that the conversation about the then-upcoming shooter shifted to something personal: “my birth defect and how the game presents it as a crude joke.”
“The mutation, I explained to Willits, looks like an exaggerated cleft lip and cleft palate,” wrote Plante, who spoke to id Software studio director Tim Willits. “The original Rage used similar imagery for its mutants, and I told Willits how disappointed I felt to see the sequel following that same path. Fiction has long associated clefts with both villainy and mental health disorders, and it appeared the Rage franchise would perpetuate this cruel, damaging misrepresentation to a broad audience.”
Tim Willits: So you feel that it’s a little insensitive?
Plante: Yeah. It makes me a little uncomfortable when it’s always the bad guys that have the upper lip and nose removed, effectively.
Willits: You know, I never really thought of that. I mean, you know, we try to make — you know, Kenneth Scott was our art director on Rage 1, and yeah, I mean I kind of feel bad now. Sometimes it’s hard when you — you don’t live in that world, so you’re like, ‘Oh, these guys …’ So I apologize. And you know, yeah, I’ll talk to the guys.
Plante: Sure. Are mutations normal for the heroes, too, in this version of the game?
Willits: It’s mostly the bad guys. But we do have some — the heroes in Rage 2 are not as pretty as the heroes in Rage 1. Someone did, like, “the girls of Rage” posters and stuff, so we are trying to be a little more balanced. And the Avalanche guys have been very good about being a little more sensitive. So I do think we have a better balance.
Plante’s protest stems from the “critical” view that every piece of media needs to be closely analyzed for its social impact. In the case of Rage 2, the game’s depiction of mutants as deformed psychos perpetuates a negative view of people with birth defects—as if the people who play video games are incapable of separating fiction from fact.
It’s an argument no different from the one pushed by Tipper Gore and every other moral cop who complained about violence and sexuality in video games way back in the ‘90s, when Mortal Kombat was taken to task for its wanton crudeness.
The developer humored Plante, stating that he’d talk it over with the rest of the team. Obviously, with the game so late in development, nothing was done—and who can fault them for it? It’s unfair to expect artists to redesign the game from scratch—to make characters like Ruckus the Crusher, a goliath mutant, less mutant-like—over a single, whiny complaint.
Resuming his review of Rage 2, Plante asserts that the developers cared not a whit about his complaints.
“I don’t care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing,” wrote Plante on The Verge.
“They have made the smallest effort,” he wrote, saying little else about the game’s highly-kinetic mechanics or colorful art direction—all the stuff that made me personally fall in love with it. Rage 2 set out to be an entertaining sandbox shooter, and it delivers its best qualities in spades.
In one instance, Plante says he ran through a level where he spotted a series of identical busts, each with the same exaggerated cleft. “Now I’m no expert in game design, but I feel confident saying these busts could have been removed with minimal time and effort. It wouldn’t have required canceling pre-orders, delaying development, or halting production on novelty special editions.”
The game, he claims, makes him “miserable.”
Plante was previously responsible for leading the crusade against British astrophysicist Matt Taylor over a shirt he wore during his successful landing of the Philae spacecraft on the body of a comet. “I don’t care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing,” wrote Plante on The Verge.
The journalist argued that the Hawaiian shirt, which depicted sexualized imagery of women, was the equivalent of taking “three steps back for humankind.” The controversy became known as #ShirtGate, and turned the scientist’s accomplishment into a bittersweet affair as he was forced to issue a teary apology for offending hypersensitive male feminists like Plante—who’s no stranger to making a fuss about nothing.
Time magazine’s Matthew Gault followed Plante’s lead to state that Rage 2’s mutants “have been rightly criticized for their design, which comes across as insensitive to people with cleft palates and similar conditions,” further referring to the game as “infantile” in mockery of its over-the-top nature. Perhaps a dissertation on gender identity would be more his speed.
The grievances were similarly echoed by the woke crowd on Twitter. A popular post by @queer_queenie, who admits to not having played the game, says that the game is “honestly gross as hell.”
“We really need to have more of a conversation of how we discuss and show ‘monstrosity’ in fiction, because the cultural shorthand for it right now stems from a lot of stigma against disabilities, defects, or just plain human differences,” wrote the outrage monger, who describes themselves as a “plural” and “disaster lesbiab” [sic].
just a heads up for anyone thinking of playing this game: rage 2 continually associates birth defects (such as cleft lips) with monstrosity and evil. it's honestly gross as hell from what's described and shown in this article https://t.co/ed8afRs8YX
— Queenie (@queer_queenie) May 13, 2019
Like-minded commenters claim that the game’s “recognizably human” mutants annoyed them to a greater degree than any of the creatures in other post-apocalyptic media.
“Good lord, gamers are pathetic and insecure,” wrote TransTrashKitty in response to rebuttals from gamers who hit back at the whiners, as if offense-taking is a default mode of being.
If you can set aside your sense of fragility, Rage 2 is a fantastic foray into a frenzied and fun post-apocalyptic landscape. With so many weapons and skills at your disposal, it feels like a power trip, and you have all the means to enjoy yourself with it—provided you don’t mind seeing a cleft lip every now and then.
Ian Miles Cheong is the managing editor of Human Events