July 13, 2005 at 3:08 pm #25493
I’m a freelance writer with the games site Next Generation (next-gen.biz), and I’m working on an article that features some games that pushed the sexual envelope. Because of the controversial rape scene in Phantasmagoria, I think it’d be a good mention in the feature.
I’d prefer if Roberta could answer the questions (no offense! 🙂 ), just because she is credited as the lead designer. Then again, I don’t know how closely you were associated with the game’s development, so if you were involved deeply in development, and could give me a great quote, I’ll use it.
Did you have any reservations about including a rape scene in Phantasmogoria? Did anyone ever say “that may not be a good idea”?
Do you feel you were purposefully testing the limits of what was acceptable in a computer game?
Thanks for your time. By the way, I just found out about this site, and it’s excellent! It makes me want to play all the old adventure games that I have such fond memories of.
Future Network USA
July 13, 2005 at 5:08 pm #25494
Response from Roberta Williams:
The ‘rape’ scene was between a husband and a wife – which, however, does not negate the fact that it was a ‘rape’ in the fact that her husband was not really her husband at that particular moment in time: instead, he was under the influence of an evil entity. However, he was still her husband and not a stranger. Does that somehow make it ‘better,’ not necessarily a true rape? No, but, it was part of the decision making process as he was her husband who she loved and, obviously, had had sex with in the past. In fact, the act itself began lovingly and she was into it; it only turned into a ‘rape’ as he began to be overtaken by the evil entity of the story.
Why do I go through that explanation? It’s important because it was necessary to show how evil this evil entity was and how it was changing her husband and changing their life. What better way to convey the horror of what was happening to her and her husband than by having it affect even their own loving relationship? Remember, this IS a horror story. I could have had him hit her, or throw her to the floor, or stab her, or some other abusive type of thing to convey how he was being overtaken by this evilness, but, I felt that, in order to really make it understandable how this evil was really infecting him, like an insidious virus, was to have it affect their loving relationship at its very core…during an act of love. There’s nothing more evil than to take an act of love and turn it into an act of pure evil. Is there? Some people have tried to claim that it was gratuitous, that that scene was only put in to shock or to sell more copies of the game. Nothing could be further from the truth. I felt that it was very necessary from a story point of view to show how this was affecting our heroine emotionally and to really show how evil evil can be. It was a very effective scene from that standpoint and very necessary to the story.
As to my concern about sex in computer games: Ken and I were very concerned about gratuitous violence and sex in computer games. As a matter of fact, we were among the first to insist on ratings for computer games. Even though it wasn’t required at that time, we went ahead and put a big “M” on the front of the ‘Phantasmagoria’ box – for Mature Players – just because we wanted to make sure that only adults played this game. Also, in all of our advertising for the product and in every interview I did, and in all marketing, sales, and PR pieces, we went out of our way to tell everyone that this game was not for kids…and we meant it!
Also, I have to say that “Phantasmagoria” was not a kid-type game anyway in that it really was an interactive story and not a cutesy, ‘fun’ type of computer game in the traditional way that most people think of computer games. It was very sophisticated and, probably not the sort of game that the average kid would enjoy playing anyway. I believe that there is room in the computer gaming world for mature subject matter as long as it’s marketed as such and very plainly stated on the packaging so that buyers will know what the content is. Then, it’s up to parents to monitor what their children play. The key is in giving parents all of the information that they need before they buy. With Phantasmagoria, we never misled anyone about its contents or ‘candy-coated’ it. We stated up front what it was and stated in no uncertain terms that it was not for kids. Anyway, that ‘rape’ scene was no worse than scenes that are seen everyday on soap operas, movies – even made for TV movies – or TV shows. Computer games should have the same consideration as other forms of entertainment although I do believe that all forms of entertainment should be more honest as to what they are. Many TV shows are not. Movies, at least, have ratings. We did the same as the movie industry; we rated it ‘M.’
July 13, 2005 at 7:16 pm #25495
Thanks a lot for the detailed response! That’s great stuff. You’ve been very helpful.
And as a gamer, I’m geeking out about actually getting in contact with you guys. I’m gonna have to break out some King’s Quest.
Future Network USA