As video games grow ever more violent and realistic, the latest sign of "progress" is the arrival of female characters you can take into combat in the latest version of the war game "Call of Duty."
You may watch a hundred commercials selling this product, but no one tells the audience what's really in it. There's a reason: You'd be shocked.
A panel of young pundits on the gaming website IGN.com recently pondered the question "How does it feel to have a woman get stabbed in the face?"
One young man admitted with a bit of shame that "I'm so, for the lack of a better word, numb to always stabbing dudes in the face" in games. But women? "It is kind of like, wait a second, it does kind of give me pause."
The others on the panel thought he was all wrong. The lone female treated him as if he was lamely holding women's progress back. Another man claimed to see the future: "I've certainly become desensitized to violence in games, violence in movies, violence as a whole. This is just the next step. I wouldn't be surprised if in five or six years, there's going to be kids (inside the war game) in 'Call of Duty.'"
And let's guess: When that happens, the gaming pundits will briefly consider -- and dismiss -- the shock of virtually stabbing children in the face.
It's absolutely necessary that every step in the coarsening of the culture be accompanied by pundits insisting that raising moral objections is the mark of the fuddy-duddy. When the new game "Grand Theft Auto V" was released in September, New York Times reviewer Chris Suellentrop spoke for the "guardians" of pop culture, insisting "as sex and violence have permeated prestige television, the controversies that once surrounded the 'Grand Theft Auto' games have begun to seem like sepia-toned oddities from another age."
Rockstar Games, the makers of the perennially amoral "Grand Theft Auto" series, can claim the high ground of commercial success. Guinness World Records just announced "GTA 5" has smashed six world records, including the highest revenue generated by an entertainment product in 24 hours and the fastest entertainment property to gross a billion dollars. They sold over 11 million copies in its first 24 hours and hit a billion in sales within three days.
"GTA totally deserves to be recognized as an icon of modern British culture," oozed Guinness World Records Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday. (Add American culture as well.) "Gaming is no longer a niche hobby, as GTA 5 has proved, and how exciting that it's taken on the might of Hollywood and won."