Duke Nukem 3D
Now that I’ve been introduced to the magic of source ports, I was able to get ye olde Duke Nukem 3D to a functional, playable state as well thanks to EDuke32. This has given me the chance to play it extensively, and let’s just say, this was an eye-opener.
The game certainly has more features than Doom (jumping, pipebombs, items, one-liners, etc.) but more isn’t always better. For instance, while Doom could get away with using 2D sprites for the enemies and objects since you couldn’t look up or down, in Duke 3D you can get above or under an enemy and look up or down at it, respectively, and doing so will reveal that monster as a flat paper cut-out. It makes the world seem extremely fake.
There’s also a pile of nitpicks, like how the chaingunners in this one are somehow even more annoying than the ones in Doom 2, or how the confusing level design often requires you to find subtle secret doors or pathways that Doom would have just stuck extra ammo behind, or how the Duke repeats his lines so often they get old really quickly.
But there’s something much more important, and much more horrible, that I need to talk about.
Duke Nukem Forever, which all of you must know about at this point, was heavily criticized for many reasons, but the biggest problem I heard about was it being exceedingly misogynistic. The most infamous scene was one in an alien hive where you see nude women literally being raped, impregnated and killed by alien tentacles.
I happen to agree with the majority that Duke Forever is an atrocity, but now that I’ve played Duke 3D, I’m confused because most people talked as if the original wasn’t as horrible.
I knew the game had strippers, but I didn’t know that you constantly encounter naked women wrapped in tentacles, and that if you try to talk to them they just utter, “Kill… me…” You can kill them all, and there’s no penalty for doing so or choosing not to. It’s obviously a blatant homage to Aliens, but it seems the aliens in this game only use attractive young women to procreate their species.
It’s an extreme example, but by no means the only one, of women being objectified in this game. Strippers, poster girls, dirty magazines. The game shoves scantily clad women into the game every chance it gets. I know the games industry in general has a problem with objectifying women, but Duke 3D goes above and beyond.
As is fitting with the copy-pasted imagery and themes, the game feels like Aliens as rewritten by a fourteen-year-old boy with some serious issues he needs to work through. To anybody who regards women as more than meat, it just comes off as juvenile, tasteless, and shameless. I suppose the game did gain its audience of primarily teenage males, and it’s a good thing those people were grown up enough last year to pan Duke Forever.
But this game should not be regarded as a classic, and I don’t say that lightly.
I questioned whether Fallout 1 should be regarded as a classic because I simply felt it was an unenjoyable experience. But with Duke 3D, there’s just a terrible feeling of wrongness to it. The fact that any significant number of adults still considers this game a classic is a disgrace, to both the games industry and gamer culture. The gameplay is adequate, I suppose. But if we’re not able to acknowledge the moral repugnance underneath it, then we’re selling games short by refusing to think critically about them.