Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Unclear on the concept

If your goal is to prevent domestic violence, which is of course a worthy goal, creating a website in which its visitors spend several minutes essentially rehearsing domestic violence is not the way to do it. I think Jill at Feministe puts it aptly:

I was curious as to what the end message was going to be, so I kept “hitting the bitch” thinking after one or two times there would be some sort of lesson in all of this. But… no. You have to hit the woman like 15 times as she cries and touches her face and staggers backward and is bruised and bloody. It’s horrific. When you finally reach “100% Gangsta,” she falls over.

And that’s where the big lesson comes in. A message flashes on the screen: “100% GANGSTA.” Then “gangsta” is taken out and replaced with “idiot” — so you’re “100% IDIOT!”

…and that’s it. You’re then taken to a graphic of the woman laying on the floor sobbing, and some words in Danish which I assume are domestic violence statistics and resources. But in order to get there, you have to spend ten minutes “hitting the bitch” and being told you’re a total pussy if you’re not hitting her hard enough or often enough. But then – gotcha! – you’re actually an idiot! This, somehow, is supposed to convey to everyone that hitting women is bad. After you’ve played a game that rewards you for hitting a woman.

Color me unconvinced.
As for the efficacy of the website, color me equally unconvinced.What I am convinced of is twofold. One, the target audience will spend several minutes practicing being batterers for several minutes, and there is plenty of social cognition research that would suggest that in doing so, any violent behavioral patterns already stored in memory would only be strengthened, when the real goal should be to weaken such behavioral patterns. Second, the website appears to give its target audience a mixed message. Until the game is completed, those playing it are being reinforced for violent behavior. It isn't until the end of the game that the players receive any negative feedback. By that point, I can't help but think that whatever message the website's designers intended to convey is weakened or lost altogether. The combination of rehearsing violent behavior (whether directly or via fantasy) with positive reinforcement for doing so is a dangerous one, and unfortunately that combination is present in Hit the Bitch.

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