Virulent power dynamics manifest in games specifically designed to simulate rape, as well as games that have been modified to include it
IN December 1993, Julian Dibbell published a groundbreaking article in the Village Voice, entitled, “A Rape in Cyberspace.” The first extensively printed account of virtual rape, Dibbell’s article describes the attempts of LambdaMOO, a text-based online community, to process and adjudicate the in-game rape of two of its players, legba and Starsinger. The culprit was an avatar named Mr. Bungle, self-described as “a fat, oleaginous, Bisquick-faced clown dressed in cum-stained harlequin garb and girdled with a mistletoe-and-hemlock belt whose buckle bore the quaint inscription “KISS ME UNDER THIS, BITCH!” (Dibbell). Mr. Bungle used a voodoo doll subprogram to control his two victims like puppets, forcing them into unwanted sexual encounters with other players and acts of self-violation and self-mutilation. Although this crime occurred in a virtual space, its traumatic repercussions extended into the private emotional lives of those involved, revealing the impossibility of drawing a clear line between real life and “virtual reality”. As Dibbell writes, the “meaning lies always in that gap” (Dibbell).