Fighting Sexual Assault and Teaching Empathy with Video Games

[content note: military sexual assault]

There’s a decent chance that you’ve seen some of the increasingly depressing news about sexual assault in the United States military. Marine Major Mark Thompson was sentenced to sixty days in jail and a large fine for an incident involving accusations of aggravated sexual assault in June.

jeffrey-krusinski_custom-a77c69dbaba10bb014f98423bd854f682b33c472-s6-c30In May of this year, Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office was arrested for sexual assault, specifically groping. That same month, USA Today reported that an Army sergeant at Fort Hood in charge of sexual assault prevention was under investigation for a number of charges, included: being investigated for abusive sexual contact, pandering, assault and maltreatment of subordinates.

These incidents serve as backdrop for an endemic sexual assault problem in our armed forces. “Unwanted sexual contact” is reportedly up 35% versus 2010, as measures to address the glossing over of sexual assault by unit commanders are repeatedly rebuffed by the legislative branch of our government.

OrganicMotionLiveThis is disheartening news, but it’s worth nothing that in some ways the problem is being addressed both seriously and creatively. Organic Motion, Inc. has been contracted to develop a video game for the Navy for the “Avatar Based Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Training.” Organic Motion specializes in motion capture and already supports the US Armed Forces with similar interactive training technology, mostly to assess combat readiness. The sexual assault prevention program appears to be Kinect-based and rather in-depth, with a few cool moving parts.

“The system shall allow a subject matter expert to determine the appropriate response to both verbal and non-verbal cues so that the student receives improved feedback regarding their actions,” the contract reads. “It shall also provide the ability to change characters (gender, race) and environments facilitating greater student engagement.”

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G6? Damn it! My Battleship!

Battleship’s been out for a while now, and I’m sure most of you have already read reviews for it. But guess what? I’m going to review it anyway!

All right then! This movie is shamefully enjoyable. Most of the time. It isn’t, however, good. It’s terrible. I should mention, though, that for a Michael Bay film, it improves upon his treatment of women, but not by much. We still have the vapid, personality-free love interest who serves no purpose to the movie, or to the relationship she’s in. Then there’s the military chick played by Rihanna. I’m not going to complain about her too much, because she was the same as all the background Navy guys. They all had a pretty equal amount of non-personality to go around.

Oh, wait, I’m sorry. Did I say Michael Bay was behind this? It does have that Michael Bay feel to it. I should’ve known better. Because Michael Bay would have taken every opportunity to undress the women and make them fight the aliens in bikinis. Stupid of me. I meant to say Peter Berg, whom I know next to nothing about. All I know is that if this movie needed anything, it would be Michael Bay, as much as I hate to admit that.

But, yeah. Even watching the trailer for this, it just screams Transformers. The designs of some of the alien weapons are very robotic and look straight out of one of Bay’s films. It would not have surprised me if Optimus Prime had made an appearance.

So our movie begins with NASA finding another planet out in space that can potentially support life and sending a signal to it. Then we break away from that to meet our main character, Alex Hopper, and watch him screw up his entire life before his brother makes him enlist in the Navy. Despite being a total waste of existence who can’t do anything correctly, he becomes a captain. And his only goal seems to be impressing aforementioned vapid chick’s father, his senior officer, so he can ask for her hand. I don’t know why, because I don’t know anything about this chick or why they like each other.

This guy’s life goes on and on, and it’s only broken every once in a while by shots of aliens traveling through space.

Oh, and at one point, he and a Japanese officer get into a scruff, and because of that he’s going to be kicked out of the Navy. But don’t worry. It’s okay. I know we all panicked for a moment there, but everything works out in the end. You see, the alien invasion finally arrives to save his career.

I should mention that this movie fails to show aliens taking over the planet. Yeah, the aliens come and explosions result, but nowhere do we get why they came to take over. Or even if they’re going to take over. It’s just assumed that they’re here to annihilate everyone, even though the only people they kill are either holding weapons or attacking first. The only innocent bystander that dies gets killed off screen.

And that’s the whole movie. Aliens come and main hero man fights them with a battleship. And in case anyone’s wondering, yes, this movie has everything to do with the game Battleship. It doesn’t actually give us the line “you sunk my battleship,” but it gets close. Instead we get: “you’re not going to sink this battleship!”

And I’m not going to lie. The fight scenes were really awesome. It was also nice to see for a change modern weapons actually working against an alien invasion and the characters not needing some neat little plan a conveniently-located geek came up with.

This is a fun movie, but it could have been so much better. It utilizes every cliché available in dialogue—and, uh, just about everywhere else—which is ultimately the same reason it’s enjoyable. I would watch it, but I wouldn’t expect too much out of it. And it’s definitely not a loss if you don’t see it.