The makers of the most anticipated video game of the year, Red Dead Redemption 2, have been criticised after players recorded videos of themselves beating, abusing and killing a suffragette character.
After its release in late October, the game – in which players can choose whether to speak to, rob, abuse or kill characters they interact with – was praised for its extraordinary attention to detail.
It is set in the American frontier in 1899, 20 years before women got the vote, and features suffragettes campaigning for their right to vote.
However, days after its release, one YouTuber using the handle Shirrako uploaded a video of his avatar walking up to a suffragette character who is wearing a sash and calling out “Let me vote”, and beating her unconscious. The video, named “Red Dead Redemption 2 – Beating up annoying feminist” – has been seen more than 1.5m times.
Many of the comments underneath the video supported the actions. “Rockstar, making dreams a reality,” wrote one. “Why can’t we do this in real life?” wrote another. Other users said they had done similar things while playing the game.
But many viewers were concerned.
“This is a complicated problem with detailed, open world games that prioritise player choice,” wrote Emanuel Maiberg, managing editor of technology site Motherboard, on Twitter.
“What’s not complicated is that there’s a reservoir of video game players who hate women and get off on this.”
“This is how backwards, stupid and warped a portion of young men on the internet are,” wrote EckhartsLadder, a Star Wars YouTuber.
Shirrako followed up with several other videos showing his character attacking the woman, including one called “Dropping feminist to hell and killing the devil” that shows him lassooing the character and carrying her to a mine shaft which he drops her down. Another shows him feeding her to an alligator.
The videos raise further questions about sexism in video games and the gaming industry, which came to the fore during Gamergate, which saw feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian become the target of widespread harassment and violent threats in response to her discussions of misogyny in video game culture.
Red Dead Redemption 2, which is made by Rockstar Games, has been seven years in the making. Players and reviewers have praised its realism, including that the character’s hair and beard grow.
The Guardian’s review called it a “slow-paced, sumptuous, character-driven Old West historical drama” and said “the Old West that Rockstar has conjured here is close to miraculous”.
This is not the first time that Rockstar has been criticised for actions players have been allowed to take in its games. Games in its Grand Theft Auto series allowed players to have sex with sex workers, then kill them so they could take their money back.
Rockstar Games was approached for comment.