Microsoft's keynote speech at E3 on Monday had it all. At the video game expo in Los Angeles, Microsoft gave gamers the Xbox One's release date (November), its price ($499), a new "Metal Gear Solid" and... a casual rape joke?
That's what many felt following an off-the-cuff remark during a segment where a male producer and a female Xbox community manager dueled on stage in a demo of the fighting game "Killer Instinct." After the male producer jumped out to a commanding lead, the two began to banter.
"Whoever thought it was a good idea that I play against a producer is going to get it,” the Xbox manager says shortly after the on-screen fight begins.
“Come on, you got to practice before you get on stage before millions of people,” the producer taunted.
“I can’t even block! You’re too fast," the woman shot back.
“Just let it happen, it’ll be over soon,” the producer replied, which prompted audible laughter from the audience.
“You have a fight stick!” the manager pointed out.
“Wow, you like those,” the producer claimed as he increased his lead.
“No, I don’t like this!” the manager shot back.
The reaction online was almost immediate, as some noted that the exchange featured not just a veiled reference to rape, but also a reiteration of the pervasive stereotype that women aren't good at playing video games. (You can watch the incident play out in the video above that YouTube user solusstarlight uploaded.)
"'Let's bring a woman on stage and joke about how she's bad at games, and say stuff like 'relax, just let it happen, it'll be over soon'??," tweeted game developer Jonathan Blow.
"What makes this a big deal isn't the fact that it happened, but that it's indicative of a larger cancer eating away at the gaming community," wrote Badass Digest's Devin Faraci shortly after the incident. "This, basically, is what institutionalized misogyny looks like." The gaming industry and its E3 presentations have seen accusations of sexism in years prior as well.
"This comment was offensive and we apologize," Phil Spencer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Studios, said in a statement to The Huffington Post. "At Microsoft, being open and respectful with others is central to our code of conduct and our values. Bullying and harassment of any kind is not condoned and is taken very seriously. We remain committed to make gaming fun for everyone, and in that effort, we must lead by example.”
"The comments in question during the Killer Instinct demo were not scripted," a Microsoft spokesperson added to told Kotaku. "The demo was meant to include friendly gameplay banter and there was there was no ill intent.”
CORRECTION: This story originally quoted the producer as saying “Wow, you like this,” rather than "Wow, you like those." The story has been corrected. This post has also been updated with a statement from Microsoft.