Freshman Year Video Game Challenges Victim Blaming
The new video game that deconstructs victim blaming. Trigger warning.
Programmer and game designer Nina Freeman is using video games to tell deeply personal stories. Her latest, Freshman Year, is a short, groundbreaking work that tells the story of sexual assault and questions victim blaming.
It’s a brilliant way to tackle the supremely gross tendency society has to scrutinize the actions of the sexually assaulted rather than those of his or her predator. By making the game a first person experience, players can decide whether or not to wear a short skirt, if they’d like to have a bunch of drinks at the bar or none at all and whether they’d like to head to the bar alone or with a friend. No matter the choices, the outcome is always the same. The main character, Nina, is sexually assaulted by the bouncer of the bar.
The game ultimately teaches players that the only blame to place after a sexual assault is on the assaulter.
Freeman does an excellent job conveying the panic and frustration that comes with being a victim. The constant checking of the phone, the towering frame of the assaulter above you in the frame, the flashing images of his hand on your waist as your dig around in your purse for your phone, and the numb, scared aftermath. It’s heavy stuff— and a brave and innovative approach on Freeman’s part.
“Please be aware that this game depicts scenarios that may be distressing to people who have experienced abuse,” she warns on the site. Check out Freshman Year here.