Dead Island’s Zombie-Bait Release and Rape Culture in Games

**I would like to issue a trigger warning, this post contains discussion of violence and sexual assault.**

Techland, producers of Dead Island recently released a special “Zombie Bait” edition of the game that includes a severed female torso statuette.

In the original press release Paul Nicholls, Sales & Marketing Director, Deep Silver, said:

Dead Island Riptide is one of the most anticipated releases of the year and is set to build on the original’s reputation for OTT action, dark humour and brutal zombie bashing. We wanted to provide a unique collector’s edition that was utterly ‘Dead Island’ and would make a striking conversation piece on any discerning zombie gamer’s mantel.

When I first read the post on Kotaku, I thought it was a joke, however there are individuals who don’t see why this is tasteless and wrong.


This enforces rape culture in our society. What is rape culture?

Within feminism, rape culture is a concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape.

Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, and trivializing rape. Rape culture has been used to model behaviour within social groups, including prison systems where prison rape is common and conflict areas where war rape is used as psychological warfare.

Rape culture has been observed to correlate with other social factors and behaviours. Research identifies correlation between rape myths, victim blaming and trivialization of rape with increased incidence of racism, homophobia, ageism, classism, religious intolerance and other forms of discrimination.

Techland marketed this torso as a mantle piece. It is a cut-up or dismantled female body, that at the same time is sexualized and it is to be viewed as a trophy or a form of art. This tells everyone that women’s bodies are objects. This is also a sick representation that glorifies violence against women. This is rape culture.

For the sake of argument, this post made an effort to examine the torso as a form of shock-art. Pointing out the historical and problematic tropes for women that exist in the game industry.

You’ll notice, too, that every part of the figure’s body is mangled except the breasts. A couple of the gashes on Oh God, You Just Know Someone Is Masturbating To This Right Now come close to the boobs, but they stop short, out of solemn reverence. This is in keeping with the long game-industry tradition of honoring huge bazongas above all (and honoring the ass, too, if there’s any development time left over after programming the huge bazongas). Even in the early years of 3D games, when female characters had faces that looked like bulging hexagons with lipstick, developers managed to give video game breasts hyper-real motion and buoyancy. Game women benefited from an experimental field of game science known as “boob physics” or “teat-jigglies.” This piece is a salute to that heritage.

The gore serves as a complement to the misogyny, because without that face and those limbs to distract the viewer, a clear point of focus—boobs—can emerge. It’s so elegant how it all fits together. You know in A Beautiful Mind when all those numbers and equations are connecting together around Russell Crowe’s head, like a dazzling crystal? This is like that, except with hating women instead of math.

I would also like to point out that this is not Techland and Dead Island’s first offence against women. Techland has already publicly apologized for a “Feminist Whore” function in their code that gave 15% attack bonuses against the opposite gender. In the apology they specifically stated:

We deeply regret that fact and we apologize to all our customers or anyone who might have been offended by that inappropriate expression. The person responsible for this unfortunate situation will face professional consequences for violating the professional standards and beliefs Techland stands for.

After the release of a mutilated-bikini-clad-torso as a mantle piece, I’m questioning what beliefs Techland does stand for. Also after massive backlash, Techland issued an apology for the severed torso as well:

We deeply apologize for any offense caused by the Dead Island Riptide “Zombie Bait Edition”, the collector’s edition announced for Europe and Australia. Like many gaming companies, Deep Silver has many offices in different countries, which is why sometimes different versions of Collector’s Editions come into being for North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

For the limited run of the Zombie Bait Edition for Europe and Australia, a decision was made to include a gruesome statue of a zombie torso, which was cut up like many of our fans had done to the undead enemies in the original Dead Island.

We sincerely regret this choice. We are collecting feedback continuously from the Dead Island community, as well as the international gaming community at large, for ongoing internal meetings with Deep Silver’s entire international team today. For now, we want to reiterate to the community, fans and industry how deeply sorry we are, and that we are committed to making sure this will never happen again.

Hopefully they are actually committed to making sure this will “never happen again.” Some advice to fulfil that promise and place checks on how your games may be received by women? Hire some women? Your credits suggested you may be lacking.

  • SarahBeck
  • Currently works as a software developer of EA. She has a BSc in Computing Science and enjoys JRPGS, anime, and Ruby on Rails. You can find her on Twitter at @sarah_bytes. Opinions are my own.