As Grand Theft Auto V Online hackers get better at modifying the game's code to do their bidding, instances of nude avatars running around naked raping others in vineyards are on the up.
Several players have reported others coming up to them in-game, locking themselves to their characters and initiating pelvic thrust animations from which there is no escape, with videos of the online 'attacks' being uploaded to YouTube.
The trend was labelled "disturbing" by The Huffington Post and the videos "too inappropriate" to embed by The Telegraph, but in a gaming series that has for years seen players gleefully maim, decapitate and bludgeon each other, is this outrage justified?
Rape is certainly a problem which occupies a different space and is a more real threat than the cartoon violence of the game, but when committed virtually is problematic.
On one hand the fact that the majority of the 'attacks' are committed against female avatars is an unsettling insight into the psyche of some gamers, but on the other, the vague suggestion that what might occur in game will affect real life is tantamount to the 'video games breed murderers' headlines that scream from the pages of conservative newspapers.
One victim's account of a GTA rape on Reddit seemed light-hearted:
"He would run up to you, slowly and sensually butt plug you. Then when he was done, he would be stuck behind you no matter what. After, you would begin to strip on an invisible poll, almost as though his man meat just made you want to dance!"
Another, who had something similar happen to her in zombie apocalypse game DayZ, was more sceptical during an interview on WNYC 93.9 FM:
"I definitely don't want to say what happened to me verbally is as important as if it had happened in real life. But it means something. And I'm not sure what it means."
Some GTA Online players seem to find it an amusing and fantastical hack, others are trying to stop modders from doing it and declaring themselves "vigilantes".
"I'm not sure what it means" seems to be an opinion, or lack thereof, expressed by a lot of people, but as virtual reality hardware like the Oculus Rift is incorporated into gaming and the experience of being 'in-game' feels more and more real, it's a debate that's not going to go away.
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