Custer's Revenge (also known as Westward Ho and The White Man Came) is a controversial video game made for the Atari 2600 by Mystique, a company that produced a number of adult video game titles for the system. The player character is based on General George Armstrong Custer, well known for his crushing defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn. The game was first released on September 23, 1982, and has received significant criticism because of its crude simulation of a rape of a Native American woman.
Like many other video game manufacturers of the early 1980s, Mystique soon went out of business. It sold the rights to its games to Playaround, which continued to market Custer's Revenge as Westward Ho for a time. Playaround made minor modifications to the game, which included making the skin of the woman darker and having her extend her arm and gesture to Custer to come over to her. It also made a version of the game called General Retreat.
In the game, the player controls the character of Custer, depicted as a man wearing nothing but a cavalry hat, boots and a bandana, sporting a visible erection. Custer has to overcome arrow attacks to reach the other side of the screen. His goal is to have sex with a naked Native American woman tied to a pole.
In General Retreat, it is the woman who has to overcome various obstacles to have sex with Custer. Instead of arrows, cannonballs are fired at the woman.
Custer's Revenge quickly gained notoriety upon its release. Sold in a sealed package labeled "NOT FOR SALE TO MINORS" and selling for $49.95, it acknowledged that children might nonetheless see the game. The game's literature stated "if the kids catch you and should ask, tell them Custer and the maiden are just dancing." The makers elected to preview the game for women's and Native American groups, an act which some thought was a publicity stunt. Women's rights groups criticized the game, stating that it was a simulation of rape; the back of the packaging states "she's not about to take it lying down, by George! Help is on the way. By God! He's coming." Other groups such as Women Against Pornography, Native American spokespersons, and critics of the video game industry in general protested about the game. Andrea Dworkin claimed the game "generated many gang rapes of Native American women." Activists tried pressuring legislators to outlaw the game, which Oklahoma City, Oklahoma did. Multiple Industries pursued an $11 million lawsuit against Suffolk County, New York and legislator Philip Nolan "because of a resolution authorizing the county executive to take action to halt sales and distribution" of the game.
Nevertheless, the focused media attention caused the game to sell approximately 80,000 copies, twice as many copies as Mystique's other adult-only games, Bachelor Party and Beat 'Em & Eat 'Em. However, Atari, only the platform for the game and not the maker, received numerous complaints about the game, and responded by trying to sue the game's makers. Stuart Kesten, President of American Multiple Industries (Mystique), stated "our object is not to arouse, our object is to entertain [...] When people play our games, we want them smiling, we want them laughing." The game's designer, Joel Miller, said Custer was "seducing" the maiden and that she was a "willing participant." Ultimately, the game was withdrawn from circulation.
In 2008, the University of Calgary professor Tom Keenan cited "the hideous Custer's Revenge game", 26 years after its release, in an op-ed piece about current video game violence issues for the Calgary Herald. That same year, the game was credited by Australian PC Magazine as being one of the worst games ever made, while Games.net ranked Custer's victim as fifth on the list of top ten disturbingly sexual game characters. In 2010, Custer placed eighth on machinima.com's list of the gaming's top perverts in gaming. UGO.com ranked it as tenth on the list of the most racist video games in history in 2010, also ranking the game's General Custer as the second most unsexy video game character of all time in 2012.
- Cultural depictions of George Armstrong Custer
- List of video games notable for negative reception
- North American video game crash of 1983
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- Custer's Revenge at MobyGames
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- Custer's Revenge can be played for free in the browser at the Internet Archive