Monday, October 02, 2006

Sigh...Part II

Well, today’s post is kinda a follow on from yesterday’s, but more on the subject of censorship than anything else.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, scandal and outrage equal fame and fortune. Making mountains out of mole-hills has become a genuine business model. Basically, you pick out something that has the potential to be slightly controversial, blow it out of all proportion, then set yourself up as the lone crusader, fighting against this ‘evil’.

This is why parents are suing schools for taking their children to art galleries and showing them classical statues of naked people; Why McDonalds is an evil corporation by ‘hiding’ the fact that eating fast food every day will make you fat…and why games companies have suddenly become criminal conspiracists, trying to force sex and violence on children.

Now, is there an argument to be made that some games are unsuitable for children? Absolutely. While I don’t believe that playing a violent video game will turn a normal kid into a rapist ormurderer in a million years, I accept that some material is simply unsuitable for minors.

I wouldn’t allow a five year old to watch ‘Goodfellas’, and I wouldn’t allow a five year old to play ‘Grand Theft Auto’.

I’m also willing to hold up my hands and admit that Rockstar Games was completely in the wrong over the whole ‘Hot Coffee’ thing. They should have either removed the offending material from the game completely, instead of making it innaccessable, or informed the ESRB that even though the content couldn’t be accessed without a non-official mod, that it was there.

Rockstar screwed up because they simply under-estimated their audience. It was like cutting a scene from a DVD by simply changing the scene menu. The content is still there, but under normal conditions, the viewer can’t access it

But, and this is my big point, GTA San Andreas was always rated for ages 17 and over. The whole uproar was about a very tame ‘sex’ scene (Fully clothed and no actual genitals) in a game rated for people over the legal age of consent.

Then, the upshot of this was that rating was changed from M for Mature, to AO for adults only. In other words, changing the rating from 17 years old and up, to 18 years old and up. The difference of a single year.

The uproar was that a game ‘appropriate’ for 18 year olds was rated as being appropriate for 17 year olds.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was just as capable of ‘handling’ violent and sexual material at 17 as I was a year later at 18.

The other point is that the only real reason the games industry doesn’t want to get that Adults Only rating is because many major retailers simply refuse to stock Adults Only titles.

It’s ridiculous. Places like Wal-Mart and EB Games are essentially saying “We’re a family place, we’re willing to stock games where you can chainsaw people’s heads off….but we won’t show nipples! That’s obscene!

Extreme violence is fine. Consensual ‘sex’ between what are essentially are two cartoon characters is wrong.

Personally, I find it weird that we’re in a culture where its perfectly acceptable for a 17 year old to play a game where you remove bad-guy’s heads with a shotgun, but seeing a nipple is completely unacceptable

The overall problem, however, is the common mistake that games are for children. People automatically assume that any video game is for kids. This is simply not true. It was true back in the early 80’s…but today the average gamer is between 21 and 35 years old.

So people are suddenly made aware that some games contain violent and sexual images, and the games companies instantly become evil corporations peddling ‘filth’ to kids.

Like I said at the start of this post, it quickly becomes an over-reaction based on a faulty premise:

Games = Sex + Violence.

Games are for kids.

Games = Bad Thing.

Of course, you can turn around and say “Look, these games aren’t for kids, it says so right on the box.”

You can say that, but you’ll just be ignored by idiots like Jack Thompson who are desperate to make a name for themselves. (Apparently, Thompson believes that ESRB ratings are there to ‘market’ inappropriate content to kids…something so illogical that I’m not even going to bother trying to argue against it).

Basically, this ESRB bill is essentially saying one thing. The games companies can’t be trusted. They’re going to ‘hide’ inappropriate content, in order to get filth into the hands of children.

In the end, my solution to this problem is simple:

Any game that has an M rating should be ‘upgraded’ to an Adults Only rating. Considering this describes the vast majority of games, it would force games retailers to stock them, or they’d find themselves out of business.

Then, simply make it illegal to sell games to people not in the appropriate age range.

There, you have a cast iron defense.

If a child ends up playing an age-inappropriate game, it’s the fault of one of two people. The retailer, who would face legal action, or the parent who bought it, who should have checked the rating on the box before buying.

It is not the job of the government to say what adults can or can’t see, and it certainly isn’t their job to parent and supervise people’s children for them.

Any TV or video game system is ‘safe’ for children, as long as the parent controls what appears on it.


MC Etcher said...

Hear hear! Well said.

mistyforeverlost said...

I am so sick and tired of the ratings. I get why they are there..but why bother with them at all if the parents are not even going to take them into consideration?

The whole thing is just dumb. Parents need to step up and take the credit for their kids being dumbasses and screw the whole ratings system.

There..I said it.