January 12, 2009

Sex and Extreme Violence in Video Games

MrWeymes Says: Without a doubt, video games are one of the most heavily censored forms of media available. If the ESRB feels that a certain scene or gameplay segment is too violent or sexual, it either gets cut, or heavily edited to secure a mature (M) rating. Sure, a developer could always decline changing their product in anyway and opt for an adult only (AO) rating, but that would pretty much be financial suicide for that game. Most major retailers refuse to carry games that receive the AO rating, which in turn persuades developers to tone down their games. If a game were to receive an adult only rating, it would most likely be limited to online sales, which would undoubtedly not make as much money as it would were it released in retail stores as well. Should the ESRB be more lenient when it comes to mature games, or should major retailers relent and carry adult only games?

As far as most of the media is concerned, video games are for children. Granted, children do play video games. However, there is also a very large adult gaming population that contributes tremendously to the video game industry. Films have had full frontal nudity, sexuality, mature themes, and extreme violence in them for decades. Video games haven't been as fortunate. There have been adult only games around for over a decade, but they are rarely anything more than interactive porn. The production values are low, and the intent to sell to horny gamers is obvious. Over the past few years, game developers have been pushing the envelope when it comes to the mature rating. The ESRB does allow frontal and rear nudity, extremely tame sex scenes as seen in Mass Effect, considerable gore, and plenty of foul language. There is no denying that there is progression in the adult content allowed in mature rated games.

Although it's clear that many adults play video games, a good portion of the media just can't seem to grasp that these games with sex, nudity, gore, violence, and foul language are not meant for children to play. These games are intended for adults, and will only be sold to adults in major retailers because of store policies. If the media could grasp this concept, then we wouldn't be seeing every news station covering "violence in Grand Theft Auto 4," or "sex and nudity in Mass Effect." There is rarely a media explosion of sorts when a film has a couple of naked people having sex throughout the storyline, or a young girl getting mutilated by some random psychopath. However, video games just don't get the same respect. It's engrained in most people’s heads that video games are for children. There needs to be a change in the way the media perceives video games as a whole. Much like the film industry, there are games geared towards children, there are games geared towards teenagers, and there are games geared towards adults. A man or woman that is eighteen years or older should be able to see, or participate, in almost any sexual act that a developer sees fit to include in their game; as well as seeing, or participating in any brutal, violent act that a developer sees fit to include in their game.

It's ignorant to believe that because a movie gets an R rating, or a game gets an M rating that it won't be watched, or played by under aged people. At the end of the day, the MPAA, and the ESRB aren't going to march in to a person’s home, and scold underage people for attempting to watch, or play media with adult content. It is a parent’s responsibility to monitor what their children are watching and playing. If they feel that an underage person is mature enough to watch or play media with adult content, then that is their business. If they are not doing their parental duties by monitoring what their children watch or play, then that is not the fault of the film maker, or video game developer for creating such content, but the fault of the parents.

Adults do not want, or need the ESRB forcing cuts and edits on developers because there is a chance that a minor will play a mature rated game. Adults do not need to be protected from adult content. It's silly to have a mature rated game edited because it's "too violent" or has "too much nudity and sexuality." If a game is meant to be played by people seventeen and older, then it shouldn't have to be edited to be more appropriate for children. Perhaps that is the loophole to the M rating that keeps adults from getting the content they are entitled to. An M rating concerns people "seventeen and older," which is odd because at the age of seventeen, you are still a minor legally. Perhaps the M rating needs to be revised so that only people eighteen and older are able to purchase them. By doing that, it's possible that adults can enjoy the content they are entitled to.

Apart from an M rating revision, there is only one way to get the content that adults deserve, and that is for most or all major retailers to start allowing the sale of adult only games. The problem with this is that by allowing adult only video game sales, retailers can’t discriminate against the adult only games that are strictly porn. So, major retailers carrying adult only games is not likely. Game developers deserve the right to have artistic freedom. Hopefully, this isn't just a far-fetched dream, but a soon to be reality.