"Mom, can we go Catholic so we can get communion wafers and booze?"
-- Bart Simpson

Take me where I cannot stand

Our favourite Joss Whedon sci-fi has been licensed for a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. Apparently, by 2008 we’ll be able to login and play around in the ‘verse.

(BTW, I found this very cool wiki site!)

So far, I’ve been able to resist getting into any of the MMOs (even Star Wars Galaxies), mainly because I am truly afraid of what it would do to my life. However, a Firefly-based game might just be enough to break me–after all, Joss Whedon is my master now:-)

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No touchy!

The creator of the Dead Or Alive series of games (“She kicks high…”) has been slapped with a sexual harassment suit. As unfortunately stereotypical as it is, I can’t say I’m surprised at this from the man who pioneered independent bounce physics between left and right breasts in 3D gaming…

People of the world! Not all gamers are misogynistic pigs! Some of us are just ordinary, everyday pigs… :-)

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Information nation of hysteria

OK, so I haven’t been posting for a while…there’s been too much going on in my actual life to pay much attention to my virtual one. Most of my time has been spent on the yard (for which I’ll be posting new pictures soon to the landscaping log) and in my garage, and occasionally at work.

However, I thought I’d hop on to say that today’s PvP pretty much summarizes my view of the whole Hot Coffee crap that’s been so visible in the vidya-gaming news lately. I’ve never understood why the Yanks are so dead-set on treating sex as an obscenity, while gory violence is perfectly acceptable.

Then there’s also the issue of the ESRB rating on GTA: San Andreas being changed from Mature to Adults Only. Here are the official definitions of the two:

  • Mature: Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and/or strong language.
  • Adults Only: Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.

So, essentially the difference between the two is one year of age, nudity, and the length of time that the objectionable material is available in the game. I don’t know where to even start with this…first off, GTA games (at least since GTA III) have absolutely qualified for the Adults Only rating, just on the violence aspect alone. However, the two ratings are so close in actual meaning that I don’t understand why so many people are in outcry over the fact that GTA wasn’t rated as AO to begin with. In fact, most people seem satisfied now that the rating has been changed.

Right, right, I forgot…people are idiots. :-)

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Represent the seven games in a government for hire

Apparently, 60 Minutes did a piece on videogame violence last night. This is one of those issues that gets lots of attention every year or two, usually triggered by some event, like the Columbine massacre. This time it’s the murder of three police officers in Fayette, and the resulting lawsuit against the makers of the Grand Theft Auto series of games.

I wouldn’t exactly call the report “balanced”; it presents a very anti-videogame position. I didn’t actually watch the televised report, but nowhere in the web article do they even mention the ESRB. This is a rating system for videogames, much like the MPAA ratings for movies. The Grand Theft Auto series have all been rated M (for Mature), and are not supposed to be sold to anyone under 17 — while the perpetrator of the murders in question is now 18, there is specific mention of his having played at least two versions of GTA, which means he was playing them when he was 16 (and probably before that).

Let’s draw an analogy — if some kid constantly watches hardcore porn starting when he’s 14 or 15, and then rapes someone at 18, would we be all that surprised? There’s a reason why we regulate what is available to minors — as the 60 Minutes article states, their brains are not yet fully developed, and they’re not always completely capable of differentiating fantasy from reality.

CBS News interviewed Tim Buckley of Ctrl+Alt+Del fame, and he seems to be placing the responsibility firmly on parents, and I mostly agree with him. I think video game retailers need to be a little more stringent about to whom they’re selling M- and A-rated games. However, the ultimate responsibility does lie with the parents — I’ve been at an EB where a husband and wife were debating buying GTA: Vice City for their obviously-underage kid. The wife clearly didn’t know anything about the game, and the husband clearly did. The clerk was advising the pair on the extreme violence, but in the end, they still bought it — I suspect Dad wanted to play it himself (based on the gleam in his eye).

I assume this lawsuit will go nowhere, as most First Amendment questions typically do in the US. The wording of several proposed laws are truly frightening, and would severely limit the content of future games. This could also be used as precedent for expanding this kind of censorship into other media.

As an (arguably) well-balanced adult who enjoys the escapism of video games (violent or otherwise), I very much hope that cooler heads prevail.

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