Rated M for Adolescent

A while ago, Leigh Alexander wrote an excellent piece for Kotaku, about the extreme violence in games. In the article she writes:

But as games get ever more immersive and lifelike, it starts to feel less like healthy play and more like unsettling aspirational fantasy to me. And as the economic competition around the genre heats up, the push for bigger-bloodier-more seems especially opportunistic and shameless. I don’t understand the continuing appeal; I don’t understand the unquestioning audience.

What I find interesting is that in the debate afterwards, I heard the refrain “Yes, games are violent, but most games are not. Most games in, fact are rated ‘E’.”  An example from the fantastic Ngai Croal:

Ngai Croal discusses L. Alexander's Kotaku Article

And I completely agree. Most games are not the overly violent “blockbuster movie” type faire that have people wringing their hands with worry. The games industry is more akin to Pixar’s “Up” than to “Saw.”

Here’s my problem. I’m an adult. I don’t necessarily want to play a kid’s game, but that doesn’t mean I want something mindless either. Where is our “Saving Private Ryan”?

I would rather see more games that are rated Mature, not for their gratuitous sex or violence, but for their themes.  I see plenty macho space marines that are underdeveloped stock characters having to save humanity (again).  In see women in games portrayed as ice princesses, vixen-whores or beautiful commandos: none of which are realistic and are a bit insulting.  I see sex scenes straight out of a teenaged boy’s fantasies.  I see games where I blow stuff up real good. Hey, all great games and a ton of fun… but mature they are not.

For me an example of a Rated M for Mature game, with mature themes was Fallout 3.  Tongue in cheek, laugh out loud funny, and disturbingly violent, yes; this game was also one of the most mature I’ve seen. You play as a survivor of the nuclear apocalypse, 100 years later.  Nothing grows. Raiders that roam the land leave dead bodies hanging in their territory as a warning. There are charred skeletons of children next to teddy bears and toy cars. Mailboxes contain letters of regret: there is no room at the fallout shelter for the homeowners, their bodies can be found inside holding each other. There are prostitutes, not the funny stereotyped BBWs of GTA4, but women who sell the only thing they have ownership of for a night of security. This is just the world, the trend continues as the main and side stories the state’s responsibilities to the citizenry and so on.

There must be a reason for the lack of truely mature games. Maybe this is what the Rated M market wants and what sells?

But as the gaming population ages, are we going to continue this trend? It’s one thing to be titillated at a lesbian sex scene with a Goddess, it’s another when the next day you have to take your little girl to little league. Shooting up baddies is fine, but after reading the news on-line… well you may not be as keen. 

As gamers continue to take on the “games as art” debate to heart, will we see more critical analysis of the story, universe and themes that we see in games? Will we come to a point where we can debate racism, sexism in games intelligently, or will we simply say “it’s just a game” if it all becomes to difficult to defend?

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Comments

  • Fat Contradiction  On July 6, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    I think you’re right about a lot of this: there’s an important distinction between the games industry writ large and what “gamers” say they think about it. In general, I hold to the position that says the most vocal talkers-about-games are the least worth listening to: the comment-section mob, the trolls, the PA sycophants and console-war doughboys. As time goes on, I’m increasingly skeptical that any real critical discourse will ever grow up around video games; this is a step toward proving me wrong. Thanks.

    • yellingatpixels  On July 6, 2010 at 1:16 pm

      Thank you for the comment. I believe, and hope, that gamers will start to be more critcal as we grow up. We are starting to defend gaming from a higher place (games are art) rather than from a lower place (it’s all good fun, what’s your problem)

      please enjoy the debate!

Trackbacks

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