Date: March 16, 2008
Note: I wrote this piece quite a long time ago, but it never got posted anywhere…Of course, I realize there have been “stand out” games, all along…but, as I was seeing things back then, those games were in the shrinking minority. As the gaming population has aged, it does seem that the “mature” market is getting healthier…and it’s probably not quite so much the gamble making a game for this demographic today, as it previously has been…Plus, a lot of aging gamers are having kids, and realize how outrageous the ratings system can be…So, they blow it off and buy for their kids [maybe even share/play the game with them], anyway. It should be noted, that despite the previous scourges against the video game industry, “mature” games seem to have weathered the storm…I post this piece, regardless…Just because, I think it is worth expressing…and I still think it is relevant.
Some people might ask…”Stevie, why are you talking about video games?”
Video games do not consume much of my life these days (I don’t have the time), though my teenage years saw me through many SSI and Origin RPGs…amongst others. Till this day, I remain a bit of a “collector” in this arena. They hold much nostalgia, and memories of good times, for me.
Even though I am more likely to snatch up old, hard to find games, than I am to buy a new release…I still remain attentive to what is going on in the industry.
To me, video games are a “trade off” form of entertainment…I don’t spend hours of my life watching the television…I do other things…every now and then, it is a video game.
How does this old pastime tie into the general theme of things I talk about?…
Way back in the day, I used to love video games…role playing games (RPGs) in particular. They used to be so innovative, raw and savage…This was part of their beauty. They could honestly be what they were intended to be (within the technological limitations, of course)…and everyone had access, so long as they could afford the game.
I bought at least a few titles when I was legally a minor, which broached issues that likely would have gotten the game a “mature” rating, had the game been released in todays market…and this freedom was the greatest things…It allowed the industry to be true to itself, and put out some great games.
…but, like so many others…I’ve been watching over the years, as this troubling movement has set up and taken over…encroaching onto the video game industry…
I sometimes make the comparison…that the early era of gaming was akin to “Conan the Barbarian”…where as, current times find us dealing with “Conan the Destroyer”…
One of these movies is honestly good, with raw enticing characters and humor…There is a dark atmosphere which you can honestly sense and appreciate…
…The other is a pathetically watered down sequel, barely worthy to be associated with the first movie…and created to be a “family friendly” movie that appeals to the masses. The inequality is stark…and there is no question as to why another sequel was never made.
Much the same thing is going on today, in the video game industry. It is being forced into conforming to someone’s subjective idea of “family friendly”, and in some cases, games are even being called “dangerous” to families…or “dangerous to kids”.
This has resulted in an enormous amount of mindless censorship, and the video game industry has suffered for this.
A lot of the themes are exactly the same in this movement, as the movement which constantly launches assaults against child lovers…In fact, I consider them to be subsections of the same movement…
It is a movement of censorship, thought control and intolerance…and the only people happy about it, are those trying to enforce censorship, thought control and intolerance…
The following is a response I wrote, to the question of whether or not sex should be in video games…
I just find it intriguing (like many others, I’m sure), that games can be jam packed with the vicious snuffing out of life (even in cartoon games aimed at kids) and get little attention, while the very human sharing of pleasure and potential creation of life is considered to be, “the most obscene”. The fact that this alarms people should be a red flag, pointing towards the failures of our culture, in dealing with this aspect of human life.
Is love and new life not positive and good? Is killing not the bad element? Priorities are incredibly strange, when it comes to this topic. I am thinking, they go after the sex content worse, because younger kids are likely to get ideas from it, and wont be as reluctant to refrain from trying them out on their own, as they might be of going on a murderous rampage.
I’ve hated this trend for years, however.
I come from the gaming era of the Commodore 64, when video games really were in “the wild west” of technology. The graphics were bad, but there were no limits on the stories you could put into a game, or the very premise of a game, and it was freely available to anyone. I grew up in that arena, and that is how I like it, and believe it should be.
Today’s video games are overwhelmingly neutered, softened, dumbed down and “made for kids” (by the judgment of a subjective board), based upon a social sex panic, and extremely rare instances of “worse case scenarios” coming true. This has been bluntly pushed forward with propaganda and fear mongering, by a minority who prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the McCarthy era lives on in the hearts and minds of many.
I don’t specifically “want” sex/nudity in a game, but it really, really bothers me when a game maker bows down to the demands of a ratings board, because the threat to their livelihood if they do not, is very critically substantial.
I disapprove of ratings boards meddling in the quality and atmosphere of games, in such a manner. This has really hurt the game industry, in my opinion. As an older gamer, you feel like there is nearly nothing out there to compare with what you grew up playing.
A lot of people wonder why many of us refer to a time, so long ago, as “the golden era” of gaming, and this is why. It was free of inhibition, and the stories were original and great. The atmospheres were as dark and raw as you can imagine, and nobody was trying to stop this.
What today’s ratings boards do, is funnel the gaming industry towards the simplistic and the safe, the uncreative and boring. The kind of games “I” would place into a system, and soon feel embarrassed should anyone discover that “I” am playing such a title.
I think back even just to the mid 1990’s, with games like Daggerfall, with it’s famous naked temple harems (the low quality “naked women” graphics), a very novel and wonderful addition to setting the tone of atmosphere in the game. These kinds of simple additions are priceless and beautiful. It’s predecessor, Morrowind, would not touch nudity in any way, because the rating it would get for simple nudity (of any form) could have isolated the game from much of it’s intended audience. Daggerfall came out before all of this ratings insanity befell us, which is why it could employ such content, in such a gloriously successful and tasteful way. Morrowind is where this edgy, gritty element, which helped make The Elder Scrolls series so great, was torn from the mix, and the series has been made lesser for these kinds of losses.
Any one thing is not a critical “deal breaker”, but when you add up all the ways they intentionally avoid controversy, in order to “do the dance” and please outsiders who hold subjective power over them, it is really very, very frustrating.
I am really very, very tired of seeing this happen with games, in order to appease a ratings board (likely not even made up by gamers).
Now, a lot of people will point out that these kinds of games “can” still be made, and the ratings board does not stop this…which is true enough…but the ratings board, by it’s very existence and the power it wields, can not avoid being a critically negative impact on this industry, because it controls the marketability of every single game on the market…
The people making games do so, to gain maximum profit…more so, than for the sheer glory of creating a masterpiece which pleases the fans. If their ability to gain sustainable income has been inhibited, this negatively effects their ability to even remain in the video game industry.
…Hence, unless they have enough wealth to sustain themselves and do as they please, regardless of how their game sells…They are going to be taking the ratings guidelines into serious consideration, and making a game which adheres to those guidelines, in order to aim towards the most profitable segment of the market…
…and games with a mature rating (or “adults only”), are very substantially limited, by the simple fact that a vast amount of the gaming fan base can not legally buy them…and many adults/parents will see the rating, and refuse to buy the title for their kid(s)…
…As it turns out, those who the “mature” rating was intended to signify, make up a minority in the over all gaming base…
…So, the industry has become very lopsided…very heavy with “child games”…games geared towards a lesser mature audience…
You can not separate the ratings system from censorship…That is exactly what it is.
…and it is ridiculous, the sorts of tame things that our current culture “protects” kids from, these days…I weathered them quite well when I was a kid, myself.
It is offensive that censorship is even happening in this field…but even still more maddening, when you realize how vastly this has impacted on your own options, and enjoyment of the industry.
Censorship concerning human issues is useless…and it only creates problems…
I don’t pay so much attention to this industry today…largely because I’m disgusted with this trend, and I don’t see much out there, which is actually engaging.
In some sense, this is a trivial topic…I’m talking about “toys” after all…but they are a form of entertainment so saturated into our culture today, that they have become important as a social influence. On those grounds, I believe this is a worthy topic.