Gamer ZA: The war on gaming

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Doobiwan was kind enough to let me reproduce an article from his site which is also quite close to my heart…. kids and gaming.

Oh don’t forget to get some coffee first as this is another long one……

Or, will everyone please start behaving like intelligent adults. Or is that asking too much?

And no this is not about the “console wars”, feel free to act like complete imbeciles when discussing your knowledge of the intricacies of discussing massively parallel low latency hardware, it’s enlightening.

No, today’s rant is about the seeming polarised situation surround games ratings and the appropriateness of some games for kids. I couldn’t be bothered to find all the links, but it’s been a storm in a rather large teapot this week, between the publication of surveys on parental paranoia, “unsuitable games” or governments considering direct intervention in game rating. Are parents just being lazy? Are games stores just being irresponsible? Are the people developing and marketing games targeting kids with inappropriate content? Are people overreacting? You betcha. On all counts.

The problem is they’re all arguing about the wrong thing.

I had an interesting dilemma a few days ago. I was in a game store and non-gamer almost bought “Pimp my ride” as a gift for a 12 year old nephew. The disaster was averted, but when they asked me for a better suggestion, she asked if I could recommend a shooter, at which point I had an epiphany – there are no decent shooters that aren’t rated mature. (I suggested Skate in the end btw …)

It goes further than that. Look at all the big releases this year (bar the few genre based ones like Guitar Hero or Singstar, I’m talking gaming bread and butter) are M rated: Assassins Creed, Mass Effect, Call of Duty 4, Halo 3, Uncharted etc etc. The only notable exceptions being, surprise, Nintendo’s Super Mario Galaxy, a few other Wii titles and Ratchett & Clank. Any surprises the Wii is all consuming at this stage?

The problem is that the vast majority of development effort in terms of new IP and AAA titles is going towards mature titles, supposedly because that’s where most of the money is. but this has created a massive vacuum of middle ground games. Perhaps it’s been the constant striving for photorealism, but back in my day, no one cared about ratings because the ‘gore’ was laughable, characters were barely humanoid and gameplay so unrealistic if you tried to mimic what you saw you’d dislocate something. Even with it’s demonic imagery no-one I now was every really scared of doom! Top down GTA 1 was like playing interactive Google Maps.

Game developers and technology have been growing up and taking those same idea’s into each generation, quite successfully I may add. The problem is that they’ve left this vacuum where those games used to be. Teenagers and preteens want to play shooters, they want to play RPG’s and RTS games, they’re fun! Why is it then that the only thing being created in that space are just typical E games like Sports games, racers and 3rd rate movie tie in platformers? They want to play those games and they will unless there are suitable alternatives.

And that’s where industry maturity comes in. One could say that those very games they’re being banned from playing (Manhunt, Soldier of Fortune, I’m looking at you) are actually targeted at the adolescent market with their juvenile obsession with gore and the like. When my wife turns on day time telly and sees ads for Gears of War and Halo 3 during the children’s programming, you really have to wonder if the games industry doesn’t need a big wake up call. The problem is, these are the biggest titles and that is the biggest perceived market segment, which is where everything goes wrong!

The Games industry needs to get off it’s lazy bum and put effort back into games for youngsters. That’s the nail – for youngsters. Not family games – Party games are the devil incarnate (except raving Rabbids, they’re cool) . They need shooters, sneakers – all the good stuff, but presented in an age appropriate manner. At the same time the ratings boards need to get a spine and some common sense. There’s no way Halo 3 deserves an M rating. Even call of duty 4 should be about a 12-14 in my book. It’s one thing having ‘questionable’ content, but that doesn’t necessarily make it ‘inappropriate’.

Hopefully when the industry starts getting it right we’ll stop seeing lists of “games to avoid this Xmas” and rather “the games your kids must have.”

Source: Doobiwan’s Blog

Last Updated: December 11, 2007

Gavin Mannion

I for one welcome our future robotic overlords

  • Milesh Bhana ZA

    Some interesting comments doobi. There’s definitely a gap for the teen market caused both my unreasonable ratings and genuinely mature content.

    It’s weird, because if you looked at the previous generation, they had some awesome stuff on the PS2. Jak and Daxter, Ratchett and Clank, Psychonauts, XIII (wait, I think this had a mature rating), Beyond Good and Evil and waay before that we had the Sierra and LucasArts adventure games.

    But a different question would be, are these games not being made because they’re not selling?

    Think about when you were 15, you wanted these uber cool M rated titles. Like you said, we played Doom, Quake and all that good stuff growing up. Heck, from the age of 14 I played all of the Leisuresuit Larry games. And we all turned out (relatively speaking, of course) fine.

    Can gaming really be blamed for violence with (non-American) kids ? One of the best Gears players in SA is a 14 year old, I find it hard to belive that he’s going to grow up to be a violent non-adjusted adult?

  • Milesh Bhana ZA

    come to think of it, i was 11 when i got my first Larry game. (Kinda) how I learnt about the birds and the bees. Scary! Actually, not really, after saying “Ken sent me” and meeting the hooker, you instantly died if you forgot to get a condom. LOL! and who said games aren’t educational 🙂

  • Ewie

    @miles – would never forget that moment, instant death.

  • Abev

    Gosh I musta been about 5 or 6 when I played Larry with my cousin, think most of it went over my head.
    Ultimately kids will be kids, if a kid wants to play a certain game they will find a way and I dont really see anything wrong with it. TV games cant make a person do something, problems such as that lie way deeper in the subconcious!

  • doobiwan

    I just read a post on Penny arcade, had a little epiphany (epiphanette?), Posted on it, but will summarise simply as this:

    “Is the irony not that we’re seeing a flood of violent games simply because game designers have grown up on violent games and have lost the art of non-violent creativity?”

  • Milesh Bhana ZA

    today’s game designers grew up on adventure games too…

  • doobiwan

    Excellent point which brings me to arguable one of the heroes of the adventure game genre, Tim Schafer, who’s next game is …

    Brutal Legend.
    http://www.brutallegendgame.com/uk/index.html

    Which is a textbook case of glamorizing violence. (But on a personal level looks like an absolutely awesome game 😉 )

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Schafer

  • Milesh Bhana

    Brutal Legend looks damn interesting. After Psychonauts, i’d probably pick this game up without even bothering to read reviews/get opinions.

  • Banana hammock

    They don’t make these games because they don’t sell, take a look at ICO which is a brilliant and critically acclaimed game, but i doubt it broke even.

    The bottom line is that today game creaters are not here to give you games, they are here to make money and sex and violence sells. If you raise your kids correctly then they will not become killers after playing a violent game.

    Maybe when the install base of the PS3 and 360 gets to be around the 50mil mark you will start to see these games coming through because at that point they should sell better. Let’s see how something like LitleBigPlanet does, if it ever gets released.

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