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

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