Archive for July 2005

Depends On What The Definition Of ‘Mature’ Is

This whole Grand Theft Auto flap really pisses me off. If you haven’t paid attention, here’s a couple of paragraphs from USA Today:

The video game industry on Wednesday changed to adults-only the rating of “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” a best-selling title in which explicit sexual content can be unlocked with an Internet download. The best-selling video game, which centers on gang violence, was being pulled from some shelves and slapped with a more restrictive “Adults Only” rating Wednesday after an investigation concluded that explicit sexual content could be unlocked on the game.

An investigation concluded this? Gee, that must’ve been some investigation by the ESRB, who apparently don’t even know how to use their own ratings system. All they had to do was look at the back of the game’s box:

Say, what’s that down in the corner there? Let’s take a closer look.

Well, I’ll be darned. It’s an ESRB rating! And it details all the potentially objectionable content included in the game, such as “blood and gore,” “use of drugs,” “intense violence,” “strong language” and … what’s that other one say? Oh, yeah, “STRONG SEXUAL CONTENT”!

Damn, I should be a professional investigator.

Now, I could go on an extended rant about the fine line between a “Mature” rating and an “Adults Only” rating, but I won’t. You can check the ESRB descriptions yourself: “titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older” and “titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older.”

I could dwell on the fact that these sorts of “news” stories lead the general public to overwhelmingly view video games as uniformly depraved, despite the fact that according to the Entertainment Software Association, 83 percent of all games sold in 2004 were rated E for “Everyone” or T for “Teen” (which is basically the video game equivalent of the movie world’s G and PG), but I won’t.

I could blast morally outraged parent groups for having a double standard (what about the sex mini-game in the M-rated “God of War,” or the explicit nudity and sex in the M-rated “Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude”?). Surely they’re not just picking on this game because the sex appears to be interracial, right?

Of course, I could also blast the politicians for being the opportunistic scum they are. Does Hillary Clinton getting her panties in a wad over this issue remind anyone else of Tipper Gore and her PMRC putting the smackdown on the equally innocuous 2 Live Crew back in the day?

But what really pisses me off about the whole thing is alluded to in Senator Clinton’s ridiculous statement (link above):

So many parents already feel like they are fighting a battle against violence and sexually explicit material with their hands tied behind their backs. We need companies to be responsible and we need rating systems that work.

Hands tied behind their backs?! I’d be interested to see how these parents managed to get their wallets out of their pockets and sign the $49.99 credit card slip to buy their kids a copy of “Grand Theft Auto” with their hands tied behind their backs the whole time. Maybe pulling off that Houdini-like feat helps explain why these no-doubt conscientious souls were too distracted to simply read the friggin’ content warning on the box.

Yes, Hillary, we need “ratings systems that work.” Perhaps in the future, games with “blood and gore” or “intense violence” or “strong sexual content” can be shipped in a box that has horns and a siren and a little mechanical arm that hits parents over the head with a mallet when they’re not paying attention.

Maybe what we need instead are parents who take a little personal responsibility for what they bring into their homes and expose their children to. If you ask me, saying that Rockstar Games “enabled pornographic material to get into the hands of children” is no different from saying McDonald’s force fed me hamburgers and now I’m a big fat-ass.

Bottom line: Anyone who is titillated by the puerile, polygonal simulation of sex in “Grand Theft Auto” shouldn’t have been playing the game in first place!