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A fork in the eye of would-be rabble rousers. - Blather, Rinse, Repeat
January 15th, 2008
11:30 am


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A fork in the eye of would-be rabble rousers.
So, I'm reading my daily intake of news and commentary, and within the Penny Arcade post (http://www.penny-arcade.com/2008/01/14 posted yesterday, but I only got around to reading it today), Tycho/Jerry links out to this essay:


In which the author claims that "Mass Effect" is a pornographic sex simulation game being marketed to 15 year olds. He rants on, begging the presidential candidates to take an aggressive stand and ban this game from the market.

In this crazy wired world, the readers get to reply and fill in any missing facts, including the following:

  • it's not marketed to 15 year olds - The ESRB has been supplying ratings for games for a long time now (since 1994, so if you've been playing Populous for your Amiga for the past 14 years, you might not have noticed). Mass Effect is rated M, which, from Wikipedia, means: M — Mature: Contains content that is considered unsuitable for children under 17 years old. Titles in this category may contain intense violence such as blood and gore, sexual references and/or strong language. Many retailers (such as Target and Wal-Mart in the United States, Future Shop in Canada, and Best Buy in both countries) have a policy of not selling games with this rating to people under the age of 17 without parental presence and approval. The most common genres with this rating are first-person shooters, fighting games, and games with adult content. An "M" rating for a game is analogous to an "R" rating for a movie. Indeed, the only more restrictive rating is "AO": Adults Only, which would correspond to "X", if the MPAA had an official X rating. So, not marketed to 15 year olds. Yes, the game can be played on hardware that many 15 year olds have. Likewise, 15 year olds can say dirty words on their cell phones. Ban the cell phones!
  • conservative presidential candidates probably won't help - because censorship doesn't play well to most of their constituents.

It won't be long before there's a member of Generation X in the White House, and a majority of the legislature that grew up with gamepads and Rubik's cubes. In the mean time, the best we can do is make sure that our representatives don't go writing any crazy laws.

I don't know if the essay's author is a crazy person, or a Microsoft employee (I don't exclude the case where he's both). The effect of reading his essay is that I'm now interested in downloading the demo of the game and deciding for myself the merits of the game.

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:January 15th, 2008 08:47 pm (UTC)
Just because a game has an "M" label doesn't mean it's not being marketed to people under that rating. If you see the game in places where 15-year-old hang out, or on TV commercials on MTV or Fuze or whatever the kids nowadays are watching, then it is being marketed to 15-year-olds, and likely to 12-year-olds who watch that stuff.

Just beause those three retailers (FutureShop is owned by Best Buy) are banning the game doesn't mean it's not available to middle-teenagers. A kid with an 17-year-old brother can get the brother to buy it for him. If a kid really wants to play the game, he (or she, but it's most likely "he") will find a way.
[User Picture]
Date:January 15th, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)
Sure, those points are certainly true, but my understanding is that the labels do a pretty good job at blocking direct sales to minors.

Yeah, an older brother can certainly sneak games, or liquor, or porn to a younger sibling, but I don't see people advocating the prohibition of alcohol or skin mags. People seem to have accepted that, as an adult, if I want to drink at home, that's OK. Somehow, computer and console games have yet to register as a thing that an adult might be interested in for a lot of people.

I'd be uncomfortable if there were ads for M or AO games showing up in BMX Teen magazine, or other places that were undeniably and predominantly outside the adult demographic. But I don't have a problem with ads going into mainstream media channels, which happen to also reach some minors.

Maybe "Mass Effect" really does have a 15-year-old marketing focus. I didn't see the essayist actually support such an assertion other than to say that it's an XBox game. 15 year olds have XBoxes, therefore all XBox games must be being marketed to 15 year olds, therefore any game that has a one-minute cutscene of adult material must be made illegal.

Now, of course, I'm not a disinterested party. I'm a consumer of computer and console games. I'm also a developer of computer and console games. I'm not a parent. So it's not entirely surprising to see that I would advocate in favor of developers' rights to make creations with adult themes. But I would claim that most of my fervor on this topic comes from a wish that computer or console gaming would get respect as a legitimate medium, rather than dismissed as a children's pastime. I'm optimistic, as film and comics have survived similar periods of disrespect and no longer have to defend their existence.
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