Clicky

Limited Time Only: Pre-Order your Con*Quest Adventure Journal for NYC Comic Con

Ratings & Censorship: A Rant

1

Children shouldn’t play games that contain violence. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but the entire world seems to make a habit out of assuming that it’s a golden rule. If we function under that same assumption, then we are forced to ask ourselves where to draw the line between violence that is okay for children, and violence that isn’t. Not to mention countries drawing a line on what any of us are allowed to have in games. More and more this is seems be an arbitrary line that serves no other purpose than to hassle consumers and developers. After all of the work that countries put into keeping games that contain violence out of the hands of kids and adults, I can’t help but wonder if it’s actually having any impact.

shift_ESRB

Ratings and Censorship – Do They Make a Difference?

The line between what should be sold to children, and what shouldn’t seems to be an ever changing bar. I’m sure everyone is familiar with the Halo series, I’d be surprised if there were still people out there who weren’t. Think about going through the Halo games, what rating would you have given them? Let’s see, there is some violence…and that’s about it. So, that’s why the Halo games have been given a Teen rating. Haha, just kidding. Every game in the Halo series has been rated at M for blood and gore. While that may come as a bit of surprise to most, seeing as most everything on TV and film short of cooking shows contain violence, I guess it’s fair.

If all of the Halo games are coming in at M, the lets look at a game rated T to understand why. Have you heard of Naughty Bear? Probably not, it was a really terrible game. But, it was a really terrible game rated T. After all, it only depicted life size, humanoid, talking and walking teddy bears, These bears just also happen to dismember, torture, and mass murder as well. Instead of blood we get white fluff that comes out the animal. My only question is, How in the hell did this end up rated lower than Halo? Have you ever hung out with kids? Stuff animals may as well be living breathing creatures for some of them. At least Halo doesn’t have you dumping hot tar on people, and killing en mass for petty reasons.

Also hanging out in the T category is Super Smash Bros. Brawl. I don’t know a single person who thinks that SMBB is a game worth withholding from children. The sort of violence we see inflicted the the Smash series is no worse than what the Looney Tunes have been doing to each other for years. Where is the age restriction on TV because Daffy got his bill blown all the way around his head by the business end of Elmer Fudd’s shotgun?

The idea that withholding these games from younger players has any real impact is laughable. They are inevitably going to get the exact same influence from tv, film, music, comics, books, just about every form of media. We not only have states who try to ban the purchase of M rated games from younger players, but entire countries who want to keep violence out. The recent hit The Last of Us, was censored for everyone picking up a copy in PAL territories. That’s me, I live in the UK so I get something other than what the creators of the content intended.

When was the last time a Game of Thrones book came out that before release needed to have lines removed for content? Since when do video games not logically fall under the same protections as other pieces of art and media. If you don’t want your children playing violent games, don’t let them by them. As for countries who restrict games, just stop. Us adults should be able to decide what content we find appropriate for ourselves. You know what they removed from The Last of Us? Dismemberment and some blood. Not all the blood, just decreasing how much is splattered. That may seem like a small change that doesn’t matter, and that’s exactly my point.

It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t change that the game is about a pair of people forced to murder just for survival. It doesn’t change that there is a teenage girl put in violent situations. So why in the hell was it ever changed? In what world is slightly less blood splatter going to keep the unbalanced guy from the street from stabbing someone? As it stands, studies into the effects of violent games have been focused on children. The results are always debatable to say the least. The ESRB is skewed, country censorship is ridiculous, and the only people who should be in charge of whether we get to buy a game is us.

 



  • wolfkin

    First off I think it’s amusing whenever anyone makes a censorship rant about ESRB ratings they neglect entirely to consider the benefits of rating games. Knowing what’s inside is useful. If you have a 5 year old kid whose hyperactive and likes to act out wrestling moves on his big sister maybe you want to know that his video games don’t have that level of violence in them. That’s what ESRB ratings are for they’re not there to hassle anyone and far as I can tell they don’t. If you’re a 15 year old and you can’t play Halo I don’t feel sorry for you. You’re a 15 year old kid in 2013. you should be capable of making an argument to your parents to explain why the game isn’t that bad. Show them gameplay footage its not like that’s hard to find. But as a parent it’s useful to know that you could pick out a T-rated game and you’d have a good change of knowing it doesn’t go too far out of the range of what you’d be comfortable giving to your 9th grader.
    >we are forced to ask ourselves where to draw the line between violence that is okay for children, and violence that isn’t
    The thing that these rants don’t get is that yes the line IS arbitrary but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Watching some toon get smacked by an anvil and watching someone get smacked with the butt of a gun are two different kinds of violence. It’s like watching a comedian trip on stage and watching an old man trip crossing the street. It’s the same act but the context matters
    >The line between what should be sold to children, and what shouldn’t seems to be an ever changing bar.
    A semi-reasonable point that ignores the fact that this is reflective of pretty much every aspect of society. What was rated R in the 70s might be PG-13 today. What you could only find on PPV in the 80s might be on extended Cable today. It’s also reflective in fashions a mini skirt, shorts, bikini the ‘scandalous’ rating on all of these have changed over the years since their inception. They used to bleep songs on the radio. Now I’m fairly certain they don’t which is jarring personally. The fact that video games have changed isn’t a problem. It’s a welcome sign of flexibility. It’s good that these things are changing. Otherwise we’re stuck with a single set of rules for ages and no one wants that.
    >Instead of blood we get white fluff that comes out the animal. My only question is, How in the hell did this end up rated lower than Halo? 
    Delusional. Anyone who thinks watching a creature bleed and watching a stuffed bear’s stuffing fly about are the same is delusional. Those are two incomparable instances. That said yeah the ‘stuffed animal torture’ in Naughty Bear is disturbing but T stands for Teen not child. I don’t know too many teenagers who think stuffed animals are living breathing creatures. With that in mind I can see how Naughty Bear barely makes it under the line.
    >Where is the age restriction on TV because Daffy got his bill blown all the way around his head by the business end of Elmer Fudd’s shotgun?
    It’s written on all the DVD casings. You ever buy DVDs of old children’s shows like Sesame Street? They often have writing saying “These are not appropriate for children”. Merry Melodies and Looney Toons likely wouldn’t be allowed on the air as they were right now in a children’s block. I’m pretty sure they only air reruns in nostalgia blocks because they aren’t considered appropriate for children.
    >The idea that withholding these games from younger players has any real impact is laughable. They are inevitably going to get the exact same influence from tv, film, music, comics, books, just about every form of media.
    That’s banal. First off there’s no reason a 12 year old kid should be playing a Mature rated game. If they really are that Mature then parents can get it for them. The system is rather loose like that. It’s not a noose around your neck. It’s a guide rail. There are parental locks but they’re disabled by default. And besides just because Daddy curses at home doesn’t mean it’s ok for the teacher to call their student names. Two wrongs don’t make it right.
    TV and Film have their ratings and blocking systems. V-Chips and Box Office respectively. You can argue their effectiveness, but they ARE there and are rather known. Music censorship is it’s own thing but it’s not just a theory man. Comics I’ll give you. Comics industry does a terrible job compared to film, tv and games of blocking children from mature titles. Books? Books are often useful even when they are mature. The act of reading itself is probably the most beneficial of all the mediums discussed*. If you found a kid willing to read smut heck actually read it. I think many people would actually be no terribly offended by that. The romance section is like 90% innuendo. Hardcore violence isn’t that common place when you consider the top ratings in literature. You could give kids the top books on pretty much any top X book list and you’d be hard pressed to make a case that reading is as violent as the top X video game list.
    >[Reduced blood spatter] may seem like a small change that doesn’t matter, and that’s exactly my point.
    But it can matter. It’s a small change but that’s the difference between Daffy Duck getting smacked with an ironing board in Loony Tunes and a to be battered wife getting smacked around by an abusive husband on Lifetime.
    >In what world is slightly less blood splatter going to keep the unbalanced guy from the street from stabbing someone?
    That’s not what it’s about. It’s about not taking it to that level. The difference between a thriller movie and gore-porn can be that level of blood. It’s the same thing with games. Home Alone is an awesome family movie except for the early Buzz scene (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Euk0cy-cXek). Which takes this family movie and had this sudden jarring moment when someone swears. It takes the movie to another level. Now it’s not like “The Jungle Book” or “The Santa Clause” as something you can just put on in front of the kids. You have to consider that scene.
    I think rants like this miss the point. The ESRB is not broken, it’s not pointless, it’s not obtrusive. It’s the OTHER systems that are the problem. The rating systems aren’t banning games in Australia. PEGI isn’t responsible for changes in Last of Us. ESRB isn’t banning a 10 year old from buying Call of Duty. That’s the government. It’s not the fault of rating boards. It could be argued that they’re helping. Without the rating system the govt would have to make it’s own judgement call. 
    Blame the console makers for the lack of male nudity, first person torture, and fully simulated sex in your games. The rating system has a system for Adults Only and rather than allow Adults Only games and just treat them like Playboys the console makers just ban them arbitrarily.
    * yes i recognize that video games have useful benefits to people who play them. I argue that reading has greater benefit.