The Video Game industry for the past 15 years has quickly been growing, into a more widely used method of entertainment, to the degree that they can stand on their own against, movies, music and books.
This has made Video Games a hot topic among politicians, lawyers and religious leaders, some who seek the banning of some games because of their “inappropriate” content, whether this content relates to the stories and morals discussed in these games (Role Playing Games), or the violent situations some of the games depict with eerily realism (Shooters, fighting games and action games).
The Controversy regarding violent Video Games began in 1992 with the release of Mortal Kombat a fighting game, in Arcade Machines all over the country, and it would soon after find its way to home consoles (namely the SNES and the Genesis). At the time the other popular fighter in the market was Capcom’s Street Fighter, with was less considered less violent as it featured “cartoony” looking sprites rather than the digitized actors that the at the time made Mortal Kombat seem so real.
It wasn’t only the digitized character that frightened Parents and fueled Congress to take shots at the game it was the fact that the game contained blood and gore. The setting of the game is an island in which a martial arts tournament, and the characters must engage in combat to the death to see who wins, in a fight there would be blood with every hit the characters delivered to each other, and at the end if the player was good enough once he had his opponent beaten, he had a few seconds to input a series of button presses that would, cause a “Fatality” a finish move in which one character would gorily kill the losing character ( By cutting his head off for example). It was this antics and the rise of other mature games at the time that lead to the creation of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) this non profit organization rates all kinds of computer and video games in the market, games without a rating from this organization are rarely sold .
The ESRB rates games in similar way movies are rated, they have the following rating criteria, a game that is suitable for age 3 and up are rated EC (Early childhood), almost no games out there have this rating. Games suitable for ages 6 and up are Rate E (everyone) there are plenty of E rated games including the popular Mario series and RPG games with light hearted stories. Games suitable for Teens age 13 and up, are rated T (Teen) Most RPGs are rated this way, fighters and shooters without much blood in them are also rated T. Then we have the M rating (Mature) that implies that the game is recommended only for gamers 17 years old and up, Most action games, shooters and fighters today make up the bulk of M rated games. The games usually feature sexuality or sexual references, use of drugs, and the ever present blood and gore. Last and least (in terms of actual games that contain this rating) is the AO rating (Adults only) only one game so far in history has earned this dreaded rating ( A lot of retailers will refuse to carry a game with this rating thus affecting the game’s commercial success) and that game is San Andreas the latest chapter in the ever popular Grand Theft Auto series.
What did the game do to earn this rating you say? Well in previous Grand Theft Autos you could have sex with a prostitute at will, but you were never actually shown the characters in the screen having sex, well a hacker discovered that in the original batch of released GTA: San Andreas game, the developers had left a hidden sex minigame, this was discovered by a Dutch fan of the game who used a mod to unlock the feature, which showed full nudity.
After earning this AO rating major retailers in the country decided to take the game of the shelves and thus Rockstar (the developer) was forced to release another version of the game that excluded the controversial sex minigame, It must be mentioned that Rockstar and it’s GTA series has been a major target of politicians and religious groups since the release of GTA 3 which brought the company to mainstream recognition.
To the dismay of senator Joe Lieberman (the most outspoken a video games politician that ever lived) the more congress, religious leaders and parents bashed the Mortal Kombat games (or GTA games for that matter) the more they sold, in fact today 14 years after its initial release the series still going strong.
While Mortal Kombat might have started it the trend of high selling violent games, the controversy surrounding them made even more popular, simply put controversy sells, and people will always defy what they consider absurd, such as Joe Lieberman and other ignorant officials like him blaming the Mortal Kombat games for the decline of western civilization.
It seems that when a disturbed teenager goes out and shoots a class mate or someone the blame is placed on videogames, because it’s the easy way out for both the kid and the parents. A kid or a teenager than takes a gun and shoots someone for no particular reason, probably has a psychological illness that made him do so and probably wasn’t treated as he or she should have by the parents.
It wasn’t the video games that made the kid act that way it was the responsibility of that individual’s parents to get him the appropriate psychological help, when he/she first showed signs of being depressed and what not. But it’s easy for parents and lawyers to blame games as it makes them feel good and can make them richer if they were to win a lawsuit.
First of all there are millions of video games players in the country, just because one of them goes out a commits a shooting it doesn’t mean that the Video Games had a part on it. The video game industry is an industry is that is so rapidly growing that almost the majority of people under 35 have played them, it is ridiculous from any stand point to say that games are to blame when one out of 100 million players goes out and does something wrong. Well since we are at it we might as well ban movies and music, since I am sure every murderer that exists today has had interaction with both forms of entertainment.
The thing is Joe Lieberman and Hilary Clinton ( the most active supporters in legislation against violent games) probably have never picked a controller to play a game for more than five minutes if that. So they are in no position to criticize something they don’t understand.
I agree since the days of Mortal Kombat in 1991-1992 games have only gotten more realistic and even more violent. In 1997 Final Fantasy VII brought the world to a halt with it’s amazing cinematic quality and a story so powerful that today almost nine years later the internet still full of millions of stories and novels and even research work written about what happened before and after FFVII’s amazing science fiction tale. Not only that in 1998 Xenogears another RPG in the same Vein as Final Fantasy took shots at Christianity like no other game before, even today the game still has one of the most convoluted and controversial stories in gaming. After starting with the famous lines of “I am the Alpha and the Omega, The Beginning and the End.“ There was everything from incest, to rape, to kids murdering their fathers in cold blood, to the church being a corrupt organization as a whole, and even to a character been referred by prophecies and some of other characters as the “slayer of god” as you can see this game didn’t make many of the Hardcore Christians who played some of it happy. Squaresoft (the developer and publisher) almost didn’t release the game on the States because it feared the controversy that the game’s religious themes would create, but it was thankfully released and I loved the story, and I am Catholic but I am not ignorant enough to claim that my Religion is the only religion that is possibly right in the world.
After this we have seen the rise of the GTA series which about drug trafficking, killing people and car jacking cars. The game is also at the top of the list of games to ban in Jack Thompson, Hilary Clinton and the lovable (not) Joe Lieberman. To state the truth I played all the games and I never got into them because I found them too technically flawed in terms of Graphics and gameplay to find them entertaining for more than 5 hours, and I agree this is a game that I would not let my kids (If I had kids) or any family member under the age of 15 to play, so yeah Clinton has a point in saying the game could potentially pervert children, but her point is moot because the game is rated M so technically no one under 17 should play it.
Perhaps Clinton and Lieberman believe than only 5 year olds play Video Games, I am sorry I have to tell them but the vast majority of Video Game players in the world are 16 and older, so again they have no point to their argument since those violent games are marketed towards adults. It is the parents responsibility to monitor what they kids are buying, the fact that the majority of gamers are adults mean that there will be a constant flow of adult games on the market coming out every week, because adults need to be entertained and game suitable for 6 year olds won’t do.
True just like I have seen 8 year olds watching R rated movies, I can potentially see many cases where 8 year olds can get away with playing an M rated game, because A. the parents are not supervising the kid properly and B. The parents probably unknowingly bought him the game or C the 8 year old played it with his siblings or friend who owned a copy of the game. So my point? If the kid is perverted by games it’s the parents fault and no one else‘s, the ratings are there for a reason. Most retailers are doing a good job at asking people for their ID cards before letting them buy an M rated game, I know this because I have been asked the show it a couple of times over the last few years including a few months ago.
So yeah I agree with the feeling that one should make sure minors don’t play games that the ratings say that they are not supposed to play, but adults shouldn’t have to pay for it by our “Freedom Preaching” Government censoring or banning the games. I don’t know which is worst, if game like Xenogears would have been censored from using all the religion reference material that it had, the game wouldn’t have had the same impact on me as a form of art as it did, so in many ways censoring is worst than banning.
In the latest action against Video Games California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger passed a law making it a crime to sell violent games to minors, this works well in theory yes, but what about the mature 15 and 16 year old that can play violent games without no problem? They are left out from buying those games. This is funny coming from a guy who has starred in countless of violent movies, that he if he leads by example, should also ban for minors.
In the end I don’t believe in banning or censoring anything, much less Video Games, which have been to me more of a past time than listening to music or watching movies during my life, I was about 6 when Mortal Kombat first was unveiled and I have been playing it since then, and it did positive things for me as I got into Martial Arts because of it and became a National Juvenile champ in Tae Kwon Do in Puerto Rico and a state champion on the states now as an adult. I have never experienced the need to go out on the street to beat a person to death for no reason. The games didn’t make me any more or less violent, the games actually might have saved me from the violent drug filled streets in Puerto Rico where I was raised, where most of my childhood friends have been either been killed, jailed or are trying to escape and rehabilitate from the consumption of illegal drugs.
Also I don’t think most of our politicians really act on the behalf of societies well being, if they do some research they will find out that since 1975 the youth in this country have never been less violent than they are today, which is funny because the decrease in violence parallels that of the rise of popularity of video games in our society, so who knows maybe some kids who have violent urges now can a find a way to dish them out in a game rather than on the street.
As long as parents take part in what their kids watch or play, then society will be just fine, when the western civilization finally falls it won’t be because of videogames it will be because of incompetent politicians, taxes and just because we were simply meant to fall like every other civilization before us.
(It must be noted that Nintendo used to censored their RPGs back in the SNES and NES era in order to take any controversial material out of them, because of this many games lost their original intent in the translation to english, which is why I am glad that they no longer are at the top of the Video Game chain as they would probably be holding hands with Joe Lieberman right about now.)