I’ve mentioned before that I have no particular problem with sex, violence and gore in video games. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of it, any more that I am a fan of violent films. But juts because I wouldn’t buy the, doesn’t mean I’m not going to try and stop people making/buying them…
I was reading an article today about the latest round of ‘M-Rated’ game controversy, when it occurred to me that something is wrong with the ‘M’ (standing for ‘mature’). This is not a rant against ‘mature’ content in games, but rather against the use of the word ‘mature’ in this context.
Look up the definition of the word and you will find various descriptions including “grown up in terms of physical appearance, behaviour or thinking” and “behaving in a rational adult way”. Does that sound like most M-Rated games to you?
How mature is a M-rated game?
‘Mature’ games tend to be the ones that consist of over the top gore, brutal acts of violence and overly-sexualised, scantily-clad lady folk. These sorts of things earn a game an 18 rating (actually called a ‘mature’ rating in some countries). But is such a game really ‘mature’?
How many fantasy games feature armour that is a full plate-mail outfit when a man wears it, but an impractical and skimpy bikini when donned by a lady. How many games feature oiled, overly beefy men with swords the size of aircraft carriers gorily tearing their way though armies of creatures before having orgies with naked ladies? These are things that appeal to teenage boys and most people who are ‘mature’ enough to be able to buy games with this stuff in should probably be ‘mature’ enough not to be attracted to this sort of thing. Like alcohol, porn and violent films, part of their appeal is that you aren’t allowed to do it, and once you are allowed, surely it sort of looses its edge.
Gears of War vs. Mass Effect
Lets look at a couple of similar games as an example of what I’m talking about: Gears of War and Mass Effect. Both of these games are third-person shooters about space marines. There are many similarities between the two, but Gears of War 3 is an 18 rated game, while Mass Effect 2 is a 15.
Gears of War features overly-masculine marines shooting stuff with their enormous, long, throbbing particle cannons or getting up close and personal to spread their enemies guts over the scenery in spurts of comical blood with their vibrating chainsaw attachments. All the while spouting puerile humour and accompanied by a scantily-clad ‘bad-ass babe’. Think this sounds awesome? That’s probably the 14-year-old you and you’re more that entitled to think so, but is this game really ‘mature’?
Mass Effect, on the other hand, is considerably less bloody and visceral, but features much more interesting and realistic characters. It also focuses as much on character development and story as it does on action. It sensitively deals with difficult issues such as racism and includes many moral decisions that aren’t always black and white and always and have consequences. Admittedly there are some overly-sexualised ladies in the Mass Effect universe, but despite this, to me, its depth and content make it the more ‘mature’ game.
This is a very black and white example. As I’ve said mass effect is not without some immaturity, and I’m sure Gears has more depth to it that I missed, but it more-or-less illustrates my point.
So, not much else to say really. To reiterate, I’m not saying that ‘mature’ games should not be made. I’m just saying that ‘mature’ might not be the word you’re looking for to describe them…