Opinion: It’s Time for the Gaming Community to Grow Up

Opinion: It’s Time for the Gaming Community to Grow Up
 
 

Recently, GameSpot ran a news story about the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) description for Konami’s upcoming Metal Gear Solid V prequel, Ground Zeroes. The main point of the story was that Ground Zeroes is the second game in ESRB’s 20-year history to to include a warning about sexual violence.

That this is only the second time the warning has actually been used is questionable - there are plenty of games featuring both implied and overt sexual violence (Batman: Arkham City, Tomb Raider, Ride to Hell: Retribution, Saints Row IV, The Last of Us, and Metro: Last Light, to name but a handful of recent examples.)

ESRB including the warning shows that the organisation is taking its role seriously, that role being to give consumers information about the content of games that they may find objectionable, so that they may make informed purchasing decisions. The board is not condemning Ground Zeroes or attempting to censor it.

However, reading the comments on said article would tell you the opposite.

So its perfectly alright for movies to some absolutely wacky s*** like the Human Centipede / Saw / with various other rape scenes that are extremely explicit but when a game doesn't anything remotely close to that it gets the f***ing hammer brought down?

One thing I dont get...why is a topic like this taboo in video games, but it isnt on movies or on television shows? I am slightly confused as to the reasons behind this fact. Is it because the media likes to portray gamers as immature?

Movies do it too honestly, not really a problem, it just has to be handled properly, I feel it helps make the story that much more dark.

Censorship incoming.

People think nothing of this sort of thing in movies, I don't want to hear people bitching about it being in a game

Why is this news? Movies feature sexual violence all the time. "History of Violence" anyone? It's a strong reflection of how games are still marginalized among the general public when an audio recording of a fictional sexual assault is considered newsworthy.


Above are just a handful of the comments. Apparently videogames are somehow being singled out, marginalised, and treated unfairly by the ESRB and society at large. Apparently films, TV, and other media don’t have ratings boards or content descriptors.

This isn’t just an isolated incident, either, and it’s not just GameSpot commenters. Whenever anyone says anything critical of the games industry, the mob mentality kicks in and we react, frankly, like spoilt brats. Look at the Anita Sarkeesian incident, look at the backlash against criticism of Tomb Raider’s trailer, look at any videogame controversy you like - you’ll see the same pattern.

We’ve seen similar attitudes here at NZGamer.com, too. A story from 2008 about feminist reaction to the PSN game Fat Princess saw as many comments along the lines of “most feminists are fat anyways. I would have thought they would enjoy seeing their likeness on screen,” and “feminists suck” as there were comments productively discussing the topic at hand. More recently, stories about Saints Row IV and State of Decay elicited comments similar to those above, about games being treated unfairly:

So drug use related to incentives and rewards wouldn't fit into any classification?. Even R40+ wouldn't cut it it seems. Stupid. Movies and TV classified much less have worse.

What a joke, why even have an R18 classification if they are going by the same guidelines they use to classify MA15+ games? I see no point, the ridiculous banning will continue.

Saints Row IV, Now this?! What's next? GTAV? Plants Vs Zombies 2? Come on, really.

It’s time for the gaming community, as a whole, to grow up. We get upset about society not taking us seriously and viewing games as some sort of children’s toy, but then we throw our toys out of the cot and grab our pitchforks at the drop of a hat. If we want to be taken seriously, we need to prove it. We need to be able to have serious, grown-up discussions about issues like this. We need to be able to talk about the place of mature themes like sexual violence in videogames, without throwing a tantrum every time the ESRB, Anita Sarkeesian, or any other person or group tries to start such a discussion.

ESRB’s inclusion of a sexual violence content descriptor is, if anything, a sign that games are being taken seriously. They’re not just a children’s toy, they’re a powerful media force that needs to be treated as such. And how do we respond? By crying foul about persecution and trivialising a serious issue with horrific rape jokes because we’d rather not talk about the issue.

A scene in Tomb Raider, in which rape is implied

This is important, because videogames are growing, and part of that growth means discussing such complex issues. Games may once have been almost exclusively the domain of the straight, white, middle-class male, but with the game industry’s rapid expansion to rival the film and TV industries, the demographics have similarly grown - and diversified.

This diversification is a good thing, both a symptom and a catalyst of the growth of a medium we love, but it also means there are new issues to be discussed. Problems of racism, sexism, homophobia, sexual violence, ableism, and so on may not register on the radar of the old guard of straight, white, male gamers, but they’re things that will come up and need to be addressed, because games are for everyone.

By refusing to even discuss these issues, we’re trying to shield games from change. We’re telling minorities that they’re not welcome - perhaps not explicitly, but by refusing to acknowledge issues that are of importance to other people.

A special edition version of Dead Island: Riptide was "mostly" cancelled after the uproar that surrounded its reveal (some copies still shipped to retail, despite the publisher claiming they'd cancelled it.)

The thing is, games aren’t unique in this respect. Every entertainment medium goes through these changes, learns to deal with them, and grows as a result. Movies, TV, music, are all subject to classifications, but you don’t see the film or music communities having a collective sulk when something gets a restricted classification, or even when something gets censored or banned. Sure, people may disagree, but aside from some fringe elements, this disagreement takes the form of productive discussion. But for games, the discussion is largely dominated by the written version of people sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling “I’m not listening!”

Of course, this isn’t to say we have to mindlessly agree with every criticism that comes forth, everyone’s entitled to their opinion and everyone’s opinion is valid. But, not all opinions are equal; if you disagree with something the ESRB or anyone else says, say so, but make a case for your perspective. The more thought out and considered your argument, the more weight it will hold in convincing others; this is what having a mature discussion about a complex topic is. Angry, vague ramblings about marginalisation and unfounded comments like “movies don’t get treated like this!” are the bottom rung when it comes to convincing arguments and productive discourse.

“But Matt,” you may say, “I’m not part of that group. You’re lumping me in with a vocal minority, and that’s not fair!” You’re right, it’s not, and I am reasonably confident that it is just that, a vocal minority. But they speak for all of us, as gamers, as long as we let them. When the rest of society looks at the game community, they don’t see the majority of mature, sensible gamers silently disagreeing. They see those who speak the loudest - and when that’s a group of immature, spoilt brats incapable of responding to criticism in any meaningful manner, the whole community gets tarred with the same brush.

 

Quiet, as shown in Metal Gear Solid V : The Phantom Pain. "The game includes an audio file in which a female character is sexually assaulted by male characters," the ESRB explained when handing down the rare rating. "While there is no visual depiction, sounds of ripped clothing and struggle can be heard." Whether this scene is related to Quiet is, as yet, unknown.

The good news is that we can change this perception - all we have to do is speak up. We all have a voice, and when we, as the mature, sensible majority, use ours to drown out the chorus of immature drivel, the overall image of the gaming community will start to change. Media outlets, too, have an important role to play by moderating comments sections and facilitating mature discourse, but it begins with us, the community at large.

If we want the world to take us seriously and treat us like mature adults, we need to prove that we’re ready for the responsibility.




 

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Comments Comments (25)

 
Posted by tom_nz
On Friday 31 Jan 2014 3:31 PM
13
Games are never going to be treated equally in ratings to movies and tv shows. Games are awesome because of immersion. You control (in differing degrees) the story/experience. You feel part of it. When you watch a movie/tv show you don't feel immersed to that same level. You don't have any control over any of the characters and when it comes down to it there is no way for the makers of those streams of media to make you feel like you are that character. If you see (or if it's implied) a character being raped/raping then most decent human beings would feel terrible about it but when it is your character getting raped or doing the raping (implied or otherwise) that is crossing the line. There are certain things that should not be in games and that is one of them.
 
 
 
haydensomething
Posted by haydensomething
On Friday 31 Jan 2014 4:12 PM
2
I think it depends far more on the specific country and who's putting money into the pockets of whom..

Take Australia for example. Despite the outcry and the subsequent law change, the Australian Classifications Board still have their heads so far up their arse it's not even funny.
 
 
 
Posted by LoftyDog
On Friday 31 Jan 2014 4:14 PM
2
I hate to say it but not a single quote in this article I found to be over the top, juvenile or malignant in anyway. If you were looking for that on the internet I don't think you were looking very hard. Most of the issues raised above were completely reasonable.
 
 
 
Posted by Deanology
On Friday 31 Jan 2014 4:27 PM
2
Think over the next few generations the whole idea of various things will change.
Just think of how television has become (to a point) so uncensored, to the point that nakedness/sex/swearing,etc is just a thing that is on all the time.
20-30 years ago, there was such restrictions on things - that if your parents/grandparents had a glance into the future, it would blow their minds.
I think in another 20 (or so) years, these things that are being regulated so strictly will not be such an issue.
 
 
 
Posted by Bappernz
On Friday 31 Jan 2014 6:29 PM
-
Brilliant opinion piece, really made me think about this issue, and will effect the way i respond to this sort of thing in the future
 
 
 
Posted by Newsboy
On Friday 31 Jan 2014 8:04 PM
2
Well put Matt and I totally agree abut the vocal minority side of things. I don't agree completely on the discussion of censorship as you know, I'm one of the few that believes people are getting a little too upset by this, but you know what? I'm probably just upset at THAT vocal minority.
The majority of gamers don't want to see rape/sexual violence/bigoted thoughts, and the majority don't complain if it rears its head. The majority just want to enjoy their gaming.
 
 
 
Posted by emetic
On Saturday 1 Feb 2014 2:32 AM
3
31 January 2014, 03:31 PM Reply to tom_nz
Games are never going to be treated equally in ratings to movies and tv shows. Games are awesome because of immersion. You control (in differing degrees) the story/experience. You feel part of it. When you watch a movie/tv show you don't feel immersed to that same level. You don't have any control over any of the characters and when it comes down to it there is no way for the makers of those streams of media to make you feel like you are that character. If you see (or if it's implied) a character being raped/raping then most decent human beings would feel terrible about it but when it is your character getting raped or doing the raping (implied or otherwise) that is crossing the line. There are certain things that should not be in games and that is one of them.
I disagree entirely with your last sentence! If the developers want to put sexual content in their game, it should be their decision to do so. The ratings board will have their say and they have quite specific rules about what's allowed, but i don't think there should be any subject which is automatically disqualified. The decision of whether something is objectionable or not should be based on an overall review of the context.
 
 
 
Posted by Goonertron
On Saturday 1 Feb 2014 2:47 AM
1
That steam roller motor bike in DR3 was pretty neat.
 
 
 
Posted by Goonertron
On Saturday 1 Feb 2014 2:49 AM
-
I just thnk a lot of game reviewers are failed movie critics they criticize the story and themes too much in games. They want games to "grow up" so they don't feel so ashamed to tell their family what they do for a living.
 
 
 
Posted by scotteffone
On Saturday 1 Feb 2014 11:15 PM
-
I really don't get the backlash. The games is rated 'M', the same rating almost every other MGS has received from ESRB. What is the big deal? Who actually reads the descriptors? The media I guess.
 
 
 
Posted by scotteffone
On Saturday 1 Feb 2014 11:33 PM
1
I would add that the American film rating system rarely gives out NC-17 ratings in terms of how often R18 is given out in NZ. NC-17 is almost always for when there is violent/graphic sexual content.

Interestingly the game got an R-16 rating here in NZ with no mention of sexual content. Perhaps they missed that part!
 
 
 
Posted by kiwibadboy
On Sunday 2 Feb 2014 11:42 PM
1
1 February 2014, 02:32 AM Reply to emetic
I disagree entirely with your last sentence! If the developers want to put sexual content in their game, it should be their decision to do so. The ratings board will have their say and they have quite specific rules about what's allowed, but i don't think there should be any subject which is automatically disqualified. The decision of whether something is objectionable or not should be based on an overall review of the context.
Are you serious? The fact that there is such barbaric content like sexual violence present in videogames is disgusting! Some things should not be portrayed/implied in media, and that IS one of them.

I don't care if it's common in movies or whatever, I want to be part of a community full of morals and equality! I don't find rape a particularly moral act, do you??
 
 
 
Posted by Newsboy
On Monday 3 Feb 2014 10:47 AM
1
2 February 2014, 11:42 PM Reply to kiwibadboy
Are you serious? The fact that there is such barbaric content like sexual violence present in videogames is disgusting! Some things should not be portrayed/implied in media, and that IS one of them.

I don't care if it's common in movies or whatever, I want to be part of a community full of morals and equality! I don't find rape a particularly moral act, do you??
I don't find shooting hundreds of people moral, so maybe we should get rid of shooters as well? Hell, in Bravely Default I've slaughtered people with swords/katanas/bare fists... I wouldn't call that moral either.
There's a line YOU have drawn where you think one moral act shouldn't be in a videogame.... why not all immoral acts?
 
 
 
Posted by tom_nz
On Monday 3 Feb 2014 2:14 PM
-
1 February 2014, 02:32 AM Reply to emetic
I disagree entirely with your last sentence! If the developers want to put sexual content in their game, it should be their decision to do so. The ratings board will have their say and they have quite specific rules about what's allowed, but i don't think there should be any subject which is automatically disqualified. The decision of whether something is objectionable or not should be based on an overall review of the context.
So you want to see more rape in video games?

Also, I didn't say anything as broad as all sexual content. I specified rape. I'm not a prude. Geeze.
 
 
 
Posted by emetic
On Monday 3 Feb 2014 4:25 PM
2
Yah I'm serious. If people want to play it then game developers should be allowed to sell it - with the ratings board deciding an appropriate age rating and content warnings, or classifying it as objectionable if it's deemed to encourage or glorify illegal activities.
I don't see a distinction between the currently acceptable murder and violence in games and the touchy subject of rape or sexual violence.
It's not the case that I want to see rape in video games, but that I don't like the arbitrary censorship which is out of line with existing content guidelines.
 
 
 
grieving
Posted by grieving
On Monday 3 Feb 2014 4:42 PM
-
3 February 2014, 02:14 PM Reply to tom_nz
So you want to see more rape in video games?

Also, I didn't say anything as broad as all sexual content. I specified rape. I'm not a prude. Geeze.
Don't think devs should be restricted on that content because TV and movies certainly aren't. Compared to other mediums we're still fairly new so it's going to take some time before we get to that stage.
 
 
 
Posted by Chris Redfield
On Monday 3 Feb 2014 8:48 PM
-
3 February 2014, 04:25 PM Reply to emetic
Yah I'm serious. If people want to play it then game developers should be allowed to sell it - with the ratings board deciding an appropriate age rating and content warnings, or classifying it as objectionable if it's deemed to encourage or glorify illegal activities.
I don't see a distinction between the currently acceptable murder and violence in games and the touchy subject of rape or sexual violence.
It's not the case that I want to see rape in video games, but that I don't like the arbitrary censorship which is out of line with existing content guidelines.
What about child rape?
 
 
 
Posted by emetic
On Tuesday 4 Feb 2014 7:00 AM
-1
3 February 2014, 08:48 PM Reply to Chris Redfield
What about child rape?
Haha I've got nothing against it, but I don't see it getting past the censors yet.
 
 
 
stevenz
Posted by stevenz
On Tuesday 4 Feb 2014 12:05 PM
1
Have the people that claim there's a "rape" scene in TR actually played the game? I couldn't see anything beyond "regular" physical violence.

Also, there will always be 12 year olds playing games to replace the ones that _have_ "grown up".

Also, heaven forbid games have similar content to stuff that's on TV during primetime. It's not just games that need to stop trivialising violence & discrimination, it's the media in general. This is going to be a _long_ process, if it ever happens at all.
 
 
 
JandTNZ
Posted by JandTNZ
On Wednesday 5 Feb 2014 9:19 PM
-
QUESTIONS: For the author Matthew Codd.
How would you define "mainstream"?
&
What do gamers stand to gain from achieving this "mainstream"?

Why ask?

Because it terms of revenues and shear number of participants.
Gaming is already mainstream.
More then any other player in the entertainment industry video games make the most money. Out of moves, video (including the porn industry), TV, music and books, Video Games destroy them all. Other then the terrific performance of GT5 in 2013 CoD has been the largest single entertainment release for years. And the industry while volatile has been the top money earner for years now.

In terms of participation Jack Treton at E3 2013 informed all watching that the latest ESRB report estimated near 1 billion people on this planet are gamers. Out of an estimated 7.2billion people almost 1 in 7 are gamers. And not all of the planet has reached the type of economic, political stability or level of technology for gaming to be a thing. Increasing the player population even more in the developed world. If there is any stigma then it's imposed by ignorant @$$hats that should be ignored or re-educated or insecure gamers/critics who are not comfortable with playing/reporting on "kids games"
 
 
 
Posted by Coddfish
On Thursday 6 Feb 2014 2:22 PM
-
5 February 2014, 09:19 PM Reply to JandTNZ
QUESTIONS: For the author Matthew Codd.
How would you define "mainstream"?
&
What do gamers stand to gain from achieving this "mainstream"?

Why ask?

Because it terms of revenues and shear number of participants.
Gaming is already mainstream.
More then any other player in the entertainment industry video games make the most money. Out of moves, video (including the porn industry), TV, music and books, Video Games destroy them all. Other then the terrific performance of GT5 in 2013 CoD has been the largest single entertainment release for years. And the industry while volatile has been the top money earner for years now.

In terms of participation Jack Treton at E3 2013 informed all watching that the latest ESRB report estimated near 1 billion people on this planet are gamers. Out of an estimated 7.2billion people almost 1 in 7 are gamers. And not all of the planet has reached the type of economic, political stability or level of technology for gaming to be a thing. Increasing the player population even more in the developed world. If there is any stigma then it's imposed by ignorant @$$hats that should be ignored or re-educated or insecure gamers/critics who are not comfortable with playing/reporting on "kids games"
I agree with you completely about games already being mainstream, but I'm not sure I get what you're asking here?

The article had nothing to do with whether or not games are/should be mainstream, but about the vitriolic way vocal segments of the community react to things as inoffensive as an ESRB rating.
 
 
 
JandTNZ
Posted by JandTNZ
On Saturday 8 Feb 2014 8:09 PM
-
6 February 2014, 02:22 PM Reply to Coddfish
I agree with you completely about games already being mainstream, but I'm not sure I get what you're asking here?

The article had nothing to do with whether or not games are/should be mainstream, but about the vitriolic way vocal segments of the community react to things as inoffensive as an ESRB rating.
Sorry I got all hung up on the opening few sentences about being taken seriously by society at large.
Well if I am to get back on topic and I'll sure try... Then there is a lot more work to do then just point the finger at a vocal minority and say "Grow Up". A community of individuals will NEVER act act as a unified whole people will act out for a number of reasons.
Lets look at some of them.
Any innocent person accused of a crime will typically react with a mixture of Anger and Hurt. Add that to the anonymity the internet brings and people will often respond from a position of anger. Knowing full well that the any punishment is meaningless. There is a ton more to say. But I've just finished the cooking so it's time to eat.
 
 
 
Posted by Meeper454
On Thursday 20 Feb 2014 12:32 PM
-
I personally don't see a very big deal about the rating they've given Ground Zeros, while it seems that the rating is unfairly weighted compared to Movie and TV, games tend to have a different audience, however this doesn't dismiss the fact that ratings do seem to have an unfair weighting, particularly in places like Australia.

In terms of audiences, Metal Gear Solid, in particular has large amounts of fans across countries and backgrounds and can be argued that it's story and gameplay appeal to many people. While mainstream gamers don't really see much of a jump between playing MGS and something like GTA or Dead Island, players who are more critical, or players that stick with particular franchises are not used to these sorts of themes.

Then again, you could argue anyone who has played MGS4 has experienced audio that could be lumped into the same category of sexual violence due to it's nature (women screaming, etc.) and this game isn't really making much of a jump.

In terms of feminism and video games, both men and women need better representation, you only see a handful of types of each (arguably more types of men) but in terms of content, it needs to be audience appropriate. Targeting an older audience means you can take more liberties with the content as adults know what they can handle. Metal Gear Solid is targeted at mature audiences and should be treated as such. If a mature audience can handle sexual violence, then a game targeted at mature audiences can include sexual violence.

When you label a video game with a specific warning label, you have to consider whether the content is easily accessible. If it's in a single collectible in-game, I would argue it doesn't warrant a sexual violence warning as only the people interested in the collectibles would find it, and even then there's no guarantee that they'd listen to it.

Talking about this issue seems to create more problems than it solves because of the clear dichotomy between the mainstream views and publishing this opinion piece could be flagged as digging for attention due this fact. If getting attention on this website reflects on how good of a writer you are, then congratulations, you picked a controversial topic, you win automatically.
 
 
 
Posted by procion
On Monday 24 Feb 2014 8:18 PM
-
Why? the very function of games is for them to be played. People, especially men, are going to "revert" to a childhood or childish state of mind given that they are playing games. And they will downgrade the childish facets of their personalities whilst doing so. Let them do so. It's how some folk take time out from a busy hectic grown-up world.
 
 
 
Posted by Locky
On Monday 9 Jun 2014 9:21 PM
-
I agree games should grow up a little....but when you have 40+ year old adults camping overnight to score a day one copy of Pokemon.....it's not going to happen anytime soon