Blog: Rated ‘C’ for Censored
Apparently, pixelated guns and digitised coitus are bad for your health.
From the Pong and Mario Bros. of yesteryears to the Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty of today, videogames have come a long, long way. As computing and graphics technologies continue to accelerate at their absurdly fast pace, so do those billions of colourful, explosive little pixels, exuding more life and realism, which in turn translates to more gratification for us gamer folk. A little too gratifying, maybe; videogames these days seem to have piled on the blood, gore, and kink quite liberally, and developers show no signs of slowing down or doing away with it anytime soon. And why would they, anyway? That’s the exact kind of content that lures and attracts the industry’s biggest audience – hormone-riddled teens and tweens looking for new adrenaline rushes – and gets the sales figures skyrocketing. We live in a rather materialistic, monetarily-oriented world, and for the developers, this is just a part of business, “clever” marketing, and their means of livelihood. No harm done, right?
Quite obviously, and to the chagrin of developers and gamers alike, the guys and gals behind those censorship boards don’t echo similar sentiments. From being called “crude” to “repulsive” to “appalling”, and every other linguistic expression of disdain in between, videogames have witnessed some very harsh scrutiny from various such institutions the world over. And it’s always for one of these reasons: too much violence, too much blood/gore, too much X-rated stuff, or in the worst case, too much of all three (Hey there, Rockstar!). It doesn’t help that there’s a bunch of studies published every now and then that talk about youngsters being detrimentally influenced by games. And then there are studies to refute those claims. And then there are studies to refute those ones too. And so on and on rages the battle of opinions, of what’s “acceptable” and what’s “appalling”, and of what content people should and shouldn’t be allowed to interact with.
The big question here is: who exactly is to blame? Of course, parents and censorship folk will be only too happy to point a finger at the developers, making claims that if they didn’t allow gamers to blow virtual heads and torsos off in the first place, society would be a much calmer, nicer place. What utter crap. You don’t see any organisations dedicated to emptying cigarettes of their contents and then rolling them up and putting them back on sale again, do you? What about certain areas in certain countries where drug purchase and consumption is legalised? And yet in comparison to such things, people are content with their staunch belief that videogames will be the fastest means of producing psychotic murderers. How very sane and logical.
There’s no question about the fact that censorship in videogames is a total killjoy. Yes, we buy games like Left 4 Dead and Dead Rising and Resident Evil because we want to see zombie limbs, innards and red blood cells flying all over the place, dammit. Does that make us weird sickos? Do we feel the urge to run out onto the street with a machete and hack away at the closest pedestrian? No, my dear narrow-minded, uptight censorship people, we don’t – we happen to be level-headed people with the ability to distinguish between the virtual and real world. And we also happen to be in the 18+ age group. That’s where the other component of judging game content comes in – rating systems. The ESRB and PEGI don’t get some weird pleasure from slapping on numbers and acronyms onto game boxes, they do it to indicate the type of content held within, so that sly little rascally children can’t pull the wool over their parent’s eyes easily.
But of course, that doesn’t work as intended. 13-year olds today have probably been through GTA, Manhunt, Fallout 3, and heck, even Leisure Suit Larry maybe, who knows! And who is to blame for that? Not the youngsters themselves entirely, as it’s human nature to want to indulge in taboo stuff just for kicks and thrills. The answer, in my opinion, is the parents. They often labour under the misconception that since videogames aren’t something they want to play, they can afford to be completely oblivious to the whole lot of them. Just think: if all parents made it a point to ensure that their kids were getting access to only age-appropriate content from the very beginning, we wouldn’t have to worry about censoring the “inappropriate” stuff in the first place.
In a way, I feel cheated when I’m served up a helping of gaming goodness with some of the meaty parts cut out; who wouldn’t? Even more so when you’re paying full price to enjoy something the developers meant for you to see and experience. But instead, you end up with a crippled product. Remember that age-old saying, “Too much of a good thing is bad for you”? Maybe your mum was wrong when she chucked that at you regarding your 30-hour stint in World of Warcraft. Maybe your dad was wrong when he used it to refer to your copious consumption of marijuana.
But when it comes to videogame censorship? Man, it sure makes damn good sense.