Tag Archives: Censorship

Racialist Evil

It was inevitable, and I’m sure when most of us saw that stunning Resident Evil 5 trailer we knew it would be coming. Barely a week later and the race card has been played (also see The Village Voice, amongst others). I dread to think what it’ll be like when (please don’t let it be ‘if’) the game comes out.

Besides the obvious point that there were no complaints over several games of largely white zombies – with few exceptions like the police chief in RE2 there were no black zombies, which is surely more racist? – but this is a game set in Africa where, shockingly, most people are black. Are we supposed to pretend Africa doesn’t exist like Bob Geldof keeps telling us we do? Or do we populate in-game Africa with white people? Or even Asians, since this is a Japanese game?

Ultimately, whichever way it goes we’re going to have complaints because this is such touchy subject matter. I just wish there weren’t so many reactionary idiots, and it’s telling that the first blog post about it complains that:

“…this video game is marketed to children and young adults.”

Ignorance is bliss, right? It should also be noted that the trailer is age-gated on gaming sites, as per new rules, meaning that visitors need to give their age in order to view it. While that won’t stop kids seeing it (at least not the ones with enough intelligence to realise that it’s only a game), it makes it easier to parents to moderate the content.

Nonetheless the more enlightened commentators on this have raised some interesting points. Could the virus and transmission thereof be an allegory for the AIDS crisis in Africa? And does the fact that the game is coming from an ethnically homogenous country like Japan where racism is perhaps not such a delicate issue, explain why the villagers look so threatening prior to infection?

I hope Capcom try their best to take the high ground by refusing to censor the game but ensuring that things are handled as sensitively as possible. That means, whatever they do, if they’re adding an overall (RE4 spoiler) Saddler figure to control the ‘zombies’ DO NOT make it a white guy. The way the story is going it could end up being Wesker, and I can’t begin to describe how unwise it would be to make a white man in military uniform kill black people who are being controlled by another white guy who happens to be tall, blond-haired, and blue red-eyed. I wouldn’t even touch that one.

Manhunted Down

Manhunt 2

So Manhunt 2 has become the first game since Carmageddon to be refused a BBFC rating, effectively banning it from sale in the UK. Unless they turn all the victims to zombies and make the blood green, it’s unlikely to see the light of day here at all. This is the part where I wave my import Wii and chipped PS2 around, grinning like a loon. I had no interest in this game until now.

The kneejerk reaction from many gamers will inevitably be the freedom of speech card, just as predictable as the tabloid headlines tomorrow (expect lavish use of the words “sick” and “outrage”). And as much as I dislike censorship, I’m not sure this is a bad thing. Manhunt, for all its excessive gore, depicted a man forced to kill or be killed without a say in the matter, and in that respect had some moral justification, however tenuous, for the act of murder. The sequel, on the other hand:

“…Lamb is battling with his own psyche. A reluctant but able killer, he’s guided by the rather unpleasant Leo, a fellow inmate with a penchant for bloodlust. And it’s this Leo who acts as Manhunt 2’s interior monologue, audibly urging Lamb to commit grisly acts of murder a provoking him to let go of his remaining threads of sanity.” (GamesTM 56)

Is it any surprise that the BBFC criticised a game like this for its “unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone in an overall game context which constantly encourages visceral killing with exceptionally little alleviation or distancing”? I have no problem with virtual depictions of killing but when the only justification is that you’re a psychopath you run out of moral high ground to take very quickly. Even the most visceral horror films are told from the perspective of the victims.

I remember all the furore around the first Manhunt (ignoring the fact that the inaccuracies went unreported – like how it was the victim who loved the game), and being incensed at how under-researched the tabloid articles claiming that the objective was to sate your bloodlust were. Do we really want to make them right when they get wind of this one? For this same reason I think this game does nothing but harm to our hobby. We don’t need it. Every sale that this game made on pure controversy is another spot of credibility to the Mary Whitehouses of the world.

It’s unfortunate that it got banned through legislation, but when the developers won’t exercise self-control and a bit of responsibility it might be for the best.

Sony vs. Kotaku

News about games journalism! Hooray!

The whole thing seems to be over now, but last night gaming blog Kotaku got into trouble with Sony for posting a rumour about what Sony was set to unveil at next week’s GDC. Sony told them not to, they did anyway, and Sony blacklisted them from all their mailing lists and future press events.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I was entirely on Kotaku’s side on this issue. As is often the case lately, I don’t know why Sony acted the way that they did. All throwing the toys out of the pram and trying to blackmail Kotaku did was give credibility to the story, whereas the usual “we do not comment on rumours or speculation” would have at least kept people guessing until next week. The way Sony acted the only possible outcome was for Kotaku to come out smelling of roses, simply because when it’s announced everyone sees that they got the scoop and didn’t give in when the big boys tried to bully them.

Of course, the majority of people supported Kotaku’s stand, but what surprised me when trawling forums was that a number of people were congratulating Sony on not putting up with such insolence, even going as far as to criticise Kotaku’s journalism, such as in this quote from IGN’s PS3 forum:

“Sounds like Kotaku got what they deserve. […] Seriously. Did these guys take any journalism courses at all?”

That sums up what far too many journalists reporting on this industry seem to think: that “journalism” means “typing up press releases” and taking what they’re given, which is often the complete opposite of what journalism should be. I’m not going to make myself look stupid by invoking some of the great investigative journalists because I have no illusions of reporting on this industry being comparable to anything what has been brought to light by political journalists in the past, but being cowed by any of the big industry figures is not journalism.

Bravo Kotaku. Now I hope you walk into that media event next week with a massive, proud grin on your face. You won that round.

In Cairns

Right, so I’ve been in Australia for a few days now. I’ve managed to find an Internet cafe in Sydney where I could upload some photos onto Flickr, and while I haven’t been able to annotate them or anything you can take a look at Bondi Beach, the Sydney skyline, and various parts of the Blue Mountains. This one (that’s my brother) is a favourite shot of mine so far:

Barney on Mt. Victoria

They have wild kangaroos here and everything.

Right now I’m up in the north in Cairns, where I’ll be staying for the next two days and visiting the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest which should make for plenty of nice photos. I’m using a paid terminal with an emasculated Internet at the moment (it wouldn’t even let me on my homepage due to the use of the ‘F’ word) so it might have to wait until I get back to Sydney, but either way enjoy what there is.

Hot Potion of Healing

I’ve just seen the news that Oblivion has been re-rated by the ESRB to change the rating from its previous T to the more adult M. I’m surprised because although the game does have violence, there’s little in the way of excessive gore and I’ve seen far worse in T-rated games as most enemies in this game just fall down and die. The more interesting factor in the decision to rescind the T rating is this one:

partial nudity in the PC version of the game can be created by modders

Besides the fact that I have no problem with a 15-year-old seeing a “partially nude (topless) female” (how many of them haven’t?), I’d hoped that the ESRB had learnt something after the backlash surrounding Hot Coffee. Apparently not. I think I’m right in saying that almost any game can have its art assets hacked by a modder and made nude (or anything else) but that’s besides the point. As with San Andreas, this content wasn’t intended to be seen. Can you really hold them to blame when someone else modifies their code from its original state?

The assertion that they should is absurd, especially when they took steps to make it inaccessible in the first place. It’s funny to me that many of those who decry mod content and blame the developer for it are often the same ones who bang the drum of not holding gun manufacturers responsible when someone decides to play a “murder simulator” for real. I’m not saying that they should (the ethics of the gun industry is something that I’m not touching here), but that double standards such as that completely undermine the argument.

BBFC Ratings for Games

Sonic Gems Collection

Giving a handful of games BBFC ratings is nothing new as any games with significant violent or sexual content will usually lead to the publisher paying to get one by choice, both to protect themselves from angry right-wing newspapers and because it’s something of a badge of honour to anyone under 18 to get their smelly little hands on them. Obviously the Manhunts and Grand Theft Autos of the world get those big red 18 ratings on the front covers but the kiddie platformers stuck with the unenforced PEGI ratings (the European equivalent of the American ELSPA ratings). Over the last few weeks, however, I’ve seen this changing.

You can probably see from the attached picture that Sonic Gems Collection, obviously not the most adult game in the world (although Sonic is clearly punching violently and Metal Sonic is gesturing aggressively with his frightening claws), has the big green “U” triangle, the same as a “G” rating. It obviously wouldn’t require it since it’s exempt from classification, so why would Sega pay to get it rated when they don’t need to?

I should also point out that Sonic Gems Collection isn’t the only game to do this, but it’s the only one I could find with its cover art on Amazon. I know that today I saw a new classic arcade compilation (I forget which one since they’re all identical and similarly overpriced) which carried a “U” rating, and although I can’t remember specifics there were several more which had “U” and “PG” ratings, neither of which would have warranted a BBFC rating.

A game can actually be as violent and depraved as it wants without being forced to get a rating (video games are exempt from classification under the Video Recordings Act 1984, as amended in 1993, at the moment), but the companies go for them anyway to cover their ass in case a kid gets hold of it and does something stupid. That way they can say that the 18 rating makes it illegal for someone under 18 to buy it and so it wasn’t their fault since they did everything they could have legally done to keep it out of underage hands.

The reason for this odd phenomenon with games aimed at a younger audience is almost certainly the same reason that they choose to go for the ratings on adult games – parents don’t know what PEGI is but they’ve grown up with BBFC ratings, and having them on some games and not others just seems to devalue them. By slapping those ratings (and oversized ones at that) on there they’re hoping that people will actually take notice and not be confused by them. If the industry is to stop people jumping on them whenever a kid does something bad, it’s important that they do what they can to help people understand that games aren’t a thing only for kids to play anymore and that nowadays your wholesome platform hero is just as likely to swear profusely and pull out a bazooka as he is to pick up magic flowers on his way to rescue the princess. Until the public get this into their thick skulls it’s important that the industry does what it can to raise awareness.