Where I Stand: Far from Censorship

In recent years, the issue of censorship and regulation of video games has been one of great concern. It affects not only to the members of the video game industry and the gaming community, but any defenders of liberty and freedom across the country. Now that may sound a bit dramatic, but it is essentially the case.

I was playing Manhunt 2 earlier this week – the Wii version. (On a side note, I thought the gesture-based controls were masterfully…uh…executed, but I have to admit that I felt a bit criminal, or at least mildly sadistic, while performing the actions) What bothered me more than the icky feelings i had while performing kills, though, was the fact that the game has been so heavily modified (CENSORED) from its original form. You’ve probably already read/heard/seen, but the executions in the game are almost completely obfuscated. I couldn’t tell what was even happening half the time.

That brings me to the point of this bundle of text – how do we stop the censorship, and what, if any, good can legislation do for the state of gaming? Where I have been leaning is toward the advocacy of certain limitations. Now before you start your cries of “heresy!” and “traitor!” please understand that these would only be in order to expand the freedoms of developers and to open up entirely new realms of creativity in which they could express themselves.

The way it works now is that each game (well, game footage) is sent to the ESRB and rated. This ratings board, mind you, is made up of “…a wide range of backgrounds, races, and ages and have no ties to the interactive entertainment industry. Raters include retired school principals, parents, professionals, and other individuals from all walks of life.” That’s not exactly a jury of one’s peers. If the content is deemed “too offensive” by these outsiders, then it is altered for release. It has been effectively censored.

So why would game makers tone down their games? Because manufacturers such as Nintendo and Sony won’t release an “Adults Only” game on any of their consoles. Why won’t they release those kinds of games? Public outcry and bad press. If there were rules in place beyond the voluntary ESRB ratings board that would take the blame off of anyone in the industry itself, then it would be much more likely that those companies would allow a wider range of content to be played on their hardware.

What I would propose is that all games be rated, and left as-is. I would also propose that console manufacturers allow games of all ratings to be released for their respective platforms. Finally – and this is the interesting part – I would propose that regulatory bodies enforce *ONLY* that the software be sold to the proper audiences – the audiences for which they were intended. That way, all content originally crafted as part of the interactive experience could actually find its way into the final retail box, sans censorship. Many of these so-called “games” (we know how I feel about that term) are made for adults, and we want them…uncut. This is not Romper Room, and censorship is just a gross misquote of the works’ creators.

With movies, there is a similar system in place. Movies are rated by the MPAA, and then the viewing of those movies is restricted to the age group that the rating calls for. Nobody tries to censor films or get them taken out of theaters, because kids aren’t allowed to watch them. It’s not a perfect system, and certainly has its loopholes, but at least it stops the mommy police from crying.

As for music, the RIAA (another internal ratings board) plants the famous “PARENTAL ADVISORY” sticker on the front of albums that contain objectionable lyrics. Retailers then keep these reserved for their adult patrons. Again, little crying.

So if the ESRB was called the VGAA, would things be different? Would their ratings somehow be more valid in the eyes of the government? As things stand right now, the video game industry gets no respect. Laws implemented in the current state of affairs would really only be slapped on top of all the media hogwash, and no progress could be made. If everyone would work together, however, the industry could use the government’s desire for regulations to set up a fully-integrated system, ultimately benefiting the creative landscape of game design as we know it.

Heck, they might even become a legitimate art form in the public eye…


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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