Something smells funny in videogame-land

I don’t know who to blame for the fact that Manhunt 2 has been indefinitely shelved by Rockstar Games: the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which rated the game Adults Only because of its “excessive violence” (thus ensuring that Sony and Nintendo would never release a version for their consoles); the video-game console makers for being such nervous Nellies, when they already ship violent titles by the truckload — and happily so; or Rockstar itself, for caving in and shelving the game.

snipshot_e4hug54p2wp.jpgIs Manhunt 2 extremely violent? Undoubtedly, considering the first one was, and the second likely ups the ante — considering the player is seeing the game through the eyes of someone who may be a psycopath, recently held in a mental institution. Is that an unreasonable premise for a game? I hardly think so. I played Max Payne and Max Payne 2, and they had a similar theme — including Satanism — and they were great. Moody, frightening, cinematic even. Doom 3 was quite the gore-fest too. And speaking of cinematic, why is it OK for kids to see the Saw movies, but not to play video games? As my friend Clive Thompson asked recently, why is it OK for me to grow up playing violent games, but not my kids?

3 thoughts on “Something smells funny in videogame-land

  1. I’d never let my kids watch the Saw movies (though I thought they were reasonably good).

    The current trend in video games, like the current trend in entertainment generally, is clearly towards more excessive sex, profanity and violence compared to 20 or even 10 years ago. The rating is simply a rating. Anyone who wanted to give that game to their kids could buy it and do it. They couldn’t come to my house, but they could do it.

    Should kids be allowed to buy beer, cigarettes, guns, etc. Of course not. Why are games any different?

  2. I think the fact they’re games is exactly the point. While films are narratives – the placing of events into a structure that is inherently about meaning making – the dominant mode of gaming is simulation, not narrative and, thus, does not demand the same meaning-making strategies that narratives do. This is why both GTA and Tetris are ‘games’, even though they seem to differ so radically. It’s for this reason than Manhunt 2 *should* be banned – it crosses the line from that which can be narratologically positioned into that which simply revels in violence.

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