i'd better get my thoughts down on this topic before even more utter stupidity comes out and i've got to write 2 or 3 posts on it... the topic: the outright banning of a video game, Manhunt 2, in the UK, and the virtual banning of said game here in the states - or, well, that WAS to be the topic, but now the gestapo that has been the ESRB of late has went on a banhunt on the internets and forced developers of 2 other games to take down trailers for their games THAT HAVE BEEN UP FOR MONTHS. the games in question are Dark Sector and The Darkness.
now, to be fair, i have not played any of these games personally yet (but then again, the ESRB doesn't play them either before they rate them). in terms of Manhunt 2, i've seen the trailers, read two preview playthroughs of the game (one from Gamepro, the other from the New York Times), and have played the original myself. in terms of Dark Sector and The Darkness, i've only see trailers.
first, Manhunt 2.
yes, the game is you going around killing people in gruesome fashions. yes, the original was pretty brutal and i hear they ramped it up for the sequel. however, in everything i've seen and read... it's no worse than, say, the Saw or Hostel movies. and these movies receive the R rating they deserve, and are distributed nationwide. Manhunt 2 however, the video game equivalent of a torture horror movie, was outright BANNED in the UK and got a virtual ban here in the states.
what do i mean by a virtual ban? the ESRB gave it an AO (adults only) rating, which i thought was bad at first because big retailers like Walmart won't carry it on the shelves... but i could still get it if i wanted. that turned out not to be the case. Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft will not ALLOW AO-rated games on their consoles. so... it's virtually banned.
the producers of the game, Rockstar, can now either cut things to get the M (mature) rating and give up their artistic integrity, they could shelve the game and lose a ton of money on production, or there's a possibility they could port it to the PC, where there are no restrictions on AO titles, and leave it as is... oh, as a side note - Rockstar, if you're doing this just as a publicity stunt for the game, i will never buy another one of your games again... because i think this is a SERIOUS issue and good on you for bringing it to light - but i'll hate you forever if you did it with the wrong intentions.
my problem comes with the way this whole system is set up. the ESRB can hand out an AO rating and wash their hands, saying "we didn't ban it!" and major retailers won't carry it, washing their hands of it too... but then the major console makers saying they won't ALLOW AO games on their consoles? that's just wrong. why is there an AO rating then?!?
the movie analogy. a movie can get an NC-17 or XXX rating (does that exist anymore?) and main cineplexes can choose not to show it... but there will be a local art house that will no doubt take a chance and show it - if not, there's always DVD. this isn't the case with video games exactly. the only "outlet" an AO game has really is the PC.
the PC - the art house for AO video games. how messed up is that. :)
to sum up:
- Manhunt 2 shouldn't be rated AO with movies like Saw and Hostel gracing movie screens nationwide. if we're going to try and tackle the issue of violence in the media, we can't just focus on video games, we need to look at movies and television as well.
- IF Manhunt 2 really did deserve the AO rating, i'm fine with major retailers not wanting to carry it on their shelves, but the console makers should NOT have the policy of "no AO" on their machines. it holds a game/developer hostage, as well as the audience that wants to play the game.
ok, in terms of the trailers getting essentially banned from the internet... first, what in the world is EVER banned on the internet? hell, you can find anything you want on the internet, the word "censor" doesn't exist here. second, these are trailers that had been up for MONTHS and had age gates (something that asked you to verify your age) before you could view them, so what is the deal?!?
i'll tell you what it is, and this pertains to the banning of Manhunt 2 as well - it's political. video games are going to be a hot button issue the next 2 years as the 2008 elections get closer - i've heard there's some video game specials on this week, so i know something's up if John Q. Public will be watching.
either that or it's a knee-jerk reaction by the ESRB - they saw how "awful" Manhunt 2 was and they were like "we had no idea, what else is out there that's going to be this awful?" and so they freaked and asked the developers to take down the Dark Sector and The Darkness trailers (which aren't that bad, to be honest, not as bad as Manhunt 2).
whatever the reason, i'm fed up. the public view of video games needs to mature. there can be games for kids AND for adults - just like there is in television, just like there is in movies. i want to be able to play AO games - on a console, not just on my PC... wherever and whenever i damn well please.
free Manhunt 2. free the Dark Sector trailer. free The Darkness trailer. let my games go.