Dial M for Mature
Good or bad, sex and gore are parts of our lives. We see them as adults day-in and day-out and read about it in the news, magazines and dozens of other media. Why then is there a big furore about it in video games? Are we so jaded as a society and so over-protective of our children that we have to throw up a huge barrier to anyone one else that is over the age of consent to play something that has a bit of naked flesh in it, or shows tamer gore than we see on the nightly news reports where some poor sod has had their head blown off?
Isn't it about time that people with kids took the responsibility themselves, and stopped trying to crucify the game and entertainment industry for every little thing that happens to have a mature rating or contains over the top violence? Seriously, all you need to do parents is just refuse to let the child in question play the game, take it off them, take their console away and just don't let them have it. Unless they're of the right age of course!
You have the power to do that you know, and if your kid goes off and murders a bus full of nuns, well... you could blame the game or perhaps look further back into the kid's life in general. I've met gamers across the planet at various conventions and most of them, I say most here with a caveat are grounded sensible people who want nothing more than to enjoy their chosen media without being told they're the next Antichrist or Son of Satan for liking a bit of flesh in Mass Effect 2.
That brings me neatly onto the next point of this particular article, the developer side of the mature game. I'd like to see developers more along the lines of CD Projekt Red - who developed the Witcher and Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. The first game had sex in it, but it was more a Mass Effect/Mass Effect 2 - he he giggle giggle affair with collectible naughty cards than a bond between two people who are enjoying themselves.
So they listened to feedback from reviews, from the author of the Witcher and most of all looked internally into their own hearts and decided to present us with a different take on the sex and violence thing in Witcher 2. This should become the new benchmark for how to produce and direct sex scenes in video games. Seriously, this is not porn, it's not dirty and it's not a giggle-giggle they're having sex portrayals. It's clever, it's sensible, a little bit erotic and most of all it approaches the sex in Witcher 2 like Sapkowski does in his books.
A Mature rating to a game isn't just a license to put breasts and bums across the screen either; it's knowing just when to show the sex scenes and the glimpses of naked flesh and when to fade to black. Witcher 2 handles this with consummate care and produces some memorable moments in the storyline - most of all though, it makes the sex part optional. You don't have to be like Geralt in the books and go after every single woman that you can bed, you can if you want, but the game doesn't force you down that path.
A Mature game presents all aspects of the game equally, the violence and the sexual content. It doesn't glorify one or the other but handles all of the concepts that we as mature adults (most of the time) deal with in our lives. Drug abuse, racism, violence towards men and women and other elements of society like corrupt officials and the darker side of life we'd love to shield our children from.
The problem with a shield is that you often bounce the vitriol off that shield onto others who don't really deserve it. Rockstar didn't deserve the bullshit that Jack Thompson threw their way and to be honest, I blame parents in most of the cases where an under-age kid gets hold of a video game and plays it without his or her parent's consent.
Rather than a shield, we need some common sense from all parties. Just because you cover little Johnny's eyes doesn't mean the bad things will go away... he's going to grow up one day and he's going to be scared of a lot of things because you didn't stand up and show him what the hell the world is like.
Innocence is a great thing, but you know what's better?
Tolerance and understanding, that not every single movie-goer and gamer on the planet is 12. Some of us have reached the great old age that Douglas Adams would be proud of, and have the right to choose if we play a game with violence and sexual content.
Take away that right and you're worse than anyone who declares they're running this planet for the 'greater good of society'.
The moral of this story is: look in your own backyard before you look through someone else's window and blame them for the dog crap on your lawn.