Tuesday, August 23

Damion Schubert on game ratings

Note: This blog article is adapted from a comment on the linked article. I was proud enough of the comment that I thought it deserved a post here.

Damion Schubert, one of the A-list MMO-design bloggers, follows up on an ongoing discussion of the current system of rating video games, paraphrasing a BBC article as follows:
Long story short: if parents are aware of the rating system and what ‘M’ means but still buys the game, at what point can all of the blame cease to be placed at the industry’s footsteps.
One of the commenters on Damion's piece, who identifies themselves as "Q", makes the argument that games are often marketed at a wider audience than their rating allows.

Q’s comment reminds me of tobacco advertising, but there are some key differences — like the fact that cigarettes are cigarettes no matter who makes them. Games are much more varied. I really think the more appropriate precedent here is the movie industry. But even that one is a bit weird, because games are so much more removed from their predecessors (tabletop games and physical sports) than movies were from theirs (vaudeville). Vaudeville already had a concept of ‘adult’ content — the burlesque — and motion pictures acquired that trend and marketed themselves to the entire population, with action and adventure and drama and kid’s shows too.

Nintendo did the world a huge disservice saturation-bombing children in the 80s. (I say that as a child of the 80s myself.) If they’d positioned the Famicom as a family entertainment device, for Mom and Dad as well as for The Kids, then I think this fight we’re having right now wouldn’t be happening the same way because the medium wouldn’t be perceived as “for kids”. So in a strange sort of way, there are analogies to the world of comics, too. And hey, look! Comics are under the same kinds of attacks for their adult content!

The Economist’s leader on the issue (may be a pay link; contact me outside the blog if you want the text of the article) was also particularly interesting to me; it pointed out that the condemnation of video games as immoral and corrupting has huge parallels to the similar condemnation of rock&roll in the 50s, which only really died out when its vanguard started to die off. I know that my kids are going to have access to age-appropriate games and comics, the same way as they have access to age-appropriate books and movies and music.

And frankly, I don’t care if my grandparents disapprove.

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