Censorship

What About Saw, the Video Game?

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In a New York Times column, Seth Schiesel notes the double standard applied to violence in video games vs. violence in movies or TV shows:

Just look at coverage of Halo, the top-selling science-fiction series that is akin to "Star Wars" in its level of made-up mayhem. In the mainstream media Halo is often described as a "violent space epic" or a "violent shoot-'em-up game." But when was the last time "Star Wars" was described as George Lucas's "violent space movie"? For that matter, when was the last time anyone referred to "The Sopranos" as a "shoot-'em-up television show," which at some level it was?

The answer to both questions is basically never, and that is because American culture has become so inured to violence in linear media that even the most heinous depictions of brutality go almost without comment.

As a recent example of the heightened scrutiny games receive, Schiesel cites Manhunt 2, which the industry's Entertainment Software Rating Board initially gave a sales-killing Adults Only rating. After revisions, the game qualified for a Mature rating, meaning it's cleared for players 17 and older. Since the cutoff for Adults Only is 18, that may not seem like a big difference, but major retailers shun AO games, just as many theaters will not show NC-17 movies. Schiesel describes Manhunt as "a straight-up horror survival game for adults" and says "the redacted version…seems to retain at least 99 percent of the original content." While "Manhunt 2 is certainly not for the squeamish," he says, "it is no more violent than so-called torture porn films like the 'Hostel' and 'Saw' film series"—movies that were rated R.

Ultimately, Schiesel concludes, the controversy over Manhunt 2 probably will be good for U.S. sales, helping to generate buzz within the target audience. In the U.K., by contrast, the game was simply banned.

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  1. I think they are held to a higher standard because of their interactive nature. Watching Tony Soprano strangling someone to death is a little different than you using the Wiimote to slit someone’s throat on the screen.

  2. But what they have in common is that they’re both pretend and nobody gets hurt.

    I think they’re held to a higher standard because the people who regulate them don’t play video games regularly and, just as TV and film before it, society tends to judge new forms of entertainment as inferior to accepted forms.

  3. Just look at coverage of Halo, the top-selling science-fiction series that is akin to “Star Wars” in its level of made-up mayhem.

    Is it really? I don’t play so I don’t really know. But every time I’ve seen someone playing Halo, they are laying down a barrage of hyper-destructive fire. When not actually shooting they are hunting something to shoot at. Is there ANY other aspect to the game? I’m very skeptical that it is as tame as Star Wars, which has it’s battle scenes but spends most it’s time on plot, subplot, and character development.

  4. Or how about that snuff film directed by Mel “I don’t hate the Jews” Gibson? I have a feeling that video game crucifixion and mutilation would merit an AO (for the children!).

  5. Ultimately, Schiesel concludes, the controversy over Manhunt 2 probably will be good for U.S. sales, helping to generate buzz within the target audience.

    Gosh, its almost like they planned it that way. Given that they were able to retain +99% of the content, you might think that all they did was include one or two disposable scenes that are both (a) guaranteed to catch the AO rating and buzz and (b) easily dumped for the actual release.

    In the U.K., by contrast, the game was simply banned.

    Market opportunity!

  6. I think they’re held to a higher standard because the people who regulate them don’t play video games

    Bingo. The idiots who get the vapors over video games are usually nanny mother types who 1) have never played a video game more involving than Solitaire, 2) just cannot understand why a teenage boy might want to blow shit up and shoot things, and 3) instinctively fear anything they don’t understand and control.

    It all reminds me of Tipper Gore and the rock music bullshit in the 80’s. What these “protect the children” types don’t understand, they fear and want to suppress.

  7. Is it really? I don’t play so I don’t really know. But every time I’ve seen someone playing Halo, they are laying down a barrage of hyper-destructive fire. When not actually shooting they are hunting something to shoot at. Is there ANY other aspect to the game? I’m very skeptical that it is as tame as Star Wars, which has it’s battle scenes but spends most it’s time on plot, subplot, and character development.

    Halo has come to have a pretty intricate plot and story line, as do most games now. The days of game stories being as shallow as stories in porno films are over.

    I think they’re held to a higher standard because the people who regulate them don’t play video games regularly and, just as TV and film before it, society tends to judge new forms of entertainment as inferior to accepted forms.

    I’m sure thats a factor, too.

  8. I just wait for the day that we have Congressman who are gamers. Then it will be treated like every other form of mass entertainment, not like a red headed step child.

  9. Chris S.
    Oh yes that’s perfect. The way Passion was venerated made my head spin. A video game version of The Passion would be the perfect vehicle to make, all those people who took their children to see the film, heads explode.

  10. I’m trying to think of the type of video game that the Console-Nannies would actually want released.

    I’m guessing it would very boring, very short, and end with the protagonist getting saved by baby jesus.

  11. Halo is more violent than Star Wars by density (more violence to everything else), but isn’t a whole lot more violent in any individual case. Most of the enemies are alien and bleed purple. There are no wounds just a spray of blood.

  12. I’m trying to think of the type of video game that the Console-Nannies would actually want released.

    Theres this abominable piece of shit my little brother played when he was three. That would probably get their approval.

    I would say Mario perhaps, but too many drug references.

  13. In the U.K., by contrast, the game was simply banned.

    The UK is fucking whacked out. In the UK you can be arrested and put on a sex offenders list for having sex with your own bicycle behind locked doors Banning of video games seems tame by comparison

  14. The days of game stories being as shallow as stories in porno films are over.

    Barely Legal has come to have pretty intricate plot and story lines, as do most por.. HAHAHAHAHA
    Ahhhhh just kidding.

  15. I’m trying to think of the type of video game that the Console-Nannies would actually want released.

    My guess is every game I fed quarters from Pong, to Tempest would pass muster. Although there was that Graveyard game, where you chased down fleeing pedestrians and when you hit them, a cross appeared in their place. That was pretty cool and there was a nanny backlash, it got pulled out of the arcade.

  16. “video game crucifixion and mutilation”

    That sounds like a great game!

  17. Or how about that snuff film directed by Mel “I don’t hate the Jews” Gibson? I have a feeling that video game crucifixion and mutilation would merit an AO (for the children!).

    The closest anyone came to that was “Bible Adventures” for the NES. Unfortunatley, they left out the violent parts of the Bible. You spent most of your time running around carrying baby moses on your head like a Super Mario 2 turnip.

  18. Although there was that Graveyard game…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_Race

  19. Any of the video game nerds here played “Chiller” on MAME? Check out the video at YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXY2-jf9ruE

  20. You spent most of your time running around carrying baby moses on your head like a Super Mario 2 turnip.

    Sorry to threadjack, but…

    I once tried to download an emulation of Mario 2, and accidentally got a version hacked by some KKK idiot.

    Imagine, guys walking around in white sheets throwing around little black babies (in lieu of the turnips)…

  21. I once tried to download an emulation of Mario 2, and accidentally got a version hacked by some KKK idiot.

    At least you didn’t download the Super Maro 2 rave hack. I feel doubly sorry for anyone who accidentally downloaded that who happened to have epilepsy. I guess if you were high on Ecstacy, it could be fun.

    Imagine, guys walking around in white sheets throwing around little black babies (in lieu of the turnips)…

    I got the Super Mario Bros. 1 version of that. The Mushroom is a white power cross, the fire flower a burning cross, and the starman a noose.

  22. The closest anyone came to that was “Bible Adventures” for the NES. Unfortunatley, they left out the violent parts of the Bible. You spent most of your time running around carrying baby moses on your head like a Super Mario 2 turnip.

    So the video game markets for “Super Crucifixion” and “Sodomite Massacre” are still untapped? Sweet.

  23. So the video game markets for “Super Crucifixion” and “Sodomite Massacre” are still untapped? Sweet.

    Nah thats not edgy enough. What we really need is Muhammad: The RPG.

  24. To quote Heavy Weapons Guy, “Cry some more!”

  25. And little boys will play war if you let them have sticks to point at each other. Maybe we should just outlaw the Y chromosome.

  26. How about Left Behind: Eternal Forces?

    Based on, you guessed it, the Left Behind book series. Gameplay requires you to kill or convert the non-Christians in a post Rapture world where your enemies are the Antichrist and his minions the U.N peacekeeping forces….er, I meant the Global Community Peacekeepers, but handily they also wear blue helmets.

  27. And don’t forget music as well. Slipknot is one of my favorite bands, they’re a local treasure in iowa, but people will always call me weird because I listen to slipknot as it is somehow darker than watching Saw. great song

  28. It is a little ridiculous to say that we who don’t play video games hold them to a higher standard. Yes, little boys like to pretend to “blow shit up”. But when you buy them a video game where it is a simulated dangerous scenario, it makes them think violently. It causes them to be more creative in their thought process. In a time where school shootings are all too common, this is the last thing we should be letting our children do in their spare time. In addition to them being violent, it encourages children to sit in front of a TV all day and not do their homework. How often do you see children playing in their yards? Not often enough. Violence dominates our society and both TV and video games should not be as violent as they are. Just because we give them a Mature rating does not mean that some parent out there will buy their kids that game.

  29. Halo more violent than Star Wars? In SW:ANH (the 1977 film), a populated planet and a moon-sized military base were disintegrated (plus numerous deaths due to melee & projectile weapons, and space vehicle destruction). We’re talking gigadeaths. How many centuries would one have to play Halo to rack up billions of kills?

    The only question is whether the construction workers in the Death Star II in “Jedi” were innocent victims or did they get what they had coming.

  30. Abigail1225-Do you really think video games turn children into violent maniacs? I’ll give you a hint to the proper answer here-they don’t. It’s a form of entertainment, no different than a movie (the theory behind the article here).

    Oh, and school shootings are NOT common at all. The risks of a student getting shot at school pale in comparion of them getting killed by a parent or relative, or run over by a car, or struck by lighting. And if you wanted to reduce them, don’t you think banning real guns would be more useful than banning fake digital guns?

  31. Abigail, what do you think we should do? You don’t seem to think that giving a game a “mature” rating is enough, so what else?

  32. The only question is whether the construction workers in the Death Star II in “Jedi” were innocent victims or did they get what they had coming.

    I think that was covered in Clerks – contractors know what they’re getting into. 😉

  33. Abagail, I don’t know where you have been since around, oh, 1995. But since about then the adult (Yes, adult, even those in their late 30s now) video game market has boomed. If they want to play Manhunt, they should damn well be able too regardless of whether some dipshit parent buys that kind of game for their 6-year old.

    Japan doesn’t censor sex or violence in their video games, and they have one of the lowest crime rates in the world. So I don’t see how theres a correlation there.

  34. Politicians never understood the entire genre of video games and still don’t, They are all shite scared to ever censor or call time on Hollywood yet they are perfectly happy to do it video games. The thing is politicians hate nerds, geeks and techies. They don’t understand what they do and are happy to shaft them whenever possible.

    When they helped Hollywood they could always shag a movie starlet…

    This is down to ignorance, jealousy and self-interest.

  35. Any of the video game nerds here played “Chiller” on MAME? Check out the video at YouTube:

    I have that one, the torture room is great. I never saw it in the arcade though. There always was Crossbow instead.

    As for best non-violent game, I’d go with Katamari Damacy. Although there is a little drug imagery (although most of the graphics are just insane J-pop shit).


  36. As for best non-violent game, I’d go with Katamari Damacy. Although there is a little drug imagery (although most of the graphics are just insane J-pop shit).

    A little? I heard the creator was tripping the hell out on acid when he made that.

    Comedian Bill Hicks always said, “if you really believe drugs are evil, go home and burn all your albums”. Well, if you really believe drugs are evil, go home and smash all your non-violent video game cartridges, CDs, and DVDs with a sledgehammer. Because if its not violent/sexual (especially if its Japanese), 8/10 times the guy was high on some kind of hallucinogen when he created it.

  37. OK, I’ve never heard that…………but I’d understand if it was true. It is the perfect stoner’s game.

  38. Is it really? I don’t play so I don’t really know. But every time I’ve seen someone playing Halo, they are laying down a barrage of hyper-destructive fire. When not actually shooting they are hunting something to shoot at.A

    Warren, when I played Halo, or any other first-person shooter, I conserve ammo and try to find ways to avoid getting into a fight. I feel it is a point of honor to leave as much unused ammo lying around as possible. Laying down a barrage of fire when you can sneak past the enemy is for rank amateurs. It’s much more interesting to outwit the bad guys. One of the hardest and most interesting video games ever was Rainbox Six, and the hardest levels there were the recon levels where firing your weapon caused you to automatically lose.

  39. I’m trying to think of the type of video game that the Console-Nannies would actually want released.

    I’m guessing it would very boring, very short, and end with the protagonist getting saved by baby jesus nanny-statist politicians.

    Fixed.

  40. I remember I was in Germany, they had really strict laws for violence on TV and video games (so at least they were consistent). However, there was boobs* on TV, even during shampoo commercials and the like. I gotta say, I’ll take European TV nannies over American ones, I’d rather see boobs and soft core porn than blood and gore.

    * Really nice ones

  41. I ordered the PC game Ethnic Cleansing from restance records back in the mid 90’s. The makers probably made a gazzillion bucks from all the negative news show coverage. I had to buy it. I’m pretty good at not slowing down traffic to gawk at a car wreck, but this I could not resist. It was your basic white race shooting Jews, blacks, and Mexicans Genre – pretty typical for the time. I emailed asking if there was an addition charge for shipping since the price on my invoice was the same as the purchase price. They replied, “Shipping is included. What do you think we are, Jews?”

    Who says skin heads have no sense of humor?

    Gee, I wonder if this title could be found by searching thepiratebay.org

  42. Damn, I forgot the rule about having a point. I better make up some shit real quick. Uh, racism is bad, and never to be made light of. Violence is bad. Jesus saves.

  43. “no more violent than so-called torture porn films like the ‘Hostel’ and ‘Saw’ film series”

    Oh, that’s a relief, I thought for a second the game would be violent.

  44. “The only question is whether the construction workers in the Death Star II in ‘Jedi’ were innocent victims or did they get what they had coming.”

    From http://tinyurl.com/zjvh4

    “[Timothy] McVeigh tried to recruit Fortier to assist in the actual bombing, but Fortier balked, and asked, ‘What about all the people?’ McVeigh told Fortier to think of the victims as ‘storm troopers in Star Wars’ who, although individually innocent, ‘are guilty because they work for the evil empire.'”

  45. I figure the mainstream media comes down so hard on videogames for three reasons.
    1) People who play videogames don’t watch as much TV.
    2) Scaring people is a guaranteed way to get the ratings.
    3) Videogames are the new rock and roll.
    TV Tropes wiki has a pretty thorough look at it here http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main.NewMediaAreEvil
    and here
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UltraSuperDeathGoreFestChainsawer3000

  46. Most video games are bought by people over 18. The average video gamer is 30+.

    Who are we protecting here?

  47. But every time I’ve seen someone playing Halo, they are laying down a barrage of hyper-destructive fire. When not actually shooting they are hunting something to shoot at. Is there ANY other aspect to the game?

    No, there is not. Halo is dull, boring, and predictable, just like most every other first-person shooter.

    As for the topic of the thread, I think that the people who cry most about video games being too violent are under the impression that gaming is still something done mostly by children. Remember when that was the case? I contend that it isn’t any longer- the gaming world has evolved and so the kids who were playing Mario Bros in 1987 are now the ones playing games like Manhunt.

  48. Yesterday, as a Persian, I nuked a couple of German cities with my ICBMs in Civilization IV. Forget Manhunt, Halo and other low-violence games: genocides in games rated 10+ are the way to go!

  49. Jozef,

    I too play Civ IV (probably far more than I should) and I can:

    …kill off countless units (of a different race, no less)
    …burn cities to the ground
    …poison water supplies
    …nuke people

  50. Taktix, don’t forget taking other nations’ workers and making them your slaves.

  51. But you’re neglecting all the damage that can be done when I unleash a “culture bomb” (Great Artist work next to a low level opponent’s city). The spreading of my nation’s ideas can do more damage to you than my military units (early in the game at least).

    Civ IV is truly an outstanding game.

  52. Ska-

    If you like strategy games go search for “paradox interactive”. They make Civ-like games except they are much, much deeper.

  53. “Just because we give them a Mature rating does not mean that some parent out there will buy their kids that game.”

    I think I found the root of the problem, and its solution, all in one line.

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