Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Warning: Explicit Content Issues

It occurred to me that, with the advent of MMORPGs, and games where content is automatically shared, like Spore, censorship will be even more evident in our gaming experience. Now, games are currently rated and controlled though the ESRB, which is fine and dandy, and most MMORPGs on the market now have the added tag-line that experience may change during online play. However, Spore will be actively pulling new monsters for your worlds from other player's databases, and let's face it, there are some sick and twisted people out there.

For example, within hours of the creature creator for Spore's release, the web was flooded with various penis-shaped creatures and other vulgarities. Which for an initial release of a creature editor is fine (if not childish), but what about the real game? I am not paying $50-60 for a game that downloads penis monsters onto all my unoccupied worlds. Frankly, I expect some quality control.

Which brings me to my point: where is the balance between content control and enjoyability. City of Heroes regularly "genericizes" (transforms the player's costume into a generic one and changes their name to generic####) any player whose superhero resembles a copyrighted hero. World of Warcraft, on the other hand, doesn't seem to care that much (given the number of Chuck Norris's out there). The makers of Grand Theft Auto got sued for the Hot Coffee incident, when in fact the content wasn't even playable in the shipped game (players had to hack the game to find it). It seems that no gaming company really knows what is good and what is bad in terms of censorship.

If every little act that could be deemed censorable was censored, then the games themselves would fall apart. There would be no cursing, blood splatter, mention of anything that could be mistaken for vulgarities. Largely, the community aspects of these games would disappear, as well as the fun of solo activities. If there was no censorship, these games would not be suited for children and would all receive a mature rating. There is a balance point in the middle, but it requires a constant level of surveillance and quality assurance that no gaming company is willing to pay for. I doubt Spore will have a quality assurance system, and will more likely just approve any monster that comes through the server.

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to see you posting again. Anyways, I think ESRB ratings are there for a reason! I mean you can't possibly make a M-rated game and then sue or even censor the game cuz it's insulting or inappropriate to children!! I mean c'mon! Why in the first place would you let a child play a mature-suited game? It's not the company's fault at all! You don't see parents or politicians complaining about R rated movies if kids go see them! It's totally the parents fault for not supervising!

    Anyways, I really think that console games (or rather any non-MMORPGs) can do just fine with any content they offer. But MMORPGs need some kind of quality assurance, like you suggested!

    I can't begin to tell how many times I saw bitch2145 and fukcme1234 in MMORGPs! And the Spore thing? That's just horrible!