Traditional media seems to have it out for video games. News reports helped fuel the controversy surrounding Mortal Kombat and other games in the early 1990s, leading to the creation of the ESRB in 1994. Almost 20 years later, mainstream media still screams about the horrors in video games, even if they are rated M. The claims range from ridiculous to outright lies.
Portal 2 is Offensive to Adoptive Parents
A few weeks ago, a video started making its rounds on numerous gaming websites. A local news broadcast out of North Carolina featured a story about Portal 2. Parents of an adopted daughter where outraged when they heard GLaDOS and Wheatley taunt Chell because she’s “adopted.”
Obviously, the parents and the media didn’t do any research. It was never marketed as “educational.” As for the insults, GLaDOS constantly lies through out the game. In addition to telling Chell she’s adopted, she’s always calling her fat. It’s quite clear she is not. The adopted girl who actually played the game claims not to have heard the insults. The reporter says she reached out to Sony for comment. Sony told her to talk to Valve. Another reporter then remarks this is “passing the buck.” No, it’s not. Portal 2 is Valve’s game. Five minutes of Internet searching would have cleared that up for them.
Bulletstorm is the Worst Game Ever
During the February 2011 release of the video game, Fox News gave it the title of worst game ever because of its violent content. The first line of the article is “Parents beware-there’s a Bulletstorm on the horizon.” The game is rated M. Parents shouldn’t buy it for their kids anyway. As the article points out, the ESRB’s description of the game on its website is accurate. It mentions the violence, language, and the sexual innuendos of some of the Skillshot titles.
One of the “experts” in the article goes so far as to say “increase in rape can be attributed in a large part to the playing out of (sexual) scenes in a video game.” There is no source in the article to back that up. A week later, Dr. Lieberman identified her sources, none of which supported her ridiculous claim. For all the media coverage about the game, Bulletstorm received tons of free promotion.
Mass Effect is Almost Like Pornography
This poor excuse for gaming coverage should have made Fox stop even before the Bulletstorm fiasco. In 2008, Fox decided the RPG Mass Effect was tantamount to porn. They even gave the video segment the title “SeXBOX?”. Self-help author Cooper Lawrence was outraged by the sex scene, even though she admitted on-air that she’s never played the game. Video game journalist Geoff Keighley tried to explain what the game is about. There’s no full frontal nudity and players can go through the entire game without getting to the sex scene. He was shouted down and given less time to talk.
The segment was so wrong, it caused its own controversy. Cooper Lawrence later admitted all she ever heard about the game was what Fox told her minutes before airtime, which was “it’s just like pornography.” The backlash caused more harm to Lawrence in the form of negative reviews for her book than it did to Mass Effect. The series is still one of the most popular RPGs.
BioShock Encourages the Killing of Little Girls
In 2007, an article in the the Patriot Ledger newspaper received National attention. Most of it provided an accurate description of the moral dilemmas in the game. Although, it still tried to tie real life violence to in-game violence. While people who never played the game were outraged, gamers knew the choices had consequences. By harvesting the girls, you do get more ADAM, but your character ends the game as a monster. Saving the girls has its own rewards in the form of extra ADAM from Dr. Tenenbaum and the good ending of the game.
Well known anti-gaming activist Jack Thompson, was outraged by BioShock’s content, even though the game is rated M. He wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission over the game’s commercials being aired during WWE’s SmackDown. He also had his 15 year old son buy the game at Best Buy in a misguided attempt to blame the entire gaming industry for cashiers who fail to check identification. BioShock wasn’t negatively affected by any of Thompson’s tactics. It is still one of the most successful FPS series.
The mainstream media needs to take the time to research games before creating controversy. They may try to stir up trouble with their ridiculous claims and lies, but it’s the media who ends up looking bad, not the games or the people who play them.
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