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Here's a disclaimer for you: I'm 23 years old. Although I sometimes have the blogging maturity of a 13-year-old, I'm pretty sure that being 23 entitles me to a few things, namely beer, cigarettes, and all the gory multimedia I can get my hands on!
Unless, of course, I want to play a video game. I can watch Hostel II, and squeal with glee when unsuspecting people get their arms twisted off in Saw III, but heaven forbid I try to do that as a virtual character in a video game. Or worse yet, watch a virtual character do it in the trailer of a video game. Won't somebody think of the children!
The problem lies in the fact that somebody already has -- a group of somebodies, in fact, known as the Entertainment Software Rating Board. The group's existence is a nice way to keep the government out of the great video game debate, but I'm worried that the ESRB -- like Denethor -- is slowly abandoning reason in the place of madness. And while I'd normally not care about game ratings, seeing as I'm of the legal age to buy anything I damn well please, the various console manufacturers have made it quite clear with the recent Manhunt II saga that mature content is simply not welcome on the Wii, the PS3 or the 360.
But how is this fair, to me, the consumer who enjoys playing mature, realistic games? Yes, I think Manhunt II is going to be as boring as Manhunt got to be, but that doesn't mean that I want to play a watered-down version of the game. I want the full, head-stabbing, groin-ripping experiences -- not because I'm a psychotic in training, but because this extreme brutality ultimately contributes to the game's novelty factor and overall success.
Unfortunately, this will never happen, as the console overlords have since chipped into the discussion. Games that get the Adults-Only might as well get run over by a truck in the parking lot; that's how much value they have, as they won't be seeing the light of day on any of the modern console machines. None. Zippo. Not on the XBox 360, not on the PlayStation 3 and certainly not on the Wii. I suppose I can cross my fingers for an uncensored PC version of Manhunt II, but after the brouhaha surrounding the freakin' Grand Theft Auto series, I sincerely doubt Rockstar's going to want to head down that path again.
It just greatly disturbs me to watch the ESRB flex its knuckles against the sheer onslaught of evil that is pixilated gore. The ratings system is a wonderful tool to help uninformed patrons (parents) understand what their kids are up to, and I find absolutely nothing wrong with disallowing people under certain ages from playing particular content. What I do have a problem with, however, is the ESRB and manufacturers treating the AO stamp -- and "trailer guidelines" -- like a virtual banstick, which prevents me from reaching content that I, as a functioning adult, should be able to see. Believe me, I wouldn't be quite as interested in Dark Sector had I not seen that the game offers some additional, immersive gameplay -- at the end of a glaive -- than a typical third-person shooter. Show me a sanitized version of the trailer, and I'll likely be bored.
But gamers have seen this slippery slope coming for awhile now. First was the war of ratings when it came to modded content, now it's the battle over violent content. Pretty soon, we'll all be playing nothing but Mario Party while whistling Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, because some external board of arbiters has deemed mature fun to be unsafe for any human being's consumption. Passive-aggressive censorship rocks.