No, wait: I love saying I told you so. Last year, in this space, I predicted that not only would the U.S. Supreme Court strike down the California law criminalizing the sale of the violent games to minors, but that it would draw on the United States vs. Stevens decision in doing so. Stevens, you may recall, was a ban on animal snuff films created for sexual fetishists, and the court ruled 8-1 that such films were protected under the First Amendment.
This summer's Supreme Court ruling may have protected the gaming industry's right to free speech, but was it a true "victory"? Read on to get the pros and cons!
Did you order a copy of Duke Nukem Forever back when you thought “Forever” was simply a marketing buzz word? If so the game’s new developer Gearbox Software is looking to make things right by finding a way to honor DNF pre-orders. Company spokesman Randy Pitchford claims they are involved in high level discussions with various retail groups during his London press event last Thursday, and claims “he didn’t want to let those gamers down”.
There are a lot of people who pre-ordered the game," Pitchford told the press. "We’ve been starting to talk with retailers because we didn’t take them directly, and 3D Realms didn’t take them, it was all retailers going 'I'm going to take this guy’s money.' We’ve started to engage them, saying 'Hey, you’ve got customers who you made a promise to, and any bad feelings they have will reflect on us, so can we work together to do something for those people?'"
The retail scene for PC gaming has changed quite a bit since pre-orders started being accepted back in 2001 so it will be interesting to see what if anything can be done. DNF is still slated to hit the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 in 2011, and yes we honestly are truly believe them this time.
You may have raised an entire family in the time that it’s taken Duke Nukem Forever to reach near-completion, but Duke hasn’t become family friendly by any stretch of imagination. Duke’s words speak louder than most people’s actions, and his actions speak louder than some Vuvuzelas. We’re talking about a man whose idea of banter with his foes involves tearing off their heads and s***ing down their necks. And he’s had more than a decade to put his razor-sharp tongue to the grindstone.
The result? Well, strippers are a lock, of course, which means gratuitous nudity can’t be far behind. Then there’s the violence, which includes Duke’s disturbingly gleeful willingness to resort to genital mutilation against his alien foes. And then there’s that whole bit with the two, erm, ladies of the night where… things are heavily implied.
Gearbox, at the very least, harbors no delusions that Duke’s larger-than-life legacy will get him a free approval stamp from the ESRB. Speaking during a recent London press event, Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford acknowledged that the ESRB will "not exactly be approving of this." And the big, Duke’s boot-shaped kicker? We’ve been told by Gearbox that what we’ve been shown so far is the “tame” stuff.
That sound you’re hearing? That’s the M-rating. It’s sobbing. Why? Because Duke Nukem wakes up every morning and has 100 Mafia IIs for breakfast. Granted, we do have to worry a bit here. After all, if Duke Nukem gets dipped in glue and dropped in a bucket of sensor bars and strategically placed blurs, what happens to his appeal? Duke Nukem is offensive on purpose. It’s what he does. It’s why he makes us laugh. A compromised Duke Nukem, then, might as well not be Duke Nukem at all.
Adding insult to injury, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) inadvertently shared potentially thousands of emails from gamers who wrote to complain about Blizzard's short lived policy of requiring its forum members use their real names. Oops!
Yesterday we sent an e-mail to a number of consumers who wrote to us in recent days expressing their concern with respect to Blizzard's Real ID program. Given the large number of messages we received, we decided to respond with a mass e-mail so those who'd written us would receive our response as quickly as possible - rather than responding to each message individually, as is our usual practice.
Through an unfortunate error by one of our employees, some recipients were able to see the e-mail addresses of others who wrote on the same issue. Needless to say, it was never our intention to reveal this information and for that we are genuinely sorry. Those who write to ESRB to express their views expect and deserve to have their contact and personal information protected. In this case, we failed to do so and are doing everything we can to ensure it will not happen again in the future.
The fact that our message addressed individuals' concerns with respect to their privacy underscores how truly disappointing a mistake this was on our part. We work with companies to ensure they are handling people's private information with confidentiality, care and respect. It is only right that we set a good example and do no less ourselves.
We sincerely apologize to those who were affected by this error and appreciate their understanding.
Here’s a weird one. Apparently, the ESRB – you know, the guys who make Tiger Woods play tennis and put age ratings on games – aren’t too keen on finger-removal. Lop off a thumb here or there and everything’s peachy, but mess with bling finger or pinky and things get real. How real? Well, according to Valve, real enough to warrant some serious alterations to its Left 4 Dead 2 logo.
Originally, Left 4 Dead 2’s disembodied hand was missing three of its digital digits, leaving only the pointer and middle to fend for themselves. The ESRB, however, wouldn’t stand for that, telling Valve that future marketing materials couldn’t include such a malformed mascot. As a result, now only the thumb is missing, which apparently complies with the ESRB’s stringent zombie hand guidelines.
We’d just like to – ahem – point out that Left 4 Dead 2 is an M-Rated game, full of blood, gore, and Boomer vomit. Two or more gnawed off fingers, though? That’s crossing the line. And who knows? Maybe a few missing digits on the front of the game box might ward off clueless parents more effectively than a tiny, easily obscured letter. Regardless, ESRB, sometimes we wonder about you.
We can't help but feel for Fallout 3. When it's not having drugs pilfered right from under its nose, it's getting booted out of India. But, as the most oppressed and censored game since Barbie Murder Adventures (later toned down to the more family friendly Manhunt 2), it'd be anticlimactic if Fallout 3's launch week trotted in unhampered. Good thing, then, that Bethesda seems to have made one vocal Washington D.C. resident a little hot under the collar with a series of controversial promotional materials.
However, today's Fallout 3 ad removal is a tad perplexing, as it simply asks websites to cast all official Fallout 3 trailers into their Recycle Bins -- with no explicitly stated relation to the D.C. fiasco. Says the email from Bethesda marketing VP Pete Hines:
In connection with ESRB's advertising guidelines, you are instructed to remove immediately any of our Fallout 3 trailers from your website, pending further notice.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Our guess? Precautionary action -- brushing Fallout 3's "threatening" imagery under the rug to avoid more controversy. Great job on defending Bethesda's interests, though, (ESRB parent organization) ESA! So, who will the ESA tangle with next in its daring and valiant mission to "protect [game companies'] legal rights and legislative interests"? A quardiplegic kitten that licks people when its angry? An ally?