Horror Games Pushing Censorship Boundaries

I posted a little bit about Dementium: The Ward before, and since then the Horror FPS for DS has been mostly off my radar. The game is on schedule for release at the end of October (hooray for Halloween), and I am very interested to see if horror in a portable format will work.

But in the mean time, Dementium’s publisher Gamecock has been publishing their communications with the ESRB in an IGN “director’s diary.” I’m sure everybody knows that game developers get their games rated by the ESRB voluntarily (though no console maker will allow an un-rated game to be published for their system), but were you aware that ESRB certification also requires approval for video game ads and trailers!? The commentary over at IGN (beware, IGN) is sort of fascinating: the publisher made a pretty gross trailer for their game and the ESRB has forced them to censor it. Of course, thanks to the magic of the internet, we can watch the uncensored trailer over at Eurogamer.

The interesting thing to me is that the trailer is actually pretty terrible; it’s really not worth the effort it must have taken them to get everything censored. As with the Rule of Rose controversy, censorship is having the opposite of its intended effect: it has increased attention on work in question.

ESRB, your existence is useful because game developers need a third-party organization to rate their games. Games are a medium that span all age groups, and having a rating is a very easy way to raise awareness about the kinds of games that exist and curb offense from sensitive non-gamers without necessitating litigation. However, your usefulness ends there: you are not our mothers and we don’t need you to tell us what we can or cannot watch. If you want to issue ratings for trailers or whatever, be our guest. But don’t tell developers what they can and can not publish–that’s stepping across the boundary from classification to censorship. And come on, this is the internet–an infinite supply of offensive media far worse than any game commercial is waiting right behind that little Google search box. Any attempt to protect the user is moot; one mis-click and they can have goatse all over their screen. Give us the benefit of the doubt: if we have the internet, we can deal with video game trailers without your approval.

8 thoughts on “Horror Games Pushing Censorship Boundaries

  1. I’m from Germany and we have this problem since years. There is an organisation(called USK) just for rating games(and media connectet to that game) for the german marked. They have the option to give a rating of: 0, 6, 12, 16 or 18 years. If you don’t have these age you aren’t allowed to buy these games(even your parents aren’t -.-). The main problem is, if they refuse to give any rating to a game, these game can get “indiziert” and the publisher isn’t allowed to advertise this game in germany and the shops have to take it out of there racks.
    Because of that many publishers censores their games to get a lower rating.
    The latest Halo3 got an rating of 18+. o.O

  2. ^ sorry for you man, the german game rules are terrible. dot get me started on that whole dead rising go to jail fiasco.
    But end of october?, so there pitting it against a silent hill game?
    bad move man, baaaaad.

  3. Same thing happened with the MPAA, if you look at the recent fiasco involving the film Captivity. While that may be slightly different, as the huge billboards were slightly morbid and near a very large, famously busy freeway. They, nonetheless, ordered the posters be taken down, and THEN forced the company to push the movie back by 4 months or so. To me, the billboards weren’t that bad, but I suppose they were on display infront of a large, diverse group of people (i.e. sometimes children.)

    Also, I think controversy is working less and less these days. As the case with Rule of Rose, and Captivity, both bombed in sales, even after the attention, and in the case of Rule of Rose, petitions. Gone are the days of Basic Instinct causing a media frenzy of “misogyny” and “homophobia”, resulting in huge cash. Sure, we get the Grand Theft Auto’s, but those had a built up fanbase already.

    In any case, Chris is very much right. These various ratings boards (ESRB, MPAA, FCC) serve a purpose, but are not our mothers. We are old enough to make decisions our selves, and if we are deemed not the appropirate age, we DO have parental guardians of some type.

  4. After viewing that trailer I must say I am really not looking forward to Dimentium anymore. That trailer was awful, and here I am planning on buying a DS to play what I thought could be a great, unique horror game. Was the company behind that trailer? That was so distasteful and stupid, not a good sign of the brains behind the game.

  5. C’mon, now. Do you honestly think that the same people who would make the game would also make a trailer like that? I don’t think so.

    I’m still looking forward to the game, even if that trailer was absolutely terrible.

  6. The ESRB is not necessary. It is in fact very harmful to the videogame industry and culture in general. Content labelling can be done by the publishers themselves. Age prohibition, setting age limits to the content, takes parenting out of the hands of parents and puts it in the hands of a group who is more interested in sustaining their own existence than they are with having culture expand and challenge the status quo. If you happen to be a parent who believes that the 3 billion penises in the world and the 3 billion vaginas in the world are not psychological weapons launched by a malevolent force to destroy humanity, the ESRB disagrees with you and forces your children to follow their lead. Publishers should be encouraged to label their videogames for content to help parents make decisions consistent with their own opinions. Publishers which do not do this or do it innaccurately should be admonished. And the ESRB should be disbanded and the age-based ratings system abandoned.

    Politicians moving to prohibit sale or purchase of any type of videogame should be deposed. They are a danger to liberty and powermad. Pixels and concepts have never hurt anyone and all allegations that they even have the capacity to do so are snake oil sold to get you to consent to allowing your children and yourself to be controlled.

  7. If they don’t get rid of it or censor things like that – they get all these people telling them how to do their job and other various problems.

    While I don’t care for it – I can see why things would be that way.

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