Thursday, April 19, 2012

Rated M for Meh!

Ok, yes I know this is going to be considered flame bait but I don't give a crap to be honest. I felt like addressing something that has been addressed by many people, some better then me. This topic is about both the quality and maturity of adult rated games. If you don't agree there's a comment section and I have a Twitter that you can bombard with hate tweets.

As a gamer since the golden age I have seen games evolve and devolve into a variety of things. One thing out of the many things that's irritated me is how "mature" games are. I've bitched a bit about it before but I'd like to "try" to be a little more mature(irony!) about it.

What is considered mature in video games? According to ratings systems it's blood and gore, nudity, violence, course language, sex, adult themes, and everything else on the labels. Gamers and especially game designers on average seem to agree but is this really mature? Is there any real mature games? Well this will take a bit of thought but I'll try to get some good examples of games from this generation and I'll also give you a few out of the plethora of examples of not so mature games and I'll explain why I consider them so... this is going to be brutal... to me.

There aren't very many games that are truly mature but here are a few that stick out in my gaming experience. As a young medium it is still growing and finding it's maturity as developers experiement both in storytelling and gameplay.

Mass Effect is a game series I would consider mature with an asterisk. See while the story telling is relatively mature, the way they handle relationships and sexuality isn't. See I paid attention to how the relationship between Shepard and in my case Liara "evolved and it's not a truly intimate relationship at all, hell they never date or talk about anything a real couple would. All that happens is a couple of questions about Liara's past and at the last moments before potential death they have sex. Liara never asks anything about Shepard's past or personal life and we never get any real information about Liara's personal life either. Also to clarify I was using a female Shepard. Yes I know it isn't really a "gay relationship" but I'm sure the male gay relationship was handled badly too. I invite gay gamers to give me their opinion on the gay relationship in Mass Effect 3 because I want a gay perspective on it... wish I could word that better.

Next game I consider mature is again tagged with an asterisk is Catherine. WTF you may ask? Well in it's own quirky way it does take a relatively mature look at relationships and adultery. Yes it is a little wacky and filled with symbolism that may not be understandable the first time around but in the end it really does handle the subject matter in a maturish way.

Bioshock is a mature game. Yeah I know that sounds like every bleating sheep I call it mature but the reason I call it mature is because the story is handled in a very mature and entertaining way and when you finish the game it stays with you and in my case, triggered tangential learning into what objectivism is and who Ayn Rand is. It also handles violence in a mature way by not resorting to amputation and evisceration and having low amounts of blood. Then theirs the moral choice which is not very deep but it does make you think twice before jumping the gun... unless you're achievement hunting.

Lost Odyssey(yes, I will never stop banging on about this! Just live with it!) Has an excellent story that invokes emotions that not many games manage. The way it handles everything throughout the course of the game proves that storytelling is an important part of games and that with the right people on the team, you can craft a meaningful experience.

(Spoiler Warning!)Pandora's Tower like Lost Odyssey again manages to invoke emotions with it's story but in the case of Pandora's Tower it's up to you to engage the relationship aspect of the story by talking with and giving gifts to Elena. As you build the bond she talks more and more about her personal life and life before the events of the story, making you the player feel more for her. Then there's the pain and embarrassment she goes through when she starts to suffer the monsterism effects of the curse and you also feel worried about her, especially as she started to enjoy the beast flesh she eats.

The Last Story(Yes, shut up already I know I've bombarded my love for this game on Twitter but if you played it, you'd know why.) managed to create a story with a relationship that evolves during the game and is strengthened through the events instead of most games and couple that with the fact that it's a game everyone one can play(Yeah it got an M15+ in Australia but it was misclassified like the Legend Of Zelda games. They should have gotten a PG and will probably get a T for teen adolescents in the USA) since the combat isn't that violent and it's not just mature, it's also approachable by all audiences.

As for games that aren't mature I could just say all the rest but it isn't true. Admittedly most of these will turn the average modern gamer into a frothing rabid dog that will attack me but I don't care.

The Call Of Duty franchise is a game series that wants to be mature, but is too busy pleasing(take it anyway you want... heh heh that makes it worse... XD) every modern gamer to truly take a risk and provide a truly meaningful experience. The game series is way to focused on catharsis, war fantasies, invoking racism(yeah I said it!) and gun porn. If the guys at Infinity Ward and Treyarch truly cared about making a mature gaming experience, they'd have handled the stories and reason to fight better then revenge fantasies.

Duke Nukem definitely is anything but mature. I know it's not trying to but it's place in the modern gaming world is not needed anymore to most. As much as I loved Duke Nukem Forever, I believe that Duke's place is as a smaller discount series for fun then a AAA game release at full price and the games that follow in Duke's footsteps (Bulletstorm for example) all need to back down from the front row and stick to attracting their true audience... the immature and those who need a game to let their hair down with.

Mortal Kombat is a series of games that isn't mature at all. It's hyper violence is handled in a childish manner and it's mediocre story show that the series is just designed for teenage catharsis and giving too many ideas to the unstable. I did import the newest one and agree with the banning only because of it's immaturely handled violence. All gore, no substance. Oh and yes I do like the game for it's catharsis since I can't play online and it's just wasting shelf space for the most part.

Dead Space definitely isn't very mature either. Again it's too focused on graphic violence and it doesn't seem to have a decent enough story to keep me playing it for more then half an hour. I also believe the way it handles it's supposed fear inducing moments is all about cheap scares to make a child hide under a blanket and not the Japanese Silent Hill's kind that screws with the mind.

There are plenty more like Battlefield, Medal of Honor, God of War, Gears of War just to name a few that also fall under the rated mature and not mature games but I'd just keep repeating myself with the reasons why it isn't mature. I wish I could add a game that handles nudity and sexualization but I haven't played any games that really need extreme addressing, not even Dead or Alive.

Now for the truly controversial part. The fact that most games that have the mature rating are crap and mediocre. See most of the golden age gamers are hard to please, me especially. Modern gamers on the other hand are willing to throw way AU$120(US$60, NZ$140 and so on.) on a mediocre or crap game like Call Of Duty every time a new one comes out. See in my opinion if a game needs to be patched after release even before DLC comes out it's mediocre or crap straight out of the gate. See Nintendo has a strict policy that forces developers to make it near perfect before release so that it won't need a patch to cover the problem. That's why Wii games don't need patches!

Then there's gameplay. See a lot of games play like crap, case in point Bionic Commando with it's awful controls or uncontrollable games like Asura's Wrath because there is only quick timed events. A lot of games just play like crap and it can ruin the game experience, add the fact they sell for more then they are worth and it is aggravating like single player Lost Planet 2!

Story and motivation is the biggest problem in the AAA industry. See while a game like Call Of Duty has refined it's gameplay to near perfection, it's story is rubbish and the game relies too much on virtual paintball and not enough on it's story. Story is the reason modern games exist. Uncharted is a great example of great game storytelling outside of the JRPG genre. It got it right and Assassin's Creed also pulled it off well too. The problem is that too many games have really, really bad stories like Gears of War. The story was second to gameplay and made it less engaging to players like me and the novelty of gore only lasts so long.

Even if story is sparce you need a true motivation to keep going and most games can't pull it of. Mario games have simple stories and a strong motivation to keep you playing, then again Mario games are gaming perfection especially Super Mario Bros. 3! We need something to truly motivate you to continue playing other then finishing the game. Skyrim manages to have a vague story but gives you so much motivation to keep playing like exploring the entire world, killing every dragon in the world and that's just a couple of basics. Call of Duty doesn't have any true motivations since the story is weak and everything you fight is the same in the same grey/brown corridors... it seems the only real goal is justified genocide(yes Call of Duty is one of my favourite punching bags of modern popular gaming, live with it!).

A games length(heh heh... sorry my immaturity seems to be running high while writing this... irony!) is a crucial thing in modern gaming, especially since the golden age games were only long because of the excruciatingly high difficulty they had and the high degree of skill required the finish a game and no save function or checkpoints! A game like the NES Ninja Gaiden was a serious trial by fire game that required extreme skill to finish and if you wanted to quit, you had to start from scratch. These days since difficulty either doesn't exist or has the convenience of checkpoints and autosaving, most games need length to justify the purchase. These days a game is demonized for being shorter then 6 hours without tacked on multiplayer... and yet Asura's Wrath which isn't a game in my opinion gets high scores? In my honest opinion game length is important because of the price of games. If games were only AU$50 then I wouldn't care but at AU$100-AU$120 I and most gamers need a long game to justify the cost and the only games that do justify the cost are first party titles and the JRPGs and WRPGs.

I know, I know I pissed you off but someone needs to address this and I invited the professionals to do a better job since they have more experience at writing. I addressed this the best I could on my personal experiences and observations of gaming media. I keep having trouble justifying gaming in the modern era and with the brats of the PlayStation era dictating mediocrity as all they want it just infuriates me and it infuriates me that game developers bend to their will.

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