Go to your local video game shop and browse the PS2 or Xbox section. You’ll see plenty of games with the “T” or “M” ESRB ratings (for “Teen” and “Mature,” respectively). Games get these ratings due to “mature” content, like violence, foul language, substance abuse, and sexual content. Personally, I don’t have a problem with the ratings themselves, as any responsible parent should use them as a guide when deciding what games are appropriate for younger gamers, just as they would with films or music. My beef, however, is this: more often than not, this so-called “mature” content is NOT targeted at mature gamers; it’s targeted at immature preteens and kids. As a result, it’s usually mindless drivel that highly detracts from the overall quality of the game, if there was any there to begin with.
We’ll start with an example that’s sure to earn me some flame emails loaded with spelling and grammatical errors: Grand Theft Auto III. Revolutionary gameplay? No. Groundbreaking graphics? No. Deep plot? No. So what DOES this game have? The option to beat up hookers and shoot cops. Wow, there’s an amazing gaming experience. I hope my sarcasm isn’t lost on you. Yes, I know there’s various “missions” and whatnot to complete, but that’s the same as in most other games. Most people who played GTAIII didn’t even complete all the missions; they’d just wander around aimlessly killing people. What a waste of time. Even a game like Max Payne (which is still pretty high on the violence meter) at least has a semidecent plot. If you want plot development, buy an RPG.
On the sexual content front, things get a lot worse. We’ve got scarefests like Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. Hell, volleyball doesn’t even seem to be the focal point of the game…much of the game is eye candy with the various DOA women stretching and jiggling about. Now why do I call that a “scarefest”? Because those chicks aren’t real! For cryin’ out loud, if you want to stare at inflated breasts, just surf the internet for five minutes; at least you’ll find real photos there. Or just walk down to your friendly neighborhood gas station and get a copy of Maxim. Even scarier is the Kasumi body pillow that’s been released; yes, a lifesize pillow featuring a DOA girl printed on it, wearing a skimpy bikini. I shudder to think at what vile things people will do with that thing…
Then there’s titles like P.N. 03. While sex wasn’t the primary focus of this game, it’s prevalent and often unnecessary at times. To sum things up, the main character (Vanessa) dances and gyrates around while blasting robots. Aside from the booty shaking, you can also upgrade her outfits. One of the most powerful suits has Vanessa running around in a thong. I seriously doubt that offers any degree of battlefield protection; that was put in there solely to get teenage fanboys to jerk off.
Finally, we’ve got games that rank up in the highest echelons of retardation, like BMX XXX. Topless chicks riding on bikes. That’s got to be the dumbest concept for a “game” I’ve ever heard. Anyone who bought that needs to seek professional help immediately. I mean, come on, I’ve taken shits with more gameplay value!
In conclusion, I firmly believe that if you’re going to put “mature” content into a game, then it should just be a byproduct of the game itself, not the sole basis for selling it. There’s a few gems out there that do this (you can’t have a war sim without violence, for example), but we need to clear out the fluff in the interim. Casual gamers need to grow up.