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Guest Writer: Mature Themes

Do we need to be more mature?

This guest piece comes from Burgess_101. It seems that the way games handle mature themes has got them a bit riled up.

The controversy surrounding the new Tomb Raider game and the alleged rape scene made me boil over, even though it’s now been made clear that it wasn’t as it first appeared, and they have said there were no sexual thoughts involved. We as gamers are constantly pushing for more and more mature story, à la Heavy Rain, but as soon as rape comes along as a subject, many people become close minded. Rape is around us, we cannot simply shut it out.

I love films. Shock cinema is my favourite. I love to be challenged while watching a film; challenging both my morals and views on life in general makes for an interesting experience. I’ve watched films that have depicted terrible things. Such things that, if shown in a mainstream game, would see that game ostracised and destroyed in the media.

Gaming needs a revolution. An image change. If we show that we can’t deal with mature issues, we won’t get mature games. It’s that simple.

I am not trying to say there is no room for any other sort of game, of course there is, just like we can watch comedies or read nursery rhymes. Diversity is important in any type of entrainment medium.

My favourite example of a game dealing with mature issues is Heavy Rain, showing the loss of a child and also the extent a parent would go to save a child. Heavy Rain deals with depression, suicide, mental illnesses and murder on a more personal level than we’re used to seeing in videogames.

Do I kill this man and leave his kids fatherless but risk my own child’s life? Never have I had such a hard decision in a game. The decision I made said a little about myself as a person. I killed the man. I realise this is not real life but it’s as close as I would ever want to get to such a situation.

Grand Theft Auto is another I applaud. You may argue it’s a series largely devoid of morals, but I argue that it’s a game of decisions. It shows the extremes you will go to just in order to have some sort of self-worth whilst you’re chasing the ultimate dream. Money, cars and houses are all status indicators, and people kill on a daily basis for these things. “…it’s easier to lose yourself in drugs than it is to cope with life. It’s easier to steal what you want than it is to earn it. It’s easier to beat a child than it is to raise it. Hell, love costs: it takes effort and work.” (From the film Seven).

People can live life with rose tinted glasses and pretend bad things don’t happen in this world but you are fooling yourselves. Away from the mainstream media, genocide is occurring and western countries are often heavily involved in funding it.

People kill and die for their religions and, just because some don’t think it’s appropriate to show, doesn’t mean these things simply go away. The best thing we can do is raise awareness of these issues, not cower away when our morals are tested. The more games that hit on issues like rape; genocide and torture, the more awareness can be raised and therefore acted upon.

  1. colmshan1990
    Since: Apr 2009

    Yes please, I’d like more games which tackle mature issues.

    But in a mature way, obviously. I don’t want Leisure Suit Larry: It’s Not Rape If They Like It edition.

    I like books, movies and games that make me think, rather than those that are cut and dry obvious morality tales (although if they’re well done, all is forgiven).

    There’s not many games like that though, and I’d love some more to go with the likes of Heavy Rain and Bioshock.

    Comment posted on 04/08/2012 at 15:19.
    • theberzerka
      Since: Dec 2009

      Ace response. I giggled like a little child at the Leisure Suit Larry line.

      Comment posted on 04/08/2012 at 15:29.
      • Burgess_101
        Since: May 2009

        Sadly I did too… So much for Mature themes…

        Comment posted on 04/08/2012 at 15:32.
  2. DJ Judas
    Since: Aug 2008

    The perception change will come with time, at the moment games are almost exclusively ‘for children’, probably because of their namesake, games for adults were renamed ‘sport’ a long time ago.

    Comment posted on 04/08/2012 at 16:47.
  3. xdarkmagician
    Since: May 2009

    Good article, I agree completely. Being a person who always buys the unrated Blu-ray instead of the theatrical version, I wish games would have an unrated version too.
    Mature games is another place the PC market really dominates the consoles. For some reason people get more offended when mature content is on a home console. Consoles have this perception that they need to offer “clean” games and that what’s OK for the PC, isn’t OK for the console because children use it. But I also feel that the boundaries are getting closer between PC and a console. The PS1 was hugely successful because it offered more mature content then the Nintendo, the Resi Evil games would never been made by nintendo in the 90’s, but 10+ years later the best RE game was a Nintendo exclusive.

    Comment posted on 04/08/2012 at 17:26.
    • Burgess_101
      Since: May 2009

      That’s a good point. I’m a PC gaming seemingly opens new and gritty ideas with open arms. A game “Rapelay” comes to mind (check it at your own risk :P) The thing is though no one truly represents the PC as a platform, it has both its disadvantages and advantages one disadvantage being we can’t get timed exclusives because MS or Sony will buy it out.

      Comment posted on 04/08/2012 at 17:48.
      • Burgess_101
        Since: May 2009

        *I’m a PC gamer and PC gaming

        Comment posted on 04/08/2012 at 17:49.
  4. Izorpo
    Since: Jun 2012

    There is one game I played that had rape as a part of the theme – child rape to be exact in Alice Madness Returns. Alice who has been sectioned in hospital and treated by the very man who raped her sister and killed her family .

    Throughout the game you as Alice are trying to remember what happened and as you get closer to remembering the landscape becomes more horrific – you enter through dolls backsides before the penultimate moment when Alice gets her revenge – it is disturbing and never did I ever think I would be playing a video game that not only dealt with the subject but of the aftermath – it’s no The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things (the most disturbing film you may ever see) but it wasn’t what I expected to see in a PEGI 15 game. I’m not complaining as I liked the game but it was an uncomfortable game to play at times.

    Comment posted on 04/08/2012 at 17:53.
    • Burgess_101
      Since: May 2009

      Try watching Salo (120 days of Sodom) or read the book!

      Isn’t that the whole point though? If you don’t feel or empathise even a smidgen for this character and what hardships they have gone through there is no point.

      Comment posted on 04/08/2012 at 18:13.
      • Izorpo
        Since: Jun 2012

        I don’t understand your point what exactly does the Marquis de Sade have to do with a murderous pedophile? I read Marquis de Sade (Justine, Juliette and 120 Days of Sodom back when I was in my teens) they are all satirical comedies to put forth his transgressive political humor while he rotted away in the Bastille until the revolution where upon release he became an elected member of the national convention representing the far left. He isn’t shocking when you understand the intentions of his work

        so what exactly IS your point?

        Comment posted on 04/08/2012 at 18:41.
      • Burgess_101
        Since: May 2009

        Exactly. Take it at face value though would you see such a thing in a game?

        Comment posted on 04/08/2012 at 20:37.
      • wonkey-willy
        Since: Jan 2010

        looks like a kick ass flick!lol
        surely not as good as the human centipede…?

        Comment posted on 04/08/2012 at 21:00.
  5. philbert8
    The Frankie Boyle Of TSA
    Since: Sep 2010

    I’ve always thought it strange that in a game it’s perfectly O.K to rip someone’s guts out with a rusty knife or win points for a perfect head shot and watch their brains fly out all in bullet time style slow motion yet things like rape or racism issues are nearly always avoided. Yet watch a “mature adult” episode of say Wire in the Blood and there they all are, odd what is acceptable in gaming. Yes we do need more adult theme games, not like Lollipop Chainsaw, just for the reasons you mentioned in your excellent article.

    Comment posted on 04/08/2012 at 18:36.
  6. enigma_flex
    Since: Jun 2012

    Well said! Its about time games started tackling more gritty issues and stop skirting around them. What annoys me is the stigma gaming seems to attract, movies are permitted to tackle controversial subject matter as long as there is an 18 certificate slapped on it, however when games try this they are ostracised. Parent groups love to slam the gaming industry for “gloryfying violence” and making children violent, this really vexes me as its these parents who have allowed their children to play the very games they are complaining about, ignoring the 18 certificate, yet they wouldnt ignore it if it was a film. Its funny how movie certification seems to be taken seriously by concerned parents yet the certification for video games is largely ignored. I believe its this that has been holding the gaming industry back from making games that truly appeal to gamers looking for games they shock and invoke emotion. Luckily here in the UK it has just recently become a criminal offense to sell an 18 game to a minor, maybe we should be going as far as penalising parents who have exposed their children to adult themed games.

    Comment posted on 04/08/2012 at 22:10.
    • Burgess_101
      Since: May 2009

      In that case my parents would be screwed then! aha, I myself am only 16.

      I agree though for the most part its not all parents its a minority and they have temper tantrums because they can’t control their kids and need something to blame it on instead of themselves. PEGI officially took over from the BBFC a couple of days ago so who knows maybe the transition of parents becoming more aware is starting. Disclaimer my parents knew what was in the games and films I watched when I was younger they are not oblivious but trust me enough to know im not a psycho.

      Comment posted on 04/08/2012 at 22:42.
  7. skibadee
    Since: Oct 2009

    the way some people reacted when the last of us demo was over at e3 was so silly.

    it makes think we will never get real hard to deal with emotions in games.

    Comment posted on 05/08/2012 at 07:06.
  8. Tom Pitcher
    Since: Jan 2009

    The problem I think the media has with mature themes in gaming is that it’s sometimes out of control of the creators of the game. What I mean by that is, in a film they can create the exact feeling that they want to convey to the audience. However in a game, there might be a rape scene and some idiot teen would decided put a vid on youtube of his character ‘teabaging’ the victim once the cutscene is over. I think it’s the fear that someone would do something like that in a game and therefore the papers would see the game as ‘disgusting’ etc. As the article says, it’s the audience that needs to mature before the games can.

    Comment posted on 05/08/2012 at 09:46.
  9. hazelam
    Since: Feb 2009

    i agree totally.
    i’ve voiced similar sentiments before.

    as any form of media matures it has to start to deal with more sensitive subjects,
    i think we’re long past the stage where games can be considered just toys for kids, some games can tell pretty sophisticated stories about some very serious issues.

    it’s just a shame too many people, gamers and industry both, who think mature only means sex and violence.
    it can mean that of course, that’s the beauty of creating for adults, they can choose what kind of subjects they want to watch/play/read about.
    but it can be much more.

    i look forward to the day gaming can tell stories that it’s afraid to right now.
    i want to play the gaming equivalents of The Accused, Malcom X, Milk, and Boys Don’t Cry.

    i’ll still want to fight off the alien hordes, but i’d like to play a game that makes me, and others, think about the world i live in as well.

    isn’t that one of the aims of any artform?
    to hold a mirror up to the world?

    and sadly, things like bigotry, rape, and murder do exist.

    Comment posted on 05/08/2012 at 14:54.
    • Izorpo
      Since: Jun 2012

      Malcolm X once said “By Any Means Necessary” I know I have the T-shirt (and it is a picture of him holding a rifle) – Is the game you want to play prior to him going to Mecca and changing his philosophical socio-political views or after.

      One is easy the other more complex – how do you convey in media the moment one has the eureka moment when an understanding of yourself and the universe and humanity suddenly becomes clear enough to fundamentally change a person when words will never adequately express that moment.

      Even Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain had sex, and violence in it – there is no escaping that. One is a biological imperative, the other humanity has not evolved enough to resolve things in a better way.

      Comment posted on 05/08/2012 at 15:18.
      • hazelam
        Since: Feb 2009

        i don’t think there’s anything wrong with sex, if there wasn’t any sex, i wouldn’t be here.
        the only problem i have with sex is getting enough. ^_^

        seriously though, i’m not saying mature games shouldn’t have sex and violence, sex is natural, it can be beautiful, and even violence has its place in an entertainment medium for adults.

        but that’s not all it should be.

        as for your questions, to tell the story properly, you’d surely have to show both, before and after.
        that’s one of the biggest part of telling any story, the journey of the protagonist.
        how they have changed from how they were when they started to how they are when the story ends.

        as to how you’d express that.

        an oversimplification, but i’d imagine like any other medium, let an artist create a work to convey that moment, be it in words on a page, lyrics in a song or a performance in a film.

        actors, writers, musicians, painters, sculptors and many other artists have all create works that represent such moments.

        considering the combination of talent that goes into a modern game, those moments should be able to be represented fairly well.
        at least as well as a movie i’d say, depending on the actors involved of course.

        look at titles like La Noire, Heavy Rain, and Beyond, they show quite a lot of emotion on the characters faces.
        in future it will probably be like you’re actually watching the actors perform instead of virtual characters.

        Comment posted on 06/08/2012 at 11:50.
      • Izorpo
        Since: Jun 2012

        yes and no eureka is probably the wrong word- epiphany is possibly better. what happened to Malcolm X was a spiritual enlightenment which is really hard to share, its like “magick” if that makes sense.

        being a multi-media artist its very hard to convey an epiphany I’ve tried to show that understanding but the best you can hope for is laying the groundwork or setting up the experience so that it possibly repeats itself…because the viewer, listener etc won’t necessarily have the same experience, if they do have one- it will be their own experience.

        personally I wish there were more adult or mature themed games but having played video games for over 30 years I think the media is running out of ideas like Hollywood did a decade or so ago. They won’t take a chance because it costs money and they will keep reselling the same idea over and over until it ceases to make money. This is why I will always buy on release any game that takes a chance to be some different because I think some of us are ready to embrace new experiences while others will only wait until that new experience becomes the next AAA thing.

        Comment posted on 06/08/2012 at 16:38.
  10. bunimomike
    Since: Jul 2009

    Lovely article, fella.

    Something that caught my attention recently was one of the Dishonoured trailers. It showed a stealthy option and then a more brutish endeavour. The montage of throat-slitting and neck slicing left me with such a sad feeling of “oh… we’re still trying to appeal to teenagers” (present company most certainly excluded). I couldn’t tell you of another media type that has this utterly hilarious level of viscera which highlights that the devs themselves are to blame as they think they need to cater to the audience like this.

    Meh. Bloody meh. Double, bloody meh.

    Comment posted on 05/08/2012 at 17:43.
    • Burgess_101
      Since: May 2009

      Cheers Mike :)

      Violence is an issue in gaming and not because of “effect it has on our mental well being” but because as you mention it seems like the majority of people wont bother with a game or pay attention to it if it doesn’t contain some visceral violence.

      I can’t quite put my finger on it, I just want to experience a game where I feel like there were no holds barred in terms of actual issues. By that I don’t mean oh look we have dismemberment therefore its realistic and a USP, I mean one where I truly feel for a character and the decisions I have to make and experience. When I play a game nowadays all I get is blood thrown in my face and a cheap gimmick. When I watch a film I get real emotion because they dont go overboard. A good film leaves you with the decision of how to feel about a certain character. The last time I felt for a character in a game was probably in Heavy Rain *SPOILERS* the part where you play as Shelby’s younger self and have to watch his younger brother die by drowning even after attempts to get his alcoholic father to come and help him. You are then left with this conflict of how you really feel about him as you empathise. *End of Spoilers and go play the bloody game*. I have found myself having to go back to older games lately or most of the time I feel apathetic towards gaming in general. Its really quite sad because I love writing about games as you may have seen from my last few pieces on here.

      Comment posted on 05/08/2012 at 19:22.
      • bunimomike
        Since: Jul 2009

        My pleasure, fella. It’s a mature piece about a mature topic and is a testament to yourself.

        I’m looking forward (and it’s happening more) to when we can enjoy a story unfold without it being pigeon-holed in a genre-type and they just use great game mechanics to relay the adventure to us – handled in both a grown-up fashion as well as a sensitive touch when called on.

        Comment posted on 05/08/2012 at 22:21.

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