Volume 92, Issue 41

Tuesday, November 17, 1998

no. 1 where it counts


Gaming gets graphic

A new game came out recently called Fallout 2. A big issue surrounding the release of this game focused on the designer's desire to make a game which dealt with adult themes.

Fallout 2 contains drugs, sex and guns by the post-holocaust cart load – to the point where the web page specifically states, "Fallout 2 deals with adult themes and is intended for a mature audience. We mean it." The liberal use of warning labels is applaudable, but at the same time as I'm enjoying the game, I'm concerned about the ramifications.

Specifically, the violence in this title is extreme – humans incinerated, blown open, blown up and riddled in what can only be called the "automatic weapon death dance." As someone who sat through Predator at age 12, this sort of thing barely phases me, but the concern lies in the public accessibility to this degree of graphic violence.

Okay, admittedly there are a few puff-ball titles out there, like Barbie's Fashion Designer or Creatures 2 (where the design goal seems to have been "oozing cuteness"), but by and large the average video game delivers a heaping portion of steaming entrails directly to the id. A brief round-up of some of this year's hottest games should suffice to prove the point. In SIN you're a cop killing bad guys and mutants; in Unreal you're a convict killing aliens and in Half Life you're a scientist killing aliens, bad guys AND mutants.

The list could expand into an entire article but, essentially, the gaming market is getting bloodier and the increase in graphics processing is making blood that much more realistic.

While it's true this sort of thing might be good to work out stress and some latent aggression, younger players might not have the necessary critical skills to dissociate fantasy with reality. Even more concerning, the majority of gamers are below the age of 20 and fall into what could be termed an "impressionable age."

Realizing this, recent games have included "low gore" modes that are supposed to take some of the edge off. This is a good move by the industry, although probably more of a gesture than an effective prevention. The average parent has no idea where to find these settings and most are impossible to password protect.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board is probably the last, best hope for society's conscience. With ratings which range from "everybody" to "adults only," the ESRB label is common on most games. Hopefully, this rating system will continue to be used and become as understood as the motion picture equivalents.

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Copyright The Gazette 1998