If you have not been paying attention to the intrawebs or any mass media for a while, let me catch you up on the ongoing drama between Fox News and EA, new owner of Bioware who developed Mass Effect.
It all started with the preceding segment on Fox News which brought up the fact that, through a series of choices based on building a relationship, your character in Mass Effect, male or female, can have sex with a female alien character, in which you only see a little alien side boob.
After that segment aired, the intrawebs went ablaze with video gamers posting on forums and blogs with just how ridiculous and unfair the interview was and how Jeff Keighley had done as good a job he could in what amounted to a staged mugging.EA responded with an angry letter which pointed the gross inaccuracies with the Fox News segment. The following three were highlighted specifically:
Your headline above the televised story read: “New videogame shows full digital nudity and sex.” Fact: Mass Effect does not include explicit or frontal nudity. Love scenes in non-interactive sequences include side and profile shots – a vantage frequently used in many prime-time television shows. It’s also worth noting that the game requires players to develop complex relationships before characters can become intimate and players can chose to avoid the love scenes altogether.
FNC voice-over reporter says: “You’ll see full digital nudity and the ability for players to engage in graphic sex.”
Fact: Sex scenes in Mass Effect are not graphic. These scenes are very similar to sex sequences frequently seen on network television in prime time.
FNC reporter says: “Critics say Mass Effect is being marketed to kids and teenagers.”
Fact: That is flat out false. Mass Effect and all related marketing has been reviewed by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and rated Mature – appropriate for players 17-years and older. ESRB routinely counsels retailers on requesting proof of age in selling M-rated titles and the system has been lauded by members of Congress and the Federal Trade Commission. In practical terms, the ratings work as well or better than those used for warning viewers about television content.
Fox News, of course, responded but, unfortunately for gamers and reasonable folk everywhere, they did not apologize. Rather they simply made a statement regarding their position on the matter.
Fox News Channel has extended several invitations to EA through a company representative to appear on Live Desk With Martha MacCallum to discuss Mass Effect and the segment which aired on Monday. We have received no response.
Situations such as these practically scream “there is a generation gap here!” While age is clearly the main factor, to say that was the only factor would be shortsighted.
The Fox News anchors and guest Cooper Lawrence exemplified so many of the stereotypes of what is worst in those who don’t play games. From Lawrence’s inaccurate attacks, clearly showing her lack of knowledge of games, specifically Mass Effect which she had been invited onto national television to discuss, to the anchors discussing such hardships as understanding the ESRB’s ratings system and actually reading the back of video game boxes to find out it’s content. The horrors!
This interview cemented the fact that the establshment which runs the media, as presently constituted, does not understand and, more than likely, fears them. When you have crazy lawyers trying to sue anyone who even mentions Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat still being blamed for teenage violence (and not the alcohol they illegally consume), movie owners blaming Halo 3 for sagging attendance, one can’t help but see that there is a fair share of people, many of whom are older and in power, who do not get it.
Video games are at about the point that rock and roll was at when Elvis was hitting the height of his popularity. They are quite popular but are still just on the cusp or being undeniably mainstream. I believe there is a certain game coming out on April 29th which can change all that. Grand Theft Auto IV could be the game that, while pushing every boundary, whether it be sex, violence or alcohol and drug use, it may also sell so many copies across multiple platforms, that it may be undeniable in cultural impact.
Until the day that games are on equal footing with movies, music and other media, there will always be unreasonable neigh sayers who will decry games and their virtues in favor of pointing out only their negatives, even if they have to make them up. As long as we have intelligent, well spoken advocates, such as Jeff Keighley and Adam Sessler (whose response you can see below), then we can all look forward to a time when games are a form of media which is respected by everyone.