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Oh, Why Don’t We Just GROW UP?

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“The vast majority of games still appeal to a very un-adult audience. The technology is rapidly maturing, but the industry is still rated “E” for Everyone. Let me know when Microsoft comes out with Mortgage Hunter: Freedom To Refinance, then we can talk about adult sophistication.”
Derek Thompson, Business Week

Over recent years it’s become commonplace, fashionable even, for those working in and around the videogames industry to talk about games maturing and being held in the same regard as movies – perhaps even being considered art. Most agree that it is in the interests of the games industry to be taken seriously and viewed as responsible and mature. As someone that works on the fringes of the games industry myself, it’s in my interest to see videogames treated with respect by society as a whole. And as an adult, it’s in my interest to play games that deal with mature themes in a mature way. The optimist in me hopes and believes games are growing up, and that this industry doesn’t deserve to get sidelined and derided by the mainstream again and again. But every so often something happens that makes me embarrassed to be an adult whose job it sometimes is to defend and promote this industry. Such a thing just happened – it’s called Call Of Duty: World At War.

“We’re still seen as the red-headed stepchild of the creative industries, one notch up from pornography in the eyes of most of the establishment.”
Ian Livingstone, Eidos

I’ve seen and heard Activision’s latest World War II FPS called gritty, visceral, harrowing, emotional, shocking – even realistic – but it’s none of the above. It’s just embarrassing and disappointing. It’s an incredibly crude, juvenile portrayal of war that openly delights and revels in its horror. This gleeful toying with real-life horror that millions of real people were actually forced to experience first-hand makes me want to stick my head up my own bottom and pretend I have nothing to do with videogames any more.

“Yes, yes, fire, fire, fire!”
Beavis, MTV

I wouldn’t really care if it were some Z-list developer’s feeble effort to get its game some attention, but this title belongs to one of the most popular brands of the last five years – one of a small handful of brands recognised by the mainstream, and therefore one that stands as a representative of our industry. But now it’s making us all look like thoughtless idiots with no understanding of the world outside of our childish little hobby. If Activision, the world’s leading software entertainment publisher, thinks that dressing real-life tragedy in a deliberately seductive combination of gore, brutality, torture, cruelty, sadism and swearing is what it takes to make a ‘mature’ game, then maybe ‘one notch up from pornography’ is exactly where games deserve to be.




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