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So, What Will The ESRB Rate This Game?

You know, lots of people enjoy video games.  We aren't all basement dwellers.  We have jobs, families, we're good conversationalists, and so on.  But there is always the depiction in popular media that we're incapable of social interaction, are still virgins, that we haven't showered since the Clinton Administration (gamers are usually depicted as a certain demographic, so going back further than that is pointless), and have a borderline-unhealthy obsession with porn.

Why does this stereotype exist?  Well, partly because it is a comedic shorthand.  Sort of like ethnic jokes, people telling jokes create an assumption for the target audience to latch on to so the joke doesn't fall flat.  Even in our "enlightened" age, gross stereotypes still exist, such as Southerners are stupid hick rednecks, whites are clueless entitlists, and gamers (or, really, ANY pop culture subculture, be they gamers, Trekkies, comic book fans, anime nuts, D&D players, whatever) are literally the Great Unwashed.

But there's another factor, and it's that we gamers bring this sort of attention upon ourselves.

The Game Developers Conference is going on right now, and one of the things they have is the Game Design Challenge.  It's the gamer equivalent of Iron Artist.  Some comic conventions and just about every fur convention has an Iron Artist competition, where the selected victim/artist is given art materials, a time limit, and a list of requirements, and they have to draft and draw an entire comic story right there on the spot (the San Diego comic convention, one year, managed to snag none other than animation legend Don Bluth for the Iron Artist one year.  I have never been sadder to miss out on SD than that).  The Game Design Challenge has the devs given 36 hours to make something based on the chosen theme.  This year's was hosted by Eric Zimmerman, the chief design officer for Gamelab (the immortal Diner Dash).  Three people were originally on the panel:  Sulka Haro from Sulake (Habbo), last year's winner Steve Meretzky (originally with Infocom and creator of many text-based games, including the original Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy game, no surprise his company Playdom emphasizes their comedy skills), and Kim Swift (Valve Software, team lead for Portal).  Swift was pulled by Valve at the last minute and replaced by Heather Kelley (Kokoromi, an indie game company) and Erin Robinson (Wadjet Eye, Emerald City Confidential and the Blackwell series).  The reason Valve pulled Swift?

The chosen theme for the challenge:  make a game called My First Time.

If you are wondering, "My first time what?", please go out and get laid.  After you've caught up to the rest of us, you can rejoin the discussion.

Now, video games with sexual themes are certainly nothing new.  Even if you discount the stupid Mystique games on the Atari 2600, people have been making general games about sex since there was sex.  And there are plenty of video games involving sex.  I remember the "Nude Raider" patch for Lara Croft shortly after Tomb Raider came out.  Duke Nukem had you paying money to strippers before blasting them to chum.  Some unlocked the Hot Coffee minigame in GTA.  Others make Flash games like Orgasm Girl, where you are an angel trying to give an orgasm to a sleeping girl without waking her up (I believe this qualifies as "rape".  Not very angelic, in my opinion.  Thematically, I think a succubus would be closer to the mark).  And then there are those amazingly disturbing and perverse hentai games (the X-Change series is the only one I was able to play without filling my bathtub with vodka and lying in it for a few hours afterwards).  But there's a difference here:  these are fringe games.  Games like Orgasm Girl are typically hanging around Newgrounds.  Duke Nukem wasn't exactly mainstream, it was shock value intended to show the Establishment how edgy it was, like a kid writing his name in wet cement.  The hentai games are imported by niche sellers, you don't find them on the rack at Best Buy (I don't count Hot Coffee for two reasons.  Primo, you had to run patches and hack the game to get to it, it was walled off.  Secundo, we're talking about a game series that celebrates drugs, guns, hookers, robbery, and every crime in the world.  A minigame where you have consensual sex with a woman is actually refreshingly tame).  This was a professional game developers' conference.  Like it or not, the outside world DOES judge you by your actions.  While I understand this was all in fun (and what's more, Meretzky's implementation was actually pretty interesting), it doesn't help the image of gamers as being socially retarded morons.

Just asking, couldn't they have found a more positive theme to base the challenge around?


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 28th, 2009 01:00 am (UTC)
Okay, yes they could have chosen a better theme, but still, these were all adults, professionals in their field at an industry conference. It's not like there were tiny tots running around, were there?

So who had the problem with the theme anyway: Swift or Valve?
Mar. 28th, 2009 01:56 am (UTC)
As for your first paragraph: I know, and I know I should agree. I've long been fascinated with sexual politics, and the whole challenge just seemed like a bad idea to me. Don't get me wrong, I think political correctness sucks. I won't buy Fat Princess when it comes out (not because of the game's central conceit, but just because it sounds like a dumb game to me), but I won't stop others from playing it. And if people want to make sexual games, they are free to do so. Hell, I'll do one myself if I can come up with a concept that I like -- hanging around with anime fans and seeing some of the games they come up with starring their fap material tends to make the idea less appealing than it should be ("Not the goddamn tentacles AGAIN!"). I guess I just...wish they had come up with something else instead of a concept that drips of desperate adolescence. Indeed, Haro and Meretzky created ideas based on the concept that I would like to have played, as they were based more on interacting instead of just getting in a girl's pants. X-Change is a sex game, but it also actually created interesting characters and situations and psychologies that made it worthwhile. You don't feel cheap and dirty after playing it.

As for your second paragraph: unknown. Valve did pull Swift, but the only person to comment publicly on Swift's removal was Zimmerman.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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