Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Rated M For Mature

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Today I’m going to touch on a topic that is near and dear to my heart: maturity.  It’s quite a complex word and rarely is it defined correctly because the USA, and most of the world, like to gauge a work’s “maturity” by the quantitative amount of content that is unsuitable for public consumption.  This does not make a mature game in my eyes.  While it may be chock full of breasts, f-words, and toilet humor that literally dnfhas you flinging feces, Duke Nukem Forever is not a mature game despite what its rating says.  It is a reality of a world that is forced to categorize appropriateness of a medium, in this case software, for a quick guide to consumers on what’s appropriate.  At the same time I do feel that games can and sometimes do represent true, mature scenarios that mix graphic content with justified plot.  Sadly this is not the case for the majority of titles and the main focus of this article deals with the controversy surrounding Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and specifically plot points that come about at the end of the 120 minute campaign.  In writing this I first read articles by Lucy O’Brien of IGN¹, Cameron Kunzelman of Paste Magazine², and on a more informal note the talented Ria Jenkins of Introskeptive³ (article links at the bottom), who have dissected the ending in a much better way than I ever can.  As you proceed forward, be warned that some of the topics of MGSV: GZ will be touched upon and the referenced articles definitely spoil these events in greater detail.  It should also be noted that the following content, while not explicit, does discuss some gritty subject matter.

So let’s get down to brass tacks: MGSV: GZ has rape in it.  This is a tough subject to tackle and still remains mostly taboo in the world today, even though the actual statistics are so high it’s staggering.  I’d like to say it’s not appropriate.  I’d like to say it shouldn’t be in media.  I’d also like to say that whenever rape is used as a plot device it’s unnecessary.  Just because it hasn’t been done yet doesn’t meant that it shouldn’t.  There are plenty of examples in books, film, and even television that state the contrary, and I’ve had it with the double standard that gamers make stating games are nothing more than entertainment but getting offended when the media calls games immature.  Rape is absolutely a subject that can, and maybe even should, be tackled in video games, if handled appropriately.  Unfortunately there’s a great barrier to entry given the fact that games, unlike other media, are always expensive, always a business decision, and will never reach mainstream acceptance like these other examples in the current state of the world.  Basically books, film, and television can be made faster, cheaper, with less of a risk, and more widely accepted than games that it’s hard to find subject matter such as this handled well.  This is why the way Hideo Kojima and his team handled the rape sequence in MGSV: GZ not only unfortunate, but disappointing.

mgs5Few creative directors have the clout and freedom that Hideo Kojima does.  Programming Metal Gear on the MSX microcomputer in 1987 along with a small team that detailed the story of Solid Snake, an assassin for hire sent to infiltrate a compound and deactivate a mobile nuclear weapon left from Cold War atrocities, was a true work of art.  Limitations of the time allowed you to feel like an actual soldier hiding behind enemy lines and sneaking through the core of a terrorist organization.  It wasn’t about killing, it was about being invisible.  From that point forward he launched a career going on 30 years that told one of the most complex and emotional series of all time.  Metal Gear Solid and its sequels always played the realities of war close to the chest while escaping the darker side with supervillian-like bosses and childlike humor such as a guy with diarrhea and hitting on the main communicator of a covert op.  It was hard to follow, it didn’t make sense, and it was some of the most fun I’ve had while gaming.  I love this series (as proven by our podcast on it).  At this point the sky is the limit for Hideo Kojima and Konami will definitely give him the freedom to write whatever he wants into his games, which is why everyone was walking on eggshells with this newest iteration that seemed to take a very realistic turn.  Took a turn for realism it did, but not before concepts like prisoners of war being raped, children being sexually abused, and the overall terror of war was thrown at you in a mere 15 minutes of bombarded plot points at the end of Ground Zeroes‘ story.  It was jarring and it felt insincere.

By the time you complete the story of Chico and Paz in Ground Zeroes, they are shells of people.  In fact, I felt that Paz was the only person who truly found peace in the end, but what she had to go through to get there was unimaginable.  I wasn’t having fun, it wasn’t a release from the real world, and most importantly I felt for those that had gone through such a trauma.  Parts of it don’t make sense – like Paz’s reaction to her violation later on with Chico – and others just seem to be a person devising the worst ways to violate someone.  I will admit that the esrb_mevents aren’t far-fetched, Paz seemed to be the only female in an all male prisoner camp and the sexually violent behavior of both psychopaths and warmongers, of which Skull Face is both, but you can get that across without being so explicit.  I guess what I’m saying is that it was hammering home a topic that may have been best handled with subtlety.  It just goes to prove that Kojima isn’t ready to tackle these kinds of subjects and unless he had some peers in writing the plot, no one at Kojima Productions (KojiPro) had the balls to tell him so.  In the end I don’t care if Chico or Paz live or die because the amount of trauma they have suffered doesn’t suggest a very normal life moving forward, they are broken.  It’s the same reason the intro of the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre that showed an aged Jessica Biel in a psycho ward was cut from the movie: even if this is realistically what would happen, you don’t want to see it firsthand and be reminded of it.  What should have been a celebration for Snake succeeding in another extraction became somewhat of a torture porn scenario where everyone loses.  It’s a zero sum game and that’s not a video game I want to play, which is ironic considering I really liked the new Fox Engine and gameplay scenarios.  This is even further disheartening because few others will be able to tackle this subject with any developer or publisher and especially now that there was this editorial backlash.  I want video games to be ready for mature content.  With the more recent realism and storytelling of today’s games, notably The Last of Us, I thought that there was enough care and self control that whenever topics – such as rape – were introduced that the games industry would show the world it was ready.  This just proves that, perhaps, video games haven’t grown up to handle truly being rated “M for Mature”.

What do you think?  Feel free to give your opinion and lets get a dialogue going.

References

1: What’s Wrong With Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes’ Ending? by Lucy O’Brien at IGN

2: The Violent Sexism of Metal Gear Solid V by Cameron Kunzelman at Paste Magazine

3: Chico’s Tape 4 by Ria Jenkins at Introskeptive

Written by Fred Rojas

April 19, 2014 at 5:00 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Video games have always targeted adolescent boys and aging men, both of which love “mature content.” My opinion is that mature content in video games will always be taboo because of this fact. Mothers don’t want their 12 year old (or their 32 year old in the basement) watching that stuff. I admit to downloading Leisure Suit Larry and NES mods with partial nudity and crude jokes. I also admit to being either (or both) an adolescent boy or an aging man. Although. I’m not familiar with Metal Gear, I sure as hell remember Sonya from Mortal Kombat and Laura Croft from Tomb Raider. Kind of rambling here, but my 2 points are these: 1: My wife and I just had a discussion about nudity and language in Game of Thrones and how unnecessary it is. Did it help sell the series? Unfortunately, probably. I like boobs, but it’s just so uncalled for. 2: I see a night of SEGA Mortal Kombat and beers in our future, cuz. 🙂
    -Alan E

    Alan E

    April 20, 2014 at 1:05 am

  2. I define “mature” as sophisticated and full of subtleties. Basically, mature content is any content that you must be old enough to recognize and have a reaction to. Sex, drugs, and violence does not make the work “mature”, but sophisticated interaction between well-written characters do. I consider Psychonauts a far more mature game than Duke Nukkem. I think Okami is more mature than the latest Call of Duty. Silent Hill 3 is mature. DMC is not.

    Andrew

    April 20, 2014 at 10:21 pm


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