What is Wrong With the World: Maturity of the Games Industry

I have briefly touched on computer games on this blog occasionally in the past, flirting with overwhelming reviews and simple gushes of excitement, but nothing really of any consequence, but the recent release of Grand Theft Auto IV, the latest instalment of the biggest franchise in computer games at present has pushed the topic that I want to discuss here not into the mindset of the media, but also, the mindset of the normal person on the street.

The furore over GTAIV, and its stablemates Manhunt 2, Gears of War, and even Mass Effect, have shown the the media and the public have rather outdated version of the point of computer games and the fact that they might not have been paying attention to the industry today.

Grand Theft Auto IV, at the time of writing, has just been released. Indeed, I am still to play it, and will be interested in writing a post about it later this week, but this post is not about the game per se, but the impact such a game will have. Recently, a certain lawyer in America has been outed as a completely biased lawyer for the momentum against the games industry, Jack Thompson. Having filled many cases against games and their makers, he has since been under the ruling of a dis-barment from the courts of Florida. He makes regular appearances on the television in America as a Video-game expert giving expert analysis on various problems caused by gaming. His biggest folly, and one Fox News have no yet admitted, is letting this man, who knows little out side his own bubble, onto the television to speak his opinion where the majority of it is rooted in unfounded nonsense.

The problem I have with Mr Thompson is that he is helping creating the problem that I am going to detail: The videogames industry is no longer for kids – in fact, it never was. The industry is going through a certain thing called maturity and the games are getting more realistic and better made, and closer to reality they get the more worried out culture seems to get. This is because some parts seem to think that any game released is being marketed for kids and directly to the kids. I would be dismayed by that. GTA4 has the most mature advertising campaign of any game I have seen and parallels the film industry. I will return to that later.

The problem we seem to have is that the ratings, for which there are plenty, are not being adhered to by parents and retailers. The BBFC, who rates most major game releases, gives them ratings of 15 and 18 just like the film ratings, and whilst there is no legal requirement to stop the games getting into the wrong hands on the retailers, a certain responsibility should be placed on them. A film with an 18 rating would not find its way into the bedroom of a 12 year old would it, and neither should a game. But I have seen even in my own family a game that even I find disturbing making its way into a child’s bedroom.

Both the developers and the government need to take legislative means to stop this. The problem surfaced in the film industry too with ratings, and especially in the late 80s with certain types of film being too hardcore for normal audiences, and games should be treated the same. If a film is releasd with graphic violence, like the horrible (and not totally merit less) Saw series of films we are subjected to graphic and very real horror and mutilation. In the GTA series we are subjected to car chases, gun shots, prostitutes and drugs, but in an obviously much less graphic way – no game has yet to look like reality in the same way a 20ft movie cinema screen in high definition can be. If a film like Saw can be released with minimum outcry because it is an 18, surely a game can be too?

I don’t see this trend ending anytime soon, but the games industry really needs to sort it out before things go wrong. I see us heading to a world where the cutsey computer games of the early years, such as Sonic or Mario, are the animated films today – critically panned but hugely successful, save for a few a year. The big action story driven blockbusters, like GTA, will be like the Fast and the Furious, the Armageddon’s and the Matrixes. They will be very well made but carbon copies of previous games. The film industry has legislation, and the computer games industry does too. It is matter of whether or not the maturity of the games matches the maturity of the industry.