Future Implications On The Digital Home: Adults Only Video Games

Each Thursday here on The Digital Home, I will be discussing a current topic of interest that may have serious implications on your home in the coming days, months or years. The topics may range from groundbreaking new products to government legislation

Each Thursday here on The Digital Home, I will be discussing a current topic of interest that may have serious implications on your home in the coming days, months or years. The topics may range from groundbreaking new products to government legislation to adults only video games -- our topic of interest today.

In a setback for Take-Two Interactive, the company's Manhunt 2 video game has been banned from sale in the UK because of its ESRB Adults Only rating. Even worse for Take-Two, Best Buy and Wal-Mart -- two significant video game retailers -- have historically banned Adults Only games from shelves as well, leaving very little wiggle room for the company to make a profit.

But unlike most other Adults Only video games, Manhunt 2 was not designated the rating for nudity or questionable sexual content. Instead, the game was given the Adults Only rating because of extreme violence. What kind of violence you ask? Oh nothing too special, just castration with the help of pliers and the ability to saw someone's head in half without much trouble.

Usually I am strongly in support of video game developers having the ability to express themselves in any way they deem fit -- within reason. Being given the ability to castrate someone with pliers or sawing their head in half goes too far.

I understand I am playing in a virtual environment and performing these heinous acts on a bunch of virtual people on my screen and blah blah blah, but is castration truly necessary to have a good time playing a game? I have played numerous games without that ability (Halo anyone?) and have enjoyed it beyond belief. And if Manhunt 2 is anything like the original, no wonder why they are including these abilities -- they need all the help they can get.

If games like this become the norm, I am truly worried for your Digital Home. Granted, most people who play video games don't run out to school and lob domes off and castrate people, but at what point will the inundation of violence have a lasting effect on tomorrow's youth?

To me, a Digital Home is a place where the home is covered in electronics that help make life just a little easier for everyone. And while today we have the ability to simply flip a switch and turn off that violent video game our children are playing, in ten years it may not be so easy. We are living in an age that is rapidly evolving and our feelings on what the Digital Home will look like in one year will be obsolete by the time we get there.

Now before you start making Jack Thompson references and tell me that I'm a fool, consider this: how many Adults Only games have you played in the past decade? Did you stop playing games because there were very few Adults Only games available? One step further, would you only play Adults Only games once you get your hands on Manhunt 2?

The simple fact is we enjoy video games for the level of enjoyment they provide us with; not the level of violence. Wii Sports is a great game that packs quite a bit of fun and enjoyment for a single player or a group of people. Do we need violence in that game to make it better? Some may argue that we do. I don't.

Take a step back from your own biases (whether they are for or against my own) and consider how much the technological world has evolved over the past decade. Even better, consider how much the video game industry has evolved over the past five years. Now take a moment to imagine Manhunt 2 with its head slicing and castration becoming the norm as we move into the next generation of video games. If you're anything like me, you see significant advances in reality and a slew of Adults Only games populating every store in town. And while you may think that is fine and you have the right to play those games in your home (and you do), would you really want your children to play those games?

Believe it or not, I have no problem with children who are mature and responsible playing mature rated games, but I must draw the line at that. I realize the title says it all: Adults Only, and I hear the argument that so many people make of "well the parents need to watch their kids." Did you ever wonder why most of the people making that argument don't have kids and may not have even reached the age to see a college campus yet? As the old adage says, "you can't watch your kids all day. Eventually you'll need to go to sleep."

The future of the Digital Home will be an exciting evolution to watch. But Manhunt 2 is setting a dangerous precedent that I hope people can realize and understand. I'm not asking for you to change your mind if you disagree; that is your opinion and you are more than entitled to have it. But before you begin outfitting your home with video game consoles and HDTVs galore, consider this for your own well-being: do you really want to teach little Johnny how to castrate?

For more information on the Manhunt 2 story, check out CNET News coverage here.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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