the artistry and psychology of gaming


Why Censorship Hurts The Industry

Why Censorship Hurts The Industry

Viridiana. Persona. Belle De Jour. A Clockwork Orange. Taxi Driver. Crash. Eyes Wide Shut. Malèna. Mulholland Drive. Irréversible. Oldboy.

Imagine none of these movies existed. How grave would be the blow? How bare would that art look? It would certainly be a great misfortune. Now, none of those movies would have existed if the laws of video game censorship also applied to the movies. In fact, any R rated movie, which got its rating not from violence but sexuality, would disappear. And this is shameful and a sign of cultural backwardness.

In few countries like Australia or to a lesser extent Germany, the video games are outright censored, the Soviet Union type, by government banning them from going on the shelves. But some other countries use another method to censor. A company like ESRB rates them and if a game gets an infamous AO rating, major game retailers refuse to sell the game, and the console versions will be nonexistent. It’s a subtle censorship, and it seems voluntary. We’re keeping it clean! But the truth is, what’s really going on is establishment censoring the themes it dislikes. It is immoral, and it is a disrespect to the notion of freedom, and also a violation of art.

ESRB decides what makes a game inappropriate and what not. Violence, sex, bad language, drugs, alcohol, and racism are its standards. But the truth is, none of the above are as sensitive as the topic of sex. The most violent games can get away with an M rating, so the ones with the foulest of the tongues. Show hardcore sex or a little too nipples and the game is suddenly AO. This shows that the censorship stems not from a genuine concern for the well-being of the children, but from a sick, perverted, evil ideology which deems human sexuality as unpleasant and inappropriate. Although every sane person today admits that sex between consenting adults in any form is perfectly natural and moral, many still regarding watching and showing sex inappropriate, which is juvenile and stupid. No culture has advanced to the stage to come up and say sex shouldn’t be a taboo anymore, and we can show it and watch it.

But whole this is a symptom of a greater disease. We still don’t consider video games included in the mediums who enjoy the benefit of freedom of speech. We really don’t. We talk about video games as if they are traffic rules or tax policies, things that concern everyone in the society. What we don’t realize is that these games are the intellectual property of the people who created it and the choice is upon the purchaser to buy them or not. We don’t need to argue whether video games encourage violence or not. This argument is gracing the idiocy of the inquisition. The whole point we should make is if you think the video games are deplorable, don’t play them. You have no right to control what others do in their privacy in order to entertain themselves. Personally I find Jersey Shore really deplorable and disgusting, and I sincerely believe it harms the society. I still don’t aim to censor it, as it’s none of my business what people watch. If it’s on. I have the power to switch the channels and I do that. And those who find video games disgusting and harmful have the power of not going to video game stores and not buying them.

And of course, it’s the stupid notion that we must protect the children. I’m baffled at how people more intelligent than wasps can believe in such an absurd notion that isolating kids from sex and violence during their growth period can protect them. This is not only wrong, but it’s also impossible. It’s wrong because it raises kids to be sissies and weak, idiots who believe the world is a good place and everything can be fine, and makes them either optimistic idiots for life or shatters their illusion when they finally face the cruel nature of the world. We’ve been censoring truth from our children, and have created a dysfunctional generation who survives on wishful thinking and impossible ambitions. Better to expose our children to the realities of life early on, so they are prepared for what is to come.

But even if you disagree, and think deceiving your child is better than honesty, it’s still impossible to isolate children from violence completely. As human beings, we are by nature murderers and rapists, and your child will instinctively strive for violent imagery to satisfy his/her whims. Just as we need to eat, drink, sleep and have sex, we need to kill, injure, and torture. Violence is one of our basic needs. And just as suppressing our basic needs. However, our natural fascination with murder is in contrast with our life as a civilized creature, and to pursue our natural needs is to endanger our society, and it’s also against our moral convictions, which is another paradoxical ability gifted to us by the evolution. As civilized, moral beings we detest murder and yet as natural beings we need and strive for it.

It would be great if we could completely suppress our violent urges- we can’t. Therefore we seek escape in arts- violent fiction, cinema, and video games, and this escape satisfies our violent urges. T o some of us it comes at an extreme- for example, extremely violent movies and games such as Cannibal Holocaust or Manhunt or even worse than that- pornographic films featuring violence. Or we can satisfy it with more innocent looking things- slap stick comedies, Tom and Jerry, such things.

But the point is, your child WILL seek violence, and s/he WILL find it, in one way or another, and even if s/he doesn’t, s/he will still be exposed to it. S/he might read it in the Bible, the most violent book of all times:

Ezekiel 9:6 “Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women . . . “

Isaiah 13:16 “Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.”

Deuteronomy 13:15 “Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly . . . “

Leviticus 20:9 “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death . . . “

Exodus 32:27 “. . . Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.”

Deut 21:10-12 “When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife; Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails; “

Exodus 31:15 ” . . . whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.”

Deut 21:21 “And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die . . . “

…. Or if, like me, you’re from a Muslim country, in Quran:

“And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution [of Muslims] is worse than slaughter [of non-believers]… but if desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful.   And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah.” (2: 193-195)

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement. (5:33)

Or, s/he can pick it up from the news. Nothing is as violent as news, full of news about murders and wars. Bottom line is, trying to censor violence is impractical and stupid. The better way is to let children be exposed to it and yet have it explained to them why violence can ruin everything and be a very negative force.

And then we have the topic of sex. Personally, to me, every form of sex with the exception of rape is perfectly moral, natural and enjoyable (reminding you that, to prevent misunderstanding, that pedophilia and bestiality are also rape). There’s simply no reason to hide anything sexual from children. Nudity harms nothing, nor does the intercourse. They are pleasant human experiences and all the taboo surrounding them should be sent to waste basket, and therefore sex shouldn’t be censored from anyone any age.

Finally, we have the issue of alcohol and drugs. Our attitude towards drugs is paranoid and stupid. Not all the drugs are harmful, and most of them are not as harmful as they’re cut to be. What we should teach our children is not “NO DRUGS! NO DRUGS! NO DRUGS!” Because sooner or later they will find out we’re lying to them. They’ll use marijuana some day some time and then they will see nothing bad has happened to them. So, they might move on to the things that- guess what- you were right about them all along, like heroin or cocaine. Lying about drugs to your children won’t solve anything. Just be honest. Let them refuse their friends when they bring them hard drugs because they trust your word. They don’t now. Because you lie to them.

And why should we keep our children in ignorance when it comes to drugs and alcohol? Your children won’t enjoy them. They’re not of the age. Helping them keeping informed about them and their effects will help them to grow up as responsible consumers of both, or none. Again, it’s a private choice. My whole life I haven’t smoked a single cigarette and I never will, simply because I don’t like to. It’s my choice. And those who smoke, it’s their choice. Yes, it’s bad for our health. But it’s our health. Not yours. As a non-smoker I’ll happily choose cancer over your annoying anti-smoking campaigns. And I’ll sit in the same room with a smoker- stop being a sissy.

And then it comes to racist and sexist elements. Now, I hate racism and sexism and homophobia as much as the next person. Yet, I don’t see how censoring it from our children can help. Are we going to lie to them that racism doesn’t exist? Isn’t it better that we teach our children the evils of racism? Why do we think hiding reality helps? And then again, how do we allow ourselves to censor racism? I deplore racism. I find it disgusting. But a racist has absolute right to spread his/her racist thoughts. Our true belief in the freedom of speech doesn’t manifest when we allow people to say the things we don’t mind, but to say things we find disgusting and wrong. I deplore a racist as a person, but I stand by his/her right to say what s/he believes. Hate speech is a form of speech, and speech must be free.

Bottom line is, censorship is stupid, immoral and wrong. We shouldn’t censor anything. So let’s stop putting stupid age labels and let the freedom roll.


  1. This was a great article. I agree wholeheartedly with a lot of what you’re saying. The whole thing about drugs and alcohol was pretty spot-on. Games are way to sensitive about things like that. I played Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, which has alcohol on the back of the box as one of the reasons it gets a higher rating. I played the entire game from start to finish and didn’t notice any alcohol. I think it might be referring to the fact that there are taverns, but there isn’t even anyone having a drink in them. It’s like calling Mario Kart 64 offensive to vegans because it has a track called Moo Moo Farm. My only qualm about exposing very young children to drugs and alcohol is that I don’t think it’s good to have them see their video game/movie/cartoon heroes using them before their parents have a chance to explain it to them. I don’t think that a kid should be downing a fifth of vodka before they’re fully developed; it is poison, after all. Don’t get me wrong, legality aside, I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad think for a kid to have a few sips of beer with his/her parents, but it should be the parents who expose their children to these things, not the shiny dancing figures on the screen. After that, it doesn’t matter as much. I feel the same way about racism, too. Parents need a chance to tell their kids that it’s not okay before they see it elsewhere and think it’s okay. The last thing we need is more little Hitlers. As far as Marijuana, it is illegal in many countries, and I’d cite that as a reason to tell your kids to stay away from it (should they live in such a country), moreso than its harmfulness.

    The bit about violence is also dead on. My father grew up watching The Three Stooges and he is a carpenter/painter/plumber/etc. by trade, and I am absolutely confident that he has never hit anyone with a pipe wrench or stuck anyone’s head in a vice grip. Violence doesn’t warp children and it bothers me that it’s the media that has such a big problem with it when they’re the worst purveyors of it because it’s the bad news that sells. It’s like Bill Gates could wipe out world hunger and it wouldn’t get reported because someone got bitten by a shark. The news is no longer about reporting world events; it’s about spreading fear and paranoia, which is why I don’t and won’t watch the news or subscribe to a newspaper until it takes itself seriously. My sister and I were both exposed to violence as kids in the form of cartoons and video games, and do you know what our fears were? I was afraid of the dark, tight spaces, falling up (yes, you read that right), and volcanoes, and she was afraid of “scary music”. Well, now my favorite places are small, dark alcoves and my sister’s favorite day of the year is Halloween, so even if you could somehow tie those fears to exposure to violence, I’d say it didn’t have any long-lasting effects on us. My only doubt here is that I don’t think I’d call violence a need. It’s a strong desire within all of us, for certain, but in a theoretical scenario in which a person was able to live without violence, it wouldn’t kill him/her like failing to eat would.

    My one main point of contention, though, is that of sex. Is our censorship of sex above that of all else stupid? It absolutely is beyond any doubt in my mind. There is no reason to censor any kind of sex from teenagers on up. On the other hand, exposing very young children to sex absolutely can warp them. Very young children (I’m talking younger than, say, 8 years old) who are exposed to certain aspects can grow up to be insatiable sex addicts. I know a lot of people think it’s healthy to have a strong sex drive, but anything you find yourself chasing so desperately that you cannot resist it is an addiction, and addictions are harmful. Again, I can use my sister and I as examples. For me, it was mostly what I’ve seen, but while she was exposed to less, she still has a stronger sex drive than her boyfriend by far. I do think parents should explain sex to their kids and I definitely think that they should start doing so at a fairly early age, but there is such a think as too young for sex and nudity.

    So, what I’m proposing is this: the ESRB isn’t such a bad thing, but banning AO games is completely unnecessary. By the time the ratings were strictly enforced, I was well over the age limit for M, so it didn’t affect me, but even if it had, my parents would have gladly bought M-rated games for me. I was playing Mortal Kombat at age 9 or 10 and my parents would play it with me, sometimes even helping me rip someone’s heart out and show it to them. I think that’s perfectly okay and even healthy. I think at age 10 or even 13 at the latest, most non-sheltered people can handle just about anything you throw at them. It’s best that a person not be sheltered; someone very close to me was sheltered from everything her whole life until college, at which point she was exposed to it all at once after almost 2 decades of knowing nothing about it and completely broke down. She’s still dysfunctional to this day because of her upbringing. The rating system should pertain mostly to things that can actually be harmful to children’s minds and shouldn’t have anything above E10 or so. If the parents decide that little Harvey or little Iris are able to handle Bikini Chainsaw Potfest, then they shouldn’t be branded horrible parents for picking up a copy. Besides, it’s not like other media such as books, TV, or movies are free of gratuitous sleeze, so they should get off their respective high horses.

  2. I also largely agree with a lot of this. However, I think that the censorship and controversy is starting to die down in recent years, at least in the US. A rough timeline:
    * 2002 – Everyone freaks out because BMX XXX has tits in it.
    * 2004 – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is released. The Hot Coffee mod gets the rating changed to AO by the ESRB.
    * 2005 – God of War has a bunch of nudity and no one really minds.
    * 2011 – The Witcher 2 features sex scenes that make the Hot Coffee mod look like a Disney game, and gets assigned an M rating by the ESRB.

    As far as doing away with the age ratings altogether, I don’t think that is the right choice. The age ratings on games aren’t much different than the ones on movies, at least in the states. Many parents simply see them as a guideline instead of a hard rule, and the kids of even the strictest will still find a way to get their hands on an R-rated movie/M-rated game if they want to.

    However, as Alice implied, there is still a point where someone is too young to comprehend the content in an M-rated game. Yes, a 13-year-old can handle it, but a 3-year-old? Probably not. The rating system still helps parents decide what is appropriate for very young children.

    • The main problem is not the age rating all together, although it’s a stupid concept. The main problem is retailers refusing to sell AO rated games and NC-17 movies which forces the creators to censor their work themselves. Plus, Witcher 2 isn’t that bad. I haven’t tried Hot Coffee mod myself but I’ve heard it’s full-blown pornography.

      And basically I’m not a fan of how people deal with the issue of age. To me, a 14 year old can drive, drink, smoke, have sex, get married, vote, and be punished for his/her crimes. To me, legal age should be 14 and not 18 or 16.

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