Wild Musing

Writing – Diary of a Budding Freelance

No Sex In Games Please-We Are American

Working on the gig I have at the moment which involves writing about games I have become quite the campaigner against censorship in games, you are likely to hear a fair bit about that in the future. I have also learned quite a lot about the way sex is used in video games. I thought I would share some of my thought with you.

In actual fact it is not just America but actually most of the Western World that has a problem with sex in games. It just opens a whole can of worms, I covered the early versions of ’sexy’ games in the first part of this series. I would now like to move into the more modern era and see how attitudes to sex in games and the depiction of sex itself has changed over time. And the truth of the matter is that this rather depends on where you live and your culture’s attitude to such things. America seems to be the least tolerant, quickly followed by the rest of the Western World. Japan on the other hand does not seem to worry about anything to do with sex, to the point where even the most liberal of us worry if things can go too far.

Let’s start with a character that actually managed to create very little controversy anywhere, just wonder at her awesomeness and awareness that people could consider video game characters sexy. At the beginning of the modern era we see Lara Croft (if you do not acknowledge Tomb Raider as the start of the modern era then you are too young to have an opinion.). This little lady changed the way people thought about video game characters forever, as author Damon Brown puts it in his book Porn and Pong

In Lara well adjusted men were contemplating sleeping with a bunch of pixels, lusting after a digital diva that didn’t exist -and actually admitting it to other people. Lara represents the first time America fell in lust with the idea of someone in a video game.

Even though there was no actual sex in the game Lara changed our attitudes to sexuality in games, they were becoming sexy in more than one way. Years later when Playboy did its first spread of video game characters, Lara would not be in it but make no mistake without her it would never have happened.

It would take the GTA titles to really make people sit up and take notice of sex in games again. Grand Theft Auto Three would cause comment because of its scenes with prostitutes. This franchise had the most disturbing sexual overtones to any set of games yet. It was probably the hint of violence with the sex that took it to a new level. As most of you know you could pursue the prostitute and kill her to retrieve your money. Was this justified in a game? A few things need to be taken into account when answering this question.

The first one is that the game already had a mature rating. It is clearly not designed for children. So the question of whether the sex is appropriate for children is no more relevant than it would be with a mature rated movie. This brings me to the second point. The sex in GTA is in keeping with the plot of the story and the character you are playing. If this was a movie it would probably be praised for its gritty realism.

The next time the GTA series got into trouble was to involve the subject of interactive sexual content in a game. The ‘Hot Coffee’ scene that was accidently included in San Andreas is too famous for me to have to recount here, suffice to say that accident or not, this game gave the gamer the first chance to actually participate in the sexual act since Custer’s Revenge. It went down like a lead ballon with the campaigners. There was a huge backlash against the series.

It is probably due to this backlash and a desire to avoid a repeat that Fahrenheit or Indigo Prophecy as those of you in the States know it, shipped without the interactive sex scene that people in every other country in the world would be able to play. It is probably fair to say that though the culture of America is very similar in a lot of ways to that of countries like Britain and Australia, the latter two do not have as many fundamentalist Christian pressure groups. It is probably the slightly more religious basis to the culture that stopped Americans from seeing this content.

And where is Japan in all this? How have they fared with sex in games in the modern era? Well, while we are debating the presence of tasteful alien sex scenes in the game Mass Effect some Japanese are legally playing what can only be termed as rape simulators. Nobody seemed to be at all bothered about this until someone tried to sell a second hand copy on Amazon to a British audience This caused a massive furor.

Back here in the Western World though, taking the vocal minority out of the equation, most people seem comfortable with sex in games so long as its inclusion is not obviously just there just for its own sake. Some don’t care even if it is, though most of those are likely to be under the age that is legally required to purchase the game. The average, mature gamer likes strong storylines and realistic layered characters, if this includes a bit of sex and sexuality then so be it.

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March 12, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kid can Play Games If He Follow Geneva Convention- People Still Moan

I do not usually consider myself to be the type of person who has activist leanings, maybe it is age, maybe it is just that something I enjoy is threatened, I am not sure, but either way this whole censorship thing continues to really bug me. So I thought I would highlight and comment on a story I discovered this morning(cheers to lear over at Digg who bought it to my attention) that shows that other, imaginative solutions can be found to the banning of violent content in video games.

A Canadian couple were determined to give their 13 year old son some rules of engagement when he was playing on his Xbox and they were not the ones you might expect, like time limits and making sure he had done his chores (though I am sure they have those rules as well) they were the perfect rules of engagement for the game he was playing, the rules of the Geneva Convention. Evan Spencer was allowed to play the game with his mates as long as he showed an awareness of these rules and where possible, within the limited scope of the game, used them to direct his play.

How very sensible and imaginative. Mr Spencer admits “Part of it was that I wanted to discourage him from getting the game. I just thought, ‘Hey, he’ll never read the Geneva Conventions.’ ” An understandable assumption but having been a child who wanted to play a game I could have told him that a little thing like that was not going to stop him. Evan printed the convention, read it and passed a quiz from his father to demonstrate that he understood them. Then he was good to go. Mr Spencer adds “In a sense, I wanted to make him aware that there’s a lot more about World War Two than just pointing and shooting,”

Now to this point this story is all very feel good and a great way to start my Saturday morning, and then I read the comments section. Fair enough there where a lot of people praising the move but still there were nay sayers determined to stick the boot into video games and Mr Spencer. Some of them were quite mild, pointing out that there is not actually a lot of opportunity to use the Geneva Convention in these games. Well that may be true but don’t you think that it misses the point? Whether or not Evan actually gets much chance to use them in COD is kind of irrelevant here. Surely the fact that he has engaged with them and now has an understanding of them is the issue. All because of a game. Mr Spencer used it as an opportunity for self directed learning, fabulous. Teachers would jump at the chance.

Other comments took my breath away, especially the oft repeated contention that this was lazy parenting.

Bob F from T.O., Canada writes: Lazy Parenting 1.0… Nice job… Pretty much sounds like Mr Spencer needs a spine. Wonder if he will let his son start smoking pot as long as he doesn’t inhale?

For one thing that analogy is so flawed as to actually be nonsensical but it is the accusation of lazy parenting that really fries my brain. Please, someone explain to me how this is lazy? Mr Spencer and his wife have evaluated the game, sat down together and discussed the issues and come up with a parenting tactic that is both imaginative and thoughtful. I guess Bob F thinks uttering the one word “no” so his kids can go out and play these games behind his back is less lazy. Mind boggling.

But this story is such a positive one that I do not want to finish on that negative note so I will give the last word to the eminently sensible Mr Spencer “This is the 21st century and a part of the universe we live in now.”
Indeed they are and responsible parenting like this will hopefully reassure people that parents are up to the job of looking after their children in this area and let the rest of us get on with enjoying our games.

Thanks to Sarah Boesveld for the original story that was publish in the Canadian Globe and Mail.

March 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Games Are Just Not For Kids

Interestingly after my article of a few days ago the Byron Review was mentioned in parliament this week. And I find it interesting that while evoking the name of the review the politicians involved still seemed to be taking the tone that the games industry is hard to deal with and in some way irresponsible. This was not actually stated but to me it was the clear implication.

The discussion was kicked off by home affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz who, according to the Scottish Herald asked the following of commons leader Harriet Harman “Given the fact that there is increasing availability of these games on the internet, exhibiting scenes of graphic and gratuitous violence, when is the Government proposing to implement the Byron report in full.”
It is not actually this portion of the question I have a problem with it is the way the journalist paraphrased Ms Harman’s answer “She told Labour home affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz that the video industry itself had a role to play and vowed to take action on all these fronts”. As a former English teacher I feel qualified to say that the use of a strong word like ‘vowed’ implies that the games industry is doing the wrong thing and needs to be taken firmly in hand. This was not the finding of the Byron Review at all, in fact the opposite was true. Professor Byron made it quite clear that the large majority of those in the games industry were responsive and helpful and keen to work with the government on this issue. I am not sure if this was Ms Harman’s emphasis or the journalist’s but it was entirely misplaced.

Another thing that annoyed me about this was Mr Vaz statement that “This isn’t about censorship, this is about protecting our children.” Unfortunately Mr Vaz these two things are not mutually exclusive. History has taught us that once people think they are pursuing the worthy cause of protecting their children they begin to think anything is justified.

The rest of Ms Harman’s answer was more in fitting with the findings of the Review

“We need to make sure we have tough classification, which are properly enforced. We need to make sure that parents have the information they need.”

Yes exactly, parent education and a clear sign on the front of the game that states that the contents are not for children, so that the rest of us can get on with our gaming in peace. I do hope that that is what Mr Vaz was suggesting.

March 4, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Sex in games, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Charge Me With Neglect! Elance Triumph

Well the bad news is I have been very remiss in keeping my blog entries up but the good news is that is because I have been run off my feet with decent (read no dodgy SEO) writing work. And without exception the work has come from Elance. So haven’t I come a long way from where I was?

I know I am probably sounding like an advert for this place by now and that was never my intention so lets have a look at the downsides of the Elance world. Their charges for bidding are just a bit silly. You pay nearly ten bucks a month for being a member of the site but for that you do not get unlimited bidding, only 20 a month. I have found that, this month at least, this has not been enough. I think most people starting out will experience the same problem. So you have to buy more ‘connects’ and already you have paid them twice.

They then charge you 8% of any fee you earn on the site. So this is the third time they have been paid. I am not sure how this goes if you are the provider but I figure they are charged somewhere so Elance is earning money four or five times on the pair of you. Genius! As a business it must work stunningly well for them and the thing is it is still popular. Why?

Well, for me the answer is that it works. Yes its charges are daft and annoying but it beats the crap out of having no work. I would rather have a nice juicy fee for them to take 8% of than nothing at all. Basically, like it or lump it, it is the sole reason I have not had to go supply teaching and have been able to sit the snow period out in the comfort of my own home, doing what I love. And making really rather decent money out of it.

I am starting to get a bit of work in through word of mouth and trust me I will not be crying about not having to pay Elance a big cut. But, bottom line, I would have had no word of mouth without them.

A quick summary of my recommendations for getting to this position. Do not work for crap money, in fact don’t even bid on those jobs, you cannot compete with those people coming from the countries with a much lower cost of living and you will just make yourself miserable. I no longer even look at $5 an article jobs (she says with what is probably supreme over confidence). Also, once you are slightly established only bid on jobs that are going to improve your current position i.e. they pay more or they are on something that you would enjoy writing about. I write an awful lot on video games now, which I love.

I may, in time, be in a position to move away from Elance but at the moment it is serving me very nicely. Oh and Guru? Probably works well for a lot of people but in the time period I have been using it there seems to more of the dross and less of the good stuff. May just be coincidence or could be something about the way it markets to or charges employers. If I notice a difference I will let you know.

February 5, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Guru, SEO writing, Uncategorized, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Quick SEO Laugh

As I am ridiculously busy on a huge project (as well as trying to keep my regular customers happy) I am going to have to resort to an earlier topic to put together a blog today. It is one that I promised to come back to though,so all is well. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was on the lookout for some funny SEO writing. This one really tickled me today because you can literally see the guy struggling as he tries to find enough words about this crap game to fulfill his brief.

The series has expanded since then with the addition of Pet Vet 3D Animal Hospital Down Under. The “Down Under” part of the title is the critical differentiator, in that it refers to Australia. Not satisfied to drive on the wrong side of the road and have their toilets flush in the wrong direction (save your emails – I know this is a myth, but hey, you try writing these things if you think it’s easy)

I wonder if his employer even noticed.

His opening where he is describing at great length his childhood dream of becoming a vet and the reading of lots of lovely books on the subject, in a desperate attempt to get the word count up also tickled me.

Well, I enjoyed the books immensely, as did millions of other readers. But to anyone interested in becoming a veterinarian, they may as well have been titled “Long Nights and Long, Dung-Covered Arms” or “Long Nights, Awake and Working.” Not for me, mate. Give me a nice warm office-based nine-to-five, please.

Fabulous. And if you are the author and you happen upon this blog I just want say I am not sure if you sold any of your employer’s games for them but if it is any consolation you brightened up my afternoon.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment