281: Rated E for Everywhere

Netrigan

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Call Of Duty should have a hallucinatory experience where you find yourself battling through waves of flower-toting Care Bears.

I think I would pay good money for a shooter that uses a children's game back drop. It always worked for Judge Dredd comics. They pulled that gag more than once.
 

Adam Greenbrier

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Scrumpmonkey said:
Bottom line; Rated M does not mean less innovative, colourful or imaginative.
I agree. My point was more that the inverse is true as well: Rated E doesn't mean bland, boring games without anything to interest adults. The settings in kids' games are just one of the things they have to offer.

dastardly said:
Take some random stranger as an example. Let's say this guy is successful at his job, he pays his bills on time, he loves his wife and kids and spends good quality time with them, and is a fine upstanding member of his community...

...and in the evenings, to relax, he plays with action figures. Oh, now he's a weirdo! There's something wrong with him! He's doing something that requires imagination (and is thus "for kids"), so we look at him slantwise.

Even I do it. Like right now, I feel a compelling need to qualify this statement by saying I do not play with action figures at 28 years old. Because I do not want people to be under the impression that I'm "that guy." I feel it, too, even though I can't pinpoint anything in particular that is wrong with "that guy." We shun imaginative people as childish, regardless of the evidence.
I don't know what your situation is like, but I've found that having a child has made it easier to embrace things traditionally set aside as being "for kids." Part of the inspiration for this article was a realization that I didn't have any video games in my collection that I felt comfortable playing in front of my son. I'm a huge fan of horror games, but I didn't want him watching me play Dead Space or Silent Hill; that's just not something I'm comfortable with. I started looking into E-rated games in an effort to find something that I would be comfortable playing with him when he's older, and what I found were some startlingly imaginative games I would have otherwise overlooked.

I don't know that I would have explored those games before my son was born. Any that I did play (like Super Mario Galaxy), I felt the need to qualify with praise for its mechanics or justify by way of my history with the franchise. I was concerned that people would assume that I was immature, and I was concerned that I was somehow supporting the notion that video games are just for kids. I now have a ready-made excuse ("It's for my kid"), but I don't need it. I'm comfortable now in anticipating Epic Mickey and Dead Space 2 equally in the same way that I don't have any problem reading both Watchmen and Calvin and Hobbes. It's on the observer to decide how to judge me.

Falseprophet said:
I read adult fantasy fiction fairly religiously in my teens and early 20s, but dropped the whole genre because every author was trying to be Tolkien, or worse, a "grim and grittier" version of Tolkien. This was around the time the Harry Potter books were building steam and prompting a whole new wave of children's and young-adult fantasy. And because they were "kids books", the authors were able to take chances and break away from the Tolkien formula. That saved the genre for me.
If you haven't read it and don't mind starting series that haven't been finished, I highly recommend Clive Barker's Abarat books. Look for the editions illustrated by his paintings. He's created a fantasy world almost entirely divorced from Tolkien's legacy, and it's wonderful.
 

Dastardly

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Adam Greenbrier said:
I don't know what your situation is like, but I've found that having a child has made it easier to embrace things traditionally set aside as being "for kids." ...
Oh, definitely. It's like that for me, too (just with nieces and nephews). It's just, for me, it's a bizarre cultural force that compels me to feel that I need that excuse in order to not seem like a whack-job. I ignore it and do as I please, generally, but it's still there as some vestigial "red flag" that once warned my distant ancestor.

...I started looking into E-rated games in an effort to find something that I would be comfortable playing with him when he's older, and what I found were some startlingly imaginative games I would have otherwise overlooked.
And it's incredible how many people still do. God help us, we need to play more as adults. My like-minded friends and I routinely engage in games of Creationary--which is essentially Pictionary with LEGOS--and have an absolute damned blast. We've collected (and subsequently modified) a collection of Nerf blasters, with which we occasionally bombard each other. We find ourselves enjoying recreational props that most people would call "toys," and you know what--screw it--they are toys. And we enjoy them. And we're better people for it.

Video games prove that imagination isn't quite dead yet. I mean, people don't mind stepping into the shoes of a space marine. It's just that they tend to stay in the shallow end of the pool. "I'll pretend to be some other realistic or believable-humanoid person, engaging in activities that are at least facsimiles of real-life activities... but don't ask me to step any further outside the box, please."

And the big studios aren't doing much to challenge those players. For everything imaginative that comes out, there's five of the same-old simulation titles, because that's what makes them money. And because the market's full of them, the people have no reason to challenge themselves--there are just so many of the familiar options readily available, so why risk it?--so the cycle persists.

And I really believe that we're hemorrhaging potential as a culture because we keep letting the skill of imagination slip away.
 

The Random One

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Well done, excellent article. I was under the impression that very few games actually tried to deliver a worthwhile experience for children, here defined not as 'an experience tailored for children' but as 'an experience that is adequate for all, including children'. I was under the impression that the Mario games were the only franchise to do so. I'm glad that I was wrong. Wow, there's a Boy and his Blob game on the Wii? It came out last year? There might be hope for the game industry yet.

And I know where all this is coming from. Even though the gaming industry is built on the violence of Doom and Duke Nukem as much as on the flights of fancy of Mario and Sonic, games always have and continue to be seen as children's toys. So we, serious gamers, feel the need to straighten our berets, sip our wine and state that we are making mature games, and you can see that they're mature because they deal with mature themes like tits and blood. The people who are developing games nowadays are those that took it up during the nineties, when it was a weird thing for children and childish men, and they're desperate to prove it isn't. Unfortunately they haven't got a real grip of how. Sometimes they put out things like Bioshock and Assassin's Creed that scratch at the edge of what real mature works are, but mostly they just make sure that every corner of the game is full of sex and violence so that no one can be mistaken that these games are not for ADULTS. And so they are as much for adults as porn is for adults, as opposed to how intelligent movies are for adults.

I thought about this for a while, and I have a theory. Any form of media in which it's as easy to create fantastical world as it is to create lifelike worlds is seen as childish, due to the aforementioned association of imagination and childishness. So movies aren't seen as childish because it takes considerable more work to create an imaginary landscape than a real one (you can just shoot a real landscape, but you need to create an imaginary one from the bottom up). Meanwhile in a game it doesn't matter if you're creating an inch-by-inch simulation of Manhattan or the planet Florp of the flying donut dragons, you're starting from the first polygons up. The same is true for graphic novels - it takes as much work to draw a man as an elf. Only classical art gets off the hook on this one, since people have thousands of years of proof that they can be serious, so they don't wave off Salvador Dali.

But, just like those people making games for we grown up hardcore teabagging experts will turn to the same motifs over and over and over and over, the people making games for children will, even if not turn to the same motifs, certainly to the same gameplay. If you take a pile of all games rated E for the last two generations I bet the Mario 64 clones (clumsy platformers about jumping over stuff) will outnumber everything else. And on the Wii poor controller waggling 'party' games will as well. And there's a reason for this. Devs know that children can't complain about games. When they hear about something they want they'll ask for it to their moms, and their moms will buy it not being really sure about what it's like, and if the game is a piece of shit the child will have nothing to do but pout, especially if they're not rich/spoiled enough that their mom will just buy a new one. So the quality of kids' games is lower because devs know they can get away with it. (And maybe because devs think it isn't 'real' gaming, like Dudebro II: My Shit Is Fucked Up So I Got To Shoot/Slice You II: It's Straight Up Dog Time [http://www.grimoireassemblyforge.com/dudebro2/][footnote]A game that apparently was created solely so people like me would no longer need to come up with crazy names for generic action shooting game with grimdark protagonists. Which is how its name was created, incidentally.[/footnote]) And that's horrible, because as we gamer grow up and get jobs and get elected to Senate and die, who's gonna replace us, if the children don't know what real gaming is about because they're only allowed to play crap? Are we forced to choose between letting our children play Gears of War if we want them to know what real level design is like or making them safe with another Looney Toones games that not even toddlers can enjoy?

Not to mention, of course, that having a clear definition between kids' games and adults' games will help to some extent getting moral guardians off our backs. No one complains about Buchowski's books because a kid might think it's Harry Potter. The reason why so many people are up on our grill is - well, it's because gaming is the next ball to sink, but also because you look at a top ten games list and nine of them are going to be about people exploding bloodily.

If having children is one of the signs of maturity, wouldn't making a piece of art that speaks honestly to children without being inappropriate one of the main signs that gaming is a mature art form?
 

DojiStar

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Wow, people are calling "games for children" imaginative and innovative when 99.9% of them are the crappiest movie/cartoon/merch licensed dross ever? Seriously? I think we're picking out the VERY BEST non-violent games and comparing them to mainstream games that are particularly boring retreads. Genre ruts and copycat games are hardly a problem only in the testosterone segment.

Yeah, I admit the recent crop of brown shooters is really wringing the genre dry, but FPSes were quite innovative at one time. Some of us really do want games that are gritty, bloody, and dark. I'd like more "mature" ones that demonstrate the results of one's actions better, too, like having to live with the consequences of killing. You know, as in actually mature, not just with the trappings of such. If people are arguing that games aren't innovative enough, I agree. If people are arguing "all ages" games are better, I don't think I'm very convinced.

I appreciate a good all-ages friendly game once in a while. I liked Psychonauts, Okami, and some others. Overall, however, I think kid stuff is boring. A lot of kid games are full of insane grind and highly repetitive unchallenging gameplay even if they have cute trappings (see Shamus Young's recent rant on Animal Crossing). Ceteris paribus, I would vastly prefer a game with a violent theme over one that is more all-ages friendly. I stopped reading children's books when I was in 4th grade and never looked back. I hated being a kid; I like being a bitter old man. Don't take my videogame guns from me. And git off mah lawn.
 

beema

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I don't consider most of the games/movies you mentioned to be solely made for and targeted to kids.
 

Nesrie

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beema said:
I don't consider most of the games/movies you mentioned to be solely made for and targeted to kids.
I think there is a complete disconnect here about the difference between a target audience and a rating. A lot of E games are not necessarily made for kids, but are appropriate for kids. Family games don't always cater to the lowest common denominator, but they can be enjoyed by the younger games. I don't agree with this article in most respects. And if you want to see diverse adult games, stop hanging out in FPS sphere and check out independent titles which can certainly reach adult type ratings.
 

VondeVon

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This made me think about some of my game choices in a new way.

Would I buy Mario Galaxy if I didn't have a history with the series? I really don't think I would. An ugly fat little dude, simplistic mechanics, no deep or interesting plot like what I normally enjoy. As an adult I consider Mario an enjoyable pick-up-and-play game for short bursts, but I have no idea if I would find it as enjoyable if I weren't 'trained', as it were, to do so.
 

TheMadDoctorsCat

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Scrumpmonkey said:
goliath6711 said:
Scrumpmonkey said:
I find this argument slighty odd, every series has an ammount of expectation behind what it can and will be. Saying the "non childrens games" are dvoid of any veriety or innovation is simply WRONG. Or to put it in more detail is simply as wrong as saying that everything for the Wii/ Kinect audience is a mini-game fest of submediocrity. The majority IS. But the majority does tend to be slightly bland and crappy in most mediums.

You couldn't show a person a screenshot of STALKER and have them think it was Cod. You certainly coudn't show someone a screenshot of TF2 and have them think it was CoD. Infact there are hundreds of games like that; from the cell shaded RPG infusions of Borderlands to the Sci-Fi hills of Halo (M rated game, NO ZOMBIES!) there is a lot of veriety even in just the FPS genre.

This isn't even mentioning that bastion of colour; JAPAN. Are you going to sit there all call Beyonetta (m rated game, no zombies) destaurated?, Persona 4 (M rated game no Zombies), No More Heroes (M rated game, no zombies) hell even FF14 are all fgames that are busrting with vibracy and almost surreal design.

"Fantasy-themed games aren't much better. They all tend to look like minor variations on Tolkien's Middle-earth by way of the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual" Yes, if you just look at those games as a definition of "fantasy". There was this one series, you knoe people quite like, long history i don't know FINAL FANTASY.

Im not even going to go into M rated indie games.

Bottom line; Rated M does not mean less innovative, colourful or imaginative.
Are you really going with the argument that M rated games that involve killing things that aren't zombies counts as innovative???
Im going with the argument that innovative M rated games are innovative. There can even be innovative games that are M rated and DO involve killing zombies.
But I still get to kill zombies, right? It's hardly worth playing if I'm not killing zombies.

(Yeah, I'm a mindless hype-slave that follows every trend and can't see a bandwagon without jumping on it.)

In all fairness though, I agree with the idea that M-rated games don't have to be less innovative. My question, though, would be: is it true that all, or even most, "E"-rated games are shunned by adults / the "hardcore" gamer set? There are a lot of games that are obviously (and fairly exclusively) aimed at kids, true, but they tend to be for a couple of specific platforms (hello, Nintendo Wii / DS) and marketed in a certain way.

Case in point: the "Tycoon" games were suitable for "everyone". Would anybody call "Transport Tycoon" - a colourful game if ever there was one - something that's only marketed at the kids?

And come to think of it, isn't the so-called "hardcore gamer" a very specific minority in today's market? I play a lot of FPSs (although I haven't bothered to try any of the "Medal of Honor", "Call of Duty" or "Modern Warfare" series, I'm more of a Bioshock / Fallout kinda guy myself) but there's no way I would call myself "hardcore". And that's despite the fact that I probably average several hours a week playing videogames of some kind or another (I know, compared to the biggest WoW or FPS junkies that's a pittance, but I have a full-time job as well).

Yeah... I gotta go with the naysayers on this one. What the author seems to be arguing here is that a very specific subset of gamers - which is a VERY small percentage of the whole - who are into a certain kind of thing, are in some way deficient because they're ONLY into that certain kind of thing. Well, everyone has different tastes, I won't stop you from doing what you want if you don't stop me from doing what I want, etc, etc. I don't think it's a problem.
 

PlasticTree

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Interesting article, a nice addition to this week's issue. I've noticed that I personally play different genres for different reasons, but the games that simply engage me in a 'child-like' fantasy world are often the games that I have the most fond memories of. I loved the challenge of F-zero GX, I adore the fun of Mario Kart, I had a great time with Timesplitters, but it are games like The Windwaker and Mario Galaxy that pop in my head when I'm asked for my 'best game experiences'.

Hmm, maybe I should ask a Boy and his Blob for Christmas.
 

badgersprite

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I still consider Spyro, Oddworld, Crash Bandicoot and Psychonauts some of my favourite games of all time. To this day, I'll go back and play Jumping Flash from the PS1. I know I'm not the only person who still plays and enjoys family games.

It is a bit of a shame, though, that a lot of modern family games are things without any kind of coherent plot or story, like PopCap casual games, the Sims, Kinectimals, etc. Maybe I'm just blind and can't see them when I walk into stores, but it almost seems like there are an awful lot less (proportionately speaking) family games of the varied and interesting variety coming out now. That's not to say that they aren't there, but I can just name a lot more high quality kid-friendly franchises I used to play growing up than I can think of that are running now.
 

starwarsgeek

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badgersprite said:
I still consider Spyro, Oddworld, Crash Bandicoot and Psychonauts some of my favourite games of all time. To this day, I'll go back and play Jumping Flash from the PS1. I know I'm not the only person who still plays and enjoys family games.

It is a bit of a shame, though, that a lot of modern family games are things without any kind of coherent plot or story, like PopCap casual games, the Sims, Kinectimals, etc. Maybe I'm just blind and can't see them when I walk into stores, but it almost seems like there are an awful lot less (proportionately speaking) family games of the varied and interesting variety coming out now. That's not to say that they aren't there, but I can just name a lot more high quality kid-friendly franchises I used to play growing up than I can think of that are running now.
For many of us, the games we grew up with and the kid-friendly games of today are mostly the same franchises. The franchises that survived since our childhoods can be looked down upon for the developers creating more games inside the same series instead of branching out...but the point of this article is why I still love the new entries in the game series of previous generations. Here's a kind of short list of games from this generation that I either own or wish I owned that I think are both good and suitable for children:

Wii:

a boy and his blob
New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2
Punch-out!!
Sonic Colors (From what I've seen, this is the 3D Sonic that the fans have been waiting for)
Mario Kart Wii
Mario Party 8
Super Paper Mario (this guy does get around when it comes to genres)
Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom
Donkey Kong Country Returns
Kirby's Epic Yarn
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
Muramasa: The Demon Blade
Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Wii Sports Resort


I do not own a PS3, so I'm sure I'll miss most of its examples:
Little Big Planet, Little Big Planet 2
Ratchet and Clank franchise
Fat Princess

360:
Several, but I can't think of any exclusives...so they'll be covered in other lists

PC:
Minecraft
...don't hurt me, PC fans. I'm more of a console gamer, so I can't think of many PC exclusives from this generation that are kid friendly.

Multi-platform:
The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess
Marvel vs Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
Portal
Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing
Street Fighter IV
Okami
Hard Corps: Uprising
Guitar Hero, DJ Hero, and Rock Band franchises
NBA Jam
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1
Megaman 9, Megaman 10

Re-releases:
Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection

Mario All Stars (re-released for the 25th aniversary)
Pikmin (updated for the Wii...had the 30 day timer removed, I think)

Everything on the Virtual Console, a good chunk of XBL Arcade, and (I'm assuming) some great games re-released on the PS Home (not to mention, I'd guess some of the PS2 games appropriate for children were given the blue-ray makeover treatment)
 

Fumbleumble

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Seriously?

You agree with it being snobbery for an adult not to want to play a kid's game?

REALLY?

OK then, what about this side of the arguement... maybe with you're willingness to accept kid's games as a viable pastime, you're not quite as mature as you think you are.. read: immature. :eek:
 
Aug 25, 2009
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I hate the Wii and I won't be getting Kinect for reasons of not-caring and money, so that's one whole subset of what he's recommending right out of the window.

For the rest, I don't wat to spend my time wading through the indie titles, and generally I don't buy games without knowing a lot about them first, which is why I haven't bought any of the MoH, MW or CoD group, because they just don't interest me.

I'm not after more kid-centred or ecclectic games, I'm after games like Mass Effect, with a full and engaging storyline that I can get entirely lost in for days on end. Maybe instead of focusing on graphics at all game developers should focus on telling a good story with interesting and engaging characters. I'd play a 16 bit sidescroller if it had a good story and I was invested in the characters. I still play games from the PS1 era because they have good characters and storylines.

Graphics, gameplay innovations, gameplay mechanics (casual games often have quite inventive mechanics but no story), centred on kids or adults, none of that bothers me, and I don't believe it should bother anyone else. Because all of the above should just be used to make the story better, and if any of the above is being used as the entire filling of the game I won't give it the time of day.

Long story short, I don't want a time-sink, no matter how engaging, colourful or flowing it is, I want something that will engage me like a book, not a game of solitaire.
 

Jack and Calumon

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I have often found it annoying when people say that only a few kinds of games are made, and the most common of the complained about list is "Modern Day shooters" and "Space Marine Shooters". The reason we are sick of them is not because there is so many of them, it's because a fair few were made that were not good in the slightest. Remember Soldier of Fortune: Payback, Turning Point: Fall of Liberty and Turok? Those of you who do, how many of you enjoyed these games and found them to be good games worthy of titles and awards? Worthy of full retail price?

Worthy of a rent?

If we see derivative and dull games in a medium in rapid succession, we presume that the genre is getting dusty and dirty, needing of a clean and something to generally give it life. Look at the Final Fantasy series right now; XIV is a shambles right now and I can't see it last much longer, XIII is very mixed and Versus XIII is no where in sight for any of the fans. People have now began to question whether we should lay the series to rest now, but I can't help but think "No, we should not." Game designers make mistakes and learn from them and finally manage to craft epic games by listening to what was said about the previous title. I'm certain that is what Square Enix is doing with the series, and I would gladly see a Final Fantasy XV.

Calumon: Sonic's getting better now. We just needed a little patience! ^^
 

yanipheonu

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People think all games look the same? I don't. With all the different games and artstyles we've got right now, I'd say the exact opposite actually. Most games have a pretty distinct look, though it clearly blurs a bit if we're talking about games in the same genre, and even then, you can usually find a game that does something different.
 

clarissa

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Amazing article! I never thought of the subject, and I have always played both mature and child games, sometimes in the same day. Fun games are fun.
Regarding the difficulty of these games, it is a very misleading idea to think child games tend to be easier. Kirby is a very cute game in many senses, but is difficult as hell!
Regarding the seriousness, I have a very good example. "Drawn to life" may look like a silly game, but if you analyze the narrative bone structure, it is a very sad story about nationalism and treason. You kill him at the end, you do not save him. Just like any other nation would execute a terrorist.