Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rant: Explicit Content in Games and Why It Should Be There

Since the dawning of games like Mortal Kombat, the ESRB rating system has kept a close eye on the content shown in video games. But still, 15 years after the ESRB was formed, video games still get criticized for showing explicit material such as over-the-top violence, sex, and drug use. Why is that true? Some may argue that this sort of content does not belong in a video game regardless of what the rating on the box says, because kids under the age of 17 will inevitably get their hands on it. But who's fault is this really? Should game developers be doomed to strike out content from their games just because parents are unable to understand how the rating system works? Also, it's almost as easy for kids to be exposed to the same type of material in mediums such as movies, especially with the internet making explicit material incredibly easy to access. Now, I'm in no way advocating that explicit material needs to be placed in games. Personally, I don't find gratuitous violence incredibly entertaining, but who am I to criticize what other people find enjoyable. I just thing it's ironic that an incredibly tame "sex scene" in a game like Mass Effect can cause an uproar amongst the media that the game is immature and disgusting. Parents just need to stop pointing fingers at the game developers and spend more time keeping an eye on what their kids are getting into. But let's face the truth, if your kid wants to see the sex minigame in God of War or the Hot Coffee scene in GTA: San Andreas, all he has to do is enter a phony birthday into the video player. Blaming game developers is not going to fix that problem. In this day and age, there really is no true solution to the problem, but if parents are really worried about what their child is being exposed to when they're playing video games, just read the back of the box. It says EXACTLY why the game got the Mature rating. And if you still have doubts, talk to the people at your local game store. They'll give you the full details on what's in the game and whether it's appropriate for your child to play.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Preview: Borderlands (PC, 360, PS3)

Earlier this summer, famed game designer CliffyB (Gears of War, Unreal) stated that role-playing games are the future of shooters. We've already seen the first few steps in this direction with games like Fallout 3 and Mass Effect, but 2K Games' Borderlands looks like exactly what CliffyB was talking about. When you start out the game, you are given the choice between four characters, each with a respective class. Roland is a Soldier, who plays more like a traditional paladin in that he has good combat skills and can also be a healer. Lilith is a Siren, a mage-like class with psychic abilities. Mordecai is a Hunter, equipped with the standard hunting sniper rifle and a pet eagle. Finally, rounding up the group is Brick, the powerhouse Berserker with great melee abilities and is basically the group's tank. The game plays with standard FPS controls (left trigger is the scope, right trigger fires your gun) and features beautiful cel-shaded graphics to portray the post-apocalyptic setting.
The single-player game plays like an RPG in that you go into town and the people will give you quests. These quests are a lot like those you see in any MMO (Kill X amount of creatures, loot X amount of items, etc.) and as you complete these quests and kill monsters, you're awarded experience points. Rack up enough and you'll level up (wow!) which will award you points to allocate in your skill tree. Each character has three different trees in which they can place their points in. These skills will enhance each character's special abilities. For example, Roland can spend his points in the healing tree that allows him to fire his bullets at his teammates to heal them, or he can spend them to enhance the turret that he's allowed to place as support fire and cover. You also level up your proficiency with different weapons the more you use them, which increases your accuracy and damage with that weapon.
Where this game really shines is the co-op multiplayer. The game features four-player multiplayer, allowing each player to control one of the four characters. This way, each player has a specific role in the group, whether it's DPS or tanking or healing. The game also allows two players in game to duel, allowing players to test their abilities with their class. Along with voice-chat, this game may just bring the MMO experience to consoles. It's going to be exhilirating to discuss strategy with your teammates as you come upon a boss or fighting over loot that drops. Hopefully, this game will fulfill it's expected drop date of October 23, 2009.