An Open Letter Regarding…Mature Rated Games

Being part of a generation that came up just as video games were being introduced into living rooms all around the world leaves me with a feeling of great pride, as I can say that I was around when it all started to happen. It also makes me cringe at the thought of how old I’ve gotten, but the child in me who spent hours with Combat and The Empire Strikes Back on the 2600 is still alive and well. I still get the same rush of excitement when I unwrap a new game. At that point the promise is still there and every true gamer knows the promise I speak of…

It’s the promise of possibility. Inside that plastic case lies the possibility of being completely swept up into whatever grand vision a developer has pressed onto a disk, and forgetting for a time that you are just another brick in the wall. Games give us the opportunity to embark on grandiose adventures, travel to new worlds, and conquer great evils.

Did that come off as gay? It felt a little gay as I was typing it…

Lately though, I find myself becoming more disenchanted with my gaming. The grandiose adventures are now fewer and farther between, replaced by assembly line repetition in gameplay, and stories so simple a 2 year old could grasp their intricacies. Is it the games that have changed, or is it me? After a bit of self-analysis I’m comfortable saying that it’s actually a bit of both. As my generation grew older, our tastes matured as well. Unfortunately for us, video games as an interactive entertainment medium did not (outside of a few exceptions of course).

Admittedly, I am the last person who should be getting up on his high horse about this, and that is not what I’m trying to do. I can not stand when some pseudo games journalist snob writes a 2500 word article about how unenlightened the rest of us all are for enjoying Call of Duty over Braid, Flower, or whatever other indie game is hot that week. It’s pretentious bullshit, and I’m starting a movement to have all high horses shot and turned into glue. If whoever is riding said horse gets caught in the cross fire, then hey, that’s just bonus points right there. I digress though…

While I do still love a good virtual fire fight in any number of FPS, or dealing out death on an ungodly scale in the latest hack and slash, more and more I’m starting to realize that I’m just not being catered to anymore. The epic moments I used to love and take away from games don’t satisfy me as much as they used to. The industry is still largely targeting the 18 and under crowd, and the few games that do end up having more mature themes, and may speak to a gamer of my years, usually end up pulling their punches so they can still grab a piece of the younger market.

It’s like a part of the national psyche is still viewing video games, be it on a console or PC, as it did way back in the 70′s and 80′s. By that I mean there is a part of us which still views games as a toy, and a hobby for children. We’ve come such a long way in such a relatively short period of time that taking video games seriously is difficult for some. Whether it be due to pressure from publishers, congress, or whatever activist group is being annoying at the time, games aren’t being developed to their full potential. Especially mature rated titles.

Isn’t it about time that “Rated M for Mature” actually became…..oh I don’t know……mature.

I’m not saying that I want mature rated games to start depicting graphic sex scenes or anything (who am I kidding, of course that intrigues me a little). I would just like my games to engage me on a level just a bit deeper than most currently reside. A mature rating doesn’t always have to be due to blood & gore, or god forgive us a demon titty is on screen for 2.5 seconds of a 30 hour campaign. And by the way, if a game does end up being rated M due to said blood & gore or a bit of nudity, you don’t have to have a god damn congressional hearing over it. It’s rated M, that’s what rating systems are for!

Why as an industry are video games still refusing to explore darker and more complex storytelling and gameplay mechanics which an M rating can provide? Sure many games have claimed to be deep, involved, and chock to the brim with mature themes. But just saying it in your press release doesn’t make it so. The market exists; I’m part of it goddammit. There are millions of 30-somethings just like myself with disposable income who are probably just as desperate as I am to actually become emotionally invested in our gameplay again.

We want games like Heavy Rain, Metal Gear Solid 4, and GTA: San Andreas. Games that aren’t afraid to dive in with both feet, and not try to increase their sales numbers by pandering to both audiences. Stop shying away from complex character development, or long story arcs with multiple sub-plots allowing for greater amounts of investment in both story and gameplay. While you are doing this, keep in mind that it’s going to be rated M and that you are developing an adult-oriented game.

If you want to throw in some titty, throw in some titty. If you want to have the player come back from a mission to find Miranda getting railed by Jacob because his Shepard may have talked up Jack a little too much, then for Christ’s sake do it. Or better yet, have Jacob snap while you are out on a mission, due to you spurning his advances, and murder Miranda. Then explore the ramifications of those actions, and how it affects all future interactions with those characters.

All I’m saying is that I would like to see a few more mature rated titles be developed with the fact that I am an adult in mind, as opposed to the 16 year old little bastard next door who constantly t-bags me and makes fun of my mom when he scores a headshot.