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Trouble Looms: Could The Last Of Us Be The Next Target Of Media Backlash?
Unfortunately, there are people who get put on TV in front of a national audience to do just that very thing.
A Brief History Of Fear Mongering
Mass Effect & The Sexbox
When it comes to game related stories that have fallen under the ever watchful eye of a slow news day, one important factor always seems to be present . Exaggeration.
The most well known case would have to be the mind numbingly inaccurate Mass Effect "Sexbox" debate on Fox News. During the debate, it was stated as fact that not only did Mass Effect have full digital nudity along with the sex scenes, but it was also being marketed to children. When asked if they had even played the game, one of the panel members actually laughed and said no.
"My son keeps talking about something called Tali! I can only assume it is a hip way to say Taliban!"
It was physically painful for me to re-watch the debate just to have it fresh in my mind for this article, but I can at least rest easy knowing that the internet is spiteful and just won't let anything go. Thousands of one-star reviews started pouring in for the panelist's book. Most of them mentioning the fact that they hadn't actually read the book, but they were pretty sure it sucked either way. While this certainly doesn't make the gaming community look very mature, it was at least a very fitting form of punishment.
The Playstation Pornable
Seriously, who thinks up these names? They should be fired.
Fox News is back in full force with shocking news. If you have a device capable of connecting to the internet, you can look up naughty stuff and apparently become a Nazi! Of course the most corruptible of all electronic devices is the PSP, something every teenage boy was hoping to get for Christmas in 2006. The story was that a boy in school used his PSP to download pornography made specifically for the PSP, something that was apparently a huge market at the time. And of course, the boy was caught and Pandora's box was opened.
"My kid found porn on the internet! We should burn the internet!" said the very rational person.
Parents knew that the PSP was the Devil's way of corrupting kids, and it was totally Sony's fault that the kid could look up porn on the internet. Of course, it is briefly mentioned that the kid downloaded the offending images on the school's completely unblocked network, and that you could look up porn on literally any internet capable device, but it was also nearly Christmas and people needed to be afraid of something!
They also managed to add in the fact that terrorists could be using PSP's to look up how to do terrorism, since that totally happens. After a brief firestorm of stupidity, the story was lost forever. Well, it wasn't really lost. It was just buried under all the bad press the PSP was already getting over it's terrible ad campaign.
2K Games And Bethesda Do Preemptive Damage Control
Games are constantly being marketed as murder simulators and digital sexual encounters for kids. For the few listed above, there are hundreds more to be upset about. But there is one thing all developers seem to agree is a pretty big no-no in today's gaming world. You don't ever depict the death of children.
In the past, things may have been a bit more relaxed. But in today's market, where games can be so detailed you can see the pores on somebody's face as you kick it in, and characters can be so fleshed out that they're more like movie stars than avatars you control, it would simply be a PR nightmare if you had children who could die in your games without the use of a user modification.
Apparently this didn't help Bethesda when they sent the new review back to the ESRB
In previous Fallout games, you actually could kill children without modifying the game at all. It wasn't even a big deal. They were just NPCs that walked around town. In Bethesda's version of the game however, children are invincible. The main reason this probably is would be because:
A. You don't want to be associated as a company that makes games were you can kill kids.
B. Bethesda has been through the whole media backlash before with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion after it was made apparent their were files on disc that allowed for topless women to appear in the game, earning Oblivion an M rating.
In Bioshock, you had the choice of saving or harvesting "little sisters". The way 2K games escaped media scrutiny was simple. They made the little sisters appear more cartoonish than human, and if you did choose to harvest one then it would happen off screen. No control in the users hands. There was a bit of an outcry on the user forums for the game, but most people would agree it was a good move on their part to not let people kill children in their game.
Where Naughty Dog & The Last Of Us Fit In
While 2K Games and Bethesda both put in measures to prevent media backlash over children being in their games, there has been absolutely no word on what Naughty Dog is planning to do about Ellie, one of the main characters of The Last of Us who just happens to be fourteen. If recently released screenshots are anything to go by, it appears that yes, she can be killed and you'll have to save her at times.
Joel summons the power of Hulk Hogan as he gives the would-be child killer AN ATOMIC LEG DROP BROTHER!
While I personally don't want Naughty Dog to have any form of censorship in the game, I can easily see the headlines coming up when The Last of Us eventually does hit store shelves, and they don't look good. You've seen the media outcry for Mass Effect when all that was shown was a single blue butt, or how Oblivion became an M-rated game because it was possible for some people to see nipples in their game. Imagine the field day they'll have when a game is released where a child could die. It doesn't matter if it is important to the story, or done so you'll have to be more careful than you usually would be in a game.
A single blue derriere turned into full frontal digital sex marketed to children when explained to a live debate. Any news outlet that reports on this will only know that a child can die and something must be done to protect digital children's rights. They're not going to care about any of the other details. Either way, I look forward to the ride. There will be plenty of rage, and I'm sure plenty of backlash on both sides.
As always, thank you for reading. Know another controversial game that the media totally overreacted to? Why not mention it below? I'm sure there are plenty to talk about. Now if you don't mind me, I'm going to go delete sexbox and playstation pornable off my internet history!
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