Is The Game Master going to waste your time with another one of those boring diatribes against video game violence or, worse yet, a denial that the blood-and-gore has reached an all-time gaming high? Not on your life.
There was a moment in the Quentin Tarantino bloodbath “Kill Bill: Vol. 1”–perhaps it was the sight of Uma Thurman chopping down a horde of advancing yakuza thugs–when I said to myself, “Self, this would make one heckuva video game.”
I wasn’t aware at the time that Vivendi Universal had already purchased the game rights to the movie, although the publisher admits there is still no game in development. Wouldn’t it be a hoot if the reason for the delay was that someone at Vivendi thought the movie too violent?
But the truth of the matter is that it was precisely the film’s spatter level that made me associate it with gaming.
Oh, noooooo! Is The Game Master going to waste your time with another one of those boring diatribes against video game violence or–worse yet–a denial that the blood-and-gore has reached an all-time gaming high? Not this Game Master.
Let’s just say that until someone invents an accurate Splatter-O-Meter, it will be impossible to measure whether more blood is spilled on the big screen or the small. But I’d wager anything that it’s running neck and neck; for every “Kill Bill,” there’s a “Grand Theft Auto,” for every “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remake, there’s a “Postal 2” or a “Manhunt.”
One thing’s for sure: You’ve read plenty of bad press about “Manhunt,” which had the misfortune to be named the first video game banned by the New Zealand government. But odds are you haven’t heard a peep of criticism about “Kill Bill,” which was nominated for a Golden Globe Award.
The difference, I believe, is the perception that under-17-year-olds can’t barge in to see the R-rated “Kill Bill,” but can saunter into any GameStop or Electronic Boutique and buy a copy of the M-rated “Manhunt.” Neither is totally true, of course. Clever and resourceful teens often wangle their way into movie theaters despite ratings, while clerks at game stores are frequently conscientious about abiding by age restrictions. Whether teens are able to beat the system or not depends less on the medium than on the vigilance of employees.
The good news is that the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA) is surely fed up with all the badmouthing and has launched an initiative to prevent–or, at least, limit–the sale of M-rated games to minors. The program, scheduled to be in place this year, will have IEMA-member retailers implement an ID check process. That includes stores that sell about 85 percent of all video games in the U.S.: Best Buy, Blockbuster, Circuit City, CompUSA, Electronics Boutique, KBToys, Kmart, Target, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Wal-Mart, among others.
So just as if they intended to buy smokes, teens will be carded when they attempt to buy M-rated games. I can hear it now: “Oh, you want to buy ‘Dead Or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball,’ do you? Quick! What year were you born?” Will such a system eliminate the abuse of the ESRB games rating system? Probably not. But with a “secret shopper” check of major retailers by the National Institute on Media and the Family indicates we may see some encouraging results. The survey at non-IEMA stores without sales policies found that every kid aged seven to 14 who tried to purchase M-rated games was able; at stores with policies, that number dropped to 30 percent.
That bit of good news, hopefully, will convince critics that most of the really violent games are now being restricted to gamers like us.