VGL Classic: Breaking the M-Rated Barrier

This article is from the original batch of Video Game Librarian articles I wrote for Gaming Target between 2005 and 2007. It was originally written on April 13, 2006.

Grand Theft Auto… The Suffering… Manhunt… State of Emergency… Postal… Mortal Kombat…

The number of games that are considered “unacceptable” due to their content grows all the time. Every day some misinformed politician will trot out the latest “murder simulator” and cry out “Won’t someone please think of the children.”

Meanwhile we gamers sit back and shake our heads at people who get all worked up over games that are not designed for children. They are not meant for children, they are not advertised to children and they are not purchased for children by anyone with half a brain.

But sadly, video gaming is still seen as a children’s toy by many. Its this reasoning that has caused the ban of Mature rated games at my library and many other libraries across the country. But eventually, there will come a time when you want to cross that line. When the people in charge realize that their friends and neighbors are playing these M-rated games because they’re adults and because they think the premise is exciting.

So with the recent release of 24: The Game, I started thinking about what games would be best to make the break from the limits of E, E10+ and T. Obviously, Jack Bauer’s digital adventures is near the top, but as I combed through the list of PS2 games, many more popped up as well. Through their connections to other bits of pop culture (and in one case, a piece of Literature with a capital L), these games would be seen as more acceptable than most. And maybe that’s all we can ask for as a first step.

24: The Game
To say 24 requires a time commitment is an understatement. If you miss one episode you could be out of the loop for “hours” at a time. So it’s really no surprise that the show is such a hit on DVD. It gives fans a chance to see everything and in order. It’s also ridiculously popular with library patrons of all ages.

I’m not entirely sure why 24: The Game is rated Mature. Yes, it has all the same killing and shooting and torture the show is known for, but that’s my point. It’s just like the show. A show on American broadcast television. I almost doubt that most people realize the game is rated Mature. If you need to slip one past someone who wants to censor everything, 24: The Game is your game.

Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 is everything that a barrier breaker should be. It won an armful of awards and accolades from critics everywhere. It’s based, loosely, on the world of Romero’s Living Dead series and no one can deny the importance of Romero’s films on the horror genre. It has spawned a series of novels and two movies. While the novels may be harder to find in any given library, any good DVD collection will likely have at least one of the movies.

And did I mention that RE4 is one of the finest games ever created? That alone should be enough to create an M-rated exception.

The Godfather
The Godfather: The Game is based on the Academy Award winning movie, which was in turn based on Mario Puzo’s bestselling novel has quite the pedigree behind it. The Godfather is an American story that has been embraced by the public almost completely. Everyone knows about the five families, sleeping with the fishes and making someone an offer they can’t refuse.

While it more or less follows the crime story of Grand Theft Auto, the fact that it’s based on The Godfather should lend a little weight to its case. To lend further credence to the game, nearly the entire cast reprised their roles for The Godfather: The Game. Marlon Brando is considered one of the greatest actors of his generation and The Godfather is beloved by everyone. The game would be easily accepted.

Evil Dead: Regeneration
Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick

Believe it or not, The Evil Dead trilogy has quite the following among librarians. Maybe, it’s the anti-censorship bent that some librarians love to exercise but it’s a fact that libraries have helped grow the cult of The Evil Dead. Or maybe it’s Bruce Campbell’s movie star chin. Whatever the reason, DVDs of the Evil Dead trilogy can be found in libraries across the country.

The games have several things going for them that make them ideal candidates to crack the M-Rated barrier. First, they’re budget titles, so if someone complains you’d only be out $20 (or less) per title. Two, Bruce Campbell voices Ash and gives the games the exact feel of the movie. And three, the movies are much more violent than the games could ever dream of being.

While the games haven’t lit up the GameRankings database, they’re solid little actioners that fans of the movies will love.

Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 3< Silent Hill 4: The Room

When I started this project one of the first things I was told by my manager was “Keep an eye out for games based on new movies because I’d think they’d be popular.” And what’s coming out in theaters very soon? Silent Hill.

The Silent Hill movie is getting praised from every corner as the movie that finally gets the game-to-movie conversion right. And if it’s even half as good as some people are saying then there’s going to be a lot of folks out there who’ll want to give the games a try. And the games have all been critical favorites as well as bestsellers.

Are the games ridiculously violent? Yes, of course they are. But as soon as it gets turned into a movie something becomes a lot more acceptable.

In Conclusion…
It will be a while before R-Rated movies (which we carry a lot of) and M-Rated games (which we carry none of) are considered equal in the eyes of patrons and parents. And don’t even get me started on some of the depraved violence and graphic sexual situations that appear in many books that populate (and are popular) in the library. It’s a sad double standard, but it requires baby steps to change. Hopefully this handful of games will be a step in the right direction for the continued acceptance of games.