Speaking of the End of Civilization as We Know It . . . and Rockstars

My coffee pot is dying.

It is the cheapest automatic drip coffee pot available on the market during the Christmas Blitz season, largely because I live out in the middle of nowhere with a well. Our water is so hard that it shatters when you spill it -- imagine what that does to the inside of a coffee pot, because Murphy's Fifth Law states that the only time you really desperately need a cup of coffee is exactly the same time that you are out of distilled water.

Murphy's Fifth is the reason why the poor thing is brewing a pot of coffee literally a drip at a time.


I cracked open the top and poked at it with a chopstick. It is making happy noises, and I may get a cup of coffee before breakfast.

What, that doesn't count as the End of Civilization as We Know It? You obviously don't leave for work at 4 a.m.


Let's talk about Rockstar Games, creators of the Grand Theft Auto series, Bully and Table Tennis.

For the record, The Boy is not allowed to play most Rockstar games. He understands that the reason for this is because GTA is too violent, and that it includes experiences like killing police which are inappropriate for him. I haven't found the time -- I know you are shocked -- to playtest Bully, which sounds like it could be a positive learning experience for him.

Take 2 Interactive announced today that they are suspending the release of Rockstar's newest release, Manhunt 2, for Wii, PSP and PS2. The game has been banned in Ireland and the UK, apparently because the interactive nature of the Wii requires players to simulate weapon use and -- surprise! -- killing.

Here in the US, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) would like to rate the game AO -- Adults Only -- rather than Mature, for users 17 and up.

An AO rating would prevent the game from being sold by mainstream retailers like Best Buy, Target, etc., which would absolutely crush Rockstar. I don't mean they would be sad -- it takes ungodly amounts of money to produce their brand of envelope-pushing high-end games.

Take 2 released a no-speak statement to the effect that they believe in creative freedom as well as responsible marketing, and they are considering their options.

Translation: they are scared. Very, very scared.

Jack Thompson is probably out dancing. Thompson is one of those "trust me -- I'll protect The Children" sort of people who would have us take the universe at absolute face value. What you see is what you get in his narrow little world, no need to think or accept any personal responsibility.

He has lied and misrepresented enough facts often enough that mainstream America buys into his song and dance and regards him as a expert on the social issues of gaming despite the fact that his expertise is self-proclaimed.

Thompson wants us to believe that the GTA games are mere violence for the sake of violence, and that they should be banned and all Rockstar personnel publicly flogged.

But there's more to it than that.

Yes, GTA is scary violent, inappropriate for children, blah, blah, blah.

But if you have ever actually played the game, the scary part isn't so much the violence as how quickly any situation will escalate.

Walk into a bar and bump into someone. Within seconds you are fighting in the bar, fighting in the street, running from police, carjacking, etc.

It happens fast.

The surface is pure violence, but it wraps a strong philosophical statement on how quickly even an unintentional bad choice can spiral a life out of control.

Kind of makes you think about gangs, and the kids who get caught up in that lifestyle.

Obviously I've played the various GTA flavors. So far I haven't had any desire to carjack an ambulance or shoot police.

Of course, I've spent far more time playing Duck Hunt, with no desire to shoot actual ducks (or lawyers, unlike Dick Cheney. Could there have been an NES in his past? Perhaps someone should anonymously e-mail Jack).

I sincerely doubt even a Wii controller, controlling an actual pretend video game gun, would make me want to wander around on a killing spree. Particularly now that my coffee pot has defied Murphy's Fifth and finally spit out coffee.

I suspect that the real problem here is Rockstar itself, and I can produce witnesses who will swear I predicted this type of situation back when the GTA "Coffee Cup" porn scandal hit.

Rockstar made themselves a target by failing to respond adequately to the scandal. Good crisis communication via their PR department could have defused the entire thing.

Crisis communication was apparently not their PR people's forte. We'll leave it at that, although I suspect that they simply could not imagine that the American public could possibly be so blind as to accept the Jack Thompson/Hillary-yes-that-Hillary-Clinton's spin and public image manipulation.

Of course, the American public did accept Jack and Hillary as their personal saviors, and the ESRB wasted a great deal of time explaining that "Mature" was secret code for "Not For Small Children" to groups completely uninterested in reality.

I don't know how the Manhunt 2 release is going to play out.

Probably not good, as it looks like Rockstar will be torn between their Freedom of Speech/artistic expression and financial obligations to a publisher suddenly concerned with "responsible marketing."

I don't know if anything could save the situation.

I think that in order to save the company itself, major rebranding via public perception of the company's social responsibility programs would be required. I actually have ideas for that, which I will have to save for another post.

Too bad I have chased off everyone who used to read The Painted Cave -- this could be a great round table.


bod said...

ok i really need to know...did you get another coffee pot?

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, I've been paraphrasing your stance as the position of an involved mother whenever the subject comes up.

It's going to take some pretty active hostility to chase me off!