Why “Schwartzenegger Vs. EMA” Proves That Parents Are The Weak Link

By: 12.21.10  •  4 Comments

Exhibit A

For those unaware, there’s currently a court case in front of the Supreme Court called “Schwarzenegger Vs. The Entertainment Merchants’ Association.” It’s about a bill, passed by State Senator Leland Yee, that wants to declare some games to be obscene, as in like porn, because they’re violent, which makes us wonder about Mr. Yee’s porn collection.

Far be it from us to denigrate the man who played John Matrix, but this case pretty much proves what blogs like STFU Parents have been arguing for years: while the vast majority of parents are at least reasonably responsible enough to buy their kids age-appropriate games, there is an irreducible subset of parents who absolutely suck at their jobs, and they’re trying to offload the blame onto anybody they think they can get away with pinning it on, enabled by the kind of person who wants to censor anything they don’t like.

So, we thought we’d look into what the games industry, which, let’s face it, makes its money on blowing stuff up, does to give parents control, and how the irresponsible parents screw it up most of the time.

The Publishers

Let’s start with where the magic happens.  Before a game goes anywhere else, it starts here.  They program the game, they design the cover art, they write the box copy, they put the whole package together with a careful eye towards marketing it to a precise audience…and warning away anybody else who wouldn’t like the game.  Let’s pick a game no parent in their right mind would hand a small child, just to shamelessly load the deck: the recent remake of “Splatterhouse”.

First of all…it’s called “Splatterhouse”. Just sight unseen, if some kid asked you for “Splatterhouse” for Christmas, what’s your first reaction? “No”, or a full-on Will Smith “Awwww, HELL NO”?

But let’s say the kid’s pretty devious, and convinces you that it’s a game about food fights or something.  Also, that you are incapable of typing “Splatterhouse” into Google.   So, as a parent, who buys everything for their children, you go online to buy it.  The first thing you see is this:

Let’s ignore the ESRB rating for a moment, and just focus on how dumb you have to be not to realize a hockey mask, drawn in negative space, with blood splatters, may perhaps not be child appropriate.  What’s it say on the back of the box?

Metal heads, horror freaks and hardcore action gamers, unite! Rick Taylor and the Terror Mask are back, tearing, cutting and beating their way through inhuman abominations and hordes of the undead in a tale of love, mutilation and near-insanity. A wall of metal tunes underscores blood-soaked battles with massive bosses, brutal weapons, over-the-top gore and real-time regeneration. And while your ears are ringing, a new Splatterkill System lets you get your hands bloody!

Yep, that’s vague enough for a parent to not notice that!  That could easily be misconstrued as a happy game with unicorns and leprechauns!

Sure, some games are more subtle about it:

And we guess if you just glanced at them, you’d never notice they were possibly not kid-friendly. Like, if you totally missed the titles, or the guys with rifles, or something. Which is why the video game industry came up with…

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