Today I'm going to talk about censorship. Primarily censorship in gaming. But I'll bring up other mediums as well.
My story begins with a trip to my local indie video game retailer. This was a few weeks back; the friday after GTA V's release. I'm sure you can guess why I was there. I was quietly waiting in line behind a guy selling some things for store credit. They don't trade for cash anymore. While the clerk was busy, I scanned the new release shelf behind the counter. After eyeing every game twice over, I realized GTA was nowhere to be seen. Fear began to set in. Had I waited too long? Were they sold out? Would I possibly have to wait another day, possibly two for a new shipment? Say it ain't so. My last thread of hope hinged on the idea that maybe there were some copies in the magical "back" where all good employees offer to check.
"How can I help you?" the clerk asked, pulling my mind back to reality. I opened my mouth and a pleading voice asked about GTA. The clerk's smile faded. He averted his eyes momentarily. Did he think I'd yell at him for being out of stock. That's not my style. But I suppose there are some types. Little did I know; the truth of the matter was worse than I could have imagined. "We don't sell that game anymore."
I must have misunderstood what the clerk had just said. "You're sold out?" I asked. No. Not sold out. No longer selling. My video game store; My Disney World, had decided to stop selling violent games in the vein of GTA and Saints Row. I didn't bother to ask why at the time. I just said okay and moved to leave. Another guy who was standing a few feet away overheard the conversation and did bother to ask why. In a very loud and demanding way. He called the decision stupid and asked whose bright idea this change in business model was.
I know it's ultra-violent. But Saints Row IV is about the most fun I've ever had in a sandbox game.
Turns out, the woman that had taken over ownership of the store decided to make it her mission to refuse the buying or selling of games she deemed offensive and inappropriate for children. Of course GTA is not a kids game. But there are movies and music that kids shouldn't be allowed within earshot of. That doesn't mean no one should see or hear them. That's a slap in the face to the gaming medium as a whole. It's making the assumption that video games are still a child's play thing. This was no full on ban of M-rated games. This was a case by case method based on her personal opinion. The clerk explained it this way to the both of us. I again nodded. But, the loud guy was not satisfied. So the clerk ended the issue by stating that the new owner was a good Christian lady and her decision was final.
That irked me. I consider myself to be a good Christian man; but I don't force my opinions onto anyone. I don't think it's on me to buy a perfectly good business and then refuse to sell a large chunk of it's products because I find them to be objectionable to the unassuming public. It's like buying a burger joint and refusing to sell bacon or cheese topping because it's unhealthy.
Rated M by the ESRB "Not suitable for children"
With the issue closed; I headed for the door. On my way out I noticed copies of God of War, The Darkness II, Darksiders and several other games of questionable content on the used games shelves. You're living on borrowed time, my firends. I walked out out of my favorite store for the final time that day. I ended up getting GTA at the GameStop down the street and went home.
The next day I was on Twitter and wandered over to the store's feed. There were several tweets leading up to the release of GTA V, pimping the game out. Saying to reserve copies now and a timer counting down. Even on release day they had tweeted about having it in stock. I tweeted at them with my farewell and perhaps a tasteless R.I.P. to their business. This is where my very first heated argument over Twitter began.
They responded to me with accusations that I think it's okay for children to murder cops and rob people. They demanded to know why I thought this was appropriate. My response was that of course it isn't appropriate for children. But, to refuse the sale of violent games to everyone is foolish. I'm a 29 year old man. A full grown adult some might say. And plenty of gamers can say the same. This is not a toy store. It's a video game store. A medium enjoyed by multiple generations.
They argued that it's too easy for children to buy violent games. Not if your employees can comprehend the very clear ESRB ratings on each and every game on the market. This still was not good enough. They began to accuse parents of being too unintelligent to realize what is and is not appropriate for their kids. I was taken aback. Whoever was manning their Twitter feed was arguing that their own customers are too stupid to make informed decisions. So they were going to make them for them.
Seriously. Have you seen this game? This guy's about to get a prostate exam through the mouth.
I asked why not ban all M-rated games and they scoffed at the idea that Halo and CoD are anywhere near as bad as GTA. No. They're not. Not in the senseless violence category anyway. But, they are still plenty violent. And the subject matter is not appropriate for kids in my opinion. But, that's just it. It's my opinion. Let me decide what my kids can and cannot be exposed to. They told me to deal with it and stopped tweeting. A while later they tweeted that some people were pretty 'butthurt' over their decision. Kind of offensive. Maybe a little inappropriate for children to read. I called them on that and they proceeded to delete all of the day's tweets. They followed up with a "Heading to church. Have a great day" tweet and went dark.
That was my last interaction with anyone associated with the store. I don't miss them. I'm sure many others have also moved on. We don't need some holier than thou douche "protecting" us from our own "ignorance". Video games take enough heat from the outside. This destroy them from the inside tactic is too much.
So my GTA Online avatar is female. I like to play the opposite sex when given the option. 98% of all the games I play give you no choice and lock you down as a man. Bring on that variety. The problem is that most everyone that I come into contact with will first hit on me. Then proceed to freak the hell out when they discover I'm a man. I don't know for sure, but I'm willing to bet most people aren't seeking a relationship while grinding XP or racking up head shots. My avatar is not me. It is not made to give you a glimpse into the life of your future soul mate. It's just a character I play.
It never fails though that shortly after clearing up any confusion that I am accused of being anything and/or everything between a pervert and a particular homosexual slur. Most recently, I've been playing GTA Online. And you guessed it. I'm a woman. I tried to make her similar to my wife. Little did I know, it's fucking impossible to make a character look like anything you have in mind. Picking grand parents and then the resemblance to each parent is insanity. I tried for over an hour and couldn't so much as land on the eye color I wanted. Green eyes would have to do. Sorry, sweetie.
After dropping all of my hours into legal work, sleep and exercise (because anything else leaves you looking like you have a meth problem) I entered the beautiful world of GTAV's Los Santos. As soon as I stepped out of the airport our good friend Lamar greets me with "Daaaaamn. You fine as a mother fucker." I chuckled. And a few silent glares from my avatar silenced that bullshit. The first mission was a race. As far as the other three players knew I was a dark purple Benefactor Surge. I've never been too great at racing but I can stay on the road. Lo and behold, I won the race by the skin of my teeth. Good job, me.
Things went okay for the next mission. No one was talking. No one had a mic I guess. I did, but I don't like to talk. Introversion is a bit of a bitch. After the next mission I was allowed to break off on my own. I hit the clothing store and changed out of the business attire the character creator assumed I'd dig and went looking for a mission. The first one to pop for me was a team deathmatch. Okay. I know the GTA shooting mechanics well enough. I hopped in to the lobby and was flooded with voices. Everyone was talking at the same time about different things. Ahhh! The game started and that's when it got weird.
A guy on my team said, "Oh, shit. Ay, baby." as soon as he saw me in-game. I chose to remain silent. Because whatever. But, as we played he kept on. "Ay, baby. Ay. I got you baby. Follow me. I got you. Ain't nobody fuckin' with my girl." It was awkward. I felt awkward. The guy wasn't really treating me like a teammate. He was treating me like his precious. I was his and nobody was gonna hurt his property. See the awkward. I remained silent.
Towards the end of the match he changed tune and started threatening me for being silent. "Bitch. You better say something. You best not be a guy, you fucking *that homosexual slur I mentioned earlier*." I remained silent. Our team lost and back to free roam I went. I wandered around on foot for a while. I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't really want to join another mission. I was very close to deleting my character and switching sex. That was the first time I felt targeted.
People have acted the same before, but I guess it was the addition of a voice that irked me. WoW chat is always shitty and I never was bothered by the things people would say to me there. But, this random guy yelling at me through his mic put me off. I turned the game off and went to bed.
The next evening I gave it another shot and was having a pretty good time. I was sticking mainly to racing. No one bothered me much. Then a green car popped up on my free roam map. High priority vehicle, you say? Gimme gimme. I drove to the spot and got the car just as a duo showed up and started shooting at me from their car. I guess they didn't know free aim in a car doesn't hold a candle to the borderline aimbotting you can do on foot. I got out of the car and murdered both of them with a couple shots. Gotta preserve that ammo. It gets expensive.
As soon as they died, chat blew up with, "Oh, shit! That bitch killed us." "Did you see that cunt?" "Go back to the fucking kitchen, bitch." A few people on the server chimed in with similar comments. I jumped servers. Nothing big has happened since those two instances. But, they reminded me of how often these sorts of things happen and it bummed me out. Yelling that sexist garbage at me was deflected by the fact that I'm a man. These people were raging at my woman character, not me. But, what if I were a woman? Would all that animosity persist after logging off? I feel like it would. And that sucks.
I've since played exclusively with my brothers. I really enjoy the game. But, I'm hesitant to engage with anyone I don't know. And that kind of defeats the purpose of online gaming.