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Space Pr0n: The Fox News / Mass Effect / EA / Sexxing Up Controversy

As I'm sure we're all aware by now, Fox News recently ran a less-than well-informed look at BioWare's Mass Effect, specifically the dirty, dirty sex filled virtual-rape mini games that it doesn't, in fact, contain.

Near as I can tell, there's no sense in retreading topics that have already been surely overtread by now -- that Fox News isn't exactly known for its "Fair and Balanced" coverage, that the so-called experts on the show were anything but, that the round-table discussion at the end of the segment was an embarassing example of just how far into the sand members of the news media are apparently willing to stick their heads. But there is one topic that I think maybe hasn't seen quite the degree of attention that it should.

This attack on Mass Effect isn't *just* an attack on Mass Effect. It's an attack on any attempt to introduce mature, adult topics or situations into video games. Which, as video games attempt to grow into their own as a legitimate art form, is something we'll hopefully start to see more and more of. Assuming reactions like this don't turn developers and publishers off this sort of content.

I blogged a few months back about how games really need to try growing up a little bit, how they need to start treating sex and sexual situations in grown up ways. And even though some of the romance subplot in Mass Effect was a little be cheesy, let's be fair, it's a fricking space opera, some degree of cheese is to be expected. And even with all that cheese, the infamous love scene was still handled in a way that was logical within the confines of the games story and the characters' motivations. It wasn't an excuse to showcase ridiculously proportioned jubblies, it didn't turn sex into a goofy porn-inspired mini-game. It tackled the subject respectfully.

And what does Mass Effect get for its trouble? Contempt from a bunch of people who don't have the foggiest idea what they're talking about.

Perhaps the most perverse part of this controversy is the fact that there *are* games out that are much closer to the description that Fox slapped onto Mass Effect. Games where the sole point seems to be getting your virtual avatar a little virtual lovin' from a variety of virtual hotties. So while Fox missed the point by attacking Mass Effect something it isn't even guitly of, they dropped the ball a second time by remaining oblivious to the existence of the sorts of games that are exactly what they accused Mass Effect of being. And while I shudder to imagine how Fox News would have covered Japanese hentai gaming, at least that topic would have given them some excuse for their apparent disgust at the whole thing.

Obviously we've still got a ways to go before adult topics and situations are treated as something more than eye-candy for the lonely, or a way to inspire an awkward stiffy from the gamer who hasn't seen much action lately, but I still think it's someplace the industry needs to start heading towards as we struggle to achieve a greater degree of respect for video games as an art form unto itself. Mass Effect, for all its problems, at least takes one small step in that direction. And for that, they should be commended.
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About Lewzrone of us since 2:55 PM on 07.12.2007

My name's Todd, and I'm a gamer.

I have an Xbox 360 and a Nintendo Wii (though it's in a box somewhere). I have a newer laptop PC which I'm using to finally start playing around in my 300-title strong Steam library..

I used to have a Gamecube, but I sold. I also used to have a PS1, but I sold that too. I also used to have a Commodore 64, but that was too many years ago, and you'd have to ask my parents what happened to that one.

My taste in games is somewhat eclectic. Shooters are a blast, though it's taken me awhile to get used to running them on consoles. RPGs are great, but I tend to prefer the North American style to the Japanese style.

I like to drink sometimes, and sometimes I do it when I game, but not as much as I used to because I'm getting older and I think I need to take care of my body. That's also why I don't eat as much pizza as I used to, even though I'd still to.
Xbox LIVE:Lewzr
Mii code:8915-4973-2088-6107


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