EA defends Bulletstorm from Fox pundit allegations

Publisher "stands by the ESRB" as writer accuses game of encouraging sex crime

EA has responded to accusations levelled at forthcoming shooter Bulletstorm by a Fox newscaster, who alleged that the game could well be linked to increasing levels of violence and sex crime.

In his article "Is Bulletstorm the worst video game in the world?", John Brandon asked a number of talking heads to speculate on the possible impact of Bulletstorm's violent nature and sometimes sexual phraseology, expressing concern that "with kids as young as 9 playing such games", psychological damage could be devastating.

One commentator, author Carol Lieberman, went as far as to assert that "The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in video games," whilst offering no evidence for her position. Comments from industry analyst M2's Billy Pigeon, meanwhile, were revealed to have been edited extremely selectively.

EA has pointed out that the ESRB ratings system has judged Bulletstorm to be a "M" for mature rated title, suitable for ages 17 upward only - a fact clearly displayed on packaging and advertising. The publisher issued a statement to this effect to Game Informer, making its position clear.

"Epic, People Can Fly and EA are avid supporters of the ESA and believe in the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) rating system. We believe in and abide by the policies put in place by the ESRB," the statement read.

"Bulletstorm is rated M for Mature for blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, sexual themes, strong language and use of alcohol. The game and its marketing adhere to all guidelines set forth by the ESRB; both are designed for people 17+. Never is the game marketed to children.

"Epic, People Can Fly and EA support the right of artists to create works of entertainment fiction for consumers of all ages, including adults who enjoy action adventures like Bulletstorm. Much like Tarantino's Kill Bill or Rodriguez's Sin City, this game is an expression of creative entertainment for adults."

However, Lieberman responded by pointing out that, as the system isn't always enforced at retail, it serves little purpose, allowing young children access to inappropriate content. Britain's own set of ratings, the PEGI system, is currently under debate, having undergone several delays.

There has been a long history of demonisation for gaming in the British press and political arena, too. Labour MP Keith Vaz has issued more than one crusade against gaming, although even he has recently moderated his position, and believes that parents should hold the lion's share of responsibility.

More recently, Minister for Culture, Media and Sport Ed Vaizey has said that parliament needs to move on from only discussing games as an issue of violence.

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Latest comments (32)

Daniel Harty Audio Capture Specialist, Electronic Arts11 years ago
It's embarrasing really how these people occupy their minds while waiting for the Rapture.
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John Donnelly Quality Assurance 11 years ago

Yes been here before.. Fox and their talking heads have pulled this before with Mass Effect.

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Tommy Thompson Studying Artificial Intelligence (PhD), University of Strathclyde11 years ago
Fox news continue to amaze with these reports. Such poorly researched and heavily edited journalism should neither be given any sort of approval for release, nor an audience to acknowledge it. Sadly, I imagine many ignorant parents will jump all over this and treat it as gospel.

Personally, I found the demo rather fun.
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Stephen Woollard Online Infrastructure Specialist, Electronic Arts11 years ago
"One commentator, author Carol Lieberman, went as far as to assert that "The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in video games," whilst offering no evidence for her position."

Just about says it all really. As for "the system isn't enforced at retail" I fail to see how we (the industry) can be held accountable for that.

My question to her would be "where are these 9 year olds parents while their kids are playing Bulletstorm?"
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John Donnelly Quality Assurance 11 years ago
Watching Fox news Stephen
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James Poole Managing Director, Sarcastic Hedgehog Ltd11 years ago
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"This is why we can't have good things"

In a more serious tone though, I believe this to be yet one more chapter in a problem that's essentially related to the gap in "electronic knowledge" between the average parent and the average child nowadays.

From a few years now people have been growing amidst technology, games and, of course, the internet. So that people like probably all of us here, understand the dangers, possibilities and social dynamics of the digital world.

What comes to my mind is how I am constantly laughing at the phishing attempts that come to my e-mail and how instantly disgusted I was when I saw that Blizzard forced me display my real name on my SC2 profile, under pretty much the certainty that "the internet is a bad place with bad people and I don't want my personal information made public in such an environment".

Yet these are alien lines of thought and understand for many of those people. The problem is that although "the old media" thrives on overreacting to this, it is a reality that the children who are growing NOW are doing so immersed in this world and this world DOES have many dangers. When you were young your father and mother taught you to look forward when riding a bicycle and not down. To never take candy from strangers and to avoid deserted places at night. However those children are pretty much on their own when it comes to learning how to deal with the dangers in this world of which their parents are pretty much oblivious.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jehferson Wohllerz Curupana da Rocha e Mello on 9th February 2011 8:54pm

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Private Industry 11 years ago
Oh look it`s Fox, troll at work nothing to see here move along. I always look forward to see with what they can come up with, they are kind of entertaining. On the negative side is that there are people who actually believe the "news" they report.

There are some colorful quotes about Fox in Futurama that fit them really well :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Private on 9th February 2011 8:49pm

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Mark Hill Studying Computing & Networks, University of Abertay Dundee11 years ago
If only Fox News just admitted it was a work of comedy/parody - it would be a very good show.
Okay, maybe very good is a bit strong. It would be all right. Sometimes.

I can really imagine the same parents that use this to claim games are evil - are probably the same parents who don't look on the game box for the age rating.

On the other hand, for EA - this is fabulous PR - gotta be loving the free (if direly misinformed) advertising.
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James Prendergast Process Specialist 11 years ago
Rock paper shotgun have a good piece explaining the sorts of leading questions that these experts get asked. Of course they're going to get a response like the ones that have been mis-quoted above if you're starting off with a question that goes along the lines of: This game allows you to rape women, do you agree this is a good thing?
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Francis Cermak Website Administrator, HeavenGames LLC11 years ago
I think the Fox article is complete BS, but EA is being hypocritical with its defense of the marketing. With Bullestorm, it is adamantly defending the point that its M rated game isn't marketed to Children, but its "your mom will hate this" campaign for M-rated Dead Space 2 is clearly marketed towards kids under 17.

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Private Industry 11 years ago
Kids over 17 have also mothers :D
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Cobey Jones Studying Game development, University of Advancing Technology11 years ago
It must be a slow news day over at Fox. I see that it's time to crank up the irrational fear in the audience. If children of the age of 9 are going to be playing BulletStorm, then it seems to me that it's of concern to the parents, not Fox.
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Cobey Jones Studying Game development, University of Advancing Technology11 years ago
It must be a slow news day over at Fox. I see that it's time to crank up the irrational fear in the audience. If children of the age of 9 are going to be playing BulletStorm, then it seems to me that it's of concern to the parents, not Fox.
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Mattias Oldenborg Programmer, Colossai Studios AB11 years ago
Please Fox, I want this in video form. The Mass Effect sketch was hilarious.
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Christopher Bowen Owner, Gaming Bus 11 years ago
Stupid attention whore who doesn't play video games says video games are very bad. Film at 11.

I asked my fiancťe - who's in school for her Psychiatry post-grad while moonlighting as a writer - how she would have been handled if she had put this kind of statement out there, with that level of proof (read: none). Her response: "The derisive scorn directed my way would probably be enough to send me flying out of the room."
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Andrew Clayton Executive Editor, Side Story Games11 years ago
I would love to meet the person who watched the Mass Effect sex scene and instantly thought "RAPE!" Really, if I ever met such a person I would eat my computer.

I could understand an argument like "Picking up hookers, having sex with them, then killing them to get your money back doesn't teach good values" (aka GTA), but c'mon, really? A close, romantic relationship between two people in high-stress situations does lead to one inevitable conclusion. I think it's exactly how sex should be shown to kids these days.
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Till Dzierzon Localization QA 11 years ago
Oh. I thought games were only responsible for people running amok or terrorist attacks. Yay, we've got a new one here. Bulletstorm will increase rapes. Nice one. Can't wait for the next story. Like the one where the boy fell down on the rails, because he was playing on his PSP.
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Aodhan O'Donnell11 years ago
i thought we were beyond this finger pointing by now.

but i've no doubt in my mind that this reporter is completely right in their claims, it's the exact same with fifa games and the huge increase in fouls committed during matches
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Christopher Willis11 years ago
You guys remember the days of Beavis and Butthead? I thought we were beyond this, aparently not.
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J. Goldmaker Community Management 11 years ago
Here in Canada we experience something like the rapture each time we have a major snow storm. Suddenly no one cares about work, and it is all about survival, and we all become closer, wanting to help each other out.

I think that the problem here is with the cathartic nature of gaming. When you have an entire group of human beings in an audience in a movie theater, you have a group anger, love, or fear etc. depending on the movies plot.

In the gaming industry the movie theater has an enormous audience, potentially millions playing at any given time. After all, gaming is, in fact, a reality that does not take place until the device is turned on.

So, in essence, when one starts up a game, one has sat down in a dark movie theater with millions of others and cannot get up from the screen because no one wants anyone standing up in the middle of the movie. This results in uber aggression as the player synchronizes him/herself with the audience.

Frequent breaks created by musical interludes (and my favorite, drinking a gallon of water before gaming to let the bladder rule) will keep the player from being overwhelmed as each game becomes an individual and unique modality.

It is up to the gaming community to introduce this to their audience so that they are not held hostage by their fellow 'licensees'. Call of Duty has been very good at this, by creating 'Acts' and 'Scenes' to portion the mass hysteria into palatable slices.

The game does not necessarily have to be violent to induce anger, take for example Rollercoaster Tycoon, where the learning curve created much anger and frustration within the audience.

It is however, up to the parents to educate the young about catharsis generated emotions from others, once they are aware of this, i.e. that it is not 'them' but everyone playing the game, will they have a better perspective.

Unfortunately many of the parents and Politicians still think that cartoons are evil. From personal experience, I have found that most cannot even operate a computer or prefer bigger games, like the stock market, or politics.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by J. Goldmaker on 10th February 2011 1:46am

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Private Industry 11 years ago
Someone wants to send Fox a link to the sex game for Kinect? :D
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Diego Santos Le„o Creative Director, GameBlox Interactive11 years ago
There should be an obligatory warning after any video game commercial or trailer saying "This game contains scenes not suitable for children. It cannot be sold to kids under...".

Don't get me wrong, this is not to educate parents. It is to educate stupid uninformed journalists, so they can finally stop criticizing violent/suggestive games that are clearly not meant for children!
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Jack Arnold Studying BA. Arts - games and interactivity, Swinburne University of Technology11 years ago
Oh, here we go, we're not all just serial killers anymore, but rapists too...

How is it that these positions can even be given merit, when the research behind them wouldn't be at an acceptable level for a 1st year uni student?

I'm so sick of well argued, logical debaits being rebutted by morons saying "do you really wanna take the chance that your children will be rapist serial killers?"

The term "witch hunt" seems perfectly applicable, when the industry has to go through Salamesque trials of "if we throw the games industry into a river, and it sinks, and violence doesn't decrease, then it must have been innocent" when really games are today's scapegoat for violence, becuase the actual causes of violence are too complex, and too difficult to fix.
But then, everyone reading this can ignore it, becuase you all know this already.
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Mark Laurel Developer 11 years ago
Amazinging how Fox News will link video games to rape & violence in real life- but go through great lengths to absolve Sarah Palin & her cross hair map to the tragedy in Tucson...

F*** Faux News
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.11 years ago
Anyone with a substantial budget willing to give me some air time? I will make Fox news look like absolute fools in less than 60 seconds.

I'll be your figurehead of head and animosity.
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Andre David game artist, Enne Entertainment11 years ago
I wonder why EA can't sue then for damage their sales buy saying all this bull--- with no proves. Or why the writers assossiation don't defend the right to tell the story the writers wanted.
It would force then to research a litle bit before making this kind of "news".
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Ashley Tarver Indie 11 years ago
"with kids as young as 9 playing such games"

At which stage do you blame the parents for not teaching their children to be bloody children? Speak when spoken to, eat your greens, do your homework, go to bed on time, don't pull your sisters hair.

Dear EA,

My 9 year old went into our bedroom pulled out my 9mm, shot his sister, raped his mother, blew up a train and launched our countries nuclear weapons at Iran because he hates muslims. It is all your fault, it was your responsibility to be a parent to my child. Now I'm going to sue you for a $1million.

Kind regards.

(this is the massively edited version, due to the 9 year old readership of course, sigh)
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John McGrath Student - Computer Games Development BSc 11 years ago
Remember, that Brandon has done his job as a journalist and has presented both sides of the coin; quotes of concern from psychologists and quotes of confidence from the Games Industry. Neither are objective about the subject at hand. Pro-games readers will see the 'outrageous allegations from psychologists' whereas anti-games readers will see a 'lack of concern from developers/publishers'. The article is not in question, but the claims from Liberman and her collegues are. Remember, even bad press can and does boost sales.

But is it even possible to prove the consequences of playing any particular title? You can always counter-argue that if potential rapists and murderers weren't playing sexually explicit and violent games, where do you think they'd go to get their kicks? What else can you do but release a 'kitten stomping' game in selected locations and monitor kitten death rates (erm, joke btw! I like alive kittens, dislike dead ones).

The bible and other 'holy' books are horrendously violent - are they restricted? No. Yet how many violent crimes have been a direct result of someone's belief derived from doctrine, and proveably so. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone".

The truth of the matter is some people are mal-adjusted, usually as a result of abuse at a young age. These people only need a 'trigger' to set them off, whether it be a computer game, a movie, a book, peer pressure or whatever. If parents (and schools) raise their children properly, teach them about morals, ethics, social responsibility and such, then those parents will have nothing to worry about.
Sadly and increasingly, many parents abandon their children to computer games rather than spend time with them. Children are left to figure our their own morals and ethics based on not only computer games, but what they see on TV - such as the mega-rich superstars struting in their underwear, being sexually provocative, doing drugs, frivoulously spending millions and divorcing each other left-right-and-center.
Hell, even our own governments obviously condone violence, when you see all the wars and police brutaility on the news.
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Pete Thompson Editor 11 years ago
I played the Bulletstorm demo and found that it was so bad that I had to play it at least ten times in a row and because Iím a narrow minded, serial killer in-waiting, rapist and generally uneducated gamer (as we all are according to these finger pointing political correct interfering no-nothing numptys) I found myself having 6 minutes of pure fun every time I played it. But now I feel like I've let myself down though and I fear that I may not be a proper gamer any longer due to not getting the stereotypical suicidal tenancies or urges to go kill / rape anyone after playing a game such as Bulletstorm, But Iím hoping the full game will be better so I can once again call myself a gamer!!... ;-)

Seriously though, I find it unbelievable the amount of BS these people come out with, and all I can say really is that If Bulletstorm is the worst game ever then I'm going to have a very bad game in my collection and I look forward to playing said worst game very much indeed!!

Iím at the age now where I can say that Iíve been playing games for a few decades (Since the ZX81, vic-20 etc) and Iíve not once had any desire to go rape or kill at all, Iíve had loads of times where I could have thrown the controller through the tv though, but thatís it, never any urges to do harm to anyone, even as a 6ft 2" 22stone ex close-protection / bodyguard I've no desire at all..

These people need to realise that because gaming is a massive entertainment sector that there will of course be the minority that may have a screw loose and want to harm others, but i'm sure that scenes in games such as ME2 and Heavy Rain, Fable III with the choice of protected or unprotected sex or even the pixelated bodypart scenes in Kane & Lynch 2 wouldn't be the trigger any more than a hollywood blockbuster could be!!

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Pete Thompson on 10th February 2011 11:27am

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Ashley Tarver Indie 11 years ago
They are making Kane & Lynch into a film aren't they? I thought I heard that somewhere (forgive me if I just started my first grapevine rumour). So the question will then become which created the most rapists and murderers, Kane & Lynch the film, or Kane & Lynch the videogame ... damn would love to see those statistics ...
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Vasil Vasilev11 years ago
The picture in the Fox article is nice. Too bad some people consider gamers and even children incapable of independent thought and willing to murder and rape just because they saw violence in an M-rated game.
Such stories come up with surprising regularity judging from the feeling of deja-vu I got when reading the article. I didn't think that would hit the news again.
Now if you'll excuse me - I just played ME2 and have the sudden desire to find me some blue alien chicks to rape (that was a joke by the way, in case someone gets the idea of using it as evidence for the next games-are-evil article)...
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