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Fox 'ignored' Bulletstorm balancing arguments

US network passed on moderating content for story on EA's shooter in favour of anti-games agenda

Following the treatment of Electronic Arts' violent shooter Bulletstorm by US media outlet Fox News on Tuesday, GamesIndustry.biz has learned that material which was asked for and provided that would have helped to balance the story was instead ignored in favour of an anti-games agenda.

Analyst Scott Steinberg, CEO of TechSavvy Global and monthly columnist on GamesIndustry.biz was approached for views in the build-up to the story, and provided context on the game's violence and sexual innuendo.

But while brief comments were included from the ECA's Hal Halpin, the thrust of the story remained unchanged, and Steinberg's input was left out completely. Among the questions asked (prefaced by the phrase "I will admit that some of these are intended to get the thinking going"), and answers provided, were:

"Question: Do you think the game goes too far, why or why not?"

"Answer: No - because it's an unapologetically and straightforwardly satirical game meant for discerning adults that's written in the vernacular of the times and speaks in a cultural context that's the same as that its target audience has long been indoctrinated in by mainstream media and pop culture.

"From Saw to South Park, look at what passes for modern entertainment at the movies or on basic cable, let alone on the Internet - this isn't the first blockbuster (or big-budget game, for that matter) to aim below the belt or slather on the salty language. Yes, it's shameless, but also knowingly so, because it actively aims to parody much of both the gaming field and larger cultural zeitgeist's more asinine elements.

"The designers make no secret of their intentions, or to whom the title caters - The Oregon Trail, this isn't. The giant M for Mature rating on the front of the box says it all: Only discerning adults need apply."

"Question: Is the only answer found in better parenting (telling your own kids they can't play the game) and ratings boards? Or is there something else that should be done?"

"Answer: The answer, as ever, lies in education: Being acutely aware of what and how your children play, and the manner in which they do so, which requires maintaining an open-minded perspective and taking the time to spend time with your kids, their games and the systems which play these titles.

"A multitude of resources exist from the ESRB to WhatTheyPlay, FamilyFriendlyVideoGames.com and Common Sense Media, as well as leading review websites such as IGN, GameSpot and 1up, which can help provide more info on today's top titles, trends and topics.

"Not only can all help provide insight into children's interests, motivations and the manner in which they consume game content, but the context needed to help steer them towards other, more appropriate titles which might better fit their age range or pique their interest. As with movies, albums and books featuring explicit content, you can help steer kids towards more viable substitutes that are equally compelling for healthier or more constructive reasons."

"Question: Is Bulletstorm one of the more egregious examples are are there a lot of other more violent games?"

"Answer: Like comic books, rock-and-roll and film, videogames have long been subject to vilification for their subject matter due to popular misconceptions that they're meant for children, when in fact the average player is actually a mature, discerning adult in their mid-30s.

"Accordingly, there's been a long and storied range of titles featuring graphic and violent content (among other, more mundane subjects and fanciful topics) that speaks to this audience, just as there have been a long and storied range of films and TV shows (see: The Godfather, The Sopranos, every horror movie stocking movie store rental shelves since the '70s, etc.) that speak to moviegoers with more adult tastes.

"From Postal to Grand Theft Auto III to Scarface: The World is Yours, you could cite a grand history of supposedly 'egregious' games dating back to the halcyon days of early arcade and computing hits such as Death Race and Leisure Suit Larry. But the reality is that the vast majority of all games produced are perfectly suitable for children and adolescents.

"BulletStorm just happens to be one of many examples that fall into the category of games for mature audiences, but it's hardly among the more head-turning ones, as those who've played previous outings such as human prey simulator Manhunt 2 can attest."

While EA robustly defended the content in Bulletstorm yesterday, but this new content that was passed over will prompt some to ask further questions on the methodology used in some mainstream reporting and representations of the videogames industry.

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