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Vicarious Existence

To blog about what is going on in the MMO genre from a casual MMO player's viewpoint.

Author: UnSub

On Age of Conan's Nipples, Violence and Maturity: One of These Things Is Not Like the Others

Posted by UnSub Sunday February 10 2008 at 9:28PM
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After much commenting about how various versions of Age of Conan would be different depending on the region you played it in, Funcom announced that they'd received a Mature 17+ rating for Age of Conan for the US that allowed players to see nipples on female characters. Reaction to this finding has been pretty favourable, but that's to be expected in a genre dominated by male gamers who like seeing naked women. The link indicates that full nudity is out of AoC at that rating, indicating that perhaps full nudity code / models exist within AoC.

On the flip side, no comments exist about Germany's censor board's apparent preference to tone down the violence of AoC within their region. I have to assume that this regional difference is still going to occur.

There is a side issue here of feature regionalisation of MMOs that I'm not going to go into, but could see MMOs differ widely by region and already happens for MMOs operating in China. What I am interested in is how this decision is being hailed as some sort of victory over censorship and how AoC will get to ship as a 'mature' game.

The problem with this line of thinking is that 1) Funcom obviously submitted a 'full' version (it's still in beta development, so it can't be a true 'full' version) to the ERSB who passed the game at an M17+ rating, so it still slid in under the censorship regime rather than in defiance of it, and 2) the video game industry is going to continually have problems with the general population if it equates nipples and blood as what makes a game mature. Don't get me wrong - it's nice to see that the ERSB isn't putting the skids on a game just because there are nipples in it. But it doesn't help the industry when such games are held up as what is considered mature content.

I haven't played AoC, so I can't tell if the so-called maturity this game is meant to possess surpasses just blood and nipples. I'd hope that, for a game to be truly mature or deal with mature issues, it gives players the option of choice in their play decisions that would allow them to explore some new ideas or to walk a path they otherwise couldn't (and no, bare-breasted demon maimer doesn't count as such a path). Although a hard thing to define clearly, I see maturity as a state where players have a choice of options, are responsible for their decisions and the consequences of what comes out of those decisions.

This is potentially difficult for a MMO to develop around, but certainly not impossible. If players want to play as the utter dregs as humanity, then they should be able to, but there should be in-game consequences of that kind of play. Likewise, if someone plays as a paragon of virtue, that play style should also be acknowledged.

To keep things in perspective, it took Western society hundreds of years to accept literary works that included sex and violence within them (outside of the Bible) and it's taken decades for movies to progress to the point where we have the modern censorship system. Video games are undergoing the same kind of journey in a much shorter time frame. But at the same time, video games as an industry have relied a lot more on violence to shift units and have very, very rarely attempted to tell a meaningful story or provide adult choices in-game. In books and movies, sex and violence are often used as tools to move a story forward; within video games, violence IS the story most of the time.

Don't get me wrong - I'm happy that Funcom can sell AoC in the US as close to their original vision as possible. I look forward to playing it. But there are risks for the MMO genre of announcing AoC as the first great mature MMO, but all the general public sees is a topless amazon who's dripping in gore from the triple decapitation she's just executed.

Litchfield writes:

Two steps step back....but it's still better then nothing.

Sun Feb 10 2008 11:39PM Report
MasterB8 writes:

How would the world ever acknowledge maturity when Reality shows is the mature publics choice of entertainment outside the gaming sector. Nipples, wine and blood to the people and, well since we are on the subject why not let the whole roman downfall scenario play out... orgies.... slaves and let the barbarians kick our butts... (Barbarians today is probably those that can't afford internet, videogames and computers?)

Mon Feb 11 2008 1:36AM Report
Conskript writes:

If it offends you don't play it, but don't censor me or what I want to see. Like "Bad" language there are filters in games for a reason use them.

Mon Feb 11 2008 8:39AM Report
simcha writes:

First off I have to say that I find your article to be quite interesting. I think the main problem however with both your article and in gaming is the idea of what maturity is. Making your own choices and living with them is only slightly better than what is out there. After all to be living as the dreg of society and reveling in it can be interprited as a child simply having fun annoying other people. I've heard on Xbox live there are children constantly screaming out profanities and racial slurs. To me that can be considered the dregs of humanity.


In my opinion, and I have to stress this as an opinion, in order to have a mature game you have to understand the different levels of human development. I'm not an expert in this subject but i do have a masters in education and am exposed and aware of children, teens and adults and their developmental progress. Choices that are made are defined by these stages and in order to have a mature game, the stages should be included in such ways through as what you had stated to be choices and the actions that result with them. I'm very much against censorship and feel that all people should be exposed to various situations with the consequences but as well as some sort of reasoning behind the consequences. To educate them in the reasons why they are being this way. I'm not talking about a huge lecture about the good and evil or a dication of war and peace but a little nudge that says "You did wrong, you have 500 hordes of barbarians coming to kill you cause you pissed x person off".


Though the understanding of such situations, i feel a truly mature game can come about. This isn't a new concept either and has been done in games before. One example I think of this kind of thinking and level of execution comes from the Ultima series from 1-7.

In the end though, nipples are always welcome and at least it's a start.

Mon Feb 11 2008 9:11AM Report
eclectica writes:

As a 33 yearold woman with a college education, who grew up with the Conan books and the comic books, I applaud Funcom!  If it was "PC"ed down I would be very upset.  Why is it every author of an article assumes that "women" hate sex, blood, and violence?  Or that liking such must mean that someone is immature. Get a life! And yes I am a mother. 

Mon Feb 11 2008 9:14AM Report
Orthelian writes:

Conskript, I think you jumped to a conclusion about what the article said before you commented on it. The author said nothing about being offended by anything. He is happy that these things are not being censored in the United States, but concerned that these features (and no others) are considered mature.

Mon Feb 11 2008 10:53AM Report
MrBum21 writes:

think of the M rating as an R rated film.  sure it CAN dive deeper into the darkness of ones soul, and get out some grity real story, but ususaly it just meens lots of blood and boobs.  man i love R rated movies...

Mon Feb 11 2008 1:06PM Report
UnSub writes:

I'm certainly not offended by blood or nipples in-game. Mortal Kombat was my favourite fighter in part due to the over-the-top violence and I like the female form a lot :-)

My concern is that video games (as movies do, to some extent) put themselves out there as mature, but actually deliver a very infantile concept of what mature is.

Mon Feb 11 2008 7:53PM Report
Kyosnai writes:

I think people just wanna be sexest assholes

think about it. It's alot less "R" rated to show a dudes ass on cable than to show a chicks ass.

Blood, boobs, and violence!

Tue Feb 12 2008 6:36AM Report
Scorus writes:

Good post. I think it is safe to say that it isn't the truly mature players that are eager to see women's nipples.

Fri Feb 29 2008 12:49PM Report
WiccanCircle writes:

It appears that "mature" is what a 15 year old adolecent boy would like to see in a world.  Swearing, boobs and blood is now called mature?

I have no idea what a conan-type world is aside from the cheesy 1980's movies and can't imagine how anyone could write a book that included the drivel lines that I remember from the movie.  But if that is all this has to offer, it is in trouble before it even goes gold.

I could be wrong about, but I believe a game needs more than animated boobs to succeed. But then again, I can't understand why you little boys are so enamored by cartoon women like those from all those cartoons in Japan.  (Guys are really really weird)

Let's hope that there is more to this game than just junior high school childish pap.

Mon Mar 10 2008 10:22PM Report writes:
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