Wednesday, January 16, 2008

An Open Letter to Kevin McCullough

UPDATE: [1/17/2008]It looks like this guy's initial article was pulled by I tried to update the link with a cached version, but all I could get was the first half. Anyway, I think I agree with the guys at Penny Arcade that we're giving this guy too much attention. It might be best to let the issue drop for now.

I read this guy's stuff online, then I realized I had something to say, so I started this Blog. Hopefully it goes somewhere. I sent him an email too:

[An Informed Point-of-view]Re: The "Sex-Box" Race for President/Life Lessons: GAMER Nerds' "Rights" to Lesbo-Alien Sex!

Hello Mr. McCullough,

I read both your article and your Blog post regarding Mass Effect and I found them to be interesting, if misinformed. I understand you've been reading a lot of hate mail because of your opinion, but I was wondering if you've heard a calm, clear-headed, rational-minded person like me argue against your case.

Now when I say argue, I do not mean in a negative context, but rather I intend to present evidence that pokes holes in your arguments. I will start with your article.

First, you mention that it is disgusting that people are able to customize the physical appearance of their main character. Now forgive me if I'm wrong, but people have been creating customized humans for several Millennia. That's what Art is. You mention being able to remove imperfections, but you failed to mention that you could add these things in. It's ok; you haven't played the game; you couldn't have known.

Moving on to the title: "Mass Effect". You seemed to imply that it was a carefully veiled attempt to convince parents that it was a war/virus game instead of an epic Space RPG. Perhaps our values are a bit different, but I would never let my young children play a Video Game as violent as you describe until I'm sure they are aware of the consequences those actions have in real life. I'll spare you from not knowing this in the future, and tell you what the name means. In the game, Mass Effect is another name for Dark Energy. Put plainly, this is very close to the "Force" in George Lucas's Star Wars Franchise. It's ok; you haven't played the game; you couldn't have known.

The rest of your article goes into the 2008 elections and I won't even bother to get into that. Not because I don't care, because I do care about who sits in the White House, but because I believe no good can come from attempting to legislate games. The amount of game-legislation has been going up, but so far, everything that has been challenged has been defeated. Every Judge who has been handed these cases has struck down the laws as unconstitutional. As long as the ESRB continues its job, it will take nothing short of repealing the 1st Amendment to make the legislation hold.

I next refer to your Blog Post. You made a five point list, so I'll comment on each of the five points:

  1. You can't judge a game that takes hours upon hours to play based on a few 60 second clips that people put up on YouTube; however, even based on that footage, I would say that the game is tame in comparison to some PG-13 rated movies that I've seen (Titanic anyone?).

  2. See my above, my third paragraph. I don't think I need to address this again.

  3. To further whittle down your arguments, I'd like to point out that there are a total of Three (3) romantic options for the main character in Mass Effect to pursue, and only two (2) of them are available at any given time. Two of these relationships are 100% Heterosexual. The Female Shepard has a Male character and the Male Shepard has a Female character. Shared between the two is Liara T'Soni, the Blue Alien shown in your YouTube videos. Liara, while possessing a Female form, is not truly female. Her species has only one gender, and generally couples with any gender of another species. That probably seems like too much information to you, but I think an informed opinion is a healthy opinion (though still not necessarily correct).

  4. You made a criticism of the game's "M for Mature" rating, basically saying that it amounts to nothing and does nothing. In this area, you are 100% misinformed. The ratings Early Childhood [EC], Everyone [E], Everyone 10+ [E 10+], Teen [T], Mature [M], and Adults Only [AO], not to mention the Content Descriptors, too numerous to list here, are provided be the Entertainment Software Ratings Board [ESRB] and are the most complete and thorough ratings system ever devised. There is no "depending on your state" involved in this either. I've provided links later on pointing to the rating guide, ESRB partner stores (which are required, per their contract, to be sure that they are not selling M and AO games to people below the ages of 17 & 18 respectively), as well as the Parental Controls settings of all three Current-Gen systems, something that every parent of a gamer should be aware of.

  5. Lastly, you state that you have been challenged to play the game or "...keep your fat mouth shut". Would it surprise you to know that I haven't played the game either? I don't even own an Xbox 360 (yet), but I'm still well versed in what this game is about. Why is that, you ask? It's because I did research. I utilized the internet, the world's largest repository of knowledge, and, weighing content based on its reputability, made an informed judgment.

In Gamer culture, there's a bad tendency to react to criticisms with hostility. While these people are among the most vocal, they do not represent all gamers. I am attempting to present a higher standard with no profanity or attacks, just presenting the facts and conclusions based on those facts.

Truth be told, Video Games are an art form, as much as painting, writing, or making a movie. The thing is that we are the first to create an art form that is affected differently by different people. I wouldn't censor your art, so please don't censor mine.

ESRB Retail Partners:

ESRB Ratings Guide:

Xbox 360 Parental Controls:

Wii Parental Controls:

PS3 Parental Controls (the url is way too long to type out)

Video Game Voters Network:

1 comment:

b.glad said...

As a fellow gamer, I want to thank you for making such an intelligent argument instead of automatically resorting to personal attacks, as many have in this case.