Thursday, 10 March 2011

Truth or Dare: Ubisoft and the 'We Dare' Controversy

Hey all,

Yes, it's time for another computer game rant, and today we turn our attention to a planned Ubisoft game, We Dare for the Nintendo Wii and Playstation 3. First, a little about the game itself:

We Dare is developed and published by Ubisoft, famous for such games as the Assassin's Creed series. The game itself is, according to the bastion of knowledge Wikipedia, "a "sexy, quirky, party game" and involves kissing, striptease and spanking." Recently, it was given the PEGI rating of 12 in the UK, meaning that its content is suitable for those aged 12 and up.
Now, I'm not here to talk about the actual content of the game, as that's something for a different time. What I am here to talk about, however, if the controversy that has arisen in the UK surrounding the game.

Before reading any further, I suggest you all check out the European marketing campaign that has sprung the whole matter. the videos only 1:27, and watching it will really make following my argument a whole lot easier. go on, I'll wait.

There, now let's talk about what happened following that commercial's debut - a small number of people got very angry about the low rating for what looks like a very sexually-charged game being sold to children aged 12. An article here (granted, from an online gaming magazine) has opinions from both sides of the argument...

"I have a 13 year old daughter and if I knew she was playing such a highly charged sexual game with boys, I would be appalled," said Laura Pearson of Birmingham. "It is encouraging under-age sex." Another parent said the game will "fuel sexual tensions" and could lead to "sexual touching or assault." 

"It's only like a modern day spin the bottle," said Sandra Betts, who has a 15-year-old son. "It's just a bit of harmless fun."

Today, it was announced that the game was not to be sold in the UK. Ubisoft folded, caved into pressure from an outside group, and, in the process, said that any game not targetted at kids along should not be allowed.

The issue with this rating system is that PEGI can only rate games based on their content, not what the player may be doing. Here, in my view, lies the problem. Ubisoft have taken a very specific marketing route, which was then drastically opposed to how PEGI viewed the game, yet Ubisoft's advertisement shows audience playing and, more importantly, the way they're playing it. PEGI graded We Dare on the content of the game - these are drastically different areas, and there likely should have been some communication between the ratings board and Ubisoft so that these two messages matched. 

Does this men, then, that the outraged parents were right?

Hell no! PEGI are professionals, and they understand gaming and what's appropriate. They clearly mark content in games, which is available both on the internet and the boxes themselves. Like in my last gaming rant, this comes down to parents not carrying out research and instead relying on what is meant to be an eye-catching one and a half minute piece of advertising.

But, at the end of the day, this is not about We Dare as an individual product; this is about We Dare as the latest in a line of computer games with 'risque' material suffering because of the media. We Dare did not receive much media attention on TV because of the problems in Libya and elsewhere filling time (and rightly too!). However, past controversies have.

The Character Models formerly known as The Taliban.

The latest Medal of Honor game allowed players to control a faction in the multiplayer mode called the 'Taliban'. Naturally, many people objected, and the developers were forced to change them to 'Opposing Forces'. this changed involved nothing but altering the name of the group, as their character designs was exactly the same. Whether the choice of the name was right in the first play is not the problem here, but rather that the publishes, Electronic Arts, backed down on the decision, despite a number of gamers (myself included) willing to fight for the right of computer games to tackle modern issues, just as films and books can.

I suppose, in comclusion, this can be summed up - surprisingly - by Peter Griffin once again (damn, that guy's good!): "Well sir, I may not agree with that you said, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." Ubisoft were clearly expecting We Dare to be rated higher than PEGI 12, hence their marketing. However, the parents really should take a look at the arguments made by the rating board before getting angry. It seems no-one is right here, and everyone looses - especially gamers, who find companies less willing to take exciting new chances.

It's a sad day for gaming.

Peace out,

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