Video Game Censorship: An Honorable Move
Blood and guts, swearing and sex. It seems hard to find a game of good quality that doesn't at least throw in a bit of this to make it "legit" these days. Now, I know we've got our Mario Karts and our Batmans which are obviously top-notch experiences without a ton of the aforementioned pillars of maturity. But, it seems to be that more and more developers are thinking that some grit and adult content is necessary to make the gamer feel like they're playing something worthwhile.
The Line Needs to be Drawn Somewhere
I enjoy the butterflies of a long range headshot as much as the next guy, and I see the necessity for some of the themes in today's games to create the narratives that the writers have dreamed up. In other words, these things have their place. But many games have been ruined unnecessarily by a random and unnatural shot of nudity or a character who swears just a bit too much in order to develop his "rough and tough" personality (I'm looking at you, Sleeping Dogs). I'm talking about games that don't make experiencing mature content a focus in the first place. If you go out and buy the latest copy of Duke Nukem or Leisure Suit Larry, you pretty much know what you're getting--good luck making a case against the blood, swearing, and/or sex. But for a game like Far Cry 3, do we really need a sudden nude shot popping up in a main storyline cutscene that the user can't even skip through? No. No we don't.
But hey, my dislike for what I consider totally unnecessary inclusions of "adult content that makes the game legit" is a personal opinion. It's hard to draw the line with what to include and what not to include sometimes. But Gears of War and Call of Duty have earned themselves a high degree of respect by taking a bold step that other franchises haven't. They've included graphic content filtering.
In a Class of Their Own
Many a game has done this with regards to blood (ex. Assassin's Creed, Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear, etc.), but Gears of War and Call of Duty (World at War and onward) have brought this filter into the foul language department. Call of Duty has even gone so far to limit curses with "damn" and "God" involved, which is a move that I am extremely thankful for.
I know we've got some gamers out there scoffing because connecting with Joel's expletives in The Last of Us made them feel like they were real, rugged men like him, and censoring him would just make him (and them) "soft". I encourage those gamers to think about why they need that swearing, and if explicit language and scenes are necessary for their pride in playing that game. If that is not the case for you, then what Gears and CoD did should appeal to you. Gears of War, a game built around a macho, dirty band of brothers whose tough personalities make them perfect for squashing alien scum, added optional blood and language censoring. If you honestly feel that Gears of War just isn't Gears of War anymore with those censors, then by all means switch the "Graphic Content Filter" to "OFF." However, if you're like me and simply do not wish to indulge in that language, then you can flip that option and joyfully play your game without reservations.
It's common knowledge that games (and entertainment in general) have changed greatly over the past 50 years or so in terms of the mature content included. It's also clear that your average mature game these days feels the need to conform to this pattern, from the nude shots to the F-bombs. Though Gears and CoD have no doubt been carried along with this movement, they have elevated themselves to a very respectable place of class and sensitivity by including their respective filters.
The Dream of a Refined Gaming Industry
Now the next step for game developers and publishers is to consider the sexual content in their games. Like the blood and language filters, developers/publishers should include a sexual filter in their games, whether the developer chooses to push sex or not. Nudity and the inescapable sexual references (obscure or not) littered throughout even the tamest of games these days go a long way to destroy the class of a game.
For someone like myself, who thinks this says awful things about the honor of a franchise and who is morally opposed to fulfilling my sexual drive in this way, a fantastic option would be to include a filter. Blurring out the images, including a mature content warning screen with an option to skip, or even having black squares would go a long way! This is very doable, and taking whatever steps are necessary to make this sort of thing happen would be a HUGE step toward the earning of respect, and would open up today's games to a much wider audience.