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ESRB Double-M, Starhawk, Chairlift, and geek artifacts

Brad Gallaway's picture

If you haven't already heard it, the most recent GameCritics Podcast is now available for download. Episode 75 is our post-E3 discussion covering the conferences and various games, and we also work our way around to discussing the new Tomb Raider trailer and violence in games.

Click on over if you're so inclined!

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Screenshot

I don't often think about the ESRB rating system (apart from the fact that I generally support it) but my oldest son asked me a question today about the difference between ratings, and I had to pause a moment before answering.

The situation was this: he's been expressing a great deal of interest in RPGs lately (which is a new thing for him—he's usually Mr. Driving Game) so we were trying out various things and he settled on Skyrim. My own feelings on the game aside, I was happy to get him started in a genre that I enjoy myself, so we popped it in and off we went.

Upon beginning, he made careful note of the fact that the game was rated M, and asked if I was sure that it was appropriate for him to play. I told him that it was since I didn't consider the content to be especially objectionable for a mature little guy like him who's also got his dad sitting next to him during play. After a moment, he asked why it was alright that he was playing Skyrim but that I didn't let him watch The Darkness 2 that the wife was on the night before.

He said "but they're both rated M, so what's the difference?"

That's a pretty good question.

My guess is that anyone who's played both titles would say that the two are radically different in tone, and not at all alike. Skyrim has goofy-looking combat, wimpy dragons and a little salty language here and there. Darkness 2 features men being impaled, ripped in half, and a small imp urinating on dead bodies.  And yet, both have the same rating despite the fact that (in my mind, at least) there's a world of difference in the content and intensity.

I explained to him that the level of graphic violence was much more severe in The Darkness 2 which was why I did not allow him to watch it, and he accepted that, but it really made me question whether the current ESRB system is really working as well as it could. I'm not sure whether or not something like "V" should exist as a higher restriction above "M", but having these two games in the same category doesn't sit quite right with me.

I'm between review games right now (submitted my final on Lollipop Chainsaw recently) so I decided to try Starhawk on PS3 before my next assignment arrives. Although it wasn't exactly what I hoped it would have been, I ended up thinking it was still pretty good.

As a big Firefly fan, Starhawk's mix of Sci-Fi and Western was a welcome combination, and I thought the developers did a good job on the main character. Although the story was told in a rapid shorthand fashion, the writers got their points across and I got a good sense for who the protagonist was meant to be. Also, bonus points awarded for making him a black cyborg cowboy. That's not a combination I've seen too often in games, and the variety was very much appreciated.

Gameplay-wise, the single-player campaign is pretty short (six hours or so, maybe?) and essentially serves as an extended tutorial for the hefty multiplayer section of the game, but even so, I felt like the developers didn't cop out and really put a good effort into it. That said, I saw plenty of opportunities for the game to expand the campaign mode and I would be very interested in seeing a sequel that emphasized the single-player experience more than it did this time around.

As someone who doesn't give a rip about online multiplayer in a general sense, I thought the campaign was interesting and fun, and perfect as a weekend rental. Plenty of interesting ideas on display, and much room to grow for the future. Recommended.

My apologies to whoever originally tweeted this link to a neat-o interactive music video for Met Before from Chairlift. (Was it you, @JasonKill?)

Anyway, I don't know whether this is a brand-new idea or if I've just never seen it previously, but you begin the video and then choose a path with the arrow keys on your keyboard. Cool stuff, and even better since I absolutely love love love the band.

Seriously, I love them so hard. Buy their album right now. Buy it twice. So damned Recommended.

I went to visit the EMP Museum's horror and sci-fi exhibit here in Seattle the other day, and I ended up posting a bunch of the pictures I took on Twitter. In case you missed them, here are some of my favorites, and if you're in the Seattle area, seeing the display in real life might not be a bad idea.

The total number of exhibits is a little smaller than I was expecting, but they have some pretty primo stuff. Hicks' helmet from Aliens, an original McQuarrie Vader sketch from Star Wars, Captain Kirk's chair from Star Trek, Jason's hockey mask from Friday the 13th, Freddy's blade glove from Nightmare on Elm Street, and a whole lot of other things that make you go OMFG I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M LOOKING AT THIS….

In terms of geek artifacts, this stuff was the cream of the crop. If you're within driving distance, I'd say it's Recommended.

(P.S. The number of people who thought that Dalek was R2-D2 was utterly ridiculous. Just sayin'.)

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   PS3   PC  
Developer(s): Bethesda  
Series: The Elder Scrolls  
Genre(s): Role-Playing   Online/Multiplayer  

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Age ratings can be pretty

Age ratings can be pretty random at times. I can think of plenty of examples of nonsensical ratings here in Germany, too, like most Silent Hill games being rated 18 and above, with 3 being 16 and above. Why? That particular entry in the series was at least as graphic and disturbing as any other, if not more so.

Well, it never mattered to me even back when I was underage, but it sure is curious.

The M rating issue and over inflation of ESRB ratings

The M rating issue (with Skyrim and Darkness 2 being in the same category) is a direct consequence of the over inflating of ratings the ESRB does to cover it's own a**. I'm sorry, but saying you need to be over 17 to play games like Metal Gear Solid 3 is just retarded. Then, it's no surprise there is no room for "over-mature" games: they are the one that properly deserve to be called "mature"...

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