Fox News tries to paint controversial picture of Bulletstorm

David Hughes's picture

Fox News recently asked the provocative question 'Is Bulletstorm the worst video game in the world?' but unfortunately does not give its argument much grounding in fact.

EA is set to publish a game developed by Epic Games and People Can Fly called Bulletstorm, which releases February 22nd on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. It is definitely an edgy game: it is reportedly one of the most profane games ever made, it is also full of crude sexual references, and its violent content is such that the game designers have referred to it as a 'blood symphony'. In fact, the central feature of the game are its 'skillshots', which reward players for killing enemies in the most creative (and bloody) ways possible.

So it has some fairly extreme content in it, which led to this article on Fox News. Taken at face value, the article is almost a PSA to parents about the game's content, which is all fair and good. Except Fox News takes it to the next level.

Beginning from the premise that "kids as young as 9" are playing such games, Fox says that the game is leading a trend whereby violence in games is "reaching a fever pitch". One psychologist quoted suggests - quite correctly - that kids could be psychologically damaged by experiencing this content. This is precisely why the Entertainment Ratings Software Board exists; moreover, the game and all its promotional materials are blazoned with the "M" rating and put behind age gates when posted on the Internet.

Fox News chooses, unfortunately, to up the controversy by claiming that Bullestorm's marketing is "clearly aimed at children and young adolescents". I have been following this game since it was first announced, and I have never seen a single sign that EA or its developers have been marketing this game to anything other than a very adult audience. Many adults will even find this too much for them, but claiming the game is marketed towards kids is amping the controversial aspects of the game too much. If Fox News really wanted to highlight questionable marketing, the ads for another EA game Dead Space 2 would be a far easier target because of its 'your mom hates this' campaign.

Part of EA's official response to this issue is worth quoting: "Bulletstorm is a work of entertainment fiction that takes place in the 26th century on the abandoned fictitious paradise planet Stygia, where our heroes fight mutants, monsters, flesh-eating plants and gigantic dinosaurs." In other words, it has very little applicability to reality, unlike other games which have generated controversy in the past (like the Grand Theft Auto series). EA also stresses its support for the ESRB and reiterates that "never is the game marketed to children."

Another aspect of Fox's article that is unsustainable is a quote given by a Carol Lieberman, who states that "The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in video games." I have never seen a study that suggests this, and the quote is given without any supporting evidence. In other words, Fox wishes to paint a game as controversial by using a number of very controversial statements of its own.

Written purely as a sort of PSA for parents who ignore ESRB warnings or refuse to educate themselves about games, the article is defensible. Where it goes awry is when it makes blatantly false claims about the game being marketed at children and claims that video games have led to a supposed increase in rape without so much as a shred of evidence.

HULIQ in no way wants to defend the content of the game, as it goes entirely against our editorial policy concerning violent media, but the way Fox News has painted it deserves criticism. As EA themselves noted, it can be equated to other forms of entertainment aimed at adults such as "[Quentin] Tarantino's Kill Bill or [Robert] Rodriguez's Sin City."

Update: For those interested in some further reading on the issue, there's been a lot written in reaction - especially in the 'enthusiast' gaming press. John Walker, writing for 'Rock, Paper, Shotgun' has does some solid journalism work uncovering exactly how poorly investigated the Fox News article is. You can find a series of articles here, here, and here. Regardless of whether one agrees with Fox's opinion on this matter, I think these pieces (particularly the last two links) paint a rather troubling picture of how the article was put together.

Comments

I'm a parent of two sons that will soon be 25 and 23... so I know a bit about raising teenage boys... Let me just say this, any parent that's worth their salt will tell you that you are kidding yourself (as a parent) if you don't think your teenage kids are exposed to this sort of thing... Let's see here, and teenage kids have never smoked pot, drank alcohol or had sex, even though most parents have warned them about the dangers of doing so..... YEAH RIGHT. I completely support and agree with the Fox News stand and story about this EPIDEMIC and attack on the morals of our YOUTH today in society... Little by little, one person at a time, it's vices like this that are collectively destroying the core values in our society via our children. How can ANYONE with a clear conscience and experience as a parent say that games like these have no impact on our youth??? Come on, what do other parents think about this? If nothing else, they SHOULD at least have an opinion about what impact this has on their children...

Submitted by SuiXi3d on
You're right, on some points, but you're missing the much larger picture. As a teenager, I played video games. Violent ones, even. My mother and father willingly bought them for me, watched me play them, and even played them with me. I've never hurt anyone. I've never smoked pot, or even drank alcohol until I was twenty three years of age, and to this date have never had more than TWO drinks at a time. In fact, I consider myself to be a pretty good Christian. I do my best not to judge people. I do my best to be the best I can be for God, and yet because I play video games you'll automatically judge me, my parents, the government for not doing anything about my family, the game developers (who are awesome people, by the way), and the various publishers, marketing agencies, and the ESRB. All because you didn't teach your kid right from wrong. Yes. I said it. YOU are the one at fault. You're correct that our children will be exposed to these sort of things growing up. It's a no-brainer. The fact is, this will NEVER CHANGE. We are BORN into sin, and sin will continue to corrupt every little thing about this world until it is GONE. What you CAN do is be a better parent. Teach your children right from wrong. Teach them your values and raise them to be the children you want them to be. Just remember: YOU are the ONLY ONE that has ANY CONTROL over any of it. YOU are the child's parent, and YOU have the power to show your children right from wrong. If they disobey you, they should face the consequences of their actions. I know I had to. I distinctly remember getting spankings when I acted up as a child. Did it suck? Yeah, it did, for both myself AND my parents, but they understood that I needed to be shown right from wrong. Just remember, judge not lest ye be judged. This goes for EVERYONE. NOBODY is perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. Why is it that violent movies don't receive this same treatment? Because of people like you who can't do their jobs as parents. Because there's always SOME OTHER REASON why your child isn't the way you want it to be. Well, every bit of that is YOUR job to handle, not the government, not the ESRB, not the game developers. It's YOUR job.

First, I never said my children smoked pot, drank alcohol or had teenage sex... You incorrectly assumed that. Second, parenting responsibility must remain the sole dominion of Parents, not anyone else. Third, I'm not judging or blaming anyone... I'm stating my opinion about the GAME itself as well as my opinion about the story that FoxNews published. To the contrary, your post leads me to believe you are indeed a good Christian young man. That doesn't mean the dangers are not real, however, regarding these video games. In all reality, the creators of the games could very well be upstanding people as well... That doesn't remove their culpability, however, from the effects or impact of the games/products they've created. Yes, remember, hate the sin, not the sinner. Fourth, I take great pride and a sense of responsibility in being a parent and believe I have raised my sons to be true to their (and my) core values as a Christian. Again, you are the one who judged me by my post. Fifth, you are absolutely correct about violent movies as well... This story and my comments, however, are about the video game, not a movie, so let's stick to the subject at hand, shall we? Lastly, just because of the fact that you say you have not hurt anyone.... doesn't mean that the violent games you have and do play haven't had some influence on you and won't potentially contribute to you hurting someone in the future.... All that is known is what is past, not what has not yet occurred. Think about it. And, I certainly don't hold it against you that you can not relate to me as a parent, because you have not yet experienced it in life... I've already lived your life as an adolescent and young man, AND I've lived my life as a parent.... You have not and it is dangerous to presume to believe you know what it means to be a parent, when in fact, you have not. I'll leave you with a quote from Confucius: "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's own ignorance."

Submitted by wa1210ck on
I'm not gonna get too deep into this but the simple fact is that it's up to the parent to determine whether a game is fit to be played by their child(ren). I don't feel that the retailer, game maker, or even governing institution, should be controlling what my child(ren) should play or not play. Control isn't bad, but not with something as trivial as a video game. If the governing institution can decide what we play, then they should also control what we listen to, because there are a lot of verses out there that subliminally teaches us to be violent. "Eye for an eye", anyone?

First off, I want to thank those who have commented so far for sharing those thoughts. I didn't want to get into the parenting issue in the article, because that presents a whole range of aspects that would make the piece rather unwieldy to write. That said, as both an avid gamer and a parent of three, I think it really does come down to parenting on many levels. Taken purely as a PSA of sorts, the Fox article has merit, but it is overly extreme in its unfounded accusation of a.) the effects of games in general and b.) that the game is marketed at kids. In general, the game industry goes to much greater lengths to delineate content (particularly along the boundary between teen appropriate and adult appropriate) than other industries like the movie industry.

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