Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

The Wolpertinger Must Stay Free!

Those of you who live in the US and have a mind for seasonal events will likely have had encounters with pink elephants – excuse me, elekks – and maybe even the elusive wolpertinger. Some lucky Europeans had that opportunity too – for a few hours after the weekly maintenance. After that, these Brewfest quests were disabled again as it is apparently intended.

There are many whining voices on the forums, complaining about how it’s unfair that they can’t get as many Brewfest tokens as the Americans. I couldn’t care less. Holiday events are stupid and if you are actually willing to do them you will survive the extra day of dailies, boohoo.

I am curious, however, as to why this would be. Both quests seem innocent enough and it’s usually the USA that are prude about alcohol (drinking age 21, seriously?) and not the EU. So what’s going on here?

“The Brewfest quests ‘Pink Elekks On Parade’ and ‘Catch the Wild Wolpertinger!’ were removed to ensure that World of Warcraft contains content that complies with regional game rating requirements.”

So it isn’t Blizzard’s fault, I even believe that. But how is it that we can slaughter and even torture animals and humans as well as drinking alcohol with positive effects, but not hunt pink elephants while drunk? Does that seem right to you?1 Let’s have a look at a rating system, the European PEGI.

“PEGI 12
Videogames that show violence of a slightly more graphic nature towards fantasy character and/or non graphic violence towards human-looking characters or recognisable animals, as well as videogames that show nudity of a slightly more graphic nature would fall in this age category. Any bad language in this category must be mild and fall short of sexual expletives.”

and

“PEGI 16
This rating is applied once the depiction of violence (or sexual activity) reaches a stage that looks the same as would be expected in real life. More extreme bad language, the concept of the use of tobacco and drugs and the depiction of criminal activities can be content of games that are rated 16+.”

PEGI

There are two possible arguments as to why the violence in World of Warcraft allows it to be rated 12+. One could either argue that WoW’s violence is non-graphic or that the cartoony art-style doesn’t qualify as “human-looking characters or recognisable animals.” This is bullshit.
It can’t be the spirit of the ratings to allow for active torture of both animals and humans but not for intoxication. WoW doesn’t deserve a 12+ rating – no MMO should have one really – but it’s surely not the references to alcohol that spoil the kids. Most kids see grown-ups (and not-so-grown-ups) buy and drink alcohol all the time. This is something they learn to deal with as something that you do when you are older. We have constant discussions on how violent video games spoil our youth, but suddenly it’s worse to have a drink than to murder someone? Seriously?

The guys and girls responsible for these ratings should get together and look at just how stupid their concoction is – but how about Blizzard, are they really innocent in this?
Hardly. They clearly market their game to 12-15 year olds or they wouldn’t want the 12+ rating in the first place. Yet they put in things like the Borean Tundra torture quest and funny booze. This is pure hypocrisy, they don’t care about what they are doing to the kids at all, they only care about their precious profit. They put in violence (and booze) wherever they think they can have it without violating ratings. If then someone complains about a particular quest, they just remove it.

Blizzard, if you want to make a game for 12 year olds then, dammit, have the decency to actually make it suitable for them. If you don’t want those youngsters – a solution I would very much prefer – then get a proper fraking rating. Age of Conan sucked, but at least they had the guts to go with 18+.

1Bonus geek points if you know which TV-character’s picture I meant to post next to this sentence.

Cheers at my guildie Melth for bringing me this story 🙂

  • Hey thanks for the explanation – although it's cheesy.
    And I agree to your assessment, especially after you mentioned that torture quest, which I just had forgotten 😛

    But can you really blame Blizzard? I mean like you said… they are catering at last to good parts to the teenage market segment. And what do those guys like? Right. Booze, Jack Bauer, e-peen.. <rummages in the clichee-box> (besides.. it's not as if no adult doesn't enjoy this stuff too)

    And in the end Blizzard wants to make money. Being a US company they probably develop stuff for their market/rules and let the EU guys handle whatever they need to do – even if it's deactivating content. Of course there is also the possibility they have a better communication and the EU law consultant just screwed up before they developed the quests.

    This leaves the open question about morality.
    Frankly I don't see a big problem with the use of alcohol in this game – because adults just suck at being a role model for reasonable behaviour.

    On the other hand I am apalled by that torture quest and I think it's stuff like that, which is more problematic because it slowly (in combination with other media) nurtures a certain mindset.
    But I could be biased there, because i just hated "24" 😛

  • Yes, I blame Blizzard too. As flawed as these ratings systems may be, they are virtually the only guideline parents to see whether a game is suitable for their kids or not. Yes you can say that they should watch their kids playing the game and intervene is necessary – but without big amounts of luck they won't ever see the torture quests for example.

    I blame Blizzard for blatantly playing games with these rating systems and just reacting to complaints instead of actually making their content suitable for the age groups they advertise to.

    Obviously PEGI and Co are flawed in that they don't accurately rate games – but the right thing to do as a company would be to be honest about your game's content.

    I seriously doubt that Blizzard would lose money by making their game actually fit the 12+ description. They might lose some if they go with 16+, not a lot though I bet. Personally I bought Age of Conan _because_ of the 18+ label – not because I want the violence but because I don't want the kids around 😉

    Anyway, this is not about tricking PEGI but about tricking parents that actually try to get appropriate games for their kids.

    Recent blog:=- The Wolpertinger Must Stay Free!

  • I don't really have anything intelligent to add, I'm just here for my geekpoints. Thank you

    I could rant about the rating system being idiotic and american's being hypocrites but then I would just repeat what everyone on the internet is complaining. You're right there Kerri, that even if PEGI is flawed and parents are responsible for their kids they can't keep them under constant surveilance and most of parents don't know too much about videogames so they need some info on the content of games