M. Kelly (bm03) wrote,
M. Kelly

"transcend Wal-Mart"

The following is an opinion piece I wrote for GPol on the subject of a recent issue in Boston regarding advertising for the most recent Grand Theft Auto rehash PSP game on public transport.

It's a touch underdeveloped (and nonpublished) due to nobody really paying it any attention in the staff forum, but it needs posting into the world anyway. Tell me what you think.


Kudos, first, to Mr. Grabauskas for seeing past the controversy and daring to suggest that there might just be other evils in the world than videogames.

However, any real congratulation may be premature.

The wheels have been set in motion so that, once those for Vice City Stories have ended their run, no more adverts for games rated 'M' or 'AO' will see the light of the station again.

Banning AO adverts isn't really much of a gesture on the part of the Transit Authority- as we know, the number of AO games released is low- a mere 23 according to Wikipedia- and so can hardly represent a major stream of income for anybody selling advertising.

The reason there are so few AO titles- as we should all well know by now- are because they're not economically viable. They're not economically viable because, amongst other retailers, Wal-Mart- responsible for a massive percentage of game sales Stateside- won't stock them. If they won't stock your game, it's finished, according to publishers. You can see this in the fact that Atari felt the need to release a modified version of Fahrenheit for the American market in order to drop to an M rating, and that a certain minigame was crudely hacked out of GTA: San Andreas.

If you like, you could say that there's a bit of a stigma of sorts around the Adults Only rating.

Now, suddenly, there's a problem surrounding the M rating, for Bostonians, at least. M-rated games are now apparently unacceptable, and despite Grabauskas' assertion to the opposite in his letter, there is a victory, and there is a battle, fought part way down a very slippery slope.

This is the beginning of the M rating's vilification.

The viability of an M rated game has now taken a minor hit in that one of its advertising spots has now been placed out of reach- a hit which will increase in size if more transit systems follow Boston's lead, as Portland has already. However, this doesn't spell disaster just yet- plenty of M games get along without advertising.

Should Wal-Mart decide that the furore over Mature titles is a big enough issue, we can expect to see those games disappear from their shelves as well, as we nearly saw happen with the T-rated Bully, which makes a Mature game as big a risk as an AO title.

(That being said, the Grand Theft Auto brand might be big enough to transcend Wal-Mart's power and push people into the specialist store, which can only be a good thing)

This could be the beginning of a stealth version of the Comics Code, and could cripple this artform in the same the way it crippled its own- and it could be a much harder one to shift.

We can't afford to let this happen.
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