You will respect my authoritah and stop censoring me you F#&$!
Believe it or not, the world is a big place outside our little slice of heaven known as the good ole’ US of A. While no one would deny that we’ve become increasingly more progressive over the years (regarding what’s acceptable in television, films and music), censorship in our country is still prevalent. Video games are no exception, as the ESRB acts as the content Nazi (this reference will come in handy later on). However, in the case of recently released South Park: The Stick of Truth, America turns out not to be the biggest square at the party: that honor goes to folks in Europe and Australia.
South Park made a name for itself in the late 90’s by pushing the envelope of adult content in animation. While Family Guy currently wears that crown, you can easily make the argument that it was co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone that paved the way. In a strange twist, Stick of Truth has been forced to maneuver more hurdles in the video game field than found in television today. The title was delayed in both Europe (Germany and Austria specifically) as well as Australia, due to restricted content (which was easily approved by the ESRB by the way). In a recent interview, Stone reveals how they were put through their paces in getting the game released and the double-standard he feels existed. “…They have their own ratings system, as does Europe, so I was told that we had to submit it for ratings and they come back and tell you this will pass, this won't. Ultimately, the full version of the game is in North America, so at least that version is out there, but anywhere it's censored in the other version, we just put in little black cards explaining what has happened. It’s not that big a deal. It doesn't change things that much…It does feel like a double standard, a little bit.” He states.
While North America usually gets the reputation as the wet blanket, does anyone else find Europe and Australia’s touchiness interesting? And by interesting, I mean hypocritical.
After all, isn’t it the folks across the pond who are always criticizing us for our closed minded nature regarding sex in this country? We are widely regarded around the world as behind the times when it comes to a sexual renaissance. Hell, if you don’t believe me, just Google some German porn. I promise you won’t sleep for a week (as I’ve already been up for days myself). Yet, when it comes to a video game like South Park, people get all up in arms. While Stone feels this is due to the interactive nature of gaming, I have to call BS on that. Just because our hobby affords someone more choices than say, an action film or erotic novel, doesn’t mean it should be held to a different standard.
It’s yet another example of the video game industry being forced to jump through hoops that others are not. The German and Austrian governments are the worst offenders, as the game’s Swastika is apparently what got their feathers ruffled. In what amounts to a revisionist attempt at white-washing their past, this is the equivalent of the United States striking any references of slavery from our text books. So if you’re keeping score, video games depicting Nazi symbols (told you I’d call this back) are a no-no. However, two girls, one cup…perfectly fine. Makes sense right?
The Stick of Truth’s censorship (or lack thereof in the US) clearly highlights how moral standards, which fluctuate drastically depending on geography, are ambiguous at best and completely broken at worst. In some ways (when compared to the rest of the globe), maybe we’re not as stiff-assed as we thought?