Wednesday, July 29, 2015

An Open Letter to Bioware Regarding Explicit Content


Your games (specifically the Mass Effect and Dragon Age Trilogies) are among the finest action-RPGs on the market. In anticipation of Mass Effect: Andromeda, I feel compelled to write openly on behalf of a minority demographic your team may not be aware of: players who love the story and action elements of the game but don’t care for the explicit content. I’m asking on behalf of myself and others for you to add a feature in the settings of your future titles allowing players to set which explicit content they want displayed in the games—namely language, gore, and sexual content.

Please understand that I am not advocating censorship, but merely choice. I am a writer myself, and I know I don’t want anyone telling me what is or isn’t appropriate for my own work. Instead of trying to control the content you put in your games, I’m simply asking for the choice to customize my experience for maximum enjoyment. Videogames have the unique providence of being a medium built around individuals. I can already control gaming aspects like difficulty, subtitles, and graphic and auditory settings, so why not what explicit content I see and hear? Choice is a key aspect of Bioware games, it is one of the attributes that truly make your titles stand out, so why not extend that choice further into the real world, embracing players who want to play the games without the explicit aspects? Of course those of us who want to limit our own exposure to explicit content already have a choice: to not play. But I hope you’ll give us a third option: to play without the content we hope to avoid in media.

I have seen countless forum threads where gamers have asked if X game has an option to turn off explicit content, and the answer is almost always the same: no such option exists. The replies on these threads then usually go on to mock the gamer in question, attempting to emasculate the player (regardless of whether they are male or female), telling them they need to “grow a pair” etc. I don’t see any need for this kind of mentality in the gaming world. Bioware games champion the fact that different kinds of people, leaders, and problem-solvers all have a place, e.g. you can be a renegade, you can be a paragon, etc. I don’t think Bioware needs to limit its fan base to those who enjoy explicit content. My reasons for wanting to limit my own exposure to explicit content are personal. Strangers don’t have to understand my reasons for them to be valid.

I know I’m not the only one with concerns about what kind of content will be in ME:A. The first Mass Effect game had no strong language, very little gore, and very brief partial nudity, while the most recent Mass Effect game had strong language at times, gore in the form of heads exploding when sniped, and the most recent Dragon Age game had much more explicit nudity. It leads some of us to wonder what the future holds if in such a short period of time this much new explicit content is introduced.

Let me reiterate my stance that this is a personal choice. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong for any other person to view or enjoy this content, but that as for myself I know I want to avoid it, and that I can enjoy your future action-RPGs much more without it. I hope I am not opening myself and others up to derision by asking for this concession, but I hope you will seriously consider implementing three separate toggles in the settings of your future games to control language, gore, and sexuality. Some games have given these options in the past, but I challenge you to set an industry standard by doing this with your A-list, flagship titles. Show that you care about all of your fans, not just the majority, and other companies will follow.

Regardless of what you choose to do, please accept my gratitude for making some of the best games I’ve ever played.


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