Saturday, March 14, 2009

Killzone 2 Ads Pulled from Bus Shelters

Earlier this week, Sony removed about 300 bus shelter ads for it's recent PlayStation 3 exclusive shooter, Killzone 2. The reason: They received numerous complaints that their bus shelter ads were too violent.

As described in this Toronto Star article, the offending posters are those of the game's box art (pictured left), a masked character with glowing red eyes and a breathing tube.

One of the core complaints came from school teacher Davis Mirza, who believes the ad subjects children to violence and war, and that such things are unnecessary in the Scarborough area of Toronto, which already has it's share of violence.

Prior to scrapping the entire bus shelter campaign, additional ads were pulled from Toronto's Regent Park area due to similar complaints lodged by Councillor Pam McConnell's office.

My thoughts on the whole affair? A complete overreaction and fear-mongering. While I respect both Mr. Mirza's and Councillor McConnell's opinions and their overall intent to help protect children from violence, pulling the bus shelter ads for Killzone 2 accomplishes nothing but to perpetuate ignorance.

Firstly, the ad itself shows nothing explicit, and can be easily compared to various artwork I've seen of Darth Vader, a popular Star Wars character in children's eyes. Secondly, I have seen far more offensive ads on bus shelters, that, to the best of my knowledge, were never removed due to complaints. These include ads for various feature films, lingerie, and fragrance lines. Thirdly, Killzone 2 is a mature-rated game, which means it can not be legally sold to anyone under the age of 17. In fact, you open up any newspaper or turn on any news channel, and I'll show you imagery more violent than that which is found in this bus shelter ad.

On a personal note, I am now 28.5 years old. I have lived in Scarborough all of my life (and have chosen to remain here), I have been playing violent video games ever since I can remember, and I for one do not encourage real violence and have not been "corrupted" by video games. I have a healthy social life, career, and am generally considered a very responsible, polite, and easy-to-get-along with individual.

The removal of the Killzone 2 bus shelter ads is filled with the simple scape-goating tactic of deflecting blame and responsibility that we've all seen before, with video games now as the focus of every one's "it corrupts us" scare tactics. The fact is, the world is and always has been a violent place, life is hard, and it's up to parents, as responsible adults, to teach their children what is right and wrong, and what is real and make-believe.

When I was a child, my parents would not only watch the video games I'd play, but they'd also try them (even though they generally weren't that good at them) and discuss them with me, and they made sure I knew that they were just a game and not real life, that the contents of the game were not and could not be applied to reality. So, why don't other parents do this?

Today, as previously mentioned, it is now illegal to sell M-rated games to children. This means that if a parent does not want their child playing Killzone 2 or any other such M rated title, they or someone else must purchase the game for them. Game consoles of this generation come with parental controls that allow them to prevent M-rated titles from being played, so even if the child is able to acquire the game, the parent can still prevent it from ever working.

Yet most parents are either "too busy" or too intimidated by the technology to learn about their own child's hobby, which leads to young kids playing games meant for a completely different audience. So who is to blame for this? The developers for making the violent game? The publishers for marketing the violent game? Or the parents for being too irresponsible to take 5 minutes to Google a title to see if it's appropriate, or reading the console's manual to learn about Parental Controls, and for allowing the "offending" media into their household to begin with.

So in the end, what does the removal of Killzone 2 posters do to remedy violence in our society? Nothing. Nothing but allow irresponsible adults to point their fingers at someone else and scream "Won't somebody please think of the children!"

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