EA is set to publish a game developed by Epic Games and People Can Fly called Bulletstorm, which releases February 22nd on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. It is definitely an edgy game: it is reportedly one of the most profane games ever made, it is also full of crude sexual references, and its violent content is such that the game designers have referred to it as a 'blood symphony'. In fact, the central feature of the game are its 'skillshots', which reward players for killing enemies in the most creative (and bloody) ways possible.
So it has some fairly extreme content in it, which led to this article on Fox News. Taken at face value, the article is almost a PSA to parents about the game's content, which is all fair and good. Except Fox News takes it to the next level.
Beginning from the premise that "kids as young as 9" are playing such games, Fox says that the game is leading a trend whereby violence in games is "reaching a fever pitch". One psychologist quoted suggests - quite correctly - that kids could be psychologically damaged by experiencing this content. This is precisely why the Entertainment Ratings Software Board exists; moreover, the game and all its promotional materials are blazoned with the "M" rating and put behind age gates when posted on the Internet.
Fox News chooses, unfortunately, to up the controversy by claiming that Bullestorm's marketing is "clearly aimed at children and young adolescents". I have been following this game since it was first announced, and I have never seen a single sign that EA or its developers have been marketing this game to anything other than a very adult audience. Many adults will even find this too much for them, but claiming the game is marketed towards kids is amping the controversial aspects of the game too much. If Fox News really wanted to highlight questionable marketing, the ads for another EA game Dead Space 2 would be a far easier target because of its 'your mom hates this' campaign.
Part of EA's official response to this issue is worth quoting: "Bulletstorm is a work of entertainment fiction that takes place in the 26th century on the abandoned fictitious paradise planet Stygia, where our heroes fight mutants, monsters, flesh-eating plants and gigantic dinosaurs." In other words, it has very little applicability to reality, unlike other games which have generated controversy in the past (like the Grand Theft Auto series). EA also stresses its support for the ESRB and reiterates that "never is the game marketed to children."
Another aspect of Fox's article that is unsustainable is a quote given by a Carol Lieberman, who states that "The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in video games." I have never seen a study that suggests this, and the quote is given without any supporting evidence. In other words, Fox wishes to paint a game as controversial by using a number of very controversial statements of its own.
Written purely as a sort of PSA for parents who ignore ESRB warnings or refuse to educate themselves about games, the article is defensible. Where it goes awry is when it makes blatantly false claims about the game being marketed at children and claims that video games have led to a supposed increase in rape without so much as a shred of evidence.
HULIQ in no way wants to defend the content of the game, as it goes entirely against our editorial policy concerning violent media, but the way Fox News has painted it deserves criticism. As EA themselves noted, it can be equated to other forms of entertainment aimed at adults such as "[Quentin] Tarantino's Kill Bill or [Robert] Rodriguez's Sin City."
Update: For those interested in some further reading on the issue, there's been a lot written in reaction - especially in the 'enthusiast' gaming press. John Walker, writing for 'Rock, Paper, Shotgun' has does some solid journalism work uncovering exactly how poorly investigated the Fox News article is. You can find a series of articles here, here, and here. Regardless of whether one agrees with Fox's opinion on this matter, I think these pieces (particularly the last two links) paint a rather troubling picture of how the article was put together.