Saturday, November 25, 2006

Media Panic Kills Rule of Rose

The UK release date for Rule of Rose has now come and gone, in the midst of a Europe-wide (media-produced?) controversy that has effectively killed any plans to release the game in the EU. Online news publication Ars Technica has a great article on the controversy and ultimate "canning" of the game, as does Matteo Bittani's Videoludica, with backgrounders here and here. The Ars Technica article has some particularly good stuff to say about the press' misrepresentation of the game's content, including exaggerations and all-out-inaccuracies:
This is starting to become something of a standard by which games with odd or questionable content are talked about. Bully was described as a "Columbine Simulator," and many groups used the title as a talking point against games as a whole, even though the game was rated Teen and has very light scenes of violence, and in fact can be seen as being anti-bullying. The truth of the game, which came out when the press and the ESRB played the game, did nothing to stop the bad and exaggerated press from saying surprisingly inaccurate things about it. When the mainstream press gets a hold of a story about the game with the possibility of sensationalism, truth seems to get thrown away very quickly, as does the value of actually sitting down and playing the game.

The end result of all the bad press? 505 Games has made the decision to cancel the game’s release. So far, no news has been released concerning any other publishing houses being interested in releasing the game in the UK or Italy. This isn't a big loss for gamers on the surface—the game simply isn’t worth all the talk it has inspired—but it does create a bad precedent. With a few talking points and by misreporting the content in a game, it is possible to exert enough pressure to block the game from being released. This is the strange case of the sensationalist press being able to sell a story that anyone could prove was wrong by simply playing the game—and no one listened.

So, I finally got what I was anticipating - a big "hoopla" around Rule of Rose - though to pretty dismal results, unfortunately, as the game has been banned and pulled in European markets. In terms of my study, however, this development has further significance, because it just highlights even more the lack of any such attention in the US.

p.s. For some historical context on this, read this awesome Gamasutra interview with the creator of Night Trap, one of the first games along with Mortal Kombat to attract massive political controversy.

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