Constructive Criticism

Constructive Criticism
Reviewing Blood, Sex and Magic

Fintan Monaghan | 29 Jun 2010 08:29
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While the presence or absence of magic may not be a deal breaker for most gamers, sites like CCGR can prove an invaluable resource for concerned Christians who wish to shield their children from the occult forces, and could presumably also be useful to practicing wizards who could reverse the score and find themselves some extreme magical games. For the rest of us, it's a great opportunity to take a look at games from a different perspective.

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So what if magic isn't to your tastes? Well, there's always sex and violence. The Christian sites can usually be relied on for a good assessment of brutality and erotica, but I prefer to go with the experts.

"In Bayonetta, the bloody violence is frequent and consists of clouds of blood, arterial spurts and flying limbs during combat, as well as 'torture' moves in which Bayonetta puts her enemies on a rack, into a spiked cabinet and so on. Such sequences are not presented in a realistic manner - one involves pulling a female monster to a rack and tightening a chain - with resulting breast jiggling - before the victim explodes in a puff of blood and body parts."

A critique by some sadistic blogger with a weirdly eroticised view of violence? Not quite. The quote comes from a British censor's report.

The reports of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the American/Canadian Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) have always produced some of the more interesting censor reports. Other jurisdictions pale in comparison. The European censors only release a rather uninspired rating with no report, kind of like a review consisting of only an unexplained mark out of ten. The notoriously prudish Australian Classification (Review) Board also disappoint, publishing only appeal hearings which read with the scintillating prose of a court judgment

It's an old cliché that American censors are more hung up on sex, while the Brits are more bothered about violence; a comparison of the reports often backs this up. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 feels the wrath of the BBFC for its "moderate violence" and the report goes into detail about heavy interrogation scenes involving hypodermic needles and knives. The ESRB makes no mention of this at all, but does choose to mention the presence of women in cleavage-revealing outfits.

What makes the British censor reports worth reading are their bizarrely detailed accounts of violence. The above extract from Bayonetta could have simply said "there was a lot of bloody violence," but instead goes into gruesome detail about exactly what horrific delights that gore aficionados can expect. There almost seems to be an air of the critic in this one, expressing disappointment at the lack of realism. Add to this the clinical, bureaucratic tone that seems totally at odds with the subject matter and they often end up reading like the diary of a psychopathic English civil servant.

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