Tuesday
May242011

Portal 2 Incident: Video Games and Public Outrage

A YouTube video with the news broadcast mentioning Portal 2, and the controversy involved with a questionable quote from the game has officially gone viral, with over 200,000 views following its upload to the site on May 18.

The conflict in question originated from North Carolina, where Neil Staple and his 10-year-old adopted daughter were playing the game. Eventually, they came across savagely hilarious taunts ("Fatty... fatty fatty, no parents") from a robot antagonist in the game. Staple viewed this as a direct insult to adopted children and adoptive parents everywhere, claiming how this kind of dialogue was completely uncalled for, even though he and his daughter enjoyed the rest of the game.

Now it's one thing for a parent to react towards what they feel is a negative message in a video game, but for a professional news organization to lazily report the story as a world shattering disaster is pretty bad. Even after getting additional responses from other viewers in the gaming community, WBTV reporter Brigida Mack and her follow-up story come off as being uninformative and halfhearted. At the end of her first report, she also mentions how "We did contact Sony, who distributes the game. They told us to contact Valve, the company that actually created the game. I did, we have not heard them back from them."

Her colleague simply laughs at the scenario, and accuses Sony of passing the problem to another party; they basically act like Sony caused the problem. Even though Mack makes it clear that Valve is the game's developer, her colleague's remark reflects how this wasn't a misconception of who manages the content, but rather continuing the charade that it's some complicated issue Sony refuses to deal with. Sony was right in telling WBTV to contact Valve. Many viewers, however, could be mislead to believe that Sony is attempting to dodge another bullet, especially after the bad press received during those PSN outages.

What WBTV also fails to mention is how Wheatley, an eventual antagonist in Portal 2, is simply trying to impersonate the former persona of GLaDOS. They also censor the positive comments GLaDOS makes in Chell's defense, which would have lessened the impact of Wheatley's remarks. It's almost like this news network completely ignores the facts, while simply jumping to radical conclusions making Sony and Valve look worse.

 

Regardless, the industry is very familiar with rating conflicts. Similar instances occurred in the early 90s, including outrage over the violence and suggestive themes experienced in games like Mortal Kombat and Night Trap. As a result, Senators Herb Kohl and Joe Liberman began passing regulations to assist in the creation of Sega's Video Game Rating Council, causing games to receive lettered ratings and age classifications. Panasonic also attempted a similar move with their 3DO rating system, though these and others ─ including The Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC) ─ eventually became overshadowed by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).

Even with the ESRB, quite possibly the greatest solution for content regulation problems, arguments against violent and suggestive themes continued to escalate. Back in 2003, radical anti-video game activist and attorney Jack Thompson headed a lawsuit against Take-Two Interactive, Sony, and Wal-Mart. The lawsuit was a result of two young individuals ─ both tremendous fans of Grand Theft Auto III ─ killing one man and wounding another woman. Thompson claimed these organizations were liable for releasing questionable content, and therefore responsible for damages.

Another recent example is the radical California law proposed to heavily monitor sales of "violent" video games to minors, and by using methods already deemed unconstitutional by the industry, consumers, and other lawmakers alike.

Judging by the reactions of other gaming individuals (including the 7,600+ who clicked "dislike" on that viral YouTube video), it's highly likely that Neil Staple overreacted to the remarks in Portal 2. Even WBTV asked if his daughter had heard the quote, to which he responded, "She's sticking to her guns that she didn't hear it, and to me that message means she's not ready to talk about it, and I'm not going to force it."

Nobody truly knows, however, if his daughter even heard the official quote, or if she really paid attention to it. Either way she'll have many questions to ask her father when this entire controversy dies down. Perhaps instead of contacting the media, he should've taken the time to calm down and legitimately discussed these concepts with his daughter in private. If she wanted to talk about it, he could hear her out. If she didn't, he could've honored her request and kept himself reserved to her needs.

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Reader Comments (2)

Context was certainly an issue in this event. Everybody focused on a few lines without accounting for the entire scene.

The channel and it's reporters knew exactly what they did. They misrepresented information in an effort to grab audiences. Shock value sells.

All I can hope is that people are smart enough to see through the bullshit and call these clowns out when they act up.

Brigida Mack, you are unprofessional and you do not deserve a job as a reporter.

As for the father, he needs grow a pair and man up to the fact that discrimination exists on all levels. He cannot protect his daughter forever and one day he will have to confront those issues head on.

May 29, 2011 | Registered CommenterIodine

Unfortunately, most uninformed folks who see this will probably jump onto the "let's get outraged at nothing" bandwagon. It's the responsibility of viewers to realize what they're looking at, but regrettably, some will dismiss any sort of critical thinking they could have applied to the matter, simply being lazy and believing whatever they hear.

May 31, 2011 | Registered CommenterSeandood

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