GDC Online 2011: Lead writer of Saints Row: The Third says as soon as developers start treating M for Mature games maturely, the ESRB will follow suit.
AUSTIN, TX--It's not unusual for the Game Developers Conference Online to have developer issue calls to action and other pleas to change their ways. Still, it's perhaps a little unusual that a developer behind Saints Row, a series notorious for taking absurdist delight in shocking behavior, is calling for a more mature approach to making games.
In a GDC Online roundtable session devoted to developer horror stories about the mistakes they've made and the lessons learned in the process, Volition lead writer Steve Jaros shared a tale about the THQ-owned studio's attempt to make a game based on Marvel Comics character The Punisher with an M for Mature rating. Despite the rating, Jaros said the ESRB had issues with many of the ways the developer implemented violence into the game and gave players direct control over it. As a result, much of what the developers had planned for the game was scaled back or neutered, and the end result was not what it could have been, Jaros admitted. However, he stressed that the ESRB shouldn't be painted as the villain in the scenario.
"The problem is that as an industry, to get a little snobby, we say that mature games are games where you go and kill someone," Jaros said. "It's mature because the head gibs. The game is mature because there's nudity, because we say f*** a lot. But that's not what makes a game mature. It's about themes. It's about why you are doing that. If we start making that change, the ESRB will come along with us. But that's a change that seems internal that we have to go along and make...The moment we start asking ourselves, 'Should we do something? Do we need to have that body die like that?' Then we're going to be OK."