Bulletstorm: The Worst Game Ever?

By Jonathan Barnes, 7 years ago
It's that time of year again; the time of year when the "mainstream media" (although I use the term very loosely in this case) decides that the video game industry has gone too far and is destroying the youth of America... nee' the world.

On Tuesday (February 8th) Fox News ran a story under the headline "Is Bulletstorm the Worst Video Game in the World?". TrueAchievements has done a bang-up job with pre-release coverage for the new IP, so I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that, if you’re reading this column, you know something about the game. Having assumed that, we can all agree that the game is a vulgar, over-the-top, homage/parody of shooters both new and old. Drawing inspiration from storied IPs like Duke Nukem, Gears of War, and Halo, then putting those ideas through a twisted, comedic blender SOUNDS like such a good idea, and, if early videos and previews are any indication, the game is going to be great and great fun.

It also sounds like it's sure to receive an "M" rating.

Evidently, that's not good enough for the media watchdog that is Fox News. In the story, John Brandon introduces Bulletstorm with the following:

In the new video game Bulletstorm due February 22, players are rewarded for shooting enemies in the private parts (such as the buttocks). There’s an excess of profanity, of course, including frequent use of F-words. And Bulletstorm is particularly gruesome, with body parts that explode all over the screen.

But that's not the worst part.

The in-game awards system, called Skill Shots, ties the ugly, graphic violence into explicit sex acts: "topless" means cutting a player in half, while a "gang bang" means killing multiple enemies. And with kids as young as 9 playing such games, the experts FoxNews.com spoke with were nearly universally worried that video game violence may be reaching a fever pitch.
Before I start in on their so-called "experts", let me immediately address the acrid stench of malodorous feces that is the statement "kids as young as 9 play (sic) such games".

Yes, kids play video games. I'm sure our membership at TA has a good number of active members who are under the age of consent, but to cast aside games of mature focus for the simple reason that "a kid could play it" is as ridiculous as library's banning everything Stephen King wrote, Alfred Hitchcock filmed, or Metallica recorded because a kid might be exposed to it.

Additionally, according to the Entertainment Software Association, the average age of gamers is 34. Furthermore, I find it ludicrous to believe that any store clerk in their right mind would sell Bulletstorm to a nine-year-old. Finally, it's equally asinine to think that any responsible parent or adult would buy Bulletstorm for a child so young.

Now let's move on to these "experts" and their opinions.

Expert #1 - Dr. Jerry Weichman - Clinical Psychologist at the Hoag Neurosciences Institute:

If a younger kid experiences Bulletstorm's explicit language and violence, the damage could be significant.
This, at best, is conjecture. There have been numerous studies finding on both sides of the issue. One needs to look no further than the oral arguments of Schwarzenegger vs. the EMA to see that both sides reference studies of equal academic prestige that find on both sides of this issue. Frankly, no one is sure why violent people do the things they do, and to blame those heinous actions solely on one cause; be it Marilyn Manson, J.D. Salinger, Quentin Tarantino, or Marcus Fenix is intellectually dishonest at best and libelous at worst.

On to jackwagon... I mean "expert" #2 - Carol Lieberman, a psychologist and book author:

The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in video games.
This quote, above most of the others, incites me to an intellectual rage that few have ever managed to equate.

First things first: One cannot equate correlation to causation.

Example: The House of Representatives in the United States is in the midst of heated debate about abortion funding and Egypt is in the middle of huge governmental riots. You cannot say that Egypt was incited to riot because of a debate on abortion funding or (conversely) The House is debating abortion funding because Egypt is rioting.

The best part about this ridiculous mistruth is that G4's Stephen Johnson has completely debunked everything Lieberman said by using... get this... FACTS:

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the per-capita victimization rate of rape has declined from about 2.4 per 1000 people (age 12 and above) in 1980 to about 0.4 per 1000 people, a decline of about 85%. Where video game playing has increased a billion-trillion percent in the same period. I can only conclude that psychologist and book author Carol Lieberman is either amazingly ignorant, or simply not telling the truth.
It's also worth saying that Bulletstorm seems to be completely devoid of player-incited rape... as is most EVERY GAMER RELEASED TO WESTERN AUDIENCES (I'll grant http://www.trueachievements.com/Tony-Hawk-RIDE-xbox-360.htm a pass.).

On to asshat (I can't maintain this pretense any more.) #3: Melanie Killen, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Maryland:

The marketing is clearly aimed at children and young adolescents.
As Newshound, I've seen virtually all of the pre-release marketing and can't seem to wrap my mind around how she feels their sarcastic marketing ploy has been aimed at children. Yes, it's sophomoric. Yes, it's funny. Yes, it's somewhat vulgar. Is it being aired during Ni Hao, Kai-Lan or something? Of course not. In fact, the ESA has very strict rules about the marketing of "M" rated games, rules that EA has followed to the letter with all of their advertisements.

Finally, let's hear from Billy Pidgeon, a video game analyst with M2 Research:

Games without sufficient quality of gameplay — games that include highly objectionable violent or sexual content — often pump up the level of this kind of content to gain media attention. This tactic typically fails, as can be seen in the poor sales performance of titles such as BMX XXX and Postal.
I'm glad that an "analyst" has already decided that Bulletstorm is going to suck because it's violent. Lord knows that Red Dead Redemption, http://www.trueachievements.com/BioShock-xbox-360.htm, http://www.trueachievements.com/Grand-Theft-Auto-IV-xbo....htm, http://www.trueachievements.com/Assassins-Creed-II-xbox....htm, PS3's God of War III, and the Wii's MadWorld were all bloody terrible!

The best part about this quote is that it was taken completely out of context. In a story run the very next day with Rock, Paper Shotgun, Pidgeon reveals that his quote was completely misrepresented. His FULL quote read:

The market will favor games with quality gameplay and content, so if Bulletstorm is a good game, gamers seventeen and older will likely buy it. Games without sufficient quality of gameplay — games that include highly objectionable violent or sexual content — often pump up the level of this kind of content to gain media attention…
Pidgeon further shared the biased, leading questions that Fox News asked its so called "experts" about the game. Enjoy the machinations of leading questions and piss-poor journalistic integrity!

Fox News: Bulletstorm glorifies violence for fun and extra points. You can shoot the bad guys in the private parts for points, get drunk and shoot for more points, throw a chain with spikes and hook enemies. But some of the worst parts are actually related to the names for the skill shots and the in-game dialogue, which is definitely profane. What should be done about these games?
Gee... when you put it like that, this game is Satan!

Fox: Those who are against violent games say there should be more restrictions on games like Bulletstorm. How is that argument valid or not valid?
Violence BAD!!! Puppies and kittens GOOD!!!

Fox: One issue is that it is easy to download the demo on Xbox and PS3, there are few if any warnings and no blocks. Should there be?

Fox: Many parents are also gamers — if they see no problem with these types of games, what should they do to voice an opinion?

The simple fact of the matter is, Fox News is, once again, beating the video game drum with less-than-accurate facts, less-than-informed "experts", and less-than-tasteful coverage. Their smearing of Bulletstorm is only slightly more tasteful than their 2008 slandering of http://www.trueachievements.com/Mass-Effect-xbox-360.htm.

In short, for every forward step video games take as an artistic, respected, cultured medium, there's always some two-bit hack who wants to drag them back to "children's entertainment" without being fully informed of facts. This yellow journalism does nothing to contribute to society and only serves to retard every bit of advancement that the medium we love attempts to make.
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.