Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fable 3: Most. Awkward. Game. EVER.

It's possible that Fable 3 won't be the most awkward game ever. Just because Peter Molyneux says you'll be able to do something in a game doesn't mean it's going to make it into the final product.

If what he's being saying lately pans out, however, you will be able to get it on with co-op partners.


Okay, this sounds cool and fun in theory. Friends can have a good laugh about it, couples can bring their romance in-game or use it as an unsatisfying substitute when one of them has had a long day, etc. It would also make Fable 3, as far as I am aware, unique among video games as a game where virtual sex with another player is actually part of the game and not simply something imagined via chat fields by people with a 30-day World Of Warcraft trial in the basement of Goldshire Inn.

Part of me wants to drop everything I'm doing and make an EGS:NP comic about it as the potential for jokes are astronomical, but another part of me is simply worried about this being included. I don't have any moral objections, but I know others will, and while the potential for in-game sexual harassment has always existed (I myself was harassed in Champions Online), the fact that virtual copulation could actually be possible in Fable 3 takes it to a whole new level.

Of course, Fable 3 will not be an MMORPG. If you're playing with someone, it's because you've allowed them to play with you. The game will no doubt be rated M, so in theory, everyone playing will be adults. Theory is a tricky thing, however, and I can guarantee there will be people below the age of consent playing this game. Does that become an issue? Wait, what am I saying? Of course it's an issue. It's one I haven't seen brought up, but it's definitely a huge frikkin'  issue.

What happens when an adult, knowingly or unknowingly, has a virtual affair with someone on their friends list who is underage? Is that a crime? Should it be a crime? Is the equivalent of "they were in a bar so I thought they were old enough" defense valid given the M rating?

What if someone asks for in-game gold beforehand? Is that prostitution? Can Microsoft points be gifted, and if so, can people effectively exchange real cash in exchange for in-game procreation? Granted, that seems like a horrible use of money given that the screen likely just goes to black with maybe a sound or two thrown in, but this is still one of those questions that will be asked by people other than geeky bloggers. Remember the turmoil over the Mass Effect sex scene? This entire concept makes that seem quaint.

I assume there's already an effective ruling on these issues given that, as with my Goldshire Inn example, one doesn't need the game's consent to engage in such activities. I suspect one could give a specific "place vs. person" court ruling answer to most of these questions. That said, would Fable 3 treating the virtual procreation as an authorized game mechanic make them liable when lines are crossed? Will it need its own terms of service independent of XBox Live to avoid such liability?

The number of potential issues that go so far as to bring up questions of legality make me wonder if this innovative idea is worth having and if the world is ready for it. The potential underage issue also leads me to wonder if this could backfire in another major way, that way being the ESRB slapping the game with an AO, or "Adults Only", rating. Given that most retailers refuse to carry AO games, such a thing would be financially devastating to the game and effectively require the removal of said content.

Having to remove content and test to make certain the game still functions properly is a costly proposition in and of itself, but avoidance of an AO rating is pretty much a necessity. If this mechanic is effectively a guaranteed AO slap to the face, someone needs to spare the programmers and play testers some grief and break the news to Molyneux.

In spite of all this, I do like the idea of being able to do more in video games, and I would be thrilled if this feature could be included without it being a big deal. I would probably never use the feature myself, but its presence and lack of opposition to its existing would be a sign of progress and tolerance. I just don't think that's going to be the case. I think I'm going to see things like "FOX News chastises Fable 3 Sex" and "parents call for ban of Fable 3" in my RSS feeds.

What do you think? Are my concerns valid? Should this feature be left on the cutting room floor?


  1. Yeah it'll cause a lot of issues. I think it should be left as an offline feature rather than an online one.

  2. "I think I'm going to see things like "FOX News chastises Fable 3 Sex" and "parents call for ban of Fable 3" in my RSS feeds."

    That's because you can see "FOX News chastises Sex" and "parents call for ban of <insert computer/console game name here" in your RSS feeds for pretty much every game made since the NES came out.

  3. I trust we all realize however that the scandal around the Mass Effect Sex Scene. . .was propagated by lies. Lies and Deceit!

    Then toss in that this aspect of Fable 3: Virtual Responsability(the kid) for a Virtual Act(the sex).

    Don't know about you, but I see that as a GOOD thing. Teach those kids that their actions have consequences! And unlike in single-player, their co-op player may not be willing to just let it go ^_^

  4. BWAHAHA! This is going to be very fun! I'm a game designer myself, so whatever can be added to games, I'm all for it.

    As for PR problems--remember! There is NO SUCH THING as bad publicity! Any protests will just end up leading to more dough for our kind of people!

  5. Unless, as I'm worried might happen, that public scorn results in an AO rating. I also worry it's something that could be retroactively thrust upon the game for political reasons, similar to what happened with Oblivion for the PC.

  6. I literally can't wait until the FOX News hears about this.

  7. “As far as I am aware, unique among video games as a game where virtual sex with another player is actually part of the game and not simply something imagined via chat fields”

    There are others, Life-Sims such as Half-life have had sex interaction between players for YEARS and normally far more interactive and visual then anything fable 3 would likely have in it.

    Not to start any type of war here, but let’s face it kids need to learn about sex ed early on in life anyway, so what’s the point of removing it from games? I don’t really feel like quoting anything just look up sexual activity in middle school and birthrates 15-17.
    With anything safe sex practices, information, and repercussions would benefit young gamers.

    People just like complaining, I say developers should tell the ESRB were to shove it, just do what the movie industry dose, and just mark everything as un-rated.

  8. It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out. I myself believe that it's just a game and shouldn't be taken so seriously. What goes on in the world of Fable 3 should not effect real life.... just like Vegas.....

  9. I wouldn't know cause I haven't played it
    I play mostly strategy, city simulation & civ games, with Eve Online the only mmo (taught about star trek online but i haven't heard good critics & Eve is cheaper in the long run)(The SIms & pokemon as well)
    Last rpg i played was Diablo 2, well if you don't count the legend of zelda, pokémon ect.. as rpg

  10. "Video games are bad for you? That's what they said about rock-n-roll."
    Shigeru Miyamoto

  11. Second Life had an issue a few years back with underage avatars in their program. Now the program is already "restricted" to adults (as restricted as daddy's credit card is) but there was a huge to-do from the German government over it. While it's a separate type of issue, I think the concerns are the same. Interesting idea, but drop it.

  12. Course it's gonna be a problem. Not only with the sex, but because minors frequently gain access to M-rated games by either manipulating their parents or from their parent's misjudgement. Just look at this URL for example:

  13. Okay, I shouldn't go on that not always right website. My blood pressure can't stand it.

  14. With the exception of who would sell it and for what machines, I don't believe a rating of AO would really matter for the people buying the game. Someone who's 16 can ask an 18-year-old friend to buy if for them. Uncles think their nephew "can handle it." Quite frankly, given how few parents actually pay attention to the ratings (in my past experience from working at a TRU in the gaming area, anyway), I really don't see how they think one year of age will make any difference for the person playing it. If Microsoft wants the game on their XBox360, they'll dial it down to fit the M rating.

  15. There are so many things wrong with what is said on that site.

  16. An AO rating for a video game is like an NC-17 rating for a theatrical release: you may as well kiss whatever money you put into it goodbye because it's NOT going to make it back given that most retailers won't touch it with 10,000 foot pole. The whole "do the parents check" issue becomes moot by virtue of the title simply not being available.

  17. I honestly have no idea where to place my thoughts on this issue. I honestly can't guess how this will explode. I'm really curious to what the media out lash shall be, but I doubt it will be all to positive. However, I severely doubt it'll get a rating higher than "M", and the most basic issue is keeping the game out of the hands of those underaged, and the news companies still not understanding games aren't just for kids.

    However, at the end of the day, the issue will just be lost to the breeze.

  18. I see that lawyer (oh wait they took his license)from Florida to start a new anti-games campaign (cause all entertainment is evil (according to him))

  19. ESRB gives a warning on all online games, "Online action is not rated by the ESRB". So no worries on that. It won't get a rating higher then a M unless there is Sexual Content(having sex) shown.

    Past games have proven that(Grand Theft Auto series have done a good job of that.) as long as sexual organs of down below aren't shown interacting it is ok. So it will get slapped with an M rating. Even if they do have the options odds are that an M rated version will be sold to the public with the AO version of the game only available online.(Leisure Suit Larry: Magna cum Laude is an example of this.)

    Other then that, I would wait until the game comes out to say more. The rest is pure speculation at this point. Though Fable:The Lost Chapters and Fable 2 have proved that prostitution even if that happens odds are most people won't care.

  20. This might make you feel better about not always right:

  21. Yeah, I'm late. I just have to wonder what folks round here would make of a Japanese MMORPG called "7 Warriors Online"? Seriously AO. Warning - you'd better be able to read and speak Japanese to play...

  22. And... just saw this...

    How about we look at what a kid getting pregnant in Fable III would be:

    Another Baby Doll. That is all.

    I mean, giving a kind a Baby Doll and a stroller is not really seen as a bad thing--except in a few cases where it is a boy that is playing with a doll... but that exits the scope we need to deal with her.

    This is not a real underage pregnancy. Nothing sex wise would really be shown. And after it is over, there is a doll here.

    The characters in the game, that would be having sex are at the legal age of consent. As with Fable II you could not solicit a child for sex (I tried... just to see if I could... the child got a "I do not like you rating", however seeing as how my character is Buddha in Fable II, he quickly forgot it... but still no underage sex). So the depictions on the screen are implied consentual sex between two adults--unless you can do rape as an evil character (playing evil never really interested me though, so I do not know). So, on the screen, it is two adults.

    If anything, this is no worse that bumping a Ken doll into a Barbie doll, and saying that Kelly was made from this (or Teen Skipper, depending on current resources for doll house activities).

  23. Creepy when you consider that the player character is the descendant of the player character from the previous game.

    Which would make two player characters gettin' it on related.