Aficionados will remember 1972 as the year video games were born, with the arrival of ‘‘Pong.’’ Perhaps someday they will remember 2004 as the year video games died.
Attribute it to ‘‘The Guy Game,’’ from Topheavy Studios, best described as ‘‘Girls Gone Wild conquers your Playstation,’’ and the apotheosis of a season when video games finally found sex.
There’s not much to review, really. Players spend the game in the following manner: Guess the answer to a trivia question, and then guess whether a woman in accompanying footage filmed during spring break on Texas’ South Padre Island will get the answer, too.
If she’s wrong, she must remove her top for an excited off-screen crowd. The more often the player predicts her answer, the more the game removes its digital obscurations.
Calling this demeaning is like saying anteaters’ favorite food is ants.
Some questions are tailormade for this crowd (the ZIP code of Beverly Hills?) while some are tailor-made for the crowd of onlookers. How many ‘‘Jeopardy’’ contestants, for example, will know that Avogadro’s number is the name for the number of particles in one mole of any chemical substance?
Still other questions are amusing in their own particular way, as when two bikiniclad women are asked, ‘‘Who founded the magazine Ms. in 1971?’’ Their answer: ‘‘Glenn ...?’’ Oh, the irony. Gloria Steinem would be proud.
Steinem might recoil at being associated in even the most minuscule way with ‘‘The Guy Game.’’ Still, she can perhaps take some consolation in the knowledge that the title ought to be part of a new video game revolution.
This title is billed as a harmless trivia game for the college-age guy, yet the naive among you may ask whether it will be sold on store shelves alongside ‘‘Mario Kart: Double Dash!!’’ and ‘‘Pokemon Coliseum.’’ Yes, the industry will say, but don’t worry. Trust the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which grades the content of each game on a scale from ‘‘Everyone’’ to ‘‘Adults Only.’’
But ‘‘The Guy Game’’ (about $40) exposes a loophole in that system that underscores just how much it needs to be changed.
Like the old ‘‘X’’ label for movies, ‘‘Adults Only’’ is the quickest way to sink a game’s fortunes. Console makers including Sony and Nintendo won’t release them for their systems, and most retailers won’t sell them. So far, ‘‘Adults Only’’ has been the realm of pornographic titles sold by obscure companies for the PC.
Games with less extreme adult content — violence, occasional nudity and foul language — fall under the ‘‘mature’’ label, technically for people 17 and older but generally considered acceptable and sold alongside all other games. Though some retailers won’t sell these games to kids, they lack the stigma
of ‘‘Adults Only.’’
One gets the sense that even the women who appear in this game feel a vague unease about what they’re doing. Though they may be too drunk, or just too oblivious, to articulate it, they appear to sense that topless rope jumping in front of a crowd of braying college boys is not exactly what mom and dad had in mind for their little girl when she went off to college for the first time.
Game makers themselves have said for years that parents need to realize how games are growing up with their audiences. But they ignore their own message by adhering to an outdated system that lets them market ‘‘The Guy Game’’ to anyone.