Rule of Rose, a video game that depicts the kidnapping and torture of a young girl, has been singled out for strong criticism by a senior EU commissioner.
Franco Frattini, EU (European Union) commissioner responsible for justice, freedom and security, wrote to ministers for internal affairs of the 25 EU member states to propose "a first exchange of views on this issue with the objective of identifying possible scope for complementary, national and European level activities in this regard, including on issues such as awareness raising, the labelling of such games and the selling to minors".
(A PDF of the commissioner's press release on this subject is available from his website.)
"In particular," Frattini writes in his letter, "one of the latest games recently available on the European market relates to a young girl who becomes submitted to psychological and physical violence. This has shocked me profoundly for its obscene cruelty and brutality."
The game in question, Rule of Rose, involves a teenage girl attempting to escape from an orphanage and being subjected to sadistic ordeals, including beatings and live burial. The game, according to The Times newspaper, was given a 16-plus rating by Pegi, the Pan-European Game Information group.
Rule of Rose has been the cause of considerable debate in the PC Advisor offices. While the game's content strikes us as unsavoury, similar misfortunes have afflicted heroines of survival horror titles for years – not to mention whole generations of slasher flick victims – and it appears to be the youth of the central character that has struck a disproportionate chord with the censorship brigade. As far as we are concerned, the age of the gamer, not the sprite, is a more pertinent concern.
The issue of age restriction does bear re-examination. Pegi ratings are designed to act as an aid to parental decision making, but this leads many parents, already confused by technology and its implications for their offspring, to assume that games that are not suitable for children will not be sold to them. This is, of course, by no means a given.
Age ratings on games have their part to play – and in this case, there is a case to be made for an 18+ certificate. But ultimately such restrictions cannot take the place of a honest relationship between parent and child.
Rule of Rose was not released in the US (because of fears of an outcry over "alleged overtones of lesbianism and sadomasochism", according to The Times) and the Mayor of Rome has called for it to be banned.