Martha MacCallum of FOX News hosted a debate on the network’s Live Desk program featuring talk show host/author Cooper Lawrence and Spike TV game guy Geoff Keighley facing off over the implied sexual encounter in Mass Effect.Any expectations of a fair and impartial debate dissipated after the FOX News graphic title announced, “Se”Xbox? New Video Game Shows Full Digital Nudity and Sex.”
MacCallum: …a new role-playing video game that is leaving NOTHING to the imagination… in some parts of this, you’ll see full digital nudity. Imagine! And the ability for the players to engage in graphic sex and the person who’s playing the game gets to decide exactly what’s going to happen between the two people, if you know what I mean… Basically, Pandora’s Box is open. I mean, kids have access to these things… How damaging is it, really?Lawrence: …the damage is this. We know that all the research shows that violence has a desensitizing effect. Well, sexuality does too… Here’s how they’re seeing women. They’re seeing them as these objects of desire, as these hot bodies. They don’t show women as being valued for anything other than their sexuality. And it’s a man in this game deciding how many women he wants to be with.Keighley: That’s completely incorrect… first of all you can actually play as a man or a woman in the game. Cooper, have you ever played Mass Effect?Lawrence: (giggling) No…Keighley: …you mentioned it has full graphical nudity, that’s completely incorrect. There’s no full nudity… there’s the side of an alien boob… it’s a small sexual situation in this game which is about two minutes out of a thirty-plus hour experience… you can actually play through this game without the sexual situation ever happening –Lawrence: (interrupting) Right, and a young boy’s going to be choosing not to have sex. That’ll be what they choose. I mean, let’s be realistic here –Keighley: Cooper, it’s not a simple choice. You don’t turn on the game and it says, “would you like to have sex or not?” It’s through the evolution of a relationship with characters and the fact that this game has incredible artificial intelligence. You can actually fall in love in this game. It’s just like modeling your life…Lawrence: (interrupting) Darling, I gotta go with the research. And the research says there’s a new study out of the University of Maryland right now that says that boys that play video games cannot tell the difference between what they’re seeing in the video game and the real world…Keighley: You’re completely misrepresenting the game…Lawrence: Let me at him, Martha…Keighley: It’s a fantastic game and sex is a small, little part of it.MacCallum: You know when you buy video games… you have to pick up the box and look at the back for the rating and you have to be involved in what your kids are looking at…Male Panelist: Who can argue, possibly, that Luke Skywalker meets Debbie Does Dallas is a good thing. It’s not. And I’m definitely not going to let Mass Effect in my house…Female Panelist: I’m not sure why it didn’t get an Adults Only rating. That’s the highest rating in can have. So, first of all, this board that rates them needs to have their head examined…2nd Male Panelist: I would argue that the governement cannot and should not censor everything coming across the web and in video games. At the end of the day… it’s up to parents to control what their kids are seeing.
I find it disappointing and yet unsurprising that MacCallum obviously didn’t bother to play Mass Effect or even just watch the video in question before hosting a debate with an equally ignorant opponent of the game. I didn’t expect Lawrence, author of books on dating including The Cult of Perfection: Making Peace with Your Inner Overachiever; Been There, Done That, Kept the Jewelry; The Fixer-upper Man: Turn Mr. Maybe into Mr. Right in 5 Easy Steps; and Cosmo Girl’s Quiz Book: All About Guys to be unbiased or even well informed, but I did expect the moderator to at least attempt to present both sides. That’s sloppy, unprofessional work. Unfortunately, FOX has shown bias before: see How Fox Morning Show Sensationalized the Halo-in-Church Issue).For those of you who enjoy watching disasters unfold, here is the video clip.