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Why Baby Pals Should Have Been Rated M
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on January 30, 2009   |   Episode 157 (Show Archive)  

   

Who knew that I would spend a full Feud talking about Baby Pals? And how is this not an UbiSoft game??
As an avid news watcher, I figured that there was nothing the news could do or say that would make me outraged. I've seen them make up lies about Grand Theft Auto, tell me that a brief sex scene in Mass Effect would be the downfall of our civilization and that games will rot your brain. Usually I just shrug it off; I figure that it's a harmless scare tactic that will likely do the opposite of what the news is expecting. All that changed this week when I found myself watching an Indiana news report that claims that a "popular" Nintendo DS game is spreading the word of Islam.

Anybody that has watched a news program (be it on cable or your local affiliate) knows that sensational reporting is part of the game. If you can't scare, offend or piss off your viewers then you're not doing your job properly. For the most part this works, but all it takes is one or two uninformed reporters for all of these scare tactics to backfire. The newest case of sensational reporting came when local Indiana affiliate WPRI decided to run a story about a woman who discovered that her daughter's Nintendo DS game had a secret message.

I suppose I can't blame the news for being interested in the story, after all this is the case of a woman who found the phrase "Islam is the light" tucked away in a Nintendo DS card. And while that story may be juicy, the way they went about reporting it was completely out of line. Instead of taking the normal approach, I've decided to show you the clip in its entirety and attack it point by point.




Issue #1: Before we get into the really offensive stuff, let me take this moment to address one of my pet peeves. Baby Pals may not be the manliest game on the planet and it may not be the title you give all of your adult friends, but it is not a "child's toy". Baby Pals is a video game, and contrary to what Patrece Dayton thinks, it is not a toy. Maybe it's just me, but people use the

It's a game about changing diapers and giving your baby a bath, of course it deserves an M-rating!
term "toy" in a condescending way, as if it's the type of thing that anybody over the age of, say, 10 should have nothing to do with. Granted, this is for children, but would it really have been that hard to just call it a "child's game"?

Issue #2: According to this news report Rachel Jones not only discovered the phrase "Islam is the light" in a Nintendo DS game, but also in her daughter's Cuddle and Coo doll? Far be it for me to call her a liar, but this video does make the mother of two look just a wee bit paranoid. Even after the news plays the sound sample twice it's hard to make a convincing argument that the game actually says "Islam is the light." Let's not forget, the voice in question is coming from a baby, and anybody that has been around babies can tell you that it's easy to confuse baby gibberish with real words.

The problem with this clip is that before you even hear the sound clip you are told that it says "Islam is the light." Why does this matter? It matters because the report (on purpose or not) influences what you hear. This is the kind of thing we saw in the 1980s when parents started claiming that their children's music had satanic messages when played backwards. Study after study showed that people who were not told upfront what was offensive often heard completely different words, if anything at all. It's just as likely that Baby Pals says "it's not near the light," which

If you think I'm going to post a picture of Muhammad and then have a funny caption then you're crazy, instead I'm going to show you this adorable kitty!
is what an audio expert found when studying the offending Cuddle and Coo doll. Even then, it really could come down to the doll just spouting out gibberish, because that's what babies do.

Issue #3: Hey Jessica Hayes, the days of calling every video game a "Nintendo game" ended 20 years ago. You could have said that it's a Nintendo DS game, because that's exactly what it is. They could have said it was a Nintendo-licensed game. But simply calling it a Nintendo game shows just how out of touch you are with the gaming community. Also, you claim that Mrs. Jones gave her daughter the game after a good report card. Are you sure about that? Getting Baby Pals sounds more like a punishment to me; I suspect that the mother in question may be holding something back from the reporters.

Issue #4: Of course Baby Pals gets an E-rating, it's a game about taking care of a baby. Yet this report seems to suggest that this game should come with a stronger rating because of the term "Islam is the light." As if the word or phrase is so offensive that it should get an M-rating. Yet only the most observant ears will pick up what is being said, if that's being said at all. Does she honestly believe that her 8 year old daughter understands what that means, or could even make out what was being said? Assuming that the game does in

First it was the Cuddle and Coo doll and now it's Baby Pals? It sounds like somebody in that family has wicked bad taste!
fact say "Islam is the light," how would that influence a child who likely doesn't even understand what Islam is? And even if you honestly believe that Islam is a bad and evil religion (which is the theme I'm getting from the mother), shouldn't the way you raise your child have more of an impact on your children than a muffled audio sample in a video game? The only reason anybody would suggest this game should be rated anything higher than an "E" is because they have something against that particular religion, which says more about them than it does this game.

Issue #5: "This is the second game she's had to take from her children," Jessica reports. Picking right up where we left off, I have to wonder if this woman's paranoia (and blatant anti-Islam sentiments) aren't the real problem here. I understand that the Islamic religion is a minority in Indiana, but the idea that the very mention of the word is so offensive that a game needs to be taken away feels like overkill. Would this woman, who (after some digging online) claims to be a devout Christian, be offended if the

Nintendo has been known to make a few stinkers in their time, but that doesn't mean you should call Nintendo to talk about a Crave game!
game said, "Jesus is the light"? Somehow I doubt she would make a fuss, and there's no way that mid-western television station would spend two minutes reporting it. There seems to be a double standard here, one that I suspect comes from several people's lack of knowledge on the subject of Islam. This is a woman that is acting like the baby said "kill your mother and father," not something as innocent as "Islam is the light" ... if that's even what it says. If she thinks that's offensive, wait until she checks out the content in her son's first-person shooters.

Issue #6: Again, it is NOT a Nintendo game ... which is why calling Nintendo for comment makes absolutely no sense. I suppose that this is the type of thing you might do if Nintendo is the only game company you can think of, but the box clearly states that it's published by Crave. And the publishers name is not just on the back of the box, it's also found right on the lower right part of the game's cover. Is there a reason why this young reporter didn't contact Crave, who may actually know something about the offending quote? Of course there is, and it involves somebody being a little too lazy to get the full story. Or maybe she did contact Crave and didn't get the kind of response that fit into her attack piece. Either

With games like Baby Pals and Napoleon Dynamite it's clear that Crave hates you!
way, contacting Nintendo over a Crave game is like suggesting that people should contact Apple when they don't like a song on their iPod. And am I the only one that thinks it's funny that the reporter seems to think that the Nintendo license is the big Nintendo DS logo on the side of the case?

Issue #7: Okay, one last time, it's a game! It's not a toy, it's a game. See, the problem when you call it a toy is that you immediately link it with children. The dictionary clearly states that a toy is "an object, often a small representation of something familiar, as an animal or person, for children or others to play with." When you link games with children it makes it easy to then report on why a violent game like Grand Theft Auto IV shouldn't be on the market. If people think that games are for children then why would you ever allow something with sex or violence or profanity to permeate in our society?

You wouldn't. But not all games are for children, there are plenty that are for adults. Just because this game happens to be targeted at youngsters does not mean that it's a toy. The Lion King was targeted at kids too, but you never hear people refer to it as a "children's toy." The reason for that is because unlike games, movies are a respected art form. Is it too much to ask for one of the biggest forms of entertainment to get the same respect you would give a CD or a movie or a book? Just because you don't play games doesn't mean that you should be condescending and flat out lie about the product. It matters because when you don't respect something you tend to do outlandish news stories that will no doubt influence people not to buy the product. Just because the news reports it, that doesn't make it true.
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