For one Fox News reporter the worst thing about Epic's upcoming first-person shooter isn't the over-the-top violence and excessive profanity. It's the naming of Skill Shots after sex acts. Could they lead to real-world sexual violence?
I'd say it's not likely, though I'm no expert on the subject, and I'm not writing up an article titled "Is Bulletstorm the Worst Video Game in the World." As the headline suggests, the article is a little inflammatory. The story's top image is drawn not from the game, but from the Halo-diorama parody Epic distributed in January.
The story begins with a warning to parents. "There's a Bulletstorm on the horizon," the writer says before launching into a description of the mature-rated game's graphic violence and frequent use of foul language, including the F-words. His description should be enough to let any parent know that this is not a game for children, but as Fox's John Brandon puts it, "that's not the worst part."
The worst part is apparently the use of sexual innuendo-laced phrases to describe the game's Skill Shots, creative ways of killing your opponent. Terms like "gang bang," and "topless" supposedly tie the graphic violence together with this sexual innuendo.
The experts are then rolled out to comment on the potential danger of children playing such a violent and sexy game.
"If a younger kid experiences Bulletstorm's explicit language and violence, the damage could be significant," Dr. Jerry Weichman, a clinical psychologist at the Hoag Neurosciences Institute in Southern California, told FoxNews.com.
How significant? Another expert suggests that the mix of sex and violence in a video game could lead to sexual violence.
Carol Lieberman, a psychologist and book author, told FoxNews.com that sexual situations and acts in video games — highlighted so well in Bulletstorm — have led to real-world sexual violence.
"The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in video games," she said.
Can they really? Is there evidence that sexual scenes in video games can be attributed to an increase in rape? I'm not aware of such evidence. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist, of course. Just that I've not seen it.
I'm not really sure why Carol Lieberman's comments were included in the article in the first place, as Bulletstorm doesn't actually contain any graphic sex acts; it simply refers to them by name.
While developer Epic didn't respond to the Fox story, EA assured them that everything about Bulletstorm was above board.
"Bulletstorm has been given an "M" rating by the ESRB, and we have adhered to all their guidelines in regards to the marketing and promotion of Bulletstorm."
Update: EA's vice presient of public relations, Tammy Schacter, issued the following statement to Kotaku following the publishing of this story.
"As you know, Bulletstorm is a work of entertainment fiction that takes place in the 26th century on the abandoned fictitious paradise planet Stygia, where our heroes fight mutants, monsters, flesh-eating plants and gigantic dinosaurs.
"Epic, People Can Fly and EA are avid supporters of the ESA and believe in the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) rating system. We believe in and abide by the policies put in place by the ESRB.
"Bulletstorm is rated M for Mature for blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, sexual themes, strong language and use of alcohol. The game and its marketing adhere to all guidelines set forth by the ESRB; both are designed for people 17+. Never is the game marketed to children.
"Epic, People Can Fly and EA support the right of artists to create works of entertainment fiction for consumers of all ages, including adults who enjoy action adventures like Bulletstorm. Much like Tarantino's Kill Bill or Rodriguez's Sin City, this game is an expression of creative entertainment for adults."