OPINION: Thief 4 has been rated 18+, and that’s fantastic

The upcoming Thief 4 has been given a “Mature” rating by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board in the US and an 18+ rating by PEGI, the agency that oversees such things in our region. But not for the sneaking around or the copious amounts of loot you’ll be pilfering. No, Thief 4 has been rated as such because of nudity, strong sexual content, drug use, strong language  and violence.

Most of those make sense in a game world where players are tasked with stealing, sneaking, beating enemies about the head with a blackjack, killing anyone who gets in the way and recovering health with potions and whatnot, but nudity and drug use? Ignoring the tradition of using health potions to recover hit points as drug-use-but-not-really (otherwise every game with medikits and health potions would need to be classified accordingly), those two are new.

Well, apparently developer Eidos Montreal is going for a bit more titillation this time around. When Thief comes out on the 28th of February, 2014, players will reportedly encounter a brothel at some point in the game, complete with naked ladies from the waist up and the opportunity to spy on people in the throes of passion, making all the appropriate noises. Well maybe not all, that would be gross. They will also encounter characters using opium and a few that are under its influence, so there’s that too.

As a gamer with more than twenty years of gaming under my belt and maturing expectations from my chosen pastime, I’m not exactly unhappy about this. I’m old and wise enough to take these things in context, and quite frankly I’m also looking to be shocked and provoked by what I play, because I enjoy the discourse that inevitably comes out of such things.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s the gaming industry’s duty to provide that sort of content, as I consider games art and a time-honoured tradition of art is to elicit emotional responses from its viewers that cross the entire emotional spectrum. As long as such content is clearly indicated on the game box and ratings overseen by agencies like PEGI and the ESRB, I have no problem with games trying to push the envelope. Besides, I have money to spend and this is what I want to buy, and I’m not alone.

Happily, the games industry is starting to realise this, and has recently produced some of the most thought-provoking and emotionally-engaging games ever made. The Last of Us was a superb example of gritty yet emotional storytelling that definitely wasn’t for youngsters, and Bioshock Infinite’s exploration of warped philosophy had me thinking about the game long after I stopped playing.

I have been invited to a preview of Thief that is taking place tonight, hosted by the game’s local distributor Megarom, and I am really looking forward to seeing whether it shows that it has the potential to live up to the hopes that have been raised by being rated as “mature”.

There are a few videos showing off some of Thief’s gameplay, like the one I’ve embedded below. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe for work. Looking good, right? I really can’t wait to see it in action live, tonight.


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