Jewish World Review
May 22, 2000 /17 Iyar, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THIS WEEK, Simon & Schuster's interactive division will release a new video game in which players "seek out supermodels to strip them down to their bras and panties."
I kid you not.
The company's official press release provides sordid details of the game called "Panty Raider: From Here to Immaturity." When play begins, Simon & Schuster's public relations department blithely informs us, the competitors are whisked "to Model Isle where a supermodel photo shoot is taking place. The player is on a mission to photograph specific styles and colors of panties worn by supermodels to satisfy three testosterone-driven teenage aliens and keep them from blowing up the Earth."
"One day on a planet far, far away," Simon & Schuster explains as background, "a catalog from a famous lingerie store inexplicably showed up in the mailbox at one horny alien's home. Some time later, he and his two buddies had worn out the catalog and they needed more! So they hijacked a flying saucer for a joy ride across the universe in search of supermodels in their underwear."
The game player assumes the identity of a "mild-mannered Earthling" named Nelson, who is forced by the teen aliens to entice the thong-snapping supermodels to the photo shoot with "tools" such as X-ray glasses and credit cards. If Nelson fails, the "aliens are forced to take their hormone-drive anger out on the planet." The game is rated "M" by the Entertainment Rating Software Board, for "mature."
Before I go on, let me tell you that I'm not your garden-variety, blue-haired critic of the video gaming industry. There's a wealth of imaginative, artistic, cathartic, and humorous software out there. As an aging member of the Pong Generation, I've happily worn out my share of joysticks; spent countless quarters over the years on "Tempest," "House of the Dead," and "Terminator;" and invested several lost weekends on adventure games from "King's Quest" and "Civilization" to "Diablo."
I've also encountered my share of socially questionable games, but none so tasteless, useless, and senseless as the pre-release hype for Simon & Schuster's "Panty Raider." At the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles last week, the company promoted the game, Howard Stern-style, by encouraging bystanders to be photographed with two scantily-clad models.
In its defense, the publisher says the game is meant for adults only. Why, then, are the three invading enemies all "testosterone-driven teenage aliens?" Why is Nelson, the protagonist, a goofy-looking young male who bears a striking resemblance to schoolkids' fictional hero, Harry Potter? And why does Simon & Schuster Interactive hawk the game online alongside children's software products such as "Curious George Learns Phonics," the "New Millennium Dictionary for Children," and "Richard Scarry's Best Ever First Grade Starter Kit?"
Two alert parents' watchdog groups, Dads and Daughters (www.dadsandaughters.org) and the Family Education Network (www.familyeducation.com), have called on the publisher to stop this weekend's release of "Panty Raider." But an even more powerful indictment comes from young members of the gaming community itself. Chris Kramer, a game reviewer for DailyRadar.com, was incensed when he received the press release for the game: "Who, in their right mind, would even contemplate wasting the precious moments of their life developing a product like this?"
"It's a humorous game," said Peter Binazeski, a spokesman for Simon & Schuster Interactive. It's not meant to be taken seriously, he explained.
A sense of humor is a fine company trait. So is a sense of dignity, discernment, and corporate responsibility. Simon & Schuster celebrated its 75th anniversary last year by paying tribute to its countless prize-winning authors and quality content providers. The once-venerable company has come a long way since its founders published their first runaway bestseller, a crossword puzzle book, in 1924.
Yes, they've now progressed from puzzles to Pulitzers to "Panty Raider" --
from here to immaturity, to borrow a phrase. Dick Simon and Max Schuster
must be looking down from heaven and shedding joyless
05/17/00: Sports plebes vs. plutocrats