FOX News gets it really, really wrong with Mass Effect

Earlier this week on the FOX "news" show The Live Desk, host Martha McCallum and psychologist Cooper Lawrence discussed the "full nudity and explicit sexual content" present in BioWare's landmark role playing game, Mass Effect. McCallum and Lawrence criticized the game for allowing players to engage in virtual sex, blatantly ignoring the opposing argument of an IGN representative.

Here's the thing, though: I've played Mass Effect (and thoroughly enjoyed it, for the record), and I've seen this so-called "explicit" sex scene for myself. For starters, the player doesn't control anything. It's a two-minute long cinematic, and it features less nudity than any given episode of The OC. So how can FOX, which broadcasts shows like Family Guy and a vast array of deplorable reality shows, criticize a game for a PG-13 sex scene?

You can and should check out the video on YouTube.

What really, really irks me about this most recent FOX News blunder is the complete and utter ignorance under which both McCallum, Lawrence and the other panelists craft their arguments. They have clearly never played nor even seen the gameplay of Mass Effect and are attacking the video game with hearsay and rumors as support. How are they getting away with this? How does McCallum still have a job for this blatant disregard for journalist ethics and research? How could FOX get it so very, very wrong time and time again and still be our nation's top news network?

Did they even address the merits of the game? The graphics, the gameplay, the groundbreaking story and cinematics?

EA (the father company of BioWare) has released a statement to FOX news producer Teri VanHorn, imploring the network to apologize and recognize their grievous errors. Here's the letter in full:

Teri VanHorn
The Live Desk with Martha MacCallum
Fox News Channel

Ms VanHorn,

I’m writing to request a clarification of serious errors FNC made in a story which aired about the video game Mass Effect. (See attachment) As the parent company of BioWare, the studio which created the game, EA would like you to set the record straight on a number of errors and misstatements which incorrectly characterize the story and character interactions in Mass Effect.

Errors include the following:

Your headline above the televised story read: “New videogame shows full digital nudity and sex.”
Fact: Mass Effect does not include explicit or frontal nudity. Love scenes in non-interactive sequences include side and profile shots – a vantage frequently used in many prime-time television shows. It’s also worth noting that the game requires players to develop complex relationships before characters can become intimate and players can chose to avoid the love scenes altogether.

FNC voice-over reporter says: “You’ll see full digital nudity and the ability for players to engage in graphic sex.”
Fact: Sex scenes in Mass Effect are not graphic. These scenes are very similar to sex sequences frequently seen on network television in prime time.

FNC reporter says: “Critics say Mass Effect is being marketed to kids and teenagers.”
Fact: That is flat out false. Mass Effect and all related marketing has been reviewed by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and rated Mature – appropriate for players 17-years and older. ESRB routinely counsels retailers on requesting proof of age in selling M-rated titles and the system has been lauded by members of Congress and the Federal Trade Commission. In practical terms, the ratings work as well or better than those used for warning viewers about television content.

Other sources used in the segment made similar incorrect statements about the game. Judging by the inaccuracy of their comments, they have had zero experience with Mass Effect and are largely ignorant about videogames, the people who play them, and the ESRB system that governs their ratings and sales.

The resulting coverage was insulting to the men and women who spent years creating a game which is acclaimed by critics for its high creative standards. As video games continue to take audiences away from television, we expect to see more TV news stories warning parents about the corrupting influence of interactive entertainment. But this represents a new level of recklessness.

Do you watch the Fox Network? Do you watch Family Guy? Have you ever seen The OC? Do you think the sexual situations in Mass Effect are any more graphic than scenes routinely aired on those shows? Do you honestly believe that young people have more exposure to Mass Effect than to those prime time shows?

This isn’t a legal threat; it’s an appeal to your sense of fairness. We’re asking FNC to correct the record on Mass Effect.


Jeff Brown
Vice President of Communications
Electronic Arts, Inc.

Of course, FOX has no intention of retracting their statements. They apparently contacted EA to appear on Live Desk but have "received no reply." If FOX wants to utilize the ol' "empty chair" excuse, they can go ahead.

Lawrence issued an apology, saying that she actually watched somebody play the game (hey, there's a novel idea!) and has since decided that the sexual content is not worthy of televised slander. As for McCallum ... well, I don't expect to hear anything even remotely resembling an apology leave her lips. And the FOX Network monster lumbers on.


  1. Hahaha, just reading some of the responds by the people on Youtube. Fox News...what can I say about them....obviously they dont know what they're talking about. Im not even going to go into it, no point in me gettin all worked up. Even if it was true, there is a reason that there is a little "M 17+" in the botom left corner, morons...Im not going to go into that either. All i can say is I love it when I buy a new game and they actually card me, that just makes my day (seriously tho).

  2. Yeah, it's really funny that FOX was trying to make it seem like the game is being marketed to teenagers. They got their facts so wrong.

  3. Technically speaking, matt, we're teenagers.
    And I does loves my intergalactic sex scenes. Yes, I does.
    But I have to give FOX some credit - why can't society be parents to our kids instead of the biological parents? It's not like anybody ever got a "hard-on" (I manual replicate the quotation marks with the index and middle fingers on both hands) from pac-man. There's no 2-minute sex scene after you beat the fourth level (provided you choose to eat the condom bouncing around that whole that the ghosts come out of.)
    Also, I want to raise taxes.


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