As reported on GameSpot and elsewhere, Atari is taking heat over Mark Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure. The issue is graffiti, and there's plenty of it in Getting Up, as the game's tagger seeks to become the best graffiti artist in the game's fictional city, New Radius.
Some are concerned that young players will be influenced to create graffiti of their own.
"The idea that the main character in this game is some sort of hero is simply Atari's ridiculous way to try to put a positive spin on a game that is about destroying property," said Timothy Kephart, described by GameSpot as "a self-professed graffiti expert."
Ray Empson, president of Keep America Beautiful criticizes Atari for promoting Getting Up as a game that glorifies a "graffiti artist with the street smarts, athletic prowess and vision to become an 'All City King' -- the most reputable of all graffiti artists."
Keep America Beautiful, and the National Council to Prevent Delinquency are warning about increased vandalism when the PS2 version launches next month. The groups would like the ESRB to rate the game with "the most restrictive rating possible," and have requested that the ESRB's Advertising Review Council "sanction Atari...on the grounds that the game violates the ARC principle that 'all advertisements should be created with a sense of responsibility toward the public.'"
GameSpot issued an update from Atari which read, in part, "Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure provides fun, innovative, and challenging game-play...the focus of the game is on expression through art; the hero is typically equipped with only paint, and never guns...Just as popular films and television shows present fictionalized entertainment...that may be exaggerated versions of 'real-life' people or events, video games such as Getting Up provide amusement and escape in a fantasy world where players can vicariously experience different lifestyles and mock activities."
This is not the first criticism Getting Up has taken. GamePolitics reported on a similar situation on May 12th. At that time it was San Francisco's Graffiti Advisory Board doing the complaining. A few years back a graffiti-themed Dreamcast game, Jet Grind Radio, took similar heat. No video game-inspired wave of graffiti developed, however.
And besides, what GamePolitics saw of Getting Up at E3 was pretty unimpressive.