It’s an appropriate opening for a song placed in a game that begins in prison. “You know you fucked up, right?” begins “The Loser Wins”, by Atmosphere. In another sports game, this would have to be blanked out, or just not used.
Not so with Fight Night Champion, which chose to be EA Sports’ first M-for-Mature offering, and probably the biggest M-rated release in the sports genre to date. Champion, as is well known, is littered with F-bombs throughout its narrative mode, so what’s another in the first four words of a menu song?
Sports games’ soundtrack selections are followed somewhat like their cover athlete choices, showcasing up-and-coming artists, current top performers, and generally imparting a feel of currency to the whole project. Fight Night Champion’s set of tunes will break a mildly embarrassing necessity of sports games having to edit lyrics just to get the ESRB’s E-for-Everyone blessing, which most sports games are rated.
Games are rated on all of the content on the disc of course, and that includes lyrics to popular songs. NHL 2K10 had to edit the popular “Time to Pretend” by MGMT, which included the F-word and a reference to heroin.
Even a multi-platinum mainstream radio hit like Guns N’ Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” had to be gimped. The song was brought to Madden NFL 11 specifically because it’s heard on Sundays at NFL venues. But the lyrics “you’re a very sexy girl,” and “feel my, my, my, serpentine,” – a sexual reference, albeit one that makes it on air – had to be edited for inclusion on the E-for-Everyone Madden.
Fight Night Champion avoids all of this, of course. A side bonus to going all-in with the M-rating means no gimped lyrics, as past editions of Fight Night have had to do to keep their game rated T.
“Definitely, we felt a ton of freedom with this game,” said Freddy Ouano, the game’s audio producer. “We’re the first EA Sports title to be an M-rated game. Working with Will Rokos, the writer, if he chose to put swearing in the script, we went with it. Champion mode’s about pushing the boundaries.”
That said, the Fight Night team at EA Canada didn’t have carte-blanche licence to toss in every M-rated word imaginable. “There were definitely some company values and ethics to adhere to,” Ouano said. “Nothing racial, or sexist, or downright offensive. There’s a lot of violence in the game, but like that violence, we didn’t want to be too over the top.”
That means the tracks won’t feature – to put it euphemistically – the hip-hop usage of certain ethnic slurs. Also, Ouano said just nine of the 22 songs on Fight Night Champion’s soundtrack include M-rated lyrics. He wasn’t specifically looking for cussin’ in the soundtrack, but wasn’t going to back off if it was in a useful song.
“When I’m picking music for a soundtrack, I’m first picking music to reflect the game’s overall tone and emotion,” Ouano said. “It’s definitely the grittier side of boxing; it takes the player to that dark place. So we wanted to find music that reflected the differing emotions that [main character]Andre Bishop goes through, in our ‘struggle music,’ which might be soulful, and then ‘struggle music’ where the beats represent violence and intensity.
“By no means were we looking for songs that had swearing in them because we were privileged this time around to do so.”