GP's AE Gets AO Form Letter from ESRB

July 30, 2007 -
GamePolitics correspondent Andrew Eisen advises that he sent a protest to the ESRB over the Adults Only (AO) rating the board assigned to Manhunt 2. In his gripe, posted via the ESRB's website, AE wrote:
The AO rating has been bastardized and transformed into something it was never intended to be.

A rating should help me make an informed purchasing decision.  When you give a game an AO, I have no choice.  When you give a game an AO, even if it's not your intent, the end result is a ban.

I recommend retiring the AO rating.  It doesn't work the way it's supposed to.

Sincerely,

An adult who wants to play Manhunt 2 the way the developers originally intended

Andrew reported on Saturday that he received a form letter back from the ESRB (not signed by anyone, just the organization). AE highlights a couple of points from the letter:
ESRB: [The ESRB] rates computer and video games in terms of content and age-appropriateness so that consumers, especially parents, can make educated purchase decisions... We are aware of the fact that the AO rating does pose a challenge to game publishers...

AE: Why would you knowingly use a rating that completely circumvents your mission statement?  An AO rating prevents me from making "educated purchase decisions." I don't fully blame the ESRB for Manhunt 2's "ban" and in fact wrote similar letters to Nintendo, Sony, and several large retailers.  No response from them though.

The full ESRB letter follows: 
It's important to note that the ESRB is an organization that rates computer and video games in terms of content and age-appropriateness so that consumers, especially parents, can make educated purchase decisions.  We do not create, publish, sell or distribute any entertainment software, nor is it our role to censor games that are submitted to be rated.  Our job is to ensure that the product is reliably labeled and appropriately marketed.
 
ESRB raters are trained to consider a wide range of pertinent content and other elements in assigning a rating.  Pertinent content is any content that accurately reflects both the most extreme content of the final product - in terms of relevant rating criteria such as violence, language, sexuality, gambling, and alcohol, tobacco and drug reference or use; and the final product as a whole - demonstrating the game's context (such as setting, storyline and objectives) and relative frequency of extreme content.  Due to the unique interactive characteristics of games, the ESRB rating system goes beyond other entertainment systems by also taking into account elements such as the reward system and the degree of player control.
 
As you are aware, ESRB has assigned an AO (Adults Only 18+) rating to Manhunt 2 for the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2) and Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP).  The publisher of the game now has a couple of options (e.g., modify the game's content and resubmit it for rating or appeal the rating to an appeals board) to explore.
 
In the meantime, ESRB stands firmly behind the rating assigned to the original submission of the game.  The AO rating is our most restrictive rating, and it was assigned in this case based on the consideration of numerous factors that raters take into account each time they rate a game.  We are aware of the fact that the AO rating does pose a challenge to game publishers, in that most major retailers currently choose not to sell AO-rated games, and the console manufacturers (Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony) have not allowed AO-rated games to be published for their platforms.  These circumstances, which are beyond the ESRB's control and do not factor into our rating assignments, are a significant reason why most games which receive the AO rating from ESRB end up being modified and resubmitted in order to receive a rating that would allow for them to be played on game systems and sold to the public.
 
The ESRB rating system is designed to ensure that all games are evaluated as fairly and reliably as possible. However, in a country as diverse as ours, with its broad spectrum of values and tastes, it is inevitable that some will disagree. That being said, the ESRB regularly commissions independent researchers to measure public awareness, use and agreement with the ratings. Our most recent surveys found that the vast majority of the time (82%), parents agree with the rating assigned by ESRB, while 5% of the time they thought the rating was "too strict." This level of agreement reflects the cultural norm in this diverse country of ours, and we will continue to ensure that our ratings continue to reliably reflect that norm.
 
The interests of gamers, parents, and other consumers are best served by having an effective self-regulatory body, whose actions are objective, judicious and fair.  We regret that you did not find the ESRB rating in this case to be useful or in agreement with your individual tastes, but sincerely appreciate your taking the time to express your opinion on this issue.
 
 Regards,
 
 Entertainment Software Rating Board

Comments

A letter to the ESRB (will post a reply if I get a non auto mated one)
(Wishful thinking I know,but I got Hall Haplin to reply to a worse worded letter,I am learning disabled so don't mind the "errors" :P
I am posting this in 2 places,at this time I will refrain from openly giving out email address,but really the the cap of 500 words on the contact form on the ESRB page is a bit much 1000 would be better..
http://gamepolitics.com/2007/07/30/gps-ae-gets-ao-form-letter-from-esrb/
http://www.gamepoliticsforums.com/showthread.php?p=46996#post46996
)
Its obvious there is a disconnect between how games are treated and how movies are treated, the consoles makers need to step back and let the rating systems of the world slot games to their systems, I don't see any crys of foul play when a game gets put from Teen to Mature or from Mature to Teen so AO is really just another rating or at least it should be.

AO needs to be treated like another rating but its held up their with the ban sticks of the world, the ESRB needs to lead the march and deal with the fiasco that has become the AO ban, while I do not see anything being done soon about it, I hope AO evolves like X did for the MPAA because for now AO is to keep any questionable mature content from market and not out of the hands of children or to inform parents.


You are a industry made entity to help guide the industry if you fail to lead to by staying in the pockets of the EAS or the Politicians or the Console Makers(you are in the pockets of the console makers by letting them use sweeping bans of AO,the others not so much) you not only fail your Mission statement but the industry you were charged with to protect, please understand that we above 17 gamers are watching and that we are apart of the industry and that inaction on this will call some of us to ask for change not of the ratings but of you.

Personally the ESRB is one of the most solid if not "better" rating setups I have seen unlike the MPAA it seems to give more consistent ratings and it demands retailer action to help guide children to age appropriate games unlike the MPAA which dose not really care if a kid sees a R rated film or not , however failing to understand the current AO situation is damaging ESRB and this damage could set it back if not permanently damage it.

What can be done
I would like to see the ESRB adjsut the Adult level tier to something that would work best for all its obvious AO has become a ban moniker and keeping AO for porn level games is fine to me thats reasonable, what is not is telling a 17 year old he cant play a game a 18 year old can so perhaps it might do the industry well to adjust the current M(17+) to 16+ doing this would fall closer inline with many other nations and their views of what is "mature" meaning games with basic gore and cussing (sudeki ,Halo,ect,ect)can be M, HOWEVER now that M is 16+ we can now put in a level for for games with a higher level of gore and sadism because its set to 18+ no one should have a problem with it,the retailers can refuse to sale it but frankly with wallmart selling unedited copies of SAW
http://www.walmart.com/search/search-ng.do?search_constraint=4096&search...
the industry needs a bit of growing up to do, but with a blatant 18+ on the game it should say to all this is not a game for kids like AO dose,abnd yes AO can be kept for porn games.

I understand that changing M to 16 might seem imposable but the it is not what it is is a trade off to fix the issues that have come about with AO, it might hurt in the short run but in the long run it would be perfect for gaming,now if M can not be adjusted then you can still use the 18+ to whatever letters you pick (MA,MNK,MR,ect,ect) I still think adjust M to 16+ would be best for the long run both sides of coarse will discuss "to adnaseum" but I think at least putting it up for discussion would be worth while, in the end AO needs to be removed or made porn only and gaming in the US needs a real adult tier for ratings that the industry as a whole will frown on the console makers if they use sweeping bans for it, in the end the ESRB needs to lead and create a 18+ level so that the pressure it tooken of the pubs and console makers so that games will not be baned so hastily or easily, as for porn games normal retailers wont touch it and only soem of them will fool with 18+ games but at least with the 18+ level gaming has a place to mature and not be stuck in the kiddie pool.

Lee Jarvis/ZippyDSMlee
Adult Gamer

P.S:In reply to the automated forum letter;
AO dose not protect children, AO dose not inform parents, AO is a a black label a BAN to prevent games going to market and this goes against the very foundation of the ESRB, the console makers do not have any right to demand what rating level of games can be made for their systems they can refuse approval of individual games but sweeping bans are not good for the industry. AO truly needs to be reworked like X was, if you tell the public that such things are begin looked into there would not be such hatred in the gamer movement for the ESRB the politicians will always find a scapegoat to bash but if you wait to long and piss off everyone you lose so much rep you are forced to close and from where I sit if such a thing were to occur it would set back gaming as "media" 5-14 years and make video games toys again.

Hmmm....I was very much looking forward to this game, but really only to have it sit on my shelf as a warning to those who would label the Wii a "kiddy" system. Shallow, I know, but it is really disappointing to me how picky the ESRB is. Here, Indigo Prophecy got an AO (well, the non-bastardized version did), while over in Europe the uncut one (with a sex game and everything!) only got a 15+. Admit it, America, we're way too touchy.

Ok, here is my problem with the AO rating. I do understand that is it there in order to protect the young ones from the violent games. However I do not like the suggestion that if older gamers want to play games tailored to their taste, they can't buy them at Best Buy or Wal-Mart but have to buy them at an "Adult Store". This basically means that in the case of Manhunt 2, we'll need to look for it next to various sex toys because really the only "adult stores" out there are porn shops and there is no way of getting around it. If you want to buy an AO game you have to act like a social pariah in order to get it. In real life if I wanted to buy an "M" game at wal-mart or a "R" rated movie, I would be asked for my ID even though I am 22 years old. why can't that be taken a step further and have the AO games out in the open with conspicuous packages and have the clerk look at my ID before it is taken out of the glass case? Now for the consoles not allowing them to be played in the first place, I still find that a form of censorship as I'm also against region coding as well and I think that if I legally purchase any digital media I should be able to play it without having to illegally modify my system to do it.

Oy, here we go again.

Questions: Since when did the ESRB stop Sony, Nintendo & MS from putting AO games on their consoles? Answer: They didn't.

I completely agree with others who say the ESRB needs to reformulate the system, I think that it should be more in line with movies, but the "Big Three" need to be on board with it or it'll never work.

Don't forget, movies have been 'censored' effectively with an "R" rating and they get around it by releasing the 'unrated' dvd later.

I'm not pro censorship but why is when this subject comes up its always about a small handful of games, most of which are not worth defending?

I agree, this isn't the fault of the ESRB. The ESRB has to give ratings that parents agree with or they won't be taken seriously. Without the ESRB, video games will end up with a government rating body and actual bans instead of these retailer/platform bans that we see now.

This is the fault of gamers. It's silly to allow a console manufacturer to determine what we can play. Consoles provide a standardized set of hardware, are reasonably priced, and provide many benefits to the gamer that PCs don't. However, the consequence of all of these benefits is that the power to censor is given to a single company. Regardless of whether it is Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony, these companies continuously limit what gamers are allowed to play.

This is not only true with adult content, but also with independent content. Gamers are beginning to see a small seepage of independent development onto these consoles with games like Band of Bugs, Everyday Shooter, and N. But even though there is a trend now for companies to use independents to fill up their online services, it's still unrealistic for indie developers to aim for a console release.

Small studios can't get onto the consoles, and big companies are only allowed to the point where they break some kind of taboo. How can we expect the medium to evolve and develop if everything slightly avant garde is banned? I'm not saying Manhunt 2 will herald a new era for video games. In fact, I think that it's sole goal is to shock and ride its controversy all the way to the bank. However, when every artistic decision a developer makes has to be approved by the console manufacturer, it's going to result in stagnation.

Gamers need to be writing to Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo or they need to vote with their wallets and buy some PC games (indies preferably). Let the ESRB do its thing. They don't do the best job, but they do a good job of giving parents an approximate description of the content.

Hmm...I was thinking of something last night. I know that AO games wont work on the consoles, but how about unrated ones? The ESRB process is voluntary, though devs do typically go through it.

@Fisticuffs:

But the question becomes this: why is the list of AO games limited to porn-games in the first place? Answer: game publishers have, in the past, gotten the AO and edited the game to get the M rating.

Yes, the ESRB must know by now that an AO is the equivalent of a console ban. But that said, we're all better served in the long run by a ratings board that rates games by content rather than by what the console manufacturers will allow on their systems.

-P

To clarify my first point: what I'm referring to is the fact that no publisher has decided to try to push the ESRB barrier on this one. Rather than go back and edit for an M, if they're dead set on trying to make AO "acceptable", then they should keep the damn AO and publish on PC via electronic distribution. Yes, it will cut into their profits, but sooner or later the AO stigma will be lessened.

Evidently, though, none of the game publishers are willing to step up to the plate on that one.

DISCLAIMER (FUCKING READ IT!!!!!!!!): I am not stating games are dangerous. I am only trying to provide an example of why a group like the ESRB should be independent and should not operate with consideration of external pressures from any outside entity. DISCLAIMER!

The FDA is doing extensive testing on a drug. It hits a snag, and it turns out it has some rather nasty and lethal side effects in a considerable portion of the population. They don't give approval and actually do ban it, the company that makes it just lost what would have been a massive chunk of cash off a very promising drug? Should the FDA take the companies profits and "feelings" into consideration? Fuck no, its not their job. The FDA's job is to make damn sure that the drug is safe for usage as a treatment.

Dupont comes out with an awesome new solvent. It removes stuff from everything. I mean this stuff is magical. Its really freaking awesome. Its too bad that any kind of close exposure results in massive cell death. This stuff is really dangerous... and it eats through plastics, metals, silicates, and ceramics. It also turns to a gas when not kept at around 50 f. Does the EPA approve it just to make DUPONT happy? No. They ban the chemical because there is no real safe way to store it and the damage it can cause is too severe. Heck, they aren't even sure how Dupont made it. Neither is Dupont for that matter. I mean how do they store it? The EPA does its job. Regardless of who its going to piss off.

The ESRB is doing its job, though I do think the ratings system could use some refinement, I think they do need to denote adult violence and adult sex, I don't think it would matter for the time being.



I mean come on, what news org wouldn't jump at the chance to run "Microsoft allows sex games on the "SEXBOX360!" film at 11!"

Thanks VaMinian. You said it well. The only reason most of the games that are AO are porn games is because those are very hard to edit and get an M rating. Violent games are easy to edit and rerate so we see few of them. If Manhunt is edited and rerated to M then it too will be dropped from the list of AO games. The ESRB website only lists those AO games that have not been appealed or rerated. Thus we see Thrill kill on there because it was rated and was never appealed nor rerated dispite the fact it was never published.

So Fisticuffs, again "get your story straight before positng"

Responding to E. Zachary Knight

Both the console manufacturers and the ESRB are at fault. Though its not really a leap in judgment to pu most blame on the ESRB. Their rating system is flawed. If you visit their website, its easy to see on the list of AO rated games that most of them are pornographic video games. So its almost as if AO is the equal to a XXX. Besides, its no secret that none of the console companies will allow an AO game on their system, we know that and so does the ESRB. When they assigned the rating to Manhunt 2 they knew that they were essentially banning it. So basically an AO, though never meant to be a ban, has become just that. So I suggest you take your own advice and "get your story straight and avoid posting until then. "

The only problem I have with the AO rating is its seems to become equal to porn. I agree with others that ESRB needs to create another category. Something that makes it adults only but not equal to obscenity. Someone here suggested a M+18 which to me would make sense.

An internet troll like Thompson telling Andrew to get a life is the biggest instance of the pot calling the kettle black I've ever seen. I swear that man talks/types just to her himself talk/click.

Many people here forget what the ratings mean.

The E rating menas that the ESRB says that the game is appropriate for everyone.

The T rating means that if you have kids under 13 you should review the game before letting your under 13 kid to play it, but the under 13 kid can still play it.

The M rating means that if you have a kid under 17 you should review it before letting your kid play it, but the under 17 kid can still play it.

The AO rating means that the game is not appropriate for any kid at all. They do not suggest letting a kid play it at all. If an adult wants to play it that is fine. It was never meant to be a ban.

The console manufacturers are the ones at fault for the ban, and I am glad to see some intelligent readers on this website to counter act the ignorance of the others. For those ignorant enough to blame the ESRB for "banning teh gamez", you need to get your story straight and avoid posting until then.

Sorry for the double post, but I need to say this:

The ESRB is not catering to the panderings of "soccer moms" and politicians. True they were created after political backlash, but I think the game industry knew that was coming. I seriously doubt that they could not recall what happened to Movies and comics. They were created under political pressure, but they are not catering to it now. They have show that they are independant of outside influence and will not cave.

I do admit that they could change the ratings to a temporary solution, but long term it would not help any. It could actually hurt the situation as many developers and the possibly the console manufacturers would cause a backlash on the decision. So I do not suggest a change.

I do suggest a change for the reatailers and the console manufacturers. They need to stand up and say to the world that games are not just for kids. They need to change the label of "video games" to something less childish, like "entertainment software". Retailers need to realize that they are being hypocritical by selling unrated movies but not AO rated games.

So don't blame the ESRB for doing their job. Blame the console manufacturers and the retailers for not doing theirs.

DO NOT FEED THE JACK THOMPSON TROLL

Now that I have that out of the way.

I disagree with a lot of what people on this board are saying about the ESRB. If a game should be rated AO, it should be rated AO. Unfortunately, retailers and console manufacturers are forcing the game medium to stay in the dark ages by not letting them be published.

This compounds the issues on the political side since many feel that there should be games that are rated AO but are given an M rating. Is it any wonder that developers will walk the thin line between M and AO when one rating can mean phenomenal success while the other means complete commercial failure?

And yes, the console manufacturers and retailer have "freedom of choice". But their choice is to CENSOR what their customers can and cannot buy. Customers do not get the choice to play a game that they want to play. Which is in fact the choice of the strong (corporations/gov't) over the weak (consumers). Which is the definition of a dictatorship.

It is obvious that Jack Thompson doesn't understand the word freedom and only invokes its name when he twist its meaning for his own defective arguments.

JT is a massacre chaser who thinks that forced incest is a part of a normal childhood (sorry, I fed the troll).

oh and to those who don't understand my last statement about the forced incest I'm using JT's own twisted logic.

If he defends a person by saying that videogames was the cause for murdering his parents even though he was forced at gunpoint to have sex with his mother - by that logic JT must condone that behaviour.

Possibly, but I wouldn't rule out that it won't even be over by then.

But, if you really think about it, there's not much the U.S government itself can do to the industry anyhow. At least, anything constitutional.

[...] YouTube Contact the Webmaster Link to Article video games GP’s AE Gets AO Form Letter from ESRB » Posted at GamePolitics.com on Monday, July 30, 2007 GamePolitics correspondent Andrew Eisen advises that he sent a protest to the ESRB over the Adults Only (AO) rating the board assigned to Manhunt 2 ... : ESRB: The ESRB rates computer and video games in terms of content and age-appropriateness ... letter follows:  It’s important to note that the ESRB is an organization that rates computer and video View Original Article » [...]

I agree with GP's original comments that this rating will be great for conversation when addressing retail concerns for AO rated games. It definitely sucks for Manhunt 2, but in the end a fundamental question will be addressed: Is it fair for retailers to broadstroke all games based on a single rating.

The answer is inevitably no, but it's a balance between nothing at all (which serves no one) and complete censorship (which serves the ruling few).

I'll take a balance anyday where our angry voices can be heard. But I prefer to shout at the people in my way, not the guys on the sideline.

You do raise the point of the fairness of the rating system. That's definitely directed at the ESRB. But historically they seem to have hit the nail on the head with a few hiccups. Did they this time? We might never know. I'll assume they did.

Well, it'll happen anyway. It happened to movies, music and comic books, but only TWO came out alive (Movies and music.) Comic books were dead and it took awhile for them to get back on their feet.

Want this to all cool down? Wait 20 years. Because this will NOT be over in a day. By 20 years, JT and everyone that hated Video games will be dead and buried.

@Thomas:

Which in turns leads to the very question: Why does the AO rating exist if it is only cause for every retailer and console manufacturer to forbid releasing the game? As far as I know, the ESRB refusing to rate the game would be far more lenient than say, just outright effectively banning the game with an AO rating.

The problem I see with it is that the AO rating was only created to appease the political scapegoats. Since politicians are growing angrier with video games due to all of the controversy surrounding this one game, of course they ESRB would have to show they still supported "the rules" as written by "law". When I say "law", I mean, "the McDonalds' Hot Coffee effect". Yes, where McDonald's was sued for, what else, having their hot coffee, well, hot.

But think, if the ESRB had not given ManHunt 2 an AO rating, where would they be now? Under flak from politicians and senators and angry mothers, the list would go on and on for supporting "degradation of our youth."

The last thing I want to see is the government control the Video Game industry, and that's looking more and more like a reality every day I visit here.

Second paragraph should say, "There’s no difference there, although now the movie studios release and promote the unrated versions of the movies that were released in theaters when they hit DVD three to six months later."

As an added point to Silver_Derstin, when films get rated NC-17 by the MPAA, the movie studios go back and re-cut the movie to get the R rating(for example, the Friday the 13th movies had to be re-cut numerous times) or they can appeal the rating(is there an appeal process with the ESRB?).

There's no difference there, although now the movie studios release and promote the unrated versions of the movies that were released in theaters.

Yet, the same stores that sell unrated versions of movies such as the American Pie series, the Scary Movie series(and spinoffs like Epic Movie and Date Movie), and Reno 911:Miami(most recent movie off the top of my head), won't sell unrated games either(Do the console makers allow unrated games?), so it's back to square one.

They alway send out the same automated email.

@ KitsuFox:
I do applaud you for at least making suggestions for the ESRB in regards to delineating between sexuality and violence as a solution to ratings issues, but you'd have to assume that the manufacturers would allow such rated content be playable on their systems. Granted, there is no gaurantee.

However, I do take issue with the point that the ESRB 'effectively crippled' (and the author's original complaint the the AO rating 'effectively banned') the game. That isn't so. A rating doesn't ban the material, retailers and manufacturers do. By extrapolating that comment even further, you could say the game developers effectively banned the game for creating the content to begin with... Just a thought.

Way I see it is, Take-Two gambled and lost. It is a well known fact, since the beginning of more advanced gaming history, that AO games are not supported by console makers. And that even if your game would be the awesomest shitz evar, they wouldn't let it work on your machine.

So T2 gambled with Manhunt 2, and lost. And now need to refine their work to get a M rating. Big whooping deal. You call it censorship, I call it refinement.

Rating is the first form of censorship...for better or for worse.

Freedom? To hell with "freedom" when "freedom" is used to suppress market demand, censor market supply, and enforce an artifical perception of "morality" on consumers. Thompson needs to put down his 3,000 year old hate manual -- some call it "the Bible" -- and stop worshipping his genodical bronze-age war God long enough to realize that the ESRB is destroying "FREEDOM." I believe that one of the major factors that encourages game censorship involves the fact that that video games still carry the "FOR TEH CHILDREN" connotation throughout most of mainstream society. How long until conservative morons realize that games are not the sole property of children? Don't like a product? Don't buy it.

The ESRB has failed gamers by becoming little more than a tool of right-wing politicans, idiotic parents, and every critics of the industry. The AO rating serves no objective function, and we are now witnessing a form of censorship similar to the comic-book bans of the 50's. I really wish I could censor the "values" of our "conservative" friends long enough for them to get a taste of what censorship feels like.

@ O'Plenty:
"In Ireland, the game was outright banned while more disturbing movies like Saw, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hostel 1 and 2 were allowed with no problems to have an 18 certificate. Our freedom is curtailed at an even more fundamental level."

We have similar problems with censorship through the ratings of film in the US (while admitting that they are definitely not nearly as bad as the UK/IL) in that it's essentially a secret society ratings board and an abusive appeals process. At least for our sake, the ESRB doesn't seem to illustrate the same characteristics.

@GP:
Print a form letter sent from Sony, MS, or Nintendo and I'll be up in arms about the AO rating issue... until then, I'll continue to read the mudslinging (all the while contemplating the idea of the 'MATURE' rating for adults given by the ESRB).

The ESRB is getting all of the flak, and it's only because they issued the AO Rating to begin with, and effectively crippled the game they spent money on.

The ESRB's mission statement comes into conflict with the policies of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. It'd have to be released on a console not made or affiliated with any of the 3, and even then retailers wouldn't carry it. IT'd only be the exotic shops that carry the AO game because of it's graphic content. And that content alone.

However, if we rate a game just by it's cover, and the policies for each individual console manufacturer all prohibit the sale of AO games for their systems, then how are we supposed to be able to see for ourselves if the game really deserves the AO rating? We can't. It's impossible to tell short of Rockstar North putting up the entire game up for a torrent download so software pirates can burn it to a DVD\fake Wii disc, and use some sort of Freeloader or modded console to access the game itself.

I personally think that the ESRB, instead of dropping the AO rating, should create a rating above it. I call it rating "X" - Games suited only for adults, may not be sold to anybody under, say, 25 years of age. To check for this, stores would have to implement a proof of ID system. This would coincide with the gradual increase in the need for identification, even though if it were seriously enacted, I'd see the same system applying to M-rated games and above.

Because of that, AO games should be sold in stores but the label enlarged, say, 1.5x it's normal size so that it'll make the heavily graphic games stand out from the rest. Violence is commonplace in the movie industry: Why should the Video Game industry be treated any different? People who watched SAW didn't go out and start murdering people in hideous ways. SAW is far more violent than, say, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas will be. Why? There's more blood than San Andreas' engine could EVER handle!

Plus, to think that an -unused- piece of data that was probably moreso a programmer's joke than anything caused San Andreas to get an AO rating is just plain rediculous. The mini-game there is absolutely inaccessible in the original copy, and the fact Rockstar had to REMOVE that unused piece of data simply because of, what else, it's very existance. There was no other way to access it, and technically it was the fault of the community for digging up such a rarity. The fact it remained in the game isn't a fault of Rockstar, it's a statement that it was more than likely a programmer's joke, or a leftofter that was carried over into the final release.
What about that copy of NHL '## (forgot the year) released on the PSX that had the South Park Christmas Special burned on the disc instead of the actual game? The media never poked and prodded and burned EA into obscurity, nor did the game get any additional publicity because of it. The error was fixed silently, and the problem remained silent. But still, nowadays that'd just creep people out, the game would get mass attention from everybody. And of course, here comes Wacko Jacko and his army of Alarmists to say that Video Games are as bad as South Park because EA slipped up and did something stupid.

But, alas, the video game industry is just that. Politicians, Jack Thompson, anybody who opposes the right to play violent VIdeo Games: Enjoy trying to put a circle in a square hole. It'll only work if you downsize it, and even then, there's still a lot of space left in the open.

KitsuFox

Once again, I put the burden on the publishers and the developers.

They created the situation that led to the current market, they are now reaping the rewards of the closed console platforms.

I would suggest that all these censored developers get together via their trade association, and work with the ESRB to help refine and improve the ratings system. I also think the ECA needs to do something, I mean I like Hal, but I am rather disturbed by the lack of action into CONSUMER issues like this.

@ Jack Thompson

"The AO rating did not ban the game. Retailers and platform manufacturers like Sony and Wii are welcome to a) sell the game, and b) make their platforms available to it, respectively.

But they CHOSE not to. “Freedom of choice.” Remember that little concept. Freedom is not just something gamers have. It is something that retailer boards, like at Wal-Mart, and giant companies, like Sony, have. Get used to it. Freedom is for everyone."

This was your message. You could have left it like that and most people here would have been shocked and amazed that you could put forward an argument without petty insulting of those who disagree with you. Instead, you insult the readership of the site and also the writer of the letter who should have the freedom you describe to do so.

"There is no such unified community"
As evidenced by the ECA? A unified organisation (or "community" if you will) of gaming consumers protecting their rights.

There is also no "v" in "obnoxious".

In my opinion, I actually agree with him however (his initial point, not the immature insults and baiting that followed). The problem is not that Manhunt 2 was given an adults only rating. The problem is that the console manufacturers will not allow that game on their systems. If anyone is at fault, it is them.

In fact, I actually believe that the US situation (while basically the same, not being able to play the game) is better than the Irish/UK one. The game is rated in the US, not being able to play is because of a company's decision.
In Ireland, the game was outright banned while more disturbing movies like Saw, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hostel 1 and 2 were allowed with no problems to have an 18 certificate. Our freedom is curtailed at an even more fundamental level.

Well said kurisu7885, this isn't about some misconception that the big three should be forced to allow AO on their systems we are aware they have the right to refuse, but we disagree with them exercising this right in this situation.

Hey Jack, remember when you said you weren't gonna post on this site anymore like a year or two ago? Why don't you try doing that again? For someone who denies the existence of a gaming "community" you certainly attempt to appeal to them through this site.

To those saying that this isn't a concern of the ESRB. Although they do share some part of this, you are right in saying that Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are the ones who share the most responsibility and Andrew did (according to his post) send letters to each of them and they didn't even give him the "respect" of a form letter.

@JACK THOMPSON, ATTORNEY

ooh he strikes again! JT swings a verbal volley only to ricochet on himself, showing his stupidity.

"castigating others for exercising their freedom"

To castigate:
To criticize severely.

Like you, are doing now...

"as if there even were such a community"

if you weren't such a bully, we wouldn't have turned on our active community cloaking device...

"self-centered, self-righteous"

sounds familiar, eh? jack?

"Or, put down the controller, step away from the platform, and get a life."

Says someone who seems to live here...

Slow news day my friend. And I don't blame them. Every news site has this issue.

I do agree whole heartedly DArrel. I rarely respond to articles written on GP because I generally think the content is actually worth reading and pretty much spot on...

However, this one just rubbed me the wrong way. The rating is just a label of content found within to help ALL consumers make a choice. Changing the pretty letters on the outside doesn't change the content found inside. By changing the rating, ESRB wouldn't be providing the service their existence relies upon.

I'm actually kind of curious as to why GP found this article even newsworthy, in all seriousness...

@Jack

I wonder if you know the definition of hypocrte Jack, Andrew was just commenting on the fact that an AO rating results are more in line with a ban than the rating system it is supposed to be, he didnt demand anything be changed or try to inhibit the freedom of companies or the ersb, he only tried to question the rationale behind such a decision which he has the freedom to do.


I'd personally define a hypocrite as someone who griped about freedom while seeking bans and restrictions and only seems to acknowledge that right for freedom when its for his cause.

Also someone who continues to threaten numerous individuals by email (usually correspondances he starts) then claims he is the one who is being harassed.

Jack Thompson Attorney and I'm not,

Guess what? I'm not going to insult you. Lets talk in a reasonable manner and pretend we respect one another. I've read every word of your letters and posts here on GP so please grant me the same.

I am concerned that you may have freedom and convenience confused. We realize that Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and retailers have the right to refuse AO games. But we are arguing against how legitimate their claims are that they have a console for everyone. They obviously don't have one as I, among others, want to play AO games and we can't under their policy. So we have every right to complain as consumers(and in some cases stockholders) because we are the ones purchasing their products and if we are unhappy then they should know why.

I don't think you really support freedom. You want to prohibit violent games so parents can neglect their duty to parent their own children. You want to protect children from getting their hands on materials created and marketed towards ADULTS. That my friend is convenience not freedom.

Freedom is allowing people to do what they wish to do as long as it isn't harming another individual. Images can not harm you, sound can not harm you and narrative can not harm you. Freedom is also allowing others to do what they want as long as it does not harm you. If you support freedom you will turn your head at whatever offends you and ignore it. If you feel the need to disagree with them by all means do it but don't try to prohibit others from expressing themselves because then your supporting convenience for yourself and for like minded individuals.

I fight for freedom. I want people to be able to do what they wish and to be entertained by whatever form of media they wish to be entertained by. A free country should not put limitations or restrictions on things because it has sexual or violent content. Sure keeping these things out of the reach of children is a good idea but even I get carded when I wish to buy a video game.

Jack if you were genuine in your concerns about keeping violent games away from children you should start with credit card companies. You do know children can easily get their hands on credit cards and use them for pornographic websites and whatever else they want to online? Why not attack the credit card companies for allowing those under the age of 18(in some cases under the age of 16) to get their hands on credit cards? That would seriously put a dent in the amount of children being entertained by mature content. How about you worry yourself with the fact that movie theaters don't check ID anymore? Why don't you concern yourself with something besides trying to prohibit adults from playing adult games. There are other methods other than prohibition.

From personal experience and knowledge of history its fairly obvious prohibition does not work. Look back at alcohol. That was a disaster and really gave more and more power to criminals. Look at the war on drugs. In MIDDLE SCHOOL If I really wanted to I could get my hands on any kind of illegal drug I wanted to but I couldn't get cigarettes or alcohol no matter how hard I tried. I never really was interested in LSD, coke or heroin so I just waited until I got to high school so I could get alcohol more easily. But now that I've been out of high school for a good amount of time I look back on it and think of how strange it was that illegal substances were more readily available than legal substances. And not only are illegal substances readily available to everyone all the money spent on them goes to thugs and drug lords. Prohibition goes much more harm that it does good.

Mr Thompson, it is obvious that prohibition doesn't work. Its obvious to everyone except the lazy parents that want others to raise their children and people like you who wish to demonize a form of entertainment made for and marketed towards ADULTS. Keep in mind that the average gamer is 33 years old and the average video game consumer is 40. So maybe its the parents that need to wake up and take responsibility onto their own shoulders. Its pretty obvious that if their child thinks game violence is a good idea in real life they are at fault. I'm sure your kids, if you have children, know better. And I'm sure your children's friends also know better. Why not try to punish parents for not raising their children properly? It certainly would be a lot more respectable than trying to bring down violent game producers and putting people out of work. It would be more respectable than trying to deny freedom to adults who wish to be entertained by violent or sexual content. Sure it isn't your cup of tea but who says I shouldn't be able to enjoy it?

I don't expect you to respond, If you do I suspect you wont even read my post. But if you do please think about it. Is this crusade of yours actually doing any good at all? Are violent games really the problem? Maybe its the lack of good parenting that is the problem. If parents would just teach their children right from wrong and then re-enforce it by not contradicting what they are telling their children through their own actions then maybe many of these issues you think are caused by video games would start to vanish.

If you want to support freedom then maybe YOU should support the right for adults to play adult games. I completely agree with the fact children should not play adult games. But If you take away the right for anyone to play adult games then your taking away that freedom and in return you get an illusion that children are better off. But really they are not because so many children have bad parents and it will rub off on them unless they have a respectable role model. And judging by my experience in public school they are probably better off having video game characters role models.

Perhaps children need better role models. Sport stars that aren't criminals, politicians that do not lie, parents that are honest and teach them about what is right and what is wrong. Maybe if communities were to provide better role models in the form of public school teachers and what not children would be better off. But really the main issue is the parents. Please think about this, support freedom and my right to make and be entertained by video games with violent and sexual content.

Terrible Tom

Again, the ESRB seems to be getting the blame despites what the RETAILERS AND SONY, NINTENDO AND MICROSOFT did. Why is the ESRB getting the flack? All they do is rate the game as they see fit. They didn't banned it like the BBFC. THe console manufacturers and the retailers are the ones that banned it. THEY are the ones you should be focusing your protests on, not the ESRB.

It's shooting the messenger, man.

Wait...hold on. Did Jackass Thompson just DEFEND a decision made by "the video game industry"?

The point that Andrew Eisen is trying to get across is that the rating of Mature states what the game's content is created for. Adult Only was originally meant for games that would file under things such as extreme sexual content to the point of being porn. Yes, Manhunt 2 is extreme in nature and includes many things that younger audiences would not be able to deal with. That's why they created the "Mature" game rating. If you aren't at a point you can establish fantasy from reality, you shouldn't be playing the game because you aren't mature enough.

I have a friend whose little brother was playing Manhunt one day when I went over. His brother, age 13, was very interested in what he was seeing, and some times would mimic what was going on in the game, swinging his arm through the air and whatnot. I went in and spoke to the kid's parents, and let them know that there is a very good reason this game is for mature audiences only, and showed them the game that they apparently bought for their son a few months prior. They haven't let him play the game since. Oh, and by the way, he has yet to shoot up a school.

Its not just about the wanting and desire to play "violent, sociopathic games". It's the fact that you are preaching about freedom yet basking in the fact that you feel you were instrumental in having banned a game from being released. If I don't see the game in Wal-Mart, and have to order it online, so be it. I still have the freedom to play the game, even though I more than likely will not. People have the choice to do things they enjoy, as long as they are not imposing on the freedom and liberty of others. I believe that is in a fine document our fore fathers created a while ago. Maybe you should look it up, I hear it's a good read. If a person wants to play a game that involves macabre and violent acts, so be it. That is their right...their FREEDOM to do so. The person is mature enough (there's that word "mature" again...I wonder if there is a connection between maturity and mature rated games...) to make decisions on their own.

So, put down your lawsuits, step away from the podium, and read a book for christ's sake...

~Ben

Sorry JT, but your idea of "freedom" is only or your own benefit. You want Freedom but at the same time, you want the freedom to take away everyone elses freedom.

It's like Hitler saying he has the right to kill the Jews.

I agree that this is a de-facto ban. I don't like that. That being said the ESRB should either retire the AO rating or the big 3 should allow AO content on their consoles. PS2, PS3, PSP, Xbox & Xbox 360 allow users to watch R, NC-17, XXX, and unrated videos, so why not games? Leave the parental control defaulted to M as the rating ceiling so that users will have to consciously make a choice. as to what games will play.

That all said, I am personally not interested in playing Manhunt 2 or any other AO title really. I just don't like the politics or the hypocrisy of those involved. Adults should be allowed to make adult decisions.

I agree with those (unfortunately, including Jacky-T) who have said this isn't a concern for the ESRB. While you could debate the makeup of the raters, the appeals process, or the basis for what deems a rating, you cannot blame the ESRB for banning the game from the market because of it's weighted decision.

Noting the fact that the AO rating came probably not from one single source but multiple views of this game's content, the population has to step back and say... maybe they got this one right. Regardless if they didn't, it's the retailers and manfacturers that have banned the game. While AE took the time to send this same gripe to Sony et al, sending this to the ESRB really doesn't make much sense.

Bandwagoning saying that the ESRB is now evil (especially after supporting it through this website for the past few years for their ratings historically) also doesn't make much sense.

I'd be more interested if there was a thoughtful response from a system manufacturer. Everything I read in the ESRB response (aside from avoiding censorship) seems appropriate.

@JACK THOMPSON, ATTORNEY

We understand that Jack, that the retailers and console manufactures have a right, a freedom to not allow the game on their hardware or on their shelves, WE GET IT!!!! HOWEVER, we have the freedom do disagree. Not only does this keep the hands away from whom is not the game's attended audience, children, it keeps away from it's intended audience, responsible adults who have the money to indulge in that game if they so desire.

Also, the game can still be released via the internet for PC, and that would require a credit card, and who has those? Deedeedeeeee, adults!

So Jack, turn off your computer, step away from the desk, and get a life.

"Whoever ruled out an AO and an M [Censored] version anyway. Sell the AO version in adult shops"

This isn't an issue of retailers its about the console manufacturers not allowing AO games on their systems.

Here's clue for Andrew Eisen. It pertains to a little thing called "freedom."

The AO rating did not ban the game. Retailers and platform manufacturers like Sony and Wii are welcome to a) sell the game, and b) make their platforms available to it, respectively.

But they CHOSE not to. "Freedom of choice." Remember that little concept. Freedom is not just something gamers have. It is something that retailer boards, like at Wal-Mart, and giant companies, like Sony, have. Get used to it. Freedom is for everyone.

It is even for obvnoxious attorneys who have an absolute right to exercise their freedom to point these obvious hypocrisies in the "gaming community," as if there even were such a community, out to self-centered, self-righteous little twits like Andrew Eisen. There is no such unified community, as proven by the fact that I get calls and emails from kids who play games all the time. They "get" what freedom is about, and they understand that retailers and companies have freedom, too.

So, Andrew, if you want to play violent, sociopathic games, like even the employees at Rockstar have recently been disclosed to have opposed, then do something about it rather than writing hypocritical whiny letters castigating others for exercising their freedom.

Or, put down the controller, step away from the platform, and get a life.

Jack Thompson

Bite your tongue Jack. You have no right to even use the word freedom. It is your life's goal to inhibit freedom and flush the first amendment down the toilet. But don't worry, one of these days you may get your wish, unfortunately it just may be you on the wrong side of a censor.

Because a lot of the games aren't as high profile as Manhunt 2. I got this information from an individual that has been in the industry for over 2 decades. I trust information is accurate else I wouldn't have learned it at the college I am attending.

Quick 2nd post. According to Wiki the only other game to recieve AO was The Punisher, which was then redone to get a M rating.
 
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Craig R.Do conspiracies ever make sense? The fact that people are now having to defend themselves against nutjob websites like Breitbart.com shows how far down into the rabbit hole we've all been forcibly dragged.09/18/2014 - 7:05pm
Michael ChandraBut when the mountain obviously exists...09/18/2014 - 5:49pm
Michael ChandraMind you, if someone makes a mountain out of a molehill with a secret agenda as motive, it'd be fine.09/18/2014 - 5:48pm
Andrew EisenOkay, so I guess I'm not making sense of #notyourshield because it doesn't make any sense.09/18/2014 - 5:28pm
Andrew EisenI'd really only count three as being "death of gamer" articles and only one as arguably going a bit far with "gamers are young white dudes" stuff.09/18/2014 - 5:17pm
Andrew EisenMost are really just a look at the crap that happened the previous day when Sarkeesian's new video came out and almost all are exceedingly clear that they're talking about the specific gamers who are being obnoxious.09/18/2014 - 5:17pm
Andrew EisenKrono - Yep, I had only seen two. I looked at the 12 you sent and while I had seen a few of them, I didn't think to count them. Some aren't about gamers at all. One's just highlighting two others. One is a Gamasutra community member blog post.09/18/2014 - 5:15pm
Michael Chandrawould clearly not apply, since they weren't used as shield. It's more "hey, just because I don't agree with you doesn't mean I'm CISWASP."09/18/2014 - 5:08pm
Michael ChandraIn comparison though, the more extreme views would be fairly countered with "you don't speak for me". But the batshit crazy people tend not to even use others as the shield to defend their batshit crazy ideas and insults, so at that point #notyourshield09/18/2014 - 5:06pm
Michael ChandraWhich is of course real silly because when there are so many horrible stories and statistics too, it's utterly irrelevant whether some don't mind.09/18/2014 - 5:00pm
Michael ChandraIn this context it would be women claiming they don't see a problem with the stuff, so stop claiming women don't like it!09/18/2014 - 5:00pm
Michael Chandra"You don't speak for me. I am not your shield. You cannot use me to defend your own opinion."09/18/2014 - 4:59pm
Michael ChandraAE, if we leave aside the falsehoods some use with the term, the idea is regarding minorities and such.09/18/2014 - 4:58pm
Michael ChandraKrono did just a bit earlier in the shoutbox prh99.09/18/2014 - 4:56pm
Andrew EisenI still don't get the what #notyourshield is supposed to mean. Who is unfairly using who as a shield for what?09/18/2014 - 4:43pm
prh99Didn't said anything about #notyourshield or it's origins. Assuming your comment was directed at me.09/18/2014 - 4:28pm
prh99Leigh Alexander is right though, no one has to cater to them (trolls). I think a lot of them would likely continue playing even if scantily clad women were omitted or protagonist was female.09/18/2014 - 4:21pm
Michael ChandraSo no, normal gamers feeling attacked was not what sparked #notyourshield and only a fool would suggest otherwise.09/18/2014 - 4:21pm
Michael Chandra#NotYourShield was kickstarted by 4chan people, so don't go and make nonsense claims about that.09/18/2014 - 4:20pm
prh99those toxic individuals conduct their trolling under. It could have easily been under the Men Rights banner etc, they are just generally unpleasant and angry people who can't stand people disagreeing with them. 09/18/2014 - 4:00pm
 

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