Tough Love? Hollywood Reporter Examines ESRB - 3D Realms Dust-up

August 2, 2007 -
Recently, GamePolitics and other sites reported on 3D Realms CEO Scott Miller's harsh criticism of the ESRB over the rating body's demand that the company's website bring content descriptors and rating icons into line with current standards.

Among Miller's comments at the time:
I think [the ESRB] came off like a school yard bully, rather than an industry partner. Why all the threats right off the bat? If the ESRB people know what was being said about them in underground channels, so to speak, they’d see that their antics have caused them much loss of faith as an industry leader.

Paul Hyman of the Hollywood Reporter follows up on the controversy, including a shot in Miller's direction fired by ESRB president Patricia Vance:
It's unfortunate that Mr. Miller's feelings were hurt, but let's be clear. The ESRB is the self-regulatory body for the video game industry. We were established by the industry and we simply enforce the rules and guidelines that the industry has imposed upon itself... We created a standard notice by which to do so, and that's precisely what Mr. Miller received...

Many other companies have received similar notices over the years and not one of them has ever complained about their tone... We're hardly the heavy-handed bullies that Mr. Miller is painting us as. Tough love might be a better way to describe it.

The Hollywood Reporter's Hyman writes: 
It would seem that the ESRB may be caught between a rock and a hard place, industry observers note - if it fails to enforce its regulations, critics take it to task; if it enforces the rules, the industry balks.

Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) expressed sympathy for both parties:
I can see how the same correspondence to a developer who may not have on-staff council could be interpreted more harshly in tone than intended, as seems the case here. Honestly, I believe this is more a case of that than anything with malice.

Full Disclosure Dept: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

Comments

[...] ESRB shows ‘tough love’ to game developer [The Hollywood Reporter via Game Politics] [...]

Gameboy

E10 is for content thats harder than 6 but softer than PG13,a good example Final Fantasy 6,if you take the gore out of Metroid prime and tone it done sut a lil it would fall into E10.

E10 is a good middle ground between kid and teen,and sadly we need a good middle ground between mature and "porn".

@Citizen_Snips

In the Article they are quoted as saying that the have not ever dealt with the ESRB personally. They said that the publisher always did that part.

@ E. Zachary Knight

they are the publisher for all their games.

VG -- the MPAA system would be really great except for the fact that it's copyrighted and trademarked by the MPAA and won't let anybody else use it.

Besides, anyone with half a brain who takes 15 seconds to read the labels is not going to be confused by the ESRB ratings.

In this case both sides went a bit OTT.


The Central Scrutinizer -- aka: Wolfeman
Games are the chosen media to get no respect they are packed into stores and hidden away behind glass because kids might steal them, and if they put them out like DVDs they would lose profits from the loss of space that could go to sale you crap you don't really need.

Now at EB and GS they have to protect the lil ones form the big bad M games so they somehow gain face from doing this...*rolls eyes*.

You know, that is a good thought. The ESRB can't do someting without pissing off some other party.

However, I don't recall Manhunt 2 being banned, I just recall an inept company such as Rockstar deciding to cave into pressure to edit it, instead of releasing it on PC uncut, and thus getting around all the red tape.

@ E. Zachary Knight

so they can continue to tease us with a game that will never be?

@ John:

She's hot, all right. What makes her hotter is that she's "in leagues with the game industry" as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named would say.

@Citizen_Snips

I have no doubt they are not ignorant of the ratings agreement. I think they are just making a stink over it, because of recent events. This is getting them free publicity.

oops lies and slander on myself.

Quick Check of Mobygames.com shows they only published 3 games and they also produced Prey a more recent game so they had to of known something about the process.

@ E. Zachary Knight

Then they lie, because the list themselves as the publisher on most of their games.

Hal makes a good point, but I do think the letter wasn't very helpful in terms of telling them how to get the new materials.

I agree with Hal.

all industry stuff aside, vance is so damn hot

How about 3D Realms just shut up and make games?
And not take 10 years plus to develop them?

@VG : I agree fully. I've been pounding the desk hollering for ratings uniformity for a long time to no avail.

The wife and I want to see it taken a step further and have more uniformity in the way video games are served up in the stores. I can easily browse a genre of a book, cd, or movie yet why is it I can not peruse game genres I want at EB or god forbid, target/kmart/walmart ?? They way the shelve and organize the things is ridiculous. Forget about it if its behind locked glass.

I had to laugh at the response, even if it is a little insensitive, but I suspect the ESRB have to be full 'Not screwing around' mode, particularly at the moment whilst people are looking for weaknesses to exploit. If 3DRealms gets caught, it's not them that the finger will end up being pointed at, it will be the ESRB for 'not enforcing their own rules'.

The ESRB were CREATED to be between a rock and a hard place, that's where they live, as it were.

Personally, I agree with Hal's opinion on this, because there's limited 'buffer' between contact point and company head, there's none of the administrative filtering that normally takes place. Official letters are often worded like this, but the Company Head is usually informed by a department head or the like, and doesn't see the actual wording of the Email.

As for 'The Underground Opinion', whilst I feel the ESRB isn't perfect, and sometimes says or does things I don't agree with (and are therefore, obviously, wrong ;)), it should be noted that the Internet hates everyone.

@Conejo

Wrong article bud ;)

did you know that including too much gore or even foul language can cause a movie to be rated NC-17?

everyone needs to get over this whole "AO is for sex only" idiocy.

I don't really get what they're whining about but is the site not having the right ratings on it the problem? It says "current standards" does that mean the site is using old ratings? I don't get what the big deal is.

@ Jonathan

Brokenscope is right. They did not go to their site and say, "Hey you have unrated games here. You need to fix that or else." they said, "The rating symbols you are using on these games are out of date. Use the most up to date symbols."

Do you understand better?

[...] [Via GamePolitics] [...]

Does the ESRB have any right to go by the 3D Realms site and play "watch-dog" telling them to fix their ratings? You get "unrated" movies all the time, any "unrated" media should be watched or played at the viewers discretion and should be approached at the retail level by the means that the retail outlet sees fit.

@Johnathan

Yes, the esrb has trademarked symbols, if you use those symbols, you follow certain guidelines as part of the agreement. Its called a contract.

They told them that they needed to update the ratings information on certain games. That is all.

To be honest I think what really needs to happen is there needs to be a universal media rating system. TV, movies, and Videogames should all follow the same system to make it easier for everyone. Viewing one medium will reinforce your view on all the other mediums. for example; If a parent isnt farmilliar with a video game, but watches an M rated TV show or movie then they can know what to expect from an M rated game. Although I wouldnt use the ESRB system, I would use the MPAA system. It is the most well known and easily understood.

I think this would also solve the AO rating problem because most AO games that arent sexual in nature, like Manhunt 2, will become R and as such not be banned from stores. T will mostly become PG-13, E will become G and E+10 will become PG. Simple and easy.

The issue I find with the ESRB is lack of concrete reasoning for rating how they do. I read the rating descriptions and all I can think is - wow, the lawyers did a good job writing these since technically I can call any game whatever rating I want. Its a matter of opinion.

Does anyone actually bother to look up the ratings process? Or do they prefer to sit around bitching about it.

http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_process.jsp

http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp

I think it is pretty simple, I also think its important to realize, that any rating will be an opinion. All the "scientific" things that determine violence in a game that I have seen consider Pac-Man Violent.

I still don't thing the ESRB was in the wrong. They were doing what they were created to do. Rate games, and make sure that developers relate the information to the public.

I don't recall the letter in question saying anything heavy handed. It just said: "You need to do this. You have X amount of time to comply." If I get into trouble, I'd sure like to know how much time I have to rectify it. You say they don't need a time limit on this kind of thing? I say they do. If they didn't then the warning would hold no weight.

@ theninja

While I hate a few of the content descriptors, like 'comic mischief' or 'simulated gambling', I generally support the ESRB's ratings. I find most games are properly rated as far as the rating. I've totally missed some of the content that is supposedly in a few games, like 'tobacco use'. I believe this is due to me being more interested in the actual game then whether this old wise man has a pipe.

The only rating I don't quite understand is the E10+ rating. How is this different then E? I've played E and E10+ rated games, and I can't see what the big difference is. As far as T and M rated games are concerned, I can tell the difference there fairly easily.

I still don't understand what 3DRealms is complaining about. Even if they have never dealt the ESRB personally, they should not be complaining about the ESRB. They should be complaining about their publisher not relaying them information. That is the real problem. If the publisher had informed them of the changes in icons and such before hand, they never would have gotten the letter.
 
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