The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) removed an online ratings summary of the content in Dead or Alive: Paradise for PSP from its website today in response to inquiries as to the appropriateness of the summary.
While the ESRB is mostly known for providing ratings on game boxes (such as the familiar "E for Everyone" or "T for Teen" ratings), the organization's website also provides more detailed synopses of a game's content intended to "explain in objective terms the context and relevant content that factored into a game's ESRB rating assignment."
The entry for Dead or Alive: Paradise, however, went a step beyond "objective":
This is a video game in which users watch grown women dressed in G-string bikinis jiggle their breasts while on a two-week vacation. Women's breasts and butts will sway while playing volleyball, while hopping across cushions, while pole dancing, while posing on the ground, by the pool, on the beach, in front of the camera.
There are other activities: Users can gamble inside a casino to win credits for shopping; they can purchase bathing suits, sunglasses, hats, clothing at an island shop; they can "gift" these items to eight other women in hopes of winning their friendship, in hopes of playing more volleyball.
And as relationships blossom from the gift-giving and volleyball, users may get closer to the women, having earned their trust and confidence: users will then be prompted to zoom-in on their friends' nearly-naked bodies, snap dozens of photos, and view them in the hotel later that night.
Parents and consumers should know that the game contains a fair amount of "cheesy," and at times, creepy voyeurism—especially when users have complete rotate-pan-zoom control; but the game also contains bizarre, misguided notions of what women really want (if given two weeks, paid vacation, island resort)—Paradise cannot mean straddling felled tree trunks in dental-floss thongs."
ESRB spokesman Eliot Mizrachi released a statement on the issue today:
The rating summary for Dead or Alive Paradise was posted to our website in error, and we have since replaced that version with the corrected one. We recognize that the initial version improperly contained subjective language and that issue has been addressed.
Our intention with rating summaries is to provide useful, detailed descriptions of game content that are as objective and informative as possible. However they are ultimately written by people and, in this case, we mistakenly posted a rating summary that included what some could rightfully take to be subjective statements.
We sincerely regret the error and will work to prevent this from happening again in the future.
GP: While some might be quick to condemn the ESRB for overstepping their boundaries, it's important to realize a couple things. First, there's nothing technically wrong with their original position: the ratings, after all, are voluntary, and the ESRB itself is an industry body. Second, they were quick to admit error and replace the synopsis with a more objective one -- when was the last time we heard the MPAA admit they were wrong?
Dan Rosenthal is a legal analyst for the games industry.