The ESRB's New Rating: FU

The ESRB's New Rating: FU

Here's a disclaimer for you: I'm 23 years old. Although I sometimes have the blogging maturity of a 13-year-old, I'm pretty sure that being 23 entitles me to a few things, namely beer, cigarettes, and all the gory multimedia I can get my hands on!

Unless, of course, I want to play a video game. I can watch Hostel II, and squeal with glee when unsuspecting people get their arms twisted off in Saw III, but heaven forbid I try to do that as a virtual character in a video game. Or worse yet, watch a virtual character do it in the trailer of a video game. Won't somebody think of the children!

The problem lies in the fact that somebody already has -- a group of somebodies, in fact, known as the Entertainment Software Rating Board. The group's existence is a nice way to keep the government out of the great video game debate, but I'm worried that the ESRB -- like Denethor -- is slowly abandoning reason in the place of madness. And while I'd normally not care about game ratings, seeing as I'm of the legal age to buy anything I damn well please, the various console manufacturers have made it quite clear with the recent Manhunt II saga that mature content is simply not welcome on the Wii, the PS3 or the 360.

But how is this fair, to me, the consumer who enjoys playing mature, realistic games? Yes, I think Manhunt II is going to be as boring as Manhunt got to be, but that doesn't mean that I want to play a watered-down version of the game. I want the full, head-stabbing, groin-ripping experiences -- not because I'm a psychotic in training, but because this extreme brutality ultimately contributes to the game's novelty factor and overall success.

Unfortunately, this will never happen, as the console overlords have since chipped into the discussion. Games that get the Adults-Only might as well get run over by a truck in the parking lot; that's how much value they have, as they won't be seeing the light of day on any of the modern console machines. None. Zippo. Not on the XBox 360, not on the PlayStation 3 and certainly not on the Wii. I suppose I can cross my fingers for an uncensored PC version of Manhunt II, but after the brouhaha surrounding the freakin' Grand Theft Auto series, I sincerely doubt Rockstar's going to want to head down that path again.

It just greatly disturbs me to watch the ESRB flex its knuckles against the sheer onslaught of evil that is pixilated gore. The ratings system is a wonderful tool to help uninformed patrons (parents) understand what their kids are up to, and I find absolutely nothing wrong with disallowing people under certain ages from playing particular content. What I do have a problem with, however, is the ESRB and manufacturers treating the AO stamp -- and "trailer guidelines" -- like a virtual banstick, which prevents me from reaching content that I, as a functioning adult, should be able to see. Believe me, I wouldn't be quite as interested in Dark Sector had I not seen that the game offers some additional, immersive gameplay -- at the end of a glaive -- than a typical third-person shooter. Show me a sanitized version of the trailer, and I'll likely be bored.

But gamers have seen this slippery slope coming for awhile now. First was the war of ratings when it came to modded content, now it's the battle over violent content. Pretty soon, we'll all be playing nothing but Mario Party while whistling Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, because some external board of arbiters has deemed mature fun to be unsafe for any human being's consumption. Passive-aggressive censorship rocks.

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Bin3ry

IMO, I think alot of peaple dont want to take responsibility for thier actions. So they say stuff like, "The devil made me do it". People that investigate these violent actions try to find reason for them, and if a 13 year old is arrested for a violent act, then they see this person played alot of violent games, then that must be the reason. I dont agree, I think one of the reasons violence is worse today is because, of bad parenting. Look at all the kids haveing kids today. They dont even know right from wrong themselves, how the hell are they gonna teach it. I play more than my share of violent games, exspecially Counter-Strike: Source, but i dont think i will buy a AWP, and try to pwn my boss.

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Mr E

The AO game rating and NC-17 movie ratings ought to be abolished. What business does a corporation or government have in deciding what's safe or not for children to experience? Only the parents can decide that.

Here's great opinion piece that recently ran in Entertainment Weekly, making the case for abolishing the NC-17 movie rating:

http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20042869,00.html

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TheMurph

See, this is the fatal reasoning -- the ESRB needs to exist, because at least it offers some better degree of oversight than, say, your typical congressperson. It makes my stomach churn to think of what would happen if legislators held the power of oversight over video games. And that's because there are some parents out there who aren't content with deciding their own child's experience; they feel the need to push their viewpoints on the entirety of the marketplace. When enough of them band together and complain to legislators, well, legislators listen.
At least the ESRB, flawed as it ultimately is, is in a position to remain *relatively* unaffected by lobbying groups.

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showiproute

Oh dear God please turn Gordon loose on this one! I gotta hear it! But on the topic, I can kinda see how the ESRB would keep an AO rated game from consoles since they're so easily accessible to minors. But they shouldn't have to deal with that crap when releasing it on the PC. I mean when was the last time you heard of a 14 year old with a 2 or 3 thousand dollar gaming rig? On top of that, I'm 23 too and believe me I've been grossed the hell out by the likes of tubgirl, goatse, lemonparty and meatspin so I really doubt an AO rated game is gonna scar me more than these online "click this link to see something funny" tricks.

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TheMurph

The ESRB isn't keeping the game off consoles; the manufacturers refuse to allow any AO-rated game to tarnish their precious little machines.

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Wolf

Nice Cat!

Wolf

"Any sufficiently advanced technology
is indistinguishable from magic."
--- Arthur C. Clarke

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showiproute

Ah...well what in the world is keeping AO games from the PC market?

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TheMurph

well, nothing. unless a company wants to take a heap of bad press, like whenever rockstar releases... anything... that even lightly treads on the mature-versus-adult line. GTA, anyone?

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samduhman

You may not like it but I would think eveyone agrees that the current trend of games and movies do in fact desensitize people. The article points out a perfect example, Saw and Hostile movies. When I was in my late teens/early twenties we did not need the excessive violence to scare/freak us out that the current generation requires. How these this type of visual violence affect a challenged mind is yet to be decided. I do notice the increased violence by teens in the news these days versus 15 years ago. What about the story of teens beating the hell out of bums for the "fun of it" thats been going on lately. Thats just messed totally up. Whether this is coincidence I can't say.

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oihorse

There's the problem with anecdotal evidence, you're limited to the small sphere of influence around you.

In the 80's and 90's you could easily get Faces of Death movies which make Saw and Hostel pale in comparison.

Is the increase in youth violence real or perceived? Is there merely more TV and internet coverage of what happens? Check out the stories of youth gangs in major cities in the 1800's and 1920's and you begin to see that all we have is more of the same - just better coverage and shorter memories.

Do you really think that mobs of teens NEVER beat bums before (Hello Clockwork Orange published in the 1960's and the movie in 1971).

It seems the norm to have rose-colored glasses when thinking about history and that things are so much worse today - but a little digging and talking to older people it appears that there was just as much sex and violence going on 'back then'. Those headlines just grab so mny ratings that you can't turn anywhere without seeing it - so it feels more prevalent.

Horse

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TheMurph

Yes, media might be more graphic nowadays, but I would hardly say I'm desensitized to *violence*. I'm desensitized to fictional violence, which should be commonplace for anyone with a reasonable intelligence -- what you see on the big screen isn't real.

There's a big difference between watching Saw III and surfing rotten.com every day. I enjoy the former, because it's just fun to be subjected to extreme grossness from time to time (ever been to a haunted house?). I don't enjoy the latter, because I don't particularly enjoy looking at the very real outcomes of violent acts.

In this case, we're talking about freakin' video games. And as an adult, capable of making my own decisions over what's appropriate for me and what isn't, I would like the ability to play games that I'm pretty sure I can handle.

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oihorse

Much like the old comics code - the consoles, the PCs and the distributors don't have to listen to the ESRB.

They just don't want to put up with the perceived backlash from the Jack Thompsons and righteous fury of the various parent's groups.

Much like when Steve Jobs told the EU to direct it's ire towards the record companies rather than iTunes - put the blame where it counts, on Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft and Rockstar.

It really seems like the ESRB is working as intended.

Please correct me if I'm reading this wrong!

Horse

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Darth Ninja

One word: Telatubys.
that said; ugh, just ugh
this would make a great rant for Gorden..

DN

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popstop785

We are screwed. . . Bunch of bull if you ask me. Should I get a head start and buy that new Pony game for the DS?

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