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Friday, May 15, 2009

ESRB - the good & the bad

*NOTE: Portions of the text of this post was originally posted in PlayStation G.A.P. 2007-06-25*

I've been digging through my old G.A.P. blog to find some interesting rants musings that I might've posted.... came across this one from 2 years ago, on the eve of the release of Manhunt 2 & all the "controversy" that caused....

Has the ESRB affected you in any way? If so, has it been negative or positive?

I myself like the general idea of a rating system for games. Not so much for myself, but my 6 year old nephew likes to play games, and I like having a rating system that helps me judge whether a game has content appropriate for him to play. I do a lot of research into games before I buy them, and this is just one tool that helps me.

And I think it's a good idea for parents in general, so even if they don't play games themselves, they have some idea of what a game contains.

But the ESRB has some problems.

Awhile back I bought Fable: The Lost Chapters at Futureshop. I'd played & finished Fable, it came with my Xbox, but I wanted that small bit of extra content so I bought the lost chapters.

When I was at the checkout the sales clerk asked for my I.D.! I was like, "err... what?? Why do you need to see my I.D.?"

Turns out that Fable is an M-rated game. I hadn't noticed that at all, and frankly, it stunned me. I was buying this game for myself, my own personal playing, so ratings don't really matter to me in these cases. I'm an adult. But I would have assumed Fable to be a T-rated game. I've played through it & in my opinion, the content in it is not any stronger than what would be in a PG-13 movie.

This is where the ESRB doesn't work. If I was in charge of Lionhead Studios, I would've challenged that rating, it seems inapproriate.

Personally, I would be comfortable letting a 12 year old & up play Fable.

But the back of the box says:


strong language
sexual themes

  • There is mild "sexual content": you can "have sex" with your wife. What this is, is that you stand near a bed at night with your wife (fully clothed), you compliment him/her over & over, and they might say, "let's go to bed..." the screen goes black, and there's some giggling, and sometimes she might say, "you're naughty!" then it's morning, you're both standing beside the bed (fully clothed). That's it! You don't get in bed, get naked or see/hear any sort of explicit sex.

  • There isn't any blood in the game, you kill monsters & it's all very T-rated, they explode into glowing experience balls that you pick up. Their corpses quickly fade away.

  • There isn't any swearing in the game.

  • You can choose to do good or evil. You can attack people you're supposed to escort & protect; an evil act.

Does this all add up to an M-rating? I don't think so.

I wonder how many other games out there have been given inappropriate ratings?

Obviously all this ratings talk has come up because of the Adult-Only rating given to Manhunt 2 by the ESRB.

Before this, I didn't know that Sony & Nintendo don't allow AO games on their systems. Does Microsoft?

M-rated is for 17+, and AO is for 18+, so the difference between these games is 1 year?? Come on.

Despite the name of the rating, "Adults Only", the AO rating is clearly meant to stop a game from being sold.... to anyone.

The ESRB should just be honest & change the "AO" to something like this:

CB = Cannot Buy

[I even designed the logo for them. Nice of me, eh?]:

Just knock off the hypocrisy already. I doubt that a game like Manhunt 2 is something I'd want to buy, but that should be MY choice whether or not to play it on my PSP, *not* Sony's, in collusion with the ESRB.



Benni said...

here in europe all your M rated games get a +18 rating even some of your T rated games get +18 like Haze which only got a +15 in the UK. the rating here is like this +3=E,+7,+12,+16=T,+18=M but in the UK the rating is diffrent +11,+15,+18 (dont know the rest)

Don said...

Games have a harder time in the U.K as far as ratings, I've heard of a few cases where games have been banned there-- not sure if it was just talk or if they were actually banned.

From what I've heard for movies/video in the U.K., violence is less acceptable than sexual content. I'm not sure where they stand on depictions of drug use/smoking, or alcohol.

There's a feeling that interactive violence is worse than watching violence... is watching Saving Private Ryan worse than PLAYING a Saving Private Ryan video game? The debate continues....


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