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Let’s talk about Game Ratings

November 20th, 2007

I hate them.

That’s right, that’s what I said. Hate. Loath. Detest. Think they are the worst thing to happen to games since… probably since ET was released on the 2600. Why? Not because the ratings are unneeded or unhelpful but because of the “foot in the door” it gives politicians looking to boost their “I’m looking out for your kids because you’re an incompetent parent” image. It’s sickening. Take Manhunt 2 – the whipping boy of the video game world. It’s bad enough that it is an extremely violent video game that is a sequel of a very violent video game. But it had the misfortune to come from Rockstar Games who have been on everyone’s short list for “video game manufacturers that need to be run out of business” over the whole “hot coffee” incident.

So what happens? Manhunt 2 gets effectively banned over content that is arguably no more violent than any other recent game releases. Rockstar, deciding that it couldn’t eat all those development costs, went back and blurred a few scenes to soften some of the content and removed one death scene and ended up with a Mature rating. Everyone is happy right? Rockstar gets their game published with a butt-load of free publicity, the ESRB board gets to feel like it flexed it’s muscles and punished Rockstar, and the public gets to play the game (even if it is with a Glamour Shots glow).

But is that enough? No. Why? Because it is an election year (doesn’t it seem like every year is an election year? when are they going to get this thing over with it? seems like they’ve been running for president for 3 years) and a coalition of senators including Lieberman (Mr. Let-me-dictate-your-morals-to-you) and Hillary Clinton (Mrs. There’s-got-to-be-an-issue-I-can-jump-on-to-get-me-some-republican-votes) that need some more face time. So they start whining about how they ESRB shouldn’t have given it a Mature rating especially since hackers have released a code to remove the blur on the PSP version (who is playing this game on a bus anyhow?) and a Sony employee released the unedited version for PS2 (yeah, he was fired but much love, bro).

If this smells remarkably similar to the Hot Coffee incident, are you really surprised? I’m not. Did they really think they were going to go back and delete the original scenes and replace them with blurry ones when they could just add a “blur” code into the original game? They’ve been working on this game for years and now some a-hole politician looking to make an example of Rockstar told them to change their game. Would YOU spend one more second doing it than you absolutely had to? Hell no. They surely knew the game would be hacked and just as surely didn’t care.

The problem I have now and will continue to have is that there is NOTHING special about Manhunt 2. It pushes the envelop but no more than movies like Hostel (which get R ratings BTW). Someone decided that Manhunt 2 should be the one that will be the rallying cry for the morally superior. I’m sick of it and you should be too. They are calling for a more unified system (ironically which probably would have released the game in it’s original form) of ratings across music, movies, and games. Anyone seen This Film is Not Yet Rated? If that doesn’t put the fear of God in you about a “unified” rating system nothing will. We don’t need less people with more power, we need more people that actually know what they are doing.

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  1. November 22nd, 2007 at 08:39 | #1

    If anything, we should have learned by now that:

    government + social issues = bad

    I think the real problem is that the gaming industry is making “too much” money, which makes it a target by default. You know, now it’s become “big gaming” and the politicians are taking notice. Trust me, there is money to be made and they can smell it. Once the campaign donations start coming in they’ll back off after they fluff their feathers a little and feel like they’ve done something [that makes them look] good.

    And yea, it sure does seem like we’ve been in a presidential election for three years… or more. Frankly, I’m sick of all the candidates and suspect voter turnout will be EXTREMELY low this year.

  2. November 22nd, 2007 at 13:24 | #2

    You know what is really ironic? G4 trashed Manhunt 2 (and not just because of the fuzzy death scenes). All this controversy over a game that probably wouldn’t have sold that well anyways. Now it’s probably sold 10x’s the copies it would have. So lame.

  3. November 22nd, 2007 at 21:50 | #3

    I still remember Steve Tyler of Aerosmith thanking Tipper Gore for guaranteeing them an extra million record sales due to the Explicit lyrics sticker.

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