ESRB defends Manhunt 2’s Mature rating. Politician wants to know why rating was changed

Pre-order Manhunt 2 for Wii at AmazonPoliticians are at it again. After the ESRB granted Manhunt 2 an M for Mature rating and it got a release date of this Halloween, following the initial AO for Adults Only rating for Manhunt 2, California Senator Leland Yee is now calling for the ESRB to reveal exactly what was cut from the game to make it an M instead of AO rating.

Yee has a history of working against the game industry to try and pass legislation banning violent video games, and he was the original author of the recent law that was overturned by a California judge for banning the sale of “violent” games to minors. The judge called the law unconstitutional.

Yee says, “Parents can’t trust a rating system that doesn’t even disclose how they come to a particular rating. The ESRB and Rockstar should end this game of secrecy by immediately unveiling what content has been changed to grant the new rating and what correspondence occurred between the ESRB and Rockstar to come to this conclusion. Unfortunately, history shows that we must be quite skeptical of these two entities.”

California Senator Leland YeeYee claims that because the ESRB is funded by the gamemakers themselves (who pay to have their games rated), it creates a conflict of interest. Publishers are essentially the ESRB’s customers, but the ESRB can put the nail in the coffin of a game if it gives said game an AO rating. Nintendo, Sony & Microsoft refuse to allow AO-rated games on their systems, and no major retailers or game-specific stores will carry AO-rated games, thus crippling its chances of financial success.

After a ESRB representative released a statement saying, “Manhunt 2 is rated M for Mature audiences by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) as recommended for ages 17 and older. The game will be marketed appropriately to its intended audience in accordance with the ESRB’s guidelines. As with all M-rated games, it is not intended for, nor will it be, marketed to children,” the President of the ESRB, Patricia Vance, responded herself.Manhunt 2 Screenshot
“Publishers submit game content to the ESRB on a confidential basis,” she said. “It is simply not our place to reveal specific details about the content we have reviewed, particularly when it involves a product yet to be released. What can be said is that the changes that were made to the game, including the depictions themselves and the context in which those depictions were presented, were sufficient to warrant the assignment of an M (Mature, for ages 17+) rating by our raters.”

Vance also shot back with a suggestion that the effort behind such complaints are better directed elsewhere. “Rather than publicly second-guessing what is unmistakably a strong warning to parents about the suitability of a particular game for children, which presumably neither Senator Yee nor CCFC have personally reviewed, we feel a more productive tack would be to join us in encouraging parents to take the ratings seriously when buying games for their children. It is a parent’s rightful place to make choices for their own children. The ESRB and console manufacturers provide families with the tools and information to help them do so.”

Vance pointed to a recent Federal Trade Commission study on the marketing of violent entertainment to children, saying that major game retailers “currently stop the sale of M-rated games to buyers under 17 the vast majority of the time, having surpassed the level of enforcement achieved by theater owners in connection with children’s access into R-rated movies.”

In the FTC report, the “vast majority” is actually 62 percent of national retailers that stopped mystery-shopping minors from purchasing M-rated games in 2006. And while that figure is better than the 61 percent of movie theaters tested that denied minors entrance to R-rated films, the slim margin disappears when local gaming retailers are factored into the number. Overall, minors were stopped from purchasing M-rated games at 58 percent of the gaming retailers tested by the FTC.

Yee also released his own counter-response to what Vance said by repeating, “What are they trying to hide? Unsurprisingly, the culture of secrecy continues at the ESRB. Even individuals within the video game industry are now calling into question their rating system. Parents simply can not trust an entity that is unwilling to disclose or give any meaningful rationale at how they come to their decisions . … When weighing in on laws to prohibit the sale of ultra-violent video games to children, the industry has said over and over, ‘Trust us; our rating system will protect children.’ This latest episode demonstrates once again that the ESRB in fact can not be trusted.”

I think it goes without saying that us here at VGB think this is ridiculous and I cannot for the life of me figure out why these politicians can’t get it through their thick skulls that these games are FOR ADULTS, NOT KIDS. (Oh yeah, that’s why, they get publicity!)

It is not the government’s job to regulate entertainment. It is unfair to regulate video games and not TV, books, movies, comics, or music, all of which can be extremely damaging to children.

It is the parent’s responsibility to keep adult entertainment out of the hands of their kids. I do believe that all retailers should card minors trying to buy violent video games, but we all know that many times the parents buy the game for the kid anyway.

It’s my opinion that the only thing you can do about it is raise awareness of the ratings among both parents and children, and raise kids that have values and know when not to cross the line. Like in my family. We were never allowed to watch horror movies and I did not even see my first horror movie until I was probably 13 years old or so, and even then it was at a friends house. And I was not a fan because quite simply I was raised to not enjoy that type of brutality. And I still don’t care for slasher movies to this day, now that I’m 22 years old.

Manhunt 2 Experimentation Trailer

There is nothing you can do about irresponsible parents. There is much more worse things than buying and playing a violent video game, and I think we should concentrate on those problems instead of singling out games as the only cause of the ills of modern society.

And btw, how come these people never applaud Nintendo for being a family focused company that has yet to bow-down to the pressures of Western society and their love of all things violent? I believe Nintendo should get lots of kudos for sticking with their moral objections to games like GTA (and yes I know they published Eternal Darkness, but they did not develop it).