News: Ratings board takes the fight to the protestors.
In light of the ESRB's rerating of Manhunt 2 from Adults Only (AO) to Mature (M), several advocacy groups came out asking for a demanding to know why the ESRB had done such a thing. The two most prominent groups are the Campaign For a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and California Senator Leland Yee. Their demands included an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.
The ESRB has chosen to respond to their demands and it basically amounts to "You can take your complaints and shove 'em." in legalese. This is the kind of strong-willed response gamers have been asking for from the ESRB for years and I tip my cap to ESRB president Patricia Vance for the direct words she has for the protestors.
The ESRB's statement can be found here, with some of the important bits highlighted for your reading pleasure:
Upon reviewing the modified version of Manhunt 2, the ESRB assigned a rating of M (Mature 17+) with content descriptors for Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content and Use of Drugs. This is a very clear and firm warning to parents that the game is in no way intended for children. As always, we urge parents to strongly consider the ESRB rating in their decision about whether a game is appropriate for their children.
Publishers submit game content to the ESRB on a confidential basis. 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 17+) rating by our raters.
The FTC, the national PTA, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Peter Hart Research have all found that parents are overwhelmingly satisfied with the ESRB rating system. 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.
The FTC reports that 89% of parents say they are involved in the purchase or rental of the video games their children play and 85% say they restrict them.
Additionally, parents can now easily activate password-protected settings on game consoles to block out content they deem inappropriate. Further, according to a recent audit by the Federal Trade Commission, the major game retailers, representing approximately 90% of all sales, 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 theatre owners in connection with children's access into R-rated movies.
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.
Manhunt 2 will be released this Halloween for the PS2, PSP and Wii and will no doubt sell more copies after this ratings controversy (and subsequent challenges from groups like the CCFC) than it would have without it.