Best Buy Ratings Deal is Bad News for ESRB

On Thursday GamePolitics reported on a deal between retailer Best Buy and watchdog group Common Sense Media that places CSM’s video game ratings alongside those of the ESRB on the website.

While GamePolitics commented at the time that the move didn’t seem to bode well for the ESRB, the organization itself put on a brave face. Spokesman Eliot Mizrachi told GameDaily BIZ:

ESRB ratings are just one tool among many that consumers can and should use to help them make informed video game purchase decisions. Best Buy continues to be a strong supporter of ESRB ratings, and this move expands upon the resources they’ve been offering their customers…

But since the announcement a pair of knowledgable sources have painted a less optimistic picture of the Best Buy – Common Sense Media alliance. One industry insider told GamePolitics:

It really undermines the ESRB.

Another source, well-versed in the political aspects of video game content, saw the move as indicative of fading retailer confidence in the ESRB:

Really, it all goes back to Hot Coffee.

This individual claimed that retailers lost confidence in the industry’s rating process during the 2005 scandal. The source also alleged that pressure from major retailers prompted the ESRB’s public revelation that the Hot Coffee animations were included on the San Andreas retail disc by GTA developer Rockstar.

The source further added that ESRB president Patricia Vance’s testimony before a contentious June, 2006 hearing of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection only served to increase retailers’ concerns.

Finally, the source contended that, unlike legal restrictions aimed at game content, regulating the rating process would not be likely to trigger a First Amendment battle, thus making the ESRB a tempting target for politicians:

ESRB can’t solely rely on the First Amendment defense and that leaves them open for legislative interference.

Indeed, among active legislation, Sen. Sam Brownback’s Truth in Video Game Ratings Act and Rep. Fred Upton’s Video Game Decency Act both address aspects of the ESRB process.

Nor has Common Sense Media been especially supportive of the ESRB over the years. Said spokesman Peter Katz in a 2005 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle:

What we hear from parents a lot is, ‘I finally took a look at Grand Theft Auto, and boy was I surprised.” What that says to me, and it’s scary, is that parents just don’t know what’s in the game.

GP: Let’s face it – if Best Buy was confident in the industry’s own ratings board, would it take the time and trouble to break ranks in such a fashion? No matter how you spin it, the new partnership between Best Buy and CSM is not good news for the ESRB. 

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. 0
    Kyle says:

    The ESRB might want to put the “descriptors” on the front of the box, right next to the rating letter. In a majority of retailers, the game cases are in a glass case, requiring you to find an employee to open it for you. If the parents are too ignorant to figure out the rating system, then maybe seeing “Violent and Sexual Content” on the front of the box will show them the light.

  2. 0
    The wombat ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    What this move by the retailer clearly says is “we want to suck up to the kind of consumer who will think favorably about this”. Its a PR move. I bet Wallmart is quick to follow. But game stores won’t.

    And yes, it undermines the ESRB considerably by removing its standing as the exclusive and singular rating system. This opens the door for all kinds of ridiculous boutique rating systems based on personal preferences such as religion, politics and other filters. Shame on Best Buy, but what can you expect from a retailer, they are in it for the buck only.

  3. 0
    Lone Goat says:

    when i worked at my local Kmart i made a point to tell the parents, “hey this game is rated “M” and thats not a go thing for your 11 year old” many parents were all like “i never knew that rating was there”…. and then the young boy gives me a dirty look… on kid even gave me the middle finger behind his mom…. another gave me that finger slashing his throat…. kids didn’t like me..

    yup thank u asshole parents….. Now get back to work….. no no.. i mean watching your kids.

  4. 0
    Anon says:

    Iv seen the CSM ratings and for alot of games it is totally biased. It trashes some games and im sure it makes parents wary about buying it at all. The ONLY thing i see useful in the CSM ratings are the USER RATINGs. Which are a far better discription than the CSM ratings. Infact, most of the CSM ratings actually scare parents more than anything. They ask questions like: Does your son know the difference between the fantasy world of World of Warcraft and the real world?

    Basically, CSM, video game legislation, and polititians are doing one thing wrong: Doing the parenting for the parents.

    I’m sorry, but if you buy a game, or anything for your kid, your suppose to know what it is, and what its about. I dont want to hear some bullshit crying from a parent that bought their 9 year old son GTA III. Are you that bad of a parent that you didnt bother to see what your son got?

    The ESRB is fine. It tells you exactly what your getting. Its rating system is accurate in my opinion. If your son is 15 and the game he is trying to buy says M for mature, then you have to be a retard to buy it for him if you feel uncomfortable about it.

    How about we start CSP? Common Sense Parenting.

  5. 0
    Nekojin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    (continued) The reason I make the assumption that it was a mistake and not a deliberate attempt to deceive is simple: There’s an old axiom that I tend to follow in cases like this. “Never attribute to evil intent anything that can be adequately explained as incompetence.”

  6. 0
    Nekojin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @vellocet: “You are somewhat correct in what you say, except that when the content was discovered, Rockstar lied and said that all the hot coffee content was put into the game via a third party mod – instead of the truth which was that the content was already there, just unlocked by third party mod. Misrepresentation is the main issue here.”

    I would tend to believe that the person who made the original statements that the Hot Coffee bit wasn’t part of the game was a PR rep who didn’t actually know that the scrapped mini-game even existed, and he/she made the press statement that it was mod content, fully believing that. Granted, PR mouthpieces SHOULD get their facts straight before they issue statements to the press, but we know how often THAT happens – and not just within the game community. If that’s so, then it is still misrepresentation, but not a case of trying to deceive anyone… just a PR mistake. A big one, granted… open mouth, insert foot.

  7. 0
    vellocet says:


    You are somewhat correct in what you say, except that when the content was discovered, Rockstar lied and said that all the hot coffee content was put into the game via a third party mod – instead of the truth which was that the content was already there, just unlocked by third party mod. Misrepresentation is the main issue here. It’s what people assume that the ESRB are trying to do all the time now (even though it’s only happened twice).

    If it were a PC game I think that people could hide behind the EULA (which says something about tampering with the game).

    One thing about the whole Hot Coffee debacle that the general public doesn’t understand is that it cannot be accessed via normal play. It’s not like you can put the disc in, enter a code, and get the content. You have to own some sort of cheat device like a game shark in order to do it. People literally have to HACK the game to get to Hot Coffee. Something I think the ESRB/Rockstar and everyone else really dropped the ball on making clear to the public.

  8. 0
    Nekojin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Steven: Most of what you say is sensible, but you seem to be caught on one small factual error.

    Nobody deliberately hid Hot Coffee. It was a feature planned for the game that was scrapped; as I’ve said before, it’s common in the industry to leave abandoned content on the disc and comment out the code that refers to it, rather than take the content completely off of the disc. It’s a labor-saving method that could be decried as laziness, but if you’ve ever worked in the industry (and I have – I was a playtester for Interplay for 3 months), you know that the pace can best be described as, “frantic.” Before Hot Coffee, nobody even considered the spare, unused content – nobody would ever see it! (At least, that was the belief)

    There is no fraud. There is no “programmers responsible,” unless you want to point the finger at the entire GTA team. It was a planned feature of the game that they decided, for whatever reason, not to implement, and they failed to completely remove it. That’s all. There’s no reason that anyone should be fined, jailed, or lose their job over that.

    Nobody took advantage of the ESRB. Rockstar didn’t expect that anyone would ever see the Hot Coffee mini-games. Why should they submit content that they had no intention of using?

  9. 0
    Steven says:

    A Common Sense Media ratings system? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Have you seen their ratings? “On, Off, and Pause”. How could anyone make these ratings any more VAGUE?! THAT’S A POWER SWITCH FUSED WITH A VCR, NOT A RATINGS SYSTEM! COMMON SENSE is the only thing the parents should have while they let the ESRB spell it out for them instead of wasting the time and energy to interpret what these “Common Sense” idiots are trying to encrypt into code for them.

    The only thing that this CSM seems to get right is the importance of Media Literacy, which I believe is a subject in need of further study and should be taught in schools at a middle school level (maybe earlier). However, the only thing that their site offers on “Media Literacy 101” is a $20 kit so parents can learn about it. Wait a minute… WHAT?! You’re trying to get the word out, so you decide to rip off the interested parents rather than just posting the kit on your site! And I don’t even want to hear them argue that they need the money to continue to fund the organization. Because if you don’t have the COMMON SENSE to go around to various school districts with bake sales to raise the money and even teach the families of the schools about Media Literacy at the same time, then they shouldn’t be allowed to call themselves the COMMON SENSE Media organization.

    Other than that, Best Buy seems to just want to use these MEANINGLESS ratings to try to confuse parents to the point that they just won’t care anymore and buy their kids whatever they want to shut them up and make them happy. Think about it, the kids are screaming and yelling for their games (the ONLY games that will make them happy) and a poor, innocent parent who genuienly cares enough about their kids to check the ratings to begin with, is now trying to understand a set of symbols and verbless ambiguity that they already know (Common Sense). Way to go CSM, in fact, why don’t you just tire the parents out mentally before the screaming kids can have a crack at them!

    One last point: The ESRB is so much more helpful to parents and won’t cost you a DIME!. NO ONE has earned the priveledge to say that the ESRB botched the whole “Hot Coffee” scandal. HOW WERE THEY SUPPOSED TO BE ABLE TO FIND IT!? YOU HAD TO DOWNLOAD A MOD IN ORDER TO USE IT! You had to download extra code (NOT ON THE DISC!) that would enable the Hot Coffee feature. And when this “scandal” occurred there was only ONE thing that should have happened and it is this: 1.) The government should have backed the ESRB (which is something they SHOULD have started doing a long time ago) and gone into RockStar games. 2.) They would find the programmer(s) responsible for hiding the feature away on that disc without the complete code. 3). And immediately trhow the guilty party or parties in jail for fraud and a mess of other charges all while slapping RockStar with a hefty fine for allowing it to happen. The ESRB is there to keep games with inappropriate content out of the hands of overly-impressionable young children. That is how it has been since they started. When RockStar allowed this to happen in GTA San Andreas, they took advantage of not only the ESRB, but the rest of the gaming community.

  10. 0
    Merc25 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Retailers can’t survive without products, so my idea about a publisher boycott of Best Buy still stands. Best Buy would lose millions until they took down the CSM ratings(really they reviews in disguise more so than ratings). I am rather surprise that Best Buy would officially endorse reviews telling people not buy a product in their store. Keep in mind customer reviews aren’t officially endorse by the company, but by allowing CSM “ratings” they effectively say we support this viewpoint.

  11. 0
    Broken Design says:

    “Let’s face it – if Best Buy was confident in the industry’s own ratings board, would it take the time and trouble to break ranks in such a fashion?” I don’t think that Best Buy as a company has confidence in any ratings. I don’t think they care. BB is taking the same route that the politicians are, they’re putting on a warm smile to the public eye and telling us how much they care, supporting a “better” rating system. It’s all about tricking the public into thinking that BB is watching out for them, meanwhile it’s all about the mentality of getting people to come into the store and buy lots of stuff with that warm fuzzy feeling they have.

    This deal with parents not understanding the ratings system is all about their inability to properly parent. Is the ‘R’ rating on movies any more obvious? No, not at all. It’s a learned meaning from seeing ‘R’ means ‘Restricted’ means ‘Not appropriate for children under 17.’ When these parents were their kids’ age, they were trying to sneak into and rent R rated movies. Now, their kids are trying to sneak M rated games into their consoles. Some of these kids are simply able to play off of their parents’ ignorance and lack of caring for what their kids are doing. These people who are saying they looked at what the game is and were appalled and shocked are just trying to save face, no one’s going to say “I don’t care what he plays.” People need to just take responsibility for the their actions and do their jobs as parents.

    This whole topic is such a dead horse that’s been beaten into nothing and it’s very telling of how sad things are these days. There is nothing wrong with the ESRB ratings, only the people who buy the games without considering the ratings. Having another ratings system come into play is just going to cause even more confusion and solve no problems. I just can’t wait until this whole thing comes back and people start yelling about how the CSM ratings don’t work and we need legislation so parents don’t have to do their jobs.

  12. 0
    Dan Olson says:

    I think the most troubling thing for me is that by integrating CSM ratings into their online store, Best Buy is taking a third-party rating system and legitimatizing it. This is less unfair to the ESRB than it is to all the other people out there pulling rating system out of their asses.

    CSM ratings probably aren’t that bad, but they don’t have the accountability that the ESRB has, nor the resources, nor the industry backing. CSM also seems to have an agenda beyond informing people about media, but maybe that’s just a conspiracy theory. The ESRB has a myriad of problems, but if one wants an unbiased content analysis, it’s hard to beat them.

    So CSM ratings seem unnecessary, and legitimatizing them can be problematic. Parents can’t even seem to keep track of one rating system as it stands.

  13. 0
    Pyrrhus says:

    “So unless there is some reason to doubt what he says, the nudity (regardless of whether it should be considered MA or AO or whatever) is in the original code.”

    They were there but files had to be switched around in order for the nude girlfriend models to be displayed; hence Hot Coffee v2.

  14. 0
    Judith Iscariot says:

    “What we hear from parents a lot is, ‘I finally took a look at Grand Theft Auto, and boy was I surprised.’ What that says to me, and it’s scary, is that parents just don’t know what’s in the game.”

    What do you mean, “I finally took a look and boy I was surprised”? The game’s freakin’ called “GRAND THEFT AUTO”, not “Grand Auto”.

  15. 0
    Gameboy says:

    Wow. It’s amazing that Best Buy would use a source like this that doesn’t even have ratings for every game. Especially not popular games. I couldn’t find Castlevania on the DS at all.

    I also couldn’t find any Naruto games at all. I know they may not be the best games, but there have been quite a few and they have all been out for a while. Hell, if you look up the info on the television show on CSM, they even refer to the games.

    One other problem I’ve just noticed about the site: no screen shots. At least the professional reviews are pretty honest. While I could understand them being weary of showing M rated material, you can’t tell me they couldn’t find at least one “nice” screen shot for every game or movie

  16. 0
    EOTD says:

    Also of note regarding CSM’s ratings: it seems to lack ratings for some very popular games – most notably, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, which have been out for a month, and others as well. If they don’t start rating every single game, they’re going to have a rough time in trying to gain reputability (for which I’m extremely grateful).

  17. 0
    koichan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Regarding Hotcoffee, one of the most profoundly misunderstood bits of software in the recent age, i see it like this:

    It’s the equivalent of taking a disney movie and chopping up movie clips from it to make, say donald duck, say rude words. Then using the resulting clip to show how disney is promoting use of swearwords… All the original material was there so disney is obviously responsible for anything made from it…

    It really is profoundly retarded, the people legislating against hotcoffee so obviously have no clue what hotcoffee actually was it’s just silly…

  18. 0
    Iredell says:

    On the question of what Hot Coffee content is in the original code and what was added, here is what Patrick “Hot Coffee” Wildenborg said,

    “All the contents of this mod was already available on the original disks. Therefor the scriptcode, the models, the animations and the dialogs by the original voice-actors were all created by RockStar. The only thing I had to do to enable the mini-games was toggling a single bit in the main.scm file. (Of course it was not easy to find the correct bit). The Nude models that are used as a bonus in the Quick action version of the mod, were also already present on the original disk.”

    So unless there is some reason to doubt what he says, the nudity (regardless of whether it should be considered MA or AO or whatever) is in the original code.

    Here’s the site:

  19. 0
    Mysticgamer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “I finally took a look at Grand Theft Auto, and boy was I surprised.”? By what? The fact that there’s car stealing in the game, the mafia’s involved or the fact that this game is about three years old and you just now saw it?

  20. 0
    vellocet says:

    I’m going to take another side on this one. I actually worked with CSM on one project. They aren’t too bad. They just take a different approach and a very “parent” centric view to their ratings system. The ESRB basically just puts a general description of what may be found in the game on the box regardless of who may be looking at the descriptors.

    But mainly, I think this is very much the ESA/ESRB’s fault. They have allowed the general public and politicians berate their (albeit excellent) ratings system into the ground and no body trusts it anymore, even though they should. They made no effort to defend itself against attacks other than “it’s the best system we have”. Most people, especially parents, don’t listen to statistics. They listen to how they FEEL about it. And because of things like Hot Coffee and the public perception that nothing has really been done about it, people FEEL distrustful of the ESRB Ratings.

    Of course, this really only applies to a small vocal group of people, but unfortunately, those are the people that are heard by corporations like Best Buy.

  21. 0
    hilaryduffgta ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Sadly i guess parents would rather have a object babysit their children since their own time is more important then actully parenting

  22. 0
    Gameboy says:

    “What we hear from parents a lot is, ‘I finally took a look at Grand Theft Auto, and boy was I surprised.” What that says to me, and it’s scary, is that parents just don’t know what’s in the game”

    What that says to me, is we need to question whether we should let these people breed (sarcasm).

    No, what it really says, is that these so-called parents don’t give a lick about their own children. It says they’d rather let an object they don’t know anything about baby-sit their kids than actually ask a question about it. It says they are ignorant. Ignorance is not an excuse. It’s an explanation.

    @ E. Zachary Knight

    Heh. Yea those were my thoughts when I read a_rayment’s comments. If he objected to the content in the game, it makes you wonder if he objected to the same content in the movies. If he did, he’s way too sensitive to “violence” (at least what he perceives as violence). If he didn’t, he’s a hypocrite.

  23. 0
    Spectator says:

    I would tend to believe that the person who made the original statements that the Hot Coffee bit wasn’t part of the game was a PR rep who didn’t actually know that the scrapped mini-game even existed, and he/she made the press statement that it was mod content, fully believing that.


    Or how about this?? What if the developers knew that discovering such a tantalizing “Easter egg” would propel residual waves of sales??

    Tough call! I wouldn’t put it past them.

    The simple fact is Rockstar/TakeTwo screwed up and have to pay for their screw up. I think they are paying many times over; not as a result of the ESRB fine (which was chump change for them…), but as a result of the independent actions of autonomous prosecutors (if not over the GTA content, over the ethics of the company’s prior management…)

    The ESRB system is basically good; but it needs to have simpler summary indicators (I won’t go into the mechanics of this here), and they should have sat down with the MPAA, TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, Recording Industry Association of America, at least two years ago to commence work on a framework for _eventual_ unified ratings. Common Sense is now seizing on that missed opportunity.

    Confer with this page:

    After reviewing that page, I think you have to admit that it’s pretty ridiculous to expect _most_ parents to get all these systems straight!!

    There is an argument that it would be hard to get all these boards to agree on guidelines, but if they don’t at least take the initiative and at least start meeting and show that they’re working on it, they lose control of the situation. Somebody else will then become the arbiter of what the final (unified) rating system will be (whenever that arrives…)

    You have to be proactive and do these things _before_ it “hits the fan”; being reactive as the ESRB has sometimes been leaves them to having aspects of their actions dictated by others.

  24. 0
    dutch_gamer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is not good for the ESRB but also NOT good for the parents. When the two ratings differ, it only leads to parents being more confused about the ratings. Parents don’t need more tools to determine if a game is suitable. More ratings and they will only get confused. The tool available needs to be clear and that is it.

    Best Buy is making a big, big mistake. And I am afraid more big retailers will follow into their footsteps. But that is what you get when the game industry refuses to be pro-active. Best Buy may have lost confidence in the ERSB but two ratings isn’t the solution. When the ratings differ, a game may not even be bought because of the confusion. I can see certain games suffering in sales because of this, which would have done better with just one rating.

  25. 0
    Pixelantes Anonymous ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Does it really matter if it’s ESRB, CSM or who rates these games anyway unless it’s some morality crusader organization?

    Neither ESRB or CSM rates games thoroughly, although from a quick glance CSM’s ratings appear to be much more subjective than ESRB’s.

    Neither organization would’ve caught Hot Coffee, so I fail to see how this move by Best Buy is to address Hot Coffee. It’s just a PR move so that Best Buy can say “We are doing something, look at us”. Pandering to their clients…nothing more, noting less.

  26. 0
    Chadachada ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    what I don’t get, how can parents say “I finally took a look at Grand Theft Auto, and boy was I surprised.”? It’s rated M for a reason, and parents usually have to give some form of consent, just look at the box! it isn’t that hard! god parents, do your job…

  27. 0
    Kobra ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    What’s with the “On” and “Off” bullshit? By simplifying ratings as such, you’re making gross oversimplifications of entire generations. Some kids mature faster than others. When I was 13 I was perfectly mature playing games I wouldn’t trust in the hands of 33 year olds.

  28. 0
    hayabusa75 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Brownback’s sorry excuse for a bill has no chance, 1st Amendment issues notwithstanding. The bill will have to DEFINITIVELY pinpoint what “completing a game in its entirety” will mean, and as we all know and have pointed out, this is pretty much impossible.

    Also, doesn’t Fred Upton’s bill have more to do with penalizing dishonest developers than interfering with the ESRB’s rating process?

  29. 0
    Marlowe says:

    Yeah when a game has a giant M on it, with some text underneath that says 17 and up, with some further text that says drug use, violence, sexuality etc. And further the game itself named after a federal crime that can result in multiple years of improsonment, you more or less gave up your right to be the least bit suprised that its content may include drug use, violence, sexuality, and I dunno GRAND THEFT AUTO.

  30. 0
    evirustheslaye says:

    what exactly didn’t they get from the content discriptor “strong sexual content” in the orignal box with the original rating for san andreas? that whas vexes me about the whole thing.

  31. 0
    John ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    ‘I finally took a look at Grand Theft Auto, and boy was I surprised.”

    The game is called GRAND THEFT AUTO, what did you think it was about? Candy mountain and the Pufferpoos?

    The state has no right to regulate things that should be dealt with by parents.

  32. 0
    Chadachada ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    like seriously, when i want an M game, i tell my parents whats on the back of the box, which is 98% reliable, and generally they don’t care.
    if i think they might care, i tell them to watch me play, and if they find it offensive, they just don’t let me play. it’s not taht hard for parents to do.

    good parents woudlnt let their 12- kids play M games anyways, and after taht we are mature enough to handle this stuff.

  33. 0
    LightWarrior ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m kinda scared to the idea of the ESRB being replaced…..

    Alot of effort falls on the parents shoulders to do their job…

    Sence alot of people don’t seem to get that…

    What if ESRB DID get replaced one day?…What kind of things might the new organazation try to attempt to get the message across?..They can do the same shit as ESRB……but rate most games higher or AO…..yet….it’s still the parents responsibalities…..and that new ratings group might then fall still.

    I dunno….

    I just wish parents did their job…a little research can go a loooong way.

  34. 0
    nightwng2000 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    If you want a resource that will rate content without judgment, use the ESRB ratings.

    If you want personal, religious, and/or political opinion to pass judgment on a video game product to make your decision, use Common Sense Media ratings.

    If you want varying opinions, you’ll have to visit a number of review and information sites to get the WHOLE picture.

    Too bad there isn’t a central database which lists each game, movie, book, TV show, etc, and then lists sites that offer Positive, Neutral, and Negative reviews and opinions for each.

    NW2K Software

  35. 0
    Myrpok says:

    I haven’t bought anything from Best Buy in a long while. This will prolong that habit. Even if they had a beef with the way ESRB rated things, this just undermines any sort of coherency out there involving rating games. It’ll probably just lead to frustrated parents not caring as much what new grand theft auto toy their 12 year old wants for Christmas. Again, I’m not buying from any store with common sense media ratings shenanigans.

  36. 0
    The_bobman ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The Good: The one thing I did like about CSM was the talking points. If you do let your kids play more mature games, talking to them about it is helpful and this helps parents with ideas on what to discuss with their child who plays said game. One of my co-workes lets his 9 year old kid play Vice City and I tell him that’s fine just talk to her about the difference of RL and VR violence.

    The Bad: They have the same information anyone else would have to rate a game. They can do no better a job than the ESRB and, in all honesty, they seem to be doing a worse job. Their ratings come off as biased. Every game is rated as a child’s toy and not targeted at the demographic it was designed for. Not one of the M games was given an “on” rating. To me that says they don’t see video games as entertainment for adults in any way.

    The Ugly: Best Buy supporting CSM will only lead to increased views of games being simply child’s play things and not the wider range of media they are.

    What can we do? CSM allows members to review games as well. I suggest that we go write informed opinon’s on games and point out the flaws in their “official” review.

  37. 0
    Weatherlght ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I just remember when was visiting my Girlfriends relatives just after christmas a year ago, and I saw her 9-11 year old nephew playing GTA:SA. I said something to her aunt you bought the game and she was clueless, “but he says all the kids are playing this game”, refusing to look into it So I sat there with him and played the game for about 15min with the volume turned up until the aunt came storming in because of the bad language she was hearing. “Well I never knew”, BS lady its on the box.

  38. 0
    finaleve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Putting 2 seperate ratings on there makes a lot of confusion. So instead of easily learning 1 rating, now they have to figure out the other.

    And dating back to Hot Coffee, I think most of the Industry is trying to learn from that mistake. They don’t want to take a huge hit like that. It’s a business after all.

  39. 0
    PlayItBogart says:

    You’re right, we ought to go write some reviews. Some of theirs are just downright silly. The characters in Resident Evil Outbreak are apparently “role models on how NOT to act”. What, so instead of working together to escape monsters, they should all just individualize and die?

  40. 0
    Rettahdam says:

    I was at best buy this weekend and picked up Splinter Cell for the 360 along with Pans Labyrinth. When I went to pay the clerk asked for my ID. It tickled me a bit but there was no hesitation as my wallet was already open. After handing over my drivers license I had to pause for a moment and wonder if I was being carded for the R rated movie I was buying or the M rated game. “Is this for the game or the movie?” I asked the young clerk, “the game.” she said..

    “Huh. Interesting” was all I could reply.

    Its likely that all ESRB ratings need is time. the G,PG,…R ratings on movies we all know and accept have been around for some time. Long enough so that people know that an R rated movie isn’t suitable for a young child. We have to give the ESRB a long enough chance so that people will get used to the ratting system and know that an M game is as bad as an R movie.

  41. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    That’s my concern about the CSM style, do these user reviews get checked for consitency and accuracy? After all, just as pro-gamers could go on there and give their own reviews, so could anti-gamers go on there and do the same thing, and could present the game in an entirely different light.

    The thing that concerns me is that the complaint was that the ESRB ratings were not clear enough and did not inform of the content. The CMS fixes the second problem, though in a manner that is somewhat open to abuse. However, I can’t see how parents who ‘don’t have time to learn the ESRB ratings’ are going to consider registering online and sifting through a list of conflicting reviews for a game as ‘convenient’ by any stretch of the imagination.

  42. 0
    Robespierre says:

    I can’t see how this is a threat to the ESRB. Bestbuy is paying for these services out of their own pocket. As far as I know the ESA is tied to the ESRB, so it doesn’t really matter if retailers such as Bestbuy want to endorse another rating system because it’s privately endorsed. Personally I think this “On” and “Off” rating sounds like s***, but whatever.

    Another thing is that the ESRB is apparently still suffering a backlash from Hot Coffee. I thought I’d throw some facts out there about Hot Coffee. For one the animations found in the game, contained no nudity at all. The characters would be having, because of the no nudity thing, “dry sex.” If there was any nudity during all of this, it was because of user created content. Another thing is the rating that GTA: SA already had at the time when Hot Coffee was exposed. It was a MA-17+ rating, after Hot Coffee it became a AO-18+ rating. That’s really not much of a difference at all. The box was already labeled with Strong Sexual Content, before the AO transformation. Not to mention, Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Use of Drugs.

    I find it hard to believe that the parents who bought GTA: SA (Hot Coffee version) for their underaged kids would endorse everything else in the game, excluding Hot Coffee’s dry humping. Irresponsiblity is the word on my lips.

  43. 0
    Scoops says:

    Y’know, I’m not sure how this undermines the ESRB. On the surface, it may look that way, but stop and ponder. The CSM age ratings are almost always the same as the ESRB’s. To me that says that the ESRB is doing as good a job as anyone else. I’d hope parents would look and see that the ratings are usually the same and draw that conclusion.

    Many of you would do well to go back and read the earlier post on this too. A lot of stuff about CSM reviewers, ratings and content was discussed there. Most important to note is that the CSM site seems to have had a change in editorial position a while ago. Prior to that, both the reviews and ratings were heavily biased. Since then, it seems to have become a fairly decent site. If anything, I find that their reviews are overwhelmingly positive, regardless of what age rating they give a game. This applies only to the official reviews. Most of the member reviews are trash (most, not all). As I said in the earlier discussion, read the Vice City review (pre-change) and the Vice City Stories review (post-change).

    And yes, it’s a subjective rating. All ratings are. All reviews are. As I said in the other discussion, what I find useful about the CSM site is the listing of facts. I may disagree with CSM’s choice in rating, but I am more informed than I am with the ESRB rating. If I have no problem with my 16 year-old seeing casual nudity, I can take that into account with the CSM rating before buying a game. I can’t with the ESRB mini-box.

    and @Iredell:
    According to this site, nudity was a v2 addition to the user generated hack that opened up Hot Coffee. This article also makes reference to their being no nudity without additional modification.

  44. 0
    PlayItBogart says:

    We ought to go there and argue that games like Mario and Hello Kitty are in fact horribly violent and will cause children to become psychopathic killers.

  45. 0
    point09micron ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I agree that using CSM ratings could undermine confidence in the ESRB, but there’s another problem I forsee as well. CSM is entirely consumer-based, and as a consequence, ratings for games don’t come out until days or weeks after the game is released, instead of before release as the ESRB does. If Best Buy is going to use their ratings, it makes me wonder if they plan to keep the games off the shelves until they’re rated (which, judging by CSM’s website, may not even happen).

  46. 0
    Nekojin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Iredell: There’s been so much propaganda about Hot Coffee, that the facts often get lost in the HWFO.

    Here’s the facts.

    The nudity exposed in the “Hot Coffee” incident was actually on the game discs, but inaccessible through any normal means. It is common for developers to leave cut content on the production discs; in most cases, it would never be discovered. It became accessible through use of a “cheat code” hack that reconnected the game scene with the commented-out code that directed the game to use hidden nude skins that replaced the normal skins.

    Now, what Rockstar should have done is deleted the “offending” code and skins. Unfortunately, that’s not the standard in programming; it’s more common to comment out code than to actually delete it, and it’s a time-consuming task to remove all unnecessary artwork; it’s simpler to just leave it and forget about it.

  47. 0
    Otaku-Man ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This actually makes for an interesting test market.

    Which is more effective? The CSM’s ratings system, or the ESRB?

    With them standing side by side, then that allows for shoppers online (I am unaware of these ratings being displayed in the stores) to see which one is the most helpful in determining the game content.

    Note that this means that they have to buy the game anyway to determine if the “red light” is truly worthy for the game, as it really follows a three tier system.

    True, it does show a vote of non-confidence in the ESRB system, but at the same time this could also be used to the ESRB’s advantage to show the severe flaws and errors in the CSM’s method of doing things, and bring the focus on them.

    No game company out there that makes games commercially subscribes to the CSM system, so the ESRB ratings will still be on every game! (Go ahead, prove me wrong! I doubt even Wisdom Tree would use their system!)

    I say to sit back and see what happens.

    And also, I can’t wait to see Hal Halpin explode all over this. It’ll be GREAT!


  48. 0
    Iredell says:


    “I thought I’d throw some facts out there about Hot Coffee. For one the animations found in the game, contained no nudity at all.”

    Hot Coffee may not be as explicit as some people claimed or implied, but naked butts and exposed female breasts do count as nudity as the term is generally used. The Hot Coffee footage is available below.

    If you are claiming the footage above contains user-generated nudity, well, I don’t believe it, at least not without a source, link, or something else to back up your claim.

  49. 0
    bladow says:

    This move by Best Buy undermines the ESRB and gives politicians and interest groups major ammunition in attempting to convince the public that legislation is needed. I’m surprised no one one on this board so far has reacted to this by refusing to purchase games or game-related items from Best Buy. Yes it sounds stupid and it probably wouldn’t have any effect since solidarity in the gamer world would be tough to achieve, but gamers should consider a boycott of Best Buy. The real effect of this move by Best Buy could ultimately go way beyond just restricting minors from buying M-rated games. I know alot of things need to fall in place for this to happen, but given the current social-conservative movement, combined with socially liberal groups’ historical disdain for violence, I think we could see real censorship and banning of games. It’s happened in other Western countries, like Australia and Germany, why couldn’t it happen here? Eventually just citing the 1st amendment might not be enough.

    “And personally, I’d like to see PTC ratings. It would help clue up people on how screwed up they are. Or at least give nut-job parents one less leg to stand on.”

    I’m glad that the Parent’s Television Council is not involved at this point. The PTC is the main interest group that prompted the whole FCC crackdown after the Janet Jackson Super Bowl thing that culminated in FCC fines being increased tenfold. It accounts for something like 98% of all FCC complaints. It has shown that it has actual power, especially when Republicans are running things. The PTC is probably pretty envious of Common Sense right now, teeming with jealousy that it didn’t get this plum gig. Then again, for all I know the PTC might be working on a deal with Wal-Mart right now, which actually now that I think about it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

  50. 0
    x(wai)x says:

    What we hear from parents a lot is, ‘I finally took a look at Grand Theft Auto, and boy was I surprised.” What that says to me, and it’s scary, is that parents just don’t know what’s in the game.

    It’s a game named for a crime. Please tell me what the heck these parents expected.

  51. 0
    nightwng2000 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Not a big problem. There have been varying opinions about what was original and what was 3rd party.

    Not to mention that “nude patches” vary from game to game as well.

    So it’s not hard for even those in the know to not be completely certain about what was and what wasn’t original in SA.

    NW2K Software

  52. 0
    Deuxhero ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    ESRB can’t solely rely on the First Amendment defense and that leaves them open for legislative interference.

    I am pretty sure it can however use the 5th Amendment and 14th Amendments.

  53. 0
    Nekojin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @nightwng2000: I got my facts wrong? D’oh. That’s facepalm material, for sure…

    I thought the “official” minigames did have partial nudity.

  54. 0
    Scoops says:

    It doesn’t matter how inefficient the ESRB would become. The US government can’t “step in” without amending the Constitution.

    And personally, I’d like to see PTC ratings. It would help clue up people on how screwed up they are. Or at least give nut-job parents one less leg to stand on.

    Seriously though, since when is having more information on which to base a decision a bad thing? Why are people complaining about this? If you don’t care about the CSM rating, ignore it. The ESRB isn’t going anywhere. If you’re happy with their ratings, use them. If you aren’t happy with their ratings, look at CSM’s. You’ll find they aren’t all that different. If you still aren’t happy with the ratings, despite one coming from a body independent of the game industry, then you probably won’t be happy no matter what people do.

    Also worth noting, if for nothing but humour value, the CSM ratings have no equivalent of AO. Not that it matters to Best Buy, as they don’t sell AO games anyway.

  55. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I just read the reviews of Kingdom Hearts 2 and boy are they funny. The review, a_rayment, hada problem with just about everything Disney in the game. Most of the violence that he had a problem with were straight out of the Disney movies the scenes were based off of.

    I am glad that this person is not an actual employee of the CSM.

    As for this matter, Best Buy is most likely trying to save face. They do not want to look like the bad guy next time someone wants to attack ratings inforcement. I do see more retailers following suit, which would be unfortunate. If the CSM gets more support like this, it could have a negetive effect on the ESRB.

  56. 0
    JBourrie says:

    GP is getting a bit paranoid recently, and really I don’t blame you after the years of pixel-anti B.S. But not everything is a conspiracy against gamers. What you seem to be expecting is for everybody to consider the ESRB a “one size fits all” solution, and maybe in a world where everybody thinks like us it would be. But in the real world, and under current circumstances, it is not. All Best Buy has done is provide an alternative means for those who request it.

    I’m looking for the page for Gran Turismo right now, and if I didn’t know what “Common Sense Media” was, I would have just ignored that whole box. You actually have to click a link before you can even SEE the rating. They have not replaced the ESRB, and they haven’t undermined the ESRB, they have only provided another source of knowledge to the observing consumer.

    Whenever somebody tries to regulate games, we insist that it’s the PARENTS responsibility. Now Best Buy has given the parent another tool to work with, and we’re pissed because we weren’t in control of the reviewing process? Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.

    “if Best Buy was confident in the industry’s own ratings board, would it take the time and trouble to break ranks in such a fashion?”

    Yes. Because no matter how confident THEY are in it, consumers currently are not. And in the end, they are a business that relies on consumer trust to make their money. Maybe some of that consumer trust would spill over into the game industry, if we stop sabotaging it at every turn.

  57. 0
    nightwng2000 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It’s already been pointed out about Hot Coffe, however, here is another link:

    Under the heading “Minigame overview and Hot Coffee mod”:

    ” However, the Hot Coffee modification replaces this with a minigame which allows the player to actually enter the girlfriend’s bedroom and control Carl’s actions during sex. None of the six possible sex scenes involve any nudity, and there are animation problems with the girlfriends’ partially-clothed textures and bedrooms, suggesting the minigame was abandoned at a relatively early stage.”

    And then, on additional modification:
    “Third-party additions were later incorporated in the Hot Coffee modification which replace the girlfriend’s clothes with modder-created, flesh-toned bitmaps. These additions, like most nude patches, can only be applied to the PC version of the game, and do not incorporate visible genitalia.”

    NW2K Software

  58. 0
    Romani says:


    I’m not going to bother looking for links because you have google for that. I tried the hot coffee patch and it comes in two flavours. There’s one that unlocks the portion of the game and one that comes with modded skins (which is what you see in your video). Just look at the video closely and you’ll notice a couple of things. 1.) graphic errors around the girls arm pit. No, these girls aren’t hairy french women. 2.) the guy has all his clothes on. Dont you find that odd?

    Had there been better resolution in the video you would have also noticed that the body skin doesn’t match up with the face skin either.

    Hot coffee wasn’t meant to be hardcore pixel porn. It was more of comedy bit that got old and annoying after the first time. Which was probably why they scrapped it in the first place.

  59. 0
    Gameboy says:

    For fun, I went to the CSM site and read a few reviews. The Official reviews aren’t half bad. Not great, but they don’t say the games are made by Satan or anything asinine like that.

    The real problem is the member reviews. Some of the “Kids” reviews could really undermine our arguments. Half the time, I wondered if the kid really was a kid or if an anti-game bigot was posting this to make us look bad. Then again, others read so well, I pondered if an adult had actually written it, or at least helped.

    The Adult reviews do tend to be more sparse. And I was surprised that some of them wrote well of M rated games, even if they did warn against letting kids play them. Others acted like they had no idea violence was possible at all. Check out of few of the adult comments on Kingdom Hearts 2. I didn’t know if I should laugh at the stupidity or cry for humanity.

    Here’s a link directly to the comments:

    All in all, Best Buy using CSM reviews is a mixed bag. While it does allow parents to more easily research the games for their kids (something we’ve been preaching forever), it needs a more unbiased source. Why couldn’t Best Buy just create a division to do this for themselves? Or provide links to multiple sources?

    Better than letting the Parents Television Council or one of the Massacre Chasers reviews games though. Can’t you just see it?

  60. 0
    kurisu7885 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “The source further added that ESRB president Patricia Vance’s testimony before a contentious June, 2006 hearing of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection only served to increase retailers’ concerns.”

    That’s because that conference wasn’t meant ot accomplish anything, it was a witch hunt and they forcibly tied Ms Vance to the stake.

    “Brownback’s sorry excuse for a bill has no chance, 1st Amendment issues notwithstanding. The bill will have to DEFINITIVELY pinpoint what “completing a game in its entirety” will mean, and as we all know and have pointed out, this is pretty much impossible.”

    I think that’s the entire idea, yo make the ESRB as inefficient as possible so parents and impatient gamers will clamor for the government to step in.

    As for the article itself, what’s next, the PTC trying to muscle in and post their own rating? Of course, anything but Left Behind Eternal forces wil get an NC 17 rating from them.

  61. 0
    Zerodash ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The real crux of the concern lies in the aftermath of the disbanding of the ESRB in favor of ratings controlled by either the government or Christian Evangelists.

  62. 0
    Sirchristopher Crittenden ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Whether the CSM has thorough ratings or not it really won’t matter. Parents have bought M rated games for years with details of violence, sexual themes, gore, and whatnot, and they still get angry when they finally sit down and look and the content. They wonder how this gets sold to kids.

    It doesn’t, it was sold to an adult who gave it to a kid.

    The ESRB or the CSM could make the most detailed ratings, add booklets, show pictures, and as long as parents continue to ignore that until the last minute, when their kids are blowing up a car in GTA, then it was all pointless.

    The current rating system is good. The current buying system isn’t.

  63. 0
    bladow says:


    “… controlled by either the government or Christian Evangelists.”

    Which as far as Republicans go, seem to be one and the same these days.

  64. 0
    Nekojin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    JBourrie: As I said before, I’m in favor of more – and clearer – information for parents. But there’s a few stumbling blocks.

    1.) Nobody can make a parent be a responsible parent. If the parents aren’t monitoring their children’s activities, then no amount of ratings, information, and so on can stop kids from getting games, movies, and whatever else that isn’t really appropriate for them.

    2.) For the information to be good information, it needs to be unbiased. Common Sense Media has a shaky track record on that front. Most of their reviews take a fairly objective tone, but some of them are full-blown anti-violence rants – and how is even a responsible parent supposed to intuit which are their “official” reviews, and which are parent reviews? Further, does CSM allow ANY participant reviews, or do they censor out the ones that they don’t agree with (IE, reviews strongly in support of violent games)? I don’t find CSM to be a reliable source of unbiased information.

  65. 0
    John ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Ummm… This was the first I had seen the actual footage of the “Hot Coffee”.

    You see no penis, no vagina, just nasty tits and a bum. Seriously, if that were in a movie, it would have been rated pg-13 alone, or R in the context of the game.

  66. 0
    Yuki says:

    Personally, I don’t see this lasting. CSM is famous for taking months to review a game. Sooner or later the cost of trying to update the Best buy website with CSM stuff will become prohibitive and they’ll drop CSM all together.

    That being said, this isn’t what people make it out to be. Best buy is simply trying to pander to consumers to keep it’s “Family Friendly” image going. In the end, it’s worthless and will not help consumers at all.

    Give it a few months, it’ll go away.

  67. 0
    Rapka says:

    I went to the CSM site. What worries me the most is not the dubious review methods (RE4 get 0 stars out of 5 and is still called an “outstanding game”?) but the lack of reviews whatsoever. After a couple of searches, I saw that they only have one Metal Gear Solid review and none Virtua Fighter review, despite both of them being high profile franchises. Best Buy just made a big mistake.

  68. 0
    Doctor Proctor ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Sorry if this has been brought up already…but if not, it needs to be said.

    “Another source, well-versed in the political aspects of video game content, saw the move as indicative of fading retailer confidence in the ESRB:

    ‘Really, it all goes back to Hot Coffee.'”

    I think part of the problem here is that people have a PROFOUND misunderstanding of what Hot Coffee was. How would CSM had discovered it? Do you really think that they’re creating Mods on PC’s that they can download to hacked PS2’s to unlock content that they didn’t even know was there???

    It doesn’t matter who was doing the rating, this would’ve fooled them. Unless they go and they disect every game’s code line by line they’re probably not going to find this kind of stuff in a game. These kinds of discoveries come from script kiddies with time to kill collectively spending thousands of man hours pouring over source code and mod tools to be able to pick out something like this.

  69. 0
    Iredell says:

    @ nightwng2000

    “So it’s not hard for even those in the know to not be completely certain about what was and what wasn’t original in SA.”

    Based on the comments above, it looks like you are right. Even within this blog’s comments, there is uncertainty.

    And it looks like Rockstar should have just admitted from the beginning what was in the actual code and what was added to the code. Like John, I don’t see this footage actually warranting an AO rating, since if the footage was shown in a movie rather than a game, it would not have warranted an NC-17 or X. The article linked to by Scoops also makes this point:

    “The ESRB didn’t help matters when they caved in to pressure and pulled Grand Theft Auto’s original Mature rating and replaced it with Adults Only. The correct answer, though not necessarily the politically viable one, was to respond that upon evaluation the content in GTA is not substantially different than what would be expected in a R-rated film, and that the Mature rating stands.”

  70. 0
    grls-r-gamers-2 says:

    “I finally took a look at Grand Theft Auto, and boy was I surprised.”

    That’s because you’re an idiot. I actually KNOW a woman like that. It’s my uncle’s girlfriend. A few years back, she bought GTA for her son (at the time 8 or 9 years old, i think) and thought the “M” stood for “Motor Vehicles.”

    Her husband (I forgot if he was already her ex at the time this happened) noted that Zack’s friends always wanted to come over to play one of his games, and asked which it was. Mommy said “Oh, Grand Theft Auto.” Daddy said “WTF lady don’t you know what’s in that game?” He then fired up the PS2 and showed her. Horrified, Mommy took the game away.

    There are two ways in which she’s not like the other parents. One, she raised her son well so that he didn’t throw a fit when she took it away (probably figured he’d be caught sooner or later) and secondly, she actually doesn’t blame the ESRB for her self-admitted ignorance.

  71. 0

    […] You may have seen reports recently that Best Buy is going to start including Common Sense Media’s videogame ratings alongside those of the ESRB on its website.  The conventional wisdom is that this is going to undermine the ESRB, which makes sense to me.  Unfortunately, though, I can’t really see this doing anything except that. […]

  72. 0
    Hilaryduffgta ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “What we hear from parents a lot is, ‘I finally took a look at Grand Theft Auto, and boy was I surprised.” What that says to me, and it’s scary, is that parents just don’t know what’s in the game”

    Gee ya think!*Begin sarcasm* Hmmmmm What a shocker right there After all I mean it sure must be hard for parents to look at a game called GRAND THEFT AUTO and not register that it might not be a good game for little billy…..*end sarcasm*

    Ignorant retarded morons with no commen sense or brains

Leave a Reply