GP’s AE Gets AO Form Letter from ESRB

GamePolitics correspondent Andrew Eisen advises that he sent a protest to the ESRB over the Adults Only (AO) rating the board assigned to Manhunt 2. In his gripe, posted via the ESRB’s website, AE wrote:

The AO rating has been bastardized and transformed into something it was never intended to be.

A rating should help me make an informed purchasing decision.  When you give a game an AO, I have no choice.  When you give a game an AO, even if it’s not your intent, the end result is a ban.

I recommend retiring the AO rating.  It doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to.


An adult who wants to play Manhunt 2 the way the developers originally intended

Andrew reported on Saturday that he received a form letter back from the ESRB (not signed by anyone, just the organization). AE highlights a couple of points from the letter:

ESRB: [The ESRB] rates computer and video games in terms of content and age-appropriateness so that consumers, especially parents, can make educated purchase decisions… We are aware of the fact that the AO rating does pose a challenge to game publishers…

AE: Why would you knowingly use a rating that completely circumvents your mission statement?  An AO rating prevents me from making “educated purchase decisions.” I don’t fully blame the ESRB for Manhunt 2’s “ban” and in fact wrote similar letters to Nintendo, Sony, and several large retailers.  No response from them though.

The full ESRB letter follows: 

It’s important to note that the ESRB is an organization that rates computer and video games in terms of content and age-appropriateness so that consumers, especially parents, can make educated purchase decisions.  We do not create, publish, sell or distribute any entertainment software, nor is it our role to censor games that are submitted to be rated.  Our job is to ensure that the product is reliably labeled and appropriately marketed.
ESRB raters are trained to consider a wide range of pertinent content and other elements in assigning a rating.  Pertinent content is any content that accurately reflects both the most extreme content of the final product – in terms of relevant rating criteria such as violence, language, sexuality, gambling, and alcohol, tobacco and drug reference or use; and the final product as a whole – demonstrating the game’s context (such as setting, storyline and objectives) and relative frequency of extreme content.  Due to the unique interactive characteristics of games, the ESRB rating system goes beyond other entertainment systems by also taking into account elements such as the reward system and the degree of player control.
As you are aware, ESRB has assigned an AO (Adults Only 18+) rating to Manhunt 2 for the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2) and Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP).  The publisher of the game now has a couple of options (e.g., modify the game’s content and resubmit it for rating or appeal the rating to an appeals board) to explore.
In the meantime, ESRB stands firmly behind the rating assigned to the original submission of the game.  The AO rating is our most restrictive rating, and it was assigned in this case based on the consideration of numerous factors that raters take into account each time they rate a game.  We are aware of the fact that the AO rating does pose a challenge to game publishers, in that most major retailers currently choose not to sell AO-rated games, and the console manufacturers (Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony) have not allowed AO-rated games to be published for their platforms.  These circumstances, which are beyond the ESRB’s control and do not factor into our rating assignments, are a significant reason why most games which receive the AO rating from ESRB end up being modified and resubmitted in order to receive a rating that would allow for them to be played on game systems and sold to the public.
The ESRB rating system is designed to ensure that all games are evaluated as fairly and reliably as possible. However, in a country as diverse as ours, with its broad spectrum of values and tastes, it is inevitable that some will disagree. That being said, the ESRB regularly commissions independent researchers to measure public awareness, use and agreement with the ratings. Our most recent surveys found that the vast majority of the time (82%), parents agree with the rating assigned by ESRB, while 5% of the time they thought the rating was “too strict.” This level of agreement reflects the cultural norm in this diverse country of ours, and we will continue to ensure that our ratings continue to reliably reflect that norm.
The interests of gamers, parents, and other consumers are best served by having an effective self-regulatory body, whose actions are objective, judicious and fair.  We regret that you did not find the ESRB rating in this case to be useful or in agreement with your individual tastes, but sincerely appreciate your taking the time to express your opinion on this issue.
 Entertainment Software Rating Board

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  1. 0
    Conejo says:

    why didn’t you instead complain to Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo?

    wasn’t Reggie all about getting Manhunt 2 because it would help shed Nintendo’s “kiddie” label? why don’t they make it anyway?

    you don’t complain to the MPAA that your local theatre won’t show you an R-rated movie if you’re 13.

  2. 0
    Terrible Tom ( User Karma: -1 ) says:


    If you would read through all the comments you would have found this.

    # Andrew Eisen Says:
    July 30th, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    To everyone telling me to write the console manufacturers and retailers,

    I did.

    I don’t fully blame the ESRB for Manhunt 2’s “ban” and in fact wrote similar letters to Nintendo, Sony, and several large retailers. No response from them though.

    Andrew Eisen

    So he did. =)

  3. 0
    Jatone says:

    I happen to agree the AO rating should be for porn similar to the porn rating for movies. In fact I’ve never seen a violent movie receive an 18+ only rating (correct me if i’m wrong) I believe the ESRB system should work on a similar setting, violent games only limited to 17+ (IE mature rating) and the ones that contain pornographic material the AO rating. Besides many of the violent levels in games are high enough that I really don’t see how they could reach an AO rating for violence.

    Regardless I feel the ESRB is doing a disservice to those it serves by this atm. I’m hoping rockstar releases the AO version for downloadable content for the PC users. Or maybe mail order. Either way I’d go for it and I believe a lot of other people will as well.

  4. 0
    Clyde Wyman says:

    Nice said, Andrew. Slapping an “AO” rating on the game does not help but only makes things worse, “AO” because of violence? People will think it is laughable, a joke or something like that.

    ESRB, save the “AO” rating stickers for pornographic games because Manhunt 2 is not.

  5. 0
    Inquisitor says:

    I, for one, do not trust any of these people with the ability to essentially censor a game by slapping a rating on it that should only be there to inform the buyer of what content is on the disk. The “Adult-Only” rating is completely useless as a tool to inform the buyer of what is on the disk and only really useful in keeping a game from being put up for sale.

  6. 0
    UTP says:

    Wow. They have a form letter for this? They must have known their decision would cause a stink among the fans.

    Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect here between the ESRB and the console developers, insofar as the first has a rating the second will not support. This isn’t entirely the fault of the ESRB, as it wasn’t their decision to not support AO-rated games.

    Nor is it entirely the fault of the companies, to restrict AO-rated games from their consoles.

    Though neither side is willing to look at it thusly, this is inadvertently censorship.

    There are places I will freely admit the ESRB dosen’t work, even places I’ll argue it has failed in its mission.

    The Manhunt 2 debacle is definately one of them.

  7. 0
    nrad99 says:

    It would be political suicide for the ESRB to change their rating now. One of the main criticisms levied by Jack Thompson and other opponents is that they are merely a lapdog of the game industry. Changing the rating of Manhunt to M would give these people more ammunition. I’m not saying that makes the ESRB right, but sending angry letter will accomplish nothing.

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

    Here’s the thing. Why should the ESRB pander to game publishers. If it deems a game deserves and AO rating, why should it then turn around and say “Well, your game deserves an AO rating, but as you won’t be able to publish it on any consoles we’ll give you a more lenient rating of M.”

    At that point the ESRB becomes irrelevant and has stopped doing their job. It isn’t up to them to help publishers sell copies of their games, it’s up to them to rate the game fairly (whether that’s happened in this case is another debate) and properly, considering the games content and the context in which it’s played.

    I doubt (and I really hope I’m right) that the ESRB looked at MH2 and said: “We don’t like this game. It might just sneak a M rating but we want to make an example out of Take 2 and Rockstar so we’ll give it a AO rating and kill the game.”

    If anything Nintendo, Sony and MS as well as the game retailers need to take a look at what they allow on their consoles and what games they will sell. If they allowed AO games then non of this would matter.

  9. 0
    Terrible Tom ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    Thrill Kill was given an AO rating.

    Also many games get rated AO but they don’t get released that way, they just go and modify it so it gets rated M. this is not uncommon at all.

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

    Except the game was cancelled and never published. It could be argued that the AO rating caused EA to cancel it, or that EA never wanted the game published anyway and would’ve cancelled it regardless. The censored version of the game got a M rating anyway I believe so that could’ve been sold if EA wanted.

  11. 0
    TK says:

    @ Rob

    Ideally, the ESRB should be completely divorced from the retail situation. However, they can’t just sit in their happy little bubble and refuse to acknowledge that an AO rating practically amounts to censorship. They need to work with the publishers and retailers to fix the problem.

  12. 0
    Rob ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Well the only other non sex game to be given an AO rating by the ESRB is Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Director’s Cut on the PC. GTA:SA got one after Hot Coffee but then a second version was released and its M rating was restored. So in effect MH2 is the only console game to ever get an AO rating. Otherwise every other console game ever rated by the ESRB has been given M or lower.

  13. 0
    Terrible Tom ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    Because the ESRB only serves to please Anti-Game activist, Parents and politicians. They completely ignore the average gamer.

    “The ESRB rating system is designed to ensure that all games are evaluated as fairly and reliably as possible. However, in a country as diverse as ours, with its broad spectrum of values and tastes, it is inevitable that some will disagree. That being said, the ESRB regularly commissions independent researchers to measure public awareness, use and agreement with the ratings. Our most recent surveys found that the vast majority of the time (82%), parents agree with the rating assigned by ESRB, while 5% of the time they thought the rating was “too strict.” This level of agreement reflects the cultural norm in this diverse country of ours, and we will continue to ensure that our ratings continue to reliably reflect that norm.”

    See, if they cared about everyone they would ask everyone. But they only ask the parents. Obviously thats who they are serving and thats all they care about.

  14. 0
    Rob ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Well the game has been rated and approved for sale, it’s just non of the console manufactures allow AO games on their console, so whilst it’s effectively been banned, it hasn’t been technically banned. Perhaps that’s why they can “get away” with this.

  15. 0
    Raum says:

    why don’t they just make a ‘XXX’ rating to use on pornographic games, so people can’t b*tch and whine about ‘AO’ meaning porno, thus console makers and retailers may be convinced to lift the ban?

    Besides, do they have any evidence to support the idea that this game is ‘damaging to minors’ and therefore unsuitable for protection under first ammendment rights? I’ll readily admit that I don’t think it will do them any good, but is there any real scientific evidence to suport this? No? Then how can they get away with this?

  16. 0
    Terrible Tom ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    They should be catering to the GAMERS not the PARENTS. The average gamer is 33 years of age, im sure a 33year old doesn’t have parents that control the games he or she plays. Their research should be for everyone. They are just trying to make parents and watchdog groups happy. SHAME ON THEM.

  17. 0
    Terrible Tom ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    Josh, I like freedom therefore I do not think any GAME should be banned.

    If EA didn’t want to publish it they would have canceled it before it was given a rating. But the fact is games get rated AO more than you think, they just get modified and resubmitted to get a M rating. They need to admit to everyone there is a problem. It is mainly the big three and retailers but the ESRB plays a role in it too. They need to stop serving the parents and politicians and start paying attention to gamers.

    Help us ECA.

  18. 0
    Rob ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’ll ask again. Why should the ESRB pander to game publishers? If it determines that a games content requires an AO rating it should give said game an AO rating.

    I agree that the ESRB need to be more involved with publishers. If they were involved at an earlier point in development perhaps devlopers could avoid an AO rating. The end result however is the same. The game won’t be as “hardcore” as the developer intended.

    @Terrible Tom: Then why don’t we hear about them. Why has there been such a massive backlash at the ESRB about MH2 if this happens a lot more than I think?

  19. 0
    The Land of Smeg says:

    As far as I can tell, the ESRB have done their job of rating “content and age-appropriateness so that consumers, especially parents, can make educated purchase decision”. It is not in the scope of the ESRB that the games have been “banned” or “censored”, as that decision has been made between the publisher and the game retailers

    Whoever ruled out an AO and an M [Censored] version anyway. Sell the AO version in adult shops.

  20. 0
    Rob ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Quick 2nd post. According to Wiki the only other game to recieve AO was The Punisher, which was then redone to get a M rating.

  21. 0
    Terrible Tom ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    Because a lot of the games aren’t as high profile as Manhunt 2. I got this information from an individual that has been in the industry for over 2 decades. I trust information is accurate else I wouldn’t have learned it at the college I am attending.

  22. 0
    Erik ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Bite your tongue Jack. You have no right to even use the word freedom. It is your life’s goal to inhibit freedom and flush the first amendment down the toilet. But don’t worry, one of these days you may get your wish, unfortunately it just may be you on the wrong side of a censor.

  23. 0
    JACK THOMPSON, ATTORNEY ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Here’s clue for Andrew Eisen. It pertains to a little thing called “freedom.”

    The AO rating did not ban the game. Retailers and platform manufacturers like Sony and Wii are welcome to a) sell the game, and b) make their platforms available to it, respectively.

    But they CHOSE not to. “Freedom of choice.” Remember that little concept. Freedom is not just something gamers have. It is something that retailer boards, like at Wal-Mart, and giant companies, like Sony, have. Get used to it. Freedom is for everyone.

    It is even for obvnoxious attorneys who have an absolute right to exercise their freedom to point these obvious hypocrisies in the “gaming community,” as if there even were such a community, out to self-centered, self-righteous little twits like Andrew Eisen. There is no such unified community, as proven by the fact that I get calls and emails from kids who play games all the time. They “get” what freedom is about, and they understand that retailers and companies have freedom, too.

    So, Andrew, if you want to play violent, sociopathic games, like even the employees at Rockstar have recently been disclosed to have opposed, then do something about it rather than writing hypocritical whiny letters castigating others for exercising their freedom.

    Or, put down the controller, step away from the platform, and get a life.

    Jack Thompson

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

    “Whoever ruled out an AO and an M [Censored] version anyway. Sell the AO version in adult shops”

    This isn’t an issue of retailers its about the console manufacturers not allowing AO games on their systems.

  25. 0
    kurisu7885 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    We understand that Jack, that the retailers and console manufactures have a right, a freedom to not allow the game on their hardware or on their shelves, WE GET IT!!!! HOWEVER, we have the freedom do disagree. Not only does this keep the hands away from whom is not the game’s attended audience, children, it keeps away from it’s intended audience, responsible adults who have the money to indulge in that game if they so desire.

    Also, the game can still be released via the internet for PC, and that would require a credit card, and who has those? Deedeedeeeee, adults!

    So Jack, turn off your computer, step away from the desk, and get a life.

  26. 0
    Thomas says:

    I agree with those (unfortunately, including Jacky-T) who have said this isn’t a concern for the ESRB. While you could debate the makeup of the raters, the appeals process, or the basis for what deems a rating, you cannot blame the ESRB for banning the game from the market because of it’s weighted decision.

    Noting the fact that the AO rating came probably not from one single source but multiple views of this game’s content, the population has to step back and say… maybe they got this one right. Regardless if they didn’t, it’s the retailers and manfacturers that have banned the game. While AE took the time to send this same gripe to Sony et al, sending this to the ESRB really doesn’t make much sense.

    Bandwagoning saying that the ESRB is now evil (especially after supporting it through this website for the past few years for their ratings historically) also doesn’t make much sense.

    I’d be more interested if there was a thoughtful response from a system manufacturer. Everything I read in the ESRB response (aside from avoiding censorship) seems appropriate.

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

    I agree that this is a de-facto ban. I don’t like that. That being said the ESRB should either retire the AO rating or the big 3 should allow AO content on their consoles. PS2, PS3, PSP, Xbox & Xbox 360 allow users to watch R, NC-17, XXX, and unrated videos, so why not games? Leave the parental control defaulted to M as the rating ceiling so that users will have to consciously make a choice. as to what games will play.

    That all said, I am personally not interested in playing Manhunt 2 or any other AO title really. I just don’t like the politics or the hypocrisy of those involved. Adults should be allowed to make adult decisions.

  28. 0
    DArrel says:

    Sorry JT, but your idea of “freedom” is only or your own benefit. You want Freedom but at the same time, you want the freedom to take away everyone elses freedom.

    It’s like Hitler saying he has the right to kill the Jews.

  29. 0
    Ben Ambroso ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Wait…hold on. Did Jackass Thompson just DEFEND a decision made by “the video game industry”?

    The point that Andrew Eisen is trying to get across is that the rating of Mature states what the game’s content is created for. Adult Only was originally meant for games that would file under things such as extreme sexual content to the point of being porn. Yes, Manhunt 2 is extreme in nature and includes many things that younger audiences would not be able to deal with. That’s why they created the “Mature” game rating. If you aren’t at a point you can establish fantasy from reality, you shouldn’t be playing the game because you aren’t mature enough.

    I have a friend whose little brother was playing Manhunt one day when I went over. His brother, age 13, was very interested in what he was seeing, and some times would mimic what was going on in the game, swinging his arm through the air and whatnot. I went in and spoke to the kid’s parents, and let them know that there is a very good reason this game is for mature audiences only, and showed them the game that they apparently bought for their son a few months prior. They haven’t let him play the game since. Oh, and by the way, he has yet to shoot up a school.

    Its not just about the wanting and desire to play “violent, sociopathic games”. It’s the fact that you are preaching about freedom yet basking in the fact that you feel you were instrumental in having banned a game from being released. If I don’t see the game in Wal-Mart, and have to order it online, so be it. I still have the freedom to play the game, even though I more than likely will not. People have the choice to do things they enjoy, as long as they are not imposing on the freedom and liberty of others. I believe that is in a fine document our fore fathers created a while ago. Maybe you should look it up, I hear it’s a good read. If a person wants to play a game that involves macabre and violent acts, so be it. That is their right…their FREEDOM to do so. The person is mature enough (there’s that word “mature” again…I wonder if there is a connection between maturity and mature rated games…) to make decisions on their own.

    So, put down your lawsuits, step away from the podium, and read a book for christ’s sake…


  30. 0
    DArrel says:

    Again, the ESRB seems to be getting the blame despites what the RETAILERS AND SONY, NINTENDO AND MICROSOFT did. Why is the ESRB getting the flack? All they do is rate the game as they see fit. They didn’t banned it like the BBFC. THe console manufacturers and the retailers are the ones that banned it. THEY are the ones you should be focusing your protests on, not the ESRB.

    It’s shooting the messenger, man.

  31. 0
    Terrible Tom ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    Jack Thompson Attorney and I’m not,

    Guess what? I’m not going to insult you. Lets talk in a reasonable manner and pretend we respect one another. I’ve read every word of your letters and posts here on GP so please grant me the same.

    I am concerned that you may have freedom and convenience confused. We realize that Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and retailers have the right to refuse AO games. But we are arguing against how legitimate their claims are that they have a console for everyone. They obviously don’t have one as I, among others, want to play AO games and we can’t under their policy. So we have every right to complain as consumers(and in some cases stockholders) because we are the ones purchasing their products and if we are unhappy then they should know why.

    I don’t think you really support freedom. You want to prohibit violent games so parents can neglect their duty to parent their own children. You want to protect children from getting their hands on materials created and marketed towards ADULTS. That my friend is convenience not freedom.

    Freedom is allowing people to do what they wish to do as long as it isn’t harming another individual. Images can not harm you, sound can not harm you and narrative can not harm you. Freedom is also allowing others to do what they want as long as it does not harm you. If you support freedom you will turn your head at whatever offends you and ignore it. If you feel the need to disagree with them by all means do it but don’t try to prohibit others from expressing themselves because then your supporting convenience for yourself and for like minded individuals.

    I fight for freedom. I want people to be able to do what they wish and to be entertained by whatever form of media they wish to be entertained by. A free country should not put limitations or restrictions on things because it has sexual or violent content. Sure keeping these things out of the reach of children is a good idea but even I get carded when I wish to buy a video game.

    Jack if you were genuine in your concerns about keeping violent games away from children you should start with credit card companies. You do know children can easily get their hands on credit cards and use them for pornographic websites and whatever else they want to online? Why not attack the credit card companies for allowing those under the age of 18(in some cases under the age of 16) to get their hands on credit cards? That would seriously put a dent in the amount of children being entertained by mature content. How about you worry yourself with the fact that movie theaters don’t check ID anymore? Why don’t you concern yourself with something besides trying to prohibit adults from playing adult games. There are other methods other than prohibition.

    From personal experience and knowledge of history its fairly obvious prohibition does not work. Look back at alcohol. That was a disaster and really gave more and more power to criminals. Look at the war on drugs. In MIDDLE SCHOOL If I really wanted to I could get my hands on any kind of illegal drug I wanted to but I couldn’t get cigarettes or alcohol no matter how hard I tried. I never really was interested in LSD, coke or heroin so I just waited until I got to high school so I could get alcohol more easily. But now that I’ve been out of high school for a good amount of time I look back on it and think of how strange it was that illegal substances were more readily available than legal substances. And not only are illegal substances readily available to everyone all the money spent on them goes to thugs and drug lords. Prohibition goes much more harm that it does good.

    Mr Thompson, it is obvious that prohibition doesn’t work. Its obvious to everyone except the lazy parents that want others to raise their children and people like you who wish to demonize a form of entertainment made for and marketed towards ADULTS. Keep in mind that the average gamer is 33 years old and the average video game consumer is 40. So maybe its the parents that need to wake up and take responsibility onto their own shoulders. Its pretty obvious that if their child thinks game violence is a good idea in real life they are at fault. I’m sure your kids, if you have children, know better. And I’m sure your children’s friends also know better. Why not try to punish parents for not raising their children properly? It certainly would be a lot more respectable than trying to bring down violent game producers and putting people out of work. It would be more respectable than trying to deny freedom to adults who wish to be entertained by violent or sexual content. Sure it isn’t your cup of tea but who says I shouldn’t be able to enjoy it?

    I don’t expect you to respond, If you do I suspect you wont even read my post. But if you do please think about it. Is this crusade of yours actually doing any good at all? Are violent games really the problem? Maybe its the lack of good parenting that is the problem. If parents would just teach their children right from wrong and then re-enforce it by not contradicting what they are telling their children through their own actions then maybe many of these issues you think are caused by video games would start to vanish.

    If you want to support freedom then maybe YOU should support the right for adults to play adult games. I completely agree with the fact children should not play adult games. But If you take away the right for anyone to play adult games then your taking away that freedom and in return you get an illusion that children are better off. But really they are not because so many children have bad parents and it will rub off on them unless they have a respectable role model. And judging by my experience in public school they are probably better off having video game characters role models.

    Perhaps children need better role models. Sport stars that aren’t criminals, politicians that do not lie, parents that are honest and teach them about what is right and what is wrong. Maybe if communities were to provide better role models in the form of public school teachers and what not children would be better off. But really the main issue is the parents. Please think about this, support freedom and my right to make and be entertained by video games with violent and sexual content.

    Terrible Tom

  32. 0
    chris says:


    I wonder if you know the definition of hypocrte Jack, Andrew was just commenting on the fact that an AO rating results are more in line with a ban than the rating system it is supposed to be, he didnt demand anything be changed or try to inhibit the freedom of companies or the ersb, he only tried to question the rationale behind such a decision which he has the freedom to do.

    I’d personally define a hypocrite as someone who griped about freedom while seeking bans and restrictions and only seems to acknowledge that right for freedom when its for his cause.

    Also someone who continues to threaten numerous individuals by email (usually correspondances he starts) then claims he is the one who is being harassed.

  33. 0
    Thomas says:

    I do agree whole heartedly DArrel. I rarely respond to articles written on GP because I generally think the content is actually worth reading and pretty much spot on…

    However, this one just rubbed me the wrong way. The rating is just a label of content found within to help ALL consumers make a choice. Changing the pretty letters on the outside doesn’t change the content found inside. By changing the rating, ESRB wouldn’t be providing the service their existence relies upon.

    I’m actually kind of curious as to why GP found this article even newsworthy, in all seriousness…

  34. 0
    james gunn says:


    ooh he strikes again! JT swings a verbal volley only to ricochet on himself, showing his stupidity.

    “castigating others for exercising their freedom”

    To castigate:
    To criticize severely.

    Like you, are doing now…

    “as if there even were such a community”

    if you weren’t such a bully, we wouldn’t have turned on our active community cloaking device…

    “self-centered, self-righteous”

    sounds familiar, eh? jack?

    “Or, put down the controller, step away from the platform, and get a life.”

    Says someone who seems to live here…

  35. 0
    Marlowe says:

    Well said kurisu7885, this isn’t about some misconception that the big three should be forced to allow AO on their systems we are aware they have the right to refuse, but we disagree with them exercising this right in this situation.

    Hey Jack, remember when you said you weren’t gonna post on this site anymore like a year or two ago? Why don’t you try doing that again? For someone who denies the existence of a gaming “community” you certainly attempt to appeal to them through this site.

    To those saying that this isn’t a concern of the ESRB. Although they do share some part of this, you are right in saying that Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are the ones who share the most responsibility and Andrew did (according to his post) send letters to each of them and they didn’t even give him the “respect” of a form letter.

  36. 0
    Shoehorn O'Plenty ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ Jack Thompson

    “The AO rating did not ban the game. Retailers and platform manufacturers like Sony and Wii are welcome to a) sell the game, and b) make their platforms available to it, respectively.

    But they CHOSE not to. “Freedom of choice.” Remember that little concept. Freedom is not just something gamers have. It is something that retailer boards, like at Wal-Mart, and giant companies, like Sony, have. Get used to it. Freedom is for everyone.”

    This was your message. You could have left it like that and most people here would have been shocked and amazed that you could put forward an argument without petty insulting of those who disagree with you. Instead, you insult the readership of the site and also the writer of the letter who should have the freedom you describe to do so.

    “There is no such unified community”
    As evidenced by the ECA? A unified organisation (or “community” if you will) of gaming consumers protecting their rights.

    There is also no “v” in “obnoxious”.

    In my opinion, I actually agree with him however (his initial point, not the immature insults and baiting that followed). The problem is not that Manhunt 2 was given an adults only rating. The problem is that the console manufacturers will not allow that game on their systems. If anyone is at fault, it is them.

    In fact, I actually believe that the US situation (while basically the same, not being able to play the game) is better than the Irish/UK one. The game is rated in the US, not being able to play is because of a company’s decision.
    In Ireland, the game was outright banned while more disturbing movies like Saw, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hostel 1 and 2 were allowed with no problems to have an 18 certificate. Our freedom is curtailed at an even more fundamental level.

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

    Once again, I put the burden on the publishers and the developers.

    They created the situation that led to the current market, they are now reaping the rewards of the closed console platforms.

    I would suggest that all these censored developers get together via their trade association, and work with the ESRB to help refine and improve the ratings system. I also think the ECA needs to do something, I mean I like Hal, but I am rather disturbed by the lack of action into CONSUMER issues like this.

  38. 0
    KitsuFox says:

    The ESRB is getting all of the flak, and it’s only because they issued the AO Rating to begin with, and effectively crippled the game they spent money on.

    The ESRB’s mission statement comes into conflict with the policies of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. It’d have to be released on a console not made or affiliated with any of the 3, and even then retailers wouldn’t carry it. IT’d only be the exotic shops that carry the AO game because of it’s graphic content. And that content alone.

    However, if we rate a game just by it’s cover, and the policies for each individual console manufacturer all prohibit the sale of AO games for their systems, then how are we supposed to be able to see for ourselves if the game really deserves the AO rating? We can’t. It’s impossible to tell short of Rockstar North putting up the entire game up for a torrent download so software pirates can burn it to a DVD\fake Wii disc, and use some sort of Freeloader or modded console to access the game itself.

    I personally think that the ESRB, instead of dropping the AO rating, should create a rating above it. I call it rating “X” – Games suited only for adults, may not be sold to anybody under, say, 25 years of age. To check for this, stores would have to implement a proof of ID system. This would coincide with the gradual increase in the need for identification, even though if it were seriously enacted, I’d see the same system applying to M-rated games and above.

    Because of that, AO games should be sold in stores but the label enlarged, say, 1.5x it’s normal size so that it’ll make the heavily graphic games stand out from the rest. Violence is commonplace in the movie industry: Why should the Video Game industry be treated any different? People who watched SAW didn’t go out and start murdering people in hideous ways. SAW is far more violent than, say, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas will be. Why? There’s more blood than San Andreas’ engine could EVER handle!

    Plus, to think that an -unused- piece of data that was probably moreso a programmer’s joke than anything caused San Andreas to get an AO rating is just plain rediculous. The mini-game there is absolutely inaccessible in the original copy, and the fact Rockstar had to REMOVE that unused piece of data simply because of, what else, it’s very existance. There was no other way to access it, and technically it was the fault of the community for digging up such a rarity. The fact it remained in the game isn’t a fault of Rockstar, it’s a statement that it was more than likely a programmer’s joke, or a leftofter that was carried over into the final release.
    What about that copy of NHL ‘## (forgot the year) released on the PSX that had the South Park Christmas Special burned on the disc instead of the actual game? The media never poked and prodded and burned EA into obscurity, nor did the game get any additional publicity because of it. The error was fixed silently, and the problem remained silent. But still, nowadays that’d just creep people out, the game would get mass attention from everybody. And of course, here comes Wacko Jacko and his army of Alarmists to say that Video Games are as bad as South Park because EA slipped up and did something stupid.

    But, alas, the video game industry is just that. Politicians, Jack Thompson, anybody who opposes the right to play violent VIdeo Games: Enjoy trying to put a circle in a square hole. It’ll only work if you downsize it, and even then, there’s still a lot of space left in the open.


  39. 0
    Thomas says:

    @ O’Plenty:
    “In Ireland, the game was outright banned while more disturbing movies like Saw, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hostel 1 and 2 were allowed with no problems to have an 18 certificate. Our freedom is curtailed at an even more fundamental level.”

    We have similar problems with censorship through the ratings of film in the US (while admitting that they are definitely not nearly as bad as the UK/IL) in that it’s essentially a secret society ratings board and an abusive appeals process. At least for our sake, the ESRB doesn’t seem to illustrate the same characteristics.

    Print a form letter sent from Sony, MS, or Nintendo and I’ll be up in arms about the AO rating issue… until then, I’ll continue to read the mudslinging (all the while contemplating the idea of the ‘MATURE’ rating for adults given by the ESRB).

  40. 0
    Pandas says:

    Freedom? To hell with “freedom” when “freedom” is used to suppress market demand, censor market supply, and enforce an artifical perception of “morality” on consumers. Thompson needs to put down his 3,000 year old hate manual — some call it “the Bible” — and stop worshipping his genodical bronze-age war God long enough to realize that the ESRB is destroying “FREEDOM.” I believe that one of the major factors that encourages game censorship involves the fact that that video games still carry the “FOR TEH CHILDREN” connotation throughout most of mainstream society. How long until conservative morons realize that games are not the sole property of children? Don’t like a product? Don’t buy it.

    The ESRB has failed gamers by becoming little more than a tool of right-wing politicans, idiotic parents, and every critics of the industry. The AO rating serves no objective function, and we are now witnessing a form of censorship similar to the comic-book bans of the 50’s. I really wish I could censor the “values” of our “conservative” friends long enough for them to get a taste of what censorship feels like.

  41. 0
    Silver_Derstin says:

    Way I see it is, Take-Two gambled and lost. It is a well known fact, since the beginning of more advanced gaming history, that AO games are not supported by console makers. And that even if your game would be the awesomest shitz evar, they wouldn’t let it work on your machine.

    So T2 gambled with Manhunt 2, and lost. And now need to refine their work to get a M rating. Big whooping deal. You call it censorship, I call it refinement.

  42. 0
    Thomas says:

    @ KitsuFox:
    I do applaud you for at least making suggestions for the ESRB in regards to delineating between sexuality and violence as a solution to ratings issues, but you’d have to assume that the manufacturers would allow such rated content be playable on their systems. Granted, there is no gaurantee.

    However, I do take issue with the point that the ESRB ‘effectively crippled’ (and the author’s original complaint the the AO rating ‘effectively banned’) the game. That isn’t so. A rating doesn’t ban the material, retailers and manufacturers do. By extrapolating that comment even further, you could say the game developers effectively banned the game for creating the content to begin with… Just a thought.

  43. 0
    BearDogg-X says:

    As an added point to Silver_Derstin, when films get rated NC-17 by the MPAA, the movie studios go back and re-cut the movie to get the R rating(for example, the Friday the 13th movies had to be re-cut numerous times) or they can appeal the rating(is there an appeal process with the ESRB?).

    There’s no difference there, although now the movie studios release and promote the unrated versions of the movies that were released in theaters.

    Yet, the same stores that sell unrated versions of movies such as the American Pie series, the Scary Movie series(and spinoffs like Epic Movie and Date Movie), and Reno 911:Miami(most recent movie off the top of my head), won’t sell unrated games either(Do the console makers allow unrated games?), so it’s back to square one.

  44. 0
    BearDogg-X says:

    Second paragraph should say, “There’s no difference there, although now the movie studios release and promote the unrated versions of the movies that were released in theaters when they hit DVD three to six months later.

  45. 0
    KitsuFox says:


    Which in turns leads to the very question: Why does the AO rating exist if it is only cause for every retailer and console manufacturer to forbid releasing the game? As far as I know, the ESRB refusing to rate the game would be far more lenient than say, just outright effectively banning the game with an AO rating.

    The problem I see with it is that the AO rating was only created to appease the political scapegoats. Since politicians are growing angrier with video games due to all of the controversy surrounding this one game, of course they ESRB would have to show they still supported “the rules” as written by “law”. When I say “law”, I mean, “the McDonalds’ Hot Coffee effect”. Yes, where McDonald’s was sued for, what else, having their hot coffee, well, hot.

    But think, if the ESRB had not given ManHunt 2 an AO rating, where would they be now? Under flak from politicians and senators and angry mothers, the list would go on and on for supporting “degradation of our youth.”

    The last thing I want to see is the government control the Video Game industry, and that’s looking more and more like a reality every day I visit here.

  46. 0
    DArrel says:

    Well, it’ll happen anyway. It happened to movies, music and comic books, but only TWO came out alive (Movies and music.) Comic books were dead and it took awhile for them to get back on their feet.

    Want this to all cool down? Wait 20 years. Because this will NOT be over in a day. By 20 years, JT and everyone that hated Video games will be dead and buried.

  47. 0
    Thomas says:

    I agree with GP’s original comments that this rating will be great for conversation when addressing retail concerns for AO rated games. It definitely sucks for Manhunt 2, but in the end a fundamental question will be addressed: Is it fair for retailers to broadstroke all games based on a single rating.

    The answer is inevitably no, but it’s a balance between nothing at all (which serves no one) and complete censorship (which serves the ruling few).

    I’ll take a balance anyday where our angry voices can be heard. But I prefer to shout at the people in my way, not the guys on the sideline.

    You do raise the point of the fairness of the rating system. That’s definitely directed at the ESRB. But historically they seem to have hit the nail on the head with a few hiccups. Did they this time? We might never know. I’ll assume they did.

  48. 0

    […] YouTube Contact the Webmaster Link to Article video games GP’s AE Gets AO Form Letter from ESRB » Posted at on Monday, July 30, 2007 GamePolitics correspondent Andrew Eisen advises that he sent a protest to the ESRB over the Adults Only (AO) rating the board assigned to Manhunt 2 … : ESRB: The ESRB rates computer and video games in terms of content and age-appropriateness … letter follows:  It’s important to note that the ESRB is an organization that rates computer and video View Original Article » […]

  49. 0
    KitsuFox says:

    Possibly, but I wouldn’t rule out that it won’t even be over by then.

    But, if you really think about it, there’s not much the U.S government itself can do to the industry anyhow. At least, anything constitutional.

  50. 0
    vellocet says:

    oh and to those who don’t understand my last statement about the forced incest I’m using JT’s own twisted logic.

    If he defends a person by saying that videogames was the cause for murdering his parents even though he was forced at gunpoint to have sex with his mother – by that logic JT must condone that behaviour.

  51. 0
    vellocet says:


    Now that I have that out of the way.

    I disagree with a lot of what people on this board are saying about the ESRB. If a game should be rated AO, it should be rated AO. Unfortunately, retailers and console manufacturers are forcing the game medium to stay in the dark ages by not letting them be published.

    This compounds the issues on the political side since many feel that there should be games that are rated AO but are given an M rating. Is it any wonder that developers will walk the thin line between M and AO when one rating can mean phenomenal success while the other means complete commercial failure?

    And yes, the console manufacturers and retailer have “freedom of choice”. But their choice is to CENSOR what their customers can and cannot buy. Customers do not get the choice to play a game that they want to play. Which is in fact the choice of the strong (corporations/gov’t) over the weak (consumers). Which is the definition of a dictatorship.

    It is obvious that Jack Thompson doesn’t understand the word freedom and only invokes its name when he twist its meaning for his own defective arguments.

    JT is a massacre chaser who thinks that forced incest is a part of a normal childhood (sorry, I fed the troll).

  52. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Sorry for the double post, but I need to say this:

    The ESRB is not catering to the panderings of “soccer moms” and politicians. True they were created after political backlash, but I think the game industry knew that was coming. I seriously doubt that they could not recall what happened to Movies and comics. They were created under political pressure, but they are not catering to it now. They have show that they are independant of outside influence and will not cave.

    I do admit that they could change the ratings to a temporary solution, but long term it would not help any. It could actually hurt the situation as many developers and the possibly the console manufacturers would cause a backlash on the decision. So I do not suggest a change.

    I do suggest a change for the reatailers and the console manufacturers. They need to stand up and say to the world that games are not just for kids. They need to change the label of “video games” to something less childish, like “entertainment software”. Retailers need to realize that they are being hypocritical by selling unrated movies but not AO rated games.

    So don’t blame the ESRB for doing their job. Blame the console manufacturers and the retailers for not doing theirs.

  53. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Many people here forget what the ratings mean.

    The E rating menas that the ESRB says that the game is appropriate for everyone.

    The T rating means that if you have kids under 13 you should review the game before letting your under 13 kid to play it, but the under 13 kid can still play it.

    The M rating means that if you have a kid under 17 you should review it before letting your kid play it, but the under 17 kid can still play it.

    The AO rating means that the game is not appropriate for any kid at all. They do not suggest letting a kid play it at all. If an adult wants to play it that is fine. It was never meant to be a ban.

    The console manufacturers are the ones at fault for the ban, and I am glad to see some intelligent readers on this website to counter act the ignorance of the others. For those ignorant enough to blame the ESRB for “banning teh gamez”, you need to get your story straight and avoid posting until then.

  54. 0
    Aaron ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    An internet troll like Thompson telling Andrew to get a life is the biggest instance of the pot calling the kettle black I’ve ever seen. I swear that man talks/types just to her himself talk/click.

  55. 0
    Awol ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The only problem I have with the AO rating is its seems to become equal to porn. I agree with others that ESRB needs to create another category. Something that makes it adults only but not equal to obscenity. Someone here suggested a M+18 which to me would make sense.

  56. 0
    Fisticuffs says:

    Responding to E. Zachary Knight

    Both the console manufacturers and the ESRB are at fault. Though its not really a leap in judgment to pu most blame on the ESRB. Their rating system is flawed. If you visit their website, its easy to see on the list of AO rated games that most of them are pornographic video games. So its almost as if AO is the equal to a XXX. Besides, its no secret that none of the console companies will allow an AO game on their system, we know that and so does the ESRB. When they assigned the rating to Manhunt 2 they knew that they were essentially banning it. So basically an AO, though never meant to be a ban, has become just that. So I suggest you take your own advice and “get your story straight and avoid posting until then. “

  57. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Thanks VaMinian. You said it well. The only reason most of the games that are AO are porn games is because those are very hard to edit and get an M rating. Violent games are easy to edit and rerate so we see few of them. If Manhunt is edited and rerated to M then it too will be dropped from the list of AO games. The ESRB website only lists those AO games that have not been appealed or rerated. Thus we see Thrill kill on there because it was rated and was never appealed nor rerated dispite the fact it was never published.

    So Fisticuffs, again “get your story straight before positng”

  58. 0
    Brokenscope ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    DISCLAIMER (FUCKING READ IT!!!!!!!!): I am not stating games are dangerous. I am only trying to provide an example of why a group like the ESRB should be independent and should not operate with consideration of external pressures from any outside entity. DISCLAIMER!

    The FDA is doing extensive testing on a drug. It hits a snag, and it turns out it has some rather nasty and lethal side effects in a considerable portion of the population. They don’t give approval and actually do ban it, the company that makes it just lost what would have been a massive chunk of cash off a very promising drug? Should the FDA take the companies profits and “feelings” into consideration? Fuck no, its not their job. The FDA’s job is to make damn sure that the drug is safe for usage as a treatment.

    Dupont comes out with an awesome new solvent. It removes stuff from everything. I mean this stuff is magical. Its really freaking awesome. Its too bad that any kind of close exposure results in massive cell death. This stuff is really dangerous… and it eats through plastics, metals, silicates, and ceramics. It also turns to a gas when not kept at around 50 f. Does the EPA approve it just to make DUPONT happy? No. They ban the chemical because there is no real safe way to store it and the damage it can cause is too severe. Heck, they aren’t even sure how Dupont made it. Neither is Dupont for that matter. I mean how do they store it? The EPA does its job. Regardless of who its going to piss off.

    The ESRB is doing its job, though I do think the ratings system could use some refinement, I think they do need to denote adult violence and adult sex, I don’t think it would matter for the time being.

    I mean come on, what news org wouldn’t jump at the chance to run “Microsoft allows sex games on the “SEXBOX360!” film at 11!”

  59. 0
    VaMinion says:

    To clarify my first point: what I’m referring to is the fact that no publisher has decided to try to push the ESRB barrier on this one. Rather than go back and edit for an M, if they’re dead set on trying to make AO “acceptable”, then they should keep the damn AO and publish on PC via electronic distribution. Yes, it will cut into their profits, but sooner or later the AO stigma will be lessened.

    Evidently, though, none of the game publishers are willing to step up to the plate on that one.

  60. 0
    VaMinion says:


    But the question becomes this: why is the list of AO games limited to porn-games in the first place? Answer: game publishers have, in the past, gotten the AO and edited the game to get the M rating.

    Yes, the ESRB must know by now that an AO is the equivalent of a console ban. But that said, we’re all better served in the long run by a ratings board that rates games by content rather than by what the console manufacturers will allow on their systems.


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

    Hmm…I was thinking of something last night. I know that AO games wont work on the consoles, but how about unrated ones? The ESRB process is voluntary, though devs do typically go through it.

  62. 0
    drew says:

    I agree, this isn’t the fault of the ESRB. The ESRB has to give ratings that parents agree with or they won’t be taken seriously. Without the ESRB, video games will end up with a government rating body and actual bans instead of these retailer/platform bans that we see now.

    This is the fault of gamers. It’s silly to allow a console manufacturer to determine what we can play. Consoles provide a standardized set of hardware, are reasonably priced, and provide many benefits to the gamer that PCs don’t. However, the consequence of all of these benefits is that the power to censor is given to a single company. Regardless of whether it is Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony, these companies continuously limit what gamers are allowed to play.

    This is not only true with adult content, but also with independent content. Gamers are beginning to see a small seepage of independent development onto these consoles with games like Band of Bugs, Everyday Shooter, and N. But even though there is a trend now for companies to use independents to fill up their online services, it’s still unrealistic for indie developers to aim for a console release.

    Small studios can’t get onto the consoles, and big companies are only allowed to the point where they break some kind of taboo. How can we expect the medium to evolve and develop if everything slightly avant garde is banned? I’m not saying Manhunt 2 will herald a new era for video games. In fact, I think that it’s sole goal is to shock and ride its controversy all the way to the bank. However, when every artistic decision a developer makes has to be approved by the console manufacturer, it’s going to result in stagnation.

    Gamers need to be writing to Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo or they need to vote with their wallets and buy some PC games (indies preferably). Let the ESRB do its thing. They don’t do the best job, but they do a good job of giving parents an approximate description of the content.

  63. 0

    Oy, here we go again.

    Questions: Since when did the ESRB stop Sony, Nintendo & MS from putting AO games on their consoles? Answer: They didn’t.

    I completely agree with others who say the ESRB needs to reformulate the system, I think that it should be more in line with movies, but the “Big Three” need to be on board with it or it’ll never work.

    Don’t forget, movies have been ‘censored’ effectively with an “R” rating and they get around it by releasing the ‘unrated’ dvd later.

    I’m not pro censorship but why is when this subject comes up its always about a small handful of games, most of which are not worth defending?

  64. 0
    Brian says:

    Ok, here is my problem with the AO rating. I do understand that is it there in order to protect the young ones from the violent games. However I do not like the suggestion that if older gamers want to play games tailored to their taste, they can’t buy them at Best Buy or Wal-Mart but have to buy them at an “Adult Store”. This basically means that in the case of Manhunt 2, we’ll need to look for it next to various sex toys because really the only “adult stores” out there are porn shops and there is no way of getting around it. If you want to buy an AO game you have to act like a social pariah in order to get it. In real life if I wanted to buy an “M” game at wal-mart or a “R” rated movie, I would be asked for my ID even though I am 22 years old. why can’t that be taken a step further and have the AO games out in the open with conspicuous packages and have the clerk look at my ID before it is taken out of the glass case? Now for the consoles not allowing them to be played in the first place, I still find that a form of censorship as I’m also against region coding as well and I think that if I legally purchase any digital media I should be able to play it without having to illegally modify my system to do it.

  65. 0

    Hmmm….I was very much looking forward to this game, but really only to have it sit on my shelf as a warning to those who would label the Wii a “kiddy” system. Shallow, I know, but it is really disappointing to me how picky the ESRB is. Here, Indigo Prophecy got an AO (well, the non-bastardized version did), while over in Europe the uncut one (with a sex game and everything!) only got a 15+. Admit it, America, we’re way too touchy.

  66. 0
    ZippyDSMlee ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    A letter to the ESRB (will post a reply if I get a non auto mated one)
    (Wishful thinking I know,but I got Hall Haplin to reply to a worse worded letter,I am learning disabled so don’t mind the “errors” 😛
    I am posting this in 2 places,at this time I will refrain from openly giving out email address,but really the the cap of 500 words on the contact form on the ESRB page is a bit much 1000 would be better..
    Its obvious there is a disconnect between how games are treated and how movies are treated, the consoles makers need to step back and let the rating systems of the world slot games to their systems, I don’t see any crys of foul play when a game gets put from Teen to Mature or from Mature to Teen so AO is really just another rating or at least it should be.

    AO needs to be treated like another rating but its held up their with the ban sticks of the world, the ESRB needs to lead the march and deal with the fiasco that has become the AO ban, while I do not see anything being done soon about it, I hope AO evolves like X did for the MPAA because for now AO is to keep any questionable mature content from market and not out of the hands of children or to inform parents.

    You are a industry made entity to help guide the industry if you fail to lead to by staying in the pockets of the EAS or the Politicians or the Console Makers(you are in the pockets of the console makers by letting them use sweeping bans of AO,the others not so much) you not only fail your Mission statement but the industry you were charged with to protect, please understand that we above 17 gamers are watching and that we are apart of the industry and that inaction on this will call some of us to ask for change not of the ratings but of you.

    Personally the ESRB is one of the most solid if not “better” rating setups I have seen unlike the MPAA it seems to give more consistent ratings and it demands retailer action to help guide children to age appropriate games unlike the MPAA which dose not really care if a kid sees a R rated film or not , however failing to understand the current AO situation is damaging ESRB and this damage could set it back if not permanently damage it.

    What can be done
    I would like to see the ESRB adjsut the Adult level tier to something that would work best for all its obvious AO has become a ban moniker and keeping AO for porn level games is fine to me thats reasonable, what is not is telling a 17 year old he cant play a game a 18 year old can so perhaps it might do the industry well to adjust the current M(17+) to 16+ doing this would fall closer inline with many other nations and their views of what is “mature” meaning games with basic gore and cussing (sudeki ,Halo,ect,ect)can be M, HOWEVER now that M is 16+ we can now put in a level for for games with a higher level of gore and sadism because its set to 18+ no one should have a problem with it,the retailers can refuse to sale it but frankly with wallmart selling unedited copies of SAW
    the industry needs a bit of growing up to do, but with a blatant 18+ on the game it should say to all this is not a game for kids like AO dose,abnd yes AO can be kept for porn games.

    I understand that changing M to 16 might seem imposable but the it is not what it is is a trade off to fix the issues that have come about with AO, it might hurt in the short run but in the long run it would be perfect for gaming,now if M can not be adjusted then you can still use the 18+ to whatever letters you pick (MA,MNK,MR,ect,ect) I still think adjust M to 16+ would be best for the long run both sides of coarse will discuss “to adnaseum” but I think at least putting it up for discussion would be worth while, in the end AO needs to be removed or made porn only and gaming in the US needs a real adult tier for ratings that the industry as a whole will frown on the console makers if they use sweeping bans for it, in the end the ESRB needs to lead and create a 18+ level so that the pressure it tooken of the pubs and console makers so that games will not be baned so hastily or easily, as for porn games normal retailers wont touch it and only soem of them will fool with 18+ games but at least with the 18+ level gaming has a place to mature and not be stuck in the kiddie pool.

    Lee Jarvis/ZippyDSMlee
    Adult Gamer

    P.S:In reply to the automated forum letter;
    AO dose not protect children, AO dose not inform parents, AO is a a black label a BAN to prevent games going to market and this goes against the very foundation of the ESRB, the console makers do not have any right to demand what rating level of games can be made for their systems they can refuse approval of individual games but sweeping bans are not good for the industry. AO truly needs to be reworked like X was, if you tell the public that such things are begin looked into there would not be such hatred in the gamer movement for the ESRB the politicians will always find a scapegoat to bash but if you wait to long and piss off everyone you lose so much rep you are forced to close and from where I sit if such a thing were to occur it would set back gaming as “media” 5-14 years and make video games toys again.

  67. 0
    daniel3 says:


    the esrb ao rating is a defacto ban and a defacto restriction on the freedom of speech… dejure, it’s not… but if the outcome of a unique set of circumstances is a restriction on the freedom of speech and censorship, then it’s at least worth pointing out and questioning from a constitutional perspective.

  68. 0
    Matthew ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Mr. Thompson’s calling card: A huge scrollbar on a new article.

    It’s a sad state of affairs that ultimately boils down to passing the blame. The ESRB says it’s an AO game which is a perfectly acceptable rating. Nintendo says it doesn’t want adult games on its system, which is a perfectly acceptable decision to make. Walmart says it won’t stock AO-rated goods, which is perfectly acceptable. Nobody can say that they alone banned the game.

  69. 0
    Pete B. says:

    I’m going to take for granted that we now understand the ESRB is probably judging the game’s content fairly, and should not be the focus of our criticism. The problem is that no console platform is yet willing to acknowledge that it has an active adult player-base.

    Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft:
    How long until you respect your adult customers by allowing them choice in adult content? Which of you will have the courage to step forward and admit that it’s adults who pay the majority of your incredible, record-breaking annual earnings? How many millions of dollars must you be paid before we are given the respect that every other adult consumer-base is given when choosing which products and services to pay you for?

    How long do you expect us to stand for it?

    Jack Thompson can celebrate this indirect form of censorship as much as he wants, but the tide is changing, sir, and your flimsy little lands will not stem it for long.

    As we, the actual consumers of these products, continue to age into our 30s and 40s (I’m 35, actually) Thompson and his ilk will eventually be revealed as the relics they are: censors whose unknowing distrust of new forms of entertainment will be snickered at for generations, for their shallowness and lack of vision.

    The market is virtually POISED to ensure your extinction, pal, and everyone but you knows it.

  70. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Errr.. Jack, then why are you so vehemently against the Bar trying to do something about your own offensive and insulting content?

  71. 0
    jccalhoun, graduate student ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Wait a minute, Jacko wrote:

    “Freedom is for everyone.”

    But wait, if freedom is for everyone then why does he want to prohibit minors from buying certain games? Don’t they could as part of “everyone?”

    Could it be that Jacko just writes things without thinking through their implications?

    (And before Jacko twists that into saying that I think children should be playing M or AO rating games, I don’t but I don’t think that a law is the answer)

  72. 0
    Pandas says:

    This is the same culture war that has been fought against moral conservatives, superstitious Christian morons, and the cult of family values. Games are simply a new battle field. We must work to shove morals back where they belong: back up the asses of those dumb, scared, or superstitous enough to believe them.

    And those who stand on the side of freedom, expression, art, and progress are handicapped at the moment by crap like the ESRB.

    I think the phrase uttered by “The Truth” from GTA:III best describes my feelings at the moment:

    “F**king right-wingers!”

  73. 0
    Kincyr ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    whenever Jack says “put down the controller, … and get a life” he really means “take a life” so he can cash in on it.

  74. 0
    HurricaneJesus says:

    I disagree with the people who think that the ESRB did a good job rating the game. They said themselves that they had their game guy play it for about 30 MINUTES, and then the decision was made. They played with “God Mode” enabled, so the game wasn’t played the way it was supposed to be, and not even in its entirety. How can a fair rating be given in this case?

    How do we know that at the end the game game, the main character doesn’t wake up to find that everything was taking place in a dream he had? The AO rating is complete bullshit, and needs to be changed. Either that, or we need more than one person playing the game and giving an opinion of it. We need an ESRB2 that double checks the ratings given, and checks them for accuracy, fairness, and completeness.

    How do we even know that Manhunt 2 falls under the AO category? Without the chance to experience it for ourselves, we have to go by what the ESRB says, and I think for all the good they are trying to do, they have an agenda, and are more concerned with possible back-lash than they are about giving a game a fair rating.

    I just hope GTA IV gets an AO rating, because then the gaming community might actually fucking do something about this shit.

  75. 0

    @ Father Time

    Because Manhunt 2 is the only game in a loooong time that has been up for an AO rating and looks playable.

  76. 0
    DragonBomber ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As Pete B. above said, the ESRB did what only the ESRB can do: rate games. They do deserve some criticism however. Their system of rating is very suspect in that there is no real breakdown of their methods for consumers and apparently developers. “Prolonged graphic violence” is all the wording of the descriptor for AO says, besides mentioning sexual content (what it is most known for) also being a potential decider. None of the rating data exclaims that control method or other game play factors weigh in, though Vance has said that control has ALWAYS been a factor. How is Manhunt 2 and its’ prolonged violence any worse than other M games? How was it judged?

    We the consumers can’t say. You can chatter about it having this act or that act, but there is no publicly known blueprint or spec sheet given to developers by the ESRB about ratings showing what various content inclusions will have on ratings. What effect does decapitation have? What about using dead elephants or heads as bowling balls against enemies? Similar acts are in a certain PS3 M-rated game, but that seems to be acceptable. I think the ESRB is long overdue in detailing how ratings will be made, scientifically, digitally. Not some hodge-podge-evaluated analog impression made by a handful of people. If some games are going to have violence that is questionably-rated versus other game decisions, there needs to be a change in the system.

    Is that a lot of work for the developer and the ESRB? Not as much as you think. The developer’s side already knows what content is in a game even if everyone in the company doesn’t. You compile that into a report that lists what actions are possible player choices. The ESRB has to decide where this line is for the ratings, and the public deserves this info just as much as the console makers. The ESRB should devise checklists and other material to show the results of content instead of having a developer have to rely on prior games rated and a prayer. This is not a common sense choice we’re talking about.

    Fils-Aime of Nintendo thought the control scheme of Manhunt wasn’t a problem, but obviously it was according to Vance of the ESRB. Content and control sealed its fate. A fate that is suspect given the system as it now operates. Problems arise, of course they do. Example: animated violence of a severed limb being stuck down the throat of an enemy as a weapon versus more photo realistic depiction. Something has to be done since ratings as of now are suspect. Developers are at the mercy of the ESRB to stick with the same convention when different people are using their judgment in each case. Wonderful way to keep games safer for consumption guys and gals.

    Videogames provide challenges in that reviewers cannot play through an entire game AND find every hidden weapon or cut scene in a game. Movie raters can watch the movie and decide, even if they start to fall asleep. Despite that difficulty, a better job needs to be done by the ESRB or the criticisms from the peanut gallery will continue. Some criticisms by researchers prove the point, illuminating how content slips by the ESRB hand over fist. Do more in fixing that problem ESRB and you will have less warranted criticism in the world of academic research even if it doesn’t help you with those truly biased and unfairly demonizing you.

    If the market of older gamers really cares about games making it to the shelves despite an AO rating in the future, there are things to be done. Writing the companies whose console system they intend to support is a start. Not paying for the system if you truly want other software options is the only way you will hurt their business though, and that will never happen. People don’t boycott gas, let alone videogames. Sure the critics do, but they are doing what serves their goal. Gamers don’t have a goal now, or so many different goals that no movements stand tall and say “LOOK AT ME HERE!” There are hopeful avenues but nothing that produces enough of a wake to make Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and others think of anything else other than their profits.

    If Nintendo made as much money off of M games as they do with T and E games, then there would be a change in what games made it to the system. Do the math on the releases and tally up the actual $ made by the console maker off the M titles that gamers bought in abundance. It’s nice to hope that such a freedom of choice would exist, but until these games come out of developers on a larger scale and sell even more than peanut gallery members preach, we are all at the mercy of capitalism. Wal-Mart and others will stock what sells, they are in the business of making money.

    I believe people in Nintendo actually believe that they can restrict violence and sex finding children by keeping the worst of the games from being made for their systems, but it’s naive. As the critics of games find a handful of titles to be suspect, a crowd of other games slide by that were due the same consideration and inspection by society. They slide by parents who are out of the loop or just don’t care. Some children con the more feeble-minded parents they are stuck with, and sometimes violent or questionable content finds its way into games meant for kids. That doesn’t mean the world is over or children are doomed. It means we all need to do more to bring about the changes that will serve society. Can you imagine how far the ESRB’s refining could have come if peanut gallery members understood that television, movies, books, and videogames are with us now and we have to deal with how the content is handled, not how the content is eradicated? Fought against bad ratings and supported education of all parents on positive and negative effects on children and unbiased research?

    I don’t blame Nintendo for Manhunt 2 not coming out as an AO game. I don’t blame the ESRB. I don’t blame Rockstar. I do however feel that they each played a role in setting up the variables that caused it to fail to hit shelves as it was meant to. Nintendo begged for a popular adult title, knowing Rockstar would be hard-pressed to get the game past the ESRB with the subject material of the franchise selected, let alone the hype from the news media and the rantings of the peanut gallery. Every one of them rolled the dice, protecting themselves from scrutiny and criticisms. Without developer’s games that push the limits for some people the ESRB would not exist, and console makers would never sell another system. Victory for some people comes if these companies fail and go bankrupt. I surely hope the players in the circle of videogame life revise their current methods, make more processes publicly observable, and strive to promote education and research to offset the ignorance used as ammo in the current war over content. Videogames deserve effort if they are to be granted the same artistic rights of other media forms.

  77. 0
    Father Time ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I have one question, to everyone here.

    Why haven’t we had this conversation years ago?

    We all knew Ao was just another term for banned, we all knew that games could get Ao just for violence, (punisher, and thrill kill), so why didn’t we do anything about it? Why did we have to wait for Manhunt 2 to get an Ao rating before we complaind about the rating’s existence? That’s like seeing several large boxes teetering on the edge of a building and not complaining about them till one falls and hurts someone. Now look what we have. I’m reminded of when we told everyone that if they wanted to ban violent games they needed to ban violent TV, then the FCC came in and took us on that challenge.

  78. 0
    Phantom says:

    Ah, poor ignorant JT. He doesn’t get it. Andrew Eisen went about this the right way. He recognized that the decision to ban the AO rating was part of the jurisdiction of the retailers and console manufacturers, and went to them specifically to get them to reconsider. Andrew understands that’s how the First Amendment is designed to work, which is why he didn’t go to any politicians or file any legal lawesuits.

    Honestly, I kind of pity the guy. I cannot imagine what it must be like to live wrapped in a bubble of ignorance and hatred, aware that one is a “flawed creature” and yet doing absolutely nothing to change his ways.

  79. 0
    Flipfox22 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo need to allow all games on their respective platforms. Also retailers need to get the stick out of their ass and sell all kinds of games. In the “Back room” if they must. I just want to be able to buy all the games I want.

    Side note: All the systems now a’ days have parental controls to keep games that parents find unsuitable from being played. Why can’t they just use them…

  80. 0
    DragonBomber ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    If gamers could convince the console makers in question that they represent a big enough piece of the pie, then you would see it. It will take a lot more copies of M games sold and even more titles put out by game developers. Which in turn would require more work with ESRB to make sure a game made it to market, and hopefully clearer guidelines. Until then we’re not going to get jack. This isn’t the Atari days with Texas Chainsaw Massacre grinding away wheelchair-bound victims or any one of the Mystique titles featuring lewd covers and craptastic gameplay where licensing wasn’t a must and it was hidden under the counter. These are days when Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft hold all the cards and without licensing you are pretty much SOL.

  81. 0
    DeathRain ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Okay, sorry if I say something that was already said, but I don’t have time to read all the comments before me today.

    There’s one thing I’ve never really understood about the AO rating. How does it really make a difference. Trying to compare, an M for videogames is roughly the equivalent of an R for movies. Both have an age restriction of 17 (last time I checked). In the case of movies, people under 17 can watch them in the theater if they go with someone 18+. Using a similar comparison, an AO would equate to an NC-17. With the movie reference again, that means absolutely no one under 17 (or is it 18?) can see it in a theater. But videogames can’t really be held in the same standards. If a game is 17+, then that’s the age limit for buying it. So, what purpose does the AO server other than to say “Well, this is a strnger warning”? If parents have to buy it, they have to buy it, whether M or AO.

    I mean, I get that “adult” legally means 18+ (for most things at least), but why not just have M be 18? From a developmental standpoint, that one year doesn’t mean much when we’re talking about that age range. For that matter, the human brain doesn’t stop physically developing (AKA become adult) until 25 anyway. Since affecting thinking is the point, that should technically be the age to consider.

    My last thought is about the legalities. This comes down to one private sector entity affecting another’s functioning. It’s not the developer’s fault some companies won’t license games for their systems or some won’t sell games, just because of the AO rating. They only direct control they have is the content. They shouldn’t have to restrict it purely to get a rating. That’s something akin to telling, say, an author “Your new book is a well-written, interesting, quality piece of work. However, because the content isn’t suitable for some ages, we’re going to have only let you sell it in porn shops.”

    Maybe I’m a little too dramatic with some of that. But I don’t think it’s entirely too far off the mark.

  82. 0
    Boffo97 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I will ask this question… simply for the sake of raising the argument:

    Is there an effective difference between an AO rating on a game or an NC-17 rating on a movie? When was the last time you saw an NC-17 movie playing at the local theater? When was the last time you saw DVDs of NC-17 rated movies at any major outlets?

    If there was that difference in standard between AO rated games and NC-17 rated movies, it’d be something to get upset about, but I don’t see it.

    Unfortunately, if you think about it, simply banning the most extreme tier of the system from one’s business is a sensical policy. Otherwise, one is left with picking and choosing what to ban and what not to ban, and being responsible for “You banned this, but not that.” (and banning nothing really isn’t that realistic a policy either if you really thought about it. You’d end up with very few customers after a while with people voting with their wallets.)

    And Dennis, have you considered just deleting the posts of the troll as they’re posted? If he has no right to post here, then his posts have no right to remain.

    And troll, you can stop labeling anything Dennis does against you as SLAPP. It isn’t, because what you’re doing isn’t Public Participation. It’s repeated trespassing onto Dennis’ property when you were repeatedly told that you were not welcome. If it was me, I’d call the cops, and have you arrested as a cyberstalker.

  83. 0
    bildo says:

    Quote from the ESRB letter

    “These circumstances, which are beyond the ESRB’s control and do not factor into our rating assignments, are a significant reason why most games which receive the AO rating from ESRB end up being modified and resubmitted in order to receive a rating that would allow for them to be played on game systems and sold to the public.”

    Plain and simple, you don’t want AO games to be “banned” then write Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft who won’t allow them on their consoles. Write all the retailers who won’t stock the videogame. It’s not the ESRB’s fault. The retailers and others took the worst rating the ESRB had and made their own rules around it. According to the ESRB, it would be on the market for people to make educated decisions however, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony and the retailers are the ones taking away your ability to make these educated decisions not the ESRB.

  84. 0
    Grimm24 says:

    Although, I disagree, I also understand the point being made here.

    Obviously there shouldn’t be any restrictions on game content, however it’s also the same argument as saying that an R rated movie and an NC17 rated movie should have the same rating. In a sense, they SHOULD, because there is little to no age difference in legally seeing them, however the content is different and if anything, that is the most important part of the rating.

    Separating the games that are mature and games that are VERY mature is important not because of who plays them, but because of what the difference in the games are

  85. 0
    DeathRain ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Okay, I’m sorry, I just realized I forgot some important points in my post.

    First, I should have mentioned that I wasn’t trying to show complete links between movie ratings and video game ratings. I was trying to draw kind of an analogy. I know the NC-17 rating hasn’t been used in a long time, at least. In fact, I don’t remember seeing one in my entire lifetime. I was just stating the technical procedures as I understand them from the last time I looked them up.

    Second, my comment about the author still doesn’t sound how I want it too. I suck at this today. Something more like:
    “Your new book is well-written, intriguing, quality work. However, we’re going to have to rate it “Read at Your Own Risk” because the content is too adult oriented.”

    Then having most publishers say they won’t print it and only porn shops carrying it.

    Finally, I really don’t mean to put all the blame on the ESRB (as much as I sound like it). Everyone involved carries their own part of the responsibility, probably least of all the ESRB. My point is simply that I don’t see a practical use for the rating. I don’t think the benefits of having a stronger level than “Mature” outweigh the detriments of having one more thing to remember about the ratings system. I know the system is definitely not overly complex. However, in my experience, too many parents don’t even know the system exists, let alone what any part of it means. I say this because I did a sociology experiment about youth and media, and it was the subject of some of the questions in the parental survey I made. I just wish I still had the data or the paper I wrote about it so I could post real numbers.

  86. 0
    DeathRain ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Sorry, I’ll be a little more specific again. I understand content differences between R an NC-17 ratings. As I understand it though, a major part of the original intent in having that distinction was for separation of the two when being shown in public movie theaters. With video games, there are no theaters. And before anyone says it, yes, I’ve considered arcades in this line of thought. Frankly, arcades are going the way of the dinosaurs. The only one I can think of that has games as advanced as this is Dave & Buster’s, and they don’t let in minors without adult supervision, with a ratio of one adult for every two minors.

    So moving back to my point, my arguement is simply that although there are differences in content between the M and AO ratings, if you REALLY have to specify between “mature” and “VERY mature,” then really, whoever the game is for should be able to properly handle both levels of “mature” or not have either. Or at the very least, put meaningfully different age restrictions on the different ratings.

  87. 0
    Andrew Eisen ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    To everyone telling me to write the console manufacturers and retailers,

    I did.

    I don’t fully blame the ESRB for Manhunt 2’s “ban” and in fact wrote similar letters to Nintendo, Sony, and several large retailers. No response from them though.

    Andrew Eisen

  88. 0
    ZippyDSMlee ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    heres the problem at 17 a person is still a child in the eyes of the law, my main suggestion was to nip this issue at its core change M to 16 and put in place a a new rating at 18 and leave AO for “mainstream” porn games, its obvious AO has become a laughing stock if all it takes is killable children then Bioshock and Fallout 3 are inches away from being AO titles ,if indigo prophecy had its low detail sex scene in it that would make a PG13 movie R and not even phase a R moive if that is grounds for AO then what good is AO as it is all its doing is preventing a normal reasonable level of mature storying telling into a MATURE GAME.

    If you look around at other countries sex is almost a non issue and wont level up a games rating if its teen or higher,at looking at some this is why I think M could be split in half with lite M rated games going to M and other goign 18+,it might hurt in the short run but its better than leaving things where they are.

    M16/M18R works for me but I bet the US populace cant count 0_O

  89. 0
    Boffo97 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Actually, the core of this argument comes from what the major difference between R and NC-17, and thus what the difference between M and AO should be is.

    An R rated movie can in fact be legally viewed by a child under the age of 17 if accompanied by an adult. The idea is that, ideally, parents are supposed to make decisions for their children and if they decide their child is mature enough that this movie is appropriate for them, take responsibility for the decision and let the child have access to the media. If the parent makes this decision lightly and makes the wrong choice then, at best, they’re being a negligent parent, and blame lies solely with them.

    An NC-17 rated movie takes the parent out of the equation entirely. It says under no circumstances would this movie be appropriate for any child. This is NOT functionally equivalent to the R rating.

    Now because the MPAA has copyrighted their ratings, the ESRB had to come up with their own system, but I think we can all agree that M is analogous to R and AO is analogous to NC-17.

    The problem with both ratings systems, as stated, is that business entities realize that they could endure very bad PR and loss of business unless they certain things the community as a whole does not support are banned. However, if they are seen as making the decision to ban that item in particular, they can lose support from other tiers of the market. So they make the policy not to carry the worst tier of the ratings system.

    Yes, it does render that tier functionally worthless. No, adding further ratings becomes useless because the ratings system becomes a confusing alphabet soup, and if done often enough, multiple tiers would be banned. But it’s just the way it is.

  90. 0
    DeathRain ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    We’re saying the same things (at least very similar), just in different ways. The ratings system needs to be tweeked, at the very least. Put simply: if we’re going to make distinctions between “mature” and “very mature,” don’t make it so vague.

    @ Boffo97

    I agree with you as well. As has come up before, it’s far from a perfect system, whether looking at the individual parts or at the whole. Actually true for both ratings systems. I know they don’t mean nearly the same thing, and if I sounded like it before, I apologize. My personal view is that if anyone really needs the levels beyond mature further separated, it’s probably time to rethink giving them even an M rated game in the first place. Also, I fear maybe my knowledge isn’t quite up to speed. Last I checked, no government body had officially SUCCESSFULLY adopted the ESRB’s ratings system yet without contest. The MPAA system was. I’m not arguing, just asking, because I just realized I may be partially speaking using out of date and incorect knowledge. I’d check, but my smart phone can only do so much.


    Sorry for my rambeling and numerous clarifications today. I’m having more trouble than usual turning my thoughts into conversation that anyone other than me can understand. Well, without an Idiot to English dictionary that is.

  91. 0
    ZippyDSMlee ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    Look at X and the troubles with it it had to be forced out and be made NC17 ,AO is having the same is not worse problem because there is no middle ground for gaming its held up on a high pedestal than movies ever have been and even so games and movies are rated diffrently what can make it in a R movie can not make it in a game even more of a reason to re balance the adult tier,AO will have to go they can use M16 and M18R and other bits of the alpha bit soup any way they go they will need a new adult level in any case AO is fine for “porn” I do not think anyone can argue against that however AO dose not work for NC17 and creating a 18+ level for games is needed.

    AO is broken and needs to either left to porn or removed altogether,we saw in the late 70s/early 80s X become NC17 it will have to happen again to AO to have it change and not include harder mature content.

    MH2 is not he only game to be threaten with the ban hammer Bioshock had to make the lil sisters invernable or get a AO sticker and I am sure they are doing simmluar things with fallout 3 since it cleared its M rated.

  92. 0
    Murry ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As long as the AO is given for legitimate reasons I fully support its use. In the end it is retailers and platform designers choice if they will allow AO content on their shelves and on their consoles. That is not the ERSB’s concern as the AO rating is a perfectly valid rating for a PC game and not a ban.

    In the end, from what I hav heard of the reasoning behind manhunt 2 getting a AO rating i support the decision. I also belive it is the right of the developer to make the game as they see fit. The disconnect as it were is with the retailers and policy makers for the platforms in question. If claims of banning are going to be thrown around it would be at them. But even then they certainly have the right to say that they dont want certain things on their platforms or on the shelves.

    Essencialy no one is in the wrong but there is not a happy ground that everyone can have what they want. A compromise must be made to move forward. But no direct fault can be laid at anyones feel for this particular decision

  93. 0
    Stephy Wolf says:

    Why even split up the AO and M ratings? It’s 1 years difference in the age group of users.
    It frustrates me to no end that companies will allow an M rated game on their hardware but not AO. Understand this is becoming an adult hobby, accept it, and allow us to play a uncensored game on the system.
    They seem to do this all the time with games, yet they can release R rated movies such as Saw 3 which some people found so bad they walked out of theaters? Ridiculous.
    -Stephy Wolf

  94. 0
    Sammy says:

    I sent a complaint to the esrb about their ratings just to see if I’ll receive a form letter.

    “I alway had faith in your board until Manhunt 2.

    year’s 2002.

    Soldier of Fortune 2’s released.

    features life-like violence with advanced damage engine call GHOUL 2.

    the most violent game of its kind.

    rating: M for Mature.

    shift to year 2004.

    Postal 2.

    violence and more controversy than an episode of south park stuffed into 1 gigabyte of data.

    rating: M for mature.

    I am terribly ashamed at a board that only aimed at making rockstar pay for the hot coffee scandal.”

  95. 0
    Johnny LaRue says:

    Whoa as a biotech junkie I take exception to the FDA analogy. There are phases with drug studies. Also the FDA is not the end all and numerous other countries have drugs on the market not FDA approved. Also the drug companies can and have terminated studies knowing the FDA wont approve the drug.

    Why cant the ESRB let game companies know that the game will be an AO BEFORE they spend the $$$ on the final product? How hard is it in this day and age to have the companies send the ESRB unfinished versions throughout the developing process and get instant feedback?

    This is akin to the FDA buring their head in the sand until the phase III results are submitted and then giving a drug a “rating” that prevents any pharmacy from carrying it but the drug can still be legally sold elsewhere (despite some concerns about safety)

    In fact I recall the morning after pill was not being carried or filled by certain pharmacists/pharmacies under “moral objections” and that was overturned. Not saying that is the same as Walmart and AO ratings but the cries of moral objections reeks of a double standard.

    What the ESRB is doing is banning the game and blaming the “Big 3”. Like most have said above why then even have an AO rating for console games? Lets be honest and get rid of the rating and just call AO a non-approval.

    It also baffles me that the MPAA gets away with far more than the ESRB can. I guess better lobbyists….

  96. 0
    Boffo97 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    The main thing here though is that NC-17 and X were not “split up”. NC-17 was re-named X to get it away from the stigmata of being for pornography. The rating of X ceased to exist as an MPAA rating, and exists now only as an expression.

    Let’s say your idea is taken up. That AO becomes the “porn rating” and M is divided into M16 (which I assume means Mature – Parents must purchase for minors 16 and younger) and M18R (which I assume means Mature – Restricted to sales of above 18 and above).

    Here’s what you’ve done.

    1. You’ve given the anti-game crowd another weapon. They can say games are legitimizing porn by giving it an official rating all to itself.

    2. Since laws already exist covering the sales of porn to minors anyway, that level becomes ignored, and the “highest level is banned” logic now bans the M18R rating, just as the NC-17 rating was banned when films that got that rating weren’t pornographic.

    3. You’ve introduced more confusion into the whole rating system needlessly.

    Again, the whole concept of the “de facto ban of the most extreme level” isn’t really fair, but it’s unavoidable reality, and it’s a lot more pleasant of an option than direct government bans.

    @ Stephy Wolf

    The split in the ratings between M and AO is intended to reflect that parents with mature children may view the material and decide it appropriate, whereas the AO rating is intended solely for an adult audience, no matter how mature a child might be.

    In other words, GTA may be appropriate for a really mature 14 year old, and inappropriate for a really immature 17 year old. But such distinctions are irrelevant with an AO game.

    …or so the reviewers have decided.

  97. 0
    Terrible Tom ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    To: E Zachery Knight and/or anyone who doesn’t think the ESRB caters to the parents.

    If they weren’t catering to parents then all those surveys they pay independent researchers to take would include people other than parents. =) They are doing it to get feedback and the only feedback they want is from parents. Are you honestly trying to tell me the ESRB is not catering to parents? Are you ignoring the fact thats the audience they are researching into to gain insight? If you are I challenge you to logically explain why its a good idea to only research what parents think of the ESRB rather than EVERYONE. Being a parent doesn’t magically make you better or more intelligent than everyone else.

  98. 0
    Dan Olson says:

    “The interests of gamers, parents, and other consumers are best served by having an effective self-regulatory body, whose actions are objective, judicious and fair.”

    And when are we getting one of those?

  99. 0
    Dan Olson says:

    Eh, double post.

    AO isn’t my problem. Publishers can still sell AO games… just not on consoles or at Best Buy. Yeah, it’s a sigificant hinderence. So they can cut it or sell it online. If they feel their artistic freedom is more important than their cash, they have plenty of options. As for consoles… games have been cleaned up for consoles for years. Think about SNES wolf3d. I’m pretty sure it had green blood. It’s the price you pay for using someone else’s hardware for your game.

    While they did an alright job with Bully, and are probably not too far off on Manhunt 2 (because the BBFC gave it a similar rating/nonrating)… their ability to objectively rate politically charged games is still highly dubious. And their strongarm tactics toward publishers and developers are just plain inappropriate. As a game developer I don’t view the ESRB as my ally… and I look forward to the day when someone decides that they don’t need the ESRB to sell their game and the floodgates open.

  100. 0
    DeathRain ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Thanks for the clarification. I try not to talk out my ass, but sometimes I can’t help it. I fall on too much misinformation sometimes.

  101. 0
    Dennis McCarthy says:

    Of all the strange “crimes” that human beings have legislated of nothing, “blasphemy” is the most amazing – with “obscenity” and “indecent exposure” fighting it out for the second and third place.
    Robert A. Heinlein

  102. 0
    sqlrob ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @boffo97 : “An R rated movie can in fact be legally viewed by a child under the age of 17 if accompanied by an adult.”

    That statement is misleading. Strike “if accompanied by an adult”. It’s legal, period.

  103. 0
    DeathRain ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ sqlrob

    Actually, that’s correct. A person under 17 can see a R rated movie if accompanied by an adult. My friend and were 16 when Van Wilder came out. We went with my parents. When we went to the snack stand, the ushers first IDed us, then made us take them to my parents before they’d let us stay in the theater.

    @ Terrible Tom

    Of course the ESRB caters to parents. In reality, that’s why they exist. As a gamer who knows EXACTLY what game you’re buying. Do you personally really care what rating a game has when it’s in your hands at the checkout line? Parents though, don’t always walk into the store knowing what the game content is. Hell, when I was younger, the only time my parents knew what was in a game was when it made the news for some reason. However, they knew ME. They saw the disgust on my face when Columbine happened. They heard my conversations with friends about idiots who don’t know the difference between reality and fiction (at age 12). In other words, they saw the effects of their good parenting.

    Sadly though, a lot of parents aren’t that good. Many haven’t properly taught their kids the proper ways. others don’t pay attention to what their kids do. The ESRB ratings are mostly for the parents who fall where those two groups overlap. Of course the ratings are a tool that everyone can use, but parents are the most important.


    There’s one more thing about the de-facto ban. With the console companies and retailers, it’s not purely a moral stand. There are a lot of factors there. It’s also a marketing image issue. They want their public face to say “This can exist, but we don’t want it attached to us.”

    It’s also a “cover your ass” issue. Let’s say 14-year-old Johnny gets “Death Gore Killathon 7” from his 21-year-old cousin. Johnny’s parents have no idea what he’s playing in his room. The reason Johnny wanted the game was because he’s actually a kind of twisted kid. Since his dad doesn’t lock up his hand gun, Johnny goes on a shooting spree in school one day because he’s sick of getting picked on. In the aftermath, they find the game in his room. You better believe in the coming lawsuits that the retailer and the console manufactuer are going to be named as defendants. Anyone remember the protests Michael Moore organized against Wal-Mart after Columbine because they sold hand gun bullets?

    In reality, there are so damn many factors at work here, it’d take a team of analysts with various backgrounds to study the entire situation. Even then, it’d take months, if not years, of intensive research to figure out anything usefull. Most valuable lesson in life: simple answers or solutions don’t exist.

  104. 0
    theninja says:

    Perhaps one move toward a solution would be to have some concrete specifications that a game would have to have to reach each level. for example, it could be a 100 point scale where anything over 90 points would receive the AO rating. the points are tallied when something objectionable is found. This would also mean clarity around the objectionable material (ie – spelling out exactly crosses those barriers).

    AO is a joke though. They took a rating that was meant for pornographic means and have stretched it into how they wanted to fit it.

  105. 0
    Afecks says:

    “It’s important to note that the ESRB is an organization that rates computer and video games in terms of content and age-appropriateness so that consumers, especially parents, can make educated purchase decisions.”

    “Our most recent surveys found that the vast majority of the time (82%), parents agree with the rating assigned by ESRB, while 5% of the time they thought the rating was “too strict.”

    I don’t fault the ESRB for doing their job. It’s the retailers and console-makers that make AO = Ban, not the ESRB. However, the larger issue here, which is at the heart of the vast majority of gaming controversy is the fact that too many people in positions of authority have the notion that games are for kids. Frankly, I’m almost 25. I don’t particularly care what my parents think of my games. If the goal is to protect the kids, then, quite simply, bust the balls of the retailers to make sure they check ID on the people trying to buy M or AO games.

    The fact is that games aren’t just for kids any more. Console makers and retailers know this, but they are politically motivated to effectively ban AO games because they don’t want the negative media coverage which would paint them as purveyors of brutality and smut.

    It really is an issue of education more than anything else.

  106. 0
    angry dude says:

    An M rating and an AO rating is a one year difference. There’s no point to it.

    The ESRB can’t blame the Big 3 when a rating has no purpose other than to censor it.

  107. 0
    Boffo97 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @angry dude

    It has been repeatedly explained what the difference is between the M and the AO rating is beyond just “one year”.

    I’d explain it again, but if you didn’t read it the first time…

  108. 0
    Quinlyn says:

    New poster here – and reading through this I just wanted to add my $0.02.

    Ok – We all have the right to disagree with the rating the game has received. No questions there at all. The rating system of the ESRB is flawed in what it consideres M content versus what is considered AO content. I’m not trying to make statements for or against the ESRB.

    What I would like is the following to happen:

    Manhunt 2 to be released. If the game receives an AO rating based on the current rating standards of the ESRB – so be it. What it means to me – I cannot go to my local big chain retailler to purchase it as they have chosen not to sell the video game based on their own moral standards – good for them and their beliefs (yet they will still sell me unrated movies which contain much more graphic content is another argument all together). I will order the video game direct from the manufacturer. I have made the concious choice to purchase and play the video game as an adult.
    Now here is the problem – My Xbox and Wii and PS3 (sigh I wish I had them all) will not allow me to play the video game. Why? Because the manufacturer of those consoles Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony respectively have chosen to not allow adult only content on their machines. This I strongly disagree with. (Mr Thompson please read and understand why many gamers feel that you are persecuting them and restricting their rights) I am an adult – I am a consumer of their product – it is my choice on how I wish to use their product – it is not their job to tell me what is appropriate content to view or play with on their systems. That would be the equivillent of a DVD player made by Hitachi not working with a porn DVD because Hitachi does not agree with the content on the DVD. Or imagine a manufacturer of LCD/Plasma tv’s not allowing violent images to be shown on their brand of TV’s because they do not agree with the content. Your massive 55″ plasma TV works great – except when the image content on the screen shows someone being shot or sceens of violence – then it goes black or doesn’t work. No consumer would stand for this and I’m sure as you are reading this you are laughing as you cannot imagine such a thing happening in the world. Well it is happening in the world – It happens in the world of video games all the time.

    Now This is the uproar as I see it – Our rights as adults are being denied – Or choices are being limited by someone else’s actions. In this case the fault is on the manufacturer of the video game console. Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft have no right to restrict the ability to use their product any way the end user sees fit. It is not their choice to limit what I can view and what I cannot view on the machine.

    So gamers – what do we do about this? Well we are consumers – we are the ones that are purchasing the machines and fueling the corporate machine which is selling us these devices. So now we have the ability and the power – as the people that buy we control the market – so collectively we must act to maintain our market. So we either have to stop buying these devices completely – (stop pulling your hair and screaming at me – I’m simply stating the laws of economics – if no one is buying then they will have to change their product to meet the new market demands accordingly). Now we know that this is not likely to happen – we gamers like our games and as much as we will grumble about how unfair and unjust this is – we keep buying the machines and video games for those machines and keep things as they are. We also have the power as consumers to write into the manufacturer and demand that they allow us to use their machines in whatever way we want. Other alternative – have the companies like Rockstar or Take 2 or whoever it is that designs these hugely popular titles create their own gaming platform that will allow us to play their video games that have the adult only ratings. What if there was a new console on the market that allowed Adult only content without restrictions – how many would buy it – can we then shift the market and force Sony/Nintendo/Microsoft to change their product so that Adult Only titles will be allowed??

    Anyway I have ranted now…..

    I will put my soap box away – hopefully I have made some think……Some may agree with my point of view – others may not.

    Let the discussion continue.

  109. 0
    faceless coward ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I do blame the ESRB. If you go to their website and search for games with an AO rating, you’ll find that most of them are pornographic. As long as the ESRB doesn’t refuse to rate pornographic games, AO = porn. As long as AO = porn, I fully support Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft’s decision to refuse to license AO-rated games for their consoles and retailers’ decision to refuse to carry them. Call me when the ESRB revises its policy and I’ll shift the blame. Until then, it’s the ESRB’s fault.

  110. 0
    DeathRain ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Very thought provoking. I’d only like to point something out nicely before someone else with less decorum.

    I know the boycott situation is at least partially hypothetical, but there are some problems even with the hypothetical.

    First, organizing on a large enough scale to matter would be a real feat. Then, getting the participants to adhere long enough is an issue. I know it’s obvious. You almost said it yourself, I just thought it beared stating.

    The next point is the real tricky one. No matter the numbers of adult gamers, a decent part of the market will always be under 18. Even if you got enough people for the boycott who cared, chances are the under 18 crowd wouldn’t care enough to look at the issue. I’d be willing to bet even with whatever noticible dent you put into the industry, they’d still be okay with the consumers that were left. It’s still a good sentiment and ideal though.

  111. 0
    Terrible Tom ( User Karma: -1 ) says:


    Thats what the ECA should be for. Giving gamers a voice. Hopefully their hard-launch coming soon will bring thousands upon thousands of new members.

    Support the ECA.

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