Watchdog Group Calls for Investigation in Wake of Manhunt 2 Re-rate

August 24, 2007 -
While Rockstar fans are high-fiving over news that Manhunt 2 will now see the light of day as an M-rated horror game, the Campaign For a Commercial-Free Childhood is not impressed. 

The group has called for a federal government investigation into how Manhunt 2 came to be an M-rated game.

GamePolitics readers may recall the CCFC, which first impacted the video game scene last Fall. The group led a protest which resulted in the banning of M-rated game ads from public transit vehicles in Massachusetts.

On June 19th of this year the CCFC issued a demand that Manhunt 2 be rated AO. One of the group's primary concerns was the gesture control system of Nintendo's Wii, which the CCFC worried would make Manhunt 2's violence worse.

The group had incredibly bad timing however. Just hours before its campaign launched came word that Manhunt 2 had been banned in the U.K. And later the same day, the ESRB dropped its own bombshell, revealing that it had already rated Manhunt 2 for Adults Only.

Following today's announcement that Manhunt 2 will launch on Halloween with an M rating, the CCFC has gotten back into the fray. The group issued a press release which reads, in part:
On a phone call with CCFC’s Dr. Susan Linn, ESRB President Patricia Vance refused to comment on what changes Rockstar made or whether any of the content described [in an IGN preview] was still in the game.

The press release includes a statement from Dr. Linn:
The [CCFC] is extremely concerned that the ESRB has downgraded its rating for Manhunt 2... Despite industry claims to the contrary, M-rated games continue to be marketed and sold to children under seventeen.  The ESRB’s reversal of its earlier decision dramatically increases the likelihood that Manhunt 2 – the most violent game to date produced for the interactive Nintendo Wii platform – will be marketed and sold to children.

Just three months ago, the ESRB felt that Manhunt 2 was so violent that it took the extraordinary step of giving a game an AO rating for violent content for only the second time in its history.  We urge the ESRB to make public their rationale for changing Manhunt 2’s rating, including detailing any content that was removed from the game.

We call upon Rockstar Games to allow the content of Manhunt 2 to be reviewed by an independent review board with no ties to the video game industry.

We ask the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the process by which Manhunt 2’s rating was downgraded from AO to M.

Comments

The CCFC are nothing but a bunch of crybabies. "Marketed to children"? What a joke:

-In its last report, the Federal Trade Commission found that minors were successful in buying a M-rated game 42% of the time(but 35% of the time in major retailers like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, etc.)

-The ESA reported that a combined 86% of all game sales(combining both computer and console game buyers)were to people over 18.

-Of that 14% left over(that being sales to minors), 91% of those sales were with parents present at the time of purchase. Meaning that sales to minors by themselves is only 1.26% of all video game sales, and applying the FTC’s 42% to that, it means that M-rated game sales to minors by themselves only account for 0.53% of all video game sales!

The CCFC are worried about 0.53% of all game sales? Pathetic.

honestly, can they sound any more paranoid? The game was given an AO because of the extreme content. They took some of it out, and now it got lowered. Now they are play the broken record of "marketing to kids" bull crap. I watch some of the channels that would supposedly be kid's oriented. I have yet to see any form of violent gaming content. HOWEVER, I have seen some movie ads that aren't exactly appropriate.

A "federal investigation" !?!?

Into a VIDEO GAME? They wan't to make Congress waste even more time and money than they already waste to look into a video game.

Does that not sound like the height of absurdity?

@Pandralisk
Stop that. It's not a conservative or liberal issue. Hilary Clinton wanted to ban violent games too. It's an issue of misinformation, control, and stupidity. (And as for free speech, it sure as hell ain't the conservatives who want to revive the Fairness Doctrine. Chose your accusations wisely.)

On a phone call with CCFC’s Dr. Susan Linn, ESRB President Patricia Vance refused to comment on what changes Rockstar made or whether any of the content described [in an IGN preview] was still in the game.


Well she's not allowed to, if she did she could get sued by Rockstar (and since they gave manhunt 2 an Ao rating they wouldn't hesitate to).

The [CCFC] is extremely concerned that the ESRB has downgraded its rating for Manhunt 2… Despite industry claims to the contrary, M-rated games continue to be marketed and sold to children under seventeen. The ESRB’s reversal of its earlier decision dramatically increases the likelihood that Manhunt 2 – the most violent game to date produced for the interactive Nintendo Wii platform – will be marketed and sold to children.


As pointed out upteenth times the first statement is BS. The next statement is a no-brainer. I mean if a game goes from Ao to M then it significantly increases the chances it will sold at all.

We call upon Rockstar Games to allow the content of Manhunt 2 to be reviewed by an independent review board with no ties to the video game industry.

Let me guess one that you guys personally picked out and is as biased as Jack Thompson? Sure they can rate it after the game is released. Even if Rockstar gave them a copy before that time, their rating won't matter because it wouldn't impact whether or not they can sell the game at most retailers (like the esrb) and they wouldn't have to put their rating anywhere on their box.

Seriously, would people stop having kids already? Because of kids, we can't get decent uncensored video games. Because of kids, I can't enjoy a dinner out without screaming little brats next to me. The whole problem would just go away if people would stop breeding - sure, humanity would die out, but at least those of us already here would have the place to ourselves.

It's about time we started sterilizing people at birth. Plus, we'd never have to listen to another Republican blather on about abortion - two birds with one stone!

The [CCFC] is extremely enraged that the ESRB has dared to downgrade its rating for Manhunt 2… Despite our claims the stuff's all too often sold to and played by 3 year-olds, AO-rated and M games are mainly bought by responsible adults. But adults are often children at heart! The ESRB’s evaluation of the censored and different Manhunt 2 version dramatically increases the likelihood the CCFC – that's us - produces complaints, whines and talks crap about you and your, uh, video games for the rest of your miserable lives.

Just three months ago, the ESRB felt that the uncensored version of Manhunt 2 was so violent that it took the extraordinary step of giving a game an AO rating for violent content for only the second time in its history. We urge the ESRB to rate the new, censored version of Manhunt 2 AO just as well, because we just plain love to demand crap all the damn time, it's our hobby, we got nothin' better to do.

We call upon Rockstar Games because we want to annoy them into oblivion, to allow the content of Manhunt 2 to be destroyed by an independent terrorist organizatoin with ties to the law industry. We already know just who to talk to about that!

We ask the Federal Trade Commission, because it just sounds cool, to investigate the process by which Manhunt 2’s rating was downgraded from AO to M. Yeah, invenstigate! And process! Cool words, hey? Makes the stuff read more grown up and all serious.

Don't by video games! They're evil! Everything mature, grown up, or made for people over 18 is evil! That's right -- every grown up is a child at heart, don't forget that. There *must* be no video games for adults. God forbid we find out we have nipples.

"Despite industry claims to the contrary, M-rated games continue to be marketed and sold to children under seventeen."

TRANSLATION: They're lying! Believe us instead!

WhatNow stole my thunder. =(

btw GP: I did NOT see any R* fans "high-fiving", quite the opposite really. They were all bitching and moaning over the cuts/edits which this investigation will no doubt show were minimal.

This whole thing is rediculous and all the CCFC is doing is SELLING MORE COPIES OF MANHUNT 2

R* should cut them a royalty check!

oh yeah, and when was the last time the MPAA was scrutinized for downgrading a movie rating from NC-17 to R????

bet it happens every damn week

@The Central Scrutinizer

They'll send a thank you card.

If the game were to be judged by an independent source it should be me, because I, unlike the CCFC, can look at a videogame, and not get the urge to douse it with holy water.

oh, and another thing, I'm SO glad I have all these groups out there telling me how to be a good parent...

thank goodness I don't have to make any of my own decisions...

The entertainment Copnsumers Association should sue these morons. There should also be fraud and obstruction of justice charges.

Well, i think today's government would like to take the responsibility out of your hands.

[The Government]
The Government, let us raise your kid!

Great. More calls for censorship.

"Marketed and sold to children under seventeen?"

As far as I know, it's completely legal to market violent games to kids age sixteen.

@Beardogg-X


i think using the 42% figure at the end there was a mistake, the whole 42% of kids make up the 1.26% of games sold to minors alone. the other 58% who couldnt buy the game wouldnt be included in the sales figure would they?

@ Sean

The producers of Married With Children did the same(sent a fruit basket every Christmas) to some housewife in Michigan that bitched about the show many years ago, because all it did was boost their ratings and put the Fox network on the map.

The CCFC should get a tongue-in-cheek thank you card from Take-Two since their bitching and moaning will just sell more copies of Manhunt 2 on Halloween.

Yeah, marketed to children. I can see the headlines in the newspapers now.

"CCFC STOPS SALE OF VIOLENT GAME MARKETED TO CHILDREN"

and the smaller headline...

"MANIAC KID KILLS VIAGRA EMPLOYERS FOR BROADCASTING DURING THE AFTERNOON"

Please. Videogame ads should be the last thing attacked. If movies/erection pills/mind of mencia commercials (okay, the last one was a joke) can be shown on channels kids have easy access to, we have a problem if the CCFC is looking at the game industry.

@ chris

I didn't think about that. I'll just chalk that up to assuming that those 58% that got turned away came back later on with a parent or guardian, even though it could also be assumed that they went to another store.

I just ran with the stats. Still, based on all those stats, minors buying a M-rated game by themselves is actually a rare occurance.

BearDogg-X Says:

"I just ran with the stats. Still, based on all those stats, minors buying a M-rated game by themselves is actually a rare occurance."

And its a rare occurance that gets the cashier fired.

I'm not even going to bother sifting through the comments,
I'm just going to say;
SHUT THE F**K UP

Jesus christ,
the game has been altered to suit the M liscence,
let it go.

VULTURES the lot of them.

I hate everyone.

@beardogg

i suppose the kids that couldnt get it alone would bring in parents, but even then that means theyd be part of the earluier figure anyway.

either way its less than 2% of the market.

Well, lets say a minor does infact buy this game. They cant really keep it a secret from their parents. I mean, they could, but that would mean only playing it when they are not home and such.

So any responsible parent would know what their kid is doing, or at least playing, in their own home.

So not only can bad game buy choices be stopped when the parent buys the game for their child, but also it can be stopped at the home as well.

So...with that OBVIOUS solution found, why does our government leaders continue to persue this idea that video games need restrictions?

I hear its because they want you to believe they care about your children. I doubt they do. Sounds like fear mongering and easy votes for them, if they can sucker the ignorant.

@AnonAmbientLight
Well, if it didn't involve votes, good PR, or money I doubt we would hear the government.

"It is pretty much proven scientific fact that Jesus existed"

No, it isn't.

"Despite industry claims to the contrary, M-rated games continue to be marketed and sold to children under seventeen. The ESRB’s reversal of its earlier decision dramatically increases the likelihood that Manhunt 2 – the most violent game to date produced for the interactive Nintendo Wii platform – will be marketed and sold to children."

These people are facist idiots who continue to purport their myths in order to try and curb free expression and free speech.

We need to start *seriously* acting to shut these people and these myths down, or it's just going to get worse.

They're getting as bad as anti abortion people.

This is why these people have no case:

Manhunt gets AO, ESRB praised to high heaven.

Manhunt Rated M after being censored, suddenly ESRB is questionable?


You either fucking trust them or you don't. You can't just fucking praise them when they make a decision you like.

If any game is ever rated AO again, I am going to demand a fucking federal investigation.

These retards and John Boy are a part of the same hive mind.

You know now that I typed that, I have a question. Usually, politicians/organizations do this for money or votes. But why is the CCFC doing it? For media attention? Is it even worth it just to appear in an article or television?

the world is officially going to hell...
don't these people have bigger, more important issues to worry about?

@J-Guy

They're doing it as part of their quest to eliminate everything they find objectionable; theoretically they're doing that for "the children" which also means they'd like to dictate how you raise your kids.

You know, if the ESRB had more transparancy as many have called for, this wouldn't even have happended. What's all the secrecy for over how a game is rated?

The entire process should be publicly published so there are no excuses or mistakes.

@Central

To my knowledge a dev or publisher can release the vids they will present to the ESRB, however, do you really expect them to do that when it can give away significant portions of the story, and gameplay?

my experience with "activism" in the US is that it's a mixture of college graduates who couldn't figure out how to get a job... misanthropes who maybe need a week or 2 of life in a third world country to get some perspective... obsessive crazy people, who might take drugs prescription or otherwise, in thier non-activist lives... religious 'fanatics'... and other LOOSERS who need to get a freakin' life

There's just no pleasing some people. I bet you these are the kind of people that think that episode of CSI: Miami (the one where college students were imitating a GTA like game) actually applies to real life.

Get back to parenting CCFC, it's what you were supposed to do in the first place instead of blaming your inabilities to monitor your children everything other than yourself.

~Sol~

@brokenscope

well, I think the process can be generalized so as not to give away too many details and certain things could easily be masked until after the release and review process. so maybe not a real-time report but a timely one.

I think if anything positive can come of this bullshit, this my be one possible angle.

and, it should not be released from the dev side but from the esrb side.

I mean what's the harm in releasing the details of the process 3-6 months after release?

I had a nice conversation with one of the Rockstar Booth employees at the Penny Arcade Expo today. They were quite proud to share with me that the game had been rated M this very morning. I asked how they managed to do that, but it wasn't clear if the game was appealed and then re-rated, or content was changed in order to gain an M. I'll ask again tomorrow to see if I can get any more juicy details. :)

Also, in response to this comment made by Dr. Linn "Just three months ago, the ESRB felt that Manhunt 2 was so violent that it took the extraordinary step of giving a game an AO rating for violent content for only the second time in its history. We urge the ESRB to make public their rationale for changing Manhunt 2’s rating, including detailing any content that was removed from the game."

As a game developer I can assure you that Manhunt 2 being only the second game ever to be rated AO for violence is false. There are many many games that have gone through this exact process of submitting, changing content or appealing to the ESRB, and being re-rated before the game is released. Largely this is a private matter that is dealt with between the developer/publisher and the ESRB until a conclusion is reached. The only difference with Manhunt 2 is the amount of public exposure that this game has gotten due to the rating it recieved before launch.

And, if I remember correctly, the details as to why the ESRB makes a desicion on a rating is left up to the developer/publisher to share with the public, (confidentiality, I assume, is contractually obligated on the part of the ESRB) and is not something that the ESRB can just willy-nilly share with any group that comes along.

Also, I got to talk with Hal at the ECA booth. We were both quite sad that Mr. Thompson chose not to show up to PAX. I was quite proud to shake the man's hand. Woot! :D

@Artifex

But why? Why the need for secrecy on the ratings process? Why the smoke and mirrors?

Why not blow the whole thing wide open to public scrutiny?


If you read my comments in this story you'll understand the context of this question.

If content wasn't changed to get the "M", I'll publicly apologize to R* and send them donuts... with icing.

But I seriously doubt that's what happend.

Now, I'm a liberal and I do believe in the government getting involved in people's lives when it can make a positive difference. But... is the CCFC serious? My inner Republican is pissed... pissed enough for all of me, at that. There has to be something better for the government to spend its money on than investigating a videogame.

What's next, international inspectors demand access to Mario's mushroom munitions?

(Oh, and CCFC... real nice form in crying foul against a revision of a game that you haven't seen yet... and do you really trust the government to be an impartial observer in this? Do we really want to go back to a Hayes Code/Comics Code era of federal regulation of culture? Didn't think so...)

I highly doubt jackie boy had anything to do with this...believe it or not (sad to say) but he's not the only one who thinks like that.

As for this...I think they are just trying to discredit the ESRB, and are using Manhunt 2 as the scapegoat.

I actually would be interested in a change log of what the differences were between the AO version and the M version, just for posterity. If any game is going to draw the line in the sand between M and AO, this is going to be it.

-P

Gotta be honest on this one, I'll bet they've been waiting months to make this press release. Sitting around, scheming, plotting, reading all the major blogs for this day to finally come where they can lash out and make one hell of an unsupported press release.

Regardless, the only real credence that I'd give them, is to have the ESRB to come out with their reasons as to why games are rated the way they are.

There is the fine line, that the problem with being completely open about what's been revised in the game spoils the content for the consumer and ultimately harms the developer's sales. On the other hand, they're so secretive that nobody can make heads or tails of what gives games their ratings.

I'm 24 years old, 6 foot, with pretty much a beard and even I got carded a few times when attempting to buy some Mature rated games. Now, how the hell can it be so easy for children to buy M rated games if a guy like me still gets carded every once and a while?

I'm tired of all this nonsense. I wanted to play the full uncensored version of Manhunt 2, I'm a blood and gore horror kind of guy after all. But, because of the ESRB rating it AO, that'll never happen, at least not on any of the consoles. Now they cut it up some and got it down to a Mature rating and people still are challenging it. But why? It's obviously not intended for anyone under 17, so if you don't want you kid to get it then don't let them get it. It's pretty much that simple. The Wii also has parental controls that allow you to lock out games with certain ratings, so there is another option, but don't say people like myself, a grown man, cannot play this game because some stupid kids might see it.

@Lard

I'm a graduate student of History at UMass (there's my creds) so let me make this clear, Jesus as a man DID exist as a person, religions don't just appear without a movement or a person who brings it about. The person Jesus existed, as did Muhammad and Buddah, now whether or not you believe that these people were divine is of course a matter of personal belief... (for further reading you might want to check out several PRIMARY DOCUMENTS written by contemporaries of the time.. like Roman politicians who were irritated by a Hebrew rabble-rouser by the name of Jesus)

@the actual topic
This kind of thing is really getting out of hand; when is the industry going to stand up and fight, when are they going to try and overcome the MYTH that video games are inherently for children?

Ugh. How tiring. None of us here want the game to be played by kids. We all agree on this. What did they do to get the M? They cut a lota scary shit outa it in all likelihood.

@Candide

"I’m a graduate student of History at UMass (there’s my creds) so let me make this clear, Jesus as a man DID exist as a person"

Jesus is as real as Robin Hood or Santa Claus

@Lard
I'm not going to spend much time replying to you because you're not very smart, I'm not religious but as a student of history I can't say that someone didn't exist because I don't like the religion they founded. There is more historical evidence (read; peer-reviewed by historians and scientists) for the existence of Jesus than there is for Attila the Hun. If you don't like Christianity you can view him as an ancient (and successful) David Koresh.

The man leading the effort at this Harvard-based organization is Josh Golin. Great guy, and he knows precisely what he is doing, as does the entire organization.

As I told Josh yesterday (he didn't know about the re-rating), "This will be the dumbest thing Take-Two ever did, because it should lead to a federal investigation of the ESRB, and it should."

Okay, so I'm guilty of giving them the idea. So sue me.

What happens, kiddies, is that the ESRB, which is owned, operated, and funded by the industry "arranges" a re-rating of the game through the backdoor, and that's what happened here.

Whether there is a federal investigation or not, this truly is a dumb move by the ESRB. The ESRB could, until this, plausibly argue that its giving an AO rating to Manhunt 2 shows it could be trusted by parents. Not now.

Oh, and I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve for the ESRB on this. Stay tuned. Is this a great country or what? Hooah!!!

Jack Is Back Thompson

Hey, dude. You want a "full-blown" accounting that Mature games are marketed and sold to kids? Can't you read? The Federal Trade Commission findings on that were posted here in the BioShock story reported here involved me. Dennis McCauley POSTED the FTC findings! My goodness. Do you people have any frontal lobes left after playing GTA????????????????????????

For the unspinned version of what the FTC actually said, see GP's coverage.

The FTC gave the indusrty kudos for continuing to reduce sales of M-rated games to minors, especially at chain retailers.

The FTC spanked the industry in the area of Internet marketing and not having ESRB content descriptors on the front of game packaging.
 
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Andrew EisenHence the "Uh, yeah. Obviously."09/02/2014 - 12:53am
SleakerI think Nintendo has proven over the last 2 years that it doesn't.09/02/2014 - 12:31am
Andrew EisenSleaker - Uh, yeah. Obviously.09/01/2014 - 8:20pm
Sleaker@AE - exclusives do not a console business make.09/01/2014 - 8:03pm
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Papa MidnightAnd resulting in PC gaming continuing to be held back by developer habits09/01/2014 - 5:07pm
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Andrew EisenMeanwhile, 6 of Wii U's top 12 are exclusive: Mario 3D World, Nintendo Land, Pikmin 3, Mario Kart 8, Wonderful 101, and ZombiU. (Wind Waker HD is on the list too but I didn't count it.)09/01/2014 - 4:36pm
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Andrew EisenObviously, the picture was created by someone who doesn't understand what the issue actually is (or, possibly, someone trying to satire said misunderstanding).09/01/2014 - 4:10pm
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Sleaker@AE ok yah that's where the kind of confusion I'm getting. Your tweet can be taken to mean two different things.09/01/2014 - 3:51pm
Andrew EisenSleaker - No. No, not even remotely. The pic attached to my tweet was not made by me; it's not a statement I'm making. It's an illustration of the complete misunderstanding of the issue my tweet is referring to.09/01/2014 - 3:13pm
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Papa MidnightAndrew Eisen: Sites like Tumblr make things seem much bigger than they are. A vocal extreme minority start complaining and things go as they do.09/01/2014 - 3:09pm
 

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