ESRB’s Vance Fires Back at Yee, CCFC

Under fire after reversing Manhunt 2’s Adults Only rating, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) said yesterday that it will not reveal the inner workings of how the upcoming game came to be M-rated.

As reported by GamePolitics the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood was first to attack the Manhunt 2 re-rate. Co-founder Dr. Susan Linn spoke with ESRB president Patricia Vance (left) about the Manhunt 2 issue shortly after the rating change was announced last Friday. Later that day, via press release, CFCC said:

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.

Yee followed suit on Monday:

Parents can’t trust a rating system that doesn’t even disclose how they come to a particular rating… Clearly the ESRB has a conflict of interest in rating these games. It is time to bring transparency to this rating system and for the industry to be held accountable.  

Both Linn and Yee have called upon the Federal Trade Commission to investigate how the rating change came about. The ESRB’s Vance responded yesterday via statement:

Upon reviewing the modified version of Manhunt 2, the ESRB assigned a rating of M… with content descriptors for Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content and Use of Drugs. 

This is a very clear and firm warning to parents that the game is in no way intended for children…

Publishers submit game content to the ESRB on a confidential basis.  It is simply not our place to reveal specific details about the content we have reviewed, particularly when it involves a product yet to be released.  What can be said is that the changes… were sufficient to warrant the assignment of an M… rating by our raters… 
Rather than publicly second-guessing what is unmistakably a strong warning to parents about the suitability of a particular game for children, which presumably neither Senator Yee nor CCFC have personally reviewed, we feel a more productive tack would be to join us in encouraging parents to take the ratings seriously when buying games for their children. 

It is a parent’s rightful place to make choices for their own children.  The ESRB and console manufacturers provide families with the tools and information to help them do so.

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  1. 0
    Kommisar says:


    I’ll grant you that MPAA ratings aren’t that great. They are far more arbitrary than most ESRB ratings.

    “Er, once a movie is released, it’s kinda hard to prevent people from disclosing its plot ANYWAY. Parents have the right to know the content of a film before they take their kids to see it.”

    Ratings come out before the movie is released, in case you weren’t aware.

    As for parents having a right to know about the content of a movie before they take their kid… well, you can certainly see the movie before you take your kid, or ask a trusted friends opinion, or only take your kid to movies you don’t know about if you trust the source (Pixar, for instance, tends to be pretty kid-friendly). That’s just being responsible. Otherwise you might end up showing your 5 year old “Watership Down” because “It’s a movie about bunnies!”.

    (Yes, Watership Down was a book first, I know).

    Expecting all information about a movie to be released in the rating is naive. Ratings are a basic evaluation of content, not a specific point by point reference for whether or not something is suitable for specific individuals.

    “And your Half-Blood Prince analogy is completely broken…”

    I was trying to make a point, not give a perfect analogy. Yes, Half-Blood Prince is a BOOK. But it will most certainly be a MOVIE in the not too distant future. I could very well have gone with a Crying Game or Fight Club analogy, or any other movie that has any kind of twist or surprise ending. I was using Harry Potter because the “spoilers” I was revealing are already widely known, as is the content.

    Although I do agree that people whining about movie spoilers when the books the movies are based on have been out for a while is silly. That’s up there with someone getting mad about you telling them “the boat sinks” at the end of Titanic.

    But my point, in general, is that you cannot expect a rating agency to disclose a point by point breakdown of why a game or movie is given a specific rating without asking them to break confidentiality agreements with the publishers of the properties they rate.

  2. 0
    Mark Standridge ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Plain & simple, Patricia Vance’s testimony is wholly irrelevant and immaterial to Jack’s ill-fated federal lawsuits against the Bar, even by the liberal standards accorded to pre-trial discovery.

    Let me guess–you’re adding the ESRB to the laundry list of defendants that you want to bring into that frivolous suit? Good luck with all THAT…

    P.S. HOOEY! (as in the substance that makes up your bluster and posturing).

  3. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    And to clarify that, it would be easy for me to write to Jack Thompson and say, ‘Please give me a date when we can meet so you can give me $1000000.’

    That doesn’t mean we are going to meet or that he is going to give me a large sum of money.

  4. 0
    Murry ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Yeah have fun with that Jack. I guess you DO need something to do in the meantime now that you apparently are too scared to debate people and nobody wants you on their TV shows anymore. Such a sad boring life you live, trolling a message board, going to church, and filing meaningless paperwork that never amounts to anything.

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

    @ Jack Thompson

    I am just talking to you in a normal way.

    Why is it that you are after Manhunt 2 when the people that you kill are very bad big muscular guys that are trying to kill you for the sport of it. I
    would get your point if it was innocent people that you did these things to even though the game producers have the right to make that kind of game in this country. In Manhunt 1 the storyline was that the character James that you play as was a serial killer to begin with. In Manhunt 2 the storyline is that you are a man wrongfully put in an institution having test done on him and he basically does these stealth kills on very bad guys that try to kill you for the sport of it.

    If a child sees the storyline of Manhunt 2 compared to Manhunt 1 they would not get the impression that you are a straight out serial killer like with James Earl Cash in Manhunt 1 since he was a serial killer to begin with while Daniel Lamb from Manhunt 2 was an innocent guy trying to escape very bad guys. I believe that the how brutal the stealth kills are should not matter because their is games that have extremely brutal kills with tons and tons of blood while Manhunt 2 has some blood with the kills. In Mortal Kombat you get to even kill a female in a very brutal way, tons of brutal ways after knocking so much blood out of her during a fight.

    Jack Thompson, I just feel that you are not really after the violent kills of Manhunt 2 as much as you are after what the game stands for since there is so many games that feature way more blood like straight out slashing games by which this game takes time before you do these kills. It is a waste of time trying to censor the game even when censoring the game if against my amendment right because what is so strong about the game is how distorted the game is presented when it comes to the story. What should we do censor the story to the game so the game does not seem that distorted.

    I just feel that since all of these other game companies make very violent games and your not after them that you just want to start trouble for Rockstar Games and Take Two companies. If you are such a great attorney than why not answer to what I typed down unless perhaps your not an honest attorney that can face up to the truth.

  6. 0
    Jack Thompson ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I can’t wait to meet the lovely Patricia:

    John B. Thompson, Attorney at Law
    1172 S. Dixie Hwy., Suite 111
    Coral Gables, Florida 33146

    August 30, 2007

    Patricia Vance, President
    Entertainment Software Rating Board
    317 Madison Avenue, 22nd Floor
    New York, New York Via Fax to 212-759-2223

    Dear Ms. Vance:

    Please advise as to dates in September you will not be available for your deposition in Thompson v. Florida Bar, et alia, Case No. 07-21256, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida.

    Also, please advise if you would like me to serve the subpoena for your deposition upon your designated counsel or upon you directly by normal means.


    Regards, Jack Thompson

    Copy: California Senator Leland Yee
    Josh Golin, CCFC

  7. 0
    BearDogg-X says:

    @ Jack Thompson

    Then the head of the MPAA has to get one too, since the MPAA works in a similiar manner.

    Why should she have to “reveal the inner working of the ESRB” anyway, when it does the same thing as the MPAA?

  8. 0
    Jack Thompson ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Patricia Vance “won’t reveal the inner workings of the ESRB.” Oh, really? She will when she gets a Congressional subpoena.

  9. 0
    hayabusa75 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    “I’ll give her that, she’s a tool. Honestly, I don’t know if they cut prison rape or ball ripping or whatever out of the game, but it doesn’t matter. The game should never have gotten an AO in the first place. The bitch has her organization in a ‘big brother’ mindset and needs to be taken down a peg.”

    Why? Because AO = porn? Don’t forget that the ESRB will and has in the past given the AO rating for prolonged intense violence in certain contexts. So, the content that was removed probably WAS siginificant. But, unless you work for Rockstar or the ESRB and have seen what was there and why they did what they did, we’re only speculating on what we’ve read and heard.

    What exactly in Vance’s quotes caused you to make the Big Brother comment? Who is the ESRB trying to control? As she said, they have an obligation to the publishers not to disclose specific details about what they review, and it would be difficult to say what was different about the re-submitted version without violating that agreement.

    Also, I’ve been watching you post for months now. You have a Jack Thompson-like habit of resorting to name-calling and many of your posts have an abrasive, mean-spirited tone to them. Not saying you should care too much about one man’s opinion, but I really wish you’d tone it down. Sometimes I think you help our detractors more than us.

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

    Transparency is fine, which is why the ESRB should freely share its rating criteria…. with the submitter (go watch “This Film is Not Yet Rated” to see what an unaccountable Star Chamber the MPAA is, to say nothing of being duplicitous scumbags). The ESRB’s rating opinion is none of Leland Yee’s god damned business. Yee seems to have forgotten that the ESRB is not a delegated enforcement arm of some Production Code, but a private agency.

    Fun fact: the bulk of movie revenue is now on DVD sales. Witness the acceptance and growth market of DVDs that don’t submit themselves to MPAA ratings. The ESRB does not want to become the persona non grata to be avoided if at all possible that the MPAA is regarded as among directors and many producers.

  11. 0
    Mysticgamer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    You know, I think we should be more concerned about those girl gone wild videos. They’re obviously targeting towards little kids what with being advertised on Comedy Central, Spike TV, and G4 at 10pm to 5am.

  12. 0
    FroggersRevenge says:

    Terrible Tom: According to our own government, 4 out of 10 underage kids can buy an M rated game, and 7 out of 10 can buy an R rated movie. Can you please explain to me how a system that is almost twice as effective as our established, socially accepted movie rating system is “broken”?

  13. 0
    Thad says:

    Kommisar: “Does the MPAA publicly disclose the reasons for [its] ratings on movies?”

    No. But that doesn’t mean the MPAA ratings are GOOD. My DVD shelves are full of movies like The Jerk and This is Spinal Tap where I watch them and wonder precisely why they’re R-rated. Joystiq already referenced the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated; it’s not a fantastic film but it’s a pretty good analysis of how truly arbitrary and secretive a system it is.

    “I’m guessing no, since it’s also a private (read: non-government) organization. Also, the movie industry would have kittens if the MPAA did… how many spoilers would come from that kind of disclosure?”

    Er, once a movie is released, it’s kinda hard to prevent people from disclosing its plot ANYWAY. Parents have the right to know the content of a film before they take their kids to see it.

    And your Half-Blood Prince analogy is completely broken, given that it’s based on a BOOK — first of all, books are not assigned ratings, and secondly, the content of that book has been available for years. (See also: people pissing and moaning about the Two Towers trailer showing Gandalf coming back from the dead, despite the fact that trying to hide a plot twist from a book published in the 1950’s would have been kinda dumb.)

    My Girl is a classic example of a movie that was marketed as a feel-good love story for kids and then had a shocking, traumatic twist ending. I’m not saying the rating bar should have said “Rated PG-13 because Macaulay frickin’ dies”, but that information should damn-well be available to people who want it.

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

    Thing is, it’s difficult to make the system transparent anyway, many things are taken in context of the game. For example, killing someone in GTA3 is considered to be done in a ‘criminal fashion’, so whilst your enemies dying will add to the rating in general, the ethics, as well as the method also play an important role. You can’t really release a list of various murder weapons and give them a point-basis or the like, because it would be silly…

    ‘Ok guys, we’ve got a guy here who stabs someone else with a screwdriver, that’s 15 rating points, now, we can knock that down by changing it to a blunt instrument like a hammer, that’ll take us to 12 points, which keeps us an ‘M’ rating, or we can make the guy he’s stabbing into a Pedophile, because we get 5 points taken off the rating for killing a Pedophile, because everyone knows that they are ‘evil”.

    As you can see, trying to create a rating system based purely on system and not the impressions of the testers who are actually viewing the content makes matters far far worse, not better.

  15. 0
    BmK ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I agree with Vance BUT personally I’d love to know what was censored from Manhunt 2 for an M rating. I’m against having the government either through the FCC or FTC get involved and wasting tax money for this though. Keep the government out of our lives.

  16. 0
    Kommisar says:

    Does the MPAA publicly disclose the reasons for it’s ratings on movies?

    I’m guessing no, since it’s also a private (read: non-government) organization. Also, the movie industry would have kittens if the MPAA did… how many spoilers would come from that kind of disclosure?

    Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: Rated PG-13 for frightening images when Harry and Dumbledore retrieve the fake hoarcrux from the lake filled with Inferius and fantasy violence when Snape kills Dumbledore.

  17. 0
    Delta says:

    I’m going to also have to agree with Yee/CCFC and Thad, the ESRB can at the very least explain what conclusion they came to when changing the rating and providing a little detail as to why. If the ESRB wants the support of government and the people they need to be a little more open than saying “This is how it is” I think you guys have Yee confused with Thompson, Yee actually is simply asking for the ESRB and the industry to put their cents into helping control what they produce and own up to their own “we’re checking ourself!” statements that they have made over and over again. While his CA law was a bit dumb, I think he’s slowly understanding that you cannot shut down an industry with laws like such, but you can push them to justify their positions. Yee seems to be in agreement that adult games have their place with the people who enjoy such games, but they don’t belong with children and I agree with that. Thompson on the other hand wants them gone completely without any consideration for the gamers who are mature and may want to play such games.

    Sadly I am starting to believe the ESRB is causing this for Rockstar’s benefit. Rockstar always seems to profit nicely off of drama and controversy over their games.

  18. 0
    Terrible Tom ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    I don’t think anyone can trust a broken system. And thats what the ESRB is right now. Until the AO issue is resolved anything else is meaningless. I say fix the system before you try to perfect it.

  19. 0
    Neeneko says:


    While transparency would be nice, it sounds like it really isn’t the ESRB’s desicion to make. They can not give away other companie’s confidential information without permission.

    So Yee and the CFCC are basicly asking them to break the law so ‘concerned’ (but unaccountable) organizations can audit their work. Then again, Yee and CFCC seem to care little about laws that might apply to THEM.

  20. 0
    Thad says:

    I’m no fan of Yee, but I’m going to have to side with him on this one. More transparency is a good thing. Vance’s statement amounts to “Just trust us,” which doesn’t cut it; I want to know WHY the ESRB assigns the ratings it does. I want to know what change made the difference between an M and an AO.

    Personally, I think the ESRB probably doesn’t want to tell us because it’s probably something stupid and arbitrary. Yeah, I said it. The difference between an M and an AO is poorly defined, and often ridiculous — I still don’t understand why Hot Coffee made the difference between M and AO; it wouldn’t have made the difference between R and NC-17 in a movie.

    Speaking of which, some people have made an excellent point that the ESRB is being held to a different standard than the MPAA, which is just as arbitrary and secretive. I agree, but I don’t think that means the ESRB has the right to be arbitrary and secretive, I think it means the MPAA needs to be more open.

    It’s a simple question: why was Manhunt 2 rated AO, and why is it now rated M? I think consumers have a right to know that.

  21. 0
    Zigs says:

    “It is a parent’s rightful place to make choices for their own children. The ESRB and console manufacturers provide families with the tools and information to help them do so.”

    I’ll give her that, she’s a tool. Honestly, I don’t know if they cut prison rape or ball ripping or whatever out of the game, but it doesn’t matter. The game should never have gotten an AO in the first place. The bitch has her organization in a ‘big brother’ mindset and needs to be taken down a peg.

  22. 0
    Gameboy says:

    @ Papa Midnight

    And who’s fault is that? Just because your kid really wants something really bad and if he doesn’t get it he’ll hold hid breath until he turns blue, is not good enough reason to buy it. Nor is it an excuse. They’re called boundaries and guidelines. Parents need to use them, and even *gasp* say “no.”

  23. 0
    Bot7 says:

    @ Kris N.

    Yee and CFCC aren’t complaining about movies, for the same reason explicit lyrics in music isn’t talked about anymore: it isn’t a hot item and none of their supporters (the people who vote for them) care anymore. It’s always about fighting the new thing, and after they fight it so much that people accept that it doesn’t matter, or another easier-to-attack media form is developed, they move on. I mean it wasn’t too long ago that Harry Potter was being removed from public libraries because it ‘expoused witchcraft’

    @ Marlowe

    this is also like bully because people are speculating that this games specific content will have a specific impact on young players. In bully, the nay sayers insisted that the game would promote bullying by glorifying it in the game. Perhaps MH2 will glorify being a test subject, becoming a super powerful psychopath, and taking revenge on a crumbling society? Maybe not 😛

  24. 0
    Neeneko says:

    If there are confidentiality problems, the ESRB should probably have some type of NDA contract written up for outside entities that are so neurotic as to want to second guess them.

    THEN, if those organizations leak confidential information, the ESRB can sue the pants off them and teach them that yes, companies DO care about people spreading around their internal data for their own benefit.

  25. 0
    Kris N. says:

    It does smack of hypocrisy, considering no one is demanding that the MPAA release the details of how they come up with their particular ratings. And from what I’ve heard (like in that documentary that just came out), their process is far more sleazy.

  26. 0
    ZippyDSMlee ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    Its kind of a cop out,there should be a added agreement in the contracts that states if both parties agree the review package(video only) can be shown to the public.

    I would the MPAA to have such a thing too.

    they have a “sexual themes” descriptor which is the PG13,”Strong sexual themes” is the R version.

    They need to work on whats “Strong” and whats not.

  27. 0
    MaskedPixelante ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    The Sexual Content descriptor needs to be either retired, or reworked. All 4 original .hack parts got a Mature Sexual Themes descriptor because of one news article in Infection that was about internet porn. (And MAAAAYBE the crudely drawn nudity in //GIFT, and Natsume’s line about giving herself to you.)

    My point is, there needs to be a serious look at some of the content descriptors, because something like this could end up happening if someone thinks the current descriptors aren’t clear enough. (Maybe a division of the Language descriptors. You know, Language for the nickel and dime curses, Harsh Language for some of the words that you can’t say on TV, and Strong Language for the f-bomb)

  28. 0
    Marlowe says:

    This whole thing reminds me of the Bully controversy, with people bitching about the rating of a game they have not seen. Except in the case of Bully they had a problem with “comic mischief” or something similar being too light and with this game they have issue with “Intense violence” as being somehow too easy on the game.

  29. 0
    William ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ Shoehorn

    You’re right. This isn’t a reversal or the ESRB changing their mind. This was a revised game that was submitted and Dennis should note that nuance.

  30. 0
    Gameboy says:

    @ BlackIce

    Are you referring to the content descriptor? Well, that is an official ESRB descriptor. Most games with “Sexual Content” ratings don’t have actual sex, but might refer to or imply sex. There can be exceptions, but I doubt there are any on consoles.

  31. 0
    nightwng2000 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    While it was made clear that a change in the product allowed Manhunt 2 to be re-evaluated (Shoehorn, content in an existing product was changed, by removal or editing so it wasn’t an entirely new product and therefore a “re-rating” or “re-evaluation” is mostly appropriate), you can tell that specifics weren’t offered and that will, of course, not satisfy those who want “spoilers”. :)

    NW2K Software

  32. 0
    Shoehorn O'Plenty ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ GP

    “Under fire after reversing Manhunt 2’s Adults Only rating…”

    Please Dennis, stop referring to this as a reversal, or a re-rating, as it is neither. A new product was created, the content of which warranted an M rating. The ESRB did not reverse their decision, or go over the same content again and come up with a different rating for it the second time around.

  33. 0
    BearDogg-X says:

    That was a burn on the nanny-state crybabies like Yee.

    Like I said, those first-rate morons in the CCFC and Yee aren’t whining about the Hostel movies, the Saw series, and other movies that get cut to get R ratings and yet, their whining about Manhunt 2 reeks of hypocrisy and is a blatant double-standard, considering that Yee accepts campaign money from the movie and music industries.

    Besides that, they act like minors are buying left and right, yet a glance of the statistics show that sales to minors by themselves only account for 1.26% of all video game sales. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill.

  34. 0
    Rob says:

    That’s the problem though. Yee and the CFCC don’t want parents to take the ratings seriously, they want them to be ignorant idiots so they can claim the rating system doesn’t work and that the government need to control/regulate the way games are rated and such. It’s just a way to control and censor what they don’t approve of despite blatantly obvious warnings that no minor should be playing the game to begin with.

  35. 0
    xzero87 says:

    “Upon reviewing the modified version of Manhunt 2, the ESRB assigned a rating of M… with content descriptors for Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content and Use of Drugs. “

    Anyone who says that’s being “marketed to children” needs to have their head examined.

    I’d seriously like to know why nobody demands of the movie raters “how [did] they come to a particular rating,” it’s the exact same situation that just doesn’t happen to be a political hotbutton at the moment.

    …Then again, maybe I just answered my own question.

  36. 0
    Gameboy says:

    Exactly. Rather than second guess a system that has done its job properly and has been the best system up to this time, they should be encouraging parents to check the rating on the box, ask questions, and/or review games online. I’ve seen pamphlets that explain all the ratings and all the content descriptors in GameStop and can say that those are some of the harshest ratings the ESRB has. How much can we do?

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