Halo-in-Church Controversy Points Out Flaw in ESRB Rating System

From the New York Times on down, newspapers and bloggers – including GamePolitics – have had a field day recently with the news that some Christian youth ministers are using Microsoft’s best-selling Halo series to attract teens to church.

The major point of contention for critics seems to be that, since the Halo games are rated M (17 and older) by the ESRB, they are inappropriate for use by church youth groups.

The problem with that logic is that the M rating encompasses too wide a variety of games, including some military shooters as well as other titles with clear good vs. evil themes, like Halo.

Also included in the M’s broad swath are games with less lofty ideals such as the Grand Theft Auto titles, the ridiculously gory Manhunt series, and controversial offerings like last year’s 25 to Life, which featured violence against police officers.

When you look at it like that, it’s hard to blame those who criticize bringing Halo into sacred space. For the most part the critics are not gamers and have no concept of the vast difference between Halo and GTA. All they know is that the games share a common M rating, a designation assigned by the game industry itself, theoretically for the protection of impressionable youth.

For the uninitiated it’s only logical to assume the content must be of a similar character as well. As somone who has played both, I’d argue that there is a world of difference between Halo and GTA. In fact, as a parent I saw Halo as digital cops-and-robbers with the player in the role of the good guy. I let my sons play it at 12 and 13. Anecdotally, I can say that a lot of their friends were allowed to play at that age as well.

On the other hand, GTA was always verboten. I never wanted to expose my kids to the pretend hardcore criminality. And Manhunt? Fuhgeddaboudit

Now that they are older, I’d be okay with GTA, but so far there’s no interest. World of Warcraft and Neverwinter Nights 2 are the games of choice lately at GP HQ.

So what’s the solution?

There are those who have called for an AO (18+) rating that means something other than a de facto sales ban. Under that scenario, perhaps GTA is an AO while Halo is an M.

On the other hand, M is currently the most serious marketable rating, but leaves in its wake a four-year gap to the next lower step, T (13 and older). As any parent can tell you, from 13 to 17 is a huge span, developmentally. 

There are those who argue for something similar to the U.K.’s 15+ rating. Would the critics object if church youth leaders were exposing their young congregants to a game cleared for 15-year-olds?

They might, but probably with less force. And, they’d be making their case without the industry’s own flawed rating system to back them up.

As the differences between games become increasingly nuanced, the ESRB really needs to look into fine-tuning its system to better meet the needs of those who must make game choices for adolescents.

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  1. 0
    Alex Says says:

    I am 13 and my Dad took one look at the game and said NO. I even asked to waste $60 if he didn’t think is was appropriate. He doesn’t care if I play it at other friends houses. I only asked him because I feel this is one of the M games that should be T.

  2. 0
    Kheldar says:

    Here’s a guide to the Australian ratings system:

    G-General, ok for little kiddies. eg- Poke`mon Collosseum

    G8+/PG-Parental Guidance Recommended, still ok for the littlies but mainly for older kids, may have themes/violence in it. eg- Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly, Super Smash Bros. Melee

    M-Mature, RECOMMENDED for 15’s, but not restricted to that. eg- Halo 3, Final Fantasy X, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

    MA-RESTRICTED to 15 and above. eg- Halo 1 & 2, The Darkness

    R- Australia doesn’t have one, but we have RC- Refused Classification. Games that are too violent for MA are banned. eg- Uncut versions of GTA 3, and GTA San Andreas, Manhunt (was ok’ed and released as MA, but was banned 6 months later), 50 Cent: Bulletproof, Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure (Not for violence, but for ‘glorifying’ graffiti)

    Although: Some people have pointed out that the banning of this game is inconsistent with previous classifications. The game Need for Speed: Most Wanted was released at a similar time and focuses around illegal street racing, but received a G rating

    ^That’s Australia’s rating system for you.

  3. 0

    […] The last bullet is a definite response to the Halo-in-church controversy earlier this year, where a church used Halo as a promotional tool to attract children to the church.  Most of these recommendations do not seem as much of a problem from the industry, but a problem from those regulating what a child can witness.  The second bullet point hearkens to a bill currently being put through Congress which many withing the business are worried about.  Shankar Gupta, formerly of MediaPost, writes The bill fails, industry-watchers have noted, because it doesn’t understand how video game content differs from a TV show or a movie. In many games, there’s no way to play through a game’s full content. In some, users create their own content, which can be significantly more adult than what exists in the game. In others, when you play online with other gamers, the experience of the game changes significantly. Usually, there’s more swearing involved. Requiring the ESRB to play every game all the way through and punishing it for failing to do so means one of two things: It is either ignorance, or a calculated attempt to destroy the organization. […]

  4. 0
    Pastor Ron says:

    What do non-Christian politicians know about Christian values and beliefs?

    First… notice how we use Halo as a tool to reach non-Christians (who like halo).

    Second… it’s not like we sit in front of our statue of “little baby Jesus” and play Halo all night.

    Third… non-Christians have the nerve to rate movies like Saw, American Pie, and other filth with a PG-13 (loaded with crap values) and then want to lecture Christians on what is acceptable for the American family… common’… practice what you speak in all areas of your life.

    Forth… the only thing sacred about what Christians do is our Message (the Gospel), not our methods.

    Seriously, please go find something else to cry about.

    oh… God bless :)

  5. 0
    pastor e says:

    I was a youth pastor for the past six years, and I’ve been a gamer since Atari. So…I’ve been smashin’ buttons for over 25 years.

    I grew up in the generation that saw video games explode. I’m 30, and I still love gaming. The bug didn’t get all of my generation, but it bit a lot.

    This generation is chock-full of gamers. Almost everyone in the church youth group games.

    So, why did we have Halo parties at church? Was it because church is boring and dead? Nah. Far from it.

    I’m a pastor because my life has been changed by Christ. I was a gamer before I was a Christian. Most of the youth in our church have the same story.

    We game in church because we’re gamers. We didn’t bring Halo in because church is dead or boring. Christ is where we find life.

    I’ve learned a long time ago that the only attraction we advertise is our unconditional love for people. And, we’re not perfect, but that’s our best offering. There isn’t an event, item or attraction that can replace that.

    But, Halo is rated Mature? Well, I don’t want to insult the ESRB or MPAA, but I’ve never trusted ratings.

  6. 0
    Stinger503 says:

    I remember a list from one of those “family groups” a year or so ago and it was the “10 Most Violent Games to Watch Out For This Christmas” I think 5th was Halo 2 but Manhunt wasn’t even on the list!

  7. 0
    Baramos says:

    Much like there is now an “E 10+” instead of just “E” we could probably see a “T 15+”. But then again the same thing would be served by making AO a viable rating for sales in stores and rating the higher-end M games accordingly. Since that would require Wal-Mart to do something, though, it would probably be easier just to introduce the “T 15+” games.

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

    I’ve thought this for a while now. I personally think that stuff like Halo and even Perfect Dark should get a T-Rating. The differnece in theme is so much more pronounced than the already-substantial difference in content levels than something like God/Gears of War or GTA/Manhunt/Postal.

    Maybe a new rating system more like the TV ratings, with a primary letter grade, and then smaller letters. Kind of like the E-10 rating. Instead of just M, we’d perhaps have..

    M-EV (Extreme Violence) For things like Manhunt and GTA
    M-SC (Sexual Content) For things like Leisure Suit Larry
    M-L (Strong Language) For things like Conker’s Bad Fur Day

    And then just base-line M for your Halos and Oblivions.

  9. 0

    […] Some churches are using Halo 3 to attract a younger audience, i think thats really out there but im not religious myself. GamePolitics thinks that there are some ESRB flaws, since ESRB has rated Halo 3 , M for mature. I also have to agree , its more of a sci fi violence, but i still would not use it in church just because its about killing people, shooting etc.  “When you look at it like that, it’s hard to blame those who criticize bringing Halo into sacred space. For the most part the critics are not gamers and have no concept of the vast difference between Halo and GTA. All they know is that the games share a common M rating, a designation assigned by the game industry itself, theoretically for the protection of impressionable youth. For the uninitiated it’s only logical to assume the content must be of a similar character as well. As someone who has played both, I’d argue that there is a world of difference between Halo and GTA.” […]

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

    I don’t see this as a flaw whatsoever. The fact that it requires a mature individual to discern what is appropriate in the material is *precisely* the purpose of the rating. And if you look closer, every ESRB label I’ve seen actually does break down the rating categories.

    I think the real problem is how we define “mature”, because the people who go apopleptically apeshit over an exposed nipple on television most certainly do NOT qualify for the label.

    The world is rated M. Deal with it.

  11. 0
    Tiwaz says:

    So, let’s be honest here. This isn’t really a video game problem so much as a “We don’t want to do any work raising our kids” problem.

    I can’t take the time to look at the things my children are interested in, instead, I will form all my opinions based on a single score or classification put on something by some random person in a faceless corporation somewhere, probably in LA or New York.

    These are the same people who let their 12 and 13 year olds watch Family Guy and South Park, “Because it’s a cartoon and cartoons are for children”.

    People are, in general, lazy and willing to accept judgements on important things from people they wouldn’t trust to order drinks for them, or leave alone with their silverware.

    And Remember, Cartoons are for children, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t let your children watch Akira or Legend of the Overfiend, or for that matter, Fritz the Cat. YAY!

  12. 0
    Picho, avoidin da Arrrr ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    My housemate (or roomate) will not watch anything that is rated R. Doesnt matter what it is, if it has an R rating it is ‘too violent’ or what not.

    But with me, i love shooting and things blowing up. Just as long as there is a good story behind it as well.. or just looks fricken sweet. (like 300)

    I just wish that there was some sort of rating system on games like this.

    Void; Sucks; Blows; Rent; Casual; FREEKING SWEET; Why have you not gotten this game yet?

    Thats the sort of ratings i’d like. But it should be done by a more intelegent group of people then alot of magazines do it.

    Cause some games, like Kengo: Legend of the Nine are decent, but annoying. And since people dont seem to understand how the game is played they think the function that you are suppose to use to battle is actually more of an exploit.

    (In kengo you can lock blades with the enemy. Then you tire them out in order to get the 1 hit kill. They think that the way the game is suppose to be played is just button mashing the two attack buttons.)

  13. 0
    GryphonOsiris ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ BlackIce

    He also said “He who is free of sin cast the first stone.”

    But Jack started tossing a long while ago. Which is even more ironic because he has broken a commandment many time, bearing false witness.

  14. 0
    kurisu7885 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @BlackIce, Leftie

    I think so, but show me a healthy person who just needs a shot who would let a person with the flu go ahead of them in line at a doctor’s office, and the odds that the person would use their religion card would be pretty high

  15. 0
    Anonymous says:

    @ Thabor.

    Your point five is Epic Win!

    A winrar are you!

    And quite franckly, Jack Thompson has suprised me there by being quite civil and stuff.

    When you guys had Halo in church we… didn’t. We used to do it in our own corner, not with Halo though.

  16. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Thanks :)

    To be honest, the name was partly chosen because of how much Jack Thompson reminds me of Chuck De Nomolos from that particular movie 😉

  17. 0
    ZippyDSMlee ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    spartanmichael seems to dislike being wrong, even I do least I admit I got it wrong,
    again the ESRB dose not ban the console makers do,even if the BBFC did not ban the console makers would, its a lost caused, the ESRB/BBFC is not the problem they could be refined and do a better job at pining media to age ranges but that is what their job is.

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

    @Zachary, I know, and I can understand your frustration at him to be honest.

    I think it’s just that I usually moderate an International board, and have to deal with all sorts of pigeon-English, so I get a bit touchy about it, apologies :)

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

    For example, the apostrophe, and I’ve done it myself in the above post, tends to get fired at sentences like a machine gun in the hope they arrive in the right place 😉

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


    I have a great deal of respect for it, however, having been a Netizen since the days people ran Bulletin Boards from their bedroom (I ran one) I’ve sort of developed tough skin with regards to it’s use 😉

  21. 0
    hayabusa75 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Do you even realize how increasingly stupid you look with each successive post? Even worse, you seem to be reveling in it. Keep trash talking? You’re the one giving me ammunition!

    Nah – slang for “no”
    T.T. – abbrieviation for Terrible Tom
    they’re – “they are” (conjunction)
    thus – “therefore” (look it up)

    I suggest you step away from the keyboard while you still have a shred of dignity. By the way, grammar isn’t the same as spelling, you ignoramus.

    I’m done with you, at least on this thread. It’s like arguing with a 3-year-old. One more thing: double Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business from University California Davis, chump. Get back to me when you graduate high school.

  22. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 2 ) says:

    @ Spartan (I don’t care enough to write out your complete tag)

    Alright, now I am ready to get back into topic after getting wrongly insulted for just trying to make a point about the esrb.

    A point you could not defend. So now you avoid the whole discussion. I see how this is going.

    A tip for you: Never take a debate class. You won’t pass. Or maybe you could actually learn something about debating. So go ahead and take it.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  23. 0
    spartanmichael ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    E. Zachary Knight

    Will you just stop the nonsense already.

    And on the second line typed the word correctly wrong.

    The word is correctly, not corectly

    Now you can stop starting trouble and get back to the issue like I was trying to do.

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

    Alright, now I am ready to get back into topic after getting wrongly insulted
    for just trying to make a point about the esrb.

    I see video games being a very big part of a majority of people’s lives because of how much better games are getting year by year. I think that video games are going to always be on topic when it comes to situations like the church controversy since games keep on getting more popular all throughout the world. I really think that video games are a major issue when there is all kinds of way major issues to deal with.

  25. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 2 ) says:

    @ Spartanmichael

    The part of you grammar that bugs me the most (since you have changed the debate to that) is that you cannot corectly use the plural and singular tense of verbs

    Take this quote:

    You say that you did better than me with grammar when you was in 7th grade.

    and this:

    Everything that I typed was correct, my sentences was correct, I spaced things out.

    In both of these instances, the correct form of the bold verb would be the plural were.

    Don’t make me correct the grammar in all of your posts.

    Now could you please address my response to your allegations against the ESRB?

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

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


    Keep on talking trash just like you did in the beginning.

    You say that you did better than me with grammar when you was in 7th grade. What a laugh. I spelled everything correctly while so many of your words was like nah, tt’s, they’re, thus and several others by which you cannot even type out a decent comment without having these errors.
    It seems to me like you need to go back and get an education. Keep on typing your nonsense.

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

    E. Zachary Knight
    the US is pwnd by industry, but really half the M17 titles I have are more like T15 ,lite gore and cussing is not a default for a R, if it was GOW would be NC17.

    The ESRB in a attempt to be non confusing to average joe “bwains” public used the MPAA system as a starting point however it has flaws and they have inherited them all it sems

  28. 0
    kurisu7885 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Can you imagine what the rating system would be like if they could be lobbied? You will have incentive payments from the developers/publishers to get a certian rating.”

    Game reviewers and even movie reviewers already have to deal with this.

    And IF I may add, the people at the ESRB themselves don’t decide on the final rating. They get a random number of people to view gameplay footage, usually the most extreme stuff, and they rate it based on what they see. Hell, even playing all the way through as Jack Thompson and some politicians want wouldn’t have prevented Hot Coffeee

  29. 0
    ZippyDSMlee ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    E. Zachary Knight
    disbaned is a bit much, his stance was totally broken, I think its merely misdirected, with AO as a ban used by the console makers they really can not do nothing about it unless they are willing to pout everything on the line.

    2 things would make the ESRB the best rating board in the world

    1.T15 face it theres a diffrance in 13 and 17
    2.minimal guide lines for minmail ratings (basically a game like halo cant be higher than a T15 unless they add gore,cussing dose not a R make by default anymore)

    there are so many games that would fall into T15 its scary to think why its not been put into action…

  30. 0
    hayabusa75 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Yeah, so did I. Even though we didn’t agree he was rational and coherent, and outside of ESRB issues he had thoughtful things to say.


    Let me be crystal clear. I’m making fun of you because I don’t respect you. I don’t respect you because you post bullshit without getting your facts straight, and you evade arguments you have no answer for. Do I need to give you a recap?

    1. The ESRB is NOT a government entity, and thus cannot flout the 1st Amendment.
    2. You made wild, baseless assumptions about the people who work for the ESRB to try to justify your conspiracy theories.
    3. You think the 1st Amendment allows game companies the right to favorable ratings.
    4. You addressed none of E. Zachary Knight’s points…or anyone else’s, for that matter.

    For the record, your last post had at least 7 grammatical errors in it. Is English your second language? Judging what I’ve seen from you in the last few weeks, I was smarter than you in the 7th grade and that was nearly 20 years ago. You think I don’t make sense? Well, I don’t see a single person here backing you up…maybe that’s because YOU’RE the one who makes no sense. Think about it.

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

    I’ll settle this debate,

    First word of the first amendment: Congress

    Now is the ESRB part of Congress? No it is not, so they are not violating the first amendment.

    and your argument relies on what COULD be true, not what is.

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


    Your talking bad about my grammar. Everything that I typed was correct, my sentences was correct, I spaced things out. Since now you are putting me down I would like to say that from your views and you making no sense over me you do not seem that smart.

    Trust me, after seeing alot of your grammar that you type, I do not think that you are fit to put me down.

    I just thought that I would mention that since all of a sudden you are saying that I am worse than Terrible Tom and the other nonsense you typed.

  33. 0
    hayabusa75 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Nah, not really. TT’s arguments were fairly grounded in reality (although misguided) and he was familiar with little things like grammar.

  34. 0
    hayabusa75 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Heh, you don’t need anyone’s help 99% of the time, but you’re welcome. I remember when we used to have similar conversations with ‘ol Terrible Tom. Deja vu!

  35. 0
    lumi ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I fully agree with the need to fine tune the ESRB rating system.

    I also see nothing wrong with hosting Halo 3 events as a means of getting kids in the door. They’re not iconifying the MC or anything stupid like that.

  36. 0
    ZippyDSMlee ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    Paul Kerton
    Church is a place to “enjoy” religion, dogma gets stale after awhile looking at the “relevant” world now and then is not such a bad thing…

    If anyone is violating the first amendment its the console makers but via a loophole in copyright they have the final say over what games go on their system, if they did not use a blanket ban they would use indavenaul ones to keep “adult” games off their system.

    in the end the ESRB just rates games using random swaffas of people from their city, hobbling together a panel for each game its like the MPAAs system only they use “real” people 😛

    Outside of 5 years maybe, but with the retail and the console makers being so anal over it not before them.

  37. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 2 ) says:

    @ SpartanMichael

    I must also add that the AO rating is not just for porn. I quote the ESRB:

    Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.

    Read that twice if you need to. It says that AO is for games that have intense violence and/or pornography. Read it again if you don’t believe me.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  38. 0
    hayabusa75 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Your reasons given ring of conspiracy theory, there’s not a shred of proof and thus they lend no credence to your argument. The ESRB isn’t perfect but it was created to shield us from possible 1st Amendment attack by the government. Caving in to any group, whether it be the gamers, the developers or the anti-gamers, is ultimately counterproductive and would undermine the credibility that is the foundation of the ESRB.

    “No matter what happens, the game companies have the right to get a rating that allows the game to be on the game systems.”

    Why do you keep saying this? Where would that right come from?

  39. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 2 ) says:

    @ SpartanMichael

    1. The ESRB does not violate the 1st Amendment. The 1st Amendment prevents government from censoring speech and press.

    1. Actually the trouble making groups could of had an impact because the people in charge at the esrb would not want to deal with those groups pounding on them with letters, the media and etc

    You know what happens to all those “requests” from watchdog groups? They go into the trash. That is what. The ESRB does not let themselves be enfluenced by outsie agencies. To do so would open up a world of hurt that they do not want. Can you imagine what the rating system would be like if they could be lobbied? You will have incentive payments from the developers/publishers to get a certian rating. You will have incentive payments or ulimatums from watchdog groups to rate more strictly. That is what they avoid. They may read these requests, but it does not effect them.

    2. There could be people working for the esrb that would have views similar to people like Jack Thompson and would only let games get to a certain amount of violence before giving the game a rating meant for porographic games.

    If so that is their belief. But on the other hand, they hae more than one person rate the games. The require that the group be unanimous in the rating. The people in the groups are kept seperate to prevent any kind of intimidation factors in the rating decision. So if one person has beliefs similar to Thompson, then they will rate that way, but unless the whole group feels the same way, it most likely will not get that rating.

    3. Some of the people working there could be parents that would think that the material is to extreme for kids so they violate the 1st amendment by giving the game the AO rating where the uncut game will not make it on the game systems.

    That is the point of the rating. To rate it based on what is suitable for children. So, they are doing their job correctly. But they are not violating the 1st Ammendment.

    4. They are afraid that lawsuites will be filed on them along with the game company for giving the uncut game a rating that will allow it on game systems if a violent act happens.

    Lawsuits will happen and have happened. To be influenced by the threat of lawsuit is the same as being bought. They will not do this as it will open up a world of hurt that they do not want or need.

    If you are unsatisfied with the current state of the AO rating, then take it to the people who can change it. Go to the console manufacturers and tell them you want AO games licensed. Go to the retailers that you want AO games to be sold in their stores.

    To go to the ESRB and tell them you want AO games rated M so that they can be sold, you are no better than the likes of Jack Thompson and NIMF who want M games rated AO so they can’t be sold.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  40. 0
    j sloan ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Ridiculous, that’s like trying to compare the Matrix films to the Saw series. Good Will Hunting to the Brave One , pointless and you can do this all day to an endless amount of films or games.

  41. 0
    mbkerr says:

    The problem with all this is that people who have a problem with Halo are JUST NOW complaining about Halo in Church. Here’s a clue: churches have been doing this since the first game. I know, I personally saw them in college. In Georgia. In the middle of the freaking Bible Belt! These people just want to complain now because there’s a multi-million dollar campaign and media attention behind it, so they’re hoping their little vanity causes can get caught up in this. Honestly, these people make me sick. Their “higher power” is whatever gets them their self-serving attention.

  42. 0
    spartanmichael ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    To answer your question, there is a few reasons why the esrb would try to violate our 1st amendment right with the AO rating for games that only have violence.

    1. Actually the trouble making groups could of had an impact because the people in charge at the esrb would not want to deal with those groups pounding on them with letters, the media and etc.

    2. There could be people working for the esrb that would have views similar to people like Jack Thompson and would only let games get to a certain amount of violence before giving the game a rating meant for porographic games.

    3. Some of the people working there could be parents that would think that the material is to extreme for kids so they violate the 1st amendment by giving the game the AO rating where the uncut game will not make it on the game systems.

    4. They are afraid that lawsuites will be filed on them along with the game company for giving the uncut game a rating that will allow it on game systems if a violent act happens.

    There is some of the very possible answers.

    There is so many answers as to why video games have no effect that causes violence.

    No matter what happens, the game companies have the right to get a rating that allows the game to be on the game systems.

  43. 0
    hayabusa75 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    You just don’t get it. The console makers and retailers have set the conditions that result in the ESRB ratings having the significance they do. If the Big Three license AO games and the retailers agree to sell them, we’re not even having this conversation.

    “…the violence was not even that extreme to getting a rating that would cause the game to be censored.”

    Oh, I’m sorry, do you work for the ESRB? Are you familiar with their guidelines? Just because your idea of what violence is or isn’t acceptable for an M rating doesn’t mean that the ESRB should follow suit.

    “…it does not even matter how extreme the violence is because the game company should have the right to sell the game with an acceptable rating.”

    As inane as this statement is, I’ll humor you for the moment: they DO have the right to sell the games…just not on the consoles which don’t allow AO, and not through retailers that won’t carry them.

    I asked you this before and you didn’t answer so I’ll ask again: what does the ESRB have to gain by de facto censorship? If they’re censoring games on purpose there must be a reason, right? So what is it? And don’t say they get the watchdog groups off their backs, you and I both know the anti-game crowd will never be satisfied until violent games are wiped out.

  44. 0
    spartanmichael ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    It seems to me like your the one that makes no sense. The esrb are the ones in charge of rating games. The rating decides the fate of being able to be on systems and in stores. Manhunt 2 got rated AO for violence instead of extreme sexuality. I even seen alot of videos for the uncut version of the leaked game and the violence was not even that extreme to getting a rating that would cause the game to be censored. And guess what, it does not even matter how extreme the violence is because the game company should have the right to sell the game with an acceptable rating.

    It seems to me like I make alot more sense than you do.

  45. 0
    Alex G. says:

    @jack thompson, attorney

    “The solution is that church groups are to be about Christ, not Master Chief. Pretty simple, really. “

    Even though I’m not religious, I do agree that it is kind of a cheap attention toy.

  46. 0
    Nebslox says:

    ‘Round here in Australia our highest video game rating is 15+ (Not to mention the second highest rating is also 15+. Figure that one out)

    It seems that the world has still not yet adapted to rating video games properly.

  47. 0
    hayabusa75 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    “The esrb needs to stop violating the 1st amendment and give the uncut versions of games like Manhunt 2 the M rating if the warning was on the front cover. “

    Please don’t start again. The last time you said the ESRB was infringing on our 1st Amendment rights you were shredded by EZK, me, and about three others (you never responded, by the way). This time, you’re making even less sense. The ESRB rates games based on certain criteria just as any other ratings board. If they judge Manhunt 2 to be AO, are you really telling me that making a larger disclaimer on the box would justify changing the rating to M? The content is STILL THE SAME.

  48. 0
    Ikkin says:

    “Teen is a rating reserved for violence with obvious consequences, permanent death.”

    Why should characters being killed require a T rating? I’d say there’s “violence with obvious consequences and permanent death” in G-rated Disney movies (granted, said death is usually by a fall or otherwise out of sight), so there would seem to be a major disconnect if that were the case.

    @Ace of Sevens:
    “Apparently, you only get away with killing humans in a T if it’s totally bloodless, which seems like a very odd standard.”

    …but if that’s the case… what was I seeing in that Heavenly Sword demo?

    Maybe the problem was that the game let you shoot your allies in a not-bloodless way?

    “The killings in the bible make the killings in manhunt 2 look very tame after seeing alot of videos of the uncut version of manhunt 2 and yet the bible is taught to very young children.”

    There’s a bit of a difference between non-descriptive text and video, though. It’s a lot worse to show a video in which a character is stabbed through the chest with a sword and dies painfully than to write that “[character] was stabbed through the chest, put on a rack, drawn and quartered, and left out for the birds to eat,” even though the second is a whole heck of a lot more violent.

    Plus, no one actually teaches the very young children the violent parts of the Bible in any kind of detail beyond “David hit Goliath in the head with a rock from a slingshot and won the battle” anyway, so it’s not really a fair comparison.

    I agree about the T-15 rating idea, though. Having an extra rating would probably only help matters. An alternative could be an M-C rating, for Mature-Context, which would encompass games like GTA and Manhunt where the context for the violence is questionable.

  49. 0
    spartanmichael ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ Bloody

    You was talking about the rating process due to the violence.

    The pile of videos of the uncut version of Manhunt 2 I seen shows alot of the killings including the red killings and most was not worse than alot of the red killings in Manhunt 1.

    If the esrb is not for censoring video games, then they would allow games like Manhunt 2 to get the M rating by telling Rockstar Games that they need to put a big warning on the front cover like Conker: Live and Reloaded did. I feel that the warning on the front cover like Conker: Live and Reloaded had would be more effective than the AO on the box.

    The esrb needs to stop violating the 1st amendment and give the uncut versions of games like Manhunt 2 the M rating if the warning was on the front cover.

  50. 0
    Bloody ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I wonder if anyone would make a fuss if they were using Assassin’s Creed instead with it being set during the third crusade n’ all.

    Sometimes I wonder what the ratings system would be like if we had the M15, an M18 and instead of AO there was a ‘P’ or ‘X’ rating for pornographic games. What would have happened if they gave Manhunt2 a ‘P’ under that system? As it stands AO basically equates to such yet its vague enough to slide extreme violence under its label. The rating does say “Prolonged scenes of intense violence” but thats just a little subjective. Especially in interactive environments.

  51. 0
    Eric says:

    I’ve never trusted the rating system of movies or games. There are G-rated Disney movies that would give my young (5 and 3) sons nightmares. There are PG-13 movies I don’t recommend to anyone, anytime and R-rated ones I think everyone should see someday.

    Screenit.com is a great resource for movies I like to use. It’s immensely detailed, but as a parent, I love it. Game reviews are everywhere as well.

    I believe parental involvement is the key. It’s not easy. It takes time. It takes research. We have to lose our selfish lives. We’re taking the responsibility to raise our kids…not their friends, not their teachers or government or a local church.

    As a youth pastor, I dealt with a lot of parents that had zero influence in their kids lives. Then, these parents, when lovingly confronted to be more involved would imply, “That’s what we’re paying you for.” No way. A caring pastor is a shallow replacement for a loving, involved parent.

    Parents, share you wisdom. Do you know the difference between murder and killing? Do you know when violence is wrong or when it’s necessary? Do you know the difference between love and lust? Do you know what makes commitments last?

    Lead your kids, because Big Brother will never be capable of it.

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

    @jack thompson, attorney
    ever hear of a parable? It’s a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. With all the religious references, Halo is an example of a parable. Jesus himself told fictional parables to get followers and explain moral lessons, does that make him a liar?

  53. 0
    The BS Police ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    What flaw in the ESRB, the ESRB ratings are only there for people who are purchasing the game, not for going to church or a friends house to play the game.

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

    Coming at this from a different perspective – how much extra ‘allure’ gets attached to a game when it moves from T to M?
    How many potential buyers would think “T? Booooring! Now, M, THAT’S the ticket!”
    I understand that it is an issue in the movie biz – the rating comes back to low and no one will likely go to see it. Stick in a few rude words, maybe some low-level nudity or ‘adult gags’ and the audience numbers go up with the rating.
    I can see some game developers seeing a T15 rating as another ‘kiss of death’ rating – not cool enough for the majority of gamers. 😉

  55. 0
    Adrian Lopez ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m sometimes amused when people discuss the appropriateness of ratings in terms of age. I think assigning particular age ratings to particular kinds of content has more to do with personal attitudes toward child rearing and the nature of childhood than with statistical facts about the effects of violent video games upon minors. In other words, the appropriateness of ratings is largely a “religious” issue between people with different ideas about what children are able to handle, and about the family’s role in molding their children’s views and opinions.

    Every parent who cares about what their children are watching thinks they know what’s best for those children, even when they’re wrong. The best the ESRB can hope for right now is to reflect “popular opinion” about a game’s age-appropriateness, even if, as with individual opinion, there is little support for it.

  56. 0
    Ace of Sevens ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Halo was originally rated T and got changed about a month before release aafter Bunige had already put out a press release and cover art with the T rating. I f I remember what Matt Soell said on the Halo.bungie.org forums correctly, the issue that caused the rerating was mainly the ability to kill the NPC allies. Apparently, you only get away with killing humans in a T if it’s totally bloodless, which seems like a very odd standard.

    I say we have plenty of ratings already. Halo just got the wrong one.

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

    # jack thompson, attorney Says:
    October 14th, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    The solution is that church groups are to be about Christ, not Master Chief. Pretty simple, really.

    Well yes, but you seem to be thinking that the church has replaced Christ with Master Chief. Really it’s just a social activity. Now if the church were using something like Manhunt to attract teens I can see where the problem is.

    I honestly think the ‘Church using a M game’ being quite silly, it honestly doesn’t matter. They might as well criticize the old testament for being too violent.

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

    JT, duh…. The Youth groups using Halo are using Master Chief as an allegory for Christ. I personally think the tactic inaccurate and subversive, but that’s because I’m a free thinker. Halo is being used merely as a lure, as bait to attract dwindling crowds. I do not support these methods, but I am not intolerant of anyone based on race, religion, social background or anything else we use to divide the masses. I like to think that on some level we’re all the same.

    On the issue itself, that the M rating is not accurate, I agree. I also think that Film Ratings are not entirely accurate as to Film content. But I also do not think that content should be based entirely on age.

    The purpose of a rating system is to identify what is in a product that is to be viewed or played. Every individual decides for themselves what they want to watch or not watch. Rating is a tool to make that selection easier. The same with descriptors like genre.
    We use age because age is easy to grasp, but it is not accurate. We use age because of what people learn at various ages.
    At around 7-9 (11 at the latest) children learn about death and accept that it is permanent. A rating with a violence descriptor today differentiates only between violence against human-like opponents and those against human like opponents and whether or not someone dies. If enemies are not actually killed or destroyed, they are just beaten then it may be acceptable for preteens. At age 13+(Grade 7+) students learn about war and combat and accept that it happens in the world. Games are rating Teen or the like if violence involves destroying enemies, but not realistically. Megaman destroys machine enemies, but they are not people and most of them are not human. Teen is a rating reserved for violence with obvious consequences, permanent death. FF XI and WoW has such ratings because although there is such death, the dead just disappear. Only when the violence involves blood, the one descriptor of its truth is the video game M rated.
    At 12(Grade 6), children learn about sex and how it works. When people start having sex past that varies from person to person and family to family, but it isn’t until 18 that sex becomes socially acceptable to the majority in our culture. Vulgar Language is outlawed to anyone under 18 and every medium of communication is assumed to be under the prying eyes of minors.
    I think that content descriptors for these 3 factors and others should be used instead of age because I know people who don’t like sex in media, but don’t care about violence or vice versa or with language.
    You know the ones, “You can see sex or blood, but don’t swear in front of me.”
    I think I’ve run out of room for a response, so that’s all I have for now.

  59. 0
    pyrohazard, agitated janitor ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    jack thompson, attorney Says:
    October 14th, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    The solution is that church groups are to be about Christ, not Master Chief. Pretty simple, really.

    You blockhead. It’s revealed in the ending of Halo 3 that Master Chief IS Christ resurrected as a badass super solider.

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

    Jack, it’s Sunday – a day of rest. Considering that sitting online and being a moron constitutes your WORK, I suggest logging off and beating your children or something.

  61. 0
    Kyouryuu says:

    I remember when I first learned Halo had an M rating, I was really surprised. As you say, when you compare it to GTA, or a horror game, or even BioShock, there’s nothing especially M rated about it. M is a very broad categorization. My personal opinion is that the ESRB should be more liberal with the T rating and use it to help ferret out games that are barely in the M territory.

  62. 0
    Monte' ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @BlackIce, Leftie
    If retailers and console makers tried to ban games based on rating, then yes GTA would be banned because it now has the same rating that’s used for porn and such. With the use of an M15 rating, the M18 ratings would need to cover anything that the M15 doesn’t cover (ages 16, 17), thus forcing the rating to be used much more leniently. while Porn and the orginal Manhunt2 still fall into that rating, games like GTA and god of war would also fall under tha same rating; try to ban the M18 rating to get rid of porn and such, and you will also end up banning all the games that you DO want. The only way the console makers and retialers can keep the games they want and ban what they don’t want is for them to judge on a game by game basis, instead of banning the whole rating… as a result, the M18 rating would not be a death sentence like the AO rating is…

    it’s basically getting rid of the AO rating and having only the M rating(though up from 17 to 18), but also making a new M15 rating for stuff that is above T but clearly below M (Halo)… y’know, that’s probably how i should have phrased it in the first place; much simpiler

  63. 0
    ~the1jeffy says:

    I disagree, the ESRB and other ratings boards aren’t tasked with contextualizing the violence, sex, etc. that is in the media. That’s our job as consumers and parents. Content =|= Context. GP, your entire article is filled with putting the two game you use as examples in context. You basically argue that because you find Halo to appropriate for your kids at 13, then the rating is ‘flawed.’ However, there are many parents that would disagree, and put the game as for ‘Mature’ simply because it is very violent. The ESRB, then, rates them both M, because they both have an M-level of violence. However, GTA has more things, that are contextually worse. Hence the added descriptors.

    I recognize your point about non-gamers not understanding the nuances, but I like to think education is the answer here. The flaw with the ESRB is that they’ve got no AO that isn’t a ban. That’s it. And this isn’t really just the ESRB’s issue, you’ve got retailers and console providers that are to blame, too.

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

    As for the one that said that rating theology and religious texts isn’t the same as normal texts/images/whatever…I don’t think that violence, even if it’s against aliens or “nonbelievers,” is ok for small kids…all violence is just that, violence. I don’t care if you’re a scientologist or Christian or Atheist, all violence is violence and should be looked at in terms of why the violence was commited and who it is apropriate for.

    Sorry if all that didn’t make much sense…I don’t post long things very often

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

    You have a point there, guess I didn’t think about it that way. You’re right, they probably don’t play it during mass or anything, in which I don’t reall y see much of a problem (besides the fact that it’s technically rated M, even though Halo has always seemed like more of a T game to me.)

  66. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    I know, odd isn’t it? Am I alone in noticing that since his hearing last week, Jack has, to a degree, been moderately polite in here? It’s been like a breath of fresh air, I must admit.

    He still slips up on occasion with blanket statements and offensive complaints about offensiveness, but he’s trying at least.

  67. 0
    DoggySpew ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Oh my goodness.

    “The solution is that church groups are to be about Christ, not Master Chief. Pretty simple, really.”

    I’m actually agreeing on that part with JT. And I’m an atheist !

  68. 0
    Garret says:

    @ Paul

    correct me if I am misunderstanding (I don’t go to church)
    but I was under the impression that the Halo time wasn’t in the middle of mass, but a separately scheduled event, designed to for people to make friends and a chance for them to get to know the pastor/ priest/whatever, who could then encourage them to come to the service, which IS about Christ.

  69. 0
    Andrew Eisen ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The fact that Halo and GTA both got an M doesn’t mean, to me anyway, that the rating system is flawed. There is a minimum level of violent content (and other factors) that will push a game into the M area (games like Halo and Perfect Dark for example).

    Just because another game overshoots the minimum doesn’t mean it doesn’t fit in that category. AO is useless so M is for everything from Halo on up.

    Besides, here’s the back of the box:

    Halo 3 – “Blood and Gore, Mild Language, Violence”

    GTA:SA – “Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs”

    So yeah, as long as games are marked appropriately I don’t see why they can’t carry the same rating even if they are completely different content wise.

    After all, both “Hudson Hawk” and “Hostel” are rated R.

    Andrew Eisen

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

    “The solution is that church groups are to be about Christ, not Master Chief. Pretty simple, really.”

    Then we really should get rid of church softball leagues also. Church should be about Christ and not sports eh?

  71. 0
    Yuki says:


    And you wonder why churchs are rapidly seeing there followings drop in the modern world? Church is boring, depressing, and often dishearting, and modern people, especially in america, are getting tired of it all.

    Halo is in my opinion and excellent way to make the message of faith relevant to a group that does not normally have an intrest in such things as faith.

    When faith finds itself becoming irrelevant, it must do what it has to, including using halo, to regain that relevance.

    Course, a self serving parasite like you, probably doesn’t get that.

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

    @Jack Thompson…

    The solution is that church groups are to be about Christ, not Master Chief. Pretty simple, really.

    Whilst I’m inclined to agree with the sentiment, it should also be borne in mind that people aren’t suggesting in the slightest that in some wierd way Master Chief is the new christ or anything, what they are suggesting is that in order to communicate with modern people, you need modern methods.

    Now, believe it or not, I actually don’t think that Halo is the thing to do it with, not because of the violence, I played enough physically violent games as part of a church group to not be bothered by that, but more around the fact that people would be turning up for the game, not for the religion

    Religion as a whole has a problem with change, many of them struggle to adapt to the world they exist in. It’s a difficult challenge, how do you make ancient words compatible with modern thinking? Often this is done merely by claiming that ‘modern thinking’ is at fault and we should all go back to the way we used to be 2000 years ago, personally, I’m inclined to disagree with that ideal, but if religion is to carry forward it’s message meaningfully, then they obviously have to adhere to the ideals that they were formed on.

    Halo, I think, is not the way to go, it’s a ‘gimmick’, but if religion wants to reach out to people in a more modern context, then it’s needs to be less judgemental and more understanding, which, oddly enough, was exactly what was preached by Christ.

  73. 0
    Yuki says:

    Ok, this is a fairly interesting topic.

    First, lemme say this. I feel the AO rating, as it’s currently used, is pointless and should be discarded, completely. It should be replaced by a rating that is actually a Rating, not a banhammer.

    I’d be all for an older rating on the condition that it was placed on the shelves with the rest of the games. seperating it from the other games would defeat the purpose, not to mention give certain people a reason to claim the ratings an admission of guilt.

    I’m big on the idea of more mature game, but only so long as the games themselves are more then just shock value and are actually good games.

    Personally, i’m the type of guy who would like a really violent action game like manhunt to be rated 18 or something so that a game can push the limits and still be sold. Otherwise games won’t evolve as an art form if they aren’t allowed to push the limits.

    Anyway, thats just my opinion is all.

  74. 0
    SounDemon ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Jack, with all the anti-christian sentiment perpetuated by people like Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson, and yourself, it’s no wonder that Jesus isn’t as appealing as he used to be. If you want to go around like a mormon, saying “Hi, we’re here to tell you about our religion”, go ahead, but it NEVER works.
    If you use Halo to get the youth to actually want to LISTEN to what you have to say, instead of shunning you, is that so wrong?
    Jesus said “We are fishers of men.” He did NOT say “We are fishers of men, but we can’t use bait that Jack Thompson does not approve of.”

    Sorry for the long winded post.

  75. 0
    Geno ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This issue is a waste of time. The world is going to have to face the fact that Halo is played by kids as young as 8 years old. You can prove that by logging onto Xbox Live and hearing all the little kids screaming into the mic. In my opinion, it doesn’t deserve an M rating anyway.

    I do agree that the ESRB needs a new rating stronger then M so the simple minded critics won’t be confused that an “M” rated game means that it is some hard core violent porno game. The gamers understand that there’s a difference between GTA and Halo, and so do alot of Parents. So is it really that big of a deal if teenagers are playing Halo at youth group? I see no problem with it as long as their parents give approval.

  76. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 2 ) says:

    @ Decivre

    Why would religious themes require an ID? That makes no sense. Just because your game has a strong theology in it makes it bad?

    Please expand.

    As for all this, I can support a middle rating between T and M.

    @ Brokenscope

    I would rather them selectively license games rather than blanket ban a whole spectrum of games. In a selective license situation, The console companies can refuse a straight up porn game but let the unedited version of Manhunt 2 through.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  77. 0
    cullarn ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    the system was never flawed to begin with . . . it was intended to give parents a idea of what the game included so that they could make up their own minds

    (i know several of you have allready made this point but i feel it needs to be repeated)

  78. 0
    Zebthemarmot says:


    The phrase “18+” or “Adult” with regards to media in America is associated with pornographic materials, it’s part of our culture. Thus, you’d probably have to go with 17+. I would say that it should just be called 17+ instead of M, both to make it clear that the game is not for children, and to make it clear that the 17+ rating is not the same as the old M (So that parents would be less likely to continue buying their child M rated games thinking they were like Halo)

  79. 0
    EOTD says:

    Honestly, I think any tinkering would only make the situation worse. The only impovement I think needs to be made is to move the descriptors onto the front of the box as well as the back. (I know they take up space, but cover art be damned, this is far more important.) I also agree that there is room for another rating between T and M, but if you abolish AO at the same time, then M is likely to become the new AO – essentally banned.

    Let’ face it, no rating system is perfect. Hell, I dont even think any rating system in existence is even GOOD at its job, and the best only barely make the cut. But it’s not their fault – rating systems have to be both comprehensive and idiot-proof – SIMULTANEOUSLY. They have to list every kind of possibly objectional content in the game/movie/etc., and ALSO slap a simple label on it so that those unfamiliar with the system can make some sort of judgment. Not to mention that, in the case of games, they have to do this based on video clips of the game provided by the developer, considering that playing evey game fully would be impossile, even without the poblems of user-created content, etc. It’s horribly paradoxical, and I’m actually surprised that the ESRB, PEGI, and all the other game rating systems have handled the job as well as they have.

    Also consider that the MPAA ratings system fails miserably by pretty much any standard – and they have a MUCH easier medium to rate. Compared to them, the ESRB is dong great.

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

    I suppose the only downside of the idea is that part of the reason for such a large seperation, I think, is to ensure that no-one can say ‘Why was this game rated 15 when it’s clearly an 17! It’s a conspiracy I say, Rockstar are paying the ESRB to lower the rating on EA’s games!!1! There’s no evidence or motive, but I’m saying so, therefore it must be true!’

    Part of the problem is that people like Yee and Thompson are working to an agenda, it’s not about introducing any real parental help or assisting the ESRB in getting the system working in a way that helps parents in some way, it’s more about using ‘The Children’ as an excuse to grasp power and ignore the 1st Amendment. Regardless of what the ESRB change, they will always find reason to complain, they don’t want the problems fixed, they simply want more power.

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

    Good point. It is a tough one to decide though. If we remove the cap on AO (Make GTA series stuff AO but have Wal-Mart carry it), then does that mean Hentai games will also be available? Or do we create another label to confuse parents (as some have pointed out) even more.

    I also like the point made in the article over where Halo stands in the M rated game area. So many people were calling foul for Halo in church when this game is so different from GTA. Plus some have already discussed the logic in gamers buying games for their children. I liked the LEGO format which was (Fantasy or Sci-fi is okay, but NO realistic) which is why there are no legitamit gang legos or army legos.

  82. 0
    metroidprimegmr says:

    What the ESRB should do is take the content descriptors on the back of the box (Blood, Mild Violence, and all that jazz), and slap it on a FRONT corner of the box in BIG, BOLD font!

  83. 0
    ZippyDSMlee ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    this is where T15 would come into play M17 encompasses to much.

    If the US adopted the 15+ rule then M17 could be treated like a R and not a obscure PG17…………

  84. 0
    Mark Dage says:

    I think most of it is because it’s much easier to bandy about an oversimplified rating than actually find out what the game is about. Because if you actually look a game up and read a summary and maybe a review or two, you might actually find the game is okay, after all, and the rating may have just been the result of an “abundance of caution.”

    But if that was the case, there would be so much less rhetoric to spew, wouldn’t there?

    And we can’t have that now, can we?

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

    I think the more important question here, is why Manhunt and grand theft auto are there, when there are so many other games, a few rated T, that would be so much better in their place.

  86. 0
    Decivre says:

    @ neoSpider

    That’s fair, stores always have the right to refuse service. No one will argue that. But the fact of the matter is that an explicit lyric descriptor doesn’t say what age they have to sell towards. The problem with an age specific rating system is in person-to-person maturity. I know a lot of teenagers that listen to music with explicit content. It’s up to personal opinion whether or not they were old enough, but as far as I know they aren’t acting on things they see and hear in music and movies. With specific age ratings however, it isn’t up to personal opinion. A group of people decided that this game, movie or show is for people THIS old. In reality, only select things should be censored to specific age groups, and that’s things we know should only be viewed by adults… we’re talking enough nudity to be porn and enough blood to be snuff. Otherwise it should be up to the parents, and the parents alone to decide what’s right for their kids at what age.

  87. 0
    monte' ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Well, i say we turn the AO rating into something like M18, and turn the M rating into M15 (thus eliminating the M17)… games like Halo would fall under the M15 rating, while games like GTA would fall under the M18. The best part about this, is that it would get rid of the whole AO=death thing because now the 18+ rating is being used more often, and being used on hot titles. Console makers and retailers may not care about loosing Manhunt2, but when you are threatening hot games like GTA, god of war, and bioshock with the 18+ rating, those poeple will start changing their tune. Not wanting to loose so many hot titles, the companies will do what they should have been doing all along; instead of banning an entire rating, they will only ban games on a game by game basis… that way, we can still get the titles we want, and the console makers and retailers can still steer clear of the kinds of games they don’t want on their consoles (porn)

  88. 0
    neoSpider says:

    Sorry about so many post

    @ las, attorney

    Given the political climate, common sense wouldn’t have you voting either Republican nor Democrat. They are both just as bad as the other. Given the fact that Hilary will get the nomination for Democrats, I’d rather vote Republican, especially if its Ron Paul (hell, if he gets the nomination for Republicans, I would vote for him no matter what).

  89. 0
    neoSpider says:

    I think the best solution, instead of just saying the ESRB is flawed, would be to approach a more universal rating system, one that can be used for movies and music (not books though, that would cause too much trouble if some one were to rate sacred texts such as the Bible and Qur’an). The newer system could include appropriate ratings so that Halo wouldn’t be rated the same as GTA, My Cousin Vinny wouldn’t be rated the same as Saw, and Injected wouldn’t be rated the same as 2 Live Crew. They would have market the new system not that the old ones were flawed but as a much better and easier tool for parents to make appropriate decisions for their children.

  90. 0
    las, attorney says:

    Look at it this way. The M designates how old the buyer has to be. The buyer can then use this amazing concept know as COMMON SENSE to decide whether or not to let a younger person play it.

    Case in point: A parent goes out to a video game store and sees Halo 3 and Manhunt 2 on the shelf. Halo 3’s case states a battle of good versus evil, a battle were humanity’s last hope must protect the Earth against aliens (I don’t know if that is the actual plot, never played the games, so bite me if I’m wrong) whereas Manhunt 2 has a deranged serial killer murdering people as its selling point. Now, in an ideal world, the parent would use this newfound device, COMMON SENSE, to decide whether either title is suitable for their child.

    However, in the real world, parent is stupid and buys games clearly not intended for children for their kids and then bitches when it turns out the game revolves around killing people with graphic violence.

    Someday I wish to pioneer this common sense both in America and around the world and hopefully, we can live in a world where people will use common sense in making obvious day-to-day decisions, such as not buying unsuitable material for kids, not doing up their laces in a doorway, and, perhaps, if we’re lucky, not vote Republican, although case studies have shown that incredibly stupid people are unable to grasp common sense, so we might have no hope whatsoever on that last point.

  91. 0
    Decivre says:

    Maybe this is a potential moment in the evolution of this rating system as well as every other one. We’ve been using the MPAA’s system since 1968, and every form of media except for music and books have gotten a rating system. It’s not really all that ironic that music and books have been untouched, since both art forms have been in existence longer than modern civilization, and we’ve grown accustom to their subtlety. Since movies, TV, and video games have only been around the past generation or two, they haven’t been ingrained into society as something that’s totally part of life. When it comes to books, I’ve noticed that most parents know what to keep away from their kids, or at least trust them enough to read them, so why not everything else? I think it’s because everyone sees it as different, even though if you think about it, these media forms aren’t really different, just new.
    Now that I’m done ranting, I think that rather than a tiered rating system, the real key is those content descriptors. Why tell parents their children aren’t old enough, when you should tell them what they’ll be exposing them to and let them make the decision themselves (in most cases, including you GP, they already do). Full frontal nudity and sex, religious themes, exorbitant gore and violence, and others would be in red ink instead of black, and require ID to buy them. It’d be more similar to how books are checked (reading difficulty and theme) and give more power to the parents.
    Just my $3.25 worth.

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

    like everyone else said, the problem is that the US doesn’t have a 15+ rating, even for movies. There are plenty of movies that deserve a 15+ rating, as well as plenty of games, but the lack of a 15+ rating bumps them to a 17+ rating.

  93. 0
    Dave says:

    And there is a huge difference between R movies like Good Luck Chuck, 300, and Saw. Rating letter systems of all types are flawed because they are too vague. People need to stop relying on the actual letter rating and pay attention to the description of the rating next to it.

  94. 0
    Pen gun ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I think If we changed the system now all of the anti game pundits would swoop down and fuck up the system more.

    But I do agree that there are many kinds of M.

    Hl2 would be on in the middle. halo near the M boardering Teen, And The darkness would be closer to A.

  95. 0
    DoggySpew ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I would say that the PEGI ratings used on mainland Europe is far the most honest system.
    Halo3 is rated as 16+, while a game like Manhunt is rated 18+. But here is the thing: Why is the ESRB being seen as the best way in rating games, while the console producers do not want AO rated games on their system. Yet, PEGI list pretty much any game that features gore as 18+.

    I think console makers should stop using their stance against the AO rating, and allow these games on their consoles.

  96. 0
    Zebthemarmot says:


    It may be an industry standard, but since it’s not legally binding many workers at big-chain retailers don’t take it seriously (not so much the major game-specific retailers, who will at least warn and often fire an employee for selling an M game without a license) This is a major point of video game critics like Jack Thomson, and an industry-supported law requiring ID would show that the industry is serious about this issue, as well as allowing politicians a chance to jump on the “protect-the-children” bandwagon without harming people who are old enough to make their own decisions.

  97. 0
    chris says:

    @Father time

    apart from the legal backing, 18/15 is the same as our setup here in the UK, I find its a good bracketing distinction.

    and for reference, I’m pretty sure Halo 3 did make 15.

  98. 0
    Father Time ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Step 1) Kill Ao change M to 18+
    Step 2) Make a 15+ rating
    Step 3) Start gloating about your improved system

    And that’s how to fix the ESRB. As it stands now it is a flawed system.

  99. 0
    Soldatlouis ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The PEGI system’s age categories are : 3, 7, 10, 12, 16 and 18. The big difference with ESRB is that I can find games for 18 years old in big retail stores. I don’t know if it’s better.

    But in my opinion, a clear difference must be made between the different contexts in which violence occurs : is it fantasy ? Sci-Fi ? Historic (WWII, medieval) ? Or modern urban ghetto ? Plus, a better difference could be made between the different kinds of violence : does the context fully justify this violence ? (for instance, in WWII games) Isn’t the context enough to justify it ? (for example, in “Soldier of Fortune”) Or does the context simply aggravate it ? (for example, crime in GTA-like towns, or Mahunt-like executions)

    These differences between different violences and different contexts could be made in rating system. But above all, the public must be able to perceive them.

  100. 0
    DraginHikari says:

    I have to agree… I’ve seen enough of Halo and don’t care for it, however the violence content doesn’t really match alot of the rated M games of much more graphic violence >>

  101. 0
    jadedcritic ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The most serious flaw I can see in the logic of adding another rating – whether or not one’s called for; is that the retailers and console companies would likely just blackball it like they have AO. People are already complaining that AO effectively equals ban – I see no reason to believe other ratings wouldn’t get the same treatment.

  102. 0
    tallimar says:


    excellent comment and i agree with most of it. the only problem i have is that i would oppose any kind of government involvement, but there is already a retailer standard in place (at least here in the U.S.) that requires an ID check at the point of sale for games rated M or higher. call me paranoid, but imo, any kind of government involvement and/or regulation is a stepping stone to a chilling effect and possibly even censorship.

  103. 0
    Angry Dude says:

    I’ve been stressing this for years! The ratings are vague and confusing, just like the MPAA. Saw is rated R, but so is My Cousin Vinny. Halo is M, as is Manhunt 2.

    Clearly we need more room for distinction

  104. 0
    Lucas Paynter says:

    I definetely agree that the M rating is a little too all-inclusive. I work at a game store, and parents (brilliant creatures that they are) frequently look at M rated games for their children without knowing what they’re about.

    The trouble is defining that one title is or isn’t as bad as a GTA and its ilk can be quite trying at times. Not too mention some games are either underrated, or (more frequently) overrated in terms of content classification.

    Personally, I never understood why the Longest Journey and its sequel Dreamfall (the latter of the two being one of my very favorite titles) ever got the M rating. The former was rated M exclusively for swearing. EXCLUSIVELY. The sequel had swearing (though not nearly as much) and a bit of violence too, which was about as far removed as the goriest M games could ever manage to give you.

  105. 0
    Archgabe says:

    I agree that the ESRB needs to rethink their system a bit. I also think that people who don’t understand games should try to learn more about it and maybe even relax after they find out more information. I mean, isn’t it the message that is more important? Right? Hello?

    Why am I here all by myself? It’s lonely here in the middle.

  106. 0
    Zebthemarmot says:

    I think this is definitely an important issue. The whole “All M-rated games are equal” mentality is a lot more true then a lot of people think. I know that when Halo came out of PC I was 14 and really wanted to play it, but my mother was under the impression that it was just as bad as Grand Theft Auto or Postal, and everything she had seen in the media, etc. pointed to that. Hell, when I was in middle school they had some crackpot guy who had obviously never played a game in his life come in and talk about violent media, and he showed some footage of Vice City and Postal 2 before handing out a list of every M-rated game and several T-rated games that had been released in the past 3 years. (To be fair, he did the same thing with music and movies, for example putting 50 cent and Linkin Park at the same level content-wise.

    Of course, this works the opposite way too and with probably even worse ramifications- a parent will see their child play a game like Halo or Time Splitters and assume that all M-rated games are similiar, then go out and buy their kid Grand Theft Auto or Manhunt without looking into the games any further. A ridiculous number of my friends’ parents did this.

    I would say that a good solution would be to add an OT 15+ category in which less violent and/or morally unsound games would be taken from M and added to, and change M to simply 17+ in order to distinguish it from current M-rated games, which would encompass the new OT games as well. I would not be opposed to a law requiring license in order to purchase a 17+ game.

  107. 0
    Garret says:

    BRA-VO! I completely agree, honestly, the difference between halo and Manhunt is such a big difference.

    I would be more inclined to see Halo like star wars, and Manhunt like Saw, in the movie world, one is pg(-13), and the other is R, in the game world, they share the same rating? I don’t get it.

  108. 0
    BlackIce, Leftie says:

    I think it’s a fair idea. Put the game into the hands of those ready to deal with it. Why not?

    Oh yeah, there’s a flip side to my statement..

  109. 0
    Thabor says:

    1. Read the descriptors..

    2. Halo 3.. Believe.. in Christ.

    3. Rated H for Holy.. Will see as much use as the AO rating.

    4. Newflash: Church intended for sinners, not saints.

    5. This is just like modern sex ed.. The adults should be embarrassed to talk about it, since the kids have much more experience than they do.

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


    Very well Jack, by that logic, church groups should not organize baseball games, soccer matches, BBQ’s, or any other get together that doesn’t involve reading the bible and prayer. Now, it may have been a while for you, but most pre-teens and teens I know don’t want to spend their weekends being taught about damnation and hell fire (an extreme example mind you).

    You say that video games teach people to kill. The same thing can be said for groups that do things such as martial arts to teach troubled kids self respect and self discipline. Yes, they are fighting techniques, however there is more to them than just learning to throw punches and kick, or what not. The most valuable lesson I learned when I was a Civil Air Patrol Cadet is that the group cannot exist with the individual, and without the group the individual cannot support themself. This lesson was learned the hard way on a military confidence course that required us to work as a team and put aside any petty squabbles we may have had.
    Much of these gathering have one thing in common, and that is the feeling on comradery. Whether it’s a karate dojo, a fencing salle, a boxing ring, or a lan party you feel like part of something, joke around with people, and in the end respect them even if you lost.

    The simple fact is that people like Jack Thompson are so deluded in their own self-righteousness that they fail to see the good before them, because it doesn’t fit in the mold of their narrow perception. The fact that an event like this brought together people who may have never know one another before, let them have a good time, laugh, celebrate and make friends says more than any half-baked theory that this Florida lawyer may conjure.

    It’s not stupidity or insanity that Jack suffers from, its an even worse disease; petty narrow mindedness.

  111. 0
    Paul Kerton ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    For once Mr Thompson, I agree with you.

    Church is about religion. Its not really a place for computer games. Especially using them as some sort of bribe to bring someone into religion. You are either religious or you aren’t… You shouldn’t wave Halo under someones nose then whilst there eyes are fixed on the game, fill their ears with preaching.

  112. 0
    Anonymous ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    You see, the problem with Jack Thompson is, he’s so grounded in the past he may as well be a member of the Knights Templar… oh not a popular one, probably one of those annoying guys that gets sent out first into a battle and miraculously survives despite all attempts to have him killed, not because of skill… let’s just call it the “jar-jar binks” effect.

    What he fails to realizes is that children don’t want to sit in church all mornings on a week day, they dont want to listen to an old man “prattle on” they want something interesting to do. In a world where every 3rd child is probably on ritalin because the parents are too afraid to discipline their children fearing state reprisals, if they’re not going to obey they’re parents, children are as sure as hell not going to listen to a stranger. The church is growing to adapt to the youth of this generation. Pity Jack wont…

  113. 0
    spartanmichael ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The killings in the bible make the killings in manhunt 2 look very tame after seeing alot of videos of the uncut version of manhunt 2 and yet the bible is taught to very young children. I dont even understand why manhunt 2 would get the AO rating in its uncut form if manhunt 1 was more violent and disturbing in some ways and still got the M rating. Now back to this, I think that there is nothing wrong with grouping up to play Halo 3 when you cant do anything brutal like blow off a head and limbs, and there is not that much blood coming out when you shoot someone. If the majority of the teachings is very brutal, then I see no problem having halo 3.

  114. 0
    Toshiro says:

    That’s odd…the Church should welcome Halo with open arms, after all, Religion has been the number 1 cause of death and violence in the World throughout history. Pot meet Kettle :)

  115. 0
    Paul ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Then we really should get rid of church softball leagues also. Church should be about Christ and not sports eh?”

    True, although I’m actually inclined to agree with Jack. Church is spiritual time, and if you want to play Halo 3 you can wait until you get home.

  116. 0
    Benji says:

    I agree with what Pen gun’s trying to say – change it now and it’ll just be a mess. I’m actually not sure if the pundits would go crazy, but there’s also the problem that, if people object to Halo for this reason it means they’re finally paying attention to the ratings system! To alter the ratings now, and make them more complicated, when the public at large is only now starting to figure out they exist and are useful, seems like it’d damage what progress had already been made.

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