ESRB’s Manhunt 2 Explanation Timely, But Not Likely to Satisfy Critics

ESRB president Patricia Vance’s lengthy Manhunt 2 statement, issued yesterday, won’t silence critics of the ultra-violent game 2 any time soon.

The explanation offered by the head of the video game industry’s content rating board is esoteric and highly technical – hardly an effective counter to the gut-level, protect-the-children type of accusations being leveled at the game by the likes of Leland Yee, Common Sense Media, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Parents Television Council.

However, let’s give kudos where they are due. Vance, the ESRB and publisher Take Two Interactive addressed the situation swiftly and publicly – something they failed to do during the 2005 Hot Coffee fiasco, which played out over an agonizing month of denials and stonewalling before reaching its expensive and public image-shattering conclusion.

So, good on them for being responsive. But questions remain. The San Jose Mercury-News’ Dean Takahashi, a pretty tech-savvy journalist, writes about what’s on his mind concerning the Manhunt 2 affair:

In my opinion, some of [Vance’s] answers make sense; some don’t…

Here’s what doesn’t make sense to me. Vance said it was easy to modify the PC version of GTA: San Andreas to depict Hot Coffee. Here she notes that the player has to modify both the hardware and the software to view the hacked code… There is a technical difference here, but I’m not understanding it. It seems to me that it would be just as easy to mod the Manhunt 2 game as it was to install Hot Coffee…

[Vance] noted that there are a lot of people reporting on the [Manhunt 2] matter who are not technically up to speed on how this is different from the Hot Coffee situation. I guess that includes me. Rockstar is clearly getting a pass from the ESRB today…

Did Rockstar say to the ESRB: “Oh, yeah, we have the original execution scenes here and we blurred them. We don’t think anyone can unblur them and we have done our best to make sure that doesn’t happen.” If it did something like that, I can see why they get a pass. But if they stopped short of that, then it’s a little foggy to me.

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