Culture Clash: With Teeth

This month’s IGDA Culture Clash article calls for a reform of the ESRB rating system. Amongst Sakey’s reccommendations are:

  • Don’t hold publishers responsible for the actions of modders
  • Don’t re-rate games so quickly
  • Content descriptors should be more prominent than the ratings
  • Don’t separate sex and violence
  • Enforce the ratings
  • Enforce policy wisely

In other words, “demonstrate that the industry can police itself”.

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  4 comments for “Culture Clash: With Teeth

  1. 5 June 2006 at 12:36

    Hahahaha! What? The industry that produced Grand Theft Auto? The industry that produced Elexis Sin?

    But really, I think neither Rockstar nor Bethesda knew that their contentious content was on the pressed discs. I think both of those were products of ignorance rather than wilful flouting of guidelines.

    As for lumping Sex and Violence together… Ridiculous! It’s supposed to be an informative guide. Sex is not equal or akin to violence. People who dislike violence do not necessarily have the same attitude towards a pixellated nipple or gyrating bodies. Isn’t it all about making sure the consumer is fully informed? I agree that graphic depictions of both should be capable of producing AO ratings but in no way should they be lumped together as generic Bad Things.

  2. 5 June 2006 at 13:26

    I think that what Sakey meant by “the industry should police itself” is that the ERSB should be stricter in enforcing policy, and they should do it sensibly, instead of crumbling under the pressure of the mainstream media.

    I think that Bethesda knew that their content was there, but they didn’t think it would be a problem. It hadn’t been with other games in the past, so they didn’t think it would be an issue. It’s apparently standard practice to have a Barbie doll level of detail on nude models so that clothes can be put over them in a convincing way. This was then hacked by modders, who also created realistic skins.

    The problem is that the ESRB then decided that the user-modified content in Oblivion required that the game be re-rated. I believe that this is wrong.

    Hot Coffee and Oblivion were partly due to ignorance (and perhaps shortsightedness in light of the conservative political climate these days) as you said, but in my opinion the publishers were less to blame than the media who warped and over-reacted to the situation. The Oblivion re-rating would have been less likely to happen had Hot Coffee not occurred.

    I think perhaps his point is that Puritanical America doesn’t think that children being exposed to violence is more worrisome than children being exposed to sex. By lumping the two together, perhaps he thinks that it would be more “responsible”? I’m not really sure.

    But I do see your point. Children are routinely exposed to violence in the media at an early age. The average cartoon has a lot of violence. Sex, on the other hand, is something that they are exposed to at a later age because (I think most people would agree) they aren’t able to discuss it or think about it maturely (“Eeeewww!”).

  3. 6 June 2006 at 13:53

    It is insanely dumb to go after the ESRB for the actions of modders. I’ve been messing with games since the 80’s ever since I resurrected my pilots in “Their Finest Hour” because I didn’t want to lose all my progress (and thus unintentionally creating the Luftwaffe Zombie Corps)

    Even if a game is not explicitely made to be modded, there are still ways to do it. I think it’s silly to change the rating based on a user going out and adding content to the game. Once the game is purchased, what the user does with it is their business.

    It’s easier to find porn on the Internet than it is to mod a game. Ironically, most of these “objectionable” mods are all found on the Internet. Speaking as a parent, game modifications are the least of my worries. Games like GTA: San Andreas already weren’t appropriate for my kids, so why am I supposed to care anyway?

  4. 11 October 2006 at 09:21

    I cannot believe the industry blames modders! TES IV was rerated for its violence not the nude skin that modders never created. That was already in the game. The game is meant to be modded so that’s a part of the game. The GTA content was already on the game cd/dvd as well. That is the issue not modders! The ESRB considers content on the cd or dvd too not just in the game. I blame Beth 100% for not showing ESRB all the violence in their game. No way should that game have been a Teen rated game. They got my middle finger for shifting blame on modders.

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