"Bionic Commando" is less profane than "House of the Dead: Overkill," less gruesome than "Dead Rising," but publisher Capcom had a good reason for ensuring their game got an M rating. Read More...

When told that "Fallout 3" could not be released in Australia unless the game's real-life drug references were removed, Bethesda Softworks changed the references to fake drugs in every version of the game, but SouthPeak said that will not happen with "Velvet Assassin"'s references to morphine use. Read More...

America's video game ratings board and the country's most prominent seller of used games say that this week's "Animal Crossing" N-word incident doesn't expose a weakness in the ratings accuracy of used games.

Earlier this week we broke the news that copies of "Animal Crossing: Wild World" sent to reporters included a player-added racial slur. In what appeared to be meant in a hip-hop sense, rather than a term of offense, a character had been set up to greet the player with the word "N---a."

Nintendo quickly apologized and called for a return of the games, but the incident indicated a possible vulnerability in the ratings on used games.

"Animal Crossing" is rated E for everyone. And while the box does indicate that the "Game Experience May Change During Online Play," nothing on the box indicates that someone obtaining a used game might be exposed to some non-E-rated content.

I contacted the Entertainment Software Ratings Board and GameStop, which includes sales of used games as a significant part of its business, to get their thoughts on this apparent loophole. Read More...

Hillary ClintonLetters like E, T and M were not enough.

Descriptors like "blood," "strong sexual themes" and "tobacco references" did not suffice.

So today, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, with the support of some powerful former foes, has announced that all games rated by the ESRB since July 1 will now also be issued a "rating summary," accessible on the ESRB's website.

From the ESRB's press release, here's occasional gaming violence critic Senator Hillary Clinton being positive: "This new supplement to the ratings is a real gift for parents as we head into this holiday season. Parents need all the information they can get to make more informed decisions about what’s appropriate for their children. These new rating summaries offer more helpful information than ever before to help parents to get involved and get informed."

But are these summaries just good for parents? Let's say you were on the fence about whether "Fable II" is the right game for you. Would the following colorful summary sway you? Read More...

"MadWorld" is one of the most anticipated third-party Wii games and perhaps the most violent. Though sporting a black-and-white aesthetic, there's plenty of blood.

At the first day of Nintendo's fall summit in San Francisco, a pair of Sega representatives showed me an updated build of "Mad World" and described how they're handling the game's violent nature.

Sega is working closely with the Entertainment Software Ratings Board to ensure the game receives just an M rating, they told me. The ESRB receives new builds on a regular basis and Sega notes their feedback. Sega wants them to feel "part of the process" of developing "MadWorld" and isn't looking to surprise them.

And even though Japan-based Platinum Games is developing "MadWorld," Sega isn't sure "MadWorld" will show up in its native territory. Sega will not be showing the game at next week's Tokyo Game Show, and any Japanese release will be evaluated after "MadWorld" is released here in March 2009.

This also applies to other violence-sensitive countries, specifically Australia and Germany. Those markets could see "Mad \World," but it's not part of Sega's strategy right now. If "MadWorld" is a success, it might happen, but the concern right now is making it a western hit and ensuring its violence remains gory -- but within an M rating.

But don't let the ESRB's involvement make you nervous; "MadWorld" is plenty violent right now. It looks like "Sin City" was bathed in a bucket of blood.

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This Is The Amazing ‘Madworld’ T-Shirt — Sums Up Spirit Of The Wii Exclusive
Former Capcom Heavyweights Promise To Break ‘Trend’ Of Decline In Japanese Game Development

gtaiv-mature.jpgTwo weeks ago, I talked to three teenagers about how they've been playing "GTA" for years.

They explained how their parents felt and how they got to play the M-rated games even though they weren't 17.

Now that the game is out this week, we're taking a look back at a few of the comments from both young people and parents who have different opinions on the subject of underage "GTA"-playing.

Here are two teens who said their dads are police officers:

  • Multiplayer Reader Rob P.: "I'm 15 and personally, I hate the GTA games for one reason and one reason alone: you have to kill cops especially in San Andreas. My dad is a cop and I know the real-life bull crap he has to take in NYC and killing cops or any sort of person who risks their life to save others like firemen or doctors in any form of entertainment is disrespectful and disturbing."
  • Multiplayer Reader Andy: "My father practically grew up at the local arcade which included violent games and he actually became a police officer fighting violence. The first game I was ever introduced to (by watching my dad play them) was DOOM, then Duke Nukem, and more. ... Bottom line is they toght me early the differance between fake violence (horror movies, games, ect.) and real life."

Some readers, who are "GTA" players, find prostitution to be a problem:

  • Multiplayer Reader Ryan: "Maybe a 12 yr old kid doesn’t need to see me pick up a hooker, have sex with her to replenish my health, let her out of the car, beat her to death with a baseball bat and mug her of the money I just paid her for sex; but who am I to say who can/cannot play a game? It should be up to parents, not censorship."
  • Multiplayer Reader cody richardson: "after looking at gta iv i would [not] even let my little brother touch it with a ten foot pole, ill let him play gta3 but thats because the things werent so grapical then like with the prostitutes. now you can see them crawl on you and basicly have sex with you as in gta3 only the car shakes."

Read More...

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board thinks downloadable content is good, but not if the content steps outside of the original product's rating, we reported Wednesday.

That's not exactly the case.

The ESRB contacted MTV Multiplayer this morning to provide some clarification on ESRB president Patricia Vance's comments from the MI6 Conference.

Downloadable content can stray from the original rating, as long as the content is an optional downoad for the user.

"Companies are free to offer downloadable content to their games as long as the pertinent content is the same as the core product. If it isn't, they have to submit it to the ESRB," said Vance in an e-mailed statement to Multiplayer. "If the downloadable content earns a more restrictive (higher) age rating, and it is of an optional nature, it must display the new rating prior to the user downloading it. The core product's rating won't change, unless the new downloadable content is part of a required patch, as is typically the case with MMOs that must be patched in order to play."

Some readers had expressed distress over the ESRB's original statements and the implications for creative restriction, but Vance's new comments seem to put those concerns to rest. Readers, are you satisfied?

Grand Theft Auto: San AndreasIt's only been this generation that downloadable content has become a viable opportunity on consoles, and the Entertainment Software Ratings Board finds itself in a position to regulate this uncharted territory of content.

"The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion" expansion packs and the upcoming "Grand Theft Auto IV" upcoming add-ons represent the industry's most expansive departures from a game's original content. The catch: that content must remain consistent with the original rating branded by the ESRB.

New content cannot introduce elements that would alter the original rating, or the overall rating must change. ESRB president Patricia Vance explained what this meant for content makers at a MI6 Conference panel on marketing and user generated content last week.

Read More...

manhunt2_281×2111.jpgEarlier this week, news broke that Russian hackers altered the code of "Manhunt 2" on PSP, which removed special effects that obscured the game's most brutal kills.

Today, on an afternoon conference call with reporters, ESRB president Patricia Vance announced that the video game will not be re-rated back to its original Adults Only status despite the hack. Stephen Totilo was on the call, and asked if the ESRB was aware that the content was still on the disc, accessible by hackers:

"We make assumptions that those modifications that are being made are secure, that companies have taken reasonable measures to secure that those modifications can't be reverted and we made that assumption in this case. No matter what measures you take it seems that hackers will find ways to get into content and modify it. We're not security police here. We're here to inform consumers about content. We put the responsibility on publishers to create code, and program the games so that they operate effectively and to make sure the consumers are informed about the games they are playing. In this particular case you're dealing with unauthorized software that's being release, unauthorized uses of that software. Certainly I don't think the ESRB should be held responsible and I don't know to what extent you can hold the publisher responsible. These are acts of third parties and are unauthorized."

Read Totilo's entire story on MTV News.com.

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