ESRB Turns Tail On Previous Standards

ESRB Turns Tail On Previous Standards

In a sharp reversal on their previous stance regarding unlocked content, the ESRB has issued a statement on the recent hacking of Manhunt 2 for the PSP, saying that Rockstar is not responsible for the AO-rated content that has been revealed as playable in the game. Patricia Vance, President of the ESRB, read the statement to journalists in a telephone press conference:

Once numerous changes to the game's code have been made and other unauthorized software programs have been downloaded to the hardware device which circumvent security controls that prevent unauthorized games from being played on that hardware, a player can view unobscured versions of certain violent acts in the game. Contrary to some reports, however, we do not believe these modifications fully restore the product to the version that originally received an AO rating, nor is this a matter of unlocking content.

This contradicts numerous instances where the ESRB brought the hammer down on game companies, including Rockstar, for explicit content that was only revealed after modifications to the game's code. For instance, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was re-rated from Teen to Mature when it was discovered that a player had modified the game using the game's own engine to create topless skins for players to use.

Vance defended the ESRB's stance against the reporters, saying there was a fundamental difference between modification of content and the unlocking of content. She mentioned Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as an instance of unlocking, even though to reveal the content, the game had to be modified by a patch found on the internet. She also said disclosure was an issue.

"There was a lack of previous disclosure of the content [in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas]," Vance said, whereas the violent content was disclosed by Rockstar to the ESRB during the ratings process.

The difference between modification and unlocking of content and how Manhunt 2 differs from Oblivion and San Andreas, as well as the precise rationale behind the re-rating of Manhunt 2 from AO to M was not made explicit by Vance.

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Sorry but this is blatantly wrong:

The Manhunt violence is /not/ unlocked content. The ESRB investigation has found that the extra violence is NOT on the disk and is not modded in either. It's a stolen copy of the game from beta when the violence was still in. Rockstar is not at fault and you can /not/ unlock the censored content by any methods with the actual retail game disk.

Well if they are modifying data, then I don't see how that is something that is contained in the disc. If that was the case, then anything that used separate sectors for certain aspects of the game could be altered to anyone's desire as long as they understood the base programing well enough. Anything that isn't in the release coding of the game shouldn't be considered for rating, because anything added to the game isn't really what you bought. Now if that kind of stuff is sent out/sold by the particular company, they should have to come up with a revised rating if the new content would cause any kind of change in rating to be necessary. But anything fan/customer/player/etc. made shouldn't be up for consideration in ratings.

zeekthegeek:
Sorry but this is blatantly wrong:

The Manhunt violence is /not/ unlocked content. The ESRB investigation has found that the extra violence is NOT on the disk and is not modded in either. It's a stolen copy of the game from beta when the violence was still in. Rockstar is not at fault and you can /not/ unlock the censored content by any methods with the actual retail game disk.

No, YOU are blatantly wrong.

Using a hacked PSP, you can change the gameplay experience on the retail disk to show some of the AO rated materials. It's EXACTLY like fucking Hot coffee. You even have to VOLUNTARILY download/ buy 3rd party software/ hardware to make it work.

How this is Rockstar's fault is beyond me. They hid the content, and anyone who wasn't looking for it wouldn't have just stumbled across it anyway. And anyone who "mistakenly" unlocked the content would be over 18 (right?) and playing a game where decapitations and torture for fun are encouraged.

Fuck the ESRB.

Fuck the ESRB? They just came to their senses! It seems like now they're starting to see the difference between 'in-game content' and 'hackable' content.

It's a funny thing. Unlocking content... that's made by using illegal tools, right?

From the moment you break the licence agreement, can the publisher or studio be held responsible?

I don't really know.

The question would be... if this locked content is not meant to be unlocked legally, why put it?

So in the end, the real deal is to rate a game based on the content a consumer can reach through legal means only.

Yep, when you buy a game, it's not technically yours.

Unlocking content doesn't mean doing anything illegal. At least, not most of the time.

Katana314:
Fuck the ESRB? They just came to their senses! It seems like now they're starting to see the difference between 'in-game content' and 'hackable' content.

I agree. I wouldn't mind them changing their tune if it means them growing a pair and facing down the mainstream media. Of course, that's what I'm hoping they will do. Can't be too sure at the moment.

Here is to hoping the companies won't be blamed for every tiny wrong people do over the titles.

Any strategy that relies on the courage of the ESRB, I am afraid, is doomed to fail.

It's one thing to change game content that isn't there to begin with. Tomb Raiders have been modding Lara and the games forever.

But including content that can be hacked and then saying it's not your fault if people play it. I mean, that's like putting a "click if you're over eighteen" button on a website. Lame, lame, lame.

AO content should not be on an M disk. It doesn't matter what you have to do to get to it, it just shouldn't be there.

Katana314:
Unlocking content doesn't mean doing anything illegal. At least, not most of the time.

Yes, when the unlockables have been put in the game for the purpose of being unlocked.

But the way it sounds like, it's like there's some mature rated content that could have not been unlocked or something, without using some pirate software or a hijacked console.

This is what drew me to the other question... was this content something like an easter egg, or some former data that the studio didn't remove, but simply locked away with code (say it was cheaper and faster than going through the ressources libraries), and wasn't meant to be unlocked by anyone, as long as you used the game under legal terms?

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From, TankaX your friendly gamer

I don't really find this in the same ballpark as the whole hot coffee fiasco. The content in the hot coffee mod was easily accessed via GameShark on the consoles and a simple download on the PC. This hack requires a modified PSP, custom firmware, and a game disc with a modified executable. Hardly easy to pull off, and the ESRB knows exactly what content is on display, where as the content in hot coffee was never disclosed. Seems a little like night and day.

I'd ask Rockstar "why leave such content inside the game?"

Given the lengths required to see that content, why not?

One of the BIG differences between the hot coffee , the oblivion thing and this is the nature of the unlocked or moded content, there always seems to be a much bigger emphasis put on censoring sexual content over violent game play. Sure you get to see a man killed in pretty graphic detail over and over and over till it's literally just pushing a button, devaluing the life, but thank god you don't see pussy that would REALLY mess people up.

*head desk head desk head desk*

So there is no difference in a cheat device to unlock content and using a hacked PSP with illicit software on it to hack the game.......DOH

Just wait till the cheat device Coders have their way with it they can do anything and thats why cheat devices are deading.

Nushi
you mean they might grow a think skin to sex and not try and have it all the damn time...the US is fckign messed up....

Also Oblivion had 2 issues going for it its not the hidden nipples that was not the real problem the OTT gore scenes pretty much did it and they had to correct the oversite, but still....with no childern to kill or harm and a few other things the game is T13/15,I think tis time the ESRB revises its teen/adult tiers, T13 is fine but theres such a gap in T and M that a T15 level would help take the not quite T and M games and elt both be a better slot for their ages.

Arbre:
I'd ask Rockstar "why leave such content inside the game?"

Given the nature of games, it is time consuming enough just to go through the code and make sure that content is never activated. However, if you remove that content completely, who knows what you're going to be fucking up. Inexplicable bugs and errors will start coming out of nowhere, or potential undetected bits of code where the game tries to look for a certain kill scene only to find that it's not there, freezing and crashing the game, etc.

Technically, Rockstar is taking the cheapest, least risky and less timely method of going about it. Unfortunately, as proved with Hot Coffee, that's not always the best thing to do.

Nushi:
One of the BIG differences between the hot coffee , the oblivion thing and this is the nature of the unlocked or moded content, there always seems to be a much bigger emphasis put on censoring sexual content over violent game play. Sure you get to see a man killed in pretty graphic detail over and over and over till it's literally just pushing a button, devaluing the life, but thank god you don't see pussy that would REALLY mess people up.

That's gross.

ccesarano:

Arbre:
I'd ask Rockstar "why leave such content inside the game?"

Given the nature of games, it is time consuming enough just to go through the code and make sure that content is never activated. However, if you remove that content completely, who knows what you're going to be fucking up. Inexplicable bugs and errors will start coming out of nowhere, or potential undetected bits of code where the game tries to look for a certain kill scene only to find that it's not there, freezing and crashing the game, etc.

Technically, Rockstar is taking the cheapest, least risky and less timely method of going about it. Unfortunately, as proved with Hot Coffee, that's not always the best thing to do.

Yes, exactly the point I was making earlier on. They dit it through code, instead of going into the stuff manually and removing all the bits by hand.

My earlier point was also simple: if that content cannot be accessed legally - cracking the game by any means is not legal - then you can't blame Rockstar.

To Nushi's point, the same sex/violence distinction also occurs in film. If a man kisses a woman's naked breast, that's NC-17. But if he "just" takes a chainsaw to her naked breast, that's R.

In short: We must protect the children from the sight of human affection. Human slaughter is all good, though.

Arbre:
I'd ask Rockstar "why leave such content inside the game?"

Probably because it was easier to leave it in and cover it up than to remove it and have to deal with any incompatibilities that it caused. Sometimes engines are hard-coded to assume the presence of certain files, and removing them completely would cause more trouble than it's worth.

Anyway, I'm glad that the ESRB is coming to its senses about these things. Though at the same time it looks more and more like Hillary Clinton might be the next president, and we all know the stance she takes on this issue.

Yeah, you people would love the South Park episode "Good Times with Weapons"
Basically, at the end, the parents' violence concerns are overshadowed by sexual concerns for their kids.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Times_with_Weapons

I was under the impression that the content in question in manhunt was obscured by blurring normally, and the hack just disables the blur.

innocent42:

Arbre:
I'd ask Rockstar "why leave such content inside the game?"

Probably because it was easier to leave it in and cover it up than to remove it and have to deal with any incompatibilities that it caused. Sometimes engines are hard-coded to assume the presence of certain files, and removing them completely would cause more trouble than it's worth.

Me:
"This is what drew me to the other question... was this content something like an easter egg, or some former data that the studio didn't remove, but simply locked away with code (say it was cheaper and faster than going through the ressources libraries), and wasn't meant to be unlocked by anyone, as long as you used the game under legal terms?"
;)

Archon:
To Nushi's point, the same sex/violence distinction also occurs in film. If a man kisses a woman's naked breast, that's NC-17. But if he "just" takes a chainsaw to her naked breast, that's R.

In short: We must protect the children from the sight of human affection. Human slaughter is all good, though.

That reminds me of "This Film is Not Yet Rated" :)

In all fairness, things have changed for the better since, This Film is not yet Rated was released. The main point of change being that directors are now allowed to compare and contrast other films when appealing a rating.

 

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