California Senator Leland Yee has joined with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood in demanding an explanation for the ESRB's recent decision to re-rate Manhunt 2 from AO (Adults Only) to M (Mature).
The game was originally given the prohibitive rating because of its extreme and gratuitous violence; after months of posturing and apparent indecision, Rockstar submitted an edited version of the game to the ESRB for consideration, which subsequently received the lower rating. Following that decision, demands were issued for the Rating Board and Rockstar to make public the reasoning behind the decision. Anti-videogame elements also took the opportunity to decry the ESRB itself and the processes by which game content is regulated. In a press release Yee said, "Parents can't trust a rating system that doesn't even disclose how they come to a particular rating. The ESRB and Rockstar should end this game of secrecy by immediately unveiling what content has been changed to great the new rating conclusion. Unfortunately, history shows that we must be quite skeptical of these two entities."
While Yee did not not elaborate on what "history" he was referring to, he did imply that the Board was beholden to the industry, which had a financial interest in ensuring games were not rated as AO. He also pointed out that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which was originally rated M, was found to have "graphic scenes featuring oral sex, nudity and simulated intercourse" hidden in its code, and that nearly half of all children aged 13 to 16 years "can successfully purchase M-rated games."
"Clearly the ESRB has a conflict of interest in rating these games," he continued. "It is time to bring transparency to this rating system and for the industry to be held accountable."
A well-known critic of the videogame industry, Yee was the author of a law that would would have restricted the same of violent videogames to minors in Calfornia. The law was struck down three weeks ago over First Amendment violations; Calfornia Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vowed to appeal the decision. The newly M-rated Manhunt 2 is scheduled for release on October 31.