Yee: ESRB issuing game ratings is like a “fox guarding the henhouse”

Friday, 29 October 2010 22:52 GMT By Stephany Nunneley


California state Senator Leland Yee, the author of a bill which criminalizes sales of violent games to minors, has said if his bill is passed, it will do much more than the ESRB does when it comes to games ratings.

According to the Senator, speaking with Gamespot, the ESRB being able to put a rating on games is like a “fox guarding a henhouse” because the it’s biased due to being funded by the game industry.

“Clearly, they’re not going to legitimately and appropriately place any markings on any video games, because it’s in the interest of the video [game] industry to sell as many video games as possible. You never heard of an AO rating whatsoever, because that would limit your market share,” said Yee.

“The other problem is, as you remember, a while back, when they had the Grand Theft Auto “Hot Coffee” [content] stuck in there, and the ratings system, the ratings board never found out about that. So I think you need to look at a different way of rating and [use] a different technology to figure out the content of these ultraviolent video games.”

To be fair, Yee has a couple of things wrong there. The first one is the AO ratings.

Yes, you never see an AO rating on a game – at least a mainstream one – because developers and publishers know that such a rating would cause the game to die at retail. When the ESRB handed out AO ratings in the past, using Manhunt 2 as just one example, the developers go back in and clean things up to make sure the game is handed an M rating at the very least.

Other titles given an AO rating, which were eventually cleaned enough for “mature” consumption were: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Fahrenheit, The Punisher and The Witcher.

The other thing Yee is wrong about was the ESRB’s lack of knowledge over the whole Hot Coffee fiasco. The ratings board was unaware of San Andreas having such content, and when the dirty bits came to light, it retracted the M rating and gave the game an AO rating, causing the game to be pulled from shelves and re-released all three systems. If played normally by users in the first place, the sexy Hot Coffee minigame would never even have come into public knowledge.

Later in the interview, Yee said even if his bill is passed, kids will still get to play “ultraviolent” games providing they got o their parents and if the parents allow them to have a violent game, they can. Only the parents will have to purchase the game for them, obviously.

The Supreme Court is expected to have a look at Yee’s bill next week, which CA governor Schwarzenegger has already tried and failed to get passed, due to the fact it’s considered unconstitutional by the First Amendment.