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

Friday, 29th 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.



  1. The_Red

    Why only the crazy uber-jerks end up as successful politicians? Can’t a sane, decent person ever become a Senator or a Parliament member?

    #1 4 years ago
  2. OrbitMonkey

    The irony here is that its Arnie, star of much loved children’s classic Commando and bar mitzvah favorite Total Recall, who’s pushing this bill.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. sebbie16

    Its always about games… You never here about kids buying R rated movies and adult themed books. I guess it is easy to devilize something the dumb media and public don’t understand.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. LordCancer

    fox guarding the henhouse? the real irony here is a senator accusing the esrb of being corrupt or inept.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. deathgaze

    The real problem here is that these politicians are making video games out to be a special case in popular media because of their interactivity. They forget that movies, comic books and music have all been down this road, had this fight and won it.

    It’s also worth pointing out that the “fox guards then henhouse” in the movie industry as well, as the MPAA is funded entirely by the major movie studios. In the case of the music industry, if I’m not mistaken, the Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics label is entirely voluntary!

    Also: The same as the President must fight in court for legislation that he doesn’t like (through the Justice Department), Gov. Schwarzenegger is also required to uphold this legislation. The reasons behind this are simple: If he doesn’t follow through with what legislators do, he has less clout to get the legislation he wants passed. It’s a lose/lose for him to not defend ANY legislation in court, not just this legislation.

    #5 4 years ago
  6. Phoenixblight

    Third time is the charm Arny? Very much doubt this will pass and it will put California in even more debt.

    #6 4 years ago
  7. Gekidami

    I like that pic.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. endgame

    yeah, Steph has a knack for finding things like this. :)

    #8 4 years ago
  9. Lord Gremlin

    What we all really need is more AO (R) rated games. They should be sold in a similar manner as alcohol. Alcohol is being sold in all big stores, yet it can be legitimately sold to adults only.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. The_Red

    @9 Definitly agreed.

    #10 4 years ago
  11. DaMan

    yes yes, we need more AO rated games, so that more devs go out of business due to low income.

    17 clearly isn’t old enough to play Leisure Suit Larry. I wasn’t even masturbating at that age.

    #11 4 years ago
  12. Freek

    A sane reasonable person doesn’t have the extreme passion required to succeed in politics.

    #12 4 years ago
  13. LordCancer

    I actually think with the age of digital distribution developers should be so bold as to go unrated, fuck the esrb, fuck the retail and fuck the politics!

    #13 4 years ago
  14. OrbitMonkey

    I think it shows a remarkable lack of intelligence to suggest video games are the only *interactive* media. ALL medium engages you, merely watching or reading is interaction.
    Still a remarkable lack of intelligence seems to be the big thing amongst politicians today.

    #14 4 years ago
  15. LordCancer

    I think yee would rather we remain passive slaves so he can tell us how to live and breath. after all, land of the free right?

    #15 4 years ago
  16. itwa5me

    @3 sebbie16
    Its because video games are one of the few things selling these days and they want a piece of it.

    They don’t really give a shit about the violence or sex, they just want to figure out ways to fine, tax and take over companies that arent in compliance or break the rules.

    The Motion Picture Association of America’s film-rating system is a voluntary system not enforced by law. Really how many serial killers and dirt bags got ideas from movies?? Its been a defense for decades, so this is really about money. Cali is in financial ruin.

    #16 4 years ago

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