Does the gaming industry have a chance of growing beyond its labels and, in turn, its ratings? Maybe, but it will take one of the big three game companies to rebel and step out of line with the ESRB. It goes without saying that the ESRB won't be the first to break the mold, so until someone decides the rating system is out of touch, the game/rating/company trifecta will stay in place.
As far as my personal feelings on Manhunt 2, I still haven't made up my mind. Part of me hates censorship in all its forms, but another part of me agrees with the decision to rework the game. There is plenty of violence in our culture, both real and fictional, so do we really need a game that bases its popularity on blood and gore alone? I don't believe we do. Also, the M and AO ratings emblazoned on game boxes seem to have an opposite effect; kids want the games that are "mature" while most older gamers, as in the gamers that are actually able to buy M and AO rated games, have matured enough to know that violence doesn't automatically make a good game.
So kids want adult games, adults don't need all their games to be violent. Games are viewed as toys. When a game is clearly not for children, the companies won't allow its publication. The companies wonder why people see games as "kiddy" pastime. It is a tangled web we gamers weave. No matter the outcome of this controversy, one thing is for sure: Anyone who didn't get a chance to play Night Trap starring Dana Plato (the first game to be assigned the AO rating) isn't missing much. I predict Manhunt 2 to end up as just one of thousands of games that end up forgotten very quickly. If you are one of the people who was looking forward to Manhunt 2, I'm sorry your game won't be available as soon as you would have liked and in its original form, but it takes Different Strokes to rule the world (Dana Plato, Different Strokes…get it? Yeah…that wasn't funny at all…)
Philip Hanan, Freelance Writer
There have been lots of violent games for those 17 and under and lots of great selling games with hardly any violence at all, so why does Rockstar feel the need to go AO? I think it's simply because controversy has always sold for them. If Rockstar doesn't get more violence or nudity in their games, people might not even care about their company any more. Rockstar is like Howard Stern trying to push his promotions and nudity.
I don't believe there is any reason for a video game to be AO unless it's pornographic. I suppose you could feature Mortal Kombat-esque fatalities in the game, but MK is rated M, not AO. I can't imagine how much more violent you can get than MK: Armageddon, but Rockstar is trying to go there.
Unless a game depicts actual events in mankind, such as World War II, it seems pointless to throw in more violence in a game. Just because we can make vastly violence games doesn't mean we should. With an AO rating, only gamers 18 and older will be able to purchase it, which knocks out a huge audience of gamers. Also, if Sony and Nintendo had allowed 18+ games, what would we see? Would we really see improved video games? I don't think so. If you can make a game only for 18+ gamers, you might as well go all the way and feature nude women hacking each other apart. There's no need whatsoever for the extra violence. It won't make a game any better unless violent people aren't gamers yet because there's no game with enough bloodshed for them. I say if someone has to have more violence in their games, something is wrong with them mentally.
I'm glad Nintendo and Sony won't support AO games because you might as well forget focusing on the gameplay since there's hardly any AO games to compete with. If AO games were really big sellers, then you might see some decent games, but they'd probably be pushing the envelope big time. I suppose you could take some of today's games and push them toward the AO rating, but would it make the game sell more?
Outlaw Volleyball could have had nudity and Outlaw Golf could have golfers shotgun each other, but does it even make sense? I suppose FPS with flamethrowers could have more graphic effects, but unless gamers buy a game for its controversy, it won't sell. Games aren't just about graphics and people don't play games for small parts of a game such as one gory scene in a game or a naked Raiden. I would hope video game developers would try to show violence as minimal as possible unless it's needed to carry a story. We have enough people and movies in this world pushing violence and nudity. Hopefully, 18+ year olds can still be entertained with punches, kicks, and only scantily clad women.
What does this rating mean to the industry? It means that the ESRB knows when too much is too much and hopefully this will help control game developers and give them an idea of what they can put in an M rated game. I believe we have mature enough games as it is and if you think about it, it takes a really mature person to enjoy games with deep stories and not pure violence. It takes a mature person to play games with nudity and not purchases games with pornographic nudity. I'm glad that there are certain limitations on games set by Sony and Nintendo because it would be creepy to see an 18+ ask for a video game hidden in a paperbag stored in a glass case behind a cashier's counter.
Devin Finley, Freelance Writer
The whip begins to crack down on video games. Manhunt 2 is first in line to receive adult only (AO) rating for the new consoles. Does this mean more will follow? I wouldn't doubt it for a second. The more parents with troubled kids that point their fingers at the game industry, backed by media coverage, the tougher ratings will get. Parents have learned that beating your kids, or even punishing them is almost impossible without getting CPS called on them, and as a result, they let their kids do whatever they please and just point fingers when kids go nuts. It's simpler that way. "We had no idea and we never knew a game could do this to you…" whatever. Manhunt 2 is victim of an uprising war against the gaming industry; the same people that censor America have won a huge battle in making Manhunt 2 AO. Though it is a poor idea that M is 17 and older and AO is 18 and older… alas, common sense has apparently failed us again.
I feel that Manhunt 2 made the perfect target for censorship, since the original was blamed for a murder in Ireland, it is a man on man killer, and the graphics are-for lack of a better word-graphic. Let's face it, if these were monsters, ghoulies, spirits, or other, the AO rating would have never been raised as an issue. Manhunt 2 is a new age game that pushes the limits I'm sure, just like Nip Tuck and The Shield push the boundaries of the FCC on television. It is unfortunate that this game is not a large enough title with the fan base to fight like the larger titles (GTA) could, thus making it is a perfect target for censorship. Can we expect that censorship will attack a few more small games before tackling the big dogs? That answer thus far remains to be seen with GTA on the tail on Manhunt 2. Here we are presented with another question. Would Sony and Nintendo still agree NOT to carry AO games and risk losing millions of dollars to Microsoft?
There are few who would believe, myself included, that Nintendo and Sony would remain as firm as they are standing now, were it a multi-million dollar game title. Many adult gamers are being pulled into the game industry because of more realistic games with more mature content, so why are we saying now that there is not a market for adult gaming? Will adults be forced to sit around playing Mario Party? Nintendo hangs up its training wheels to enter an adult market but moves only to a tricycle? Sony markets a game where beating, stealing, and murdering are ok but… not Manhunt 2. I'm at a loss of words. Step up or back off is how I feel. If Manhunt 2 gets the AO rating, let Sony and Nintendo give it a market to play in or have censorship back off the game and give it an M rating. Bottom line, stop pointing fingers, and start being responsible parents. Don't worry about censorship, it's not the government's job to monitor your children. If parents could be what parents are supposed to, nothing would need to be censored, we would leave it to RESPONSIBLE parents to make GOOD DECISIONS.