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Category — Game Ratings

UK’s Video Appeals Committee Rules in Favour of Manhunt 2 – Again

Categories: DecisionsGame BansGame Ratings

In June 2007, the British Board of Film Classification refused to rate Rockstar’s highly violent and controversial video game Manhunt 2 – effectively banning it from distribution in the U.K. The BBFC called it “unremittingly bleak, callous and sadistic”. An edited version of the game was submitted to the BBFC in October 2007. It too was effectively banned. This was the first video game ban in Britain since 1997.

Rockstar appealed the ban to the Video Appeals Committee of the BBFC which ruled last December, 4 to 3, in Rockstar’s favour. The BBFC sought judicial review of the VAC’s decision from the British High Court. The court found that VAC’s decision was flawed by a clear error of law (see here, here and here). The High Court requested the VAC to reconsider its decision under new guidelines specified by the court.

In January 2008, the VAC did reconsider under the new guidelines but voted once again, 4 to 3, in favour of giving the game a certificate 18 rating, meaning it can be sold in Britain but is suitable for adults only.

In view of the second ruling, the BBFC released a statement saying it will not challenge the ruling any further and will issue the ’18′ rating. The edited version of the game (which is the same as the ‘reworked’ version of the game released in the U.S. under an “M’ rating) is expected to be on U.K. store shelves in June.

Click here for Wikipedia’s Timeline.

Dale’s Note: I have not yet found the text of the High Court decision or the ‘new guidelines’ it presented to the VAC. If I do, I will post them here.

Sources: BBC | Telegraph.co.uk | GameIndustry.biz 1| GameIndustry.biz 2 | MCV | BCS | Joystiq | Computer Active | Dose.ca | vnunet.com | Games Digest | EuroGamer 1 | EuroGamer 2

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Midway Blitz – Yet Another Video Game Banned in Australia

Categories: Game BansGame Ratings

Midway Blitz becomes the latest video game to be denied an official age classification in Australia by the OFLC, making it illegal for the game to be sold, hired, advertised or exhibited in the country. This time it was denied classification because of drug use by some game characters. The OFLC Media Release reads, in part:

Specifically, in the course of the game, the player may access what are purported to be both legal and illegal performance-enhancing drugs for the members of their team. Choosing to use these drugs, which each have different characteristics, will have effects on team-members, such as improving their speed while also making them more susceptible to injury. Fake urine samples may also be acquired for avoiding positive drug tests.

While the game-player can choose not to use the drugs, in the Board’s view there is an incentive to use them. By using them judiciously, the player can improve the performance of their football team (while managing the negative effects) and have a better chance of winning games, thereby winning bets and climbing the league table.

Blitz’s local distributor Red Ant, has not decided yet whether to appeal.

Sources: GamePolitics.com | GameSpot | OFLC Media Release

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EU Considers Unified Violent Games Restrictions

Categories: Game RatingsLegal ReformViolent Game Laws

Germany is leading the European Union in calling for the EU to adopt an Europe-wide standardized labeling system with age restrictions and warnings. Each country would be free to set their own ratings.

Sources: Gamasutra | GamePolitics.com

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Germany Restricts Crackdown Sales

Categories: Game BansGame RatingsViolent Game Law Cases

Along with Gears of War and Dead Rising before it, Germany’s USK has decided not to rate the video Crackdown. The result is not a total game ban. However, the game cannot be sold to minors, cannot be marketed in Germany and stores cannot display it on racks. Rather, it can only be sold to adults from under the counter.

Dale’s Comment: Crackdown has been one of my most enjoyed 360 games in the first quarter of 2007. Importantly, the May 16 Halo 3 public demo of will only be available to a select few and those that purchase specially marked Crackddown units. There will be more than a few disappointed minors in Germany looking forward to playing the Halo 3 public demo.

Sources: GameSpot | GamePolitics.com | Business Week

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Nassau County New York Mandates ESRB Ratings Signage

Categories: Child Sale RestrictionsGame RatingsNew LawsRetail Sales

Following both the States of Georgia and Washington, New York State county, Nassau, enacted a law requiring video game retailers to post signs explaining the ERSB rating system.

Source: GamePolitics.com

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Finland Adopts PEGI Rating System in Law

Categories: Game RatingsLegal Reform

Unofficial Translation of Law
Finland has enshrined the The Pan European Game Information (PEGI) rating system as law.  According to the PEGI press release:

The Finnish Parliament passed a revision to the Act on Classification of Audiovisual Programs enabling the recognition of all PEGI age classifications into Finnish Law. From the outset, i.e. April2003, PEGI ratings have been endorsed by the Finnish Board of Film Classification on the basis of the Act on Classification of Audiovisual Programs. Article 12, however, provided for 11 and 15 age categories instead of the PEGI 12+ and 16+ respectively. By revising article 12, the Finnish Parliament has now fully acknowledged the PEGI system into its legislation. From January 1, 2007 onwards, all the PEGI age categories (3+, 7+, 12+, 16+ and 18+) will be in use on video games sold in Finland.

Sources: GamePolitics.com | GameDaily.biz | PEGI Press Release

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Hot Coffee’s Effects on the Mod Scene

Categories: Featured ArticlesGame RatingsModding CasesSexuality Cases

This Gamasutra feature article is a very interesting article on the Effects of ‘Hot Coffee’ on the game modding scene. Mods can inprove and extend the life of video games but since Hot Coffee, there is a keen awareness of the liability that game modding can expose developers and publishers to.

Sources: Gamasutra

‘Hot Coffee’ Related Posts:

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How the PEGI and BBFC Rating Systems Work

Categories: Featured ArticlesGame Ratings

In this Gamasutra article, members from the PEGI (Pan European Game Information) and the BBFC (British Board of Film classification) game rating systems work.

Source: Gamasutra

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Congressman Joe Pitts Claims his Video Game Comments were Misportrayed in Daily Show Lampoon

Categories: Game RatingsHumourLegal ReformPolicy AnalysisViolent Game Laws

After raising many eyebrows with his comments, Congressman Joe Pitts claims his statements on the affects of violent video games on children aired in a June 22 Daily Show segment were misportrayed.

Sources: DailyLocal.com | GamePolitics | Joystiq | YouTube Video (snippet)

Click here to view YouTube video.

Dale’s Comment: It’s hard to understand how Congressman’s Pitt’s comments could have been misportrayed. They were aired uncut. This is simply another example of a (probably) well intentioned, aging, out of touch Senator speaking on a subject he does not understand. Sounds like Washington as usual to me.

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Jon Stewart on Congressional Debate over Video Games

Categories: Game RatingsHumourLegal ReformPolicy AnalysisViolent Game Laws

In this Daily Show clip, Jon Stewart lampoons Congressman Joe Pitts’ Lack of understanding of the video game industry, affects of violence on children and the ESRB rating system.

Sources: YouTube Video (snippet) | joystiq | GamePolitics | Gamasutra | GameIndustry.biz

Click here to view YouTube video.

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ESRB to Institute Possible $1m Game-Ratings Fine

Categories: Agency/Board ActionsGame Ratings

The ratings board has “enhanced” its enforcement system, and will soon be able to fine companies up to $1 million for failing to disclose objectionable content during the game-ratings process. In addition, repeat offenders could have their ratings services revoked entirely.
 
Sources: GameSpot  |  Next Generation  |  GameDaily.biz  |  GameIndustry.biz  |  1Up.com  |  Kotaku  |  Joystiq

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Take-Two/Rockstar Settle with FTC over Hot Coffee Mod

Categories: Game RatingsInvestigationsSettlementsSexuality Cases

Text of Consent Agreement
Under a consent agreement, accepted by the FTC in a 5-0 vote, Take-Two and Rockstar Games will be subject to civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation if they violate their agreement to: (i) “clearly and prominently disclose on product packaging and in any promotion or advertisement for electronic games, content relevant to the rating, unless that content had been disclosed sufficiently in prior submissions to the rating authority”; (ii) not misrepresent the rating or content descriptors for an electronic game; and (iii) “establish, implement, and maintain a comprehensive system reasonably designed to ensure that all content in an electronic game is considered and reviewed in preparing submissions to a rating authority.”

Sources: FTC Press Release | Gamasutra | ars technica | joystiq | GameSpot | Next Generation | GameDaily.biz | GamePolitics.com | ars technica | 1Up.com | CNet | San Jose Mercury News | TheStreet.com | CNN

New York Investigation:

LA Civil Suit:

FTC Investigation Related Posts:

Stanhouse Class Action Suit:

Cohen Class Action Suit:

Other Hot Coffee Related Posts:

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ESRB Re-rates Oblivion to Mature Following 3rd Party Mods

Categories: Agency/Board ActionsGame RatingsSexuality Cases

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has changed the rating assigned to the PC version of Bethesda Softwork’s blockbuster video game Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion from T (Teen 13+) to M (Mature 17+), following the revelation of a topless game skin contained within modded versions of the game. The un-moddable Xbox 360 version of the game has also been re-rated to M ostensibly due to “Blood and Gore, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence”. While critical of the decision, Bethesda has chosen not to challenge the ruling.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameSpot | Next Generation | GameDaily.biz | GameIndustry.biz | 1Up.com | GameSpy | Washington Post | Reuters | San Jose Mercury News | The Inquirer | Joystiq | GamePolitics

Bethesda’s Response: Bethesda Press Release | Gamasutra | GameSpot | Next Generation | Team Xbox | GamePolitics

ESRB’s Response to Industry Criticism:GameDaily.biz

Dale’s Comment: Based on the facts as I understand them, this is regrettable. It is unclear why Bethesda should suffer as a result of third-party mods added into their game without their control. This ruling has the effect of requiring developers to make their games tamper-proof in order to avoid retroactive ratings changes based on the malicious behavior of others. This is very different from last year’s GTA Hot Coffee controversy where, despite early denials, it was later determined that Rockstar had, indeed, embedded unlockable sex scenes within the source code of the game. As far as we understand from Bethesda so far, this is not the case here. But, given the heat the ESRB took last year for its failure to quickly respond, I can somewhat understand this “shoot first, ask questions later” approach, as unfair as it may be to Bethesda.

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ELSPA Boss Blasts U.K. MP’s “utter nonsense” Violent Games Speech

Categories: Game RatingsViolent Game Laws

U.K. MP Vaz had proposed an amendment to the Video Recordings Act 1984, which would make it mandatory for video games to receive content ratings in the same way that films do – a role currently fulfilled by the voluntary PEGI ratings system.

Sources: GameIndustry.biz  |  GamePolitics.com

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Japan To Introduce Revised CERO Ratings System

Categories: Game Ratings

The Computer Entertainment Rating Organization (CERO) in Japan is to implement a new ratings system for video games sold in the country, beginning from March 1st.

Sources: Gamasutra | Gameindustry.biz | Game Politics | Gamers.com

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GamePolitics Interviews David Walsh on the NIMF Recent Video Game Report Card

Categories: Game Ratings

In this Gamepolitics.com podcast (originally “aired” on Dec 22, 2005) Dr. David Walsh, President of the National Institute on Media and the Family, is interviewed on the Failing Grade it gave to the ESRB Ratings system in its 2005 Video Game Report Card. In the podcast Walsh provides an overview of the history of institute, its ongoing controversy with the ESRB rating system, and its initiative to promulgate a new rating system.

Source: GamePolitics.com  |  Click Here to Listen to the Podcast

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South Korean Ratings Board Strict On North Korean Depictions

Categories: Disgruntled CountriesGame BansGame Ratings

Western games have come under heavier scrutiny by the Korea Media Rating Board, a South Korean organization with the ability to either rate media by age classification or block its release entirely. Ghost Recon 2, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, and Mercenaries: Playgrounds of Destruction, have been banned by the media board for featuring the North Korean military as villains.
Source: Gamasutra

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Cell Phone Industry Adopts Ratings for Cell-Phone Video Games

Categories: Game RatingsNew Tech

Representatives from cell phone industry group CITA (Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association) have announced that music, video and gaming products for cell phones in the U.S. are to adopt a new rating system as part of a new set of voluntary “Wireless Content Guidelines”.

Source: Gamasutra

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Australian Province of Victoria considers Changing Game Ratings

Categories: Game Ratings

Australia is known for banning many video games that are commonly acceptable in North America and Europe. Australia does not have a “mature” classification for games as it does for films. Australian’s IEAA (an industry lobby group) commissioned a study that finds that 88% of the survey’s respondents believe that games with mature themes should be classified as 18+ just as films are. Members of Australian provincial government of Victoria is meeting this week to discuss the renewed calls for a change in the national laws with a view to including an 18+ rating for video games.

Sources: gamasutra.com | gameindustry.biz | EuroGamer

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Ratings Firm Offers ESRB Overhaul

Categories: Game Ratings

PSVratings has offered to take on the job of categorizing games. The firm says it can address subjectivity issues in various State laws designed to protect minors from ‘violent’ games.

Source: Next-Gen.biz

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Second Japanese Prefecture Restricts Grand Theft Auto III

Categories: Child Sale RestrictionsGame RatingsRetail Sales

The Japanese prefecture of Saitama, which neighbors Tokyo, has become the second local government in Japan to ban the sale of Grand Theft Auto III to anyone aged under eighteen, according to Japanese online reports.

Source: Gamasutra

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ESRB Demands U.S. Game Publisher Audits For Hidden Game Content

Categories: Agency/Board ActionsGame RatingsSexuality Cases

In the wake of the hot-coffee controversy, the Entertainment Software Rating Board is demanding that US publishers complete a comprehensive audit of all titles released over the past year in a bid to crack down on hidden in-game content.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameIndustry.biz | The Register | Ferrago

New York Investigation:

LA Civil Suit:

FTC Investigation Related Posts:

Stanhouse Class Action Suit:

Cohen Class Action Suit:

Other Hot Coffee Related Posts:

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‘Hot Coffee’ FTC Inquiry Given Go Ahead

Categories: Game RatingsInvestigationsSexuality Cases

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted 355 to 21 to support a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) inquiry into Take-Two Interactive/Rockstar Games, with the intention of discovering whether the company and its subsidiary attempted to deceive the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) over the sexual content of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to avoid an ‘Adults Only’ rating.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameIndustry.biz | The Register | 1Up.com | MSNBC | Gamespot | Yahoo! Games

New York Investigation:

LA Civil Suit:

FTC Investigation Related Posts:

Stanhouse Class Action Suit:

Cohen Class Action Suit:

Other Hot Coffee Related Posts:

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GTA San Andreas Rerated AO, Take-Two Suspends Production

Categories: Game RatingsInvestigationsSexuality Cases

In the wake of the ‘hot coffee’ controversy, the ESRB slaps dreaded rating on controversial best seller. Take-Two lowers guidance; Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target pull game from shelves.

Sources: Gamespot | Gamasutra | CNN Money | Gamespot | PC Magazine | Joystiq | IGN.com | Forbes

New York Investigation:

LA Civil Suit:

FTC Investigation Related Posts:

Stanhouse Class Action Suit:

Cohen Class Action Suit:

Other Hot Coffee Related Posts:

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Japanese Retailers Enforce Restrictions on 18-Rated Games

Categories: Child Sale RestrictionsGame RatingsRetail Sales

The Computer Entertainment Supplier’s Association, the Japanese counterpart to the ESRB, has announced a voluntary program to prevent the sale of games rated 18 to minors. The program is seen partially as a preemptive move to cancel possible governmental restrictions in the wake of Kanagawa prefecture’s labeling of Grand Theft Auto III as banned to minors under the legislature.

Sources: Gamasutra | Gamespot | Gamespot (earlier June 27 story)
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