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Thursday, July 21, 2005

ESRB Re-Rating Bad News for Games

Well, I'm pretty surprised that the ESRB officially changed the rating of GTA:San Andreas based on user modification.

That's bad news people. And if you need proof, here you go:

The company said it cooperated fully with the ESRB's investigation into Hot Coffee and will provide a software patch for current users of the game and parents to ensure versions already out in the public cannot be modified. Take-Two will soon begin working on a version of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" with enhanced security to prevent the modifications that led to the revised rating, the company said.
-- GTA San Andreas withdrawn in US

Now ... how do you suppose they are going to do that? Let's see, here are some guesses:

1) Sue the pants off for the makers of Action Replay.

2) Institute DRM and copy protection schemes to insure that any modification of the game will require even more technical skill than the Hot Coffee mod (which was fairly considerable)

3) Take legal recourse against anyone who appears to be creating any user modification which could adversely effect the rating of the game.

Now. Take a look at those three and ask yourself ... do you really think that only Take Two and Rockstar will take these actions? Heh. Think again.

The modders I know from the Unreal community could make a decent multiplayer sex mod in about a month. I wonder if Epic is asking themselves right now if embracing mods is worth risking not being sold in Wal-Marts around the country.

It's sad to see the ESRB cowtow to political pressure like this. In the age of DMCA and people buying music they can't even copy from one machine to another, someone can take an existing game, modify it into porn, and cost a company a few million in sales. None of this had any legal standing, but the ESRB just set a completely inane precedent. Brilliant.


If the ESRB is going to put a burden on publishers and developers that requires policing any end user created content that may contain pornographic material, then developers like id, Valve, Epic, and others who actively support the mod community may have to reconsider how open we make our games to changes. In such a case, the ESRB would effectively be requiring us to throw out the baby with the bath water as far as modified content goes. Either way, I think developers and publishers are entitled to understand the ratings process, and in such a high-profile case, understand why the rating was changed so that we may plan accordingly.
-- Todd Hollenshead, CEO of id Software



Brinstar said...

I'm steeling myself for the backlash from "concerned parents" who bought their children this game.

Josh said...

Yeah, interesting how we don't see many concerned parents involved in these stories, isn't it?

It's supposed to be all for the public good, but the actual public seems like they could care less.