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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Make up your mind, ESRB

How could they annoy me more? Let's review public statements concerning mods made by Patricia Vance and the ESRB.

Considering the existence of the undisclosed and highly pertinent content on the final discs, compounded by the broad distribution of the third party modification, the credibility and utility of the initial ESRB rating has been seriously undermined

Furthermore, the ESRB calls on the computer and video game industry to proactively protect their games from illegal modifications by third parties, particularly when they serve to undermine the accuracy of the rating.

If the rating itself is being undermined by third-party modification, I think we as an industry need to figure out what to do about that.

What we're saying is that if you, as publisher, produce content that's pertinent to a rating, and leave it on a disc--risking that it might be accessed by a modder--then it's your responsibility. And if it undermines the accuracy of the rating, it's your responsibility.

The situation with Hot Coffee, it wasn't the [hacker's] modification that caused us to change the rating, it was the fact that this content existed on the disc and it was made accessible through modification, and was not disclosed.

ESRB remains concerned about third party modifications that undermine the accuracy of the original rating, and we are exploring ways to maintain the credibility of the rating system with consumers in light of modifications of this nature.

Well Christ on a stick, that's clear as mud now. First, the ESRB makes the modification an integral part of their decision against Rockstar. Then, they basically say it's not really so much their jurisdiction, but really the publisher's concern. Later, Vance backtracks completely and makes the modification sound almost irrelevant.

And now. Now, they're going to look into it some more. What the hell? The problem the ESRB has is that they bowed to public pressure instead of drawing a line in the sand. That line should be simple - what you do to your game is your business. If you download a porn mod, that's your responsiblity. If you buy your kid a device designed to hack PS2 games, that's your problem. If you draw naked bits on the screen with a felt tip marker, don't come a calling to us. The connection that Rockstar left content on the disc ignores the fact that someone willingly unlocked it to see it again.

In other words, nobody got porn on their game that wasn't asking for it. And that basic truth holds for almost every game out there. Look people, since I put that "nude patch" tagline joke on Cathode Tan, my traffic has doubled. So don't give me that "Rockstar is the devil corrupting us" crap, I've had people looking for ways to make Zelda naked.

You can hate Rockstar all you want, but anyone who saw the Hot Coffee mod did so because they wanted to see the Hot Coffee mod and willfully made it happen. I thought perhaps the ESRB had finally made it's distinction that they would only police content on a disc, but this constant flip-flopping makes me pretty unsure. And we're only one good porn mod away from giving it a litmus test.

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