SAN FRANCISCO, CA Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer today released the following statement on the Entertainment Software Rating Board's decision to change the rating of Manhunt 2 from AO (Adults Only) to M (Mature):
While we have recognized the ESRB in the past for its positive efforts to increase parental awareness of video game ratings, we take serious issue with the board's recent decision to reduce Rockstar Games Manhunt 2 from an AO rating to an M rating without providing any rationale for the change.
By all available accounts, Manhunt 2 is the most brutally violent game ever produced for wide release, including intense, realistic scenes of mutilation and even castration. Unfortunately, given Rockstar's history of creating and selling irresponsibly violent and graphic content -- you need look no further than Grand Theft Auto and the infamous Hot Coffee incident for evidence -- this isn't a surprise. Parents have probably come to expect bad behavior from Rockstar; but they deserve better from the ESRB.
It is clear that by lowering the rating, the ESRB has all but ensured that the game will be marketed and sold through channels popular with kids and teens -- and, despite industry claims to the contrary, kids under 17 can and do purchase M-rated games. Before Manhunt 2 is released for sale, parents deserve an explanation; they need to know the facts about this grossly violent game before it goes on the market.
By failing to explain their decision and, in turn, provide the transparency that consumers need if they are to trust the ESRB's ratings, the board threatens to undermine a ratings system that has many positive aspects and that could serve as an important tool for parents.