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GCDC: Eggebrecht Condemns 'Bizarre' ESRB Ratings System

At the GCDC developer conference in Leipzig, Factor 5 president Julian Eggebrecht devoted his keynote, attended by Gamasutra, to censorship in games, sharply criticizing the ESRB for an "bizarre system" of rating games such as his own PS3 exclusive Lai
At the GCDC developer conference in Leipzig, Factor 5 president Julian Eggebrecht devoted his keynote to censorship in games, sharply criticizing the ESRB for an "bizarre system" of rating games such as his own PS3 exclusive Lair. Industry veteran Eggebrecht, whose formerly German-based company is now headquartered in the Bay Area, started his talk by discussing Lair and its theme, discussing why the game's theme might present a ratings problem. In Lair, you control a dragon, and the player has to feed it, maybe even by eating humans, with photorealistic violence part of the title. According to Eggebrecht, the developers at Factor 5 tweaked every part of the game according to the ESRB ratings board guidelines. For example, in the game, you can blow up a huge flying manta troop transport, a living being - but Factor 5 had to reduce the gore many times thanks to feedback. In the end, only the explosion was left. In the second example, dragons controlled by the Lair player eat humans, and the dragon can interactively chew on the humans, with intended (and already programmed) blood spray and physics effects. In the end, to get a Teen rating, all ragdoll physics and blood had to be removed from the title. As an ironically OK example, Eggebrecht explained that in the game, you can spew fire, setting thousands of people alight, who then run around, screaming. But that was no problem for the ESRB board, because there is no blood in these scenes. In the Factor 5 boss' view, the problem is that there is no rating between "Teen" and "Mature" in the US. He suggested that the grade of violence in "Teen" rated movies is higher than in games rated the same - so why we can't have the same grade of violence in computer games? So what to do with what Eggebrecht characterized as an "absolutely bizarre system", further condemning: "The whole rating process was a charade." His solution was to suggest a change up to the movie model and introduce a new rating model for computer games. The Factor 5 exec went on to examine the history of both violence and sex in movies, and especially focused on how, while sex-related content in movies can get a certificate, in games this is almost never the case. He pointed out that, in video games you are not allowed to show sexuality, or even think about showing homosexuality. The solution, Eggebrecht suggests? Reconsider and recognize games as an art form. He charged: "Are games art or are games toys which children play with?... It is time to wake up and make it happen." Finally, he referenced a sardonic cheat placed in Lair to mark the 'Hot Coffee' controversy, featuring a coffee maker, but indicated that they couldn't call it 'Hot Coffee' in the game over concern it would mock those investigating 'Hot Coffee'. And Eggebrecht's conclusion to this honest, intriguing lecture was stark: "Push the violence! Push the sex! But push it in an artistic way! Show that games are art!"

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