A group of U.S. senators, lead by Indiana state Democrat Evan Bayh, have called for tougher standards for rating violent games and a review of the “robustness” of the ratings process in the wake of controversy over Rockstar's Manhunt 2
According to newspaper The Journal Gazette
, the senators have been particularly concerned over the leak of the original version of Manhunt 2
for download over the Internet. This inspired them to write a letter to the president of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), saying: “We have consistently urged parents to pay attention to the (board’s) rating system. We must ensure that parents can rely on the consistency and accuracy of those ratings.”
Together with Senators Hillary Clinton and Joe Liberman, Bayh campaigned for the introduction of the Family Entertainment Protection Act
, which would have imposed fines of $1,000 or 100 hours of community service for the first act of selling M or AO games to minors, with $5,000 or 500 hours for each additional offense.
Bayh’s new focus is on forcing the ESRB to take into account the psychological impact of acting out actions in a game, in reference to the Wii motion controls in Manhunt 2
. He has also criticized the lack of information on why a game is given a particular rating and the reasons behind any subsequent changes.
“There appears to be a lack of information, to the public and developers, why a particular rating is given or changed... Why is information regarding rating changes or reasons for decisions unavailable, except for content descriptors, to the public?”
The senators’ letter to the ESRB argues that the need for confidentially between publishers submitting a game for rating and the ratings board is “no longer compelling”. They further speculate that some publishers submit a version of a game to the board with the expectation that it will initially receive an Adults Only rating, purely to gain publicity before resubmitting an “M for Mature” version.