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The "Adults Only" rating remains the kiss of death for any game that hopes to lớn make a dent in mainstream retail.

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Stores won"t carry games rated Adults Only, nor will Sony, Microsoft or Nintenbởi give them an official release on consoles. The ESRB"s listing of AO-rated games show how often the rating is granted due to graphic sexual imagery or nudity, and how rarely the rating is given based on violence.

"I believe the lachồng of AO content is hard on the industry because it forces people khổng lồ keep pushing the edge of the Mature rating," Geoffrey Zatkin, the founder of CPO of EEDAR, told phitienkiem.com. "But since no major retailer will carry an AO sản phẩm, it is almost impossible khổng lồ release any sort of "mass market" game with an AO rating." Movies may get around this limitation by pushing the boundaries of the R rating và then releasing an "unrated" version for the home theater market, but the gaming industry has no such recourse.

There was one console game that came cthua khổng lồ being rated AO for its violence however, and it happened bachồng in 2005 when Volition, now famous for the Saints Row series, worked on a movie tie-in for the then-upcoming Punisher film. This may have sầu happened eight years ago, but the story is a powerful reminder of how far gaming has to go as an art khung, and the limits of content allowed in mainstream games.

Testing the boundaries, & having the boundaries chạy thử back

Some developers may walk up to the edge of what is acceptable in games, but only a few are willing khổng lồ jump off. This saga of compromised nội dung và contentious ratings is what happens when a game bumps up against the standards of our industry"s rating board.

"We felt we had to be true khổng lồ the character, that"s the reason we did what we did with it," Dan Cermak, the general manager of Volition, told phitienkiem.com. "That was the Punisher lớn us. He"s a psychopath, he"s kind of a twisted fella."

The team worked directly with the ESRB, letting them know there would likely be issues with the nội dung. As for Marvel? "They supported it, they bought it completely," Cermack said. The idea of an ultra-violent game based on an ultra-violent comic book made plenty of sense.

Cermak laughed when I asked what content the ESRB found problematic. The words "interactive torture" came up; scenes where the hero would vì chưng ghastly things khổng lồ criminals in order to lớn gain more information about what to do next in the game. They were optional, but they tapped into the gryên determination that makes the Punisher an interesting character.

The ESRB had an issue with every sequence, according khổng lồ Cermak.

There was a scene that involved a wood chipper. There was a torture sequence where the criminal was gored by a wild animal. In one scene Frank Castle, the Punisher, tortured someone with a drill press. There was a sequence where a bad guy was held up khổng lồ a ceiling fan "that was spinning pretty fast." It wasn"t just a visual issue, as scenes were interactive sầu. You didn"t watch someone get tortured, you participated. It was a game mechanic.

They showed these scenes khổng lồ the ESRB, & the decision was made to change the coloring to blaông chồng and Trắng to lớn try lớn dull the impact of what was being shown. Kill Bill had just been released, and that series featured a scene that was changed lớn black và White in order to lớn escape with an R rating as well. The idea seemed sound.

"Their feeling was if we went blaông xã & white, and gave it the Kill Bill treatment, take the blood color out, that would be enough," Cermak explained. "I really enjoyed working with them, they were very helpful. It just didn"t work out when they got the panel together. The panel just fried us."

The ESRB may have provided Volition with some guidance, but the rating itself is up khổng lồ the panel of three "trained raters" who view a DVD of the game"s content before writing their rating recommendation. The team thought one rater may push for an AO rating, but every single card recommended the game be given the maximum rating.

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They changed the color table so it was pure blaông xã and Trắng, which made it hard to tell what was being shown on the screen. They experimented with camera angles, và adjusted how much was shown. The game was finally given a Mature rating after going baông xã và forth for about three weeks.

Randy Walker from the ESRB seemed unenthusiastic about discussing this story. "I don"t think we have sầu more khổng lồ add to this subject, which is nearly 10 years old," he wrote via e-mail. "As we have sầu stated for many years và is on the Ratings Process page of our website, once a rating assignment is provided lớn a game publisher, they can either accept it or revise the nội dung in their game and resubmit it, which starts the process anew."

This isn"t the only game that has butted against the limits of the Mature rating. Take-Two expressed its frustration when the 2007 title Manhunt 2 was initially given an Adults Only rating.

"We believe sầu the process of rating đoạn phim games is khổng lồ help people make informed entertainment choices & not to lớn limit them," a company representative told GameSpot. "Manhunt 2 was created for mature audiences and we strongly believe sầu it should receive an M (Mature) rating, aligning it with similar content created in other forms of truyền thông. We are exploring our options with regard to the rating of Manhunt 2."

The game was ultimately edited to receive the Mature rating.

Volition was dealing with the same frustration with The Punisher. "From the first step, we were so upmix that we couldn"t carry through the game the way we thought it should be done," Cermak said. "The team really wanted khổng lồ put the game out there in the version that we finished. That"s what it was supposed khổng lồ be. From a design standpoint we didn"t use the interrogations appropriately enough, they became a side menu thing or a thing lớn vày rather than integral to lớn the game."

Lessons learned

The game was "moderately" successful, according to Cermak. It sold around a million units, & was profitable for Volition. It wasn"t the game they wanted to lớn make, not entirely, but it was far from a disaster.

I was curious if he thought the game would be possible to lớn create now, if the content would make it through the modern ratings process unscathed.

"From the first step, we were so upmix that we couldn"t carry through the game the way we thought it should be done"

"No," he said laughing. "At this point, I still think we were over the top, too violent for the industry."

The rating process is subjective sầu, but they always knew they were pushing the limits of what was possible with the mature rating.

"Even though it"s an art khung or however you want khổng lồ look at it, it"s got its own… there are different levels of violence in movies, they don"t all get AO, so I feel lượt thích it"s still kind of a different standard because we"re games, which immediately means kids," Cermack said. "I think that still applies."

Zatkin agreed with this assessment. "Part of this is a đoạn Clip game industry perception problem in that people think video games are for kids," he explained. "Video games have sầu never been for kids, kids like đoạn Clip games in the same way they lượt thích TV, movies, comic books, etc. But if you look at the age of the average game thủ, it hasn"t been below the age of 30 since 2004 and has never, as long as I can rethành viên it, been under the age of 25."

Game ratings are enforced more often than the ratings for films, but children are often the justification for censored nội dung. " permits children khổng lồ act out each of the many graphic torture scenes & murders in Manhunt 2 rather than simply manipulating a game pad," four senators, including Hillary Clinton, wrote in an open letter to lớn the ESRB demanding Manhunt 2 be given the AO rating. "This led one clinical psychologist khổng lồ state that the realistic motions used with the Wii mean that "You"re basically teaching a child the behavioral sequencing of killing.""

Of the 34 titles to lớn ultimately receive an AO rating from the ESRB, only two were listed as being released for consoles. Thrill Kill was ultimately cancelled, and Gr& Theft Auto: San Andreas was re-rated to lớn Adults Only when sexual material was found to lớn exist on the game"s disc, accessible with third-các buổi tiệc nhỏ code in the infamous "Hot Coffee" controversy. The game was pulled from the shelves the day the AO rating was issued, & a Mature-rated version without the forbidden content was sent to lớn retail in its place.

Fans ultimately found ways to access the uncensored nội dung in The Punisher, & patches khổng lồ access the content on the PC are common. Still, the argument is often made that certain content has khổng lồ be limited for fear it will fall in the hands of children, based on the mistaken assumption that this is a children"s pass time.

"I think we still have sầu that stigma, it"s still there," Cermak said. "Having been there, having seen it. It"s still very interesting to me."

This is an issue that isn"t found in other art forms, including film. "The ESRB is the best enforced entertainment truyền thông media rating system, better than movies và music, but the association of "games" & "kids" has been hard for the industry when it wants khổng lồ make nội dung for the vast majority of its consumers, who are adults," Zatkin noted.

One need only look at the 2014 Oscar nominees for evidence that games are treated differently than film: It"s hard to lớn believe that a scene where the protagonist fills a naked woman"s rectum with cocaine would be allowed khổng lồ exist in a game at all, but that"s just the beginning of the adult nội dung of Wolf of Wall Street, a Best Picture nominee.

"If movies were treated the ," Zatkin said, "I don"t think anything up for an Oscar this year would have been made."


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