Games on wii, 360, PS2, PSP, DS, PC. Will game on PS3 at team ico's next release. Did a barrel roll. Knows what can change the nature of a man. Loved not well, but too wisely. Is a spoony bard. Wonders why so many wolves have to die. Thinks, but probably isn't. Wears a kuribo's shoe. Dabbled in pacifism once, not in 'nam of course. Will play your love zones like a parrot stuck inside a grand piano. Is a miserable pile of antonyms. Collaborated with the combine. Is more handsome unshaved. Thinks only in metaphors. Has a mysterious past. Is still looking for the spot where truth echoes. Resides in ireland.
If there is more diligent and efficient community of hackers than the PSP crowd, I've never encountered them. Less than 24 hours after the game's official release, and a group of Russian hackers - from prozzak.ru - have already discovered that the content supposedly removed from Rockstar's Manhunt 2 was actually only swept under the rug.
After the scandal surrounding the GTA:SA Hot Coffee incident, it is hard to believe that Rockstar could have done something like this accidentally. It is possible, of course, and I imagine that's what their legal teams are going to gun for. However, considering the fact that this was discovered in under a day and that the process itself is so straightforward, I can't help but believe Rockstar are very much biting their thumbs at the ESRB. Which is equal parts hilarious and awesome.
The downside of this is that the game, even in it's somewhat neutered M-rated state, still hasn't been approved by the BBFC, the ratings board that governs the UK. This news is really unlikely to help Rockstar's case in the slightest with their appeals. That's something I can live with though. People who really want to play this game will still find a way, and everyone else will just be spared from buying a less than phenomenal game based purely on hype and controversy.
The announcement that the ESRB would essentially be preventing the game from being released in the US was news I was less than pleased about. While subversion of this kind is pretty damn funny, what effect might it have on the ratings climate? On one hand, after the outcry and controversy caused by Hot Coffee, the ESRB might see this as the final straw, and impose even stricter regulation on developers and a more rigorous certification process, which could end up protracting many game's developments even further. Which is bad for everyone. On the other hand, perhaps this might help make them see that freedom of expression is impossible to truly suppress. That if developers want to put something in a game, there's nothing anyone can do to stop them. Yeah, right. We can hope.
The ESRB does actually serve a useful function. Most parents are quite ignorant as to what games to deem appropriate for their offspring. Causing an outright ban on a game though is just plain wrong in my books. Adult consumers should have to right to decide for themselves what is appropriate for themselves and what isn't. Taking away that choice is an infringement of personal freedom, and that just ain't right however you slice it.
Wired's Chris Kohler - of Game|Life, and one of the best gaming writers on the blogosphere today posted an interesting story on the trials and tribulations of Manhunt 2's ratings debacle. Tucked away in the second last paragraph of the piece is the disturbing sentence "But it was the company itself that went public with the AO rating, before announcing that it would retool the game to win an M rating." Seeing as there are no referenced sources and that a quick google search revealed no such announcement of a retooling, there's a very real chance it was some manner of miscommunication. After all it would be the first time an executive let slip something that turned out to be false.
What's troubling though is that the article mentions that a dozen or so other games over the past five years were given preliminary AO ratings. In all of those cases, the companies simply kept it quiet, and reworked the game to qualify for an M rating. Perhaps Take Two(the money making entity that controls Rockstar) would rather spend the legal fees required to attempt to overturn the rating on the expensive process of altering the game to make it more palatable to public perceptions. Hopefully this was just a misquote, or something of the sort, but the reality is that making commercial games is business, and big business too. Even if the statement was premature, perhaps it's just a matter of time anyway. At this point, an as intended release of Manhunt 2 is unlikely.
It's a damn shame that gamers are considered unworthy of making up their own minds as to what they want to buy. But what are we to do about it? Boycotting the game would only be punishing the developers, and they haven't really done anything wrong. Boycotting the consoles would only mean preventing yourself from being able to play the games you want to play. Internet petitions are laughably ineffective. So what, then? The problem lies with the rating system. They seem to be out of touch with gaming as a medium. They seem to be ignoring the idea of games being art, with entitlement to the same levels of expression as other media. In the long term, we need more real gamers(who also respect moderation) deciding things in the ESRB and similar game rating boards. Hopefully there will be some such civil minded sorts among us who will heed that call. In the short term though, I can think of no better ideas than spamming the ESRB's mail box with death threats and accusations of homosexuality.