The ESRB is moving to put out the bizarrely intense flaming body of controversy caused by rerating Manhunt 2 as M rated. The re-rating happened following review of a "modified version" of the game. Advocacy groups like CCFC and political-crusader Leland Yee have demanded US government intervention by the Federal Trade Commission. The ESRB has now released a statement (full text after break) attributed to ESRB president Patricia Vance.

Vance says in the statement, "The FTC, the national PTA, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Peter Hart Research have all found that parents are overwhelmingly satisfied with the ESRB rating system. Rather than publicly second-guessing what is unmistakably a strong warning to parents about the suitability of a particular game for children, which presumably neither Senator Yee nor CCFC have personally reviewed, we feel a more productive tack would be to join us in encouraging parents to take the ratings seriously when buying games for their children." Yee and the advocacy groups would have such a better leg to stand on if the movie industry in the US were handled in a more "transparent" way. The Motion Picture Association of America has had a secret society for decades rating movies (see This Film is Not Yet Rated for more details). It just doesn't make sense to hold the video game industry to a completely different standard than films, especially considering the prevalence of torture porn is far less in video games.

[Via Press Release]

STATEMENT BY ESRB PRESIDENT PATRICIA VANCE REGARDING THE
M (MATURE) RATING ASSIGNED TO MANHUNT 2

August 28, 2007 - "Upon reviewing the modified version of Manhunt 2, the ESRB assigned a rating of M (Mature 17+) with content descriptors for Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content and Use of Drugs. This is a very clear and firm warning to parents that the game is in no way intended for children. As always, we urge parents to strongly consider the ESRB rating in their decision about whether a game is appropriate for their children.
"Publishers submit game content to the ESRB on a confidential basis. It is simply not our place to reveal specific details about the content we have reviewed, particularly when it involves a product yet to be released. What can be said is that the changes that were made to the game, including the depictions themselves and the context in which those depictions were presented, were sufficient to warrant the assignment of an M (Mature 17+) rating by our raters.

"The FTC, the national PTA, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Peter Hart Research have all found that parents are overwhelmingly satisfied with the ESRB rating system. Rather than publicly second-guessing what is unmistakably a strong warning to parents about the suitability of a particular game for children, which presumably neither Senator Yee nor CCFC have personally reviewed, we feel a more productive tack would be to join us in encouraging parents to take the ratings seriously when buying games for their children.
"The FTC reports that 89% of parents say they are involved in the purchase or rental of the video games their children play and 85% say they restrict them. Additionally, parents can now easily activate password-protected settings on game consoles to block out content they deem inappropriate. Further, according to a recent audit by the Federal Trade Commission, the major game retailers, representing approximately 90% of all sales, currently stop the sale of M-rated games to buyers under 17 the vast majority of the time, having surpassed the level of enforcement achieved by theatre owners in connection with children's access into R-rated movies.
"It is a parent's rightful place to make choices for their own children. The ESRB and console manufacturers provide families with the tools and information to help them do so."

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

Rumor: More days before NiGHTS?