Games are beginning to become more and more violent, which has raised much controversy over the years. Nobody can deny that games like Condemned 2, Dead Space, GTA4, Call of Duty: World at War, Left 4 Dead and Dead Rising are very violent; EXTREMELY violent. I personally have no problem with extreme violence in video games but many other people do, seeing as how it is the most important factor the ESRB takes into consideration. Even children's games like Crash Bandicoot and littlebigplanet have warnings for "Animated Violence" on their ESRB labels. Now "Mature" games like the ones listed at the start of this paragraph are the ones that raise some flags. In Condemned 2 we see someone getting a knife straight through their skull, blood included. We even get to see someone's head thrown into a grinder, all in High Definition. In Dead Space, the objective of the game is to dismember every limb you see, also in High Definition. (1080p, for PS3 users.) Resident Evil 5 contains many gruesome head shots. Call of Duty: World at War allows you to shoot off the limbs of soldiers. Once again, this is all in High Definition Next-Gen graphics. Now you may be wondering why I keep mentioning the HD of these games, and I will now explain this.
I find the ESRB to be extremely biased towards certain games. They allow violence of the above caliber or worse into some video games, mainly the ones that are going to sell well. However, they censor some games for violence far more trivial. Let's use Rockstar's Manhunt 2 as an example. This game was released on the PS2 and PSP about two years ago. Up until it's release, it received some harsh criticism and controversy involving the ESRB. It kept receiving the rating of "Adults Only" for graphic violence. Now I'm sure everyone has heard of the AO rating, and I'm also sure that everyone knows that these games aren't published on leading consoles. For the most parts, no games with this rating even exist these days. Now, Manhunt 2 was finally released as a dulled-down "Mature" game. Rockstar finally earned this rating by hiding all the deaths in this game by using the most horrible blur censor in the history of video games. So this game resulted in being pretty damn crappy. It was still a great game, but the cheap censoring took away from the experience. It took away the reward of carefully planning your attack by lurking in the shadows and stalking your enemies. For some reason, the ESRB finds it necessary to censor a criminally insane guy throwing a bag over someone's head and watching them fall down, in PS2 Graphics. Really? With games like Condemned 2 getting away with everything that was censored in Manhunt 2, this really frustrates me as a fan of the Survival-Horror genre.
Now, aside from the obvious company name it came from, I see no reason why this game should have received its original AO rating. Various users modded the game to remove the censorship, and these videos can be found all over the web. I've seen these uncensored executions, and it's nowhere close to the level of head decapitations via chainsaw in Resident Evil 4 or being eaten alive in Code Veronica X, two very popular PS2 titles at the time. I'm only led to believe that Manhunt 2's censorship was just a flat out attack on Rockstar Games after the whole GTA: San Andreas "hot coffee" surfaced. The ESRB decided to go apes*** over the inferior graphics of Manhunt 2 in it's sequel. The ESRB is completely ridiculous. Manhunt 2 certainly isn't the first game to be destroyed by the ESRB, and it's certainly not the last. The threat of the AO rating is interfering with the gaming community. The ESRB was once a guideline for parents to find games suitable for their children, but now they just seem to use their powers for censorship. I think major console businesses like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo should lift this ban of AO titles. Let us, the gamers, play the games they were intended for us to play. Let us get our money's worth.
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