The decision to lower the game's rating from AO to the much friendlier M came after Rockstar resubmitted the game with modified content. Announced last week, the decision met with an immediate demand from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood for a public explanation for the change, as well as an independent review of both the ESRB rating process and Manhunt 2 itself. California Senator Leland Yee, author of a recently struck-down law which would have imposed restrictions on videogame sales in that state, soon echoed the CCFC's demands.
In the statement, Vance wrote, "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," she added, in reference to the ESRB's policy of not revealing specific details regarding a game's rating.
She also mentioned studies and statements by the FTC, the national PTA, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Peter Hart Research which have found that parents understand, use and "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," she added.
"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."