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Leland Yee takes another stab at ESRB

Leland Yee, California assemblyman and outspoken advocate for legislative control of videogames sales has again spoken out against the ESRB, seizing the opportunity afforded by the Oblivion ratings change.

Leland Yee, California assemblyman and outspoken advocate for legislative control of videogames sales has again spoken out against the ESRB, seizing the opportunity afforded by the Oblivion ratings change.

Bethesda Softworks' acclaimed PC and Xbox 360 title Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which was initially rated as T (Teen 13+), has been issued a Mature rating following the availability of a third party modification that enables female topless nudity and ESRB claims of excessive blood and gore seemingly missed in its initial ratings appraisal.

Quick to comment on the game's rating change, Yee, who has been instrumental in efforts to implement state regulated policies to prevent the sale of violent videogames to minors, accused the ESRB of failing to undertake its prime responsibility.

"Plain and simply, the current rating system is drastically flawed and here is yet another reason why we need legislation to assist parents and protect children," Yee stated, adding that the industry's self regulatory system "again has failed our parents and shown that they cannot police themselves."

"Unlike the movie industry's rating board which reviews the entire content of a film, the ESRB rates games based on very limited viewing of the game and rely almost entirely on information provided to them by the game manufacturer," Yee continued.

Responding to the ESRB decision yesterday, Bethesda maintains that it provided extensive documentation and complied fully with ESRB ratings procedures months before Oblivion was scheduled for release, further adding that the nudity mod is a third party addition to the game and alters the content in a manner which the developer never intended for the game.

Despite Bethesda categorically stating that neither Take-Two Interactive nor its publishing division 2K Games were involved in the original ratings submission, Yee took the opportunity to reiterate his opinion of Take-Two and rekindled the flame of controversy centring the ESRB re-rating of Rockstar's GTA: San Andreas, in connection with the Hot Coffee hidden content scandal.

"Take Two Interactive just doesn't learn. It was only ten months ago that this same publisher deceived parents by first putting hidden sex scenes into their already ultra-violent video game and then lying about the fact that they allowed the content to be included," Yee said.

Whilst the Interactive Entertainment Merchant's Association praised the swiftness of the ESRB ratings decision and the efficiency with which retailers and parents were advised of the change, the rare decision to change the game's rating was certain to spark renewed controversy over software ratings. The move is highly likely to be prioritised as just cause for legislative control, as US state politicians continue in earnest in their efforts to impose strict governmental policies and counter the self-regulatory system currently in place.

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Paul Loughrey

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