In the last week, 1UP has received notices from publishers 2K Games, Microsoft and D3 about videos already online or coming soon that had content flagged by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. In the case of Gears of War, the footage had been online at GameVideos since January (and is still available online at Brightcove and Team Xbox), yet Microsoft and Epic apparently only recently received notice of a violation, requiring the offending video to be completely removed.

2K Games' statement about The Darkness acted more of a warning to ensure age gates were in place, whereas D3 was forced to request Dark Sector videos actually removed.
"We recently received a ruling from the ESRB stating that the two officially released Dark Sector gameplay montages have been deemed to contain excessive or offensive content; and to this end are not to be available for download or viewing, regardless of being placed behind an age gate. In order to comply with this ruling, the ESRB has requested that the two Dark Sector gameplay montages be pulled immediately upon receipt of this notice and no longer made available for view by consumers."

Just a few moments ago, the ESRB issued a notice about the recent rash of violations. The organization pointed to their Principles and Guidelines for Responsible Advertising Practices, established back in 2000, which added the need for an age gate on mature content in 2005. ESRB President Patricia Vance said this is standard practice, but that doesn't explain why they're just now getting to videos from January.

"All trailers must still conform to ARC's Principles and Guidelines, which prohibit the display of excessively violent content or any content likely to cause serious offense to the average consumer. When ESRB notifies a publisher that the content in a trailer is in violation of these ARC requirements, or that there is an age gate issue on a third party site, that publisher then must notify third party sites to rectify the problem," said Vance. "The notices issued recently by game publishers to third party websites are simply that - steps in a chain of publisher compliance with ARC guidelines and the ESRB enforcement system that have been occurring since their establishment seven years ago."

The ESRB's outline for adhering to the ARC Principles and Guidelines is extensive, and details how the ESRB examines "ESRB ratings and truth and accuracy in the selected content, violence, sex, alcohol and drugs, offensive verbal or bodily expression and sensitivity to people's beliefs or handicaps." In the above examples, violence was the issue. There, the ESRB's criteria are extensive. As it judges a piece of media, the group considers:
Graphic and/or excessive depictions of violence

Graphic and/or violent depictions of the use of weapons

Graphic and/or excessive depictions of blood and/or gore

Allusions or depictions of acts of verbal or physical abuse toward children

Allusions or depictions of violent or degrading behavior toward women

Allusions or depictions of torture or other violent acts toward animals

Allusions or depictions of torture, mutilation or sadism

Violence toward a political or public figure

Allusions or depictions of acts of arson or fire play

We've contacted the ESRB for further clarification on how, for example, the Gears of War video was flagged so late, but the timing of the ESRB clamp down isn't so peculiar, given the Manhunt 2 incident last week. Is this a knee-jerk reaction to the recent media frenzy that's shined another spotlight on the industry's tango with interactive violence or just a wacky coincidence? The latter seems a bit much, don't you think?

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