Inconsistent guidance for parents

Bethesda Softworks created a game, “Oblivion,” submitted it to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) for a rating. The ESRB rated it “Teen.” Two months go by and some kids hacked the game, figuring out which image files to replace to make the characters appear nude.

The kids created the “nude” clothing image files and hacked the game, not Bethesda. However, the ESRB is re-rating the game “Mature” and now the publisher has to send out stickers for all of the shipped units to re-rate the game.

If you apply this style of thinking to another product, you can see how outrageous this is: Mattel releases Barbie dolls, supplied with various outfits. Mattel does indeed ship, in every box, the “nude” content. Consumers are free to dress or undress the dolls they purchase. There are no large warnings on the box that discourage a purchase for anyone under the age of 17. In fact, most are intended for young children.

Something is wrong and very inconsistent about all of this. It is a shame that this company has to incur costs because of what a third party chose to do with the product.

ESRB is stating that in addition to this nude hack, that the violence is more than originally submitted. I believe Bethesda when they say they detailed the level of violence. It is just an excuse ESRB is using because they are afraid of nudity. Violence often gets rated at the Teen level.

Bethesda’s Response

UPDATE: ESRB responded to my letter above. The ESRB claims that there was at least 1 topless image file on the game disc provided directly by Bethesda (this is denied in the Bethesda response linked above). According to ESRB, even though the depiction was not in the game, not accessible via the code Bethesda published, the image was on the disc supplied by Bethesda. Even if this were true, even if that Bethesda-supplied image existed, a 3rd party would still have to modify the code to access it.

Full ESRB Response

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