Dark Sector Footage Even Darker Thanks to ESRB
Gaming Today and Filefront.com received a request from the folks behind the game to remove the “excessive or offensive content” from our host as a measure to appease the ESRB – regardless of age protections like an age gate – a term used in the industry that prompts viewers to agree to only view the content if they are of an appropriate age. (Granted its not hard to lie to get access if you’re 13) The big question is why has the trailer (which has been publicly viewable on Filefront since December 2006 and March of this year) just now become “bad” and since when does the ESRB rate trailers for products not yet released? Here is the request as we received it:
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.
Please be assured that this in no way effects the final gameplay content of Dark Sector, or your ability to capture direct feed footage for distribution on your site.
We (Filefront) have of course complied because we respect the right of a publisher to pull their own content but the ESRB factor makes for an interesting twist. So all of you looking to see why will have to hunt YouTube or less responsible video services to find your answers.
I was able to view the content prior to it being removed and while the montage contains some very gory acts overall they are nothing you wouldn’t see in Gears of War – a game Dark Sector is often compared to because of its bloody action – with one exception – a scene where the character guts an enemy and runs his handheld blade up into its head finally decapitating it. However the scene is dark and not glorified. There are actually 3 clips in question it seems – two gameplay footage compilations, the second one with a voice-over version as well.
Granted, in light of the recent Manhunt 2 controversy there is increased attention being paid to the industry and its products, but this is the first instance I’m aware of where the ratings board has taken a trailer and asked the publisher to remove it. What about these trailers made it worse than an AO rating and prompted the ESRB to ask the publisher to effectively ban the public from seeing it?
Is this a sign of things to come? We are attempting to reach Dark Sector‘s publisher D3 Publisher for comment but we did hear back from the ESRB’s representative to get the reasoning behind this request. Gaming Today did also manage to find the ESRB’s recommended best practice guides for trailers and age gates (or as they call them age screens). Notice that there are provisions for even Adults Only (AO) rated trailers in this recommendation.:
BEST PRACTICES TO LIMIT ACCESS OF INAPPROPRIATE CONTENT TO CHILDREN
The following guidelines for implementing the Age Screen Rule are based on best practices recommended by the Federal Trade Commission in the context of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which in certain circumstances requires age verification before collecting information online from children.
Please adhere to the following best practices to limit access of inappropriate content to children under the age of 17 (18, in the case of Adults Only) The online age gates must ask the age of the web user in a neutral manner and must employ reasonable steps to prevent users under the age of 17 (or 18) from changing their age to be older once they have initially been prevented access to the website.
2. Acceptable forms of age verification include inserting an age or date of birth field on the web page where access is provided to a demo or trailer, or collecting credit card information in connection with a transaction prior to allowing access to the demo or trailer. When asking for a user’s age or date of birth, companies must provide either an open text field in which consumers can type their age or date of birth or a drop down bar with a full selection of age or years.
3. Allowing the user to only enter their age starting with age 17 (or 18) is not permitted. In addition, categorical age verification is not permitted. This happens when a user is asked to select one of two categories (e.g., User Under 17 or Adults) or asked whether they were born “on or before,” or “after” a certain date, leading the user to think that there’s a significant difference in what they select. Similarly, check boxes, such as “Click here if you are at least 17 years old,” are not acceptable.
4. As part of the neutral age screening process, web sites cannot mention the minimum age required for access to the demo or trailer, either on the age screen page itself or in a message appearing after age information has been submitted. Language such as “Error: You must be 17 years old or older to view” is not within the spirit of the Age-Screen Rule and is only likely to encourage a child to falsify his/her age. It is recommended that a company drop a session cookie, disable the back button, or take other reasonable measures (e.g., redirecting the user to the home page, etc.) to prevent users from clicking back and re-entering an older age.