The topic of Manhunt 2‘s AO rating has been discussed a lot lately and I don’t want to get too into it (I so could), but my brief opinion on it is that it was a purely political move done to appease advocacy groups, critics and slimy lawyers. No doubt, it was also done to ease some of the governmental pressures put on the ESRB over the last two years since that whole “Hot Coffee” debacle. Since “Hot Coffee” was also a Rockstar-centered controversy I maintain that if Manhunt 2 was made by any other developer it would have been rated M. Consider it retribution.
The problem that I have is that the difference between an M rating and an AO rating is negligible. “M” is for those 17 and up. “AO” is for 18 and up. “M” has content that may be suitable for those 17 or older. “AO” has content that should only be played by those 18 and up. If you follow the ratings by the spirit of their definitions, Manhunt 2 getting an AO rating should be inconsequential.
However, “AO” has a certain perception and stigma associated with it. AO games are degenerate filth and must be purged from the Earth! Retailers won’t carry them. Console makers won’t approve them. And because of that, adult customers who aren’t so easily offended can not see the content and judge for themselves. So with such a drastic result for such a small difference I’m left wondering if “AO” exists purely to be a happy, forgiving face on censorship because, after all, it’s not censorship if it’s voluntary. Unless, of course, there is an explicit understanding that, voluntary or otherwise, a rating like this will mean that the game will not be distributed, sold or played.
Meanwhile, I’m playing The Darkness. The game in which you can devour human hearts by ripping them from the corpses of your enemies (or total strangers on the street!) with your demonic snake appendages. But I guess that’s perfectly OK!