Yee calls for violent-game investigation

A video game set for release this Halloween by Rockstar Games has been targeted by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, as the most violent video game ever, prompting a call for a federal investigation into the game’s rating.

“Manhunt 2,” which allows players to saw their enemies’ skulls in half, was given a rating of AO — adults only — by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board earlier this year. But Friday, the board announced it had downgraded the rating to M — for mature audiences — after reviewing modified versions of the game.

An M rating recommends that it is appropriate for those ages 17 and older. A 2005 Federal Trade Commission undercover operation revealed that 42 percent of unaccompanied children ages 13 to 16 were able to buy M-rated games.

Initial reviews describe players mutilating opponents with an axe, castrating them with a pair of pliers or killing them by bashing their heads into an electrical box.

Both the ratings board and Rockstar Games have declined to say what elements were taken out to earn the lower rating. On Monday, Yee sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking for a probe of the rating process.

Yee said the ratings board, because it receives funding from the video game industry, is under pressure to lower ratings and increase profits. Some large retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart refuse to stock adults-only games.

In a statement, ESRB President Patricia Vance said the game will be marketed to adults and encouraged parents to consider the game’s rating before allowing a child to play it.

Three weeks ago, a federal judge struck down a law authored by Yee that would have fined retailers who sell extremely violent video games to minors. Yee said he is appealing the decision.

tbarak@examiner.com

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