Angry Robot

For Adults Only – Sexy Adults

“Adults Only” is the NC-17 of the games industry, the label slapped on explicit material that dooms it to obscurity through lack of distribution. It’s what Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas got knocked with when the Hot Coffee code was discovered. Well, as parenting website What They Play discovers, only 23 games have ever received the rating – out of 15,000 reviewed by the ESRB. They go on to ‘collect’ ‘information’ about the games, as it’s all in the name of scientific research after all, and totally not titillating linkbait or anything.

So what gets a game an AO rating?

Seriously, what does a violent game have to do to get banned around here? Yes, the last bullet point refers to the infamous Thrill Kill – actually never released – and other than that, all the other games are AO because of sexual content. In fact, several of them aren’t even games – for some reason, a handful of DVDs got the rating as well. Oh, and GTA is the only console game on the list other than Indigo Prophecy, but for the director’s cut, which was only released in North America as a download.

I think it would be wrong if I didn’t close with some Thrill Kill footage. Y’know, for research purposes.

3 comments on "For Adults Only – Sexy Adults"

  1. Jason T says:

    The “AO” rating in the video game industry essentially works the same as the “NC-17” rating in the film industry. In each case, the goal isn’t really to mark certain content as “adult,” but to prevent the production of pornography within the industry proper. (See Hollywood vs. Hardcore by Lewis for more on the film side of this.)

    The difference is that realistic-looking porn movies are relatively cheap to make, and so there is a whole industry and market for porn that can exist outside the main Hollywood system. That’s not so easy for games. I imagine there would be a demand for porn games if anybody had the resources to make them look any good, but for now I guess those folks will have to make do with “Hot Coffee.”

  2. D says:

    I guess the thing I’m hinting at here is the rather stale point about sexuality being considered more loathsome than even the most repugnant violence, in North America anyways. I don’t disagree that the MPAA is out to serve the studios, which has only been made clearer with their anti-piracy push over the last decade, and I don’t doubt that the ESA is modeled on the MPAA.

    I’m not sure I agree that realism is an issue with pornography in games. There are many sex games that clearly weren’t submitted to the ESRB at all. I also think that the nature of the console system itself means that Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony can prevent porn being made for their system, so if there’s a lack of sex games or lack of distribution of sex games, that’s a more likely than realism. Increasingly, publishers don’t want to do PC-only games, and I’m sure pornographers feel likewise.

  3. Jason T says:

    Well, part of this double standard (in the U.S., anyway) is a legal double standard that I think a lot of judges are now kind of regretting. Pornographic sexual material got a special, conditional sort of obscenity status (in large part because you’re SUPPOSED to act upon what you’re seeing in porn, whereas you can’t really blame the producers of violent material for trying to incite violence).

    And don’t forget that Manhunt 2 also got an AO originally, before Take 2 groaned publicly and watered it down. So I guess you don’t have to kill amputees as long as you’re killing people with toilet seat lids and pens. But killing with guns is cool.

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