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Sunday, October 29, 2006

I'll Take Two Sugars

The following extract was procured from a Gamasutra article on the effects of the Hot Coffee scandal upon the modding community.

In order to protect the trust it has tried to build up with parents, following the Hot Coffee controversy, the ESRB put some of the onus on the people who develop and publish games. "We asked the industry as a whole to be more conscious of how mods might impact ratings, however whether that might be happening is more a question for publishers than for the ESRB," [Patricia] Vance [Executive Director of the Entertainment Standards Ratings Board (ESRB)] said. "That being said, it is obviously impossible for the ESRB to consider content that may at some point be introduced into a game by a third party. The most and best that ESRB can do when it comes to ensuring that its rating assignments are accurate is to obligate publishers to disclose all pertinent content they produced and will ship with the game, including, as of July 2005, content that may not be playable (i.e. 'locked out'), but will exist in the code on the final game disc."

For the ESRB, this disclosure policy ensures that their ratings are truly reflective of the publisher-created product as a whole. When it comes to mods, however, Vance noted that the "ESRB has no ability nor intention of holding publishers accountable for the actions of third parties who independently introduce newly created content into a game through their own modifications. We simply want them to be aware of the risks it presents in terms of consumer trust in our system, and when warranted, desirable or possible to try to do something about it."

When an independent party modifies a game to include extra content, it seems rational that the publisher or developer of said game should bare no responsibility or blame for actions committed which are out of their control; so I'm pleased to learn that the highly influential ESRB have opted to take an informed and respectful stance on this issue.

With publishers now required to declare even 'unlockable' content, (hidden features included by the developer and able to be activated by technical tweakery) I predict gamers will see a fall in unlockables but no significant damage to the independent modding scene. So long as publishers have the legal protection from changes made to their games after retail, the mod scene should continue to thrive.

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