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Video Game Cases – Killer 7

Killer 7 is a M-rated video game which was developed and published by Capcom. Capcom describes the game as the following:
In killer 7, players take on the role of Harman Smith an unlikely assassin who leads a life as the "master" who rules over seven alter egos. Switching between his seven different personalities, Harman employs each personality's unique abilities to complete their mission. Now, a powerful underworld kingpin has unleashed violent creatures onto the world called 'Heaven's Smile.' These crazed soldiers, affixed with horrific smiles, have started to wreak havoc on city streets. It is up to the player to interchange Harman's seven 'partners' and utilize the special powers that dwell within them in order to assassinate Kun Lan, the notorious criminal overlord behind all the madness.

[source: Gamespot]
A month after a review [1] of this game was posted on the popular gamer site IGN, Jack Thompson protested against the game's rating in an open letter to Patricia Vance, president of the ESRB (Electronic Software Rating Board), and demanded a rerating of the game to AO. In this letter he also accused the ESRB of being part of a conspiracy to distribute sexual content to minors:

August 5, 2005
Patricia Vance
President Entertainment Software Rating Board
317 Madison Avenue, 22nd Floor
New York, NY 10017
Fax: 212-759-2223
Re: Killer 7

Dear Ms. Vance:

I have just learned facts that indicate the above violent game most likely deserves an “AO” rating rather than the “M” rating which your ESRB has given it.

[…]

The following is found in a review of Killer 7 by Matt Casamassina at http://cube.ign.com/articles/630/630908p1.html which contains the following observations at this pro-violent game Internet site:

“…profanity, sex and bloodshed are commonplace… We can't stress it enough: kids should not play Killer 7. Not just because there's an M on the box, but because for once that M really means something. There's much more than blood and guts in the game. Everything from the design of puzzles to the subject matter is designed for older players and it's really that simple…. And there are cinematics that feature full-blown sex sequences…. Killer 7's adult themes, which encapsulate extremely violent, profane and sexual situations, as well as a wide range of issues from terrorism to the sale of children, make the M on the box really mean something.”

[…]

There is no question in my mind that a video game containing “full-blown sex sequences” cannot be rated anything other than “AO” rather than “M.” The reviewer above in fact says that this game’s “M” actually means something, and he says it twice for emphasis.

[...]

Well, the Killer 7 game underscores the fact that your organization and the industry it fronts for appear to try to get away with anything that is harmful to kids, whether already illegal or not.

What it also means is that if jurors in a criminal prosecution were asked whether Killer 7 contains “sexual material harmful to minors” in violation of statutory standards, then, based upon the above enthusiastic review at IGN.com, the answer to that question would probably be “yes.”

That answer would put the Entertainment Software Rating Board, in my opinion, in the middle of a criminal conspiracy to distribute sexual material harmful to minors in violation of criminal statutes.

[...]

Sincerely, Jack Thompson

[sources: Wikiquote, Advanced Media Network] – edited for length

[Archive]

IGN themselves accuse Thompson of basing his criticism of Killer 7's rating solely on their review:

Thompson's campaign seems based solely on the description of Killer 7 in the IGN.com review -- a description that is open to interpretation. In fact, Killer 7's so-called "full-blown sex sequences" could appear tame when compared to those in some of today's movies. The sexual scenes in question showcase a fully clothed wheelchair-bound man pleasuring a straddling woman, who is also fully clothed. Although she moans, indicating a sexual orgasm, neither nudity nor intercourse is illustrated in the cut-scene. The same scene in a movie today might warrant only a PG-13 or, worst, R-rating.

[source: IGN]
Thompson further defended his accusations against Killer 7 in an Email conversation with Scott Ramsoomair, author of the webcomic VGCats [2].

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