Is the ESRB Too Restrictive?
Conan Exiles

Unless you’ve been living under an E-rated rock for the past several months, you’ve probably caught wind of Conan Exiles. It entered Early Access for the PC back in January with a single zone to romp around in. Now, whether you played the game and enjoyed the balance of brutal combat and raw survival is superfluous. The game is all about the dong slider. But thanks to the closed-minded ESRB, a ratings organization trapped in a different time, we don't get to enjoy such things on every platform. Why? Because it can't keep up with its contemporaries.

Naked and crucified at the character creation screen, every inch of your character’s body, whether male or female, is exposed and ready to be tweaked in Conan Exiles. Women can have their boobs adjusted to various voluptuous levels, but men can also make their junk many inches longer. And the lure to play with yourself doesn’t stop at the creation screen. Wandering the desert landscape in your birthday suit, you’ll likely find yourself fiddling with camera angles, amazed at the accurate physics of the male genitalia. You may even get so enraptured in flailing your testicles around, you’ll forget how perilously close you are to death from dehydration. Seriously, how did they do the motion capture?! Did they put balls on a man’s balls?! Well, you won't get to know if you're coming to it on a console. Why? The ESRB decided America isn't ready for such goofiness and maturity.

See, Funcom has continued developing the game. This means Conan Exiles is coming to the Xbox One, but with one caveat. The North American version will contain only partial nudity. That’s right, lower torsos must be covered up. Europeans get the full monty, while Americans get tighty whities. Seriously?! Come on ESRB, what’s the deal?! Loosen up! Pull down the panties! Let’s free willy! 

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The video game ratings board shows its age once again by keeping such a harmless feature like dangling dongs out of the hands of, well, every American Xbox One owner. So apparently Mortal Kombat X can get away with a Mature rating, despite having dozens of graphic fatalities, but show a man’s member and a game gets slapped with an Adults Only tag and kept out of stores like Wal-Mart and GameStop. Capitalism and politics strike again. Thanks, America.

The ESRB still relies on antiquated American taboos about sexuality in video games, and hasn’t budged much in the 22 years since its inception. A prudish mom catches a nipple slip on her son’s video game and hammers her state representative’s office with complaints. That official, with job security as a top priority, quells the outrage by putting political pressure on the ESRB to keep sexuality out; a social subject about as commonplace as fidget spinners nowadays.

To be fair, the PEGI ratings for Europeans is a lot more lax when it comes to nudity than the rest of the world. CERO, the organization that rates games in Japan, and the Australian Classification Board would likely lean towards covering it up than bearing it all, with regards to Conan Exiles. So, is PEGI too loose, or is the rest of the world too tight? I personally think ratings boards around the world need to re-evaluate the criteria for each rating on a more regular basis, to evolve with the ever-changing cultural acceptance in their region and take into consideration the design and graphical advancements in video games and their realistic interpretations. I mean honestly, if Leisure Suit Larry were released today and he flashed around his pixelated penis, would the ESRB really slap an AO label on the game? Well, probably.

Conan Exiles

Cultural perceptions do not factor into the ESRB’s decision making, nor does the tolerance of a strong majority of gamers. It’s the vocal minority (almost entirely non-gamers, mind you) that sets the tone for what is acceptable in American video games. So we can have Game of Thrones on our TVs, but we can’t run around a desert crushing crocodiles buck naked in Conan Exiles? We can play the game with full nudity on Steam, but not on consoles? Doesn’t make sense to me. And let’s not forget the game is lacking any eroticism. All the bouncing boobs and dangling dicks around the village and your character is as limp as a rag. Boy, Crom really has impure thoughts whipped right out of his acolytes.

What do you think? Should the ESRB be more more permissive or are its stringent policies for the best? Let us know in the comments below.

Sean Engemann
Sean Engemann
@CardCanuck

Senior Contributing Writer
Date: 08/23/2017

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