Yesterday the ESRB re-rated Oblivion M for Mature. Bethesda’s response to the re-rating followed shortly afterwards.

Apparently the re-rating was mainly triggered by a user created modification that allows players to play with topless versions of female characters (Hot Coffee anyone?). In addition, the ESRB accused Bethesda of improperly disclosing the excessive amounts of blood and gore that go beyond a Teen rating.

Personally, I don’t agree with the new rating. Oblivion certainly contains a fair amount of violence, but it doesn’t strike me as any worse than similar games in this genre. Still, I understand how a case might be made based on violent content (although it is ridiculous that this was not properly assessed at the time the original rating was assigned, and I can only fault the ESRB, not Bethesda for this). But I simply can’t grasp how the fact that user created modifications can introduce nudity into the game should influence the rating. I believe that this sets a very bad precedent for similar cases and represents a huge threat for consumer created content in general.

User created game content has been an important feature for the past 10-15 years (dating back to Doom and Quake mods, etc.) that significantly increases the replay value of games and brings out the creative skills in players who otherwise would only be able to consume spoon-fed gaming content… Game developers like Bethesda should be applauded for the extensibility afforded by their plugin system and not be held responsible for the nature of user created content.

Aside from that, is having some topless female characters (or nude male characters for that matter) in the game really such a big deal? Maybe I’m just desensitized because I’m from Germany (where day time TV commercials for almost any type of consumer product, ranging from soap to cereal bars, contain nudity), but I just couldn’t care less. Let the teenies have some fun with the game…

Update: I just filed a complaint with the ESRB, and I encourage you to do the same.