Elder Scrolls Online rated M for sexual innuendo, severed heads, and drinking games

ESRB description explains why game earned an M rating; Bethesda does not agree with the determination, but will not challenge the decision.

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Bethesda announced in January that its upcoming subscription-based MMO The Elder Scrolls Online had received an M-for-Mature rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), a determination the company did not agree with--despite every other recent entry in the series being M-rated--but would not challenge.

Now, the ESRB product description for The Elder Scrolls Online has been published publicly, giving insight into why the game earned an M-rating. The ESRB's main content descriptors note that the game contains "Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence."

But it's the ESRB's complete ratings summary that sheds a better light on the M-rating. As you can read in the below text, The Elder Scrolls Online features sexual innuendo in its dialogue ("In his mind, she would be the sheath to every knight's blade"), bloody depictions of severed heads, and drinking games that result in the character's blurred vision and impaired speech.

This is a multiplayer online role-playing game in which players assume the role of a warrior in the fantastical world of Nirn. As players explore open-world environments, they can perform various quests and complete tasks. Characters use swords, arrows, axes, and magic attacks (e.g., lightning, fire attacks) to kill human-like and fantastical enemies (e.g., orcs, demons, giant insects). Players engage in melee-style combat, hacking and slashing at various enemies; battles are highlighted by cries of pain, impact sounds, and blood splashes. Some sequences depict large amounts of blood streaming up-close as vampires attack/feed on characters. In some quests players have the ability to mount creatures' severed heads onto pikes; some environments depict corpse piles or skeletons hanging from torture devices. Text descriptions or dialogue sometimes contain references to sexual material and/or innuendo (e.g., “She...raped the men as cruelly as Bal had ravished her”; “In his mind, she would be the sheath to every knight's blade”; “No sweetmeat for you”; But it is huge! It could take me all night!”). During the course of the game, alcohol (i.e., wine, mead, ale) can be purchased and consumed by the central character; one sequence prompts players to engage in a drinking contest, resulting in the central character's blurred vision/slurred speech.

The ESRB rating also mentions that because The Elder Scrolls Online is an online-focused game, players are likely to be exposed to user-generated content that cannot be rated.

Bethesda said in January that it will not challenge the rating or change the game's content to achieve a different rating. "The game we have created is the one we want our fans to be able to play," Bethesda said at the time.

It's unlikely that Bethesda is sweating the rating too heavily. After all, the last Elder Scrolls game--The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim--also received an M-rating and went on to sell more than 20 million copies. Still, for concerned parents, the M-rating might be the key decision factor in buying the game or not.

The Elder Scrolls Online launches for PC and Mac on April 4, with a release for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to follow in June 2014. The game carries a $15/month subscription. On PS4, the game will not require PlayStation Plus, but the Xbox One version will mandate that players have an Xbox Live Gold account.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Discussion

163 comments
anonymoussenpai
anonymoussenpai

YOU SAY TOMATO, I SAY TOMATOAD!

I can't wait for this game to go free to pay so I can be free to pay and eat cereal for breakfast that has not gone out of date and drink hot chocolate from the mug on my right-side and coffee from the mug on my left-side.

Vegeta0585
Vegeta0585

Rated M, with a challenge rating that wouldn't give a 5 year old pause. The combat is ridiculously easy, and you level so fast exploring is not a good option, as you'll vastly outlevel the areas in no time at all. I really do like the mechanics, art, graphics, and general feel of the game. Despite the constant reminder I am playing an MMO because "quest, quest quest, go to next hub, quest quest quest, go to next hub." However I am NEVER afraid of death. NEVER afraid of what's around the corner. I know whatever comes at me, unless it be a surprise group of elites, I am going to dominate it without effort.

ypsltov
ypsltov

I do wish that The Elder Scrolls Online did not have as much sexual innuendo and that bisexual thief in the Daggerfall Covenant opening areas (it becomes more apparent on the second orc island). I'd felt that they added it under influence from The Old Republic and the Dragon Age games.


That said, Daggerfall had quite a bit of innuendo for it's time and it's the ultimate example of an open Elder Scrolls world to me. ESO is as close to Daggerfall as we are going to get. Oblivion was good but Skyrim was uninteresting and left out many of the features of an Elder Scrolls game.


Sadly, two things are being left out of Elder Scrolls Online: personal housing and an open auction house. The only way to access an auction is if your guild has captured a keep and manages to hold it. 

So it seems the auction and guild house are only for the PvP players. I admit that PvP is one of the main attractions of ESO but they should have traditional MMO auctions and guilds for PvE. Personal housing is a feature of the Elder Scrolls games since Daggerfall and I hope they add it with expansions. Most PvP players and raiders flit from game to game and may not stick around to make ESO a vibrant game community. 


The people who do stick around are PvE players, crafters and house decorators. That has kept Everquest 2 alive and Zenimax should be going for the personal house market since it was a part of the single player Elder Scrolls games.



CiTizenMaSSaKre
CiTizenMaSSaKre

Elder Scrolls Online is ok, I mean its fun and all and maybe ill have more fun when i actually have my character i can work on forever, but there is jsut something missing that makes it feel like an Elder Scrolls game. There is something about it that gives it more of that MMO vibe more so then the Elder Scrolls feelings. The look is kind of cartoonish, i like the more realistic grittier look of skyrim. Skyrim was a game that felt like it was set in a world plundged in chaos, you can see it in the characters faces and their personality, you can just feel it in the air. EsO just kind of feels like a cartoony fantasy MMO game. It is not a bad game, I had allot of fun with the BETA, but i could tell im gonna be going back to single player Elder Scrolls games after a month or two of ESO.

creepshow2
creepshow2

I am done with MMORPG games Warcraft was my last. Everquest Next might be good,but even it looks like more of the same. My dream MMO would have been Star Wars Galaxies released bug free with Space and ground working as intended pure Sandbox and player driven economy and please Eve Online is boring as hell so do not bring that crapper up:P


blackothh
blackothh

So take all the "bad stuff" out, re-submit, and get the rating you want, then add everything back in in a patch. Done

UFO2012
UFO2012

I rate this article R for retarded.

tightwad34
tightwad34

Everyone knows that drinking games and sexual innuendo go hand in hand with severed heads. What a joke, but is it the article or the idea that's the joke?

TenraiSenshi
TenraiSenshi

The reasons behind the ratings sound reasonable enough, not that anyone actually takes the ratings into account when they buy the game anyway.

It seems like a moot point these days.

wallacom
wallacom

I never cared for what the ESRB rates, because it doesn't matter. 

UnrealPro
UnrealPro

$60 - $100 game depending on what edition you buy, and $180 a year? Ummmm that's just something I can't do. Not with over $100 a year going to MS and Sony for Gold and PS Plus already. And to other games coming out this year and next.

guardianofhonor
guardianofhonor

Another boring, repetitive cashgrab MMO trying to be WoW, hope this game flops.

insloanwetrust
insloanwetrust

All the reasons why the game got an M rating made me want it even more.

Patohua1
Patohua1

I thought it was rated M for Maniacally Laughing at Consumers Who Mistakenly Believe They Are Buying A TES Game.
 Luckily for Bethesda, the ESRB is like Who's line: it's all made up and the ratings don't matter.

FallenOneX
FallenOneX

If the game is that good, I might get a new console by then. Just chickened out on getting a PS4.

nparks
nparks

He put his sexual in your endo, if you know what I mean.

vicsrealms
vicsrealms

Wait?  Since when did the ESRB actually start to matter!?

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

Drinking games?! My respect for this game just went up!

runnermpls
runnermpls

"Still, for concerned parents, the M-rating might be the key decision factor in buying the game or not."


Wait, I'm confused.  Since when did parents give a damn about the rating on the games they buy for their kids?

hadlee73
hadlee73

"M-for-Mature". Usually it ends up being "M-for-Majorly squeaky kiddy-wink voices come through the speakers".

hikaruai
hikaruai

Or they recycling news now?...Am I tripping or did they already post about this?

anonymoussenpai
anonymoussenpai

@Vegeta0585  Completely agree.

I was able to solo all the dungeons (yes, ALL of them) at level one. I noticed as well that the less efficient in combat I was the better the loot I received, as opposed to everyone else that performed more efficiently in combat and were rewarded with better loot.

I'm a professional elite gamer guy (I even have a dressing gown that has my elite gamer guy gaming community crest on the left breast pocket) so you can trust my words as what they are, facts not opinions.

If you play this game you will be evicted from your home, if you enjoy this game you shall be evicted from your planet. Hence the mission to Mars business where they are shipping away all lactose intolerant people. The people that enjoy online games are the next to go so we can finally have a normal society where everyone gardens and no one wastes their time on the internet.

So yes, you shouldn't be afraid of death. Even if death is a muscular bearded homeless person in an alley with white lightning cider breath. For a camel is to us what a traffic light lemon and a goat birthday cake walked up the stairs, do plastering your self for expensive less loanshark pay day made redundant relationship problems forever never. 

JethroThePoet
JethroThePoet

@UFO2012 I don't understand why people give gamespot articles so much shit. Hell, game news isn't the most ground breaking thing on the web and they dish out content every day multiple times a day. What the hell do you want them to talk about?

lutarian
lutarian

@guardianofhonor You are an idiot.  This game is not trying to be Wow.  It is totally different and plays like an RPG, not an MMO. I should know, I have been in beta since the beginning.  It is also not boring, not repetitive and not a cashgrab.  You blind WoW fanboys needs a lesson in MMO's.



CiTizenMaSSaKre
CiTizenMaSSaKre

@Patohua1  YOu were a little rough, this game is fun, it's ok, but you are right that it feels WAY more of a cartoony MMO than a Elder Scrolls game. I would say people who play this game need to keep an open mind (sad fully, in the community of modern gamers there are so few people with open minds), and not just dive into this game thinking it is going to be the next great Elder Scrolls installment. This is an MMO made my another developer who wanted to make an MMO GAME, not the next Elder Scrolls game. They used the Elder Scrolls universe because it is a good universe to set a MMO game in, but other then the lore and the places you go in Tarmiel, and the races you play, that is about as much of Elder Scrolls you will get out of it.

Patohua1
Patohua1

@nparks that was so blunt I don't think it even qualifies as a sexual innuendo...lol.

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

@pddrumheller If you think an M rating will keep kids away, I'd like to point you to CoD that is also rated M and is also plagued by 8 year olds yelling every profanity known to man...

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

@runnermpls The majority don't care as long as their baby sitter keeps the kids quiet. Then, when their kid does something bad, they can just blame the game! It's a 100% win for the parents!

UnrealPro
UnrealPro

@wallacom @UnrealPro  Then there's phone bill, heat, electric, etc. not to mention the people who already have other subscriptions like Netflix already.

FallenOneX
FallenOneX

@tightwad34 Are you really asking me that with a handle like "tightwad"?????


Seriously though, I have the cash,planned on getting the system months ago, now I can't see a reason to go through with it. I would just end up one of those people commenting about how their new system is nothing more than an expensive doorstop/dust collector.

vicsrealms
vicsrealms

@---Cipher--- @pddrumheller "If you think an M rating will keep kids away, I'd like to point you to CoD that is also rated M and is also plagued by 8 year olds yelling every profanity known to man..."

Probably some new ones too!

UnrealPro
UnrealPro

@tightwad34  I meant on top of everything else. It adds up. It's 180 dollars a year for this on top of the game itself.

tightwad34
tightwad34

@UnrealPro I don't know your situation, but I find it hard to believe people have trouble paying for Netflix.

ypsltov
ypsltov

@UnrealPro @QuadDamage85  Try paying the bills and subscriptions for your wife and son. My wife doesn't work and our son is a few years away from a part time job. We basically have  6 annual game subscriptions to Everquest 2 between 3 people and we will have two subscriptions to Elder Scrolls Online. At least we went lifetime in LOTRO the one year it was offered!


I gave up subbing to The Old Republic because it didn't have enough to interest me. I still play it once in awhile and have two characters but I much prefer fantasy games