A new eBay policy will see restrictions placed on the sale of content deemed to be overtly sexually explicit.
The new rules apply to adult films and magazines, nudist publications and adult anime that display explicit content, as well as films and video games with an X, XXX, or R18 rating.
While ratings and content controversy has consistently plagued the games industry — particularly for violence — a very low number of games have actually been classified as the above for sexual content in the last 30 or so years.
Ratings differ slightly depending on the country and body they’re assigned by. In the UK, R18 is the highest rating given by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). This rating is different to the BBFC’s standard 18 rating, and the sale of content classified under this rating is limited to licensed sex shops.
In Europe, games are rated by the Pan European Game Information (PEGI). PEGI’s highest rating is 18. For context, Grand Theft Auto V is classified as 18 by both bodies.
The Entertainment Software System (ESRB) decides ratings for video games in the US. The ESRB’s Mature 17+ rating (M) is the equivalent of an PEGI 18 rating; Grand Theft Auto V falls under this category in the US.
ESRB’s Adults Only (AO) category covers more extreme sexual and violent content, similar to the BBFC’s R18 rating.
The most notable content restriction in video games was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which was hit with an Adult Only rating upon release in 2004 due to its ‘Hot Coffee’ minigame that displayed characters engaging in sexual intercourse.
While this minigame was never actually publicly implemented, players could activate it with a mod, earning San Andreas an AO rating. The game was patched to remove Hot Coffee, and the rating was subsequently dropped back to Mature.
However, while eBay’s new policy will likely not affect AAA games or studios, it will have a knock on effect on a smaller community of gamers that are already at odds with censorship.
Prohibiting the safe sale of these titles — many of which are harmless despite sexually explicit inclusions — may inevitably lead to more underhand transactions.