Here’s the back story: a racial epithet made its way into the speech of an Animal Crossing character. The epithet was user-created and only found in fourteen review copies of the game, all of which have been recalled and changed. Now, of course, people are pointing fingers at the ESRB, saying that their ratings system is a failure for letting something like this slip through.
Simply put, no. The ESRB warning on any game with online play clearly states that “Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB”. This is because online content can change a game at a moment’s notice, and the ESRB aren’t a psychic Gestapo. Further, this was a bad joke found not in the retail version of the game, but in a very small number of pre-release copies. The issue was discovered and dealt with quickly and efficiently.
The ESRB could not have caught this, nor should they have. I, for one, do not want the ESRB or anyone else constantly looking over my online shoulder. Every online content provider has an abuse notification system for cases just like this, and if the swift reprisal here is any indication, that system worked.
Finally, remember that the people who saw this “atrocity” were fourteen adults in the media – not impressionable kids. If you really think your precious little snowflake lacks the maturity to handle the vagaries of an online experience, play with them or don’t allow them to play. Only if players and parents take the responsibility for monitoring their own online experience can we have worldwide gaming that is open and available to the community at large.