So, the industry establishes the AO rating and it was used all the time, right? Wrong. It carries a stigma, as seen soon after the rating’s system was established with Thrill Kill. Initially touted as the next Mortal Kombat, Thrill Kill was an over-the-top 3D fighting game, which featured sexually suggestive, sometimes fetishistic overtones; brutal, Fatality-like kills; and a roster of fighters that included a “gimp,” a dominatrix, a cannibal, and other all-around taboo types. It was soon rated AO by the ESRB. Obviously.
Naturally, the game grew to have its fair share of detractors. Unfortunately for its developers at Paradox Development (aka Midway Los Angeles), Electronic Arts was one of them. After purchasing Thrill Kill’s original publisher, Virgin Interactive, EA cancelled the game only weeks before its release, citing that “the tone and the tenor of the game was just too violent.” Plenty of gamers were incensed, but the precedent was set: Aggressively “adult” games would have to proceed with caution from now on.