Batman: Arkham Knight Shows Bruce Wayne at His Darkest
Things are about to get rough.
has earned an "M for Mature" rating from the ESRB. It's the first Rocksteady Batman game to do so.
We spoke with Sefton Hill, founder of Rocksteady and game director on Arkham Knight, about why the game earned the rating, what it means for people buying the game, and how, without one conversation, Arkham Knight might have been a different game altogether.
Rocksteady's first two Batman games, Arkham Asylum and Arkham Knight, both earned "T for Teen" ratings. When Arkham Knight earned an M (suitable for players 17 and older), Hill said the team was surprised.
"From our point of view, we never wrote it or made it with a rating in mind. We never did that in the previous two games... We just felt that this is the story that we really wanted to tell. In terms of creating the story, with such strong characters, sometimes they lead you in interesting directions. They lead you because you know who they are and you build the world around that."
The last Arkham games pushed the limits of the T rating in their darkest moments. Hill wouldn't share any specific examples of how Arkham Knight "beat" those games, though he did generally explain why things are going to be more dire than ever for the caped crusader.
"As the end of the trilogy, we have every villain in Gotham working together to destroy Batman," Hill said. "It's unavoidable that some bad stuff is going to happen. But that doesn't mean we changed our approach. We're not including gratuitous blood or swearing. We want to deliver a true end with no compromises, and it takes us to some dark places."
He continued, 'Themes are more mature to some extent. At the same time it's balanced as it's always been. This isn't the case of stripped back Batman. In the case of Arkham Knight, Batman is at his peak and most powerful. That's why they also have to push him harder than before. You still get the power fantasy of being the Batman. But to counter that strength, the super villains are going to fight dirty and take him to dark places."
Earlier in the development process, Hill received an email from Warner Bros that could have drastically changed the game's direction. WB did a ratings analysis on Arkham Knight and pointed out key scenes that will cause "issues."
"I was really freaked out because the solution was to lose the scenes," Hill said. "But they were key scenes! We couldn't lose them! I got the email. I'm freaked out. I thought this was going to destroy the game, everything I'm passionate about... I was building myself up for this big argument. I didn't get much sleep..."
"I got on the phone the next day with the VP of production at DC Comics," Hill continued. "The first thing he asked me was what I wanted to do."
So Hill told him, and that was that.
One potential downside to earning an M rating is that nobody under 17 years old can buy the game without the help of an adult. Hill was aware of this, but he said keeping the game "mass market" wasn't the correct solution.
"I'm not blind to the fact that [the M rating] does mean some fans will miss out... I don't want to be oblivious to that fact. It would have been wrong to water down the game and deliver a story we didn't believe in to keep the game "mass market" or enable it for more people. We feel that's the wrong way to go about it. We said we love the story and we don't want to jepoardize that."