Playground Games and Microsoft’s update for Forza Horizon 4 back in March, 2019 noted that they censored certain lyrics in the songs in the game to accommodate ESRB’s standards. I decided to reach out to the ESRB to find out if this was true and if they modified their standards to accommodate lyrics in a different way, and they responded saying that their standards have not changed.
A spokesperson for the ESRB responded to the inquiry about whether they modified their standards to include censorship of lyrics that go beyond profanity, epithets or slurs, and they stated that their policies have not changed since 2000…
“We have not recently changed our standards regarding music in games. Lyrics have consistently been evaluated as part of our ratings assessment and we have been assigning Lyrics descriptors as far back as 2000.”
This was in response to the lyrics in Forza Horizon 4 being on the receiving end of censorship, specifically with several songs having their lyrics muted in specific segments. YouTuber bermuda put together a video with the changes that were made to the songs.
In case you’re unable to listen to the video, the offending lyrics included “stardusted”, “high” and “God”.
If you check the original changelog from March 26th, 2019, it states that they made edits to the song due to ESRB requirements…
“Further edits to songs for ESRB requirements”
Forza Horizon 4 carries an ‘E’ for Everyone rating, according to the ESRB page. The description doesn’t say anything about lyrics, only noting that it’s a racing game with customizable avatars, which reads…
“This is a racing simulation game in which players drive real-world cars at the fictional Horizon Festival in England, Wales, and Scotland. Players can earn Influence Points by completing events and challenges to unlock additional venues and activities.”
The description doesn’t mention anything about lyrics.
It’s also odd that the March update would remove those terms, allegedly at the behest of the ESRB, even though the game has been out since October 2nd, 2018. The rating was received well before that point.
In this case the ESRB doesn’t seem to be copping to culpability of the change, but one would have to question why Playground Games would lie about having to censor the lyrics in Forza Horizon 4? This looks especially suspicious given that the lyrics that were censored weren’t slurs, profanity, or anything remotely salacious. Also, when did “God” become an offensive term?