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ESRB Ratings Unfairly Targeted? 53

Posted by Zonk
from the uneven-valuation dept.
John Callaham writes "The US video game ratings system created by the industry and the ESRB has come under attack in recent months, but is it really all that bad? FiringSquad decided to take an informal retail survey and compare how the ESRB rates games to how the movie and TV industry rates DVD releases." From the article: "One person who has been highly critical of the ESRB system is Leland Yee, the California Assemblyman who authored the bill that was signed into law last fall in that state that would ban the sales of certain games with violent content to minors (the law is currently not being enforced pending the conclusion of a court case started by the video/PC game industry). When the study of content descriptions in M-rated games was issued by Harvard earlier this month, Yee was quick to send out a press release ..."
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ESRB Ratings Unfairly Targeted?

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  • kinda ironic ... as video game boxes are getting smaller...

    "Their philosophy would litter game packaging with descriptors for every type of content possibly encountered in a game, no matter how fleeting or insignificant the impact on the playing experience may be."
  • by Zediker (885207) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @11:17AM (#15212462)
    A rating system is only as good as those who enforce and follow it. So there is nothing wrong with the ESRB, its just that it isnt followed by purchasers and some stores just wont enforce it.
  • Naturally. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by keyne9 (567528) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @11:23AM (#15212531)
    Of course it is being unfairly targetted. Any fool can see that the majority of DVD/movies have ratings that are both miniscule and lack of information--nevermind being practically hidden in the coloring of the packaging--whereas the ESRB labels are very informative.

    Even further, "enforcement" of this voluntary ratings system is coming under fire. Despite being at or above the movie system's "Gold Rating" for 'improper' purchases, critics are decrying the system as being fundamentally broken.

    Is this simply policy-making at its worst? Have the VG industries not paid their protection dues ("donations") lately?
    • "enforcement" of this voluntary ratings system is coming under fire.

      You know, you see these "studies" where kids are still able to buy M-rated games or whatever. The problem is that they don't also, at the same time, do the same thing for movies or whatever other media. A couple years ago, my brother bought Monty Python and the Meaning of Life (rated R) from a local Target. He was 15 at the time. Where are all the news stories about this?

  • Mandatory (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Excuse me, Mr Government? Would you mind watching my child while I go about my business for a couple decades? Thanks, you're a peach.
    • Too bad you posted as AC, I would have modded you up.
    • Re:Mandatory (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PFI_Optix (936301) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @11:49AM (#15212808) Journal
      Excuse me, Mr. Citizen? Would you mind not giving my child ready access to content he is not emotionally mature enough to handle? Thanks, I appreciate it.

      The old saying "it takes a village to raise a child" bears repeating here. I'm not saying that it's anyone's job but the parents to raise a child, but you have to be clueless to think that we as a society have no influence on children. It's hard for a parent to raise their children when they've got hundreds of idiots standing on the sidelines second-guessing all their decisions and waiting til they turn their backs so they can undermine their parenting.
      • You're missing the point of the comment. Sure, there are idiots out there telling parents how to raise their kids. The issue the OP was bringing up is that people don't seem to want to be as involved as they should be in raising their kids. How many people these days are "raised by the TV"? The problem isn't just that there are hundreds of idiots on the sidelines -- it's that lots of parents would rather let those idiots take charge than actually do the work themselves.
        • I won't argue that there are a lot of parents out there looking for something or someone to take over as much as possible so they can go about their business and not worry about their kids. I'd just as soon those people were sterilized and possibly lobotomized. It'd save us all a lot of grief.

          But every time game ratings and the legislation relating to it comes up, some witty guy feels the need to say "they just want the government to do their jobs". That's simply not the case for a lot of parents. The FTC h
          • The problem is it is not just a ban on sale to M+ games to minors, that would be illegal. The government cannot enforce a private orginazations ratings, they must come up with there own standards. That is the problem with these laws is that they are not going to fund them so that games are pre-certified, so game shops need to make a judgement call, they will of course just go with the ratings. The problem arrises if a gung-ho tying to make a name for him/herself sues gamestop for selling violent T rated
            • The problem is it is not just a ban on sale to M+ games to minors, that would be illegal. The government cannot enforce a private orginazations ratings, they must come up with there own standards.

              So make the ESRB a contractor hired to set video game ratings. That would give the organization some added income so they could better screen games, in exchange for accountability (which isn't a bad thing). They just aren't willing to think around problems like that.

              Also, is it easier for 13 year olds to get ciggar
              • Thw ciggarrette thing must be very dependant on region than, where I was 5 to 10 percent of clerks didn't really care, but there were plenty of stores to try in our general area, and there is to this day only one game store in bike range.

                it may have been more the 14-15 year range where it became easy though.
          • My parents had a simple way of preventing me from buying things that they didn't want me to when I was young. They just didn't give me any significant amount of money!

            I know that perhaps it seems absurd to some, but what does a adolescent really NEED to buy? Allowances were for covering "operating expenses". It was put in my hand, and I was sent on my way. I learned that if I decided to spend the money on something other than its intended purpose, I'd soon have a shortage, and nothing sucks more than th

      • Re:Mandatory (Score:2, Insightful)

        by plague3106 (71849)
        Excuse me, Mr. Citizen? Would you mind not giving my child ready access to content he is not emotionally mature enough to handle? Thanks, I appreciate it.

        Excuse me, Mr. Parent? Would you mind actually doing your parenting job and stop trying to get others to do it for you?
        • Spoken like someone who is not a parent.

          And like someone who didn't read the rest of my post.
          • Re:Mandatory (Score:3, Insightful)

            by plague3106 (71849)
            Please, stop with that 'not a parent crap.' My wife has kids from a previous marriage and feels the same as I do. I don't have kids but I do have parents. And when my mom was worried about the video games I was playing, she talked to me. She wanted to make sure that I understood whats ok in a game is not ok in real life. But she didn't even have to tell me; I already learned before that the difference between right and wrong.

            And I read the rest of your post. Its mindless junk. Let me clue you in on s
            • Yes, parents are the single greatest influence on a child's life. Yes parents have a lot of control. No, that doesn't change the fact that as things are today, kids are being sold things by complete strangers that their parents would rightfully object to.

              We have to realize that we are in part responsible for other peoples' children. We're not responsible for raising them or feeding them or teaching them right from wrong, but we are responsible for not undermining those exact things being done by their paren
              • So the fact that you were a dirtbag with no morals gives you cause to restrict normal adults in their choices in the name of preventing your kids from going down the road you traveled? Not only are you a moron, you're a hypocrite, too.

                Keep your spawn under your control. They aren't my problem in any way, your views on villages notwithstanding.
              • Yes, parents are the single greatest influence on a child's life. Yes parents have a lot of control. No, that doesn't change the fact that as things are today, kids are being sold things by complete strangers that their parents would rightfully object to.

                It certainly does. You child can't get the money to buy the objectional game, or even the game system, without the parent. Your child probably won't go to the store by themselves to do so. If a parent finds a game he doesn't want his child playing, he ca
          • Re:Mandatory (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Tetsujin28 (156148)
            Spoken like someone who is not a parent.

            And like someone who didn't read the rest of my post.


            I'm a parent, I read your entire post, and it to me it reads like impractical and irresponsible whining.

            I don't expect others agree with my views of what is or is not appropriate for my child, so how on earth could I expect them to help limit his access to things I would consider inappropriate? Rather than deluding myself into thinking that the culture can be made "safe" for my child, I'm focusing my energies on ra
      • Excuse me, Mr. Citizen? Would you mind not giving my child ready access to content he is not emotionally mature enough to handle? Thanks, I appreciate it.
        It is a parent's job to prepare their children to handle such things. It is impossible to prevent a child access to sex, drugs, rock-n-roll or video games but you can prepare them for the eventuallity of exposure to them.
    • I guess your child doesn't go to a public school then?
  • by SYSS Mouse (694626) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @11:29AM (#15212578) Homepage
    Although the label tag ("Blood and Gore") are informative, the rating itself is something basically nonsense.
    Give the classic Doom as an example:
    The GameBoy Advance version of Doom got a Teen instead of Mature rating on all other platforms because id Software changed the blood into green. Does that makes the game less violent? Certainly not, beside the image of the Pentagram.
    • It's best to compare the ESRB rating to the movie rating system. T for teen with notes: blood, gore, sexual suggestions, etc, is a much better system compared to PG-13, or R, without any inditcation of why short of the movie title. Green blood does make the game less violent, as it's less realistic. Granted you're still blowing away demons with shotguns. But who knows? Maybe demons do have green blood...And with the title "DOOM", I think expectations of pentagrams aren't too far fetched. Should a movie or a
  • But we've also discovered that some games that I would rate "T" or even "E" get rated "M" - Metal Gear Acid and Acid II for the PSP are both rated "M", and for the life of me I can't figure out why.

    "Sexual Themes"? Huh? Other than the fact that the female characters are jiggle way to much, I didn't notice anything. The violence isn't especially graphic, either, and the "blood" is, well, a red ring on the floor after the dead NPC vanishes...
  • Duh. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) <Satanicpuppy@@@gmail...com> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @11:33AM (#15212625) Journal
    The basic MPAA movie rating system is a joke. You never see anything with the highest "public-consumption" rating (NC-17).

    Contrast that with ESRB...You see games rated M all the damn time. They've just flopped it in the other direction. M is the equivalent of NC-17, and AO is the equivalent of X, but you see parents buying their kids M rated games, who would collapse with heart failure if they found out their kid had an NC-17 movie in his posession.

    Just stupid. People need to get over themselves, and use the damn ratings accurately. I'm tired of listening to parents wigging out because they took their 6 year old to an R movie that should have been damn NC-17, and I'm dead tired of granny buying her 9 year old grandson a fricking M rated game, and then losing it because of how violent it is. It's supposed to be violent, and if they were decent parents, they wouldn't let their kids have access to that stuff in the first place.
    • Re:Duh. (Score:5, Informative)

      by sqlrob (173498) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @11:45AM (#15212756)
      They've just flopped it in the other direction. M is the equivalent of NC-17, and AO is the equivalent of X

      No.

      R = M
      NC-17 = AO

      There is no X, it was replaced with NC-17 because they didn't register the mark. Just like NC-17 movies, there's only a handful of AO games.
      • by Surt (22457)
        That's a good parallel, but not really the case. If you compare the level of violence in an M game to an R movie, you'll find the M is (often) much higher. M is actually more closely matched to NC-17 in terms of actual content, and AO is the equivalent of the type of movie you cannot get at blockbuster, and which will not be shown in conventional movie theaters.
        • Not really. Compare, say, Saw or Passion to an M game.
        • MThat's a good parallel, but not really the case. If you compare the level of violence in an M game to an R movie, you'll find the M is (often) much higher.

          I don't think that's true at all in terms of graphic violence, and if you compare the level of sexual situation and nudity in R movie versus an M, I think you'll find that the R is very clearly often much higher. Consider the actual content of the material in GTA:SA that raised the objection that it should have been rated AO -- nothing that wouldn't ha

    • R = M
      NC-17 = AO

      There is no "X" rating for movies anymore and there never really was an offical "X" rating to begin with.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-rated#United_States [wikipedia.org]

    • I think that the main problem is a rating system can never convey what a reviewer can in terms of exactly WHY a movie is rated "R" or why a game is rated "M". That's why I usually check out a site like Screen It [screenit.com] before I see a movie...because even as an adult, there are some things in movies that I frankly just don't care to see. I've seen stuff in PG-13 movies that I could have done without and I've seen R movies that I had no problem with, so the rating system is definitely not "one size fits all".

      So is
      • You might find http://www.gamerdad.com/ [gamerdad.com] useful in that regard. Individual titles are reviewed for content, with an extensive forum that parents can post to seeking information from other community members about the child-friendliness of a prospective purchase.
    • Re:Duh. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by BaronHethorSamedi (970820) <thebaronsamedi@gmail.com> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @12:02PM (#15212931)
      Reminds me of the lawsuit brought by that grandmother several months back over the whole "Hot Coffee" debacle. She apparently wasn't bothered by her grandson playing a game--clearly marked for the 17 and up crowd--that involved shooting cops and beating crack whores, but the moment she finds out there's a poorly-rendered naughty scene that can be viewed by any child enterprising enough to buy additional hardware and download hacks off the internet, there's grounds to seek a multimillion dollar judgment against Rock Star.

      Legislators complaining over ratings inadequacy, opportunistic adults seeking cash awards after the fact rather than reading the letter on the box--the fact is, criticizing the ESRB is a good way to move capital, be it economic or political.

      Brass tacks: the ratings do *exactly* what they're designed to do: they give any parent with a modicum of common sense the information needed to make an initial thumbs up/thumbs down call as to the appropriateness of a given title relative to the maturity of their individual child. Grandstanding house reps don't know how mature your child is, nor does the ESRB--that's mom and dad's responsibility. Of course, you don't have to go to Game Stop or the local cineplex to know that common sense isn't a legal prerequisite to having children, but so far neither the courts nor the legislature have done anything to remedy that.
      • Reminds me of the lawsuit brought by that grandmother several months back over the whole "Hot Coffee" debacle. She apparently wasn't bothered by her grandson playing a game--clearly marked for the 17 and up crowd--that involved shooting cops and beating crack whores, but the moment she finds out there's a poorly-rendered naughty scene that can be viewed by any child enterprising enough to buy additional hardware and download hacks off the internet, there's grounds to seek a multimillion dollar judgment aga

        • NC-17 does not mean "pornography". Real pornographers don't bother getting their films rated by the MPAA.
    • Actually that's not right. The ratings on games don't match up exactly with movie ratings, but the comparisons that you gave are off. AO is the equivalent of NC-17 and X put together, M is closer to R and T is closest to PG-13 (actual descriptions are located here http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp [esrb.org]).

      I completely agree with you about parents/gparents buying T or M games for their little kids and then whining about the content. It's amazing how so many people put themselves in "harm's way" and then
  • None of this was a problem until shitty parents started using violence on tv/games as an excuse for shitty parenting. Instead of taking 10 minutes and researching the particular game their kid wants, they blindly toss it in the cart, then later on bitch about how violent it is. Video games don't cause violence, people do.
    • Why is everyone blaming the ESRB? The parents are the main reason why the ratings system fails. The ESRB rates the games relatively well (occasionally slightly off, but normally right on the money). It's up to the parents to make sure their kids are playing age-appropriate games...would you let an 8 year old play postal 2 or GTA? And also...why are parents complaining about their kids playing games that the parents bought for them...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    How come nobody ever gets upset over the ratings on Movie trailers?
    Does anyone really *look* at what's in them?

    Nearly every trailer you'll see is rated "For All Audiences", yet if you look at them and ask yourself "Is this trailer appropriate to show before 'Bambi'?", you'd have to say "No way".
    • How come nobody ever gets upset over the ratings on Movie trailers? Does anyone really *look* at what's in them?

      Nearly every trailer you'll see is rated "For All Audiences", yet if you look at them and ask yourself "Is this trailer appropriate to show before 'Bambi'?", you'd have to say "No way".


      Been thinking this for years. Glad I'm not the only one. I generally only watch G/PG movies. Mostly because I don't find the higher rated movies interesting. I've often wondered why many of those trailers r
  • I wonder if the highly-critical Yee will also be highly-critical of Nintendo's new console name...
  • Think about the last time you saw a tv ad for a game. Any game. Now think about the very beginning or very end of that ad. Most likely, it had the ESRB's mark in a corner and the spoken words "This game rated T for teen" or some such. Now think about a movie trailor. Forget about direct to DVD for a moment. I don't think I've ever heard "This film rated AA for adult accompaniment." or "This film rated R for restricted." (or the American equivilents). All you get is a relatively (compared to game ads)
  • Looks better and a lot less subtle with the bullshit that we get here in Australia. Apart from the fact there is no AO or 18+ Rating (This has being well documented previously), we now get HUGE coloured boxes on the bottom of the packaging that take up a great deal of the box, sometimes even hiding game art. They had a choice of making them as Subtle as the previous ones here in Australia which were of similar size to the ESRB ones, but they decided to make huge ones. Example
    http://www.oflc.gov.au/resour [oflc.gov.au]

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