Since their inception in 1994 the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has been a ubiquitous presence in all of our lives. Each game we buy is imprinted with their unassuming stamp; giving each game a rating. Not a rating of ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but a kind of ‘morality’ rating.
The job of the ESRB has always been to rate the content of a game and give it a score between early childhood and adults only. The system the ESRB has run for years has been used to determine who should and is allowed to purchase and play a game. This ‘voluntary’ system (major retailers will refuse to carry games that lack an ESRB rating) uses a rating scale consisting of 6 different ratings. As the rating goes up, so should the age of the player. For example, a game stamped with a large black ‘M’ means the game is designed for mature audiences only (the age of maturity of course being 17).
If you can buy games with this label, you can be charged as an adult when you emulate the acts depicted in this game.
But this system may be in jeopardy. The ESRB has proposed a major overhaul to their content rating system. Currently, the system rates games based on their content and who should play them. The new proposed system will do the same, but with a different scale.
“We began to realize our ratings system was not being followed by all retailers” says Jack Waters, director of the ESRB, “Given how many minors are able to purchase M-rated games, we felt we needed to change our system. Why use something so many people ignore anyway?”
And he is right. A recent study of independent retailers shows that over 89% of Mature-Rated games are sold to children under the age of 14. All the major retailers declined to comment on the issue.
These are the people who did the study. All 2 of them.
“Doesn’t surprise me” says Tad Phillips, a subscriber to Xbox Live for the last 5 years, “Seems like every person I play against sounds like a pre-pubescent boy. If anything I would have guessed that number was a little low.”
Tad, himself a young male, is among a growing population in online gaming communities. A population that now warrants one of the most ever-present organizations in gaming to reevaluate their policies.
This is a photo of Tad Phillips taken in April 2011
The new system will include 6 new ratings to be given to the games. Beyond the obvious cosmetic changes, some games will now be affixed with multiple labels if the content of the game warrants as such.
“We feel as though some games may have content beyond the scope of just one of our new labels” says Dr. Rademus Chekov, lead project manager of the new ESRB rollout, “It would be an injustice to some games to limit them to one of our new labels. Our new system is designed to tell you exactly what kind of player should enjoy a certain game and if multiple demographics can partake and enjoy electronic entertainment; we want to be able to tell them.”
Enough with the hullabaloo, the new ratings will be as follows:
Rated ‘NO’ for No-One: “We began to notice too many games were being released that are simply shit” says Dr. Chekov, “This new rating will most likely cut down on some of the shovel ware developers who pray on elderly grandmothers out on Christmas looking for a game for little Timmy’s ‘Xwii3’.”
Rated ‘BRO’ for Bro’s Only: “Every game that releases on the Xbox 360 is about ‘Bro’s fighting wars’. We wanted to call the new rating ‘This game is on the Xbox 360’ but the acronym was simply too long.” states Dr. Chekov.
Rated ‘F’ for Farmers: “We at the ESRB have not been living under a rock for the last year and are well aware of the Farmville phenomenon.” muses Dr. Chekov, “Basically, we will place this label on any game released by Zynga.”
Rated ‘MB’ for Moms and Babies: “This one is for games that clearly are designed with the casual gamer in mind. Cooking Mama is a perfect example of an ‘MB’ game.” says Chekov, “Mostly it’s for everything on the Wii.”
Rated ‘WTF’ for What the F***?!: “This one is for every single game that comes out on for the Playstation Move.” says a visibly mad Chekov, “It is just a Wii with a glowing ball on the end Sony. You’re not going to fool us that easily.”
Rated ‘HC’ for Hardcore: “This label will apply to games that are released under the hype of being very difficult.” mentions Chekov, “However, once the game is beaten by someone we will replace future copies with a ‘MB’ rating.”
Certainly the ESRB is headed in the right direction with these new ratings. And get ready gamers, the new system will roll out at the end of June. When that day comes, gaming will change forever.