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Is the ESRB Broken? 88

Posted by Zonk
from the fixit-fixit-fixit dept.
Prompted by Senator's Brownback's legislation, an interesting discussion is taking place on the ESRB, and gaming related politics. Next Generation offers up a damning look at the ESRB, wherein author Aaron Ruby says that the organization is 'incapable of effectively communicating with consumers, nor of fending off attacks from the industry's many critics.' At the Sony Online 'Station Blog', SOE's John Smedley retorts, saying that an industry-wide mentality is to blame for the ESRB's precarious position. Meanwhile, EGM's editor Shoe has some choice words on claims the organization shouldn't have to 'play through' every game that comes to market. From this last piece: "Sure, you usually can't see 100% of a game on an average playthrough. But I guarantee if you get three guys to sit down and finish every product, you can learn a lot more about what these games contain than from watching a bunch of highlight reels, which, remember, are edited by companies who have huge stakes in what the ratings turn out to be -- talk about conflict of interest!"
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Is the ESRB Broken?

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  • by Trevelyan (535381) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @12:57PM (#16293571)
    Censorship made easy [penny-arcade.com]
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Rydia (556444)
      I agree with the moderation, since always go to 3-panel comics written by demagogues with vested interests to inform myself upon nuanced issues. Extra bonus points for when the entire thing is based upon that person's speculation as to what the "real" purpose of a piece of legislation is for.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Tycho did bring up a great point about user created content. It was user created content that caused all the controversy over GTA and Oblivion. If the ESRB played through those games it wouldn't have changed their ratings at all.

        This is a major issue since we are seeing more and more online games. How can a publisher control what the users do in the game? The whole ESRB playing the games is a red herring.

        • by ifrag (984323)
          I've seen games with a nice little catchall saying "Rating may change during online play". Funny but that was an online only game, so the rating was always subject to circumstance.
          • by amuro98 (461673)
            But then, how do you rate an online game?

            And what does "completion" mean to an MMORPG anyways?

            Sure, the ratings board people could play around on a beta server to check out the basic game play and whatnot. But human players - unlike scripted NPCs - don't come with ratings.

            If I buy an online game that's rated "T", login, and find the server full of players spewing naughty words, does that mean I can now sue the board for not giving the game the "M" I now think it deserves?

            I agree that the board should actua
            • by aichpvee (631243)
              I have yet to play any M-rated game that has language worse (if you're a prick who thinks words can be "bad") than I've heard out of the mouths of five-year-olds. They're just words, grow up, America!
        • It was user created content that caused all the controversy over GTA and Oblivion.
          No. The "hot coffee" content was always in GTA, just not accessible. Can a Gameshark code be called "user-created content"?
          • by the_quark (101253)

            It was user created content that caused all the controversy over GTA and Oblivion.

            No. The "hot coffee" content was always in GTA, just not accessible. Can a Gameshark code be called "user-created content"?

            Well, regardless, the point is that a proposal is on the table to make the ESRB play through "all" of the video games it rates. They could've played San Andreas for years, and they never would've found the "hot coffee" content, since it was not directly reachable from in the game. Or are you saying ESRB

    • by kfg (145172) * on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:20PM (#16294005)
      All rating systems are inherently broken, Not just the ESRB. They are all based on giving a thumbnail description of what somebody else is second guessing you will find offensive.

      The only true record of content is an exact copy of the content. If you wish to find out if the content will offend you, you will have to risk being offended by viewing it yourself. Them's the breaks.

      If you have some special thin skinned needs to be met the ESRB ratings aren't the only ones available. Many special interest groups produce their own reviews and rating systems. They aren't printed on the box, but you can still read 'em before you buy.

      In a world where everyone has a "right" to not be offended everyone will have duct tape over their eyes, ears and mouths.

      And what is the rating for those of us who are offended by that concept? Wal-Mart does not label the bowdlerized content they sell as such. Stamping a big, red "B" on 'em might be nice, to let me know to avoid them and go off in search of a true copy.

      In future we might see somthing like an "L" rating; for "Libre."

      Warning! Warning! This media is a free speech zone. We make no guarantees against its content. Use entirely at your own risk.

      You might be surprised to find that I do not welcome that day, because I have always thought of that as the default.

      KFG
      • I have always thought of that as the default.

        Oh poor misguided youth... ;-)

      • by rtechie (244489)
        For God's sake, PLEASE moderate the parent up!

        As the parent point it is simply NOT POSSIBLE to create a rating system that can please the majority of users because of the extremely wide variations between individuals. Amish people are offended by ALL modern media. Most conservative Muslims are offended by ANY depiction or description of sexuality. Many pacifists are offended by ANY depiction of violence as entertainment. etc.

        This is not about "protecting the children", the notion that media has a major impa
        • rtechie, I agree with every aspect of your post, save one.

          Much better that we expose children to relentless violence such that they grow up to be nice healthy soldiers, wife-beaters, and axe murderers.

          I'm hoping that I read that wrong, and that you don't actually equate soldiers with "wife-beaters and axe murderers". Unless the soldiers in your country are directly attacking its own civilians, do you honestly believe that your nation would be better off with no military at all, with absolutely no way to

          • by kfg (145172) *
            . . .you don't actually equate soldiers with "wife-beaters and axe murderers". Unless the soldiers in your country are directly attacking its own civilians, do you honestly believe that your nation would be better off with no military at all. . .

            Plato is the first person known to note the correspondence between soldiers and "wife-beaters and axe murderers." He was also the first person known to have proposed the formation of a permanant, professional army for defense of the state.

            He did also note, however,
          • by rtechie (244489)
            I'm hoping that I read that wrong, and that you don't actually equate soldiers with "wife-beaters and axe murderers"

            I forgot to add "police officers and prison guards".

            Violence is violence is violence. As pointed out by another poster, soldiers inevitably become psychologically damaged and more prone to aberrant behavior simply by the nature of their jobs, which is being professional killers. This is the point of all that tough discipline outfits like the Marines are famous for: keeping the soldiers from go
    • "Alright, bring in the lobbyists" is how that comic ends.

      Which lobbyists?

      Game industry lobbyists? Representatives of the people who setup the ESRB in the first place?

      Relegious fundy lobbyists? Who think dancing leads to fornication?

      "Media" lobbyists? What do they care, they just want to turn games into movies.

      So back to the original question: Which lobbyists?
      • That's the point. Congressmen don't think, they just do whatever the people with money want.
      • by KDR_11k (778916)
        AFAIK the other media (especially TV) are worried about videogames competing for their viewers'/listeners'/whatevers' time. That might also explain why the news likes to blame videogames since videogames are competition but not a regular information outlet so they can't talk back.
      • by rifter (147452)

        "Alright, bring in the lobbyists" is how that comic ends.

        Which lobbyists?

        Game industry lobbyists? Representatives of the people who setup the ESRB in the first place?

        Relegious fundy lobbyists? Who think dancing leads to fornication?

        "Media" lobbyists? What do they care, they just want to turn games into movies.

        So back to the original question: Which lobbyists?

        All of the above and more. That is the point. "Bring in the lobbyists." That's how Congress currently does things. If you have more lobbyists and

      • by sowth (748135)

        Relegious fundy lobbyists? Who think dancing leads to fornication?

        Don't tell me your fall for this. Many of those organizations who claim this often have church dances for their singles.

        They really want to ban all places where "evil" "nonmembers"[1] can socialize and meet. This essentially happened in the place I lived. They believe those who don't join their church shouldn't have the right to the joys of friendship and companionship or even the right to life. [1] This is what they called everyone who

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KDR_11k (778916)
      Censorship? I got news for you, the USK [wikipedia.org] has been doing that for years. And they've been rating thousands of games a year [helliwood.mind.de].

      Of course they aren't safe from criticism, their frontpage has an article about some politicians going "think of the children!", demanding a ban on violence-promoting games and claiming the industry self-regulation has failed and has to be replaced with a federal agency. Well, guess what we've done three years ago... I realize politicians are dumb as hell but they should at least remember
    • by wolfing (1007041)
      I dunno. Should Barbies be rated M because they have naked bodies underneath the dresses? That's exactly what happened with Oblivion, someone removed the basic clothes from the models and underneath was just a blandly colored texture of skin.
      I just find this whole thing so ridiculous
  • Sure, you usually can't see 100% of a game on an average playthrough. But I guarantee if you get three guys to sit down and finish every product, you can learn a lot more about what these games contain than from watching a bunch of highlight reels, which, remember, are edited by companies who have huge stakes in what the ratings turn out to be -- talk about conflict of interest!

    Shoe is of course correct in his opinion here. A playthrough will show much more than a highlight reel. The problem is that the

    • by joshetc (955226)
      The problem is they don't understand common sense. Obviously the only way for sure exactly what a game entails is to evaluate ALL of it. If ESRB ratings want any credibility this is what will happen.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Jabrwock (985861)
        Of course the problem is that they designed this legislation to assuade parental fears about Hot Coffee and the topless Oblivion. But playing 100% of the game, even with cheat codes, wouldn't have found such material, as both required external tweaking in order to access. So the premise on which he crafted the act is inherently flawed. Even foreign ratings boards, who are sometimes much stricter, their ratings usually agree with the ESRB ones (in the case of PEGI in the EU, it's actually a bit more lenien
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by joshetc (955226)
          Obviously mods shouldn't affect the games rating anyway. I can tape a picture of my penis overtop of my TV while watching a football game but it doesn't change the rating of the game to XXX.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Jabrwock (985861)
            You misunderstand the source of the material. Hot Coffee and Oblivion were both made using already present material. Hot Coffee was a disabled mini-game, the hack just enables access to it, almost like an undocumented cheat code, only you used memory/resource manipulation instead of just typing it in. Oblivion just removed the bra object, the nude breasts were already textured underneath. Both games were re-rated due to this content, because it wasn't "added" by a 3rd party, it was already present on the d
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by amuro98 (461673)
              Wait wait wait... You're telling me that Oblivion was re-rated because it was discovered that a female character is naked under her clothing objects!?

              Has anyone told Brownback that he too is naked under his clothing? Does he have no shame!?
            • First and foremost, mod parent up. Senators who are out to make the ESRB play through the whole game really have no idea what's going on and should be kicked out of office for pretending to.

              Now that that's out of the way, all of this proves that the ESRB's system has been right all along: tell companies to show the most objectionable things available in the game, normally-accessable or otherwise, so they can rate it.

              If a company lies about what is the most objectionable material, or is negligent to p
              • by Jabrwock (985861)
                If a company lies about what is the most objectionable material, or is negligent to produce it to the ESRB, then the ESRB should sue the shit out of them. Sue them to the point where they lose all the money they gained from the misleading rating (a tough estimate, I know). Now there's no incentive to hide objectionable material from the ESRB.

                Not quite all money, but they do have a 1 million USD fine for failing to disclose material that leads to a re-rate. Plus there's the money lost from all the recalls
      • But it seems that 'all' content includes third party mods, given the recent Oblivion fiasco. Do we have to keep people evaluating new mods and patches to ensure the rating stays the same?

        Do patches have to be evaluated before they're released since they're studio productions? Even if there's a critical update in the game? People aren't going to get upset at Congress for this mess, at least, the majority. They would just see it as a game company dragging their feet.

        I doubt they'll be happy until every ga
        • by Jabrwock (985861)
          I doubt they'll be happy until every game company goes under.

          Nah, just like P-A said, they'll be satisfied once their own lobbyists are in charge. Instead of those money-grubbing industry lobbyists. ;)
      • The problem is they don't understand common sense. Obviously the only way for sure exactly what a game entails is to evaluate ALL of it. If ESRB ratings want any credibility this is what will happen.

        The problem is that making sure you see ALL of a game is rather hard, let all ALL of every game released. Let's take, oh, Final Fantasy X-2, for no appearent reason. I've put in over 100 hours to get it to say I have 100%, but there's still a secret 100-floor dungeon that very clearly has more storyline down

        • I couldn't tell you what specifically means a game should be 'T' instead of 'E'.

          It is whatever the residing taliban decides. Yesterday, it was nudity and violence. Today it is gambling. Tomorrow it might be kittens. Kittens are evil beings trying to take over the world. Mwahahahaaa!

      • by soft_guy (534437)
        the only way for sure exactly what a game entails is to evaluate ALL of it

        That's what the current system does. The company making the game evaluates their product based on ESRB guidlines. They evaluate ALL OF IT. It is also in their enlightened self interest to not lie on these either.
    • unfortunately 99% of things passed by congress, pass in exactly that context.

      Although I find it silly that people are equating this as censorship. They aren't saying what you can/cannot make/sell, they aren't (to my knowledge) even giving age limits for things as to who can buy.

      What they are doing is providing one more piece of information on which to base a decision, and attempting to make it as accurate as possible.
      • by Jabrwock (985861)
        Consider the "chilling effect". If your game has to be delayed an extra 3-4 months as the ESRB plays through all of it, because it contains so much mature material that they need to document, wouldn't you start taking it all out in the hopes your game will be processed faster? Plus there's also the fact that once you agree to follow the government's rules for "verifying ratings", at that point you've agreed that the government can dictate that you've "done enough" to ensure the ratings match what they've d
        • as for the "done enough" comment, at least it provides a semi-independant metric of what enough is. I'd rather have that than none at all. As for the extra time - I'd think that would be based on the game length more than anything else. So it might make *shorter* games, but then plenty of players would complain about that and get it fixed. It's not as if games don't get delayed for months already. I'm not saying it's perfect, but there are down sides to not having it also.
          • by Jabrwock (985861)
            I'll trust politicians to evaluate "done enough" just as soon as I've figured out what "mission accomplished" means...
            • I don't trust politicians either, but unfortunately with the US, that's what we have when it comes to making rules. As long as it doesn't actively censor the games, I'd rather have too much than too little. And if games are taking to long to be rated, ESRB needs to hire more people.
              • by Jabrwock (985861)
                What happens when the politicians don't feel the ESRB has done enough to ensure a higher rating the lobbyists feel a game deserved? Case in point, Bully. What's to stop the ESRB with being charged with not having "done enough" to ensure that it got a high enough rating that most stores refuse to carry it? (which in itself causes censorship, by having material removed so you can actually sell more than 4 copies)
                • what's to stop them? One would hope that we would start a lobby group if they start to go too far.

                  As for the stores - that's their choice, and what's this about a 4 copy limit?
                  • by Jabrwock (985861)
                    One would hope that we would start a lobby group if they start to go too far.

                    Ah but see THEIR lobby group has the support of the government.

                    As for the stores - that's their choice, and what's this about a 4 copy limit?

                    I was referring to the abysmally low sales figures of "Adults Only" games, which most stores refuse to carry. So by holding the AO rating as a sword over the profits of companies, you force them through the chilling effect to "tone down" their games. It's because AO is generally assoc
        • by KDR_11k (778916)
          I live in a country where the testers are required to play through the whole games. I don't see any chilling effect. The developer/publisher just hands them a beta and they're done before it's gone gold. If the dev/pub feels smart and puts in new objectionable content after the test the rating is invalidated (see e.g. Far Cry which got de-rated and subsequently indexed).
          • by Jabrwock (985861)
            You forget, Europe isn't run by religious fundies who think that no games should contain anything more offensive than the word "poop".

            Q. Did those testers spot Hot Coffee?
            • by KDR_11k (778916)
              They didn't spot Hot Coffee but the game was rated 18 already so it didn't matter anyway. Of course there are higher "ratings" possible (indexed or outlawed) but those aren't given out for a bit of porn. For a comparison, the Leisure Suit Larry games excluding the latest are rated 16 while the latest is rated 18 and the game Singles which got rated AO by the ESRB has a rating of 16. Because there are ratings that are worse than 18 and the 18 rating is given pretty often no retailers I know of refuse to stoc
              • by Jabrwock (985861)
                "They didn't spot Hot Coffee but the game was rated 18 already so it didn't matter anyway."

                True, but they didn't spot Oblivion either, and it was only rated T & 16+. Granted EU countries don't bust a hernia over nudity, but they didn't exactly spot it either.

                "The ESRB could split the M rating into a 16 M rating and an 18 S (severe) or something rating while AO remains reserved for hardcore pornography."

                I completely agree. I've always thought it silly that their highest rating for non-porn is 17, but por
      • by Jabrwock (985861)
        Also by mandating this, the government is also essentially trying to "force" ESRB ratings on games. I mean, what happens when a company decides to ditch the ESRB to get their game out faster? Compare to "unrated" DVD releases. Granted most stores refuse to sell unrated games, but no-one's pressed the issue yet. What if someone with the financial clout of Take Two decides to release two versions of the next GTA, one that spends 3-4 months being "verified" by a player at the ESRB, and one that gets sold onlin
        • by HTH NE1 (675604)
          Granted most stores refuse to sell unrated games

          I've never checked: has the ESRB applied ratings to those classic game collection systems that let you play a dozen old Atari 2600 games or six Midway arcade classics?
          • I've never checked: has the ESRB applied ratings to those classic game collection systems that let you play a dozen old Atari 2600 games or six Midway arcade classics?

            Yes. "Plug and Play TV Games" boxes sold in Wal-Mart are rated. I even saw one that had an M sticker over an E rating for a poker game whose rating was changed when the ESRB changed its policy about gambling.

    • by Ironsides (739422)
      Shoe is of course correct in his opinion here. A playthrough will show much more than a highlight reel. The problem is that there is a fundamental difference between a normal playthrough and a 100% playthrough, and I'm not sure Senator Brownback, nor any other ledguslators, know what that difference is.

      Even this does not show all the problems that can occur. More or less summing up the Penny Arcade rant on it, how does one play through a game where there are a dozen possible ways to encounter the same t
      • Games (most of them anyway) are not much more than a scripted sequence of events that occurs based upon certain inputs. That is, if I push w in most FPSs my character plays a little animation that usually looks like he is walking forward. If I shoot and I hit a biological target, in many games a sequence is played of causing that target to play its death animation and maybe some particles will come out that look like blood. In Unreal Tournament that character sometimes becomes a floating skeleton, someti
        • by amuro98 (461673)
          I can think of several examples from games where there may be some more questionable material late in the game, or even hidden as an unlockable item requiring multiple play-thrus. Granted the game companies have nothing to gain by lying or hiding such material.

          But you've got to remember, what one reviewer may find offensive or "M"-worthy, may not even bother another reviewer. For instance, what if Dead Rising had an easter egg which allowed you to see a semi-nude zombie. Would that bump the game from a "
    • I think it's important to discuss & explain the difference between a "casual" playthrough and "100%" playthrough, to any parties involved in the decision-making process...

      At work I have to regularly explain complex technical things to people who don't really care and likely never will. I still have to figure out a way to make them understand the importance of whatever point I'm making, regardless of whether or not they previously had any damn clue what I was talking about.

      This is a similar kind of situa
      • The problem is that the average congresscritter has absolutely NO clue what a 100% playthrough would cost. Obviously, they've never played through any of the Final Fantasy games, and from what I'm seeing, they're small potatoes compared to some of the newer games.

        What about games like World of Warcraft, where the content is constantly being updated? How about Unreal Tournament? Sure, the package doesn't ship with content containing nudity, but nothing is stopping 3rd party mapmakers from making a map set

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by amuro98 (461673)
          Personal responsibility was SOOOO last century.

          Nowadays it's all about "It's not my fault!"
  • The entire premise of this legislation is bullshit because it doesn't address the issues that got us to this stage in the first place. Regardless of whether you think the current system is insufficient, no solution we can propose would appease these critics. Even if it were humanly possible to play through %100 of the material available in a game to give an accurate appraisal of its content, there is no way to account for material that can be added or unlocked by third party mods. And the conflict of intere
    • by GigsVT (208848)
      Just have the ERSB rate an asset dump. If there are questionable textures of audio clips, then they can get the game maker to show them that asset in context.
      • by Sancho (17056)
        They'll probably never consider the context. These aren't reasonable people we're talking about.

        The Oblivion nudity patch simply removed certain textures that were layered in sequence. I'm not sure, but I think the Sims use the same technique (although they cover the "naughty" bits in the lowest texture level). Should a game have a higher rating just because the textures are there? I suspect these people will believe that they should be.

        • by GigsVT (208848)
          Everyone in the Sims was barbie doll crotch once you took off the censorship. Wasn't really much in terms of "naughty" textures.
    • by westlake (615356)
      there is no way to account for material that can be added or unlocked by third party mods.

      Mods didn't make headlines for Rockstar.

      It began with in game content: "Kill the Haitians."

      Rule No. 1.

      If you release a video game that celebrates gun violence and the inner city gang culture you had better be prepared for a gut reaction from the inner city itself.

      --- and from the suburban soccer moms whose adolescent boys are your prime market.

      It ended in the AO button-mashing sex play of Hot Coffee---which

      • by skorch (906936)
        Neither of your cases apply to the ESRB, which is the topic of discussion and the target of the bill. They appropriately rated Vice City for the content it had. They didn't give it a lower rating than they were shooting for, and none of the content in the game went beyond anything you might find in a similarly rated movie. Whether you agree with or find that content appropriate for a mature audience or not is now your own problem.

        As for Hot Coffee, even being able to play through the complete content of
        • by westlake (615356)
          This idea that developers are trying to sneak inappropriate material into their games to corrupt children for some nefarious game-industry plot is outright ridiculous.

          It is not ridiculous to argue that Rockstar had a reputation for pushing the limits of public tolerance for adult content in sn M rated game. It is not ridiculous to argue that Rockstar was playing with fire.

          If it requires additional steps and third party modifications or tools not available in the disk itself to access content beyond what

  • Quick! Someone fix it!
  • by RingDev (879105) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:21PM (#16294021) Homepage Journal
    Let the industry and market correct itself. The industry is demanding accurate game ratings. There is too much money at risk for producers and investors to allow another hot coffee.

    The holy shrine of game sales is Walmart. If you can't get into Walmart, you're going to have a hell of a time making it big. (I'm purposefully excluding online content delivery systems for now!)

    In order to get on the shelf at Walmart, you NEED to have an ESRB rating. Not only that, you need to have a M rating or below.

    If your rating is changed after the release, and Walmart pulls every single copy of your game off their shelves and sends them all back to you (at your expense), your company (or the producers) will likely take a huge financial blow.

    Investors see this. They know that the game has to meet the ESRB's bar for M rated and below games, and that any deviation from that bar will result in a loss of potential revenue. So the Investors are telling the producers that the game has to be spot on for the ESRB review. The Producers work hard on the developers making sure there is nothing questionable that is on the disk.

    I recently got to sit in on a presentation by the project lead for the Human Head game 'Prey'. And he accounted how they presented to the ESRB, and the similar groups in other countries. They put all of the worst parts of the game in a demo. Blood, guts, egg crapping rectums and all. They had backup material ready to replace anything that the ESRB thought was out of line for their rating. They worked hard to make sure that they were in the clear.

    There is really no incentive to poorly represent a game to the ESRB if the game is for mainstream sales. And the retailers are putting a lot of pressure on the ESRB to accurately rate those games. There is nothing in this process that requires government intervention.

    -Rick
    • by necro2607 (771790)
      Well, I bought The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion the other day - the first computer game I've bought for myself in a few years. Of course, I didn't purchase it from Wal-Mart, even though they had 4 copies the last time I was dragged there. :)

      You may recall that Oblivion's ESRB rating was increased from "T" to "M" a few months ago (see here [gamedaily.com])...

      If your statement above is true (If your rating is changed after the release, and Walmart pulls every single copy of your game off their shelves and sends them all back to
  • author Aaron Ruby says that the organization is 'incapable of effectively communicating with consumers, nor of fending off attacks from the industry's many critics.'

    Would he rather the ESRB more closely follow the MPAA's example: talk softly and carry a big subpoena?
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      So groups like the ESRB are not only burdened with the task of supplying a ratings system, they must also ensure that the market is educated enough to make effective use of that system.

      He's saying that the ESRB hasn't done a good job of informing consumers about the rating system.

      The government tried (and notably failed) to educate people about the V-Chip [fcc.gov]

      Which makes me wonder: Are these ratings even the point?

      Despite the V-Chip, Fundies still try to impose their morality on everyone instead of educating peo

  • Another option parents have to the ESRB is the whole 'be a parent option'. You know, instead of making your xbox 360 the baby sitter, try sitting down and paying attention to what you child plays. And if you see something that conflicts with your moral/religious/any other beliefs, you just shut it off.
  • Every criticism I've seen of the ESRB is complete shit. Every single one. The fact of the matter is, the ESRB's ratings have been, IMNSFHO, very, very accurate, with only a *single* instance where I disagreed with the rating. And that was for Oblivion, which have the "nude" mod "scandal," the ESRB reevaluated the game, and decided that the game should have been rated 'M' anyway.

    The fact is, game companies have been fairly honest about the content in their games from day one. The political bullshit with
    • The ESRB ratings are very clear.
      A single rating, plus a slightly more detailed description of the precise concerns.
      If they're not communicating with the parents, it's because the parents can't read, or don't want to. Lawmakers can't make parents become responsible by beating up on the ESRB or game industry.

      I've seen the parents argue with the salesmen about buying age appropriate games for their kids. It really is disgusting to witness the reaction of some parents when someone dares suggest GTA may not be a
      • by amuro98 (461673)
        I don't think I've ever seen a clerk argue with a parent about a game. Chances are, they probably tried...once, got yelled at by the parent and the manager, so they never bother anymore.

        I've also see more than few kids grab GTA or some other M game off a shelf, hand it to a parent who just puts it into their basket without even bothering to glance at the box - much less read it.

        Honestly, ignoring the government and the fundie groups, what would happen if the ESRB just decided to mark *EVERY* game as "early
      • by sowth (748135)

        GTA may not be appropriate for their pre teen child

        This is a crock of shit. I played plenty of "evil" video games and saw plenty of "evil" violent movies, yet I haven't killed anyone yet. Not even people who clearly deserved it, and I have kidney failure, two strokes, and a bunch of other medical problems to prove it. Maybe those parents have realized such and are not the bad parents you seem to be making them out to be.

        People who do screwed up things (then it is blamed on video games or whatever) were

  • I, too, feel that the ESRB ratings have been fairly accurate in terms of the content that one can reasonably expect from a video game. One has to go through some out-of-the-ordinary (although certainly not "extraordinary" by geek standards) measures to reach the controversial content that prompted the recent scandals and rating changes in Oblivion and GTA. I can replace Jar-Jar's head with a phallus using simple software at my house... does that mean the MPAA should change the Star Wars prequel ratings to
  • No, the ESRB should not be changed due to Election year pandering legislation.

    Maybe the ESRB should form a playtest group to make it's own vids for rating purposes.
    But they should absolutely not bow -in any form- to political whim in an even-numbered year.
  • these are dark times for the modding community too. GTA, Oblivion, TheSims, those controversies popped up because of modders (nothing against modders, im one myself). It'd be interesting to see what will happen, most companies don't directly support modding, or act against it, but things might change, and they might start taking action. sad to think some irresonposible people might make modding community a bigger target.
    • by westlake (615356)
      These are dark times for the modding community too. GTA, Oblivion, TheSims, those controversies popped up because of modders

      If modders have become a larger target, it is because Rockstar tried to sell the idea that they were ones to blame for Hot Coffee. That said, I think we can expect gatekeepers like Valve (Steam) and Microsoft (XNA Express) to exert more control.

      • Rockstar did do that.(http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2005/07/20 / [penny-arcade.com]) Unfortunatley, you'd think after Hot Coffee, the guy who did oblivion would have the common sense to stfu about it.
        • by westlake (615356)
          you'd think after Hot Coffee, the guy who did oblivion would have the common sense to stfu about it.

          You can't have it both ways. No sanctioned nude skins. Except in the Easter Eggs left behind by your own developers.

  • by rabbot (740825)
    The ESRB hasn't failed to do their job in any way for as long as I can remember. What would even make someone ask such a stupid question?

    The only people that have failed to do their jobs are parents.

    And please don't bring up Hot Coffee or any nude mods that other games have had...these have nothing to do with the ESRB. They were either user created content to access the hidden content (Hot Coffee), or user created content to implement the nudity.

    If you have a problem with this then do some parenting. You
  • It seems to me that this is all just a continuation of the target on the game industry as a whole due to the many school shootings and such taking place. Or like another recent story recently posted, which blames videogames for a commited homocide:
    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/09/29/14 1209 [slashdot.org]

    As I stated in a comment I placed under that article, I strongly believe that all of this is just people trying to find a scapegoat for their ignorance and the problems that come from it.

    There is nothin
  • Because the BBFC (The body responsible for rating films in the UK) does rate some games in the UK, specifically "games that depict human sexual activity, human genital organs or gross acts of violence" (from Wikipedia). For example GTA: San Andreas was rated 18 in the UK, which is the highest rating (well apart from R18, sold in licenced sex shops). So the Hot Coffee "scandal" meant nothing over here.
    • by Jabrwock (985861)
      I'm assuming by your question that you associate the MPAA with the BBFC. The difference is that the MPAA doesn't have legislative backing, and is as voluntary as the ESRB is. In most other countries that have ratings boards, there's one singular unit responsible (except in Canada, where there's one for each province/region).

      So the answer would be no, the MPAA does not rate games. Just movies.

      I'm guessing the brouhaha in the US was mostly because people weren't paying attention to the ratings anyway, si
  • How can it be broken if it was never working right in the first place? The ESRB is for people who want to play politics with our games and win votes from people who think that thier senator or whoever is doing the right thing. Kids and adults are going to play the game no matter what if they really want to anyhow. Plus it also just becomes a selling point for kids to buy Mature or AO games just because they are not supposed to have them. Give me a break .....

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