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ESRB: content ratings help protect creative freedom

Tuesday, 26 February 2013 01:13 GMT By Brenna Hillier

ESRB president Patricia Vance has said the rating body isn’t so much a censor as a guardian of creative freedom in games.

“From an industry perspective, the ESRB has helped protect creative freedom through effective self-regulation,” Vance told GamesIndustry.

“By successfully fulfilling its mission to ensure consumers have the information necessary to determine which games are appropriate for their family and that game publishers responsibly market their product, the industry has been able to fend off the prospect of onerous legislation or other threats of regulation.”

Vance said that the ESRB constantly works to make its systems quicker and cheaper, so that it imposes fewer problems on creators, but that its still seen as an inconvenience.

“Although not the majority by any means, certain developers view the ESRB as a censor, imposing limitations on the content that game creators can include in their game. We feel that effective content labeling can actually foster creativity,” she argued.

“Generally speaking, where there is an absence of an established, credible rating standard, retailers, storefronts and platform holders tend to impose their own standards. These aren’t always especially transparent or clear, nor are they consistent. This kind of ambiguity and variance can result in developers self-censoring to avoid problems.

“Utilizing a credible third party like ESRB for ratings makes the process much clearer for developers and allows them to create their content more freely by providing a uniform, third-party standard that both platforms and developers can support and defer to.”

The ESRB is the US’s primary ratings body for video games, a product of the ESA and backed by most trade organisations. It is somewhat equivalent to Europe’s PEGI and Australia’s Classification Board.

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13 Comments

  1. salarta

    Not mentioned in the article is that the ESRB was mainly created because of games like Mortal Kombat being freely available for all ages in retail outlets, and the threat of regulation because of it. Until around that time, games like Texas Chainsaw Massacre on Atari were kept out of the public eye and had to be asked for specifically.

    While the ESRB rating system could technically restrict dissemination if its rating is too high, I think it actually improves it. As Vance says, it makes stores more likely to put out games that they might have hidden away without a rating system, but I think assurances of type and level of content also play a role. A parent knowing a game is appropriate for kids may buy the game for the kid, and we always have some teenagers that think they need to play “mature” games and might overlook ones they assume are for kids despite their quality without a rating to tell them more of what the game’s like. There are also some cases where the ESRB review hints at content, and that content could lead people on the fence to buy it.

    The ESRB could be a restriction and censorship body, but I think under its current implementation, it’s actually doing a lot of good.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Brenna Hillier

    A good point. Thanks salarta.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Dragon246

    @1,
    Agree.

    Off topic, but has someone seen a “early childhood” rated game?

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Phoenixblight

    @3

    Early children would be rated E nothing goes lower than that.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Dragon246

    @4,
    Exactly. So whats the point of it then? For toddlers? :D

    I may just be interested in such a game :P

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Phoenixblight

    @5

    “Exactly. So whats the point of it then? For toddlers? ”

    I would imagine so.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. salarta

    @2: Thanks for the thanks!

    @5: EC games exist, but if it reaches that level, companies usually try to bump it up to Everyone same as how companies will take content out to go below AO. A rating of EC tends to be seen as on par with the game being a baby’s toy, while Everyone implies no limits for age interest.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Dragon246

    @7,
    I checked it on Amazon and Reddit. They are toddlers games indeed.
    Now if you will excuse me, I am going to pre-order some :)

    #8 2 years ago
  9. The_Red

    Yeah, they will hand out AOs to games so that they won’t get released on PS3, 360 and Wii U so the artists are forced to CENSOR their own games. This is the definition of CREATIVE FREEDOM!

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Phoenixblight

    @9

    They would get released on the consoles the issue is the physical stores won’t sell the games.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. The_Red

    @10
    They won’t. MS and Sony have policies against granting certifications to AO rated games. Not sure about Nintendo but there is no way they are gonna allow an AO rated title on Wii U or 3DS.

    ESRB has been using the AO rating as a bully batton on games for years. From what I understand, two titles in particular have suffered a LOT because of that stupid system. Why can’t games have the “Unrated” option like DVDs? There are a lot of horror films that get “unrated versions” that stores will sell PUBLICLY.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Phoenixblight

    @10

    Then That is MS,SOny and Nintendo choice then. I have played plenty of games that were pretty ballsy so that would have to make me wonder what would be an AO game. Manhunt with AO patch wasn’t that bad.

    Unrated movies can’t and won’t be sold in stores like Target or Walmart.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. The_Red

    @12

    That’s the problem. ESRB says “Hey, we will give it AO but we won’t stop you” and console makers say “Hey, we’re cool with ESRB and support freedom but we can’t allow AO games”. It’s not about individual parts of the system. In the end, the current systems results in censorship.

    And it’s not always about extreme content. It’s sometimes about the volume. Still, at least movies HAVE the choice of unrated version. Look at Farenheit / Indigo Prophecy. They had to release a PC-only director’s cut in states instead of the one ESRB / console makers censored… Even then, what was on the director’s cut (AO) was way tamer than most R rated movies. AO games are mostly on par with R movies but are treated as NC-17 stuff Look at the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It got an R rating and made more than 100 million dollars at US box office. If it was a game, they would have DESTROYED it with AOs and controversies and crazy stuff like that.

    As for unrated movies, I understand that such places aren’t allowed to sell unrated flicks but at least there are a LOT of proper stores for them. Why can’t we have unrated games in select game stores? Why can’t I get the original, unrated version of Condemned 2 instead of the one ESRB butchered?

    #13 2 years ago

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    Nintendo is bringing New 3DS Xl and Splatoon with it to PAX East next month. The E3 2014 build of the game lets eight players transform into squids in a race for “splattered-paint dominance.” Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. will also be playable and featured in stage presentations at the Nintendo booth. Upcoming or newly released Nintendo […]

  • Battlefield Hardline Premium information seems to have slipped out early

    Battlefield Hardline Premium perks have apparently leaked a bit early, according to a post on Reddit. Over on the Hardline subreddit is an image which was take at a GameStop location, noting two week early access to content additional Battlepacks and more. Here’s the rundown: Four expansions Two weeks early access 12 additional Battlepacks Exclusive […]

  • Final Fantasy: Record Keeper arrives in the US this spring

    Final Fantasy: Record Keeper will be released in the US on iOS and Android this spring, DeNA and Square Enix today. The mobile titles allows players to “relive favorite moments” across all Final Fantasy installments and build a team of classic characters from across the entire franchise. If you sign up for email updates, you […]

  • Battlefield Hardline now available for pre-order, pre-download on Xbox One

    Battlefield Hardline is now available for pre-order and pre-download on Xbox One. You can pre-order it now from the Xbox Store and once you have paid for it, you can start your pre-download. Battlefield Hardline releases on March 17, and will be made available to pre-downloaders come 12.01am EDT. Check pricing and availability for your […]

  • Dying Light interactive video allows you switch between day and night

    A new video for Dying Light has been released, which allows you to hit the Z key to change between day and night. Titles Life and Death in the Quarantine Zone, the interactive story video showcases how the game changes between day and night. Daytime and nighttime are shown side-by-side but the z key allows […]

  • Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare out on PS3, PS4; PC delayed

    The Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is now available for PlayStation 3 and PS4. Havoc contains the four multiplayer maps Core, Drift, Sideshow, and Urban along with the AE4 directed energy assault rifle, its custom variant, and the Exo Zombies cooperative mode. You can purchase the DLC separately or pick up the […]

  • Here’s a teaser for Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 2

    A teaser video for the second episode of Resident Evil Revelations 2 is available, so if you’ve yet to play the first episode, you may want to skip this. Resident Evil Revelations 2′s first episode is out now. Thanks, GamesHQMedia.

  • North American eShop update is full of Donkey Kong games

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with Titan Attacks, Donkey Kong Land, Donkey Kong Country and more. eShop on 3DS Ironfall Invasion Titan Attacks! Donkey Kong Land – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 2 – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 3 – Virtual Console Luv Me Buddies Wonderland Around the World […]

  • Venture into the Valley of the Yetis next week in Far Cry 4

    The next batch of Far Cry 4 DLC, Valley of the Yetis, releases in March and Ajay Ghale will be tasked with surviving violent cultists and the mythical Yeti. Apparently the cult is looking for a secret hidden in the valley, and Ajay has discovered their motives. The DLC features co-op with a friend taking […]

  • The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack out for Payday 2, has dino masks

    The 19th DLC pack for Payday 2 title The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack is available on Steam from today. The pack will run you $4.99/€4.99 and features: 11 new weapon modifications for the AK rifles in the game 11 new weapon modifications for the CAR rifles in the game Four new masks together with their […]

  • Battle Chasers slated for PC, consoles; comic picks up where 2001 storyline left off

    Darksiders creator Joe Madureira and Vigil co-founder Ryan Stefanelli have confirmed a Battle Chasers game and a new comic are in the works at their new studio Airship Syndicate. Speaking to Polygon, Madureira and Stefanelli wouldn’t provide details on the the game, but did divulge it will be an adventure RPG with player-controlled Battle Chasers […]

  • Shovel Knight, Hotline Miami 2 discounted for Sony’s annual Spring Fever Sale

    Sony is hosting its annual Spring Fever Sale which runs for eight weeks and features a new title each week. The sale starts next week on March 3 with the launch of Helldivers. Here’s just a few items included in the sale: HELLDIVERS (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March 3 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March […]

  • The gold Super Mario amiibo is a Walmart exclusive

    The Super Mario Gold amiibo which surfaced via a CPSIA certificate earlier this month will be a Walmart-exclusive, Nintendo has announced. The gold-colored Mario amiibo will be released the same day as the Mario Party 10 game for Wii U and will run you $12,96 at 3,000 participating Walmart stores in the US. Along with […]

  • Here’s an overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

    As new gameplay overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, culled from the Active Time Report, stream has been sent over by Square Enix. The video provides a look at the history and environments of the Kingdom of Orience; the 14 memebers of Class Zero; the battle system with customizable magic spells; and the ability […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 video gives you a look at the game’s wildlife

    A new video shown by Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata during the latest Active Time Report, contains a look at the game’s wildlife and ecology. You can watch the full stream two hour stream through here, or a smaller clip courtesy of GamesHQMedia below.

  • Lionhead ventures into the free-to-play space with Fable Legends

    Fable Legends will be free-to-play when it launches on PC and Xbox One. According to Lionhead, the one versus four cross-platform title borrows from MOBA games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends as it will contain free, rotating heroes which will be added to a roster for a two week period. Once the […]

  • Win! 5 pairs of tickets to the Call of Duty European Championships

    We have five pairs of tickets to giveaway for the Call of Duty European Championships, taking place in London this weekend. The event takes place this Saturday February 28 and Sunday March 1 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Winners can watch teams will go head to head for a $10,000 prize pot […]

  • Republique Remastered has released on Mac and PC

    Republique Remastered, which was announced earlier this month, is now available for Mac and PC. The game is 20% off through Steam, GOG and the Humble Store for $19.99 until March 4. Thereafter, it will run you $24.99. The Remastered edition contains all five episodes of the game, with 1-3 available now and the remaining […]

  • LA Cops coming to Xbox One in March

    Isometric shooter LA Cops is coming to Xbox One on March 13. Already on Steam Early Access, the game looks like it’s been heavily inspired by Hotline Miami. Walk into a room, open fire, leave bloody puddles in your wake. It’s being published by Team 17. Check out the video below for some 70s cop […]

  • We have $500 of Steam Wallet funds to giveaway!

    We’re giving away 10 Steam Wallet prizes worth $50 each to VG247 readers, courtesy of Bundle Stars. All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning $50 Steam credit is to enter your details below. Join the Bundle Stars Steam group for entry in the sweepstake, and gain extra entries for […]

  • Lapsed Final Fantasy 14 players tempted back with 10 day freebie

    Square is offering lapsed FF 14: A Realm Reborn players a chance to come back to the game for 10 days worth of free adventuring. Provided you’ve already bought and registered an account you’ll be able to play free of charge from Feb 27 to March 9. Square wants you to sample the new content […]

  • Advanced Warfare: Sledgehammer looking at “opportunities” to recreate classic Call of Duty maps

    Sledgehammer Games has told VG247 it’s looking at opportunities to recreate classic Call of Duty maps in Advanced Warfare. According to co-founder Michael Condrey, players of the latest Havoc DLC are asking how Exo abilities and verticality can be added to classic franchise maps. “We’re taking a look at some opportunities to really highlight the […]

  • GTA Online reader playlist week 7: and the winner is…

    Stuff was shot. But only one player emerged victorious. GTA Online player e031271 won last night’s VG247 reader playlist, beating myself, Matt and regulars solidorwot and Revolting. Congratulations, Mr e031271. A deserved victory. We play a GTA Online playlist in an open session every Wednesday on PS4, because it’s both funny and fun. Anyone’s welcome […]

  • Leaked screens reveal The Reef as Destiny’s new “social space”

    A handful of leaked Destiny screens seem to confirm that The Reef location will be the new social space in Destiny. The new addition is likely to be revealed as part of the upcoming House of Wolves expansion. Reddit user Megamanexe4 dropped the screens on the site earlier this morning, along with grabs that reveal […]