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.