I'm a Human Inbox

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The ESRB is not broken

I've been reading GamePolitics for a while now, and it's starting to get to the point where I'm disagreeing with almost everything they say. In one of their newer articles "ESRB Lacks Credibility", GamePolitics says this:

The ESRB has the most incompetent investigators this side of the Keystone Kops or the ESRB's "watchdog" role is irretrievably compromised by their lack of accountability to anyone but the video game industry.

Whichever answer you choose, this fatally flawed system must change.

In this, I disagree. A lot of people complain that the ESRB (definition) is not good enough, that it's not doing a good enough job. But something I think people easily forget is how the ESRB stands up in comparison to movie ratings.

Read MoreKotaku has done a great article directly comparing the ESRB with the movie industry's MPAA system. Note, Canada has its' own system which is more robust than the American one. I'm not going to get into the major differences between the ESRB and MPAA's systems, but I do want to talk about the effect on the consumer level.

When you rent a M rated game and you're underage, you'll get carded. You can't buy an M rated game from most retail outlets, let alone touch one. Every game store has their games hidden behind glass cases, while movies are out on free display. I can't remember the last time I've seen someone carded when renting or buying a movie, it just isn't done anymore. Nobody cares. Movies aren't generally seen as threatening to children anymore, it's the videogames that are the main concern.

Have you ever tried looking for the rating for a movie before you rent it? Most movie ratings are on the back, near the bottom in extremely small print. There is no description for the kind of content you can expect within the movie, and it's hard to find even when you're looking for it. Videogames on the otherhand have a large label on the front, and an even larger one on the back which goes into detail about the kinds of content you can find on the box.

Most video stores I go to have huge ESRB rating posters on the wall, describing how the rating system works. The TVs showing previews of movies show ads describing the ESRB rating system. When kids rent games with their parents, the parents take a look on the back to see what the game is rated.

In comparison to all other forms of media, games have the most robust rating system. So when people tell me that the rating system doesn't work, I say bullshit.