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ESRB Supplements Rating System With Summaries 53

Posted by Soulskill
from the rated-p-for-pedants dept.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) announced today that in addition to their standard ratings for video games, they'll begin including summaries of the games, highlighting the parts which earned the rating. As Giant Bomb points out, some are quite entertaining to read. The new policy drew praise from Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), both of whom have spoken out against "inappropriate" game content in the past. The summaries are viewable at the ESRB's website; thus far, they've only done them for games rated since July 1st.
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ESRB Supplements Rating System With Summaries

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  • Interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dschmit1 (1353767) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:47PM (#25741821) Journal
    This will be interesting. I can see what they are trying to do, but its just going to entice some children into actually wanting the games based on the specific graphic nature that is depicted in the summaries. Interesting.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WDot (1286728)
      While Giant Bomb lampoons the ESRB summaries like this, I applaud them. Previously the only people who would give parents information about the inappropriateness of video game content were a few small parent group or Christian ministry sites that either were woefully incomplete in their games lists or tainted their reviews with particular ideologies. It's nice to see such graphic detail written by objective professionals. For example, Penny Arcade is definitely a niche game, but I can see why parents mig
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Who cares if their kids are exposed to profanity and violence? It's not like they don't hear those words a thousand times a day in 6th grade. Every person in the West is completely desensitized to all but the most viciously brutal torture scenes.. gunshot blood is nothing. Let them grow up and quit censoring their world. I love how they really nitpick on the Early Childhood rated games. LittleBigPlanet has "One ancillary character makes belching noises while talking to the player's character." FOR THE LOVE
        • by rav0 (983195)
          That's why the summaries exist. A parent can read the summary for Little Big Planet and then decide to let their child play the game regardless of the rudeness.
    • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

      by lysergic.acid (845423) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @11:34PM (#25742563) Homepage

      i think it's a good thing that the ratings board is actually providing to the public more detailed explanations for the ratings they assign. however, like the MPAA's film rating system, there's still a lack of transparency in how the rating process is conducted--for instance, who is on the ratings board, how are these members selected, and what are their qualifications.

      also, the AO rating for video games, like the NC-17 rating for films, is still in effect blacklisting creative works such that they are commercially inviable by making such works impossible to distribute. this means filmmakers & video game developers need to gain the approval of the ESRB/MPAA rating board before they can release their work, essentially giving each industry's self-appointed censors editorial power over all creative works that the mainstream public has access to.

      one of the more ridiculous examples of this self-censorship process can be seen in the Manhunt 2 release for the PSP, which was crammed with so many blurry, staticky video filters and bloom effects overlaid one on top of the other, that it felt like you were watching a bad low-budget 80's grunge music video. within the game the main character was the one escaping from a psychiatric ward, but the developers were the ones who were actually stuck in an artistic straitjacket.

      the ESRB and MPAA have no right to dictate what content the public should have access to, nor should they have any sort of editorial control over published works. this has given them an unreasonable level of influence over the media and our cultural landscape. but worse yet, they are not accountable to anyone except themselves. at least if the board were selected by the public via an open and transparent process that would give them some kind of democratic legitimacy. and while i don't know much about the ESRB, according to the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated [imdb.com], the MPAA has had 2 clergy members on every ratings board since their film rating system was created. now, i'm fine with each religious establishment coming up with their own ratings for films/games/books/whatever, but why should the clergy be involved in the "official" rating system that everyone is subjected to.

      there also seems to be no written or published rubric to ensure consistent ratings across all games/films. they don't solicit opinions from the public to determine how they should hand out ratings. who are they to decide what is acceptable for children/teenagers/mature adults and what's not? at the very least they should allow the public to give feedback on the ratings they assign. so if a film or game is given the rating of AO or NC-17 but public opinion does not agree with the rating, then the rating can be changed to reflect public opinion. perhaps the IMDb can add user ratings polls for films and games. it would be interesting to see how well public opinion matches up with actual assigned ratings.

      • I don't see censorship as the problem at all. Retailers can refuse to sell whatever they want, especially if it's very important to their soccer-mom customers.

        But there's always alternative distribution methods- like indie music; if you don't like the terms of the labels, publish your music yourself. It's tough, but plenty of bands have made millions by relying on word-of-mouth and bootleg/internet distribution fueling concert sales.

        The problem as I see it is that there are no alternative distributi
  • Slashdot (Score:5, Funny)

    by gringer (252588) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:48PM (#25741825)

    Slashdot: Game Experience May Change During Online Play

    Slashdot is a game where individuals carry out unexpected attacks on boring everyday items. Individuals are occasionally rewarded with the 'moderator' skill, which allows them to negate or enhance other attacks. The attacks have real-world consequences, such as causing both computers and individual people to burst into flames, as well traffic congestion.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      /. Quote of the Day: And then there was the lawyer that stepped in cow manure and thought he was melting...

    • Re:Slashdot (Score:5, Funny)

      by Tubal-Cain (1289912) * on Thursday November 13, 2008 @03:11AM (#25743815) Journal

      Slashdot is a game where individuals carry out unexpected attacks on boring everyday items.

      Such as windows?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by hcdejong (561314)

      NOBODY expects the Slashdot Inquisition! Our chief weapon is FUD...FUD and DDOS attacks...DDOS attacks and FUD....
      Our two weapons are DDOS attacks and FUD... and ruthless bickering....
      Our three weapons are DDOS attacks, FUD, and ruthless bickering...and an almost fanatical devotion to our own opinion....
      Our four... no, Amongst our weapons... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as DDOS attacks, FUD...
      I'll come in again.

  • ESRB (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mfh (56)

    Rating summary: Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode 2 is a 'point-and-click' adventure game based on characters from the online comic Penny Arcade. Players battle enemies using a role-playing game style combat system, taking turns using fists and weapons to harm various robots and humans. Several cutscenes depict 'cartoony,' over-the-top instances of violence, including heads being blown off, characters sliced up by lasers, splattering blood and flying body parts. Humor

    • by AvitarX (172628)
      In fact, these will probably be used by news stations. They can do even less reporting now.

      "Think of the children, you think it's a game, but actually 'Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode 2 is a 'point-and-click' adventure game based on characters from the online comic Penny Arcade. Players battle enemies using a role-playing game style combat system, taking turns using fists and weapons to harm various robots and humans. Several cutscenes depict 'cartoony,' over-the-t
    • by Zerth (26112)

      Humor is often based on [...] sexuality (e.g., robots humping legs, testicles and taxidermy).

      Um... If the sexuality involves TAXIDERMY shouldn't that rate at least a mention of necrophilia and/or bestiality(depending on the preserved)?

      FSM, I shouldn't have waited to buy the second episode. I know what I'm doing tonight.

  • by alvinrod (889928) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @10:01PM (#25741899)

    I don't think the current rating system which just lumps things into categories like 'T' and 'M' work all that well. Take for instance, the hypothetical game "Bert and Ernie's Fucking Amazing Adventure!" where characters perform no violent actions at all and there is no sexual content in the game. The only catch is that every other word is the foulest profanity known to man. The game will probably be rated 'M' simply due to the language content, but being completely devoid of sexual or violent content, it's still fine for a child to play assuming you don't care if they pick up any fowl language.

    Why not rate games based on a few categories: Violence, Sex, Language, etc. Each category is given a score where a higher score indicates more objectionable content. I think that this gives consumers looking at the box a better understanding of what the game's content is like without actually lumping it into some other person's idea of "Mature." This would also go a long way towards stopping games that are labeled "Adults Only" from essentially being banned from store shelves.

    If you actually define the ratings fairly well you really don't need an ERSB as companies can actually determine where the ratings should be at themselves. It will probably never happen, but it's just another solution that's considerably better than the ERSB and all the incompetence and idiocy that comes along with it.

    • by prestomation (583502) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @10:05PM (#25741927)

      ....it's still fine for a child to play assuming you don't care if they pick up any fowl language.

      I wouldn't want my kid talking like a bird, what the hell is wrong with you?

      • by Speare (84249)

        Bert and Ernie's Fucking Awesome Adventure ...it's still fine for a child to play assuming you don't care if they pick up any fowl language.

        I wouldn't want my kid talking like Big Bird, what the hell is wrong with you?

        Fixed that for you.

    • I find the use of language in this comment offensive. Wheres the ESRB for slashdot? I want all comments to have summaries beforehand!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hexedian (626557)

      Parents (and people in general) already seem to have trouble keeping up with the current, simple system. Not to mention, there would be significantly less room on the box for the art.

    • by inzy (1095415)

      because, repeat after me "CONSUMERS ARE IDIOTS"

      they don't want 'complicated systems', they just want a simple letter/number, whatever that tells them all they need to know in one hit

      reading's very overrated

    • Remember that old rating system for computer games where there was like mercury thermometers used to indicate how extreme something was in sex, violence, etc.? Those were sweet because I would always look for games with lots of sex and sneak looks at the back of the box.

      Go Leisure Suit Larry.

    • Take for instance, the hypothetical game "Bert and Ernie's Fucking Amazing Adventure!" where characters perform no violent actions at all and there is no sexual content in the game. The only catch is that every other word is the foulest profanity known to man. The game will probably be rated 'M' simply due to the language content, but being completely devoid of sexual or violent content, it's still fine for a child to play assuming you don't care if they pick up any fowl language.

      So which is it, they swe
    • Because a one-size-fits-all morality is what parents want. It saves them from having to parent and ensures that the child will, at the age of 18, be as boring, ill-prepared, and stupid as most other 18 year olds. You assume incompetence where willful negligence exists.

    • I think that's the point of the text next to the rating. The rating is for the person willing to put zero effort into judging the game; the text, which tends to point out the basic categories you mention (language use, substance use, sex-related material) in an extremely concise format, letting you know if that M game is most likely M because of violence, sex, profanity, or what-have-you. It's not perfect, but it helps deal with the limitations of the simple rating without discarding it.
    • You must be younger than me (and I'm only 23). We already had this (look up RSAC), and it got taken over by the ESRB ratings. While I agree that such a system is better and more informative, it already failed once, so why wouldn't we expect it to fail again?
    • Does a banana in your ear count as sexual penetration? ;)

      • Wow... Startropics reference on Slashdot... I think there's a glitch in the Matrix...

        +1 old fart

        • I don't know Startropics, but I do remember episodes of sesame street where Ernie has a banana in his ear :D

          Old? I'm only 29 *caresses crick in back*

          • Ah... In the early NES adventure game "Startropics" if you asked an NPC to repeat his speil, he would say "do you have bananas in your ears?" and a bunch of other running banana ads
            This was popular ad imagery for the game in nintendo power etc...

            Amazingly, I can't seem to find the actual in-game image (I beleive it is from the ending sequence) online anywhere, but here's a fanart rendition.

            SFW, but silly [startropicshq.com]

    • by hal2814 (725639)

      "The game will probably be rated 'M' simply due to the language content, but being completely devoid of sexual or violent content, it's still fine for a child to play assuming you don't care if they pick up any fowl language."

      To accentuate your point here, my kids both have a strong interest in learning new words. That's just where they're at in development right now. I'm more concerned over them playing a game (or being exposed to me playing a game) with strong profanity than I am with them playing a gam

    • The idea is that the review board should be independant of the company trying to make money from the game by selling copies to as many people as possible. Otherwise, I think your suggested rating system would be far better then what we use today - which is a steaming pile of shit.

    • by The Moof (859402)

      few categories: Violence, Sex, Language, etc

      ESRB already puts that information on the boxes as well. Their full list of descriptors is at their site [esrb.org].
      The T, M, etc are more of a suggestion for the appropriate age group to play the game.

    • by brkello (642429)
      The more complicated you make, the less people will bother to try to understand it.
  • ESRB, AKA useless (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ZekoMal (1404259)
    Let's see...my Nintendo 64 Hexen has an M for mature rating, due to extreme gore and violence (also known as giant red squares falling away from 16-bit monsters as you blast them with magical attacks).

    This same rating was slapped on GTA, and that same rating sat on Splinter Cell as well (a game where shooting someone in the head sometimes doesn't even kill the guy, and there is absolutely no blood, even when you cut a dudes throat on the third game).

    They can slap those ratings on all day; kids are sti
    • by Yaur (1069446)
      It has seemed to me there is a hole in the ratings system for a while. That games like GTA, GOW, and fall out 3 end up with the same rating as The Longest Journey doesn't seem right to me.

      On your other point. As a parent of young children and a gamer I do look at ESRB ratings before I buy anything for the kids.
    • Couldn't possibly be that war is almost celebrated by our government as a 'tactic' to mend the economy (or ruin it if you can't finish it up fast).

      The problem was thus how to keep the wheels of industry turning without increasing the real wealth of the world. Goods must be produced, but they need not be distributed. And in practice the only way of achieving this was by continuous warfare.

      War, it will be seen, not only accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it in a psychologically acceptable way. In principle it would be quite simple to waste the surplus labor of the world by building temples and pyramids, by digging holes and filli

    • by westlake (615356)
      Let's see...my Nintendo 64 Hexen has an M for mature rating...

      .

      Hexen for the N-64 was released in 1997.

      It isn't useful even to begin this discussion without admitting that - in the last ten years - publishers like Rockstar have pushed the limits of the M rating much farther - and not without a price.

  • by ucblockhead (63650) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @11:01PM (#25742327) Homepage Journal

    "Mommy, I want 'AssRaper 2'!"

    She will then dutifully go to Gamestop and ask for "AssRaper 2", the box of which will feature a masked man with a butcher's smock and a bloody chainsaw and will feature the add text "More Carnage than AssRaper!" and "With Decapitation Physics!" The warning label will have a large 'M' and will say "Rated for Mature audiences only because of massive death counts, realistic exploding bodies and scenes of torture". She will buy it, give it to her ten year old for Christmas.

    Around March, she will walk in on her kid when he has reached a scene where a female NPC shows up topless. She will then promptly have a complete cow and write her congressman demanding that children be protected from this vile content.

  • WotLK (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

    Platform: Macintosh, Windows PC

    Rating: Teen

    Content descriptors: Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence

    Rating summary: World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King is a massively multiplayer online (MMO) role-playing game set in the imaginary world of Azeroth. Players complete quests to 'level up' their customized characters, while gaining powers and better equipment along the way. Quest objectives sometimes involve using magic and hand-t
  • Inappropriate game content? Is that when they lie about game content for political reasons, or just when they show game footage completely out of context on television?

  • Having just beaten the main campaign in Resistance 2 (PS3), I had to look up ESRB's summary of the game:

    Platform: PlayStation 3

    Rating: Mature

    Content descriptors: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language

    Rating summary: Resistance 2 is a first-person shooter set in an alternate 1950's environment where the Earth has been overrun by aliens. Players must shoot their way through hordes of aliens, large-scale bosses and sometimes robots, using a variety of guns and grenades. Aliens and humans get blown u

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