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ESRB Eyeballing Ratings For iPhone Games 72

Posted by Soulskill
from the why-not-go-for-flash-games-too-while-you're-at-it dept.
Kotaku reports that the ESRB is thinking about expanding their game ratings to include games sold on the App Store. They realize that evaluating every single game is not feasible, but they may still be underestimating the amount of work they'd be taking on, and it could negatively affect some developers. Quoting: "'ESRB has seen increases in rating submissions each year since its founding and has always been able to keep pace,' the ESRB's Eliot Mizrachi told us. 'We have rated more than 70 mobile games to date and will undoubtedly rate more in the future as the market grows.' Seventy? Over the past, what, four or five years? It's a piddling number when you think of the hundreds of games available through the App Store. Further, many of them are mobile adjuncts to console releases, a different sort of beast from iPhone games. Not all of those need or deserve a rating; but if Apple brings in the ESRB to rate games, with the idea that it'll help parents control what their kids buy for their iPods, then unrated games are likely to be blocked by such filters. The incentive would definitely be there to get a game rated. And what of the cost? Getting a game rated isn't a free service; the ESRB levies a fee that covers the cost of looking through the code and rating the game."
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ESRB Eyeballing Ratings For iPhone Games

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  • by Sun.Jedi (1280674) on Monday June 15, 2009 @07:07AM (#28333483) Journal
    I don't buy or play games based on their ESRB rating. I do not judge games or content for my children based on the ohsosubjective ratings process [esrb.org]. These guys provide no value-add, just seems to be a money catch.

    Oh, MPAA [mpaa.org], you can lose your ratings as well ... I'm an adult, a participating parent, and I prefer to allow my children to experience and ask questions rather than become numb little fat kids with Nicktoons as a babysitter and therefore do not need your assistance in choosing appropriate content for my children.
  • by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao AT hotmail DOT com> on Monday June 15, 2009 @07:18AM (#28333525) Homepage
    ...I'd use TIGRS [tigrs.org] rather than ESRB.
  • It's not a money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday June 15, 2009 @07:26AM (#28333565)

    It's a "Keep the politicians the fuck out," action. The reason that the MPAA started rating movies was because there were grumbles that maybe the government should start doing it. Well you can ask our Aussie friends how much they like a government run system. So instead the movie industry set up a voluntary ratings system. It is completely voluntary, and if you sniff around you find there are plenty of films not submitted for ratings. However most do get submitted and rated. Thus they can say "No need for a government ratings system, we take care of it ourselves."

    Was the same logic with the ESA and ESRB. They are trying to keep congress the fuck away from game ratings because they know that'll be a huge shit storm. Instead there is a voluntary ratings system that most companies use. It isn't required, looking at Impulse right now there's a couple of new indy games on there that aren't ESRB rated, whereas the big name games are. Also it isn't the only one out there. PEGI is a European equivalent. Many games are rated by both, however I've encountered US titles that were PEGI rated rather than ESRB, Civ 4 comes to mind.

    So that's the idea. It isn't that the ESA is trying to extort money, it is that they are trying to protect their market from politics. They want game makers to be able to develop games without having a congressionally appointed committee saying "Nope, that's not ok, you can't do that." They do charge for the service, but it makes sense since yes, it DOES take time and effort for people to go through a game and rate it.

    It's good that you don't use ratings as a "This is ok," guide for your children, however that doesn't mean that the whole ratings process is worthless. It is more about CYA than anything else. Also, ESRB ratings are pretty good. While they are subjective, all ratings will always be, they give specific reasons for a rating on the box. On the front there is the letter that lets you know what the rating is, but on the back there is a larger explanatory panel. For example Prototype is a new game rated M. The reasons listed are Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language. Sacred 2 is also rated M, it's reasons are Blood and Gore and Violence. Now that sort of thing is helpful, though the ratings are the same, the reasons are a bit different. Suppose you are ok with violence, but not swearing (ok so that's stupid, but just suppose) then maybe you decide that Sacred 2 is a game that you can consider.

    So really, I'm happy with ESRB ratings. I don't use them to make any kind of buying decision, I don't have kids, but I like that it is working to keep politics out of game rating. Otherwise, it'll just be a huge problem.

    For example they might find a crafty way to try and get around the first amendment. So they pass a law saying all games must be rated by the Government Ratings Board to be allowed to be sold. They aren't restricting your expression, just saying that if you want to sell the games they have to be rated. However they decide they want to ban what are now M rated games. So what they do is set up ratings for lower games, but then keep disagreeing on what goes in the highest rating. So you submit a game, and it gets shot down, they won't rate it because they don't have the rating for it. You claim free speech and they say "We aren't restricting your speech, you are free to make the game, you just can't sell it right now since we don't have a metric for how to rate it." Net effect? Game is banned and such a law might survive a court challenge.

    So let's keep the voluntary ratings thing going here. Give the government as few reasons as possible to get involved in regulating games.

  • by spamking (967666) on Monday June 15, 2009 @07:43AM (#28333633)
    Be involved with your kids and actually take a look at what they're playing/downloading and act accordingly. Take it upon yourself to rate their games/apps.
  • Re:Seems pointless (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dontPanik (1296779) <ndeselms&gmail,com> on Monday June 15, 2009 @07:48AM (#28333661)
    I don't really see a developer mislabeling their own app.
    If anyone knows the content of their game, it's them, and what do they have to gain from mislabeling their game?
  • Re:Seems pointless (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Devout_IPUite (1284636) on Monday June 15, 2009 @08:04AM (#28333753)

    Um... ALL of the content that gets rated is fluff. It's gore levels and detail of the violence and amount of cleavage and bad words. You put that stuff in to attract mature audiences, why would you hide it with the rating tag?

  • by Devout_IPUite (1284636) on Monday June 15, 2009 @08:08AM (#28333775)

    The one think I really have against the ESRB: Halo a higher rating than Medal of Honor. Even though MoH has you shooting humans over government pissing and land grabs and Halo has you shooting aliens in self defense because they're trying to wipe you out.

    They only rate the fluff, not the context. That and of course, boobies get a higher rating than shooting someone with a gun... WTF?

  • by morari (1080535) on Monday June 15, 2009 @10:23AM (#28334881) Journal

    It isn't that the ESA is trying to extort money, it is that they are trying to protect their market from politics.

    No, it's a money grab. They are middlemen, and just like any other middleman, they are only there to make money by providing a service that no one really needs. If they want to keep the government out of their market, then why don't they? Being bullied into doing something isn't much better than having it done for you. Last time I checked, books don't have to submit to some asinine ratings system. Hell, even music albums only need a vague, nondescript "Parental Warning" sticker.

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Monday June 15, 2009 @10:26AM (#28334913) Homepage Journal

    I'd use TIGRS rather than ESRB.

    And run the risk of your game not getting into the App Store, should Apple follow the policy of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo of making ESRB the exclusive ratings organization for the North American market.

  • Cashgrab (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alaren (682568) on Monday June 15, 2009 @10:54AM (#28335279)

    ...so why would the ESRB need to get involved?

    Just read the tags.

    The ESRB doesn't rate games out of the goodness of its heart. It's not funded by a generous contribution from viewers like you. Ratings cost money, often far more money than small developers could hope to afford. The ESRB sees a growing market and wants its cut.

    While there may be a political argument for ratings (i.e. keep the politicians out of that business), that political argument is completely separate from the "standards" argument--in other words, I believe that a consistent, instantly recognizable ratings system a la the ESRB is unnecessary to satisfy the courts that there is a "less restrictive means" than government interference, which plays a major role in relevant First Amendment cases (I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice).

    So yeah, if I were a small iPhone game developer, I would condemn the ESRB's reaching for my money in the strongest language possible, and point out that content is already put through a review process by Apple.

    P.S. Why is there no whitespace between my HTML paragraphs!? Very sad...

  • Re:Seems pointless (Score:4, Insightful)

    by twidarkling (1537077) on Monday June 15, 2009 @11:27AM (#28335703)

    It's a voluntary ratings board. Remember, it's the only thing that's kept the government from stepping in with a ratings system of its own.

  • by professorguy (1108737) on Monday June 15, 2009 @01:52PM (#28337691)
    Can I quickly ask what the fuck an 11 year old is doing with an iPod? Or any device that REQUIRES him to start charging items to your credit card?

    Are you people smoking crack?

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