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Modern Games and Technology Challenging ESRB's Effectiveness 136

Posted by Soulskill
from the rated-t-for-terrible dept.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board has been around for 15 years now, overcoming an ineffective start and a host of controversial events to become a fairly well-respected ratings agency. However, as this article at The Escapist points out, the world of video games is changing, and the ESRB does not seem to be adapting along with it. "The most pressing problem is the ESRB's reluctance to address online interactions. Seeing as we're moving more and more toward online and internet-enabled games, this inevitably limits the ESRB's authority as a ratings board. Although the ESRB rates the submitted developer content within online games, these ratings are always qualified by an important disclaimer: 'Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB.' To date, this has meant that the rating given to the designed game content doesn't cover chat and other forms of player-to-player communication. That's unfortunate, because the ESRB's intimate relationship with the game industry could provide it with a unique vantage point from which to evaluate aspects of online games that are beyond the purview of other would-be raters, including the quality of the game's moderation system, programmed restrictions on chat and known player demographics."
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Modern Games and Technology Challenging ESRB's Effectiveness

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  • The only good thing about Escapist Magazine is Zero Punctuation:

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/916-Wolfenstein [escapistmagazine.com]

    Yeah, he's that good.

  • by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @04:07AM (#29741971)

    Every time someone takes their kids outside they run the risk of those kids being exposed to god knows what, I don't see how online experiences are any different.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nacturation (646836) *

      The last sentence is the one to focus on:

      ... from which to evaluate aspects of online games that are beyond the purview of other would-be raters, including the quality of the game's moderation system, programmed restrictions on chat and known player demographics.

      It's like saying "Hey parents, we can't control what other people write on Slashdot, but they have a really decent moderation system." If (for those poor at comprehension, we call this a hypothetical statement) Slashdot offered parental controls to set the minimum threshold on your kids' accounts, they could conclude "While there is some nasty stuff when browsing at -1 which we have no control over, fortunately Slashdot offers you the ability to restrict your kids v

      • by Shadow of Eternity (795165) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:36AM (#29742391)

        Except that adds a whole new level of complication and liability onto things as people will always be trying (and successfully finding) ways to get around such a moderation system and all it takes is one frosty piss getting through to render the whole thing pointless.

        it's much better imho to simple leave it at "Multiplayer involves interacting with other humans you don't know anything about and have no control over, do so at your own risk." rather than giving some false sense of security.

        • the ESRB shouldnt have to explain ANYTHING about player to player interaction, it has no control at all. It could be a blanket "The ESRB does not evaluate player to player interaction, we are not your parents."
      • That'd be like a site blocker for kids that advertised that kids will only run into hardcore porn a few times a day but the purveyors are quickly shut down. Yeahhhhhh...
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @06:00AM (#29742505) Homepage

        Moderation in online games does not work anyway. Even if you put a bad word filter in you can't stop people doing things like standing together in the shape of a swastika (Anonymous in Habbo did that) or taking most of their clothes off (the Million Gnome March in WoW).

        Online games are exactly like the real world. You have to look after your young children like you would when outdoors with them. Unfortunately many parents see video games like they see TV - a low cost babysitter.

        • You mean I'm supposed to look after that little boy in my house? The TV and PC don't magically care for him? Gaaarsh. Shucks I didn't know that - I guess my money on the TV and PC was wasted.

          • As much as that's a joke, it's so true. Take a trip to your local game retailer and watch how many ignorant parents will buy pretty much anything for kids that aren't even 10 years old.

            person behind counter: "You know this game carries an 'M' rating for violence and adult themes"

            Parent: "Yup"

            person behind counter: "That'll be $59.99"

            • Well if the parent doesn't think there's anything wrong with it, that IS the parents decision. Just as many nudists take their children to clothes-free beaches or campgrounds where little girls see adult men nude, or little boys see adult women nude. I know a lot of Americans who would like to see those parents arrested, but fortunately saner heads prevail.

              The rating is a suggestion, not a mandate.

              • by Eskarel (565631)

                This is true, and perfectly ok for an informed decision. The issue is that society hasn't really woken up to understanding gaming which is bad for society and for gaming.

                A large number of people still view gaming as a bit like watching sesame street, alright for kids but not something any self respecting adult ought to be doing with their time.

                This has a number of problems, the least of which is the continued stigmatization of people who play computer games for fun. More pressingly, kids are exposed to thin

      • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @08:07AM (#29743041) Homepage Journal

        It's like saying "Hey parents, we can't control what other people write on Slashdot, but they have a really decent moderation system." If (for those poor at comprehension, we call this a hypothetical statement) Slashdot offered parental controls to set the minimum threshold on your kids' accounts, they could conclude "While there is some nasty stuff when browsing at -1 which we have no control over, fortunately Slashdot offers you the ability to restrict your kids viewing to a much higher threshold and mitigate the risk of them reading material inappropriate for their age."

        Slashdot's policy would still be found deficient, as posts containing the word "fucking" still get moderated to (Score:+5, Funny) or (Score:+5, Insightful).

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by EvilIdler (21087)

          Slashdot's policy would still be found deficient, as posts containing the word "fucking" still get moderated to (Score:+5, Funny) or (Score:+5, Insightful).

          I'm fucking relieved the system works like that - my excellent karma is mostly built on posting variations of the word "fuck".

      • by sjames (1099)

        So how do you moderate in realtime so as to not break up the flow of the game AND make absolutely sure no lawsuit-from-irate-parents-whose-kids-have-never-heard-damn gets you?

        • Obviously it wouldn't work for transient content such as chat. However, for persistent content (eg: someone creates a penis-shaped building in Second Life) the community could mark it R rated or something and that area could be hidden from children. As to whether this would work in sue-happy puritanical America, who knows... but allowing the community to moderate is at least a tad better than having no ability to moderate.

          It's the difference between letting kids read Slashdot only at +2 or higher versus h

          • by sjames (1099)

            I can see some benefit there, but not so much that you wouldn't ultimately have to disclaim responsibility for the actions of other gamers. My post at 2 contained a word that SOME parents might get bent out of shape about even though it was merely an exemplar. To be fair though, /. scores aren't meant for age appropriateness either.

    • I have a friend who listens to death metal music, and frequently wears t-shirts with some truly profane slogans. Worst one I've seen is "Jesus is a c*nt."

      The issue isn't about children being exposed to objectionable material, it's teaching them why it's objectionable and that they should learn to ignore it, but accept that everyone has an opinion to express. They don't need to agree, and they're free to walk away, not socialise, and ignore that person.

      Is it really so fucking hard?
      • Yes, it is. It requires accepting responsibility for one's actions and a little critical thinking.
      • by PitaBred (632671)
        I don't think so. But then again, I'm not a WASP, and I don't want to control what everyone else does and thinks.
        • ? Many cultures attempt to control what one thinks and feels, or do you think that kid in Chicago was killed because he agreed with the mindset of the people that killed him?
    • Because, when they're outside the kids are under direct supervision of said parent. Not necessarily the same for online experiences.
      • But online it takes one mouse click to leave a bad situation, in the real world it's a lot more difficult sometimes.

      • by peragrin (659227)

        REally? Since when? The kids who play MMO's tend to be 14 and above and routinely walk around malls, and their neighborhoods without parents even in the same square mile let alone with supervision.

        Parents stop keeping an eye on the travels of their kids as they reach 10-12 years old. Yet they make sure they don't watch scary movies, or play games with the wrong stuff in them, yet they are free to go do that stuff on their own.

        Remember parents and kids love double standards that only apply in certain situa

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Grimbleton (1034446)

          At our local library, we have a 14 year old who's constantly in there with his friends. We call him Swearing Kid. Guess why! Non-stop expletives, but nobody says anything to him (Well, I have, and my fiancee has, but everyone else seems to just sigh and shake their heads. They all probably tried and gave up, likely)

          Never with parents, nor any other adult supervision. He talks about the parties he's gone to, the drugs he's done, the girls he's fooled around with... At outdoor voice levels.

          Then there are a gr

    • by BikeHelmet (1437881) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @06:22AM (#29742591) Journal

      Right, but some games are like walking into a strip bar, rather than going outside.

      Left 4 Dead.
      -Odds of encountering at least 1 hacker per day: 100%
      -Odds of someone calling you a homo cheating faggot fuckhead: 50%
      -Odds of people ragequitting if you beat them just one round: 25%
      -Odds of someone joining mid-game and unloading bullets into you until you kick them: 12.5%

      Okay, I made those percentages up, but it's still a pretty hostile environment. :P Quite different from say... an MMO like Champions Online.

      • No wonder I don't play online. Sounds like Usenet flamewars but much, much worse. I'd rather play alone, me versus the computer.

        • by PitaBred (632671)
          Seconded. I used to play the original UT for hours in college. It stopped being fun when everyone started having bots and shit. Hell, people are even hacking Mario Kart for the Wii any more... online play just isn't any fun. And the games that do control it are the war simulation games like CoD and such, which bore me to tears. Any game that has a "crawl" option for the character is single-player only, if that.
      • That almost perfectly described my relationship with my husband...
      • by Talgrath (1061686)

        Yeah, but it's pretty much impossible to know what that environment will be like BEFORE the game is released (which is when the ESRB rating is given).

    • Except for Gabriel's Law of Internet Fuckwad.

      http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/3/19/ [penny-arcade.com]

    • by Inda (580031) <slash.20.inda@spamgourmet.com> on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @06:45AM (#29742693) Journal
      Looking at this from the side on console games. TAKE THE FRAGGIN' MICROPHONES OFF YOUR KIDS!

      90% of the time I get abuse it is from the high-pitched young. I don't even know how to respond to some of the things they say. I cannot be witty, agression doesn't work and swearing is pointless because they know more than I do, even if I'm more streetwise than the average 30-something.

      What is the teabagging thing too? I'm a man, they're young boys. What the hell are they doing to me after a frag? They're the quick ones to shout fag and gay. The mind boggles.

      The other 10% are drunk adults or meth-heads and I enjoy the banter with them. This should be promoted.
      • What is the teabagging thing too? I'm a man, they're young boys. What the hell are they doing to me after a frag? They're the quick ones to shout fag and gay. The mind boggles.

        Standard doublethink. "Fag" and "gay" are insults with no meaning, just like "retarded" doesn't mean "This is the 1940s and I declare you have a severe learning disability."

        Teabagging, though, I just don't understand. The dominance and humilation aspect I get, that's standard enough for juveniles, it's the chosen gesture I don't get. I guess someone cycled through all the standard FPS motions and found the crouch motion incredibly lewd and hilarious. As hackerdom has smart cow problems, I guess gaming mem

      • I'm in total agreement. If anything, we need more warnings about kids playing the game for the adults. I play Team-Fortress 2 (PC version) regularly and rarely hear swearing or cursing from other players. But sometimes, a little kid gets on and is worse than every other chatter combined. It's annoying.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by V50 (248015)

          My experience is somewhat different, but mostly because the only online game I've played really is WoW.

          In my experience in WoW, kids have been a real mixed bag. Some of the better players I've had in guilds have been 12-14, and so have some of the worst. In general, once someone is known to be a little kid, the ventspeak gets somewhat less "mature". It always feels weird, though, when you know your tank is 12 or so, even if he's doing a great job.

          I suppose my server (Lightninghoof) tends to be pretty good c

          • by KillerBob (217953)

            See, on my server (Feathermoon), I belong to a guild which has a strict PG rule for guildchat and vent (and I have seen people encouraged to find the door after breaking it). As the raiding time is also daytime (US), we don't tend to attract the little kids, and quite honestly, it's been one of the more pleasant experiences I've had in game. It's not the lack of kids that does it for me, though, it's the lack of swearing and vulgarity. I've raided with foulmouthed 16 yo's, and it just detracts from the expe

          • My server (Blackrock) is full of utter retards. Full to bursting. I don't have main or trade chat on at all, ever.

            Theorem : The greater internet fuckwad theory.

            Proof : Blackrock WoW server.

            QED.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Every time someone takes their kids outside they run the risk of those kids being exposed to god knows what, I don't see how online experiences are any different

      You mean, like people shooting hookers, people shooting scary monsters, people stealing cars and recklessly running over pedestrians, etc? Not even in the worst parts of town, unless your town is somewhere in Iraq or another war-torn country. Games are seldom anything like real life.

      • I see you haven't visited Chicago lately.

  • Good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Urd.Yggdrasil (1127899) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @04:11AM (#29741989)
    I for one am glad they aren't policing internet interactions in gaming, the last thing I want is game companies being forced to attempt to censor every bad word to kowtow to the ESRB for an M rating. As for all the companies that already attempt to do it, good luck with your stupid useless endeavor.

    Fu(K!ng n0o85!!1
    • Why don't they just give all online multiplayer games the adult rating and be done with it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Machtyn (759119)
      I think a good solution, if they want to rate online interaction is as follows:

      Open: This defines an unmoderated forum. The user you may be playing with/against could be anybody from a 7 year-old girl to a 68 year-old pedophile. It could be some 13 year-old twerp with a "sailor's" mouth or a stuck-up nut-job.
      Moderated: There happens to be a moderator. All of the weird people may be kicked off the server if they show signs of societal deviance.
      Closed: Connection to multiplayer servers are by invi
  • You have it easy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AdamInParadise (257888) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @04:20AM (#29742041) Homepage

    1) The South Korea's Games Rating Board is supposed to certify every game.
    2) The Jesus Phone is finally about to be launched in South Korea and it will be widely popular for lots of reasons (you can trust me on this one).

    But because of 1), the South Korean AppStore will not include games... [koreatimes.co.kr] Now that's not keeping up with the times.

  • I can't see how (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tukz (664339) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @04:24AM (#29742069) Journal

    I can't see how they would be able to rate online games.
    The fact of the matter is, they can only rate the underlying content of the game, not the interactions in the game.

    In a lot of games you can manipulate environment, and create scenarios which isn't covered in the rating.
    For example, make a NPC standing behind a cow and moving in a certain way, making it look like he is fornicating with said cow.

    There is no way they can rate against things like this. The above example may be harmless as it's only insinuating something sexual, however, it wasn't intentional in the game.
    Same thing can be said of online play.

    The moment you introduce human interaction, anything can (and will) happen.
    Spore got entire solar systems inhabited by several "races" of penis' for crying out loud.

    That's a pretty innocent rated game.

    So alternatively, all online interactions should be rated "M+: Enter at own risk".

    tl;dr: They can rate the underlying game, but cannot rate human interaction, and thus can't accurately rate online play, imo.

    • Re:I can't see how (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Shrike82 (1471633) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @04:49AM (#29742203)

      Exactly. They talk about how the ESRB can make these ratings based on censor technology, moderation schemes etc. but at the end of the day any game where you can interact with other players will go one of two ways:

      1) Chat and interaction will be free enough that people can be offensive, obscene or agressive

      2) Chat and interaction will be severely limited to avoid any potentially upset parents, so communication and interaction are likely to feel unnatural and clunky

      Generally speaking there will always be idiots out there who will go to great lengths to upset and offend others. How can the ESRB make a rating for online interactions with that in mind?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by IBBoard (1128019)

      For example, make a NPC standing behind a cow and moving in a certain way, making it look like he is fornicating with said cow.

      And what's even worse with the idea of rating the online content is that a) it could be entirely perspective (i.e. from another angle there's nothing wrong with a cow over there and a man 'dancing' nearby) and b) everyone has their own little dirty imagination that can corrupt some fairly simple things.

      $deity help them if they ever did English Literature - from what my wife said the

      • by tuxedobob (582913)

        I want to know what horny bastard decided that everything shaped like a stick had to be phallic. Have you seen how many penises are on a tree?

        I forget what comic first said it, but "you can make missles shaped like vaginas; they just won't fly very well."

        • I want to know what horny bastard decided that everything shaped like a stick had to be phallic.

          A moralizer, obviously. Only someone who insists they are pure and want to free the world from sin sees corruption in innocence. Less "Those who fight monsters should take care that they never become one." and more "Those who see monsters are monsters themselves, looking for justification."

          When the blogoverseonetsphere was young I once read a rant on sexism in gaming ads. Started off strong (I mean, how hard is it to find a gaming ad with an objectified female?) but devolved once it got into the phallic i

  • I have my doubts (Score:3, Informative)

    by dFaust (546790) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @04:29AM (#29742095)

    including the quality of the game's moderation system, programmed restrictions on chat and known player demographics.

    As someone who works on a large website targeted towards children which has both chat and UGC with various systems around who you can communicate with, whitelists, moderation, etc. this seems very unlikely to prove useful. Our weekly lists of banned phrases show just how creative people can be with regular, every day words and their ability to use them in ways which while using no established slang still very clearly come across as harassing/derogatory/sexual, etc - and as noted, the demographics here are young children (hence I don't think there's much value in "known player demographics"). I think the only way they could truly rate a game with real-time interaction with other players is based on what types of interactions you can have (which could still be tricky).

    For instance - an online game of chess with no communication system, just the ability to make moves... probably pretty safe (though I'm sure someone will find a way to get creative with a horse and a queen). Whereas a game where you can run around and have the ability to duck - well, someone's gonna get tea bagged. But it all seems of limited usefulness, because very quickly you get to the point with your interactions where all bets are off - you'll end up with a very small segment of "safe" games with everything else being "at your own risk." Parents, et al are probably better off considering any game with online play "at your own risk."

  • by pHus10n (1443071) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @04:29AM (#29742101)
    You know why they don't/can't rate online experiences? Here's an example of World of Warcraft Trade chat when in a city:

    [2. Trade] Deringer: ANAL [Attack]
    [2. Trade] Arrtthhaass: ANAL [Corpse Explosion]
    [2. Trade] Treqir: ANAL [Injection]
    [2. Trade] Arrtthhaass: lol
    [2. Trade] Yosim: STFU an stay out of trade
    [2. Trade] Deringer: lol u have downs
    • Wow, lots of people saying they're not lawyers.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Idiomatick (976696)
        You are confusing ANAL with IANAL. Which is also not to be confused with iANAL, Apples latest sex toy, they said it appealed to their demographic.

        Disclaimer: My apology to the queer community, I meant no insult linking you to Apple products. It was only in jest.

        Disclaimer: No really, I do think Apple would release a sex toy if they could make one shiny enough that gangstas would wear it as bling.
    • [1. General] Me: I hate g**** flavored cough medicine. Seriously what is wrong with grapes?
      • [1. General] Me: I hate g**** flavored cough medicine. Seriously what is wrong with grapes?

        I once visited a message board in which people were talking about Corpus ******i, Texas. And then, of course, there's the classic Fark filter annoyance where "I wish it were true" becomes "I wishiat were true".

  • by ZackSchil (560462) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @04:32AM (#29742125)

    They should just design a few tier labels to classify online interaction types.

    Controlled - Anonymous multiplay only. All user content must be approved. Chat limited to preset phrases.

    Friends only - Unfiltered user content and open chat from Friends Only.

    Unfiltered - Open online community. Supervision recommended under 17.

    That would at least let parents know what's going on in the game. It's a lot more informative than a simple: "Online interactions not Rated"

    • by Shrike82 (1471633) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @04:53AM (#29742221)

      That would at least let parents know what's going on in the game. It's a lot more informative than a simple: "Online interactions not Rated"

      Slightly off your point but relevant anyway: I think the sort of parents that pay attention to these ratings are smart enough to realise that online interaction has the potential to offend. It's the ones that buy an 18+ game for their 8 year old, then scream blue murder to the media/government when they walk in and see him screwing a hooker in a car that are the problem...

    • by Radtoo (1646729)
      No ESRB rating is needed. Do a test on the kids, rate the parents. If they're not able to calmly deal with the sort of interaction you might have online (people's bad side shows at times, but no real physical harm can be done) by the time they're about ten to twelve years old, consider putting them in a special social education class, or even a different home.
  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:06AM (#29742285)
    Most gamers have come to consider ESRB as "the enemy", given the degree to which they disagree (which at times tends to be rather extreme).

    Why, then, should gamers (and by extension, game companies) welcome their expansion into intra-game communications? They're not the bloody FCC, and ORPG companies have been doing a pretty good job of limiting what can be sent (via text) to other players. And trying to limit spoken words in a game would do no good, because they would just bypass it with Ventrilo or some such program.

    Bye-bye, ESRB.
    • by omega_dk (1090143)

      The game publishers will *never* get rid of the ESRB voluntarily. The ESRB is the only thing holding back the spectre of government-mandated ratings, which I can assure you will not be as company-friendly as their voluntary system.

      • by nasch (598556)

        The ESRB is the only thing holding back the spectre of government-mandated ratings

        No, the courts are also doing a good job of that.

    • by BaronHethorSamedi (970820) <thebaronsamedi@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @10:35AM (#29744575)

      Most gamers have come to consider ESRB as "the enemy", given the degree to which they disagree (which at times tends to be rather extreme).

      "Most gamers" consider the ESRB as "the enemy?" How so, and why? I'm a gamer over thirty years of age, and I have a child. I like the ESRB. I certainly don't think it's on its way out. I suspect the gamers who view the ESRB as "the enemy" are under twelve, and have conscientious parents.

      • by PitaBred (632671)
        Meh... as a parent, I still don't trust the ESRB any more than I do the MPAA ratings. They both have a very strong slant to make violence rated relatively less and sex rated much higher. Just look at the Hot Coffee fiasco... hidden CONSENSUAL sex makes it so the rating should be higher than mowing down innocent pedestrians with your vehicle and participating in gang wars?
      • Why do you like the ESRB? Do you think their ratings are honest and fair? Do you think they really do any good? Most people I know would answer "No" to both. And yes, most people I know who play games think ESRB is a joke. They always know friends who have games they are not allowed to buy in the store.

        But that isn't really what this is all about. It is about expansion of the ESRB's authority into internal discussions going on between players in online games. Well, (1) that is censorship, although it wou
  • by war4peace (1628283) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:07AM (#29742289)
    Rephrasing ESRB's notice: "The Internet can be a dangerous place". Rating online gaming experience equals them attempting to rate my ability to understand this statement. Which they can't do.
    They're not lagging behind modern times, they're just flat-out telling us the truth: online interactions can't be rated.
    One would laughingly dismiss the statement saying "Accessing Internet via Opera is always safe" or "Yahoo Messenger rating: TEEN". It would be careless, stupid and would take away all trust in the company making those statements. So they wisely stay away of moving sands.
    • Yahoo Messenger used to have user channels but they were all like "PRETEEN GIRLS FOR HIGHSCHOOL BOYS" and "BRO-SIS SEX" so they axed that. The internet is no place for children. No place for children not looking to suck a dick anyway... geeze.

      The best part is I'm not even old. I was exposed to this stuff when I was like 12. I lived for this stuff. It's too bad they took user chat rooms away, or YIM would be a great way to hook up with local college chicks... unfortunately it turned out to also be a gr

  • by Rhoon (785258) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:14AM (#29742301) Homepage
    I have found that no rating or ruling agency (whether Government or Private) can replace the effects of parents who get involved with their children and actually attempt to understand what their kids are doing and who they're interacting with. I don't care what stamp or rating is put on the outside of the box, if I haven't researched whatever my children are doing, then I'd consider myself a failure as a parent, which is really what the underlying problem is here... not the fact that the ESRB doesn't rate online content / social interaction.
    • I have found that no rating or ruling agency (whether Government or Private) can replace the effects of parents who get involved with their children and actually attempt to understand what their kids are doing and who they're interacting with.

      However, on the other hand, they can help. For one, it gives you a rough idea of the kind of entertainment your child enjoys right off the bat.

  • Online chat may expose may be exposed to all kinds of thoughts, and many of those thoughts may be beyond a kid's limited grasp of reality. As such, any online game is dangerous as the players playing it, and a warning like that should be printed on every box sold for parents who think "I want my kid to know everything about computas".
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by IBBoard (1128019)

      Online chat may expose may be exposed to all kinds of thoughts,

      I like the way you phrased that. My first thought was of right-wing nutjobs complaining that Command and Conquer (random game choice with "Reds" in it) should have a much higher rating because their kid has been playing it and had all of these "dirty", "immoral" and "disgusting" thoughts put into their heads about socialism, freedom, a world without religion and other such "bad" topics :D

      • Online chat may expose may be exposed to all kinds of thoughts,

        I like the way you phrased that.

        Typical case of being blind to my own writing...should read "Online chat may expose kids to all kinds of thoughts". The only thing more dangerous than making an appointment to do something evil is the deed itself. In-game chat may be all that is needed for it, and as a parent I would like to be warned about that possibility.

        a world without religion

        Even science is a belief system (the belief in reproducibility of observation and extrapolation), so I doubt there can be a human world without religion. Even if that belief system work

  • by Legion303 (97901)

    This is the most thoroughly stupid article I've ever seen. Is the ESRB supposed to consult its crystal ball to determine whether or not someone will spam a link to lemonparty in an otherwise "E"-rated game?

  • Any responsible parent explores the games content on their own. Ratings are unreliable for any game where addons, mods, or online interaction are concerned.

    I still find it disturbing that little Billy's parents would go batshit crazy if he saw a female nipple, but couldn't care less if he was playing a game where the goal was to murder police officers.

  • ...that children are able to have real human contact in games?! Oh, the horror!!!
  • by PhotoBoy (684898) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @07:19AM (#29742787)

    The article talks about rating online games based on their demographics and moderation systems, but I believe even that is pointless. Just look at Nintendo, I lost count of the number of hairy dicks people had drawn on the front of their karts in Mario Kart DS, and that game has no text or voice chat and no webcam features. No matter how many people you ban for inappropriate behaviour, there will always be someone new on the game ready to mis-behave.

    The ESRB can't rate online interactions and they're right not to try to do so. The only thing they should be doing is educating parents about the risks of playing games online and recommending that parents monitor who their kids are talking to in those games.

  • Every online game with voice chat is rated M for mature. Every online xbox360 game with voice chat is rated RPWK for racist pre-pubescent white kids.
  • It's very simple (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Random2 (1412773)

    The ESRB doesn't want to be forced into rating everything 17+ because some kid said fuck a few times. By not rating online interactions, they actually maintain some integrity to their ratings, whether people agree or disagree with them.

    As for parents wanting to know the 'online climate' of a game, that's bullshit. If you buy your kid an online FPS, you can expect there's going to be at least one guy who wants to cuss his head off at everyone. If you don't want your kids to experience that, then don't buy

  • You cannot rate what other people will do. yes you can out in a bad word filter, but they will get around it. you are interacting with people the ESRB cannot be responsible for what they say/do, therefore they do not put a rating on it.
  • Seems like the current "online interactions not rated" could at least be split into 3 different classifications:
    • Online interactions may contain unrated visible content (i.e.: Second Life)
    • Online interactions may contain unrated audible content (i.e.: voice chat)
    • Online interactions may contain unrated textual content (i.e.: text chat)
  • Come on, one of the most notoriously funny quotes on bash.org is about someone caught cybering on a Scrabble website.

    NSFW [bash.org]

    SCRABBLE: Rated AO for sexual content! And that's not even counting a triple word score for "epididymis".

  • That's unfortunate, because the ESRB's intimate relationship with the game industry could provide it with a unique vantage point from which to evaluate aspects of online games that are beyond the purview of other would-be raters

    What? Essentially you're going to do...WHAT? Be a complete asshat in a game you're evaluating, testing the censor list, being rude to people, trying to get around the censor list using 'leetspeak, try to break the game, and generally engage in any and every behavior that could p

  • The game has an excellent moderation system. It filters "Shit" "fuck" Pussy" and "Cum." But people are smart and still manage to slip in "I wanna l*ikc yur pu$$y" to a 12 year old. In front of her mom. And kids can read that shit too. Hell kids can read "wanna suck my djck" as "wanna suck my dick" I'm sure... does your filter block that? What about voice chat when i star talking dirty over the thing to cyb0rz... teenager-to-teenager voice sex is probably pretty popular on XBL, I know I had a friend th

  • So they want games to end like this [tinypic.com]?
  • Every multiplayer game would be rated Adult Only just because of chat and VOIP. The number of mothers being violated in these games is ridiculous and somebody needs to put a stop to it.
  • I'm not seeing very many productive comments. Yeah, we get that the Internet is the Wild Wild West. Now what can be done to ensure that parents know what they're getting their kids into? You can't use the TEEN / MATURE / etc. labels for player-to-player communication, because that can vary so much. So why doesn't the ESRB include labels for the method of P2P communication? That way parents at least know what degrees of separation exist between their child and the greater population.

    Voice Chat (Unmoderated)

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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