Ratings? What are they really good for?

Lately, there’s been some commentary about whether or not the ESRB ratings system is broken. I would agree that the system is broken. However, I don’t think it is beyond repair. I think that playing the games is a must. I know that some games, like RPG’s can take more than 40 hours and MMORPGs can take forever, but I think that there is certainly something to be said for actually playing the game to get the character of the game. Without playing the game, without doing anything more than just watching gameplay, there is little way of telling the character of the game. You also can’t tell if there is anything more to the game than what the game producers say is in the game. Call me crazy but depending on the game producers to be consistently reliable doesn’t seem the wisest decision, even if there are penalties for misleading the ESRB.

On the other hand, what good are the ratings? Do they actually help things? They may help parents, but I’m not a parent. Do parents actually read the ratings?

In the article I linked to, the author, Aaron Ruby says the ratings are poorly designed with too many descriptors. Perhaps. I think that it would be silly for a parent to say, “Oh, animated blood. Well, OK then.” After all, There are lots of different types of animation. If we want to use an analogy, Fritz the Cat has animated blood, but I don’t think it is appropriate for children.

On the other hand, the film ratings have some truly bizarre descripters. Next time you see a movie rating, look beneath the R or PG. I mean I remember one film being rated R for “pervasive language.” What is that? Call me crazy but I prefer my movies to have language that is pervasive. Perhaps they meant pervasive bad language (whatever “bad” means…).

However, as gamers, we should be used to having videogames attacked (I love it when reporters or politicians mention that videogame ratings in the USA are self-enforced and neglect to mention that so are film ratings and parental advisory stickers on music….). However, I think that we should site back and wait. The reason why is that the current trend in the film industry is to release a PG-13 film to the theaters, and an “unrated” edition on DVD. Mark my words, it is only a matter of time before some moral crusader takes note of the fact that poor little Timmy is able to buy a film with boobies in it from the store. Then the film industry will get the attention the videogame industry has been experiencing. Maybe then the news will realize who stupid this whole ratings controversy is.

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  1. Meredith

    The ratings used by videogames and movies are only sort of voluntary. They are voluntary in that the government told both industries that if they did not regulate themselves the government would step in (as it did with television) and install its own censorship agenda.
    I’m looking forward to the documentary “This Film is Not Yet Rated” that talks about the MPAA rating system. There’s a system that’s broken! Also, I have noticed that a *lot* of so-called unrated DVDs don’t really add anything too naughty to the mix.