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Opinion Corner: Game Ratings

March 26, 2010

Not only does the Opinion Corner give me a fantastic opportunity to rant about something, it also lets me address recent matters of interest behind the scenes of TTTech. For example we’ve just reviewed one Alienware Gaming computer and are currently trialing a 2nd model – but what about the games themselves? My particular focus this week is Game Ratings..

To begin with why’re we doing this? Why even have a rating system? The reason primarily is that different games are targeted towards different audiences. A 2D platformer might not appeal to teenagers and a gory shooter might not be appropriate for children. Let’s look at a few examples shall we?

Even recently if you’ve fiddled about looking for news on the internet, you might have come across the Call of Duty 6 controversy.
The deal is that in a particular mission you get to play an undercover cop in the guise of a terrorist. You’ve seemingly infiltrated a terrorist group and are part of an attack that the group launches on a Russian airport. What’s shocking is that the game lets you kill civilians too, just like the other terrorists. And the fact that all this looks pretty much realistic adds to the shock value.
Many critics feel that this was just a stunt, something shocking would make people curious and want the game more. There was debate as to whether the developer ought to edit the portions out before releasing further copies of the game. This was due to the concern that the game might affect children and maybe even adults adversely.
Infinity Ward, the developer, however maintained that COD6 was not a game for kids, it was rated accordingly (we’ll come back to the ratings shortly) and if people could go to the cinemas and watch films with far greater amounts of violence etc., games probably shouldn’t affect them so much.

Another example is one of the earliest cases where a need for establishing proper ratings for games was felt, namely, Grand Theft Auto : San Andreas. (Surprised? You wouldn’t be if you’ve played any of them…) Anyway, a particular patch was the primary cause of concern there. This patch let you play a sex minigame, something pretty much unthinkable, not to add shocking and highly inappropriate in a video game.

So we’ve established that games need to be rated. And there needs to be various parameters too when a game is rated, for example, how much of modding is possible for a game (The GTA incident) etc?
The USA board that does all this is called the ESRB. (The Entertainment Software Rating Board).
Ratings are given after taking into account a variety of parameters. For example, Oblivion was to be rated Teen, but when it was known that using Mods, all female characters in the game could be made to appear nude, the rating was changed to Mature. Ratings awarded are: -

  • RP (Rating Pending),
  • E (Everyone),
  • E 10 + (Everyone Ten Plus),
  • T (Teen),
  • M (Mature) and
  • AO (Adults Only).

This rating is displayed prominently on the box cover of games and parents are advised to consult this before purchasing the game for their kid. There’s also a good list of games and their content guidelines on the ESRB Wikipedia Link.
In the UK, the regulatory body is … the British Board of Film Classification.

The next time you buy your kid a game, keep an eye out!

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 22, 2010 2:48 am

    Well stated. But the video game rating systems currently in use are grossly inaccurate and wholly insufficient. They are like warnings for all the reasons you should keep them away from your children. We need a better system.

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