ESRB: Video Game Report Card Flawed, Contradicts Govt. Findings

December 4, 2007 -
ESRB president Patricia Vance (left) wasted little time in responding to criticism leveled against her organization by this morning's release of the National Institute on Media and the Family's annual Video Game Report Card.

GamePolitics has received a statement from the ESRB which reads, in part:
...In many significant ways, this year's NIMF Report Card contradicts recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) findings related to parents' awareness, use and satisfaction with ESRB ratings, as well as retailer support of the ratings.

In addition, NIMF exhibits a significant lack of understanding of and, as a result, grossly misrepresents the facts surrounding last month's hack into pirated versions of Manhunt 2... At a time of year when parents are looking for helpful guidance about video games, this year's Report Card does little more than sow unwarranted doubt about effective tools like ESRB ratings.

The FTC's report... called the ESRB rating system "a useful and informative tool that parents increasingly use to help them make informed decisions about games for their children." Its nationwide survey of over 1,300 parents showed that nearly nine in ten parents with children that play video games are satisfied with the ESRB rating system, three in four use it regularly, 94% find the ratings easy to understand, and 59% never let their children play Mature-rated games.

The most recent FTC mystery shopper research concluded that "substantial" progress continues to be made by retailers to enforce their store policies regarding the sale or rental of M-rated games to those under 17...

Comments

ESRB: self regulated
BBFC: Government

There is a difference

@ IanC

Since when do independent regulators have a say in government?

@Buckeye531
The BBFC doesn't enforce the ratings it arrives at, local councils do. They also have the authority to overrule the ratings the BBFC decides. BBFC ratings don't have any weight on their own, and have been overruled before (Spiderman 2 was the most recent, I think, several councils dropped the rating from 12 to PG).

The primary difference I've noticed between the ESRB and the BBFC is that the BBFC comes down harder on violence, and is more lenient about sexual content.

Why can't the ESRB just shut everybody up by doing restrictions the MPAA way? Oh yeah... nobody would want to come to this site anymore, oy.

Even though that the ESRB is not perfect, they are the most useful rating system in the world so far,

same can't be said about the BBFC and the OFLC who are still government controlled.

Agreed. I'm happy with the ESRB, but maybe that's just because I'm not an idiot. That must help a little, at least.

It's a giant frickin' M. On the front of the box. C'mon.

I am glad that they issued a press release so soon. NIMF is full of it.

The BBFC let's games through that the ERBS doesn't.

Umm...

Talking to a wall?

They aren't going to come out and say "Well she makes a good point, let's go change the ESRB's grade shall we?"

BlackIce, get over this irrational hate of the ESRB; because that's utter bullshit. They do a lot more banning and such than the ESRB.

"The BBFC let’s games through that the ERBS doesn’t"

what like Manhunt 2?

THank you Patrica Vance. The ESRB has some issues, mainly being way harder on sex than any other rating sytem, forcing Indigo Prophecy to be cut in the US, but it's good they have someone in charge who can ably defend the industry.

@BlackIce

I've heard of these games you are referring to, and most of them have nothing to do with ESRB. Those games are usually just plain not considered by company for US release.

That was a really quick response, and a good one.

"...NIMF exhibits a significant lack of understanding..." really sums them up.

Ugh, the NIMF is whiny about Manhunt 2. How mature.

Like I said before the NIMF is stupid. They are making it seem like video games ratings are an esoteric subject when obviously there aren't.

I am impressed. This is twice in a short time that MS Vance has held the hounds at bay.

As for the ESRB/BBFC it is likely they are different concepts of what belongs in a game based on the society they represent. This is not bias it is common sense. And as mentioned some titles just do not go to different countries for various reasons which is Not part of thier review (or lack thereof) and likely expected sales.
If only politicians would keep their fingers out of the ESRB's pie. I know, I know they cannot seem to help themselves but at least should bloody well TRY.

BBFC IS NOT Government. controlled. Says so right on the front page of www.bbfc.co.uk -
Welcome to www.bbfc.co.uk – the official website of the British Board of Film Classification, the independent regulator of the film and video industry in the UK.

Now the OLFC... yeah, that is Government controlled.

The hack into Manhunt 2 was probably the biggest annoyance this year. It was grossly misrepresented by politians, media, retailers, and now this. Seeing as the hacked ISO is downloadable and not purchasable, ever person that bought the game is one not playing an uncensored version. By removing it from legal purchase, they were PROMOTING the uncensored pirated version.

It's one thing to be ineffective, it's another to actively promote the opposing side.

@IanC(more or less @the BBFC)
If they're independent, then why is Manhunt 2 banned in the UK?

As someone working in game retail, I can say that the majority of parents I've interacted with and talk to know the rating system and tell their kids they can not play certain style games or games rated M. Even better, is most of these kids actually are aware of the rating system themselves, and will not even consider a game their parents have already informed them they cannot play, for purchase. This shows me that the ratings system A: works, and B: kids do in fact listen to their parents.

I'm sure the NIMF means well, but they are only able to represent a fraction of the total parents, retailers, and market data, and they constantly lean towards whatever direction the wind blows. The score was low, because of Manhunt 2. If there was no Manhunt 2 scandel, the score would be netural or higher.

@Conejo

Manhunt 2? Pfft. It's a mediocre game anyway.

@IanC

Sanity does exist in people. You are one of a few.

Am I the only American here that really isn't concerned about the BBFC? They have their ratings panel, we have ours. We really don't need another flame war on 'my ratings panel is better than yours.'

@ smealol23

Your point is taken.

I cannot say I am concerned about the BBFC. Curious yes. My feelings are more along the lines of "their ball, their yard, they rules". For myself I have no problems with the ESRB to date and the BBFC does not control my games.

I honestly did not know they did not have the civil liberties taken for granted here in the states. Rather not see a flame war over that issue either.

I think the ESRB should have done a press conference and picked the report card (atleast the bits relating to ESRB) apart and exposed every lie, half truth and contradiction.

i think the ESRB is just fine. the only gripe i have concerns the M and AO ratings. obviously anything that gets an AO rating isnt going to be lisenced, while this is not the ESRB's fault,(its the console makers), the fact that the age gap between the two ratings 17+ for M and 18+ for AO seems really unrealistic. i think they should either merge the two ratings, and setting the age limit equally to them (either 17+ or 18+ only) or just drop the AO altogether because while the law dictates what age is considered adult, i dont think a year in between is going to show some drastic change in someones behavior and how they interpret what they see.

they should make it so all games that have content intended for an adult audience fall under a single rating. ive seen alot of M games that have content that is equal or if not worse than the stuff in an AO game, i dont see the point of keeping those games separate from each other in terms of rating.

Haven't they been issuing these rebuttals for the last two or three years, if not longer? O_o

"Its nationwide survey of over 1,300 parents showed that nearly nine in ten parents with children that play video games are satisfied with the ESRB rating system, three in four use it regularly, 94% find the ratings easy to understand, and 59% never let their children play Mature-rated games."

Ha, I knew it. I've been hearing so much garbage relating to the ESRB's "unreliable" rating system and what-not, and the whole time I've been finding trouble fully believing it. I mean, I AM aware that there are parents who still don't pay attention or care but... eh...

I hear so much complaining from younger kids whose parents will not let them get any game higher than a T rating (M or AO). Especially when I play free, online FPS games on the 'net. Sometimes I'll read things like that.

...I even remember the time Prince of Persia went from T to M (why Ubisoft, why?). I heard mild complaints from those who have parents who refuse to get M rated games for their children.

Patricia Vance is very good at her job! She is very informative, diplomatic, and professional. She cites the FTC report, which was government funded. Perhaps if our government officials used the expert knowledge available AT NO EXTRA COST, we could have more meaningful discussions instead of "flanking" leaders of private organizations for photo-ops.

I love the fact "59% of parents never let their kids play M-rated games" which fits into the "40% failure rate" from long ago

@Robb

Seconded. If you asked me to explain why, I couldn't be certain; but Pat Vance strikes me as damn near the consummate diplomat. As many times as there have been controversies in recent memory; I'll admit, I haven't always agreed with her logic and resoning, but her presentation is usually just shy of immaculate. The public statements are usually calm, heavily researched and quite logical.

I halfway want to elect the woman to congress, but then we'd get some wierdo running the ESRB!

The ESRB points to studies that support them and so does NIMF, the world keeps on spinning and nothing comes out of it.

@Andy
What I meant in my statement was that if the BBFC was independent from the British government, then why is Manhunt 2 banned there?

I don't know exactly how the BBFC works with the British governemt if they do. If not...well, I've been wrong before.

[...] The ESRB (which itself received a “B-” for its education efforts) lept to the industry’s defense, saying the report card “contradicts recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) findings related to parents’ awareness, use and satisfaction with ESRB ratings.” Wow, looks like the NIMF just got a “B” … “B” for “burned,” that is. Also included in the report is the NIMF’s list of games to avoid this holiday season, which we’ve included after the break. [...]

Local authorities in the UK only have a say on what rating film showings in cinemas get. BBFC ratings are legally enforcable on home video content, and have been since about the mid-80s. It's illegal to sell videos or DVDs that haven't been rated by the BBFC (with a few exceptions such as sports videos).

Why is it always about the parents. Not all gamers are parents.... shouldn't the ratings reflect the opinions on non-parents and parents alike.

I kow I am late..but face it the BBFC dose do a slightly better job than the ESRB, the main diffrance in them is the BFC has sht fits over gore/violence the ESRB has issues with sexual content.....

Also the BBFC dosent use its 18+ level as much as it should I am sorry but at least you guys have a usable classification for adult/mature content Man hunt 2 should have been filed off to that and forgotten like the crap fest it is.

Lets just face facts here. All ratings systems are junk. Point of view on what is OK, and not OK for kids will never be universal. If a parent wants to know if a Game is alright for their kid, they have 2 options-

1. Research the game BEFORE you buy it. There are hundreds of review sites, and even video review podcasts.

2. Spend time with your child and watch what they play.

They both stem from a novel little idea called: PARENTING. I am so sick of lazy parents who want to regulate because watching their children in too hard for them.
 
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