Think Tank Issues Study on Video Game Ratings

December 11, 2007 -
The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank with a free market orientation, has issued a detailed position paper on media content ratings, including those of the ESRB.

Authored by Cord Blomquist and Eli Lehrer, Politically Determined Ratings and How to Avoid Them holds that the ESRB system, while complex, works better than most other rating schemes for media content. Ratings systems alone, however, cannot, over the long haul, influence the type of content produced.

From the report:
The best rating systems have three attributes: They attempt to describe, rather than prescribe, what entertainment media should contain; they are particularly suited to their particular media forms; and they were created with little or no direct input from government.

The [ESRB] system for evaluating computer games works better than most... Parents can tell, at a glance, exactly what they might find objectionable... Congress has held hearings on the video game industry and threatened to regulate content, but the system emerged almost entirely as a result of voluntary private action, and has worked well...

Blomquist and Lehrer, who offer a very readable history of the evolution of content rating systems, contrast the effect of the ESRB to radio, which is government-regulated:
In the radio market, the [FCC]  imposes vague but sweeping content guidelines... The threat of FCC-imposed fines has done nothing to give parents greater control over their children’s radio listening habits — they have virtually no way to protect their children from adult material like explicitly sexual “shock jocks” and violent hip-hop lyrics. Heavy regulation and the absence of a private ratings system have made radio worse for parenting.

The authors look at the severe restrictions imposed on comic books in the 1950's:
Comic books publishers long subjected themselves to an industry “code” that specified exactly what they could and could not publish. While officially a voluntary industry standard, the comics code came into existence following a series of hearings that made it clear that Congress would impose a code if the industry did not write one.

The resulting code became so incredibly specific that it once forbade comics from featuring werewolves, vampires, and zombies. The Comics Code collapsed during the 1990s...

Radio content regulation and the Comics Code fail because they provide very little information — none at all in the case of radio — and attempt to set particular limits over media that, by their very nature, should facilitate a wide range of different types of experiences for a wide range of different types of audiences. Neither takes the nature of the medium into account.

The authors also conclude that politics and media content ratings are a bad mix:
The best ratings systems have evolved in response to market forces. The First Amendment, correctly we believe, has long been interpreted to limit political control over entertainment media, anyway. Ratings systems that avoid government involvement will do a better job giving people the information they need.

GP: Blomquist and Lehrer have provided a well-reasoned look at rating systems. Our only concern is one of objectivity. Despite inquiries, we've been unable to determine whether any video game industry interests fund CEI. The organization has come under severe criticism in the past for its infamous anti-global warming campaign: Carbon Dioxide - They call it pollution; We call it life.

Full report available here (30-page pdf)

Comments

[...] The history of each of these forms of media is interesting and worth reading about, so far I’ve received a lot of great feedback. GamePolitics.com called the paper, “a well-reasoned look at rating systems.” The Your Family Games blog said “I encourage you to pick it up…a really interesting read.” [...]
 
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Papa MidnightIt was most likely an automated tool. Happens all the time. Just another case of the broken DMCA Claim and Takedown process that puts the entirety of the burden of proof on the accused instead of the claimant.12/22/2014 - 10:09pm
Conster*applauds IanC*12/22/2014 - 7:37pm
MaskedPixelanteSounds like BN was going after an unrelated mod, and took out DSFix in the process. Probably once a counterclaim goes out, this'll all be sorted out.12/22/2014 - 7:04pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=144440299&postcount=1 wtf is namco thinking.......12/22/2014 - 6:17pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/12/22/read-the-fine-print-ubisoft-free-game-offer-waives-lawsuits/12/22/2014 - 6:00pm
Papa MidnightI kind of liked the movement to have Terry Crews play him instead, but this will do.12/22/2014 - 3:40pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://marvel.com/news/tv/23866/mike_colter_to_star_as_luke_cage_in_marvels_aka_jessica_jones#ixzz3MeuUl63P Mike Colter is Luke Cage.12/22/2014 - 3:23pm
IanCBecause that isn't Max Payne 3. It might have the name, but it isn't an entry in the series.12/22/2014 - 12:48pm
IanCOh theres a Max Payne 3? A proper one, or are we referring to that abomination that Rockstar crapped out a few years ago12/22/2014 - 12:48pm
IanCUpgraded PS3 hard drive to 500gb. Restored 53GB back up. Done the maths, have somehow used up 106GB already?12/22/2014 - 12:44pm
Papa Midnighthttp://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/12/drm-glitch-leaves-new-max-payne-3-buyers-temporarily-in-the-lurch/12/22/2014 - 11:55am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.kanzenshuu.com/2014/12/22/j-stars-victory-vs-ps3-ps4-vita-international-plus-version/ J-Stars is coming to North America.12/22/2014 - 9:36am
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.businessinsider.com/xbox-one-virtual-reality-headset-will-compete-with-oculus-rift-2014-12 can a xbo even handle doing vr?12/21/2014 - 10:48pm
PHX Corp@Adam802 We'll break out the popcorn in June12/19/2014 - 9:23pm
ZippyDSMleeMaskedPixelante: I'm itching to start it too but I will wait till the patch goes live. >>12/19/2014 - 7:52pm
Adam802Leland Yee and Jackson get trial date: http://sfbay.ca/2014/12/18/leland-yee-keith-jackson-get-trial-date/12/19/2014 - 5:24pm
MaskedPixelanteNevermind. Turns out when they said "the patch is now live", they meant "it's still in beta".12/19/2014 - 5:07pm
MaskedPixelanteSo I bought Dark Souls PC, and it's forcing me to log into GFWL. Did I miss something?12/19/2014 - 5:00pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/12/republicans-may-have-plan-to-save-internet-providers-from-utility-rules/ this is intreasting. congress may put net nutrality in to law to avoid title 2 classification12/19/2014 - 2:45pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.polygon.com/2014/12/19/7421953/bullshit-cards-against-humanity-donated-250k-sunlight-foundation I have to admit I like the choice o organization. congrats to CAH.12/19/2014 - 1:51pm
 

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