Ex-Game Rater Dishes the Dirt... ESRB Boss Fires Back

March 6, 2008 -
An ex-employee has pulled the curtain back a bit on the enigma that is the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

In a guest shot for the April issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, Jerry Bonner, who spent six months with the ESRB as one of the organization's first crop of full-time content raters, offers his perspective on the video game rating process and what he feels are the problems therein. EGM also gave ESRB president Patricia Vance (left) a chance to respond. She did, taking issue with most of Bonner's points.

Bonner, who rated more than 700 games in his short ESRB stint, writes that the system needs to be fixed in order to keep government censors from stepping in. He offers a six-point solution which includes:

1.) Dropping the "Adults Only" rating and and adding a T-16 to go along with the current Teen rating, which is intended for those 13 and older.

2. Actually playing the games. This has already become a political issue given Sen. Sam Brownback's Truth in Video Game Ratings Act, now pending before the U.S. Senate. Bonner writes:
The ESRB’s current pool of fulltime raters... does not actually play the games that they rate. They just watch submitted videotapes or DVDs of someone else playing the game...

I would strongly suggest having the raters play the games to completion and carefully log their findings throughout the playtest. I’ve already heard the ESRB’s argument on this one: “That’ll take way too long and it will compromise our turnaround time.” My solution to that is simple: Hire more people.

3. Forget "parity" - If Bonner is correct, the ESRB bases sequel ratings on preceding games in the franchise, terming this "parity." Bonner writes:
Parity to the ESRB is like dots to Pac-Man or blood to Dracula - a lifesustaining fuel. The logic goes like this: If game X gets a Teen rating, then it stands to reason that the sequel will get the same and so on and so forth into infinity. In my time as a rater this concept just handcuffed us more than helped us... Forget the whole concept of parity, or minimize the dependence on it, and judge each individual game solely on its content and nothing else.

4. Be more open - In GP's experience, Bonner is correct that the ESRB is pretty secretive about its operations:
I used to tell a joke while working at the ESRB that their acronym should be changed to CIA... Realistically, there is nothing to hide at the ESRB. Everything was above board as far as I could tell... But by acting in a secretive, mysterious way, the ESRB creates an appearance of impropriety. 

In addition, Bonner wants raters to have more say in final rating determinations as opposed to what appears to be somewhat of a committee approach. He also sees the development of competitive rating systems as a way to motivate the ESRB to improve.

Not surprisingly, ESRB president Patricia Vance took issue with Bonner's views, pulling no punches in a counterpoint which runs with Bonner's article in EGM:
Mr. Bonner’s article contains numerous misleading statements, factual inaccuracies, and misrepresentations... The author also fails to mention the unique and limited nature of his six-month tenure at the ESRB...

He implies that we arbitrarily change ratings after the raters have done their jobs. This is not the case... And, contrary to Mr. Bonner’s contention, the fact that a title being rated is part of a series has no bearing on the decision...

The author unfortunately also confuses our efforts to ensure the integrity and trustworthiness of the ratings system with unnecessary levels of secrecy. It is regrettable that the author does not appreciate the importance of protecting the confidentiality of the raters to avoid even the possibility of undue influence from external sources.

At the end of the day, ESRB stands behind each rating it assigns, and the process by which it assigns those ratings.

Comments

About Oblivion:
The topless mod was brought to the attention to the ESRB, and that caused them to open an inspection into the game. In fact, if memory serves, only the PC version the game had "teh boobies lol" art file. It did not cause the change to the M rating. What caused the change to M rating for all versions of the game was the realm of Oblivion, and that would explain why the later PS3 release of Oblivion still carries a M rating, despite the fact that the art file would definitely have been removed from that version.

If you remember the realm of Oblivion, it's pretty gruesome stuff. I normally don't pay attention to ratings, but I remember specifically thinking "This game is Teen?" while playing through the realm of Oblivion. Mutilated corpses, burning corpses, a general super-evil atmosphere, that kind of thing. You have to go into the realm of Oblivion at multiple points in the game, so I don't know how Bethesda didn't show it to the reviewers. In the 200+ hours I played that game, I've seen other things that merit a M rating as well, but that's beside the point.

I do agree that Hot Coffee was an overreaction on their part, but the Oblivion rerating was deserved. I've played through far less mature M rated games than Oblivion. For the record, I support an institution like the ESRB (because it's either them or Hillarycare 2.0, now protecting the thoughts of innocent children!), but I'm undecided on whether I support the ESRB specifically. Really though, it's not their fault that merchants refuse to stock AO game, and blaming the ESRB for the AO ban is stupid as far as I'm concerned. Drop the AO rating, and the merchants will probably start banning the M games. The actual rating doesn't matter; it's that it's the top rating ("the dirty rating") that matters. That's something that the ESRB, as a rating body, can't solve, and blaming them for the AO ban is like blaming Mexicans for factory closings. Yeah, they're directly involved, but they can't be blamed for what is essentially not their fault. It's the factory owner's (or the retailer's) fault.

"My solution to that is simple: Hire more people."
Because the ESRB is just *swimming* in money, that they can pay to likely triple their employees. This guy has no idea how businesses work

All you people complaining that the ratings process is completely secret are just making things up. Pat Vance did an interview with Gamasutra in October (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1970/this_game_is_not_yet_rated_in...) where she went over the process in a good amount of detail. Also, and I can't recall where, she said that raters do actually play test games after they come out to make sure the the publishers properly disclosed the content of the games. They also fully play through specific games if complaints are brought up by consumers.

1. Drop the AO rating.

Yes. The AO rating is useless to consumers and serves only to circumvent the ESRB’s own mission statement. It needs to go the way of the dodo.

2. Play the games.

Unnecessary. You don’t need to play a game to determine its rating. Video is enough. And you certainly don’t need to play any game to completion. 10 minutes is usually enough to figure out any game’s rating.


Andrew Eisen

"The ESRB’s current pool of fulltime raters… does not actually play the games that they rate. They just watch submitted videotapes or DVDs of someone else playing the game…"

You know how backlogged they'd be if they had to play through every single game and note every single thing?

This whole thing about removing the AO rating is ridiculous as well. There clearly are games that should be rated higher than M. Not using AO would make games like Lula 3D have the same rating as Halo, and that's just dumb. The problem with AO is that many retailers won't sell them and that console manufacturers won't allow them on their consoles. Saying that AO shouldn't exist is like saying that because some stores won't stock CDs with the parental advisory label on them the label shouldn't exist. Clearly, it should and the stores that won't sell the CDs are the ones at fault, not those informing people of their content.

More on suggestion 2
Who wants to play a game with crappy gameplay?

Without an AO rating, console manufacturers can simply restrict developers what content they are allowed to include in their game in which are granted a license to produce said game. Last I heard you have to get permission to make a game for a console and you have to follow what the console manufacturers say or else that game isn't going to be on their system.

Retailers can also choose what products they put into their store. Not having an AO rating would not effect the rights of a retailer in the slightest. They still have a choice if they want to carry a product or not.

Sorry anonononomous, I can't agree with the accuracy of your claims.

Anonononomous,

What's wrong with Lula 3D having an M (recommended for players 17 and older) rating? It would still have the following content descriptors:

Blood, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Violence

Doesn't that tell you every thing you need to know?


Andrew Eisen

"I would strongly suggest having the raters play the games to completion"

Explain how that will be done with online games such as MMOs.

[...] According to this, ERSB raters don’t play the games they’re supposed to be rating. The news comes from an article in EGM, where ex-ERSB tester Jerry Bonner made recommendations on the process of rating games after he left the organisation. [...]

I find that Game Guides really help in telling the content and narratives stories of many games. It wont work for many games like say MMORPGs but I say Game Guides should be used, just look up a game on www.gamefaqs.com read a guide. But of course this out of the Scope of ESRB.

Maybe the ESRB could have the companies submit the narrative, but then with all the leaks that abundant now a days, it might not be such a good idea.

As for playing a game through, umm yeah, not such a good idea. I want to see People play World of Warcraft to Completion, or Sim City, aka Games with no end. And just because one person played through the game doesnt mean they saw all the content. Video games these days are not linear, games allow for choices and well with the complexity of the games now a days its practically impossible to make every choice and do it in short time period. I do say maybe offer Demos to be played, just to get a feel for gameplay. (Although I think the person wanted to play the game through completion just so he gets to play the game before everyone else. Hell if I knew that I could play Super Smash Bros. Brawl to completion by working as a rater, where the Hell do I sign up?)

As for the ratings, they closely mirror the MPAA ratings so, I am not so sure changing will help. Right now, if the ESRB mirrors the MPAA, they can show the similarity between teen and PG-13, M and R rated content. If you are fine with the movie content why are you not fine with the video game content.

As for transparency, well that is a touch issue. There is a point at which transparency is ok. But then Vance is right, if people knew who the raters are there is no telling what shady deals could be going on. Maybe after the game is released like maybe 3 months after, they can release the materials that were used to rate the game. Right now I cannot see how that will hurt the ESRB.

@ Stinking Kevin
You mention about how NC-17 hasn't held filmmakers back isn't a very fair comparison. An NC-17 rated film will work on any projector and any player of that format.
An AO rated title will NOT be approved by the 1st part manufacturers for printing. PERIOD.
Now, if a store doesn't wish to sell a product, that's their prerogative, but I find it hard to swallow that the console manufacturers will dodge blame of the video game witch hunters with "well, it's just a game and our machine is strictly a player" yet they don't want to give us "strictly a player".

[...] Former ESRB rater dishes on organization March 06th, 2008 | Category: Gaming News Filed under: Culture, Business [...]

I agree with the guy. A T16 rating sounds great. That way anything above a T rating doesn't have to get an M.

I have a few things to say here, but please understand that I am extremely hampered by a non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreement that I had to sign to work at the ESRB in the first place. That is a big reason why there aren't any real specifics or examples in the article and some points aren't as fleshed out as I would have liked them to be. Before submitting the article to EGM, both the agreements I signed and the article itself were reviewed by a corporate, contract law attorney with 30+ years experience, so I wasn’t flying blind here.

Ultimately, you can liken this to being in a bare knuckle, steel cage match with both hands tied behind your back and then, and only then, will you begin to understand the difficulties in writing this piece in the first place.
Now, onto my points:

1. I was not fired by the ESRB. I left of my own accord and on good terms. The ESRB will verify this. My leaving was more in relation to the 4 hour daily commute (2 hours up and 2 hours back) that I had to deal with to work there in the first place.

2. Do I have more to say about the ESRB? Yes. A lot. And they know that.

3. Can I or will I say/write anything else about the ESRB? No. Recent events in my life have shown me that all of this matters little in the grand scheme of things. Don't get me wrong, I love video games and the "gaming lifestyle" with a sincere passion and hope to write about other video game related topics everywhere and anywhere I'm asked to (if I’m ever asked to…) again.

4. If that response was written by Pat Vance then I am the King of Siam. The ESRB employs PR/Marketing people and lawyers and the like, whose sole purpose on this planet is to "spin" things. Remember, I'm just one guy with an informed opinion. I do not consider myself “disgruntled” or “angry” in any way. Things just didn’t work out at the ESRB. So it goes. I would suggest that you read the entire article (not just the synopsis that is posted in GP), which is exceptionally fair and balanced, before throwing words like that around.

5. I have one, other thing to say in regard to the ESRB's response (in which, they basically call me a liar) to what I wrote: if my comments are so "misleading," "inaccurate" and "misrepresentative" then why aren't they suing me (for libel or breach of contract or whatever…) into oblivion right now?? Food for thought, eh?

I truly appreciate all of the thoughtful comments and the intelligent debate this article has sparked. I was never a big fan of the “X-Files” but I’m going to borrow that show’s mantra here: the truth is out there. This article is just the first step on a much larger journey to obtaining that truth. For various reasons, I can only take this first step…but I do wish a hearty “Godspeed” to those who decide to take up where I leave off…

The first point (re-organizing the ratings & dropping AO) is a great one. Having a T13, T16, and 18+ would be better for the industry and take away ammo from the politicians that wish to sensor the industry. Lite-M rated games would be dumped into T16, and the more realistic, racy or violent ones would get the 18+... saturating the 18+ like this would also distance it from the "porn" stigma that comes w/ AO, meaning that major stores will hopefully sell it.

I agree with him partly on the ratings solution but in a different manner then he says.
IMHO i say just leave the AO rating only for sexually explicit (pornographic) video games and have M as the highest rating for everything else. Then place a MT15+ for Mature Teens 15 and up in between the T and M rating. This rating could accommodate the higher end T rated games and the lower and medium end M rated games.

I think they both make some good points. Vance's rebuttal is solid in places, but her talk about secrecy as protection for the integrity of the ratings board doesn't hold water, and she doesn't even address Bonner's best point, his suggestion that the AO rating be removed.

I just watched This Film is Not Yet Rated a couple of months back, and the parallels are pretty clear. The ESRB hasn't just copied the MPAA's rating scale, it's also copied its lack of transparency and accountability. I still, to this day, have not heard a satisfactory explanation of why Hot Coffee was the difference between an M and an AO; if similar content had been in a movie it would have been R rather than NC-17.

@Mike T
That's a fair point, that NC-17 DVDs will play in all standard DVD players (although NC-17 DVDs are not necessarily sold or rented by all of the companies that sell or rent "G" - "R" rated -- or, ironically, "unrated" -- DVDs).

It is true that the three major console manufacturers will not license "AO" games for play on their systems, just as all major retailer chains (including Wal-Mart and even GameStop) currently refuse to stock "AO" rated games.

Yet from this, I do not follow the logic that the "AO" rating is holding developers back in any way. I could agree that MS, Sony, and Nintendo are holding developers back, and that Wal-Mart and GameStop are holding developers back, but I do not see why removing the AO rating would change any of that.

The "M" rating would mean something different that it does now, were it changed to comprise games that include what is currently considered "AO" content. I don't think it is unfair to assume that retailers and manufacturers would treat "M"-rated games differently, if "M"-rated games suddenly included the sort of violent content found in the original cut of Manhunt 2, or the sexual content in the uncut versions of Singles or Leisure Suit Larry.

In other words, I think the idea that removing the "AO" rating would magically resolve all the issues the market currently has with "AO" content is shortsighted. It's almost sort of like saying that if the "Speed Limit" sign is taken down, we're all suddenly allowed to drive as fast as we like.

[...] EGM Magazine’s current issue has a must-read article about fixing the ESRB. Now, I think that the ESRB works, assuming people pay attention to it, of course - but there’s little question about room for improvement. This insider’s perspective is a fascinating read and offers valuable insight into the inner workings of the ratings board. While the piece isn’t really negative in tone, and offers positive solutions, ESRB president Patricia Vance isn’t happy about the veil being pulled back. Nevertheless, the issue of game ratings is going to become a larger one this year, as politicians ramp up their campaigns and start pulling out every tired old cliché in their playbook. [...]

Just let games come out unrated for crying out loud. Then add an option to block unrated games for the parental controls for all the systems like they have for unrated movies. Taa daa problem solved.

[...] ESRB boss Patricia Vance had a few things to say about Bonner’s statements herself, and you can view her counterpoints after the jump. [...]

The secrecy being necessary for integrity thing is much more believable than some people seem to think. Even though the CIA has aspects everybody knows about, it also has aspects nobody knows about...well, that they can tell anyone, anywhere, ever. And the reason is functionality. If certain methods, people, or material are leaked, it inhibits their ability to do their jobs.

Think about it:

if the ESRB regularly gave consumers and politicians information on the people who worked there, nobody would want to, or the employees would have to deal with bribery and blackmail just as regularly;

if the ESRB consistently leaked little details about game content that publishers wanted secret, publishers would find it necessary to go around them, such as through another rating system

if the ESRB exposed the whole rating process using only previous employees, methods, etc. to avoid endangering anyone or spoiling anything, they would be called out for "problems" that have since been rectified;

if the ESRB showed current methodology and personnel and subject matter to the public, regardless of the aforementioned problems that would be extant in such a situation, then idiots who know nothing about either politics or videogames (i.e., politicians) would still complain about every little detail and be heard and force changes that anyone more informed on the subject or on our Constitution would have realized were asinine and counterproductive and useless, but which would nevertheless become the new ESRB methodologies because of politics and stupidity--thus, yet again, forcing the industry to cobble together a new, working, and not corrupted ratings system with which to bypass the emasculated ESRB.

Obviously the ESRB has their own spin on anything that gets out about them, but in a nation where politics is tainted with corruption and liberties are constantly under assault in "little" ways, it's hard to imagine an organization like the ESRB managing to maintain its independence and trustworthiness as a ratings system if they had to be open and transparent enough to let politicians and other businesses get ahold of their inner workings, methodology, personnel, etc..

Jbonner -- I have read the entire article, and read your response here, and you still come across as a disgruntled ex-employee. Your reasons for leaving do not matter in that assessment.

Then you hit comments like this:

"2. Do I have more to say about the ESRB? Yes. A lot. And they know that."

And now you sound like a disgruntled douchebag.

Cheers!

I stand by my previous conclusions:
http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dt8s85q_522fzwq84gt

AO rating is flawed, something needs to change. It's either:
-Change the AO rating so that it is more reasonable (contemporary community standards my ass)
-Get rid of the AO rating altogether in favor of something like mentioned
-Get retailers and console companies to consider content ratings rather than age ratings

[...] Via GamePolitics [...]

From being an Australian with no R rating in my country, trying to scrap the AO rating in American ESRB is not going to solve anything...

It only says that all the Hentai games sold in selective Anime stores should be banned because of the lack of an AO rating.

Looking at a Canadian Gamer Magazine, I could see that the Hentai games sold in various Anime stores in Canada are not rated by the ESRB, so perhaps that is a good thing considering the pressure of the US Government

For the playing the games all the way though, anyone who says that needs to understand how long did it take THEM to get though all of an RPG, and EVEN though all the Side Quests that 1 out of 1,000,000 pissibility to have hidden material (lets say kinda like GTA Hot Coffie for example but in a more higher quality form)

It is almost impossible at ask Adults over the age of 30 or 40 to play though an RPG in just a couple of days because of their lack of game experience and also the lack of gaming knowledge...

Also hiring more people will confuse the ratings process because many people have different opinions of what should be rated T and M from what I understand.

All of these issues needed to be addressed before anyone ever really thinks of changing what the ESRB does to rate games or else it will be a mess created by radical change without even thinking how things are going to work.

The ESRB is not perfect, nothing ever is perfect, but with the AO rating here as an option, it is much more better than the BBFC or the OFLC in Australia.

Also how can people tell the difference between a T-13 and a T-16 rating???

It might be ideal for parents but it makes it hard on the ESRB.

With T means for Teenagers and M means for mature audiences, I fully understand them well and find it hard to see if any more changes related at age restrictions on certain titles would ever change that...

what people don't understand is that Mature means Mature, NOT Adults only....

We can't get that confused...

I feel that many parents have a hard time trying to find what is Mature and what is not Mature rated in a game because of the lack of gaming experience,

Mature is knowing that the things that happen in this game are ONLY meant to be in the game and not suitable/desirable for real life situations...but still ok for Older Teenagers to view/play.

[...] ESRB boss Patricia Vance had a few things to say about Bonner’s statements herself, and you can view her counterpoints after the jump. [...]

Personally I see no need for such stringently categorised rating systems. Would it not be simpler to replace the entire system with a simpler "recommended for ages X and above" and then list the contents (blood, sexual themes, diabolical laughter etc)?

That seems to me to be a far more flexible way of doing things and would avoid the "ooh it might be a bit strong for teens but not quite strong enough for mature people" debates that probably take up a lot more time than saying "sod it, make it 14+ instead of 13+ then"

In my opinion, the vast majority of t-rated games could be rated E, and the vast majority of m-rated games could be rated T. I would give Portal, which is T, to an eight-year-old.

This is so stupid. Ratings should be like movies. They play the entire games, they follow suit of movies, which is a standard, sex is rated R, but certain rules on genetailia makes it NC-17. Violence rarely is over Rated R's rules. Some beheading could be. Either way, violence should be Rated R and sex and nudity as long as it isn't genetailia showing. And the thing is, movies have real PEOPLE showing their goods, and in a game, it is all fake. So the rules should be even lessoned. WhoTF are these people? Let it go...

It is not hard to rate a game! It is practically a NO BRAINER. I can look at a game and KNOW what it is rated without even playing it. It is COMMON SENSE.

The ratings are not the problem. The ESRB has a rating system that works. They mimmic MOVIE ratings directly. It is the idiot politicians and parents who blame games for ruining the kids even though movies with the same age requirements show far worse.

Hrm.

Point 1: We need the "AO" rating. Like others say, what of games that go further? I see politicians wanting to stomp all over "M" if "AO" is gone. Don't see why we need another teen rating, to be honest. I understand the "E" and "E10" more reasoning.

Point 2: Impossible to play "fully"' I suggest to play "some" instead. Games are different from movies in that you can't play a long game in a short amount of time. Not to mention there are many types of genres and I doubt the ESRB could find raters with different abilities of gaming not be biased. Like many other, they don't think that games can be as long and think all are short.

Point 3: I don't find that statement true at all. Maybe for shovelware games, but that is a stretch.

Point 4: They are just like the MPAA, so why is it that the ESRB have to tell all and not the MPAA? Either they both or none reveal at all. This sounds like someone wants the government to jump right in.


I feel that the ex-game rater does seem to be a bit disgruntled, but I have not read the EGM article. Not sure if he went into specifics on his issues, but this is how I felt.

Game developers already know what the rating is going to be, usually before any code has been written.

They don't simply develop the game, submit it to the ratings board and get a rating. They write the game to target a specific rating, with full knowledge of what the criteria are. It's primarily a self-certification system and that's all it's meant to be. They submit the videos to the ESRB to confirm that they actually are within the target rating.

Maybe it should be a proper third party rating system, but that wouldn't be a simple improvement. It would be a complete change to a different organisation.

I sense hypocrisy about the current ESRB rating process since video games are different from film and yet the process is similar to rating films which is total nonsense.

I haven't read all the comments before me, so forgive me for repeating. Thinking outside the box and using analogies, the ESRB gives a grade based on the final exam only and not the process before it. Which is a pain in the ass for developers receiving no feedback whether they can tell they are doing great or being naughty.

Since the ESRB are much like university professors who gives lectures and no feedback until the end, it becomes a slow and inefficient process. what we need are high school teachers who give periodic quizzes in order to tell them how they are progressing and what areas they'd like to improve in order to get their desired grade. What I mean by quizzes: become a guest beta tester and give an ESRB grade, discuss with the student and move on to the next student. Repeat the process until the game finally graduates.

Tony the hentai games have an 18 rating at FYE and Suncoast. Its on the front of the box.

Having read this article myself a while back I did feel as if Patricia Vance was mostly reading the same press statement she reads every time someone comments on the ESRB ratings system. She addresses issues that she says are inaccurate or misleading, although we have no way of actually knowing, by basically saying, "Wrong."

Personally, I have felt that Ms. Vance and the ESRB have constantly just been giving the same answer over and over and mostly never touching on detailed points, especially when it comes to specific critiques about the process that no one has the ability to see.

If the ESRB wanted to avoid some controversy they should reveal their entire process. They don't have to show who the raters are but give us a step-by-step process of how it works and even let the media and/or watchdog groups witness the process. That would hurt nothing, unless they do have something to hide, and would allow them to openly address any critical issues or false statements leveled at them in the media.

I think the ESRB ratings system is pretty good, and I have yet to play a game in which I disagree with the rating. But for their own sake they should be more open.

Of course, the ESA and ESRB have yet to shown any kind of proficiency in dealing with political and public relations issues. Just repeating the same line over and over will not convince anyone that they are doing their jobs. However, showing everyone how they do their jobs might.

All that said, I hope they keep doing a good job. I can only hope they find a new spokesperson or someone new to handle their media relations.

The Catholic Legion of Decency reborn gets hood pulled back (a little). Kudos to the lady!

Anyway please remember the first X-rating for movies required a person to be older then 16 years of age to watch. How times have changed...

@ all those who think the ESRB should revela the ratings process

You are wrong. They shouldn't. It will only make things worse.

Why do I think this? Look at the game playing issue. It is well known that the ESRB does not play the games it rates. But just because it is know does not make any of the controversy go away. Every watch dog group and politician who have commented have nit picked that point and demand change.

Now imagine that the whole process is revealed. Wow look at the exponentially larger number of things for these same people to nitpick and demand changed. They won't say, "Oh. that's nice. Thanks for showing us." They will say, "Oh! I don't like that. You need to change it. Oh, and that too. While your at it, that is totally unacceptable and should be changed to this." And so on and on.

The current controvers ywill nto go away. It will only get worse if they reveal the ratings process. That is what they are trying to protect. They don't want or need the filthy meddling hands of watch dogs.

The current process works. Some of us may not like the final result, but the vast majority of us do.

Before anyone calls me "Fox News", My comment using the word "lady" was meant in a sarcastic manner. This is so because she hit back hard as any good legionnaire would do with a counter punch. She is the standard bearer after all and she cant show any weakness in the armor of censorship or it might just be seen for what it is.

Cheater87 -

It is possible for an unrated game to be digitally distributed for PC.

Jbonner71 - I agree with you for the most part, though playing through games might take too long, especially considering some games are only finished when the user decides so.

I hope you do write more about games. It is extremely important to speak your mind and you have the experience to help gamers solve this problem that is troubling to many of us. If you don't want it to be about the ESRB, fine. I'm sure your experience has given you more than a few ideas not relating to the ESRB.

It isn't like we don't appreciate the ESRB or we don't think that the ESRB is the best regulatory system for a particular art/entertainment product(because I think it is). HOWEVER, I see problems with their system. I am extremely thankful for you speaking out because you have justified the concerns of many gamers that were previously played off as expressing worries illegitimate or inaccurate problems.

It is not surprising at all that the ESRB responded to you the way they did. They know what they are doing and they know they have to cover themselves in a firm manner. So maybe that includes spinning the truth a bit. I don't think they really care as long as they try to silence whatever noise there is. The ESRB can not silence gamers, there are many of us that are very upset at them for not attempting to fix issues and not taking our opinions seriously. The ESRB should not be a system made for parents and children. It should be a system made for ALL people who consume video games or purchase video games. This includes parents, non-parents, seniors, adults, teens and children. When they share statistics that say a certain percentage of parents agree that their system is effective I see that as proof of their discriminatory policy and their lack of interest in anyone that is not a child or parent. It honestly is disgusting.

E. Zachary Knight - So you know the vast majority of individuals that have an opinion on the ESRB? Thats a tragic fallacy if I've ever seen one.

1. this is my main complaint with the ESRB they need to rework the TEEN-ADULT tiers to make the system a non draconian ban it ban it ban it ratings board,we have NC17 dvds rated as unrated in wallmart for Christ sake!
Drop AO add a 15M or T16 or T15 and be done with it!

2. I do not feel fully playing through a game will helping rating it, bring out the hardest content of a game if you fail to divulge all of the hardest content of the script/scenes/gameplay you will be fined 10-20% of the games profits and you will be suspended from the ESRB until you pay up, keep the fines high and they wont dare screw it up.

3. W T F...a game needs to be rated on content regardless of WTF it is....

4.I do not think it needs to be more open if it drops the ban stick, wihtout the ban stick games can be fully published without fear of begin blocked, unless they fail the approval process each console maker has.

@ TJLK

Thanks, man (or WOman). It is nice to see that somebody GETS it without calling me a douchebag... :^)

So I just recently got caught up on all my mail from the last couple weeks and this issue of EGM was in the stack. I finally got a chance to read the article, and honestly, I don't think Vance needed to write a rebuttal (which I haven't read yet btw). Bonner does fine job of making himself look like an idiot all by himself. Everything he wrote is entirely reactionary and he hasn't thought it through at all.

The only good point he made is that the ratings need to be changed to phase out the useless AO, but the fact that he considers the ESRB not making changes on a whim and carefully considering them a negative negates his entire argument.

He also suggests that the ESRB needs to adopt free-form descriptors like the MPAA. While this isn't the worst of his suggestions, it's still foolish. Pick up a recent dvd, like Kingdom of Heaven, and you see descriptors like epic warfare. Stuff like that does nothing to help inform a parent of the content within.

His worst suggestion is the idea of competing ratings boards. He talks about the days of multiple ratings systems like it was a good thing. The entire point of the ESRB was to do away with that. Multiple rating systems makes things extremely confusing for the parents. They have a hard enough time with one.

Clearly Bonner became disgruntled while working for the ESRB and did not leave amicably. My advice to him, when you leave your next job, you probably shouldn't write an article with suggestions that you haven't really thought through. You'll just look an incompetent, disgruntled jackass....again.

I'm not surprised there is internal strife amongst fellow or former employees of the ESRB. It's a flawed system. Games are (obviously) not like movies, in that you can watch them for the 2-3hr. span of time that they last, and make your judgement call. They have to be experienced. Although a video may show 80-90% of what the game is like, that last 10% is what playing is all about and completely NOT doing that is like saying you don't like food if you've never even tasted it. It just makes no logical sense, ESPECIALLY in a business perspective.

I do agree AO needs to be canned, but I also think M should be 18+. It's NEVER too late to change this. And adding T-16 would be fine. The growing years of maturity from 13 through 16 are IMMENSE and wayyyy more than 17 to 18. The only problem from a business standpoint from changing the ratings is all those games that are on the market currently would also need to be changed, repackaged, relabeled, etc. and I seriously doubt this is something the industry wants to do.

I think for RPGs that do go on and on they can sit with the developer who should know what content is in their games.
AO needs to go. NC-17 keeps movie makers from showing what they want or saying what they want.
Ratings shouldn't really be enforced like they're law. It shouldn't be up to a board full of people to decide what children play. Ratings should only exist online or in stores as a guide for parents, and not slapped all over the game.
It should really just be up to parents.

[...] GamePolitics wskazuje nam artyku? w kwietniowym EGM, w którym jeden z by?ych pracowników ESRB mówi o niedoskona?o?ciach i nieprawid?owo?ciach w systemie oceniania. Okazuje si? na przyk?ad, ?e recenzenci nie graj? w dostarczone im gry. Ograniczaj? si? do obejrzenia kaset i DVD z zapisem rozgrywki i na tej podstawie wydaj? swój werdykt. Innym nieciekawym zwyczajem jest ocenianie danego tytu?u na podstawie poprzedniej cz??ci gry. W tek?cie jest te? par? jego sugestii, w jaki system ocen móg?by zosta? ulepszony. Oczywi?cie po publikacji druga strona nie by?a d?u?na i wystosowa?a list (równie? opublikowany na podlinkowanej stronie), gdzie przedstawia swoj? opini?. ESRB broni w nim swoich racji i ocen, mówi?c i? oskar?aj?cy ich by?y pracownik przekazuje myln? opini? o organizacji, jak równie? donosi o jego krótkim sta?u pracy. Warto przeczyta?. Na pewno systemy oceniania i kategoryzowania gier wymagaj? bli?szego przyjrzenia si?. Coraz wi?cej osób gra i naturalnym porz?dkiem rzeczy jest, ?e gry jako medium kultury mo?e przenosi? i prezentowa? tre?ci przeznaczone tylko dla doros?ych. Warto, by zosta?y one odpowiednio wcze?nie oznaczone, tak by rodzice wiedzieli od jakiego wieku ich pociechy mog? si? dan? produkcj? bawi?. Mam nadziej?, ?e w PEGI nie mamy takich kontrowersyjnych dzia?a? i gry s? oceniane porz?dnie. Zobacz podobne Spada ilo?? gier dla doros?ych (30 dni temu) [...]
 
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MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/07/30/europe-gets-long-detained-shin-megami-tensei-4-at-cut-price/ "Sorry you had to wait a year for SMT4, would a price cut make it sting less?"07/30/2014 - 10:29am
NeenekoI would hope not. Though it is not unheard of for store specific cards to be pretty good.07/30/2014 - 8:17am
E. Zachary KnightDoes anyone, or at least any intelligent person, expect a retail branded credit card to be anything close to resembling a "good deal" on interest rates?07/30/2014 - 7:13am
SleakerGamestop articles popping up everywhere about their ludicrous new Credit card offerings at a whopping pre-approval for 26.9% APR07/29/2014 - 10:19pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/07/podcasting-patent-troll-we-tried-to-drop-lawsuit-against-adam-carolla/ the podcasting patent troll scum is trying to turn tail and run.07/29/2014 - 9:50pm
MaskedPixelanteOf course it's improved. At launch, Origin was scanning your entire hard drive, but now it's just scanning your browsing history. If that's not an improvement, I dunno what is!07/29/2014 - 8:59pm
Papa Midnighthttp://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/video-games/columns/experienced-points/12029-Has-EAs-Origin-Service-Improved-Any-Over-the-Last-Two-Years07/29/2014 - 8:25pm
Sora-ChanSo it's just a matter of having better emulation software. If it can be done with a 3DS game, with all the memory and what not it takes up, it can be done with a GBA title through emulation.07/29/2014 - 7:30pm
Sora-ChanOther VC titles for the NES and Gameboy had the same setup where you couldn't access the homescreen without quitting out of the game til a later update when those games were released for the public outside of the founder program.07/29/2014 - 7:28pm
Sora-Chanthe 3DS can, and does, run GBA games, as seen by the founder gifts, which included a number of GBA titles. As for running GBA games and still having access to the home screen, I beleive it's more of the game emulation software needs to be updated.07/29/2014 - 7:27pm
Matthew Wilsonthe 3ds already swaps os's with the original ds. plus I dont think people expect miverse interaction when playing a gba game.07/29/2014 - 6:06pm
MaskedPixelanteBut that's not the issue, the 3DS is perfectly capable of emulating GBA games. The problem is that it doesn't have enough available system resources to run it alongside the 3DS OS, and thus it doesn't have access to stuff like Miiverse and save states.07/29/2014 - 5:45pm
Matthew WilsonI am well aware that it requires more power, but if a GBA emulator could run well on a original psp, than it should work on a 3ds.07/29/2014 - 5:36pm
ZenThe reason the SNES could run Gameboy, or the Gamecube could run GBA was because their adapters included all of the necessary hardware to do it in the respective add-ons. The systems were just conduits for control inputs and video/sound/power.07/29/2014 - 4:51pm
ZenMatthew: Emulation takes more power than people realize to run a game properly. You can make something run on less, but Nintendo...as slow as they are at releasing them..makes them run as close to 100% as possible. Each game has its own emulator for it.07/29/2014 - 4:47pm
Matthew Wilsonkind of hard to believe since the 3ds is atleast as powerful as the gamecube hardware wise.07/29/2014 - 4:27pm
MaskedPixelanteYes, the 3DS has enough power to run 16-bit emulators, but not at the same time it's running the 3DS systems themselves. You could run the games, but you wouldn't get save states or Miiverse.07/29/2014 - 4:04pm
InfophileRunning GBA on 3DS shouldn't be hard. The DS had flashcarts sold for it that added just enough power to emulate GBA and SNES games, so the 3DS should have more than enough natively.07/29/2014 - 3:37pm
MaskedPixelanteIt's a bunch of people whining about boycotting/pirating Trails in the Sky FC because XSEED didn't license the Japanese dub track, which consists of about 10 lines per character.07/29/2014 - 11:27am
Sleaker@MP - devolver Digital issued a twitter statement saying they would replace the NISA pledge.07/29/2014 - 10:57am
 

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