ESRB Pres Pleased By FTC Secret Shopper Survey

April 20, 2011 -

I know what you’re thinking after reading the FTC’s report that once again, the video game industry is kicking the collective butts of all others when it comes to retail enforcement.

You’re thinking, “I bet ESRB president Patricia Vance is extremely pleased by this news.”

And you’re right.  Said Vance to USA Today:

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ESRB Launches iPhone Ratings App

December 1, 2009 -

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has released an iPhone application that allows users to search the ESRB for videogame information.

In addition to showing a game’s rating, the app also details rating descriptors and provides a full explanation of the content in the title. Game summaries date back to July 1, 2008.

To back the launch of the application, the ESRB has also debuted a new Public Service Announcement.

ESRB president Patricia Vance added, “This new rating search app puts all this information at parents’ fingertips when they need it most, right at the store.  It’s a powerful tool that will help assure parents that the games they give as gifts are not only fun but also appropriate for their children.”

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Ratings Creep? Sh*t Common in T-rated Games

June 11, 2009 -

Is the S-word more prevalent in T-rated (13 and older) games these days? And if so, is it a problem?

What They Play looks at the issue:

We’ve perceived a gradual shift in the "strength" of much of the language used in [T-rated] games’ scripts... our reviewers have described the use of certain words with more frequency; most notably the word "s**t."...

 

Recent Teen-rated games that have used the word include... InFamous on PlayStation 3... Wheelman... Battlefield: Bad Company... Mirror’s Edge... HAWX, and... Tom Clancy’s Endwar.

ESRB President Patricia Vance offered the content rating organization's perspective:

Assigning ratings to language in video games is less straight-forward than many people may realize... how we evaluate language when assigning ratings has remained relatively consistent over the years, with factors like frequency and intensity having always been particularly relevant...

 

There's no question that the average parent is sensitive to the language to which their children are exposed, just as they are to sexual or violent content. That's why one of our 'language' content descriptors will always be assigned to a T-rated game that contains profanity.

What They Play concludes that while sh*t is here to stay, overall the language in T-rated games remains a bit more regulated than that found in PG-13 movies.

GP: The concept of "ratings creep," in which what is acceptable within a rating gradually expands to encompass content once barred, has been found by Harvard researchers in relation to movie ratings. Could the same gradual process be afoot with ESRB categories?

40 comments

Utah Bill Sponsor Responds to ESRB, Questions Game Biz Commitment to Ratings

March 11, 2009 -

The sponsor of a Utah bill that could punish sales of M-rated games to minors with false advertising charges has questioned the video game industry's commitment to its own rating system in an e-mail to GamePolitics.

GP readers may recall that last Friday, ESRB President Patricia Vance penned an unprecedented open letter to "Utah's parents and leaders."

In the letter, Vance took issue with HB 353, a bill originally conceived by disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson. The measure passed the Utah House last week by an overwhelming 70-2 majority and is now under consideration by the State Senate.

Although the amended bill passed by the Utah House was substantially watered down in comparison to its original version, it is clearly still a source of concern to the video game industry, hence the Vance letter.

GamePolitics asked Utah Rep. Mike Morley (R), the sponsor of the bill, to comment on the ESRB's open letter. We received Morley's response last night and are re-printing it here, in full:

It is interesting to me, given the voluntary efforts and the pledges taken by many retailers to work with parents and children to understand the appropriateness of video game content, that a bill such as HB 353 would have any concern at all for them, particularly given the safe harbors I have provided in the bill.  It causes me concern when I see a letter such as [Vance's] which threatens to completely withdrawn efforts and leads me to believe that the video game industry is not truly committed to the standards they espouse in their advertising.

HB 353 is not punitive.  It gives safe harbor to retailers who provide training and to their employees.  This provides protection to those retailers whose practice corresponds to their stated intent of refusing to sell inappropriate materials to minors.  I would think good retailers who enforce their stated policies, as well as industry at large, would welcome this legislation.  Only those bad actors who are receiving good will for advertising family-friendly policies and then not enforcing that policy would have any potential affect from HB 353.

I applaud ESRB for their work over the past decade and a half. Certainly, their efforts to regulate the gaming industry and implement an effective rating program which is embraced by the producers of both games and gaming equipment is a significant accomplishment and provides peace of mind to parents across the nation.  As the father of eight sons who all love to play video games, I express my appreciation for their efforts.

As I have been made aware of the content – explicit sexuality, rape, murder, graphic violence, gore – contained in many of the Mature games, I have great concern about this material reaching even one child.  While there is nothing I or ESRB can do about that, we can support actions which will require accountability of those few retailers in our state who consistently disregard their own advertised policies, policies upon which parents rely for an added layer of protection for their children.

GP: HB353 is now listed on the Utah State Senate's debate calendar. If it is to be passed, that action must occur by tomorrow midnight.

46 comments

As Utah Bill Nears Passage, ESRB Head Pens Open Letter to Politicians & Parents

March 7, 2009 -

While the Utah State Senate mulls HB 353, a bill which would add age rating offenses to the state's existing Truth in Advertising law, ESRB President Patricia Vance has penned an open letter to "Utah's parents and leaders."

Vance called HB 353 a "grave mistake" and warned that it could undo years of effort by the ESRB and video game retailers to keep inappropriate content from underage players:

So why is this bill likely to put an end to those very efforts it seeks to support? On its face such an amendment makes good sense; after all, if a retailer says they’re going to do something, they should do it, right?

 

While the intent of this legislation would be to hold retailers accountable for compliance with their stated policies – presumably in that negligible 6% of instances where they fail to comply – the unfortunate reality is that it would introduce a liability that will likely force many retailers to seriously consider abandoning their voluntary policies and ratings education programs, undoing years of progress made on behalf of parents and their children.

The bill passed the Utah House, albeit in a somewhat diluted fashion, last week by a 70-2 margin.

For the full text of Vance's letter, hit the jump.

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ZippyDSMleeEh still rather subjective… the haters would be better off going after teen and beauty rags and magazines than fiction, fiction follows reality and going after fiction tends to turn into a bullying fest’s… plus its fiction its unrealistic to start with….02/27/2015 - 1:10am
MechaTama31That's a pretty difficult anatomy to break.02/26/2015 - 11:09pm
MechaTama31"the way her animations repeatedly break her anatomy" <-- I'm sorry, but we are talking here about the woman who can roll up into a little ball and live to tell the tale, yes? ;)02/26/2015 - 11:09pm
Andrew EisenAs far as examples that could be culled from female game characters though, that one's pretty mild.02/26/2015 - 9:11pm
Andrew EisenNot as much the heels or the suit in and of themselves but certainly the way her animations repeatedly break her anatomy to show off her lady bits.02/26/2015 - 9:10pm
E. Zachary KnightWell, Samus's heels are certainly impracticable, but I wouldn't really call her Zero suit objectified. I don't really feel that the new Lara Croft is objectified either, but that is my subjective opinion.02/26/2015 - 9:08pm
Andrew EisenTomb Raider: No but we haven't seen much of anything yet. Samus: Yes.02/26/2015 - 9:07pm
ZippyDSMleeWould you call the new tomb raider objectified? WOuld Samus Aran from the new Smash bros be objectified?02/26/2015 - 9:02pm
WonderkarpI'm hoping they put the rest of the comic book ghostbusters in there. Ortiz and Rookie(From GB the game)02/26/2015 - 8:38pm
Wonderkarpghostbusters board game is doing great. getting close too a 3rd extra playable Character. Ron Alexander.02/26/2015 - 8:37pm
Andrew EisenSmurfette is not subjective. If there's more than one female character, it's not Smurfette. Anyway, as with everything on the list, Smurfette is, in and of itself, not necessarily a bad thing.02/26/2015 - 8:32pm
Andrew EisenI think there's 5 women (out of 15, I think) but other than one being a bit more "hippy" than the others, they pretty much all have the same body type. Especially when compaired to the huge variety of male body types.02/26/2015 - 8:31pm
Wonderkarpso I dont see Smurfette as a bad thing. Unless like all your female characters are Smurfette. remember the Smurfs also had Sassette02/26/2015 - 8:29pm
E. Zachary KnightOne good example of the larger issues is one Anita used in the presentation, Blizzard's Overwatch game. There are a dozen men in the game with a dozen body types. But there are only 4 women with 2 body types, but 3 of them have the same one.02/26/2015 - 8:28pm
Wonderkarpthe smurfette thing is subjective to how many female characters you have. Take Sonic for example. You have Amy, who is obvious smurfette, but there's several other female characters now without that. Including the original animated seriescomics with Sally02/26/2015 - 8:28pm
E. Zachary KnightAE. Very true. I think that is where I was going, but it didn't come out right. Jack Harkness is sexy but not objectified. Whereas, a women would have to be objectified in order to be "sexy" in most games.02/26/2015 - 8:26pm
E. Zachary KnightAnd as Andrew pointed out, there is a big difference between a sexualized man, and an idealized man. But for some reason, there is no distinction between women in games. For the most part.02/26/2015 - 8:25pm
Andrew EisenI think one of the issues we run into repeatedly with these conversations is the confusion over "sexy" and "sexually objectified."02/26/2015 - 8:24pm
E. Zachary KnightYet, for some reason, in orde rto have a sexualized women, she must be wearing lingerie or a bikini. Can't women be sexual and still dress for the job at hand?02/26/2015 - 8:24pm
E. Zachary KnightThe problem I have with complaints of "sexualized men" is that men don't have to wear speedos to be sexualized. Captain Jack Harkness from Torchwood/Doctor Who, was one sexy man, but he spent 99% of his time in a WW2 soldier's trenchcoat.02/26/2015 - 8:23pm
 

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