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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Matthew Wilsonhttps://www.reddit.com/r/OutOfTheLoop/comments/3bxduw/why_was_riama_along_with_a_number_of_other_large/ here is a more complete acount of whats going on.07/03/2015 - 1:32am
Matthew Wilsonredit is on fire right now. most subreddits have been set to private.07/03/2015 - 1:24am
MattsworknameYou know andrew, those are actualy rock solid ideas, I woudl like those features a bunch ,especially with games that a cut scene heavly. looking at you kojima!07/03/2015 - 1:18am
Andrew EisenActually, "things I'd like to see become standard in video games" ain't a bad idea for one of my future YouTube videos.07/03/2015 - 1:05am
Andrew EisenYou know what I'd really like to see become standard? The ability to pause cutscenes. Rewind and skip (with "Are you sure?") would be nice too. Oh, and maybe display the duration of the cutscene when it's paused.07/03/2015 - 1:03am
Mattsworknameonly reason to do region locking now is to be dicks your consumer base. Granted, we see that ALOT these days07/03/2015 - 12:48am
MattsworknameI understand the concerns about the region locking thing, I just thing that if you buy a game legitimately, no matter where it's from or what langauge it's in, you should be allowed to play it. the argument about piracy was proven false years ago, the07/03/2015 - 12:47am
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.theverge.com/culture/2015/7/2/8888243/reddit-subreddits-private-after-ama-victoria-taylor-fired bad optics by Reddit.07/03/2015 - 12:33am
Goth_SkunkI'm in full agreement on the subtitles issue. I also believe that every game should come with a single-player component, and be playable without an internet connection. Except MMOs.07/02/2015 - 10:51pm
TechnogeekRegion locking bans seem like something that'll be very difficult to pass into law. I'm fully on board with the subtitle requirement, though.07/02/2015 - 10:00pm
MattsworknameFor example, all games with any for form of spoken dialoge should be i subtitled, and region locking in any form should be illegal07/02/2015 - 9:03pm
MattsworknameDoes anyone feel that there should be a set standard for all games in terms of certain basic features. Ie subtitles, region lock, etc07/02/2015 - 9:01pm
MattsworknameSo, now that the Article stuff is over, I want to bring up another subject07/02/2015 - 9:01pm
PHX Corphttps://trustygem.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/windows-10-insider-preview-phase-3/ My Thoughts on Windows 10 Insider Preview07/02/2015 - 6:17pm
Matthew Wilsonhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?t=18&v=CbGmrySQLIg looks like Inafune is giving capcom the middle finger.07/02/2015 - 5:05pm
TechnogeekUnfortunately, the shoutbox moves fast enough that I can't find why I got that impression, so if was indeed erroneous I do apologize.07/02/2015 - 4:34pm
TechnogeekBut yeah, as far as my earlier comment re: you and the article, I did get the impression at some point that you felt there should have been some sort of reprecussions for the article's existence.07/02/2015 - 4:34pm
TechnogeekI got expletive-censored for posting something a few weeks back wherein I expressed my shock that I agreed with you about something, Skunk; so you're not the only one being hit with that stick.07/02/2015 - 4:31pm
Andrew EisenI know you don't. And you haven't recently so all's well.07/02/2015 - 4:25pm
Goth_SkunkI don't think I misrepresented anything.07/02/2015 - 4:24pm
 

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