In an attempt to combat the influx of online games that have become popular in every computer lab across the US, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board has announced a new system for rating games through a computer automated network and questionnaire. Digital gaming growth placed a strain in the self-regulated organization, and it has made the process of assigning age ratings to games an antiquated model. Since several game platforms won’t release games without a rating, the former system was a problem, but the new system should solves some of the former qualms.
The new system would place a lot of trust on the game publisher. With the help of the questionnaire a computer program will evaluate every aspect of the game, including violence, sex, profanity, drug usage, and bodily function. Publishers will be expected to fill out detailed questionnaires on these categories to help the machine with the rating process. Once the game is evaluated, the computer gives the game a rating, and the game will be available for release. Some distributors will require a follow-up evaluation by a human of the computer’s rating, but the computer will do most of the work.
The questionnaire begins with eight basic questions about the content of the game. Based on the yes answer, there will be more detailed questions. For example, if you answer yes to sexual content, the questionnaire will then ask about the context of the content, etc.
The publishers will also be expected to submit a video with the example graphics detailed within categories on the questionnaire. The ESRB is relying on the publisher to submit each scene that could affect maturity ratings, but there is no system in place when a publisher does not disclose portions of the game. Presumably, game sales would halt until the case is evaluated. Most publisher would benefit from complete honesty in regards to the questionnaire process, since game ratings are more strictly enforced than movies and music, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Although, this system only applies to digital releases, eventually box releases and casual gaming environments may have the same process. The perk of this system is it’s a more cost-effective way toward a game release for the publisher and ESRB.
This new ESRB system is more of an experiment, until the organization has a better idea of the effectiveness. If the program is successful, there may be an expansion of the process within the next few years.