Annual Video Game Report Card: The Grades

December 4, 2007 -
2007

Parental Involvement: C
Ratings Education: B-
Retailers’ Policies: C-
National Retailers: 
Game Specialty Stores: B 
Game Rental Shops: F

Video Game Industry: C
ESRB Ratings: C+
 

2006:

Parental Involvement: INCOMPLETE
Ratings Education: B
Retailers’ Policies: B
Retailers’ Enforcement:
   Big Box stores: A
   Game Specialty Stores: F 
 

2005:

Ratings Education: C+
Retailers’ Policies: B
Retailers’ Enforcement: D-
Ratings Accuracy: F
Arcade Survey: B-
Industry’s 10-year cumulative grade: D+

Comments

EZK is correct. There is a defiant the lack of consistancy. A report card gives a grade for every subject covered (ie class taken) yet these report cards have little in common. What exactly are they trying to say? If I were a normal consumer (ie not a gamer) these reports would not help me much if at all.

The problem is they are only looking for negatives. When your only looking for the bad your going to ignore the good.

Why are grades for retailers, consumers, and the ESRB thrown together? Those are three independent* groups and should be evaluated separately.

While we're at it, what in the world is this supposed to mean--seriously? I mean, it's cute and all, the report card format, and related to schoolchildren, I get that, but the thing is--grading scales vary. A C in my high school meant something entirely different from a C in my college (pretty crappy v. pretty decent).

One might note that the ESRB's ratings are defined, consistent, and--given basic knowledge of the English language--self-explanatory. If the ESRB, whose job is to rate games as they are presented to them, gets a C+, then what's NIMF's grade?

*Unless your Thompson, then we're all rocketeering to get you disbarred. :]

@ Diane

*Unless your Thompson, then we’re all rocketeering to get you disbarred. :]


Fellow reader of Penny-Arcade. Gotta love it.

Again, influenced by Politics, who do you think is going to tote this around saying the gaming industry needs to be regulated? I mean come on!

hey we got better than an F but its not our fault that some people will sell games to minors

Atleast they graded "Parental Involvement" somewhat correctly.

I am trying to figure out why the ESRB Ratings only got a C+. They cannot be any simpler to understand. Is it because parents are still ignorant on what the M on Manhunt 2 stands for? Even though on the back of the game box there is a small list of what the game contains, even with that list I can tell a game with Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, and Adult Language is not for a eight year old.

They Forgot one part of the report card:

NIMF involvement beyond being an absolute douchebag of an group: F

Is it just me, or does NIMF like to change around it's categories from year to year? Cause looking at those three years, there are changes between all of them.

NIMF credibility: F and digging

To be fair, the ESRB does need to fix their Mature vs. Adult-Only problem; having a ranking that effectively bans a game's production is wholly counterintuitive. But I don't know if that's worth a C+, since apparently the NIMF feels it only needs to reveal as much information as the ESRB does. Maybe it's social commentary? ;D

I'll definitely agree with the F to rental stores; I've never seen anyone get IDed at a Blockbuster when they try to rent GTA. Even before I was in high school I could rent Mortal Kombat 2 without the guy behind the counter batting an eyelid, and apparently that hasn't changed.

Overall, though, it looks like the video game industry and I have something in common: average test scores.

How come the report card and rating system changed substantially from the 2 previous years examples? And How is the ESRB getting a C+ they only do positive things. They do exactly what they are created to do and how are game retailers failing? Lame. I have a gut feeling that though they say these are all based on actual evidence, it is far from the truth.

I find the changes in the categories unsettling. After reading the actual report, I would say the whole method is unsettling. They changed who runs the surveys, possibly changed who they surveyed and how they surveyed.

Simon, the M vs. AO rating is NOT the ESRB's problem; it's a problem of the media, the retailers, and the console manufacturers. If the ESRB were to review a game that, by its content, deserved an AO...and then give it an M rating simply because they didn't wish to "effectively ban" it...THEN they would be failing in their responsibility to the public.

The problem is the stigma of AO games built up by the media and supported by retailers and console manufacturers.

@Demontestament

i dont get it either, they make it out like learning to interpret ESRB's rating system correctly like fucking rocket science in terms of difficulty. if they feel its that hard to understand and the majority of people are not informed about it, perhaps they should start offering courses on it at schools and colleges and make learning it a requirement for U.S citizenship or something.

Parents definitely need to do their own homework.

Could they possibly TRY next year to have some freakin' consistency in what they rate? I understand adding parental involvement last year for the first time, but Ratings Accuracy vanished and was replaced by Ratings Education, then replaced by ESRB ratings...

So how can you tell if there's any improvement?
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

NIMF is too biased, really. What do they want, a huge red sticker on the front saying "Do Not Buy This For Children"? At least with games it's easy to see the rating, unlike with movies.


@ Jabrwock:

Exactly. If you show a parent the 2007 report card, they'll be somewhat confused. Show them the other two and they'll be horribly confused.

@ Baine:
Why won't the politicians use the government data? Oh right, it doesn't say "ESRB is bad"

Lumi: I agree with you completely that the ESRB shouldn't give a lesser rating to games that deserve the AO, but I still think that because of the stigma, something needs to be done - maybe "fix" wasn't the right choice of word there, or maybe something else besides the ESRB needs to be fixed. Hard to say, really.
---
Fangamer

How inconsistent these report cards are. I guess they just love giving out Fs and saying that they don't think the people of America aren't up to their high and mighty moral standards. Yutzes.

Parental involvement gets a C. Right. And ET was the greatest video game of all time. Whoever runs NIMF apparently doesn't realize that ultimately its the parent who owns the television, and most likely is buying a video game (I don't know too many 8 year olds who can afford a 400 dollar console, as well as the 60 dollar games that go with it - hell, I know a lot of adults who can't afford it). Maybe you should stop wasting your efforts being morally presumptuous about what is contained in games, and focus on educating parents about what the ratings mean. Or you could stop wasting your time altogether campaigning to protect children, and, you know, go home and actually protect them yourself. Go be a parent instead of trying to get industries and legislation to do it for you. I love my children, and I love that I am responsible for them. It makes me sad that you're so focused on what your kids might see to actually monitor what they are seeing.

This reportcard deserves and incomplete for how they actually got to these grades. If only the world worked like this. Seriously, how much time do you think the Senate spent mulling over this (my guess is 30 seconds). The stupidity of it all when theres hundreds of more important things to spend time on. Wonder if Tipper Gore is out there patting herself on the back. If anyone actually reads this from the Senate here is my message

"Get your head out of you know where and go do some real work, theres thousands of people a day dying due to your obscene government, maybe if you spend your moments dealing with that instead of effing video games America might be a bit less hated globally"

"The Manhunt 2 rating debacle shows that the ESRB needs to change its procedures to close a gaping loophole that some game publishers are all too eager to slip though."

Loophole? The game didn't get through on it's first submission. It was then changed so as to appease the ESRB and receive a lower rating. That doesn't seem like a loophole that they slipped through to me...

Poor old NIMF, so vocal, but so out of touch. This would be like me going and shouting at people that quantum physics is bad for children. I don't understand the subject, but damned if I'm going to try and get as many people to listen to my opinion as I can!

These arbitrary numbers are useless on the whole. I agree with jesus here. Based on what would give them the desired public response, they will doll out the grades accordingly.

I think the parental category should get an "F", but that would never happen because the parents are their constituents. No political figure would put the blame on the parents. It's suicide. Better to blame the retailers. If parents actually go out and make informed decisions about what their kids play, all of this mess would go away.

Alright honestly this report card means nothing! It's a clearly biased and poorly researched survey. Not to mention the report card categories keep changing themselves.

Here's something that brought a smile to my face *because* of this report card: Channel 8 News in Dallas just ran a story on the NIMF report card. I had a bad feeling about it until the 60 second piece ran. The focus of the report was the "C" that parents got for monitering what their children play and buy. They also talked about rental retailers getting an "F," but the focus was mostly on parents.

Between that and the Dallas Morning news running the article about the Gerstmann firing, it kind of makes me think Dallas is okay for games.

It's looking more and more likely the scales are calculated by random dice rolls or something, they seem to veer wildly all over the place for no apparent reason.

take the 'Game Specialty Stores' for example:

(D-)* to F to B over 3 years

I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say i've seen no difference at all on enforcement in the real world in the past 5+ years. I still get carded occasionally, and i'm 27!

*(this one is all retailers though)

Hey Nimf, I got a report card for you as well. It's only two words, guess which ones.

An old joke concerning high school or college essays was that they were graded by rolling percentile dice.

Per koichan, the "marks" flip too wildly to be consistent.

@ Sean:

Let's not stoop to a Jack Thompson low.


I'm going to go on the opposite side of the fence this time and back the NIMF. There's no reason to insult them, nor is there a reason to oppose their little "report card".
We've all got opinions and the NIMF does, too.
So they can keep their grades, I'll keep my peace of mind, and we'll all be super-duper happy. Besides, it's not like...
Anyone...
Well...
Unless I've been living under a rock for the past few years...
I've never even heard of the NIMF up until now...
So...
It's not like anyone will really listen to these peeps.
Unless they really are (hope HTML works?) big and powerful...
I should get out more, I guess. O.o

@kris

Please do not mention that name around here. We're just starting to get used to not having him around.

As for NIMF, it's one thing to have an opinion, it's another thing to tote that opinion around as if it were the ultimate authority (as seen by that report card). This is the same group that demanded the GTA series be turned into a family friendly game.

"It’s not like anyone will really listen to these peeps.
Unless they really are (hope HTML works?) big and powerful…"
They were smart enough to cut off connections to our former resident douchebag, so to some people they have credibility.

NIMF's report card:

Scaremongering: B- (would have been A+ but due to lack of originality in the rant on MH, NIMF was graded down)
Consitency: F
Education: D
and finally:
Relevance/Media exposure: F

NIMF has trouble paying attention to whats happening and is more often chatting with other disruptives. NIMF needs to try harder...etc.

Gives me giggles that these groups think their "report cards" will have an impact on the industry. Dumber than a second coat of paint.

@Gray17

The whole things looks pretty arbitrary to me. Not only do the headers change, but the actually grades bounce around for no apparent reason. Are the grades based purely on knee jerks or something?

@Demontestament:

And nevermind the fact that the f***ing game is called Manhunt 2... Like Grand Theft Auto, they shouldn't have to house the games in DVD cases wrapped in human skin dripping with blood, ala the Necronomicon, to get the 'NOT FOR KIDS' message across.

@HandofCrom:

Your post = A+

The article forgot to mention something...namely, why anyone should care about their opinion.

ESRB ratings = C+

I agree with that. I think a C+ is a little generous. They only concern themselves with parents. They do not care about consumers without children. If their rating system was less biased then perhaps they could get a better grade.

@ Terrible Tom

The ESRB is FOR parents. The ratings system doesn't apply to anyone over 18 (AO limit), so the target group for the ESRB is parents buying their children games. In that regard, I see no problems. They have the rating on almost every game out there; it's clear, consistent, and accurately rated (it's not the ESRB's job to slog through a game's source code looking for potential hacks).
The only problem is that some games that probably should get AO get pushed into M, as AO is a death-knell for a game.

B rating here for me on the ESRB.

Sanguine -

I realize this. This is the very root of the problem I have with the ESRB. Not only do I not agree with their rating system but the fact that it is only for parents is really the key element of my frustration.

Arcades are a dieing breed so theres lil reason to rate them,Rental is still alive somewhat,and I have seen a few not let kids rent M rated games but most do not care.

heres my take on their scoring
---------------------------------------------
Parental Involvement: D
Face it parents are the main problem they are the ones giving kids the money/games and not parenting them on how to use it.
--------------------------------------------
Ratings Education: B
Other than pouring more add dollars and sublimail messaging theres not much more one can do.
--------------------------------------------
Retailers’ Policies: B
Most have reasonable policies,instead of firing them they should be hit with a 100$ fine per game pay it keep working problem solved and done that would grab more attention than simply being fired.
--------------------------------------------
National Retailers: C
This can be confusing but they merely added big box stores and everyone else that sells games but then again the Dollar store is not even going to blink at you when you buy anything,they will be happy you bought it, I also don't see drug stores stopping people from buying games movies...
Also pawnshops don't really card either...
--------------------------------------------
Game Specialty Stores: B
Improving and gettign with the times..or being pushed out of bushiness...either way....
--------------------------------------------
Game Rental Shops: D-
Blockbuster can card for movies but as the quality of the rental industry drops the whole thing gets sloppy.
--------------------------------------------
Video Game Industry: C+
They are acaulty trying to improve ratings enforcement much like the MAA did 10-20 years ago before they stopped giving a damn.
--------------------------------------------
ESRB Ratings: C-

Face it with Games being treated as a unmature non adult medium it will never grow above a C, let games have their 18+ then polices can be shaped around that,hell adding a 15M level would even be more helpful!

I dont get it. Those letter things are all so confusing. How am i suppose to know what they mean?!

I think ratings education should have got an A. I don't think the grade should suffer on account of people being lazy and ignorant. We live in the Internet era, all the information is out there, people just need to spend 30 minutes one night educating themselves and their children.
I also think the Video Game Industry grade should have been higher (A-B range). A lot happened this year in terms of releases, and it seems like economically and socially the gaming world has grown.
ESRB should have been an A too. They have a reliable system in place for rating games and I think that's where their responsibilities should remain.
 
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