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?