ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New Technology

April 18, 2011 -

Starting today, North American video game ratings system ESRB revealed that it will start using a computer-based program to determine ratings on some games. According to a New York Times report, the ESRB has developed a computer program designed to take developer input to create a rating for their games. This will be used first with downloadable games on platforms such as Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and WiiWare titles.

Game developers will fill out an online questionnaire to find out what "violence, sexuality, profanity, drug use, gambling and bodily function" that might be considered questionable by players. The submissions would then be reviewed by the new ESRB software and a rating would be issued. A submitted game won't be reviewed by an actual human until after release.

As C&VG points out, this system is similar to one used by PEGI, the European ratings system. Much like the ESRB's new system, developers submit what is called a "content declaration." The difference is, instead of using a computer program, the submission is reviewed by a human being.

No doubt this is a way for the ESRB to tackle the steady influx of social and mobile games, though a deal with Apple and Facebook to rate games has not happened yet. While some might be concerned about a "Hot Coffee" incident occurring, it should be noted that a stiff penalty awaits anyone who does not disclose content like that to the ESRB in advance.

But even with a stiff penalty in place, if something slips through the cracks and is controversial enough it could make the entire industry look bad.

We will have to see how the system works in the months ahead..

Source: C&VG


Comments

Re: ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New ...

Can't waity for certain people to find out about this.

"Now porn games can be submitted without a human being ever being involved."

Re: ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New ...

I was thinking the same. Anti-games crowd will love to use this as a new scapegoat about why the ESRB is void for rating games.

I hope this automatic system actually works.

Re: ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New ...

Indeed. If it's automated some will likely assume any game will pass if they enter things just right.

Re: ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New ...

Of course they will automatically pass. If you create "Blood, Guts and Sex: XXX Now with more Boobs" and say it contains no violence, no sex and no swearing, of course you are going to get an E rating. But you also run the risk of getting huge fines fro mteh ESRB, if they don't flag it before release. So why would you do it?

There are no major game developers or publishers who are willing to not only amass huge fines as well as  damage the credibility of the ESRB and the games industry for the sake of getting a lower rating through this. If someone is dumb enough to do it, they deserve all the fallout they get.

E. Zachary Knight
Divine Knight Gaming

Re: ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New ...

I agree with you, I was just saying what some of those who are less technogically inclined might say about it.

Re: ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New ...

It's already proven that the ESRB is more effective than the rating systems for any other entertainment medium out there. As a retailer, I'm constantly handing out the ESRB pamphlets, if for no other reason that parents won't have a reason to bitch at me because their kid lied and said "It's not THAT bad!" or "I've played this before!".

Honestly, you'd be surprised and disturbed by what works when a kid is trying to get their parents to buy them Grand Theft Auto. It's doubly frustrating when said parents don't speak a lick of English.

"Power means nothing without honor and pride."

http://grifsgamereviews.blogspot.com My video game review site.

Re: ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New ...

Oh trust me, I know. I've read plenty of stories where a clerk handed out such information as a kid gave them a dirty look.

Re: ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New ...

So in other words no real change has occurred. The ESRB has always relied on the answers to the questionnaire for rating only going back if it is a high profile title. Only now instead of a person adding up the questionnaire it is a program.

Re: ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New ...

Currently the ESRB has applicants (game studios) provide a video showing the most extreme content and the human reviewers will fill out the questionaire.

This new process is closer to the PEGI way of doing things.

E. Zachary Knight
Divine Knight Gaming

Re: ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New ...

The publisher fills out the questionnaire in both ESRB submission processes, actually.

Re: ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New ...

And the human reviewers review the video and supplied questionaire for accuracy.

E. Zachary Knight
Divine Knight Gaming

Re: ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New ...

I take it this means that this means any context of the content will be irrelevant- unless this is some kind of super computer algorithm (which I seriously doubt).

I have a bad feeling about this...

Re: ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New ...

What does context have to do with anything?

-Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person's fear of their own freedom-

Re: ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New ...

I think this is a positive step forward .The human component has always been the bottle neck for rating games. With the huge influx of digitally distributed games, they were probably getting overwhelmed.

As for potential controversy, I don't see it being any more of a deal than it currently is. We have had only a single "hot coffee" incident. I don't see any game company willing to go through that. Not that the current process is capable of preventing a future "hot coffee"

E. Zachary Knight
Divine Knight Gaming

Re: ESRB Automates Ratings System Pipeline with New ...

Actually, we've had two "hot coffees." Don't forget Oblivion. Although, that didn't create half the controversy that GTA did. Still, I think you're right about scandles creating any more trouble in the industry than we're in already. I think we can handle it.

 
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