Given a recent Harris national poll showing that a good majority of respondents either didn't know that much about the Entertainment Software Ratings Board's ratings classification for games or thought they were ineffective, the Entertainment Software Association makes a smart play today by announcing a new national public education campaign to educate American parents further about the tools and information available.
Hopefully the new awareness campaign can also serve as a preemptive strike against lawmakers who are either pretending that it is ineffective or want to create some sort of awful government ratings system of their own.
Not that video games or the ESRB are the first entertainment sector to be targeted by the government, who often does look before it leaps to the familiar trope of censorship (just ask the movie, music, and comic book industry - all of which have been dragged before Congress at one time or another in the name of "protecting children").
The ESA's ESRB ratings system will get some much needed exposure according to the trade group including a new series of "Public Service Announcements (PSA) encouraging parents to review the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) video game ratings and utilize existing video game console parental controls."
In a recent episode of Super Podcast Action Committee I noted that taking a more aggressive approach to advertising the ratings system during shows that grown-ups watch would be a first step towards more awareness.
"This campaign will connect with consumers in an immediate and sustained way in addition to the traditional mechanisms over TV outlets. By channeling our industry’s compelling and innovative medium, we will instantly provide proven, practical, and effective information to millions of consumers," said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the U.S. trade association representing video game publishers.
"No one knows better than parents when it comes to making decisions about which games their children should and should not play," said U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. "The video game industry makes games for people of all ages, but that doesn’t mean all games are appropriate for everyone. I commend the industry for raising awareness of the tools available to parents that can help them make informed decisions about the games their children play."
The ESA's plan hopes to increase and enhance public education efforts around video game ratings and parental controls by developing and funding a series of new PSAs; work with retailers to educate millions of their customers about video game ratings and parental controls in stores and in online storefronts; work with policy makers "to extend the proven ESRB rating system to the broader games ecosystem of smart phones, tablets, and online social games;" and continue to support and partner with "non-profits using video games for educational and other pro-social purposes."
"The more parents know about the wealth of dynamic tools the video game industry has developed for monitoring game play, the more empowered they will be to make informed decisions about which video games are appropriate for their family. I commend the video game industry for recognizing the importance of educating and engaging parents about the ratings and other resources and for leading a national program that will ensure the decision-making power remains where it should be – with parents," said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23).
You can read the organization's press release here.