ESRB Expands Game Ratings to Better Support Digitally Distributed Games

October 24, 2012 -

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) announced what they are calling a "streamlined, no-cost service for assigning ratings to all digitally delivered games." The ESRB's new "Digital Rating Service" gives developers and publishers access to a "brief but detailed online questionnaire" to define a product's content, age-appropriateness, interactive elements, and platforms.

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Super Podcast Action Committee - Episode 20

September 17, 2012 -

In Episode 20 hosts Andrew Eisen and E. Zachary Knight throw all conventional limitations on time out the window as they discuss the "Adults Only" ESRB game ratings category, political ads in games, and all the news about the Wii U. Download it here: SuperPAC Episode 20 (1 hour, 27 minutes).

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Poll: Should the ESRB Retire the AO Rating?

September 12, 2012 -

I’m going to keep this brief because I have very strong opinions on this one and it’s difficult not to fill this post with arguments supporting my position on the subject.  (In fact, I just deleted three paragraphs worth.)

So, the Adults Only rating.  Do you think the ESRB should keep it?  Currently, it prevents games with explicit sexual content and extremely graphic violence from making it out onto the market.  Is that the way it should be?

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Poll: Should Video Game Ratings Be Legally Enforced at Retail?

August 15, 2012 -

In the United States, there is no law forbidding retailers from selling an M rated game to someone under age 17 and thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. EMA, that’s not likely to ever change.

But is that the way it should be?

Across the pond in the UK, retailers are legally forbid from selling PEGI 12, 16, or 18 games to kids younger than the rating indicates.  Are the Europeans doing it right?

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Verizon App Store for Android Adds ESRB Ratings

August 14, 2012 -

While other App stores such as Google Play and Apple App Store have eschewed the ESRB ratings system here in the United States in favor of their own internal systems, Verizon is taking a different tact. Verizon has been slowly adding the ESRB ratings system for all of the gaming apps in the Verizon App Store for its supported Android devices.

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June is 'Entertainment Ratings and Labeling Awareness Month'

June 1, 2012 -

The Digital Media Association (DiMA), Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), and National Association of Theatre Owners declare June to be "Entertainment Ratings and Labeling Awareness Month." June has been proclaimed "Entertainment Ratings and Labeling Awareness Month" by the groups since 2004. The participating organizations are encouraging movie theaters, and retailers of movies, music, and video games to highlight the importance of ratings systems to their customers.

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ESRB's Patricia Vance Talks About a Universal Ratings System

April 10, 2012 -

In a freshly-posted interview with Gamasutra, the ESRB's top executive talks about making the voluntary ratings system used by the North American video game industry a universal ratings system, among various topics including how to deal with getting consistent ratings on mobile and portable platforms such as Android and iOS devices and the challenges related to digitally distributed games.

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ESRB, Penny Arcade Team Up for New PSAs

February 16, 2012 -

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has teamed up with Penny Arcade for a new PSA campaign. The three-part print and online campaign will feature "caricatures based upon real parents and gamers" who offer their perspectives about the ESRB ratings system and tools like rating summaries, and the ESRB mobile app. The ads will feature artwork designed by the creators of the popular video game webcomic. The ads will start appearing this spring in "parent-focused and game enthusiast media outlets" nationwide.

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Video Game Voters Network SOPA Backlash on Facebook

January 10, 2012 -

Maybe the comments on the Video Game Voters Network (the Entertainment Software Association's advocacy group for gamers) Facebook page are purely anecdotal, or represent what Lamar Smith (the Texas Republican Congressman who is to lead sponsor on the Stop  Online Piracy Act) calls a very "vocal minority," but the entire page seems to be inundated with negative comments.

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ESA Stands By SOPA

January 3, 2012 -

Take a look at this list. We love the companies on this list because, for the most part, they make great games. The problem is that they are members of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), and by proxy they support SOPA. And, according to the statement issued to Joystiq today, the ESA is not backing down from that support.

In a statement emailed to Joystiq, the trade group said the following:

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Jim Sterling's Open Letter to the ESA on SOPA

January 2, 2012 -

Destructoid's irreverent and outspoken Jim Sterling pens an open letter to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) to point out their hypocrisy for supporting free speech in one instance and then going against it in another. 

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ESA Calls 2011 a Remarkable Year for the Games Industry

December 22, 2011 -

Entertainment Software Association (ESA) CEO Mike Gallagher has written a letter to the industry and the public calling 2011 "historic." One of the key reasons 2011 was such a great year for the games industry and gamers was because of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. EMA, which shot down the California anti-video game law penned by California State Senator Leland Yee (D- San Francisco) - though there were certainly plenty of other milestones to celebrate. 

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id Software Developer Explains Why Google, Apple Avoided New ESRB Ratings System

December 1, 2011 -

The ESRB and the CTIA detailed a new ratings systems for mobile games this week - backed by such companies as AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless. Two companies that were curiously absent from that list hold the lion's share of the market when it comes to platforms: Apple and Google.

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ESA Spent $1.1 Million on Lobbying Efforts in Q3 2011

November 30, 2011 -

The Entertainment Software Association, the trade group that represents the video game industry, spent almost $1.1 million in lobbying efforts in Washington D.C. in the third quarter of 2011. The group lobbied on a variety of issues such as energy efficiency, entertainment industry ratings, parental control technology, foreign trade policy reform, the H1-B visa program, piracy, and copyright issues. The group spent about the same amount of money that it did in the second quarter of this year - slightly less than in the third quarter of 2010.

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ESRB and CTIA Detail Voluntary Ratings System for Mobile Games

November 29, 2011 -

The ESRB and CTIA have finally revealed details on the voluntary rating system for mobile apps that was revealed last week. The ratings system currently has the support of six major mobile service and hardware providers including AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless. Apple and Google did not throw their support behind the new ratings system because they already have their own process and system in place - and it has been refined to their satisfaction.

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Leland Yee Offers Holiday Shopping Advice to Parents

November 23, 2011 -

After losing the mayoral race in San Francisco, California state senator Leland Yee is getting back into the groove.. of targeting violent video games and giving parents advice before they go out shopping for the holidays. The good senator from the San Francisco/San Mateo district issued a press release this morning urging parents not to buy their children violent video games for the holidays.

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ESRB, CTIA Team Up for Mobile Game Ratings

November 21, 2011 -

The Entertainment Software Review Board (ESRB) has teamed up with trade group Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association to create a standardized rating system for mobile applications and games. The ESRB says that the new ratings system will be "based on age-appropriateness of their content and context," according to Gamasutra. An official announcement on the new ratings system will take place next Tuesday in Washington, DC.

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ESRB Twitter Party Tonight

July 27, 2011 -

The ESRB is hosting what it calls an ESRB Twitter Party this evening starting at 9:00 pm ET, according to a post on the group's Facebook page. Twitter users can participate by sending messages with the hashtag #ESRB from 9:00 - 10:00 pm ET / 6:00 - 7:00 pm PT with any questions about video game ratings and safety. Those that participate will be eligible to win (by random drawing) a variety of prizes, such as a $50 GameStop gift card.

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ESRB's Reaction Statement to SCOTUS Decision

June 27, 2011 -

Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) president Patricia Vance issued a statement today praising the Supreme Court's decision on the California violent videogames law and said that it is a validation of the ESRB ratings system's effectiveness in keeping mature-rated games out of the hands of children. She goes on to say that the power to keep games out of the hands of children has always been in the hands of parents when they use the tools that are already available - coupled with retailer enforcement of the ESRB system. Full statement below:

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EMA Reaction Statement to Brown v. EMA Decision

June 27, 2011 -

Bo Andersen, CEO of Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) has released a statement on the U.S. Supreme court's ruling on Brown v. EMA. Obviously they are pleased with the decision, but cautions that this is a wake-up call to the fact that parents are often under-informed about the content of videogames. He also notes that the ESRB rating system does a good job of informing parents.

"EMA welcomes today’s Supreme Court ruling that let stand the Court of Appeals’ decision finding the California video game restriction law to be unconstitutional," said Bo Andersen, CEO of Entertainment Merchants Association. "We are gratified that our position that the law violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression has been vindicated and there now can be no argument whether video games are entitled to the same protection as books, movies, music, and other expressive entertainment."

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Douglas Gentile: Parents Want Universal Ratings, Minus Age Categories

June 23, 2011 -

Citing a recent study that was published in Pediatrics magazine, Douglas Gentile from the Media Research Lab at Iowa State University said that parents want a universal ratings system for all types of media, but would be better off if they didn’t have age descriptors. Besides the fact that a universal  system just won't work (different media has different descriptors that are likely not interchangeable - sort of like having universal descriptors for tobacco, drugs, and alcohol) ratings without age categories would be wildly unorganized and even more confusing.

"Regardless of what age raters set for a movie or video game, most parents will inevitably disagree," Gentile said. "With a content-based system, everyone can judge for themselves based on their own values whether a movie or video game is appropriate."

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ESA Releases 2010 Video Game Research Results at E3

June 7, 2011 -

The Entertainment Software Association released its annual report on the state of video game play in North America today at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. According to the ESA research, 72 percent of American households play video games with 82 percent of those who play being adults. The "2011 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry" report also found that 42 percent of gamers are women and that women age 18 or older represent more than one-third of the game-playing population.

In addition, purchases of digital full games, digital add-on content, mobile apps, subscriptions and social network gaming accounted for 24 percent of game sales in 2010, generating right around $5.9 billion in revenue.

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June is Entertainment Ratings & Labeling Awareness Month

June 1, 2011 -

With summer vacation on its way later this month in most parts of the country and with children looking for things to do when they aren't outside, it makes perfect sense that June has been declared Entertainment Ratings & Labeling Awareness Month by DiMA, EMA, NARM, and NATO (no, not THAT NATO).

The Digital Media Association (DiMA), Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), and National Association of Theatre Owners are calling on theatre owners and retailers of movies, music, and video games to highlight and emphasize the motion picture and video game ratings and music labeling systems to their customers.

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New ESRB Ratings System Quietly Goes Live

May 11, 2011 -

The new Entertainment Software Ratings Board's more automated ratings system went live earlier this week, enabling the ratings system for North America process game ratings in a more timely fashion. The ESRB streamlined the process to deal with the rapid release of games on digital platforms such as Apple's App store, Android Marketplace, Xbox Live Marketplace, PlayStation Store, and on Nintendo's WiiWare.

The new system asks developers to answer eight multiple choice questions about a submitted game, which is passed along to the ratings board (along with game code on DVD to be reviewed later) with $500 to get a rating for their game as quickly as 24 hours later. ESRB head honcho Patricia Vance says that the ratings board has "contemplated what it might take to deal with thousands of small games being submitted to various platforms on a daily basis, she adds that the new system makes such a gargantuan task a possibility.

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ESA Pleased With FTC Findings Too

April 21, 2011 -

Guess who else is doing the happy dance over the FTC’s recent findings that the video game industry continues to surpass all others when it comes to retail enforcement.

That’s right, it’s the Entertainment Software Association, the industry trade group for video game publishers in the U.S.  Said ESA president Michael Gallagher:

“The ESRB is the gold standard. Our self-regulatory system works and this FTC report validates it as being the best in the entertainment industry.  We have an unparalleled commitment to working with parents, retailers, and stakeholders, and will continue to help ensure that this remarkable level of enforcement remains high.”

“Those who would criticize the industry’s commitments are either ignorant of facts or are actively pursuing a political agenda.”

AE:  Ooh, burn!

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ESRB Pres Pleased By FTC Secret Shopper Survey

April 20, 2011 -

I know what you’re thinking after reading the FTC’s report that once again, the video game industry is kicking the collective butts of all others when it comes to retail enforcement.

You’re thinking, “I bet ESRB president Patricia Vance is extremely pleased by this news.”

And you’re right.  Said Vance to USA Today:

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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.

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ESRB Comments on Dead Island Box Art Change

March 23, 2011 -

Earlier this week, we reported on an IGN story that the ESRB had shot down publisher Deep Silver’s first box art submission for its upcoming zombie title, Dead Island.  An alternate, ESRB approved version of the cover swapped out the silhouette of a hanging man with that of a shambling zombie.  IGN has updated its original story with comments from the ESRB:

“The video game industry has set guidelines about the types of content that are appropriate in advertising and marketing materials, which includes game box art. According to those guidelines the depiction in the logo was not compliant.

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ESRB Censors Dead Island Boxart

March 21, 2011 -

According to an IGN report, the North American boxart proposed by publisher Deep Silver has been censored by the ESRB. The rejection was due to a zombie / corpse hanging from a palm tree that represented the "I" in "Island." The approved box art simply uses a standing zombie as the "I" and removes the noose / hanging scene from the equation.

The in-game logo will remain unchanged and the boxart and in-game logo for Dead Island in Europe will remain unchanged, according to the IGN report. Dead Island is currently scheduled for release for an undetermined date in 2011.

Thanks to Andrew Eisen for the tip.

Source: IGN

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Only 5 Percent of Games Released in 2010 Rated M

March 16, 2011 -

According to data from U.S. games rating board ESRB, only about five percent of all the games released during 2010 were rated "M" for Mature. This is in stark contrast to what lawmakers and the mainstream media would have the American public believe. In their minds, most games are rated "M" and are packed with sex, violence, and depravity.

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Will an M rating hurt Batman: Arkham Knight's sales?:

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Andrew EisenBullying resulting from criticizing fiction is not the critic's fault. Fiction is not always unrealistic. Neither begets sexual objectification.02/27/2015 - 11:56am
Andrew EisenSubjective? Sure, but that doesn't matter because no one's trying to regulate sexual objectification. Plenty of room to criticize sexual objectification in multiple forms of media (like Sarkeesian already does). 02/27/2015 - 11:56am
ConsterDon't 'beauty rags' already get plenty of criticism?02/27/2015 - 9:02am
ZippyDSMleeEh still rather subjective… the haters would be better off going after teen and beauty rags and magazines than fiction, fiction follows reality and going after fiction tends to turn into a bullying fest’s… plus its fiction its unrealistic to start with….02/27/2015 - 1:10am
MechaTama31That's a pretty difficult anatomy to break.02/26/2015 - 11:09pm
MechaTama31"the way her animations repeatedly break her anatomy" <-- I'm sorry, but we are talking here about the woman who can roll up into a little ball and live to tell the tale, yes? ;)02/26/2015 - 11:09pm
Andrew EisenAs far as examples that could be culled from female game characters though, that one's pretty mild.02/26/2015 - 9:11pm
Andrew EisenNot as much the heels or the suit in and of themselves but certainly the way her animations repeatedly break her anatomy to show off her lady bits.02/26/2015 - 9:10pm
E. Zachary KnightWell, Samus's heels are certainly impracticable, but I wouldn't really call her Zero suit objectified. I don't really feel that the new Lara Croft is objectified either, but that is my subjective opinion.02/26/2015 - 9:08pm
Andrew EisenTomb Raider: No but we haven't seen much of anything yet. Samus: Yes.02/26/2015 - 9:07pm
ZippyDSMleeWould you call the new tomb raider objectified? WOuld Samus Aran from the new Smash bros be objectified?02/26/2015 - 9:02pm
WonderkarpI'm hoping they put the rest of the comic book ghostbusters in there. Ortiz and Rookie(From GB the game)02/26/2015 - 8:38pm
Wonderkarpghostbusters board game is doing great. getting close too a 3rd extra playable Character. Ron Alexander.02/26/2015 - 8:37pm
Andrew EisenSmurfette is not subjective. If there's more than one female character, it's not Smurfette. Anyway, as with everything on the list, Smurfette is, in and of itself, not necessarily a bad thing.02/26/2015 - 8:32pm
Andrew EisenI think there's 5 women (out of 15, I think) but other than one being a bit more "hippy" than the others, they pretty much all have the same body type. Especially when compaired to the huge variety of male body types.02/26/2015 - 8:31pm
Wonderkarpso I dont see Smurfette as a bad thing. Unless like all your female characters are Smurfette. remember the Smurfs also had Sassette02/26/2015 - 8:29pm
E. Zachary KnightOne good example of the larger issues is one Anita used in the presentation, Blizzard's Overwatch game. There are a dozen men in the game with a dozen body types. But there are only 4 women with 2 body types, but 3 of them have the same one.02/26/2015 - 8:28pm
Wonderkarpthe smurfette thing is subjective to how many female characters you have. Take Sonic for example. You have Amy, who is obvious smurfette, but there's several other female characters now without that. Including the original animated seriescomics with Sally02/26/2015 - 8:28pm
E. Zachary KnightAE. Very true. I think that is where I was going, but it didn't come out right. Jack Harkness is sexy but not objectified. Whereas, a women would have to be objectified in order to be "sexy" in most games.02/26/2015 - 8:26pm
E. Zachary KnightAnd as Andrew pointed out, there is a big difference between a sexualized man, and an idealized man. But for some reason, there is no distinction between women in games. For the most part.02/26/2015 - 8:25pm
 

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