ESRB gets descriptive

Ratings board now including paragraph write-ups detailing possible objectionable content, including some spoilers.

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The Entertainment Software Rating Board today rolled out the latest wrinkle to its North American industry-standard rating system. In response to critics and parents who have asked for more information about why games receive the ratings they do, the ESRB is introducing supplemental summaries available through its Web site for all games rated after July 1.

Depending on the title, the summaries could be hundreds of words long, with the stated goal being to "explain in objective terms the context and relevant content that factored into a game's ESRB rating assignment." Among the industry critics quoted as approving the measure in the board's press release were US Senators Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman, as well as National Institute on Media and the Family founder Dr. David Walsh.

In the ESRB's summary of Little Big Planet, which received an E for Everyone rating, the game is described as "an action adventure game set in a whimsical land filled with puppets and platforming puzzles. Players can create, customize, and guide their character through levels of platforms, enemies and hazards. Hazards include bombs, spiked vehicles, stampeding bulls, and even giant shoes. One ancillary character makes belching noises while talking to the player's character."

For more violent fare, the descriptions can become more detailed. In the summary for Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (rated T for Teen), the ESRB wrote, "After an opponent is beaten twice, players can perform one of several finishing moves called 'fatalities' and 'brutalities.' Fatalities depict a variety of dramatic finishing moves including gunshots, stabbings and neck snaps. Female characters are depicted in revealing clothing with exaggerated breast proportions and movement. "

With Insomniac's M-for-Mature-rated Resistance 2, the summary notes, "Players must shoot their way through hordes of aliens, large-scale bosses and sometimes robots, using a variety of guns and grenades. Aliens and humans get blown up, torn apart, shot, impaled and killed in gushes of red blood and body parts... Characters use strong profanity (e.g., "f*ck" and "sh*t") during gameplay and cutscenes."

Consumers using the content descriptors to make decisions about games they will play themselves should be wary, however. The ESRB write-ups can also include details of plot twists and other spoilers. One line from the Resistance 2 write-up omitted in the quote above reveals a significant plot detail from a climactic moment of the game. Fallout 3 is another title with a key revelation included in the summary.

"The primary goal of our new rating summaries is to give further aid to parents in making informed game choices for their children," an ESRB representative told GameSpot. "The summaries highlight content that factored into to the rating assignment, and the intent is always to have them do so without needlessly revealing 'spoilers.'"

The ESRB's rating summaries can be found on its official Web site.

Discussion

219 comments
nintendokid
nintendokid

Parents should have the choice to choose which game is more suitable for their children, whether the children are eight or fifteen years old. If you think it is "stupid" or whatnot, you have imposed your belief onto others and created a double-standard. So you don't want people telling you what you can and can't play but you turn around and tell others what they should and shouldn't consider as "bad". You get my drift? If you enjoy gratuitous violence in games, as I do, it is in your best interest to let the ESRB do their business. Take for example those chumps who keep selling mature games to minor. They are ruining it for the rest of us because they are giving politicians and parents more ammo to say "See, that's what I'm talking about!" Seriously...if a "M17+" rating on your game cover bothers you that much, you need to shut off your game, get off the couch and do society a favor and check in to the local psych ward. And don't ever buy a gun because it has a safety lock on it and that will probably piss you off so much that you'll off yourself.

weezyindamuluva
weezyindamuluva

personally i think the esrb is stupid anyway. often times borderline calls are wrong because the descrepency between levels is so big. assassin's creed, halo, cod shouldn't be only for ppl 17+. just in my opinion shadow the hedgehog should've been T. i was like 12 or 13 when it came out. and some ppl need to grow up.

stinkybacon
stinkybacon

I have no real issue with this, except for the fact that it doesn't solve the major problem with ratings: parents do not read them. How/why would they go to a web site looking for more details about something they didn't read in the first place? Other than that, I don't think it's a bad idea. It spells out the worst-case scenario of the game's content and into more detail about why it earned the rating it did. The Saints Row 2 one is so long they had to use tinier font, haha.

yodathewise
yodathewise

I don't like this in the slightest. The ratings will probably be highly exagerated. They'll probably point out the most idiotic of things, like: " Male says hello to another male in a way that could be interpreted in a *bleepually* suggestive way. " Or... " Very influential violence. Some say a hidden tutorial on how to hijack a plane was implemented by the creators. We're not sure though . " Ah well. We'll find out soon enough.

xfactor19990
xfactor19990

haha rofl R2 description makes me want to buy it more!

KingVenetian
KingVenetian

Well at least they arn't doing something really dramatic with games I accept this more than anything WOO!

greedom
greedom

A good idea, unfortunitley because they're just describing the offensiveness of each game, it definitely makes them sound a lot worse than they actually are.

BrunoBRS
BrunoBRS

*LOL at resistance 2 description* :lol::lol:

TSNAKE617
TSNAKE617

Wow Resistance sounded like God of War ( humans get torn apart, impaled and killed in gushes of red blood and body parts) I'm curious what they will say about God of War ( Players will kill enemies in the most brutal way, show no mercy to anyone, and fight in gory battles against enemies) they will only make exaggerated descriptions that make all games sound demonic.

glitchgeeman
glitchgeeman

I'm mixed about this, especially considering how blunt they are with the descriptions. The way they describe MKvsDC is so to-the-point that I wouldn't be surprised if parents didn't even buy T rated games for their kids because of it. I can just imagine now... "Oh no! Castle Crashers has cute cartoony characters being decapitated and poop jokes in it! I can't let my children play this, they'll be scarred forever!" :P But really, let's hope they're a little bit more lenient in their other summaries or else we're going to end up with a lot of soccer moms ranting against T rated games as well.

demortez
demortez

...Jack Thompson must be dancing tonight... anyway, i think the ESRB is all bull****. Either your parents will buy you the game or they won't. I don't know any parents who give a crap about the ratings. lol, i wonder what they actually did write about Dead Space (if they included a burping character in LBP, wonder how detailed they'll get in Dead Space :P)

zombey1333
zombey1333

Erm...from this article it sounds as if they're going to be quite blunt, which can sometimes go to far when dealing with parents. The description of MKvsDC might give one the idea that it's essentially pornography. If they're going to bother doing this they should actually detail better :p

meatloaf1993
meatloaf1993

can you imagine what they would have written about Dead Space? "A game completely focused on dismembering reanimated human corpses" That would be all that is nesecsary to put any parent off buying that one.

Darth_Ultima
Darth_Ultima

Personally I do not think this will please the critics in the slightest. Violence in video games is one of those scape goats politicians can blame for random school shootings and people with PhD s can write books saying that it is creating a generation of serial killers. They will not be happy until M rated games do not exist.

sMeAgOl_VaDeR
sMeAgOl_VaDeR

i hate them they always exaggerate when they rate, and now they will get detailed! they rated halo 3 wrongly, assassin's creed, cod4! now they're going to make it sound as bad as possible that moms won't allow e-rated games!

gundamwarrior2
gundamwarrior2

1 problem dvros. The ESRB is a voluntary rating system.

dvros
dvros

This is serious business ... and needs to be enforced, and by enforced I mean the equivalent to ID'ing for cigarettes for all Mature Rated games no-exception whatsoever. ;)

RagnarokBlade
RagnarokBlade

Gamers: Stop blaming videos games parent your kids! ESRB: ok *gives more ways to help parents know about what games they're buying* Gamers: *froths at mouth* Seriously what the hell has to be the matter with you to get angry over this? Surprisingly parents who dont generally play games do not have the time nor the desire to read every scrap of info that comes out on a game on the 2 years leading up to release. If they want to be responsible they need all the information at hand in an easy to view location. The ESRB gives them this. These new summaries are fine for parents because anyone who goes to the ESRB website probably doesn't play games so they don't care if it's spoiled, but it does warn them in a much more detailed fashion than something vague like "Sexual themes" and "Violence". Also Hillary didn't "legislate" it she "Supported it" after the ESRB did it of their own free will. The ESRB is not a government institution they are a private company. For people who yell at parents for not researching games people surely don't do a lot of research themselves.

fellermooty
fellermooty

Thankfully, neither Resistance 2 nor Fallout 3 have stories worth spoiling. But it will be a worry for future games with good plots.

TehUndeadHorror
TehUndeadHorror

"Female characters are depicted in revealing clothing with exaggerated breast proportions and movement." SEXIST!

Pexalottle
Pexalottle

what spoilers for R2? that characters use strong profanity.

fnljstce
fnljstce

The people reading the rating probably are not concerned with "spoilers".

Lord__Darkstorn
Lord__Darkstorn

C'mon. You guys who are concerned about 'spoilers' say that if you don't like a game's content, then don't play it. Well, by that logic, you don't have to look at the descriptive rating on the back if you don't want to. It's JUST THERE. It's for the best and I applaud this decision.

Henninger
Henninger

The idea is good. Now the government can stop crying like females (no disrespect 2 woman) & leave the gaming industry alone.

XXMadManVII
XXMadManVII

This will be a great resource for those who actually use it. Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power. the more informative measures the ESRB take the less fodder the anti-gaming crowd can use agianst the gaming communtiy. Stuff like this is what stop games from being banned here in the US. A truely informed public. Now if we can only get this kind of candor from the rest of the government......

Get_Shorty
Get_Shorty

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

Maybe the ESRB should have a "SPOILER" warning on the pages that give away key information about a game. That way parents who are looking into the content to play the game with their children can avoid the spoiler areas, which could be marked with a border and different background color. The next item on this list should be to distribute flyers to schools so that they can inform parents of the ESRB website and help them understand the ratings system.

VIRGIN_ISLANDER
VIRGIN_ISLANDER

I dont get it, Is this really needed.Common sense would say if you see a game rated teen or m for mature and you have a child that is nither, then its simple just dont buy the game.I dont see what is so hard in that....Either that or just get a wii.

Zinimus
Zinimus

@ Ryanj93 You're obviously out of touch. I'm a parent and I pay attention to everything my step daughter's eyes see and here. It scares the living crap out of me that a generation of apathetic kids under the impression that parents don't care or that the content you view makes no impression on your behavior or thoughts in anyway.

Witchsight
Witchsight

When im a parent, i guess im just going to have to play my kids games first... you know, to make sure theyre safe. Sorry son, im beating Assassins Creed 2 before you... Its for your own good!

raahsnavj
raahsnavj

Adults should be smart enough to know not to put spoilers in the content analysis. And I for one like this idea; more information is a good thing. As long as it stays at the ESRB site and not taking up the whole back of the game case...

Ryanj93
Ryanj93

parents dont pay attention to anything

gregolian
gregolian

case in point that parents dont pay attention. this afternoon i saw a tour of elementary school kids walking around my college campus on a field trip thing. one of the kids who couldnt be any older than 10 was wearing a Gears Of War 2 t-shirt. now, the only reason to own that kinda shirt is if you know the game.

funky_facon
funky_facon

my parents don't even care, i never buy my games they would just ask me what i want and they'll get it no matter what

Vegeta-sama
Vegeta-sama

The King is right... double standards are not needed... one standard is good enough.

king_bobo
king_bobo

Oh I see, Gamespot is allowed to not fully censor swear words, but we get moderated if we do it? That makes sense. This new ESRB thing is pretty pointless to be honest too...

_JPH_
_JPH_

"Female characters are depicted in revealing clothing with exaggerated breast proportions and movement." HAHAHAHAHAHA. This is so funny. I would love to read those comments.

CrackerMcGee
CrackerMcGee

I guess this means a penis knife is out of the question. Cock Blades will never be made.

glennwinton
glennwinton

viperman is right, even if they did put spoilers on the back of the box(which they arent) that still would only be a minor annoyance, not crossing any boundary

afrosud12
afrosud12

it won't have any effect. When you look at a game title and it says Gears of War.... you can pretty much picture what it going to be about... same with grand theft auto.... this won't help at all. Only good parenting can help kids.

Viperman550
Viperman550

I have no idea why so many people are against this or making comments that the ESRB is crossing boundaries. What boundaries? Information about games readily available for caring parents who want to better decide which games their children can or cannot play is bad? The parents with children who know right from wrong, reality from virtual reality, and have enough common sense to not run around imitating everything they see on TV and video games are still going to let their children play M rated games. Parents who do not let their children play M rated games for whatever reason will most likely continue going that route. At least this way parents can look at the rating and know what they mean exactly. "Partial Nudity" always sounded like they had bare breasts or other nudity in the game when in reality it was only cleavage. These things make a difference for some parents and might actually allow their children to play more of the games out there. Where are you people coming from anyway? Use a brain cell, please.

afrosud12
afrosud12

yes Hilary lets regulate a 60 billion dollar industry during a time of economic crisis. That is why an intellectual like Obama got elected...

thisguy51
thisguy51

Thank god. I don't want my kids or any other kids playing M-rated games.

annegab
annegab

I don't care since I'm 19 and can therefore get my own games. My parents never really cared about the ESRB, I've been playing M rated games since I was 10

Sepewrath
Sepewrath

I'm actually in favor of this, with this no can whine and complain that they got their kid this game not knowing it had violent content or profanity. Since I could care less what rating the games I get for myself are so having spoilers in descriptions on their website doesn't bother me.

glennwinton
glennwinton

at least their not on the box of the game, honestly i've never been to the esrb website so idk what they do. but i personally dont think the more clear descriptions are going to help anything

cspiffo
cspiffo

Whatever! The ESRB was no different than the movie ratings board with it's system. Now they are crossing some boundries. It's ok though. I won't be reading their descriptions anyway.