Congressmen call for ESRB transparency

California Democrat and Virginia Republican asking ratings board to make publisher submission videos publicly viewable online.

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Last month, four US senators, including current presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton (D-NY), petitioned the Entertainment Software Rating Board with an array of proposals and concerns about the way it doles out ratings to games. After an edited version of Take-Two Interactive's Manhunt 2 was rated M for Mature in the US but remained banned in the UK, the senators suggested it was time to revise or enhance the ESRB system. They also wanted more transparency in the rating process, and a re-evaluation of rating games for the Wii, suggesting that the system's motion-sensitive controls may increase any effect violent games have on children.

Now a pair of congressmen are opening their own dialogue with the ESRB, albeit one with a narrower scope and a more specific request. In a draft version of a letter directed to the ESRB and obtained by GameSpot, Congressmen Joe Baca (D-CA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) are asking the rating board to make publishers' video submissions for games publicly viewable online. Publishers are already required to submit videos with the most objectionable content of their games as part of the ESRB rating process.

The congressmen's letter acknowledges that the video clips can sometimes be lengthy, and in such cases they suggest that the ESRB post segments of the clips raters feel were most relevant to the game's final rating. Given the number of games the ESRB reviews on a regular basis, the letter says that such clips would only be necessary for titles rated T for Teen or higher.

According to the drafted letter, "Parents must have access to consistent, accurate, and objective information about video game content so they are able to choose games that are right for their children. By posting clips of T-rated games and above, parents and consumers will be better informed of the content of the games."

A representative with Congressman Baca's office confirmed the politicians' plans, and the two congressmen offered a joint statement on the matter.

"We believe that posting comprehensive clips of T-rated games and higher online is advantageous for both consumers and the ESRB," they said. "The public will be more accurately informed of the substance of games before making purchasing decisions, and the rating process of the ESRB will be brought to light and given more credibility."

As of press time, an ESRB representative had not returned GameSpot's request for comment.

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