ESRB hiring full-time raters

In wake of renewed legislative pressure, organization decides that the task of assigning ratings to games requires more than a part-time commitment.

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Last week, Kansas Senator (and presidential candidate) Sam Brownback reintroduced the Truth in Video Game Rating Act, which would require the Entertainment Software Ratings Board to review a game's content in its entirety before issuing a rating. In resurrecting the bill (originally proposed last year), Brownback criticized the ESRB, saying, "The current video game ratings system is not as accurate as it could be because reviewers do not see the full content of games and do not even play the games they rate."

The ESRB is apparently aiming to improve its accuracy, as an ad on parent-oriented gaming site GamerDad yesterday revealed that the Entertainment Software Ratings Board is looking for full-time game raters. Prime candidates for the full-time rater positions will have experience with children, familiarity with games, and strong communication skills.

ESRB president Patricia Vance explained the move in a prepared statement.

"After months of careful consideration, the ESRB will be switching from part-time to full-time raters in April 2007," Vance said. "Having full-time raters will allow for each one to have greater experience actually reviewing content and recommending ratings, given the increased amount of time each one would spend doing it. This would provide each rater with a greater sense of historical parity for ratings, not to mention helping them to be more attuned to pertinent content and how it should be considered from a ratings standpoint. The full-time raters would also be responsible for play-testing final versions of the game, time permitting, which would allow for ESRB to play-test a greater number of games than it currently does. We'll have more information available about these changes at a later date."

Currently, the ESRB reviews video of the "most extreme instances, across all relevant categories including but not limited to violence, language, sex, controlled substances, and gambling" in each game it rates. After a pair of high-profile reratings for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the ESRB instituted a fine of up to $1 million for publishers who fail to disclose objectionable content during the ratings process.

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