We Believe That …
Interactive entertainment/video games should be rated by an independent organization.
Video games are currently rated by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB). The ESRB was formed by and is part of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) which is the trade association of video game developers. The salary for the ESRB President is paid directly by the ESA, as indicated in their tax returns (which are a matter of public record for organizations filing as being exempt from federal income tax). An organization that reports to and receives funding from the organization that represents the companies whose games are being rated cannot feign independence.
Raters should play the games they rate.
Video games are currently rated based on a 4-minute video supplied to the raters by the video game developer. Video games are rated without any rater actually playing the game.
Ratings should accurately reflect the content of video games.
Studies have shown that a high percentage of video games contain content that is not described in the rating. Possibly this is due to the fact that raters never actually play the games they rate and base their ratings solely on an edited video of the game supplied by the game developers. Several high-profile revelations regarding undocumented video game content have occurred in the past several years, but the inaccuracy of ratings is far more widespread. A study published by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2006 stated that 81% of randomly sampled, M-rated games included content that was not noted on the game box.
Ratings should provide consumers with enough information to allow them to make an informed purchasing decision.
Studies have shown that a high percentage of video games contain content that is not described in the rating. Moreover, only a summary rating and brief description is provided that does not provide detail regarding the type and frequency of various types of game content.
Purchasing decisions for games that contain graphically violent and sexually explicit material should be reserved for parents.
Today, there are no restrictions on the selling of games. Even when a game is rated as being appropriate for a mature (M) or adults-only (AO) audience, there is nothing that prohibits the sale of that game to a child. A 2005 survey conducted by the National Institute on Media and the Family found that 61% of children surveyed reported owning their own M-rated video game.
The content of all interactive entertainment should be rated, not just video games sold in stores, but games that are played on or downloaded from the Internet, as well.
Currently, only “packaged” games are rated. Video games that are purchased and played on the Internet and games that may be downloaded from the Internet are not rated. As the prevalence of these types of games increases, the need for an inclusive ratings system also increases.
The exercise of free speech in the creation of interactive media demands the exercise of a corresponding level of responsibility in the marketing and sale of the resulting product.
A 2000 Federal Trade Commission report stated that video game companies, “frequently marketed M-rated electronic games to children under the age of 17.” In response, the ESRB amended standards for ad placement for television and print media. However, the standards are set so loose that, as stated in the FTC’s 2007 report regarding television ads, “the ESRB’s 35% threshold does little to limit the exposure of children under 17 to such ads,” and referring to print ads, “Under the 45% industry standard, none of the popular game enthusiast magazines, other than Nintendo Power, is off-limits for M-rated game ads. The marketing plans the Commission reviewed for this Report indicate that all nine of the M-rated games were marketed in one or more of these magazines. These findings are consistent with those of the previous reports regarding the large number of M-rated games advertised in publications widely read by young teens.” While we support the right of game companies to exercise their right to free speech in the creation of games, the obvious lack of regard for their societal responsibilities cannot be condoned or tolerated.