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Why I Hate the ESRB


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While I have to live under the iron-fisted rule of the ESRB, I have to say I hate this secretive order of censors. Here’s why.

  • The ESRB is a censorship body.
    There’s no way around it, their whole reason to be is to censor games. I’m against censorship in all forms and so I can’t support an organization that’s fundamentally against freedom of expression. Don’t kid yourself: games do get changed because of the ESRB and not just to avoid an AO rating — if a publisher wants an E rating, everything that could put the game anywhere near T territory is cut.
  • The ESRB doesn’t prevent laws against games to be passed.
    That’s the whole job of the ESRB, isn’t it? It exists so the government doesn’t create laws to regulate gaming. Yet the American government does create such laws. It’s not the ESRB that stops them, it’s the constitution. The UK, Australia, Germany and other countries have their own rating laws. The ESRB does diddly-squat to stop anti-games laws to be created, they just add another layer of bureaucracy.
  • The ESRB ratings don’t inform parents, they make decisions for them.
    It’s not hard to know if a game is for a mature audience — publishers don’t exactly hide this fact. Take Grand Theft Auto — how could you not know it’s for mature audiences? Just Google the name, ask the store clerk, read the box, or, hell, just read the name of the game. Parents who buy games based on ESRB ratings just let some anonymous moral authority make decisions for them instead of thinking for themselves what would be appropriate for their kids. That can’t be good.
  • The ESRB is secretive.
    Who actually rates the games? Nobody outside the ESRB knows. They won’t tell us. Are they biased? Do they have conflicts of interest with the games they rate? Are they qualified to make decisions that affect millions of gamers? You’re not allowed to know — the identity of the censors is kept in strict secrecy.
  • The rules for the ESRB ratings are vague at best.
    Do you know the difference between an E10+ rating and a T rating? I don’t, and no one can answer me clearly. Can a E10+ game show blood at all? Can a character smoke a single cigarette in a T game? If a character says “damn”, “shit” or “fuck” in a game, what rating does the game get? I’ve tried to get answers to those questions, but nobody can answer me. I’m supposed to make games that fit within a strict moral code, but no one will tell me what the code is.
  • The ESRB makes stupid decisions.
    Dead or Alive 3 was rated T. It features sexy girls throwing each other off tall buildings among much violence and fighting. Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball features the same girls playing volleyball in bikinis. It was rated M. It seems Guitar Hero, a game featuring music that plays every day on the radio, isn’t suitable for players less than 13 years old. Neither are The New York Times Crosswords for that matter.

Books have existed for centuries and they work great without any kind of ratings. Why can’t games?

3 Responses

  1. Nancy Says:

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    Because video games promote violence and sexism. Books make you smarter.

  2. Schuyler Says:

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    @Nancy
    That’s what the media and familiars say, anyways. Screw censorship, screw restrictions, because that just causes curiosity among those restricted. Why can’t parents do their job of explaining what’s right and what’s wrong instead of simply saying, “oh, sorry, there are visible breasts in this game, you can’t play this.”

    When I have kids of my own, they’ll be able to play whatever they want. I’ll do my job of explanation of what’s right and wrong, and why things are bad. And they won’t go into airports murdering people with an AK47 when they grow up, which is the opposite of what the media thinks of kids who play shooting games.

  3. bobby Says:

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    screw esrb. hes right let parents make their own decisions, dont let freak show low lives make your decisions on gaming for you.

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