Global Game Industry News Blog

Monday, August 07, 2006

The ESRB Does Need Some Revamping

So, while I'm usually not a fan of video games related legislation, I am interested in reading more about this. I do think that the ESRB ought to be tasked with (and funded for) playing some more games. The current model is largely dependent upon disclosure by game developers who in many cases may not be fully forthcoming simply out of confusion about what the heck made it into the final build. It would also be interesting if they had some savvy MODers on board to hack the games a bit. Seems like MODs are getting so much attention lately, it might be helpful...

GameDaily BIZ: Congressman Targets ESRB with 'Truth in Video Game Rating Act'
While the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection already held a hearing on the subject of video game violence and video game ratings in which the industry's Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) came under fire, several congressmen are continuing to target the ESRB with the introduction of a new measure called the "Truth in Video Game Rating Act."

Sponsored by Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Cliff Stearns, and co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC), the act (HR 5912) scrutinizes the ESRB's rating process and outlines several terms that the ESRB would legally have to adhere to.

Currently, the ESRB rates games based on a combination of some play time and video and documentation sent to them by game companies. The ESRB simply isn't able to play through every game. However, that's exactly what Stearns is calling for with this new bill. The act would also make it illegal for publishers to withhold any content from the rating board and would hold the publishers responsible if they did so. The third term on the bill deals with "Gross mischaracterization of content." This term would prohibit the ESRB from "providing a content rating that grossly mischaracterizes (as defined by the Commission in such rules) the content of the video or computer game."

Finally this new legislation once again calls for an investigation into the effectiveness of the ESRB's rating system. The act would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study looking at the ratings to examine the following: whether an independent ratings system is preferable; whether the ESRB should be peered-reviewed; the marketing of video games to underage buyers; and the efficacy of a possible universal ratings system for all visual content including films, television and video games.

If approved, the "Truth in Video Game Rating Act" would go into effect one year later.

The entire bill can be read in pdf format here.

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