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Game Content Ratings Not Always To Be Trusted?

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the assaulting-our-sensibilities dept.

Censorship 80

Thanks to Reuters for its article discussing video games rated 'T' for teens containing 'explicit' content that's not noted on the game box. According to Harvard-based researchers checking on the voluntary ESRB ratings for videogames: "Although most of the games' content matched their ratings, [the survey] found that 48 percent of games contained some content that was not noted on the game box." The piece goes on to note specific examples: "For instance, 12 of the 81 games showed the use of substances such as tobacco and alcohol, while only 1 game had received that type of content descriptor from the ESRB. And while the researchers reported sexual content in 22 games, only 16 had received a sexual content descriptor" - the survey abstract at the American Medical Association's site has further information on the researchers' results.

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What's the point? (5, Insightful)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 10 years ago | (#8314534)

Over on Fark there is a debate going on about parental discipline vs. child abuse. The running theme is that parents who are consistent and firm with their children turn out well-adjusted kids whereas parents who are inconsistent and abusive turn out some really fucked up gems.

It seems to me that a parent who would take the time and effort to fall in the first category would also be the kind of parent who spent 5 seconds looking at the video game and deciding whether the kid should be allowed to play it or not.

OTOH, parents who do not put that time and effort in to raising their kids would be the type to just shell out 40 dollars to shut the kid up for a week.

It's no wonder that kids who play these violent and sexually explicit games turn into the freaks they are. It isn't the games, it's the parents.

Re:What's the point? (5, Insightful)

Cychwyn (225527) | more than 10 years ago | (#8314571)

Not sure five seconds of a game will tell you anything about how "safe" it is for your child. The article has a point in that if the rules for a rating were consistent, you could make a ball-park guess whether to buy/rent it. And then, of course, check in on your offspring at regular intervals to make sure that it still seems to be agreeing with your ideas of "suitable".
OT:ish - My Dad used to play the PC (and later console) games *with* us, part of both parents ideas that bringing us up was a joint venture and one best done by parents and not TV, teachers nor other outsiders. I'm very glad they were that oldfashioned.

Re:What's the point? (4, Insightful)

chia_monkey (593501) | more than 10 years ago | (#8314618)

You're absolutely correct. Five seconds of a game won't tell you how safe a game is for your child. Unfortunately, that's about all the time a majority of the partents these days really want to put into their children's lives. If it's not five seconds of a video game, it's five seconds to scan the TV Guide or a movie collection.

The point is, even if a game is rated, you still need to check it out as a parent. Maybe the content is worse than the rating says. Maybe it's nothing and is something your family is fine with. How will you know if you don't even bother to check it out though. And even more importatnly, by checking it out you actually show that you have an interest in what your child is doing which speaks volumes compared to "just checking to make sure the rating is good"

Re:What's the point? (2, Interesting)

sckeener (137243) | more than 10 years ago | (#8315503)

It's sad.

We live in an age where tech is reducing the time it takes us to do tasks.

In other ages people had no time because life was harder. Now we have no time because we want to put ourselves before our kids.

And before anyone mods me down, you don't have to work 12 hour days any more. Developed countries have labor laws.

Spend time with your kids.

My sister-in-law doesn't. She acts like a peer with her child instead of the parent. During Christmas it was discovered that my niece stole her mother's s3x toys to play with them. She's 12 and failing school. She's not dumb, but she is very ignorant. She is a bully and the sort of person I would have disliked at her age. There are no consistant rules in her life because every new man in her mother's life is making the rules which are all different from the previous men. She hates staying at my house because the rules are firm and she can't wiggle out of them. Oh and did I mention she weighs 194 pounds. Her mother doesn't want the family to eat healthy because the other kids don't have a weight problem...the other kids are under 7...they've got energy to burn.

Getting back to the main topic of video games and ratings, My niece can tell me all the wonders of GTA3 and Vice City. Wasn't there a previous /. article about how mature titles end up in the hands of those under 17 with little difficulty?

Re:What's the point? (1)

bellings (137948) | more than 10 years ago | (#8316462)

During Christmas it was discovered that my niece stole her mother's s3x toys to play with them.

But, SSX 3 is just a snowboarding game for the Nintendo! I can't believe it's that unsuitable, unless there's some sort of "leisure suit larry -- doin' the ski lodge" mini-game in there I don't know about.

But, if you meant "sex toys," then I'd have to agree -- using your moms sex toys is just plain gross. Someone should take the poor kid shopping to buy her own damned toys, so she doesn't have to risk an infection from her mom (and vice-versa).

Re:What's the point? (1)

scheme (19778) | more than 10 years ago | (#8317648)

It's sad. We live in an age where tech is reducing the time it takes us to do tasks. In other ages people had no time because life was harder. Now we have no time because we want to put ourselves before our kids. And before anyone mods me down, you don't have to work 12 hour days any more. Developed countries have labor laws. Spend time with your kids.

You're wrong about people not having as much free time in the past. In agarian societies there isn't much to do in winter and while crops are growing. Likewise, hunter gatherer societies also had more free time then people do now.

As an example, peasants had something like 40-60 holidays during the year.

Re:What's the point? (1)

DeadScreenSky (666442) | more than 10 years ago | (#8347965)

To add to your point, I believe most modern studies suggest 'standard' hunter-gatherer societies would require a member to spend about four hours a day, tops, to gather enough food. And oftentimes this food would also be enough to support others that couldn't do as useful work - like the very young or the hunters (who were responsible for considerably less food calorie-wise, generally).

Re:What's the point? (2, Interesting)

couch_potato (623264) | more than 10 years ago | (#8319588)

>My niece can tell me all the wonders of GTA3 and Vice City.

You want to see a cute kid, look at my fiance's nephew... he's 5 years old, and the other day he was in the car with me when we drove past two police officers who had somoene pulled over on the side of the road. He said, "We should put a bomb in between those cop cars!" Where does a five-year-old get that sort of idea?? Did I mention that his parents use a PS2 as his babysitter (even when they're around and could actually be interacting with him), and that Vice City is his favorite game? I hate to think what kind of weirdo he's going to be when he grows up...

Re:What's the point? (1)

Pamplemousse (751021) | more than 10 years ago | (#8314686)

I agree. No my parents do not actually play "with" us, but they do keep a close eye on what we play. If parents really cared about what their kids played/read/watched and all those good things ya think they would show it by participating in those activitys with them!

Re:What's the point? (1)

Jack Sparrow (748129) | more than 10 years ago | (#8315629)

>It isn't the games, it's the parents.

Spot on. I had a similar thought when I was playing RainbowSix3 the other day. It was clear that a few of the players were not even 13 (The game is rated M for 17 and above). All the players there are usually very expressive and the game is violent (It is a great game). The first thing I thought was why are the parents allowing them to play this.

The other day in Blockbuster, a younger brother wanted to rent a very violent game. These are the exact words, I kid you not.

younger: Lets get this one. You can kill a lot of people.
elder: What weapons do you use?
Younger(excited): A chainsaw!!
elder: No, that is too gory (or violent)

Yes! Age does make a big difference.

This rating system is a joke. Many of the parents do not even know that it exists. We need ways to enforce the same and inform the parents. The games are going to penetrate more and more . A few suggestions (I am not sure if they are followed already):

o Mandatory ID check before M rated games sell
o If parent is buying, give an information booklet or atleast tell them what kind of game it is.
o Inform about the Live talk.
o Games information booklet must have screenshots of the content that prompted the rating.
o (violent games above kids level of vision in stores. Many stores let you grab the cover of any game and when the kids touch it and see it, they ARE going to be tempted. Parents might know how responsible their kids are but they do NOT know about the ones who they play these games with)
If there is a remote possibility that a school shootout was triggered in part by a violent game, lets avoid it. We all want to continue to play games, lets do it the right way!

Re:What's the point? (1)

Dinglenuts (691550) | more than 10 years ago | (#8316041)

Yeah, the solution to ANY problem is to put more jack booted thugs on it.

Re:What's the point? (3, Insightful)

Divide By Zero (70303) | more than 10 years ago | (#8316855)

If there is a remote possibility that a school shootout was triggered in part by a violent game, lets avoid it.

Try substituting for "game" the phrase "TV show", "movie", "evening news story", or "behavior learned from a parent".

Why, oh why, do people seem to single out gaming as the only violent influence on a child? You think a 12 year old has never seen gore until he plays GTA3? Watching the Detroit TV news in the morning, I see more violence than I do most of the evening playing video games. I'm guaranteed at least a murder a night on Law & Order on TNT, and a extra one on the new episode on NBC, not to mention SVU and Criminal Intent. Just recently, a kid killed his... cousin? sister? by emulating professional wrestling - shall we legislate that too?

At a certain point, a child needs a regulating influence in their life to point at the TV or game or movie and say "This is fiction. This is not real life, and this is not acceptable behavior", and then point at the news and say "This is what happens in real life when people die - families are shattered and people go to prison." My dad was always there, and his favorite line was "You know this isn't how the world works, right?" and so I don't go around killing people. For a guy in desktop support, that's a noteworthy accomplishment.

The burden shouldn't be on the pimply teenager selling the movie ticket or renting the video game - he's probably on the kid's side anyhow. We can't expect Corporate America to raise our kids, and if we do, we deserve everything we get and more. Letting a company decide what's appropriate for one's child, be it ABC, HBO, Blockbuster, the MPAA, the ESRB or anyone else, is shirking one's duty as a parent The burden needs to be on the parent to get involved with the child and what he's doing. Hang out when your kid is playing games. Ask him to explain what's going on. Watch TV with him, even for a couple minutes, just to know. Then decide whether or not you approve, and raise your child accordingly.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Jack Sparrow (748129) | more than 10 years ago | (#8318619)

Why, oh why, do people seem to single out gaming as the only violent influence on a child? You think a 12 year old has never seen gore until he plays GTA3? Watching the Detroit TV news in the morning, I see more violence than I do most of the evening playing video games. I'm guaranteed at least a murder a night on Law & Order on TNT, and a extra one on the new episode on NBC, not to mention SVU and Criminal Intent. Just recently, a kid killed his... cousin? sister? by emulating professional wrestling - shall we legislate that too?

First of all, watching a murder on a Law and Order (mostly the act of murder is never shown anyways) cannot be compared with having an Uzi in your hand and gunning down people yourself, even in a game. That said, I am not trying to single out games for violent behaviour. My point is parents know about what is shown in various TV shows, but there is not as much awareness about the content of the games. They can decide what to do after sufficient information is available to them easily and at right places. Some sort of awareness should be created about the ratings stuff. Even a simple thing like displaying a big placard explaining ESRB ratings next to the games aisle is not done. There is a big difference between playing Outlaw on Atari and RainbowSix3 on xbox. I only want parents to know the diference. They definitely care but are just not as well informed as they should be. I met a grandmom shopping for an xbox game for her grandson (not in store). Seems he wanted XIII, she looked at the box and was not happy about it. I was shopping for a game also and we started talking a bit. She told me that she wants to give a good game to her grandson but she does not want him to play with games where you kill people. She had no idea about the ratings. Thanks to me, she walked out with TopSpin :) I felt like a boy scout and left the store before her grandson came looking for me.

Actually games and TV are both pretty hazy for me (1)

ianscot (591483) | more than 10 years ago | (#8329681)

My point is parents know about what is shown in various TV shows, but there is not as much awareness about the content of the games.

I'm a single (widowed) parent of ten-year-old twins. I have trouble with figuring out what's in games, just as I do with other forms of media. Ratings services are inherently flawed, and I can tell you from experience that they're flawed in different ways, depending on what industry group's making the choices.

Movies are particularly ridiculous. The MPAA seems to live on a completely different planet; they think nothing of oceans of desensitizing violence in PG or PG-13 movies, but let a character say "the f-word" twice and it's an automatic R rating. This is a group that rated "Waiting for Guffman," a gently zany little Christopher Guest thing with no violence OR sex, as an "R": one of the characters is gay (though that's never really said), and there's a spoken reference to genitalia. Pretty hard core. I don't remember much swearing, even...

Games are difficult because there really is something different about the player being able to actively cause something to happen. Sometimes even if that something is seemingly minor, I get weirded out that my kids are doing it. Personally I find them a little easier to predict, though, because the genres are so danged set-in-stone. Once in a while, though, the cut scenes in Myth will creep up on me. Those weren't innocent cartoons.

With TV, I'm astonished at the meanness of basically everything, and I'm awestruck at people's ability to mistake what they're seeing. The Simpsons is practically a sermon on "family values" every last week, but it earns disdain from the usual scolds. I let the kids watch it -- not Itchy and Scratchy, but the rest. Meanwhile reality TV is about as degrading as anything ever thrust on kids, and I won't have that for them. Television news is shockingly evil, really actively evil, on balance, and I protect us all from learning that world view. The ratings involved are totally without any merit.

(TV commercials are hard to anticipate with kids. Lately the Simpsons has been running ads for several movies "by the makers of Old School" locally. Those ads are borderline explicit, and I try to skip away. Because the commercials tend to go hand-in-hand with the bogus ratings, it's hard to remember to look for them on shows I think are okay.)

Re:What's the point? (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 10 years ago | (#8318254)

Mandatory ID check before M rated games sell

Most stores do mandate an ID check. And the government can't enforce a private company, such as the ESRB, so they would have to make their own ratings system or come up with vague discriptions such as "violence against police". Would you like to be the video game clerk who sold a "violent against police" game to a 16 year old and then got fined more then your month's wages? Didn't think so.

If parent is buying, give an information booklet or atleast tell them what kind of game it is.

Are you going to pay to make all these booklets? And as for telling the parent about the game, I used to work at a game store and I did just that. 8 out of 10 parents ignored me. If the parents really care about what's in the game, they ask.

Inform about the Live talk.

See above about parents who care. Also, games that go online say "Content may change during online play" under the rating.

Games information booklet must have screenshots of the content that prompted the rating.

See above about booklets.

violent games above kids level of vision in stores. Many stores let you grab the cover of any game and when the kids touch it and see it, they ARE going to be tempted.

Which games are violent enough to go above kids heads? Some parents think Mario is too violent for their kids. Would you like to make a list of all the games, and decide if they are violent or not? And how high should these be? There's ten year olds that are taller than me. There's a lot of things to think about besides just "Oh, violent game should be out of kids reach!"

Parents might know how responsible their kids are but they do NOT know about the ones who they play these games with

Do you mean people the kids play with online? Or do you mean kids' friends? Because game stores have absolutely nothing to do with kids's friends.

The ESRB ratings are not that complicated. Parents can easily learn them, and any game store clerk would be happy to explain it to them if they ask. The store clerk can help the parent, but the store clerk cannot be the parent.

newsflash (5, Insightful)

phloydphreak (691922) | more than 10 years ago | (#8314585)

<A HREF=www.esb.org>ESRB ratings> are intended to get parents to pay attention to their kids lives. They are placed to get parents to notice that videogames are a part of childrens lives, the same as television.

""The absence of a content descriptor did not mean the absence of content that might concern parents," she[study author Kimberly Thompson] said."

If parents talked to their children about the things that they are doing, viz. active members in their lives, they will know that the child is playing videosgames with such content in it. Think. (are you ready) Think some more. When as a child, you played duke nukem, did the you discuss your gaming with your parents? I did. I told them all about how hillarious the game was. The hillarity is one that can be experienced only through the game, but in my explination of it, they understood that the beercans strewn around stripclubs where one is killing stripping aliens was funny. They were not offended in any way with the content of the game, only with my choice to play it instead of doing homework late at night.

The warnings on videogames are not meant for parents to keep children confined by having them not purchase such games, but to brace parents for the content of the game when the child discusses it with them.

I think Ms. Thompson understands this aspect of the gaming experience, perhaps in a familial if not personal way.

"She[study author Kimberly Thompson] added that she hopes these study results serve as a "wake up call" for parents, telling them they need to be aware of what their kids are being exposed to, both in video games and elsewhere."

This study is meant to shine light on parent's lack of involvement in children's lives, not asking for more strict ratings. Lets face it, if anyone makes blanket judgements on ratings, they are being ignorant of the product's value.

-i wish i were a teapot. That way if when im boiling you could pour me out.-

Re:newsflash (2, Interesting)

Anaxagor (211917) | more than 10 years ago | (#8314674)

The warnings on videogames are not meant for parents to keep children confined by having them not purchase such games

At least in this country that's not true, our Office of Film and Literature Classification intends the warnings to be used proactively by parents:

From OFLC: [oflc.gov.au]

"Consumer advice helps you decide what you and your family view and play. If you do not like your children to hear swear words then check for consumer advice that refers to coarse language. Perhaps you do not like your children to watch movies that have references to sex or sex scenes. The consumer advice may help you choose films that do not have sexual references or sex scenes."

I have a ten year old son, and I keep an eye on what he sees and hears. But not based on the warnings, they're quite vague and downright misleading at times. I take an interest in the things he does, I play console games with him, I watch movies with him, and we don't have a problem. He has an instinctive understanding of what he is allowed to watch, and what he's not, and he respects that, while I respect his right to access content marked 15+ (like some games) if the content is within the guidelines we have mutually agreed upon.

Maybe it's right, maybe it's wrong, but it's sure as hell better than the way my father tried to impose censorship on me. I wasn't even allowed to watch Doctor Who until I was 15 years old!!!!!!!!

Friggin' hillbillies.

Stick to the point (1)

Tyggyr (133366) | more than 10 years ago | (#8316509)

The report is saying that the descriptors are applied inconsistantly. So the side debates about what the ratings should be for or about, or whether it's appropriate, or whether parents spend enough time with their kids are all beside the point.

What's missing to make this an interesting item is a list of the variations, as they see them, so we can see how outrageous the problem is. Or isn't.

From what I know of the ESRB's procedures, they require each publisher to submit a tape of all content, and that tape is watched completely. So it's quite likely that the issue is either a difference of opinion about what constitutes (for instance) alchohol use, or whether the publisher fully disclosed their content.

If it's the latter, then the ESRB has the ability to severely fine the publisher and force it to correct either the rating or the product.

ESRB is at http://www.esrb.org/ for more info...

XBox rules!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8314632)

first post!!! you lame assholes... I can post first because my XBox is a american product and my pride in my great country and my great XBox accelerate everything...

If only they would make games for that bitch... IAve played Metroid Prime and it ruled... I hope M$ will buy those japanese bastards and port Metroid to my great american console system!!!

get a farking life, geez (2, Interesting)

Ender Ryan (79406) | more than 10 years ago | (#8314739)

This is total horsedung. Isn't it being extremely nitpicky to complain that a game rated "T" contains the use of tobacco or alcohol? And what passes as "sexual content" with these obsessively sheltering freaks?

And violence in "E" rated games? Are we talking "Mario"-esque violence, or something that really deserves mention?

Bah, give me a break!

Re:get a farking life, geez (2, Interesting)

Derkec (463377) | more than 10 years ago | (#8315298)

I was stepping out of the room when the Today show started covering this story this morning. They showed a clip of what appeared to be a Final Fantasy type game. The "outrageous" teaser they gave us before cutting to commercial was a cut scene of a woman's face as she's taking a shower, the view shifts up to the shower head as the shower is turned off, then (it what might be a differant cut scene spliced for TV) we see her in a tank top and panties. It wasn't over the top, but it was definately a shout out to hormonal 14 year olds.
It might be surprising for some parents here in prudish America who wouldn't expect that from a game rated "T". On the other hand, you can turn on the network broadcasters on TV and see shows like Dog Eat Dog where they get women (and men) in skimpy swimsuits to perform athletic challenges while getting sprayed with water.

Re:get a farking life, geez (1)

*weasel (174362) | more than 10 years ago | (#8315812)

not to mention the kinds of things that any 12 year old can find in a Marvel or DC Comic book - even under the Comic Code.

People complaining about alcohol and/or tobacco use in a 'teen' rated video game are demonstrating how incredibly clueless they are about society.

Teen smoking and drinking rates may be down - but kids are experimenting even younger nowadays. Your teen is going to be going to school with kids who have, or do, smoke and drink. Not to mention the number of adults they will witness drinking and smoking in their immediate proximity.

Re:get a farking life, geez (1)

fireduck (197000) | more than 10 years ago | (#8316367)

Actually, I saw that scene as well. The in-show segment they showed, was a full body shot in the shower, with a naked woman facing away. The woman's behind was blurred, which suggests that in the actual game one would be able to see her rump clearly.

Is this something that's going to corrupt a 14 year old? who knows. but there's no reason not to put a label "brief nudity" on the game to at least let the parent know about it.

ultimately, if you are going to have ratings, at least apply them correctly, otherwise you end up with studies like this that bring negative attention to the issue.

Re:get a farking life, geez (2, Insightful)

bellings (137948) | more than 10 years ago | (#8316529)

Whenever I'm out in public and I see someone's bare ass, I giggle. Seriously. I'm probably scarred for life, because I once saw a bare ass somewhere before I turned 18.

Re:get a farking life, geez (1)

kreyg (103130) | more than 10 years ago | (#8317384)

So.... it's OK to show it on public TV for all to see, but it's a moral outrage to put it in a game clearly labelled "Teen?"

Somebody mentioned they blurred part of it, but the phrase "double standard" seems to be echoing into the distance...

Its a bad rating system. (3, Insightful)

darkmayo (251580) | more than 10 years ago | (#8314742)

I never figured out why we have a separating rating system for games when there is a perfectly good rating system for the movie industry that could be used.(I assume its some legal hullabaloo)

Anyways alot of Parents don't really know what the video game rating system entails, and because of not really knowing they will let there kid play whatever the hell they want, instead of making an informed decision that maybe that game where you play inmates that dig at each other with rusty hooks might not be suitable.

Now with the Movie rating system most people know what the hell the ratings are , or at least have a general idea. Your not going to let your 13 year old go to the R film (Heck most theatres won't even let your kid in) but the M rating on that game, your not quite sure about.

So what to do.. either raise awareness on what the ratings actually are and entail and make sure that the games get rated correctly (personally I am surprised that Manhunt only got mature) or scrap the system and rebuild from the ground up.

Re:Its a bad rating system. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8314829)

The problem is that the movie rating system is based on entirely different axioms than the game one.

PG-13 indicates that, if a child is under thirteen, the parent should see the movie first, or see it with the child. Video games don't work that way... you can't just sit there playing Zelda: OOT with your kid for 50 hours. Your kid has more leisure time than you do.

So, continuing with OOT, you turn it on... you play the first hour... it seems really tame. Some scary spiders. So what?

Kid plays up to the Shadow Temple, and later, Ganon's Death...

Maybe not so tame. Maybe it's the difference between an 8-year old playing and a 12-year old playing.

Games are so long that you can't trust them to be consistent. PG-13 is an insane concept... they're all PG... on a different basis.

This is why the content descriptors are so detailed... and also why the games aren't always rated perfectly. Who can play through every budget level piece of rotting cow flesh that comes out of the industry and be sure that not one Easter egg is out of line for the rating? Why, only someone who has an axe to grind.... some interest in showing something controversial, instead of having another dull paper fall down the tubes.

Re:Its a bad rating system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8314838)

As I understand it the video game industry approached the MPAA and asked to use their rating system. the MPAA said no and thus the esrb was born.

exactly (1)

*weasel (174362) | more than 10 years ago | (#8314867)

and me without my mod points.

the MPAA rating system is well known, well tested, and people already have a fairly good idea where their personal values diverge from the ratings.

There's no reason to rate games differently, when the content being rated is the same across media. hell, you could rate a comic book with the MPAA system if you felt like it. Why does the gaming industry feel the need to screw around with that?

Rebuilding the system would only be beneficial if they cut to the chase an outlined exactly what types of objectionable content were involved.

Eg:
'Cartoon Violence'
'Realistic Violence'
'Nudity'
'Sexual Themes'
'Strong Sexual Content'
'Language'
'Criminal Themes'
'Drug/Alcohol Content'
etc.

If we insist that games have a different rating system than what has worked for the film industry for 50 years, then for chrissakes let's improve on existing rating systems. Let's not attempt to label content in accordance with subjective community values - let's objectively list the actual content that's available in the game, and let individuals make informed decisions.

Re:exactly (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 10 years ago | (#8317699)

Rebuilding the system would only be beneficial if they cut to the chase an outlined exactly what types of objectionable content were involved.

They do [esrb.com]

Re:exactly (1)

ShadowDrake (588020) | more than 10 years ago | (#8319310)

There's still a lot of interpretation issues.

Why is it "nudity" to see five seconds of female boob, but if Commander Testosterone runs the whole game in nothing but a loincloth and an ammo sash, it isn't.
Is it "criminal themes" if you show someone breaking a political prisioner out of jail?

Re:Its a bad rating system. (4, Insightful)

Eivind (15695) | more than 10 years ago | (#8314917)

A problem with the ratings is that they map it all to a single number; recommended form age X.

And still, the rating-system is not (and cannot be!) neutral at all, not all parents will agree (or even come close to agree!) on what their kids should be shielded for. In particular, to most scandinawians the US guideleines are ridicolously strict on nudity and/or language, while being similarily soft on violence.

It's hard to believe this has to do with the well-being of children, more likely it reflects the puritanity of the reviewers or the parents.

No kid will ever be scared, hurt or otherwise damaged by seeing a naked female breast. Indeed most kids do so from age ~2 minutes. Noone is going to wake up in the nigth, having nigthmares, because they've seen a penis.

It always seemed ridiculous to me that in these rating-systems, showing 2 seconds of naked skin seems on par with decapitating people, blood gushing all over the place.

Thus, I'd never trust the rating-systems anyway, and would vastly prefer spending the required time myself to make up my own damn opinion. What's so wrong about spending time with your child anyway ?

Re:Its a bad rating system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8316086)

"Noone is going to wake up in the nigth, having nigthmares, because they've seen a penis."

You will, however, if you've seen a certain anus [goatse.cx] .

Re:Its a bad rating system. (1)

hikerhat (678157) | more than 10 years ago | (#8320989)

Dude, you're not even a good troll. goatse.cx has been gone for a long time now.

Re:Its a bad rating system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8316297)

In particular, to most scandinawians the US guideleines are ridicolously strict on nudity and/or language, while being similarily soft on violence.

Are you suggesting that there are moral absolutes, and that different cultures should have the same values when it comes to protecting children from sexual or violent imagery? I have no idea what your personal stance on that is, but I'd like to remind all Slashdotters, who tend not to believe in moral absolutes, that you can't project your own morals or principles onto others, especially if they live in another country, without implicitly acknowledging that you believe their culture's moral values are wrong.

I realize this probably seems off topic (I don't think it is, personally), and I apologize to the parent poster, but I see the attitude that American views of sexuality are wrong far too often on a forum where most participants, statistically speaking, seem to be moral relativists. You can't have it both ways!

Re:Its a bad rating system. (1)

Eivind (15695) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324437)

Are you suggesting that there are moral absolutes,

Obviously, YES, I am. For a person who is a complete moral relativist, a discussion about morale is pointless.

tend not to believe in moral absolutes, that you can't project your own morals or principles onto others, especially if they live in another country, without implicitly acknowledging that you believe their culture's moral values are wrong.

Where'd you get the idea that anyone is really a relativist ? There's some who claim so, in an intellectual sort of way. But kick them in the leg, and ask them if that is perfectly fine, assuming it's a nice thing to do in my value system. They all say no.

I don't see what the imaginary concept "countries" has to do with it.

but I see the attitude that American views of sexuality are wrong far too often on a forum where most participants, statistically speaking, seem to be moral relativists.

I think you are wrong. I see no evidence that most slashdotters are moral relativists. I believe, by the way, that even most Americans agree that sex between consenting adults is more desireable than unprovoked violence. I mean, most adults have sex several times a week (no compulsory nerd-jokes please!), and consider it to be a nice and enjoyable part of their relationship. (if not they'd not do it...) Most people also find unprovoked violence bad.

If people where relativists, they wouldn't desire punishment for criminals. They would not support human rigths. They would not consider the way females are treated in Iran wrong. But infact, pretty much everyone do.

You can't have it both ways!

You're the only one who is claiming people here want it both ways. I see no evidence of that whatsoever. I *certainly* don't want to live in a world where nobody gives a fuck. I'd rather live in a world full of people who disagree with me than in a world where nobody holds an opinion.

Re:Its a bad rating system. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8326166)

Sorry, I should have been more clear. I meant it seems to me that many Slashdotters are cultural moral relativists, not individual moral relativists. What that means is that society is the source of morality. Such a stance leads to an inability to criticize the morals of another society. If there are moral absolutes that should govern the actions of all people everywhere, then where do they come from?

I'll leave it at that because I really don't disagree with you. Personally, I do believe there are moral absolutes, but I was trying to point out what I perceived as hypocrisy in the general opinion of Slashdotters (again, not you personally). Thanks for replying.

Re:Its a bad rating system. (1)

fireduck (197000) | more than 10 years ago | (#8315234)

The problem isn't necessarily the rating system, but how it is applied. They were interviewing the lead author of the study on the Today show this morning (which I briefly caught).

The problem, at least from what I picked up, is that the game developers do not submit the game for a rating. Rather they submit portions (clips of cutscenes, demos of gameplay) that aren't always representative of actual in game content.

As I recall, they reviewed 81 games rated T. About half were appropriately labeled (all the descriptors of why it got the T rating were correct). The other half had content in the game that wasn't listed on the label (tobacoo, sexual content, violence, etc.).

So, applying the movie rating systems to the games still would fail, as the ESRB does not rate games, but rather game segments which may not be representative of the true game. Perhaps they need to evaluate the whole product (or at least more of the product) before a rating is provided.

or, start fining developers who dont' submit content that is truly representative of the game.

Someone I know said something fascinating (1)

op51n (544058) | more than 10 years ago | (#8315863)

When we were discussin this issue on a forum, one guy said that he had been unable to rent Clerks one day before his birthday, and that nothing had changed over night. My friend posited that in fact, in the one day, he had gained legal responsibility for his actions.
I thought this very interesting, since I very much support the idea of parents actually getting involved in their child's lives, and not sheltering them unduly by refusing to let them near anything with a rating above U, or whatever the US equivalent is.

Re:Its a bad rating system. (1)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 10 years ago | (#8317107)

As you suspect, the reason that videogames do not use G, PG and the like is because the MPAA won't let them. Marvel comics started using G PG and whatnot a couple years ago and has stopped becasue the MPAA threatened to sue.

Re:Its a bad rating system. (2, Insightful)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 10 years ago | (#8317249)

There's a very good, and extremely clever, reason.

The MPAA owns the trademarks on PG, G, R, etc. To maintain those trademarks, they are legally obligated to *enforce* them, that is, take legal action against any other company that would use the same trademarks.

Why does the MPAA maintain these trademarks? Because otherwise, there would be nothing, legally, to stop a movie like Scary Movie from putting a huge "rated G" on the movie posted without *any* endorsement from the MPAA. If they try, the MPAA could sue them for trademark violation.

Some years back, I believe Marvel Comics tried to make use of the MPAA's rating system, and were sued by the MPAA for this very reason.

Re:Its a bad rating system. (1)

demi (17616) | more than 10 years ago | (#8323490)

The MPAA owns the trademarks on PG, G, R, etc. To maintain those trademarks, they are legally obligated to *enforce* them, that is, take legal action against any other company that would use the same trademarks.

No. They could allow the other company to use the trademark with permission. Taking legal action against them is just being a tool.

Re:Its a bad rating system. (1)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | more than 10 years ago | (#8321104)

The MPAA holds trademarks on their ratings, and has no interest in allowing competitors to to use them. It's the same reason that the MPAA ratings aren't used for television ratings.

You may be interested to know a little more about how these ratings came to be. I remember a bit of it.

Video games were under flak because of crap like Mortal Kombat and Time Killers, which used excessive violence as a selling point. Other stuff like the Sega CD Night Trap got a lot of criticism too. Joe Lieberman was heading up congressional investigations, and basically accusing the video game industry of molesting children.

The government gave the video game industry an ultimatum, come up with a video game rating system, or the government will come up with one for you. Obviously no one in the industry wanted the government to come up with a rating system, so they came up with what I thought was a pretty good one. To my recollection, it was a set of bars that had labels like violence, sexuality, swearing. Each bar would fill from left to right based on the quantity of the attribute, which gave you a very finely grained description of what was in the game. Well anyway, the government came back and determined that this was unacceptable, because people are dumb and need a single letter to tell them if its ok to buy "Maniac killers from hell" for their 8 year old. So they came up with the system we have now based heavily on advice from the government.

My main interest in bringing this up is that now that the current system is ingrained, people don't think about how it was basically coerced on the industry at the time, and isn't really that good compared to some of the ones that the industry came up with on their own. I worked for many years in a video game store, and any time that people mentioned the video game rating, it was to complain about how vague it was. So basically, the only people who actually CHECKED the rating didn't like the system.

The "terrible" video game industry came up with a rating system that actually described what was in the game, and the government coerced a system that seems to only have been designed to help you make a decision in under 30 seconds. This is great for everyone but the industry, since when the rating doesn't work, it absolves the government and parents of responsibility and places blame on the unlucky party left over.

Alcohol, tobacco and sex (3, Insightful)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 10 years ago | (#8314794)

Parents dont come with a Parental Skill Rating attached to their foreheads... :-/

Good God! Say it ain't So! (5, Funny)

fuzzybunny (112938) | more than 10 years ago | (#8314895)

My lord, tobacco _AND_ alcohol? Sexual activity in a game? Holy cow! I really would not have bought my latest copy of Super Slayer Commando XXIII if the label on it hadn't assured me that it was much much cleaner than Super Slayer Commando XXII!!!

I am shocked, shocked I tell you. Computer games containing graphic violence? Why seeing that guy I blew away in Quake Death Rampage Umpteen makes me so angry I want to go out and wipe out my office! I'm just glad I was not exposed to such abominations as an impressionable child--who knows, I might have turned out as a psychopathic axe murderer, or even, god forbid, a..a...MUSIC DOWNLOADER!

This revelation makes me never, ever ever want to touch another one of these products of satan again for as long as I live. And especially if I ever have children, good grief, think of what might happen if my little boy or girl were to see such morally reprehensible content while I am away working 12 hour days?!? Why, I think I might have to limit them to watching professional football, or Wile E. Coyote having wholesome anvils dropped on him on TV!

Phew, I've vented my spleen against those evil peddlers of smut and gore. Now back to watching Janet Jackson's nipple and some CNN shots of dead bodies on my wholesome, wholesome television.

Why is DoA: Beach Vollyball rated "M"? (1)

LordJezo (596587) | more than 10 years ago | (#8314924)

Anyone?

Why is that game rated "M"?

Re:Why is DoA: Beach Vollyball rated "M"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8315061)

Because their boobs were two inches too big.

Any practical gamer or reasonable parent could see there was nothing in the game that warranted a "M" rating. Seriously. The same kind of people who think DoA: Beach Volleyball deserved a "M" rating is probably the same people who think shows like Power Rangers or Sailor Moon shouldn't be shown because they exhibit violence.

Re:Why is DoA: Beach Vollyball rated "M"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8316063)

It depicts scantily clad women playing volleyball.

This, of course, is something children must be protected against at all costs.

Re:Why is DoA: Beach Vollyball rated "M"? (1)

Da Rabid Duckie (731742) | more than 10 years ago | (#8317852)

Actually, the game was originally slated to receive a T rating, but when the ESRB caught wind of the game's opening FMV (which features a nude woman diving off a waterfall, and her visible backside as she dives) it was given an M shortly before release. This is interesting as Dead or Alive 3, which in Christie's ending showed a much more visible rear shot, only received a T rating.

Re:Why is DoA: Beach Vollyball rated "M"? (1)

John Gaming Target (721410) | more than 10 years ago | (#8321410)

Just a wild guess, but I think the M to DOAXBV was a "cover your ass" situation.

The ESRB didn't want to be caught with it's pants down and have an easter egg slip by them with someone's pants being down. And then the shitstorm would begin over why didn't they catch that?

And actually the M rating probably only helped DOAXBV's sales as their people to this day who still believe some type of Nudality code exists in the game.

standards (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8315085)

Are there even any regulations or standards that say what kind of games get what rating? Starcraft came out with a Teen rating, but when it's expansion pack Brood War came out, it was stamped Mature, even though nothing major was changed from Starcraft.

The Truth Behind The Ratings (3, Insightful)

robbway (200983) | more than 10 years ago | (#8315194)

The truth behind the ratings is they are rarely used correctly. The developers shoot for a particular rating, then get the board to agree or disagree. Just like the movies.

Some games are mismarked, like Tony Hawk 3. It says "E" for everyone, but fails to mention the blood and swearing. I personally would still let anyone play it, since the context of the blood and swearing is appropriate. Some would disagree. Like a previous few comments, you have to play with or watch your kids play games if you want to know what they're playing.

But, since the ratings are goals, and not ends, you'll have kiddie games elevated to teen with gratuitous bodily functions, blood effects, and such. You'll have teen games elevated to Mature with bouncy boobs and over-the-top violence--despite these things being very purile, but fun! By elevating the ratings, the games are more enticing to the target audience because it's taboo, and you may pull in a couple people in the "as rated" audience who think it's for their age, not their kids.

Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. Teen (PG-13) is the desired audience for almost all games. You don't want an "M" unless you feel you'll sell a lot of them on the first day. The first Mortal Kombat is a great example how to ruin a game by dumbing down the violence for a broader audience.

So in the end, the games that are rated properly seem like the ones that are mismatched with the ratings! Just like the movies.

Re:The Truth Behind The Ratings (4, Insightful)

fireduck (197000) | more than 10 years ago | (#8315550)

The truth behind the ratings is they are rarely used correctly. The developers shoot for a particular rating, then get the board to agree or disagree. Just like the movies.

The problem is, unlike the movies, the ratings board does not review the entire game. They review clips of the game that the developers submit. as the study points out, only about half the time are the ratings (descriptors) accurate. What this suggests is that some developers are deliberately misleading the review board and submitting clips that aren't fully representative of the game.

While I'm strongly in the "games really aren't that bad" camp, a flawed ratings system that is wrong half the time, just sets the industry up for criticism, government oversight and ultimately censorship; the exact reasons the ESRB was created to put off in the first place.

Re:The Truth Behind The Ratings (1)

Da Rabid Duckie (731742) | more than 10 years ago | (#8317968)

Two perfect examples of the fact that developers withhold some information about games is Xenogears and Dead or Alive 3. Xenogears (rated T) contained scenes of implied sexual content, as well as an almost unnoticable scene of pixelated nudity. Dead or Alive 3, in Christie's ending, very plainly showed her nude backside in the shower. Both games, according to the ESRB's rating system, should have been rated M. However, both were rated T because someone involved in creating the videos for the ESRB to classify the game with skipped out on those details. Whether or not it was deliberate is unknown. So the rating system is a two-edged sword, really. While parents can use the rating system to make better choices on what they feel is appropriate for their children, some details apparently get left out. Say a parent (or a reviewer) notices something that should have been brought to the ESRB's attention. Should there be fines for omitting information, or what about a way for a rating to be amended after a game's release? I know that places like Wal-Mart would have a difficult time keeping track of games that went from T to M (or vice versa), but places like Gamestop or EBGames (whose ratings are computerized, and inform the cashier when a game is rated M) could easily keep up with it.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater rating (1)

lightspawn (155347) | more than 10 years ago | (#8317187)

Some games are mismarked, like Tony Hawk 3. It says "E" for everyone, but fails to mention the blood and swearing. I personally would still let anyone play it, since the context of the blood and swearing is appropriate.

Tony Hawk 3 (at least the PS2/GC/xbox versions) is rated T for Teen. If I were a parent, the blood wouldn't bother me, but some of the song lyrics might.

Parents might object more to "defy authority" goals in the THPS games like "grind 5 police cars", "destroy 5 no skating signs", "grind down officer Tom's banners" or "dunk 30 tourists".

Yet other parents may be horrified by Tony's ability to skitch. This features is just screaming for a lawsuit somewhere down the road.
"But mommy, Tony's always doing it!".

Re:Tony Hawk's Pro Skater rating (1)

robbway (200983) | more than 10 years ago | (#8317645)

I got my games mixed up as you pointed out! The game that pushes the EVERYONE envelope is SSX (PS2, GCN). Great game, but has (contextually accurate) cursing and bloodless violence. Again, not really a bother to me personally, but some may not be so understanding.

It's probably because of the other reply. I doubt they have the soundtrack and maybe not even all the sounds at time of rating. Then for the sequels, they probably just said "more of the same, ratings-wise." Who knows. It makes me wonder if the board ever went back reviewed the older titles in their completed form.

I'm always open for corrections! I wasn't wrong, I was mistaken! ;)

We need ONE ratings system (3, Insightful)

tjmsquared (702422) | more than 10 years ago | (#8315288)

What we really need is a consistent rating system for all forms of entertainment. Movies, television, video games and music should use the same system to avoid confusion about exactly what a rating means in one system verses another. I'm not sure how to go about doing that since these industries are all independent, and I'm reluctant to get the Government involved in a ratings system, but I think it would be the best solution for kids and parents.

Re:We need ONE ratings system (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 10 years ago | (#8315991)

I think they should all use the sort of system that HBO flashes before a program.

Icons with 1 to 2 letter codes for what's in the program with a short discription.

Grand Theft Auto Vice City
SC - Strong Sexual Content
V - Violence
AS - Adult Situations
AC - Adult Comedy

Re:We need ONE ratings system (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 10 years ago | (#8317860)

The problem with having codes is that people don't know what they mean. In Newsweek this week they have a big article about TV, and appearently most parents think that "FV" stands for "Family Viewing" when it really means "Fantasy Violence". Ratings don't help if people can't understand them.

I think the current game rating system, while it's not always accurate (See DOA Volleyball) it's fairly comprehensive and doesn't take too much to figure out.

Grand Theft Auto Vice City [esrb.com]
Mature (17+)
Blood and Gore
Strong Language
Strong Sexual Content
Violence

Examples of tobacco/alcohol use? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8315464)

If the in-game characters are not clearly using tobacco or alcohol (e.g. they are smoking something or drinking out of a bottle, but the vice is just implied, not explicit) I don't see why it's a problem.

They could be smoking clove cigarettes and drinking no-alcohol beer for all these nannies know.

oh come on... (0, Flamebait)

planetsphinx (712454) | more than 10 years ago | (#8315825)

This has to be based on opinion.. What one person calles sexual content, I call an every day thing.. Maybe if I reviewed these games.. I would find only 10 of the reported 18 games really had sexual content.. What is it with American's (I'm an American by the way) being all against sex.. I mean come on.. isn't everybody a closet pr0n freak anyway..

I say let the pr0n out of the closet! Educate our children so they know about sex so they don't have to experiment and get in trouble!

/me puts on flame resistant suit.

Shock! Horror! Gasp! (4, Funny)

Sick Boy (5293) | more than 10 years ago | (#8315979)

It's almost as if the game rating system, and even the people that label games aren't perfect! What next? We'll have to raise our own children? We'll have to actually spend time with them? We'll have to play the game before them, or along with them, explaining anything that might damage their fragile little minds (like, say, ANYTHING that plays on the 6 o'clock news)?

This travesty of justice should not be allowed to perpetuate. I paid good money for my one eyed babysitter, damn it!

WTF is wrong with people nowadays (2, Insightful)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 10 years ago | (#8316123)

I am surprised no historians have dug up Roman Empire artifacts saying their violence came from playing too much video games.

The rating system is completely lame. My local news has more violence, sex and tobacco use.

Always new Microsoft was Dirty (-1, Troll)

D0X (749210) | more than 10 years ago | (#8316309)

Microsoft is just dirty in general i won't get to far in to it but I will never touch an X box again.. Cause of the horro you told me... Thank you -Dx

how do they define (2, Insightful)

herrvinny (698679) | more than 10 years ago | (#8316372)

How do they define these things? If even a background character smokes, is that counted as tobacco use? It's just a realistic background, nothing more.

Dear Anal Police (1, Funny)

AvantLegion (595806) | more than 10 years ago | (#8317088)

Dear Anal Police,

Find something better to do with your time.

Sitting around, saying "OMG they missed that character smoking and that sexual innuendo WTF WTF WTF?" is not a productive use of time or resources.

It's people like you that enable psycho overprotective parents. You're far more damaging than the video game cigarette.

Sincerely,
Sane Society

American Medical assn, Games? (1)

blunttrauma (601130) | more than 10 years ago | (#8317309)

Could someone explain what the AMA has to do with video games?

Shouldn't they be off practicing medicine?

The Problem with a Games Rating System (2, Interesting)

NedR (701006) | more than 10 years ago | (#8317663)

See, the problem with trying to evaluate/rate all of the content in a game is that, in the average game, there's too much, and it would take far too long to come up with a completely accurate rating. Unlike, with say, movies, every gameplay experience can be different, depending on the actions of the player, and not only is playing the whole game through once generally time consuming, but playing it through multiple times with an eye for every single easter egg, cheat code, and any other possible variable would take a long, long, time. For an example, look at the new Goldeneye level that was just recently discovered. Was the content from that level evaluated when the game was rated? No, I don't think so. Would it have made that huge an impact on the rating? Again, probably not. A rough approximation is pretty much the best we can hope for here, and it seems to have worked out pretty well so far. After all, ratings that involve "sexual content" are extremely subjective.

Wipeout is mature? (3, Interesting)

ArmorFiend (151674) | more than 10 years ago | (#8317712)

Yeah.
Um, "Wipeout" for original playstation was rated "Mature". I just don't think kids should have to look at cars going around an oval track. It could warp their fragile little minds.

(Ok, there technically were weapons, but they only slowed, they didn't kill).

Oh, and the color pallette was grey and edgy. Definately don't want your kids to see that.

Grand Theft Auto (1)

Popageorgio (723756) | more than 10 years ago | (#8318457)

When a game is named after a felony, you have the gist of the content.

Inaccuracy (1)

DarkZero (516460) | more than 10 years ago | (#8318498)

I really wish that one of these days, a reporter from a mainstream news outlet would actually do their own reporting on the topic of game ratings instead of deferring to some parental group that tries its best to distort the facts. If an unbiased observer took a serious look at the ESRB ratings, they would realize that the inaccuracy goes both ways.

The ratings aren't just applied loosely, which infers that certain game publishers might be getting favors from the ESRB or that the ESRB just has a vested interest in stamping an "M" on fewer games every year. The ratings are just applied inaccurately all across the board. This article mentions all of the cases where the ratings were applied too loosely, but what about where they're applied too harshly? Ico, for instance, is rated Teen. Anyone that has actually played the game knows that that's like stamping a PG-13 on The Lion King or The Never-Ending Story. It's ludicrous, but it's done because the ESRB only looks at selected scenes from the games that they rate, and someone in this case looked at the ONE moment where there is any blood or violence in the game and said, "Oh, no, this isn't for kids." And the same applies to Maximo. Maximo is also rated Teen, but the entire game is cartoonish. It's probably less violent than the Spider-Man cartoons from the '90s and it's certainly no darker than Count Duckula [blueyonder.co.uk] .

A lot of stuff falls through the cracks at the ESRB, but it's not just in favor of the game companies. The inaccuracy goes both ways.

Re:Inaccuracy (1)

demi (17616) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324097)

I dunno. I think the shadow monster things in Ico are kind of scary, and the whole "child-in-jeopardy" theme might be a bit disturbing to call it "all ages." I might be more inclined to let my kid play something that seemed more playful, like a sports game, even if it contained some profanity, a little blood, or cheerleaders.

I definitely agree with your overall point, though.

Screen-It for videogames (1)

cmpalmer (234347) | more than 10 years ago | (#8318933)

OK, I'll admit it. I'm a hypocritical parent who carefully screens what my kids watch, read, and play. I'm a hypocrite because, when I was growing up, my parents did none of these things and I turned out (IMO) just fine. I guess the difference is that my parents were just ignorant of what I was reading, watching, and playing, but I'm not, since I tend to watch, read, and play much of the same things as my kids. I feel like I'm actively pimping smut to my kids if I don't control their media access to some extent.

I am a realist in that I *know* my kids are exposed to just about anything imaginable when they are outside the house and I can live with that, I just don't feel comfortable being an "enabler".

When my kids want to see a movie that I haven't seen yet, I usually use Screen-It [screenit.com] . My only gripe with Screen-it is that is can spoil certain scenes because they list *every* thing that might be objectionable to just about anyone, but at least they do it objectively.

I prefer this (even with the chance of spoilers) to any rating system (and much prefer it to outright censorship). If I don't mind nudity without explicit sex, or don't mind sexual innuendo, but don't like violence, or if I don't mind wanton sex and violence as long as no one drinks a beer, I can screen my films using this service. :-)

I would love to have a similar service for videogames, but I just don't see it happening, because, as other posters have noted, you would have to play through every scene in a game (and all branching paths) to identify objectionable material.

Opening this to the user community probably wouldn't work either, because people would be posting Photoshopped screen images and bogus "secret" areas.

Universal Studios Theme Park (1)

Mirkon (618432) | more than 10 years ago | (#8320142)

...is a horrible game, and you should never play it.

But my point is, it was aimed at children, the characters you could choose from were children, all of its content was child-friendly - the most violent things that ever happened were shooting fake targets and throwing wooden crates at a shark - and the game got a 'T' rating.

So it's not a one-way street.

Thank goodness *I* still enjoy video games! (1)

potus98 (741836) | more than 10 years ago | (#8320315)


Gee, I can't rely 100% on the label? No sh*#!

As the predictable debate of parent-responsability vs. I-want-laws-and-regulations-to-think-for-me-and-my -family rages on, I'm glad that I still love playing games today as much as I did 23 years ago!

Even though the games my son is playing now are safe "kiddie titles", I'm still involved since it's something we can have fun with togeather. This participation establishes me, the parent, as a part of this kind of entertainment. Obviously, this approach would be frustrating for parents who prefer to rely on electronic boxes to distract/babysit their kids for a while.

And if you pay attention to most of the games, they generally fall into a few easy to recognize genres. Yea, they might have a kiddie coat of paint and silly sound effects, but the platforming/puzzle/problem solving fundamentals are still intact. This means I can still enjoy the titles my son is playing even if I'm forced into fetch-quests with Sponge-Bob.

The original story is another subtle example of how the sheep (our society) continue to be taught that it is someone else's responsability to protect them (police vs. personal firearms), care for them (medicare/prescriptions), and think for them (laws, regulations, signage).

Yea, if we could just make a few more laws, a couple more regulations, and just one more industry-oversight committee, we could finally achieve social utopia were we would all be able to stare blankly at Seinfield re-runs forever! [/sarcasm]

The simple solution (1)

hikerhat (678157) | more than 10 years ago | (#8321041)

I don't have kids, but I've always thought the simplest solution is to not let your kids have TVs and computers in their rooms. Keep the TVs and computers in the family room or something like that. When I was a kid I was afraid of viewing anything too objectionable to my parents since you never knew when they were going to walk through the room. That and our 8086 couldn't display photo-realistic graphics anyway.

One comment (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8321717)

This is just further proof that Harvard sucks. It's obvious that this is a politically motivated, politically biased pile of garbage. Too many crybabies, not enough strollers.

BearDogg-X

Re:One comment (0)

Pervertus (637664) | more than 10 years ago | (#8332817)

Hi. You are a stupid anonymous coward.

And I wanted to tell you I'm going to masturbate now. Wish me luck and lotsa sperm jets.

I think (parental) censorship is overvalued (1)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 10 years ago | (#8322689)

The idea of (even parental) censorship is not without value, but I think that it's overvalued.

The rationales for parental censorship that I can see go something like this (w/ my responses):

Issue: If I expose my child to this scary content, he/she is not old enough to have mental constructs or required knowledge in place to prevent him/her from being overwhelmed with irrational fear.

Response: I don't think I can agree. The mental constructs issue is, I think, not a convincing argument. The way people seem to develop contructs to deal with frightening-but-not-dangerous content is by being exposed to exactly that content. You can wait until they're twenty or start when they're six. I think that, ultimately, kids are going to have to have a few frightening-but-not-dangerous-experiences to learn how to deal with fright. My own parents put strict limits on what frightening movies I could watch as a child. The Thing was the first R-rated movie I saw. When I finally saw it, I was quite frightened. My friends, who had been watching frightening movies earlier than I was, were decidedly unintimidated. Today, I shrug off The Thing and similar movies. It took exposure to a good amount of frightening content, though, to build up that state of mond. I don't think that age is a factor so much as experience.

Knowledge base is a bit more convincing. I really think that a large factor is knowledge directly related to frightening content. In this case, parents can pretty easily talk about it. For example, we really don't have any reason to think that Jason from Friday the 13th could exist. It's just as reasonable to think that there's a horde of guardian angels running around overhead, a decidedly less frightening prospect. Furthermore, Jason is some guy in a (not all that great, frequently) costume. If a child is frightened by a movie, a parent can do a bit of explaining to avoid most of it.

I think that there *is* something to the argument that there is non-movie-specific knowledge that must be had to help deal with fear, however. Generally, if a movie represents something that isn't a possible danger, there's no reason to be frightened of it. A lot of things can be ruled out as possible dangers with a knowledge base -- i.e. it's pretty unlikely that an A.I. is going to fall in love with one of its creators and kill off the creator's spouse, because such behavior is not exactly easy to impart, is probably not easily accidently evolved in the kind of environment an A.I. exists in, and is pretty complex. There's not a lot of way to ensure that a child has a wide enough knowledge base to produce explanations and assign those explanations a high enough "convincing factor" (for lack of a better term). Furthermore, risk aversion is a common mental irrationality that humans are prone to that children seem to be even more vulnerable to. If shown something that is a real, potential danger, such as dying from a rattlesnake bite in California, people do not deal well with grappling with the very small degrees of probability involved, and will assign too much danger to that bite, even though car crashes pose a far greater risk to them. That's something that I think it takes a significant amount of experience to overcome. It is *possible* that a small child simply has not taken enough life risks and reasoned about them to be able to assign slight dangers a proper amount of risk.

Issue: Marketers design their campigns specifically to appeal to humans. I don't want them to be exposed to tobacco/alcohol, and let those marketers to get their hooks into my child.

Response: I really feel that a better way to deal with marketing of potentially harmful products to a child is to attempt to innoculate him to that product, rather than isolate him from it. You simply are not going to be able to shield a child forever from a product, and I think that it would be better to simply ensure that they can make an intelligent decision early on. Explaining to a child why cigarettes are bad (not lying or exaggerating), and letting them meet someone who has terminal lung cancer is, in my opinion, a much more persuasive argument than trying to simply say "You can't have cigarettes...because I TOLD you so!" At some point, children will question their parent's claims. If there's a well-supported set of points in place, they won't get overturned -- if there's nothing there other than "Dad told me so"...well...

Issue: I don't want to expose my child to pornography. It's a dirty habit to acquire, and it destroys family values. Plus, if my child becomes acquinted with sexual material before he/she is mature enough to make sexual decisions, he/she may make an early and unwise decision to have sex, a decidedly unpleasant possibility.

Response: Well...this is a tougher argument for me to make. Sex is pretty fundamental to the way people think. But let's see here.

Children are going to come into contact with pornography. That's just how life is. A parent might be able to postpone that contact by a few months or maybe a year or two, but when a kid starts feeling sexual urges and wants to see porn, that kid is going to see porn. At that point, you have a couple of options. The current predominant approach seems to be maintaining a facade that kids don't have access to porn, and forcing kids keep porn secret, and unable to discuss it with their parents. Frankly, I don't see that as a particularly great situation -- I really think that it would be better for a kid to be able to discuss as many things as possible with their parents. The "sex is a taboo subject" approach that seems to be par for the course means that kids just don't have the ability (and it grows harder the longer such a taboo is in place) to discuss sexually-related topics with their parents. At the very least, this becomes a very difficult topic to bring up. By the time the traditional birds-and-the-bees talk comes around, it's already usually a decidedly uncomfortable issue for all involved. That could be avoided if sex was not a taboo subject.

"Family values" are an interesting argument. They're frequently used, and I think that they *do* have some value. The rough idea of a moral set, as I understand it, is to have a set of irrational general rules. These responses tend to work well for their performer. They may sometimes produce suboptimal behavior, but they free the performer from having to do complex logical analysis on each problem to determine what they should do in a given situation -- they're a huge simplification. Furthermore, if a group of people adhere to a "moral code", even when decisions following that moral code are short-term suboptimal, and that group can rely on others in the group to make "moral decisions", there are a number of game-theoretic situations where the society as a whole can significantly benefit. A moral rule as an institution can provide a winning solution to prisoner's dillemma, for example, where conventional self-interested behavior does not.

The idea of "family values" is to have an institutionalized set of moral rules that produce irrational behavior. Can these have benefit? Yes. I *do* think that a better solution is to try to rationalize (rationalize in the scientific sense, not in the sense of introducting false reasoning to "apparently make rational") the same decision-making process, so that people have a rational justification for what they are doing. However, I realize that this may be a significant difficuly. I can't argue with the existence of family values having merit, but I think that my reasoning here provides a convincing argument that a pornography taboo should not be included in the canon.

The last issue to the pornography issue is addressing fears that a child may make unwise sexual decisions or make the decision to engage in sexual behavior too early if exposed to pornography.

I am somewhat dubious as to how closely tied pornography is to sexual behavior. This is only theorizing on my part, and not based on any studies I've read (and I think that this would be an impossible study -- too many uncontrolled factors). I would argue that pornography follows sexual urges, and that sexual behavior primarily follows sexual urges, not pornography. A kid probably finds out roughly what's involved in the sexual act pretty early on, whether his/her parents want him/her to or not. There may be missing details, but I remember sexual knowledge being pretty widespread at my own grade school before most students were experiencing significant sexual urges -- there was a facination with the unknown.

A decision to enage in sexual behavior takes in most of what kids know up to that point about sex. If their parents have given them information, that will get taken into account (with a number of other factors involved, such as how trustworthy their parents have been in the past, and whether their parents have overestimated risks in the past, in their opinion.) I would much rather that parents discuss sex fully and as early on as possible than think that by keeping their child uninformed and uncomfortable discussion sex with them, that the child is more likely to make intelligent and informed sexual decision.

Issue: I don't want to expose my child to violence in video games. I don't want them to become desentitized to violence.

Response: I think that it's a tough argument for folks claiming that video games do not desensitize people to violence -- to some degree. Note that this is like movies and other forms of culture containing violence (action figures and whatnot). There is a taboo, that gets built up, a moral rule providing some aversion to engaging in violence in real life, that video games really do reduce. So, yes, barring other factors becoming involved, violent video games probably do lower the threshhold to violence. On the other hand, "lowering the threshhold" is very, very different from "reducing it to zero". Unfortunately, a few recent media events (school shootings directly blamed on violent videogames and Lieberman's crusade) have tended to disort the degree to which videogames affect real-life violence.

I do not think that it is an easy argument to someone that their values may not be straight -- that letting kids play an entertaining video game outweights the risk of increased violence. The key is that I feel that the degree of violent increase is low.

There is one extremely *harmful* manner in which I feel that violence is censored in the media -- in video games, movies, etc. Violence without consequences. Frankly, I find it amazing that violence without consequences is not censorable, if anything, and that frequently our current censorship system pushes content into a position of *only* including violence without consequences.

The first may be one of the most egregious -- games and movies rarely depict realistic consequences of being shot. When a bad guy gets shot, a little hole appears and he immediately falls down. Maybe he says a few words in a gasping breath, then dies. What really happens when someone gets shot -- someone screaming on and on, crippling wounds, intestines or other bodily organs being damaged, all those "gross, unpleasant" things that accompany violence, are almost always not present in a movie or video game. If they are, a significant percentage of the time (I would guess more than half of the time) they are caricaturized or even humerous -- "look at that guy still standing up with ten gallons of blood flying out of his neck!". I find that to be much more conducive to violence than simply exposure to violence -- the separation of the rather unpleasant consequences of someone getting shot from them actually getting shot. I do not believe that this is a natural state of affairs -- is is a sort of false front, an illusional world of instant-death paper-cutout bad guys created by the censorship system that we have imposed to rate movies. Why "cartoon violence" rates as more acceptable than "realistic violence", and is hence more common, has long been a mystery to me. It seems to be a great misstep, to produce the exact opposite effect. It prevents people from obtaining all the information they need, from their brain from making the connections that they need to realize what happens if *they* pull a trigger.

Video games *frequently* contain this. The most bizarre form of censorsihp may be the 'zombie blood" that many European nations mandate. Somehow, red blood resulting from a shot is dangerous to the psyche, but green blood is not. Many video games (especially those released on a Nintendo console) had characters that died by simply cleanly and surgically exploding (very odd if the thing being killed was organic) rather than leaving blood and whatnot around.

When you combine this with the non-censorship induced fact that movie policemen and similar are almost never constrained to the rules of gun usage that they are in real life, and usually don't suffer legal consequences for misusing guns, you have a world where almost all media input to a child contains guns that act almost like toys, cleanly eliminate problems, don't leave a messy death, and don't cause problems for the wielders. I don't particularly see this as avoided by censorship -- I see this as being exacerbated by censorship. I'd *like* to see a game where a partner can accidently be shot by friendly fire, and a character have to suffer the consequences.

Well, this is all personal opinion. A lot of it is theorizing, just coming from ongoing personal thinking, rather than reading studies of others, so it isn't well supported. It wouldn't surprise me if there are logical errors present, but I think that the bulk of what I've said here has merit.
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