“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” – Edmund Burke
Gaming has evolved since the 90’s. While Doom was once considered once of the most graphic games on the market, comparing it to todays standards of Bioshock, The Grand Theft Auto series and countless others, Doom doesn’t justify its Mature rating anymore.
However, when Doom was re-released on the Xbox Live Arcade, the ESRB Rating remained the same.
The suggestion that games shouldn’t be re-assessed upon being released on a virtual console, after years of changes in the graphical capabilities, or changes in what society considers acceptable is preposterous.
The ESRB slaps a Mature rating on a majority of games and proceeds to believe that the small labels, EX: Language, Sexual content, Violence and Gore, are all sufficient for informing those who do not play games what is appropriate.
With ESRB ratings slowly becoming more and more enforced, some stores refusing to sell games to young adults without ID, or those under the age of 17.
With this in mind, the ESRB ratings slowly become more of an issue – specifically putting an Mature rating on most games. It limits the amount the younger consumers can purchase for themselves, and when every game your child wants has an Mature rating, it seems safe enough to purchase more for them. But it leaves those who know nothing about video games wondering.. What kind of intensity of language is it? How much violence? When does the game have intense blood and gore?
The ESRB works on a screen shot based system. You send in some screen shots, what the games story is about, and the ESRB gives you a label. This means the game is never played by those who rate them. The game that you are playing and have followed the label to understand what the content is, means nothing.
Putting a Mature rating on a game is much safer to do then actually think about what rating you are giving it.
How long has it been since you’ve played a T game(or lower) that hasn’t been Nintendo, and you’ve throughly enjoyed it? Having trouble answering?
‘Wait!’ you cry. ‘Family entertainment just isn’t for me!’ Family entertainment? Any recent Marvel movie that has graced our local theaters, television screens or portable devices, are all considered “family entertainment”. The stark differences between film ratings and the ESRB ratings is that parents often watch movies as they grew up with them. Knowing if the Avengers is appropriate for your child by reading the synopsis and watching a trailer is much easier then figuring out if the latest Halo is appropriate for your child.
There are countless stories circulating the Internet regarding the inaccessibility of the ESRB ratings. People who don’t play games and are purchasing games for a younger sibling, child, grandchild, or friend, often don’t realize the content of a game, and that has led to an explosion of younger aged players in Activision’s Call of Duty line up. Think about it – one of your friends plays a video game that you enjoy.. Even though it has a bad rating on it, kids are crafty enough to convince their parents to get it for them.
The ESRB rating is intended to be a safe guide for those who don’t play games to view. They can pick and choose a game in the appropriate age category, but the problem is, a good majority of games are now rated Mature – so when you are in an EB games and a wall of mature games hits you, it becomes a pick your poison sort of situation.
Or in the case of many, pick your childs poison.
I would never say video games are a bad thing – I’ve grown up playing them my entire life. They’ve inspired a sense of community and I’ve met many wonderful people through it all.
However I’m also not saying every child should be allowed to play a Mature rated game.. And there are certain games I would never suggest a child plays, regardless of maturity.
What games we play helps to define a few things as we grow up. It defines our gaming tastes and what we will be interested in playing for [probably] the rest of our lives. Some of the first games I played actively were Real time strategy games, and I can say that those are some of my favorite games to play now.
Whether that is because of nostalgia or because that is what I was exposed to as a child is a whole other story.
They also define what we deem acceptable. If a child from a young age plays Bioshock on a regular basis, they may consider Bioshock to be a game that everyone should be playing around their age.
Of course, the ESRB ratings are not all to blame – we have to remember that parents have a responsibility of teaching their children that just because they play a more mature game, doesn’t mean Jimmy next door can play that exact same game. Families have different morales, and its something that helps create a diverse – yet wonderful – gaming culture.
The ESRB can never rate online gaming experiences, and hopefully, will never try. You never know what kind of person is on the other end of the computer, or console, and it probably isn’t the best idea to let your children figure out.
The ESRB, however, can be upheld for the content ratings on offline experiences. Which is why the idea of the Mature rating is so appealing. If you cover your bases and make it known that this game is not appropriate for persons under the age of 17, who can you get upset at when your child is playing a game with frequent violent and sexual scenes?
It was on the label, after all.