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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Interview With Patricia Vance on ESRB Ratings

Just how the ESRB rates games is often a source of wonderment and curiosity ... actually it isn't, but it should be considering that the ratings on games is a central point in the controversy of what games should be handled by what people of what ages and all that.

Curmudgeon Gamer's own Matt Matthews talks to the woman who can answer these often unasked questions. Here's a sample:

I can't speak to the rating process for any one game, but generally speaking, things like language -- bathroom humor, plays on words, slang -- fictitious or non-descript substances, or use of religious imagery can often be tricky. The presence of sensitive social issues in games, like sexual or racial stereotyping for example, have also led to internal debate about how best to address them from a ratings standpoint.

Though it might surprise people to hear it, low-level or cartoon violence actually tends to be something that receives a lot of thought and discussion. Take for instance an animated character that smacks another over the head with a frying pan. Is that Comic Mischief or Mild Cartoon Violence? To a degree, that's going to depend a lot on the depiction itself. What happened to the character when he got hit? How malicious or realistic was the violent act? How often does it occur? Context is also a consideration. What prompted the action? Is it player-controlled, or is it in a cut-scene?
-- This Game Is Not Yet Rated: Inside The ESRB Ratings System [Gamasutra]

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