The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 12
As he passed the game over the scanner, it beeped and flashed a notice up on the screen. He gave the required spiel, saying, "Ma'am, you do know that this game is rated Mature for sci-fi violence, language, and blood and gore?"
The other girl behind the counter laughed and said, "You know, the good stuff."
The mom nodded apathetically, took the game, and gave it to her kids who eagerly ran to the car.
Get to the car! I need to shout at people over Live in a squeaky voice!
Sound familiar? It should. That's exactly what happened way back in the day when I was a minor finally convinced Mom to buy me a launch copy of Halo 3. Scenes like this play out across the gaming world. This is the current state of our industry, and it sucks. Too many parents are woefully uneducated about the ratings system and video games in general. It's time we fixed that.
Let's start with the problem. The ESRB currently ranks games on a scale of eC - AO. It's a decent scale, but has become far too inadequate for the complexities of modern gaming. As of now, the system consists of four major rankings (eC and AO are rarely used):
Surprisingly, only this many games have been rated AO.
The problem with this scale is that while it presents a general idea of a game's content, it's only that- general. Any gamer can tell you that although Halo 3 and, say, Resident Evil 5 are both rated M, there's a world of difference (and about 500 zombies) between them. The worst part is that neither of them are nearly as bloody as God of War or MadWorld, both of which are also M. (!). Watch the MadWorld video, I dare you. It's pretty graphic, no pun intended. Yet that somehow still earns the same rating as the relatively tame Halo 3.
An unsuspecting parent who's used to Modern Warfare 2 (which isn't particularly bad, except for the infamous airport level and one other awesome moment) might think that all M games are just as appropriate and buy their kids something like Grand Theft Auto... even though Rockstar has issued a public warning about their games.
We need a more accurate system. A kid who might be ready for Halo (is this why there are so many irritating 12 year olds on Halo 3?) might not have the maturity for a more disturbing game like BioShock.
"Now watch as she screams in agony while burning alive! Kids? Are you watching?"
So, I propose this fix. We split the Mature rating into two or more categories in order to more accurately reflect the content of a game. The ESRB created the E10+ rating to be more accurate, so it wouldn't be much of a stretch to do it again. I'm not sure what it would be called, but maybe the new system could be something like:
T for TeenMT for Mature TeenM for Mature
The new MT ranking would be bestowed upon games too violent to be T but tame by M standards. M would then signify a game that is for older audiences, but still appropriate for mass market. I imagine some of the rougher games like Condemned would earn an M, but Mass Effect could probably slip by with an MT.
Just so long as they keep Miranda.
That's about it for my ideas. To wrap up, games are quickly becoming the dominant form of entertainment in our culture. They are growing and maturing into something new and awesome. However, that just means that we have to be even more careful, because kids are more important.
What do you guys think?