I am sick of people complaining about the ESRB rating system. Normally I post about music but today I am going to do my videogame duty and explain to you why the ESRB rating system is just fine, and I am going to do it in 5 basic points.

First: the ESRB rating system is just fine and needs little improvement.

I am well aware of the fact the ESRB rating board does not actually play any of the games and makes their decisions solely based off of gameplay videos highlighting the games most inappropriate aspects. This method of evaluation is adequate despite what some people think. The job of the ESRB is to evaluate mature content, not to put it into context or situation. Who cares why the bad guys are being shot up or why you character is cursing? If the gameplay video shows significant mature themes, then the game should get an M rating regardless of the context.

That does not mean that the ESRB is a perfect system, the hot coffee controversy being evidence enough. But for the most part they fairly evaluate games based on content and provide an age appropriate rating. The hot coffee incident was an isolated blunder based off their ignorance of how mods, hacking and game content work. But as I stated, they rate content not context.

Second: Who cares that some “mature” games are more “mature” than others?

We all know that Grand Theft Auto IV has more mature content than Halo 3, but yet they both have an M rating. So what? This only causes a dilemma for children who want to play games outside their age range. The fact doesn’t change that people under the age of 17 shouldn’t be buying these games without parental permission, despite knowing that some games are more “mature” in its content than other mature games. Both Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV meet the minimum requirements for an M rating, it just so happens that GTA IV goes well beyond that of Halo 3. Both games are not intended for children and therefore the point is moot. Which one is more inappropriate no longer matters because all that matters is that children should not be playing them to begin with.

Third: Kids under 17 are mature enough to handle most M rated games so why can’t they buy them?

Because you have to draw the line at some point: violent movies are rated R, so why not make the age 17 for M rated games? Like the movies, a parent may take the child to see it, just as a parent may supervise the purchase of an M rated game for someone under the age of 17. The real goal of the mature rating is to prevent young children from purchasing the said games. Parents who feel their 15-16 year old child can handle the content are more than welcome to supervise their child’s purchase.

kid who was denied Fallout 3 for being M rated, spent the rest of the day crying

Fourth: the ESRB censors content by awarding AO ratings.

Not really. The ESRB only gives AO ratings (in practice) to games that contain explicit hardcore sexual activity. Now in a way this does “limit” creativity because game developers will not makes games with that type of sexual content. But one forgets that the ESRB only gives out ratings based on content. It is stores like Wal-Mart and Gamestop that prohibit the sales of AO games, not the ESRB. If you feel strongly enough about the situation, than you should boycott the stores and write their CEOs until they start allowing AO games to be sold because they are the true “censors”.

Fifth: The current ratings are not unfair.

In all my years of gaming, I have only once come upon a game that was rated unfairly and that was Area 51 for Sega Saturn. It was rated M but clearly did not contain the minimum standard for blood and gore to receive such a rating. Now this was well over ten years ago, probably 15 years at this point and was hardly significant to the bigger picture. The biggest controversy in the ESRB was between the E and the T rating because that accounts for 8 years of childhood. It generally resulted in games being rated T that were appropriate for kids under 13 but not appropriate for children who were 6. The ESRB than made the right decision and created the E-10 rating. The difference between T and M is only half that. Do we really need a T-14 or T-15? The current system adequately represents all major age groups without becoming obnoxious and overly pedantic.

Rated M?

I am not sure what else to say in conclusion except that the ESRB ratings are fair and underage kids should deal with it. You have your entire life to play mature games.