The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
Platformers, shooters; simulators, fighters; educational, not-so-educational. Each
game has its own feel, its own pull, its own audience. Some are meant purely
for the young, while others are meant exclusively for the adult. However, the
in-between is the crucial point where there often seems to be a disparity in
our industry's very own "trusted" ratings system.
For starters, let me get things
out of the way: I am sixteen years old, meaning I fall one year short of the
pre-requisite for purchasing Mature-rated video games. However, this is not a
plea of disdain by the fact that I am under age. My family has since decided
three years ago, that I am of mature-enough mind to play games with extended
themes within them (with certain cut-offs, of course). Instead, this is a
simple thought that has come up every time I purchase a new game from Gamestop:
"What I'm purchasing isn't as bad as the
ratings make it sound. Why is this game rated the way it is?"
As it goes, most genres have
already plugged themselves into an area of content "safety" simply by their
design. It normally goes without saying that a platformer will be rated 'E for
Everyone'. Same for racing games, which garner an E or a 'T for Teen'. Games
with shooting mechanics, by our standards, will naturally brand themselves with
an 'M for Mature' rating on the box art. And for a lot of these games, the ESRB
ratings system holds true. A platformer will normally have you jump around in a
fantastical world, filled with imaginary creatures and unique interactions. A
shooter, or action game, will more-than-likely feature the main character
But is the industry as
black-and-white as the ESRB makes it seem?A rated-M game will normally attract
for its use of "Blood and Gore", "Strong Language", "Sexual Content", and
"Intense Violence". A T game, is not that far off, with "Violence", "Infrequent
Strong Language", and "Blood", E for Everyone, contains "Minimal Use of Fantasy
Violence" and the such. These ratings seem pretty sound and reasonable, but the
way that content in games are scrutinized, sometimes breaks the trust.
One example is Ratchet &
Clank. For the PSP iteration of the franchise, It generated an E10, for the
sole reason that it featured "Use of Alcohol". What was this use of alcohol? A
half-filled martini sitting on a table as Ratchet sun-bathes. Ratchet &
Clank: Deadlocked was handed a T rating, for having a "darker" tone than
previous installments. However, Europe's PEGI system gave both games a 3+
rating, meaning it was okay for any person at least 3 years old to watch or
A classic example, for better
voicing, is Halo. The franchise is nothing short of arcade-y, and features mild
cursing and current violence throughout. Blood spatter is infrequent, although
it does happen, and the killing of enemies is frequent. Those two factors are
the main force driving ESRB's decision to rate all Halo games 17 and up: The
fact that they feature killing, and dynamic blood. By PEGI's standards, it was
rated 16+, allowing sixteen-year-olds to play its content.
A huge contender to this point
is the inconsistency in rating, as the recent Batman: Arkham City has a calming
T rating. However, I recall a lot of the circumstances to be much darker,
graphic, and disturbing in that game, as compared to Halo. Yet, a parent will
buy Arkham City without breaking much of a sweat, while the moment Halo or The
Elder Scrolls IV are described, every thought process starts second guessing
itself. Batman features psychotic criminality, a sexy Catwoman being called
"B****" , pummeling people to near-death, hostages die, criminals have lines that
speak openly of pornography, and also gunfire. These circumstances are all
brought together in an atmosphere that is much grimmer than even some M games.
Yet, it's rated T because the protagonist does not outright kill people, and
there is not dynamic blood. Forget the sexual themes, suggestive substances,
and tone. PEGI, on the other hand, rated this game an 18+, making this the
M-game out of the bunch.
For the most part, our own
ratings system works, and works fine. Only problem, is that little things need
to be tweaked so that this kind of confusion and justification don't need to
happen on both ends. What could help adjust these problems?
For one, a more realistic
approach to content scrutiny would be nice. Rather than pain all video games in
a bad light, look at the actions in larger context, in terms of atmosphere,
purpose, motivation, and intensity. Granted, intensity is already looked at for
violence, but how the violence is implemented and other themes such as
sexuality and language can be looked at without placing hands over their eyes.
It seems like many games are little worse than the content we see in PG-13
movies. It's a pretty large jump, for the same content in a Mature-rated game
to be found in a PG-13 movie. Heck, PG-13 films are allowed to feature one
F-bomb per movie, which is something that would never fly in T ratings.
Second point is to have more
encompassing ratings, rather than such large jumps. This wouldn't be a problem,
if not for the fact that any game with the first sight of violence immediately
jumps to an M. When you look at it, the ages of 3, 7, 10, 13, and last 17 seem
fairly reasonable. However, in the four years from 13 to 17, teenagers will
have seen and heard more graphic language, sexual content, and violence than
most video games even dare to push.
Why not try out something
similar to PEGI's system? Have more breaks during the teen years. 3, 7, 12, 16,
and 18 seems more reasonable, and their scrutiny more logical, than our own.
I'll know without a doubt that Heavy Rain or Grand Theft Auto are both M and
18+, but what about Arkham City, Halo, The Elder Scrolls, or even The Sims
gives them their rating? The line is gray, and most decisions are obvious, but
many others are not.
In closing, what do you guys
think? Is the ratings system justified, or could it use an update in today's
ecosystem of media? Are there other games that don't deserve their rating,
either two low or too high? Am I complaining unjustly and should get over
I'm open to all comments, so
feel free to sound off below. As always,