The Entertainment Software Rating Board today rolled out a new set of game rating summaries on their website geared toward parents looking to find out more information about the games they're letting their children play. Now the ESRB website lists the rating and content descriptors as well as a brief synopsis of the game. Take, for instance, this explanation of Call of Duty: World at War:
Call of Duty: World at War is a first-person shooter in which players assume the role of Allied soldiers in both the European and Pacific Fronts during World War II. Combat can be intense with extensive use of camera effects (e.g., slow-motion, blurring, and screen shakes) and realistic sound effects to highlight the tense and frenetic nature of each battle. Fighting is fast-paced with players using a large array of military weapons (guns, grenades, and flamethrowers). Collateral damage includes sprays of red blood when enemies are shot; maimed appendages from explosions; and flailing and screaming when enemies are set on fire. Cutscenes and historical footage can contain graphic depictions of prisoner/POW executions. Strong profanity can be heard during gameplay (e.g., "f*ck" and "sh*t").
Sounds like a fantastic idea to me. I've long argued that the ratings were sometimes too nebulous when it came to certain games, and most certainly when it comes to shooters. And I'm not the only one who likes the idea. Both Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joseph Lieberman, who once stood together to attack the current rating system, are big fans:Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) "This new supplement to the ratings is a real gift for parents as we head into this holiday season. Parents need all the information they can get to make more informed decisions about what’s appropriate for their children. These new rating summaries offer more helpful information than ever before to help parents to get involved and get informed." Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) “For well over a decade I have called upon the video game industry to inform consumers about the content in video games so they could make the right choices for their children. One result was the creation of the ESRB rating system, which provides useful guidance to parents about game content and age-appropriateness. The ESRB has now taken consumer education one step further with their new rating summaries, which provide a greater level of detail about game content to help parents be even more prepared to make informed game selections for their children. I applaud the ESRB for taking this proactive step to inform video game consumers.” While the World at War description seems spot on, I do wonder who will end up writing these once the system has been in place for awhile. Hopefully not the publishers.