A Look At How The ESRB Rates Video Games

Illustration for article titled A Look At How The ESRB Rates Video Games

Danny O’Dwyer’s Noclip documentary series recently got the chance to visit the ESRB and see just how the organization works.

The 44-minute video touches on a number of topics. First, it’s a pretty good history of the ESRB, detailing their origins in the wake of social and political hysteria surrounding video game violence in the 1990s.


Next, it goes behind the scenes, meets several key employees and shows not just how the ESRB works in the U.S., but how they cooperate with other international ratings boards as well.

Finally, and perhaps least satisfactorily, it raises the question of what the ESRB is going to do in the future, and how they’re reacting to more contemporary controversies like loot boxes. Here, the ESRB’s answers aren’t going to impress anyone hoping the organization is as opposed to publisher’s predatory pricing strategies as consumers are.

Luke Plunkett is a Senior Editor based in Canberra, Australia. He has written a book on cosplay, designed a game about airplanes, and also runs cosplay.kotaku.com.

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I don’t really think it should be the ESRB’s concern to worry about in-game purchases. Their job is to provide general age recommendations. When it comes to buying things in games with real money, parents control the money 99% of the time. Sure you get horror stories about how a kid spent $28384 in candy crush. But you also have 8 year olds playing mortal kombat (which is way, way worse now than when I was a kid).

Parents either approve of spending a couple bucks here and there on a case by case basis or they set up an allowance. By the time someone can actually ruin their life from lootbox gambling, they’re not kids anymore and a warning label on the side of the game isn’t going to help them any more than labels on boxes of cigarettes helps smokers.