Video Games

Video Game Industry to Launch Needless New Ratings Campaign to Stop Folks Trying to Score Political Points Off Them

Expect more PSAs trying to reach parents who probably don't actually care what their kids are playing


"I'm 78 and what is this?"
Mortal Kombat 9

For 18 years now, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has labeled the contents of all video games sold through retail outlets, informing parents about the terrible, awful things that go on in Mortal Kombat, in the event the game title didn't make it clear.

Even so, yet another small burst of coverage about violent video games churned up in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. In what is obviously an attempt to respond to anybody who actually thinks parents out there just don't know what goes on in those crazy video games ("Assassin's Creed is about world history, Mom!"), the ESRB is embarking in a new information campaign. The goal is to hit the 15 percent of parents (in their own estimate) who don't know of the ratings system so that they can clearly grasp that the video game with military men on the cover are shooting guns at each other.

You can read about their informational campaign here. The press release writers seem to have made a game of their own of how much corporate jargon can be tossed in ("Coordinate with video game retailers to use both their physical store footprints and dedicated online networks to educate millions of their customers about video game ratings and parental controls").

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) dragged in Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) to give their stamps of approval. It would have been better to leave them out. What's good about the ESRB is that it is industry self-regulation outside government mandates. But as the responses to the Sandy Hook tragedy showed, there are plenty of people who would like to get the government involved in gaming regulation, Supreme Court ruling notwithstanding. If the ESA thinks politicians or organizations like the National Rifle Association won't continue to target video games to score political points with certain electoral bases, I've got a swamp stage for sale, suitable for either a platformer or an RPG.

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  1. Why can’t people just let hysterical outcries fade away? Have we become that impatient? I blame video games.

  2. What’s good about the ESRB is that it is industry self-regulation outside government mandates.

    The ESRB, like the MPAA ratings, Explicit Content warnings, and the Comics Code before it, is just an effort by the industry to forestall government censorship by basically sticking their fingers in their own butts before the feds can get a chance to. I’m not convinced that such institutions would exist without the Nanny State breathing down the industries’ necks. If only because without the Nanny State, people might not be such whiny little girls ready to invoke the heckler’s veto at any moment.

    1. Oh, they wouldn’t – but really, the choice is pretty much stick your own well-lubed pinky up your but to the first knuckle or let the government jam its dry thumb up in there as far as it will go.

      1. The government never trims its nails, either.

    2. Disagree.. a better example would be the Master Builders Association down in downunderland, industry self-regulation at it’s finest…

  3. Has the gun industry thought of a voluntary grading system for their products?

    1. Nah, the government needs ta step in and set it, goesa like this:
      1. Double barrel shotguns, approved self-defense weapons/
      2. Handguns, small concealed killing machines.
      3. Assault Weapons, super scary guns dat look like military weapons…

      Though in all seriousness beside my lame joke, seems like they already do, an assault rifle being any select-fire weapon firing an intermediate rifle round, sub machine guns being select-fire weapons that fire pistol rounds n such, and a lot of designations have come about cause of the MIC.. such STANAG, NATO, etc…. idunno im not a gun person…

  4. As I mentioned elsewhere, I work on edutainment games for the 4-9 target market (most of it being geared toward girls) and the games’ content is sanitized to inanity. When we use Disney characters, licensor review can get gruesome… and of course the pronounciation of “Uranus” had to be changed to a less suggestive one.

    1. Klingons are orbiting around Uranus!

    2. I’m sorry neoteny, but astronomers renamed Uranus in 2620 to end that stupid joke once and for all.

      1. What’s it called now?


    3. “oo-RAN-us”? “YUR-a-nus”?

      1. Certainly not “YUR-a-nus”, too much potential for pee jokes.

  5. Just finished playing the new Tomb Raider and the death scenes in that are some of the most gruesome I can remember. They are also awesome. But the idea that a “new” ratings sticker with more categories of scary language will do anything other than make that 11 year old want the game more than ever is ridiculous, especially to anyone who’s even been a video game playing 11 year old boy (or girl).

    I don’t understand why these pro-sticker people don’t realize the fallacy in their actions. Ok, maybe I do, but they are still morons.

    On a side not, Tomb Raider was a pretty good game but again, just like in Assassins Creed 3, they totally decided to end the game without any major fight or boss worthy of the game up to that point. It’s like they reached the end of the story and said “Fuck it, put a few bad guys in there and call it a day”. This seems to be a recurring theme lately and it’s pissing me off.

    1. Just want to say that whoever is responsible for the end of Assassin’s Creed 3 can suck a fat dick.

      1. Jesus that was terrible. The game itself was pretty neat and since I grew up in Boston it was fascinating to run around Middlesex county reliving the Revolutionary war, especially the meticulous way that UbiSoft has those historical references in game for further details.

        But holy shit did they just completely fuck off the ending. It’s not as bad in Tomb Raider but it’s the same problem. Why would you spend all that time on the game just to end it with such a let down?

        I don’t get it.

        1. Yeah, I really didn’t get it either. There were a lot of things I didn’t love about the game, but overall it was good and there were a lot of really fun elements. But for all the complaints I did have, the end was just like…okay that is just fucked.

          1. Well, that’s what both of you get for playing a stealth game. You probably like Hitman too. God, you people disgust me.

            1. Could be worse. They could be playing Sim City.

              1. Don’t you judge me, asshole!

                I haven’t played the new one, I’m too busy schtupping whores and vampires (who are also whores) in the first Witcher. The game seriously drags, but I want to import a saved game into the second game, which is supposed to be better.

                1. That’s actually a pretty good game. I never finished it, but one day I will go back and do so. The thing that really bugs me about the Witcher, is the combat. It really sucks.

                  I just can’t figure out how to enjoy the combat, but the games are still very entertaining, both 1 and 2.

                  The 2nd game is better, sort of. You need a serious machine to run it on with max settings if you are playing PC.

                  1. I actually got a new, high-end laptop to play the first Witcher when it came out, got half way through and stopped caring. I’ve decided to revisit it and frog march myself through the boring bits. I’m continually impressed by how poorly optimized the first game was, I’m sad to hear that the second one is also a resource hog, and yes combat blows.

                    1. I’m continually impressed by how poorly optimized the first game was, I’m sad to hear that the second one is also a resource hog, and yes combat blows.

                      Witcher 2 might just be the worst resource hog of all time. I had a decent PC before I recently upgraded, and I couldn’t play it on max settings. It was even choppy on medium settings. In contrast, I was playing Skyrim on max settings without a stutter. Probably the only game I have seen that comes close to being such a hog, is Sleeping Dogs.

              2. Nobody is playing SimCity.

                1. Nobody is playing SimCity.


            2. Hitman:Blood Money was awesome.

              The Opera house sequence where you assassinate three people and never fire a single shot is EPIC. And drugging the donuts for the FBI dudes so they fall asleep? Classic.

              I think the new one is a step back though.

            3. My eye/hand coordination is terrible. The only games I can play are usually the slower paced stealth type games. Even then, the video can make me nauseous. My wife is playing Dishonored and I get sick watching it.


            Yep……sure did. (crawls in to the fetal position)…

            I will say I’m cautiously excited about the new one, Assassins Creed 4, in which they take the best part of AC3-the ship battles- and make it in to a new game. But I’ve been fooled before.

            1. I only own the 2nd one. I had to wait until it was $4 linked from deals4downloads, and so thought, what the hell? I started playing it but never got very far. Started playing Dragon Age 2, which is a much better game than the ratings indicate.

              1. I get a little OCD/completionist when I’m playing some of these games and give up when minute side quests get dull. I very nearly finished DA 1, and got about half way through AC 1. I played ME 1 and 2 but haven’t ponied up for 3 yet.

                1. Dragon Age 1, one of the greatest PC games of all time. Lots of gamers are turned off by the turned base party style combat. But I actually like it, it’s even more fun in 2.

                  I think I have the OCD gaming syndrome also. Sometimes I think I like buying games more than playing as many as I own that haven’t been finished.

        2. It can’t be worse than the Mass Effect 3 ending. I was certain that George Lucas wrote it.

          1. Worst game ending of all time, for a good game, Fallout 3. I still think about just driving down to Rockville and kicking some asses over that shit. But I forgive them a little for giving me Skyrim, a game with no end.

    2. Good, boss fights suck. They tend to tank any immersion in a game. Either they’re boring long slugfests against an NPC who’s major strength is that he has a bajillion HP or it jerks you out of the gameplay you’ve been enjoying to force you to play in a way you hate (Human Revolution I’m looking at you).

      1. HR was fun, but I can see the boss fights being an absolute colossal pain in the ass if you’re going for a Pacifist or pure stealth game.

        The bosses weren’t the immersion-killing problem in that game though; the zombies were. Really now, zombies? What the fuck do I want with zombies when I’m playing a near-future sci-fi stealth game?

        I’m so sick of fucking zombies.

        1. The HR boss fights were farmed out to a different developer. That’s why they were so different from the rest of the game.

      2. That’s my one complaint with Borderlands 2 as a solo player. On True Vault Hunter Mode, the boss fights are either (a) impossible or (b) boring (you fort up where the boss can’t touch you and pepper him to death sloooowly). And I’m rocking three Legendary weapons at this point, too.

        I actually put B2 down this weekend and geared up for my second playthrough of FONV.

  6. That just looks liek its gonna be cool man. Wow.

  7. Poor Gen Y and Gen Z. No matter how historically peaceful their generation may be, their hobbies are going to continue to be targeted by demagogues looking for easy scare tactics to motivate the golden oldies who will sap their paycheques for the next fifty years.

    But as for me and my house, we’ll be playing Heart of the Swarm for the next week.

    1. Is that good? Isn’t that a strategy?

      1. Yeah, the Starcraft 2 expansion. Strategy all the way.

    2. I’m pre-loading it now.

  8. What about the parents that play violent video games themselves and who are not going to stop no matter what the nanny-bots do?

    What about that?, assholes! Keep your grimy paws off my violent games!

  9. As is often brought up in these debates, I’m pretty sure the Bible has been cited far more than any song, video game, or movie in mass murderer apologia. Of course, banning or rating its verses would be equally absurd. . .and illegal, if the government were involved.

    1. When my children come of age, I’m going to have them take a seat out in the garage to witness the hour-long ordeal of a housecat dispatching a mouse. If, after that, they insist on sanitized Disney entertainment and a reality-free existence featuring gun control and free shit paid for via taxation, off to the orphans’ home they go.

  10. Huh, so the gaming industry thinks that if they act first, quickly and out front, they’ll avoid the scrutiny of the world’s greatest deliberative body.

    Lulz all around.

  11. This strikes me as a no-lose deal for the ESRB. They are essentially announcing that, henceforth, hyperviolent videogames will be no-folling marketed as such, which seems to me will increase sales.

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