ESRB introduces automated rating system for downloadable games

| Apr 18, 2011

The computers have usurped the ESRB’s primary responsibility.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board has announced that, starting today, they will be taking humans out of the equation and using a new automated system to rate games released on digital platforms like the Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network. The program is reportedly designed to replicate the tastes of the average American consumer.

Under the new system, any developer who submits an online game to the ESRB must fill out a digital questionnaire detailing the game’s content. Categories include things like offensive language, violence and sexual content, and each category is then split into highly specific sub-categories. Offensive language, for example, is split into minor profanities, epithets, toilet humor, racial obscenities, sexual vulgarisms, and a final category devoted to the word “ass.”  The program takes everything into account and spits out an ESRB rating based on the data.

Someone at the ESRB will play each game shortly after its release and penalties will be given out to those who submit false information. The new system will only be used to rate online games, so retail titles will still be subjected to the same review process that the ESRB has employed for years. The ESRB typically receives a DVD with some of a game’s worst content, and a three-person panel assigns an appropriate rating based on the footage that they see.

The ESRB rates hundreds of games each year, so introducing a new system to help deal with the flood of online games makes a certain amount of sense. What’s illogical is delaying the human review until after a game’s release, and it certainly seems like an invitation for disaster. If Portal taught me anything, it’s that you never want to trust a computer.

Source: New York Times

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