Video Game Ratings

A brand new campaign to better the understanding of the current video game rating system has been announced by an association for the gaming industry. The ESA (Entertainment Software Association) and the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) are set to begin a new series of Public Service Announcements.

This comes in light of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, combined with recent gun violence, and the suggestion that gaming correlates with these outbursts.

The ESA and the ESRB are going to roll out what appears to be an aggressive campaign of PSAs to try and push parents towards understanding and using the ratings that accompany video games.

Here’s a quote that came with the press release containing this news. The quote comes from Republican US Senator John Thune from South Dakota.

“No one knows better than parents when it comes to making decisions about which games their children should and should not play…The video game industry makes games for people of all ages, but that doesn’t mean all games are appropriate for everyone. I commend the industry for raising awareness of the tools available to parents that can help them make informed decisions about the games their children play.”

It’s refreshing to see that a ranking government official understands what the gaming industry is already doing.

As the father of a kid rapidly approaching an age that will start consuming video games (and as a gamer who understands the medium), the best advice I can offer any parent in regards to games in the home is this: pay attention to the ratings. The ESRB works hard to make sure that their ratings are succinct and extremely specific. If a game even references the presence of opium in ancient China, for instance, the ESRB rating will include a note about drugs. That also goes for sex and violence.

Pay attention.

Hit the button below for the full release from the ESA.

VIDEO GAME INDUSTRY ANNOUNCES RATINGS, PARENTAL CONTROLS EDUCATION CAMPAIGN

National Campaign to Utilize Video Game Industry’s Unique Connections with Players, Parents

Washington, DC – March 11, 2013 – The U.S. video game industry today announced a new national public education campaign to educate American parents further about the tools and information available so they can manage the entertainment choices for their families. The campaign’s focal point will be a new series of Public Service Announcements (PSA) encouraging parents to review the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) video game ratings and utilize existing video game console parental controls.

“This campaign will connect with consumers in an immediate and sustained way in addition to the traditional mechanisms over TV outlets. By channeling our industry’s compelling and innovative medium, we will instantly provide proven, practical, and effective information to millions of consumers,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the U.S. trade association representing video game publishers.

“No one knows better than parents when it comes to making decisions about which games their children should and should not play,” said U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. “The video game industry makes games for people of all ages, but that doesn’t mean all games are appropriate for everyone. I commend the industry for raising awareness of the tools available to parents that can help them make informed decisions about the games their children play.”

Every month, the video game industry has more than 300 million interactions with consumers through online storefronts and video game play. Leveraging this energy and passion, the industry will:

  • Enhance public education efforts around video game ratings and parental controls by developing and funding a series of new PSAs;
  • Utilize the unique interconnectivity and reach of the video game industry’s platforms to promote these public service messages and related content;
  • 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;
  • Work with policy makers to extend the proven ESRB rating system to the broader games ecosystem of smart phones, tablets, and online social games; and,
  • Support and partner with non-profits using video games for educational and other pro-social purposes.

“The more parents know about the wealth of dynamic tools the video game industry has developed for monitoring game play, the more empowered they will be to make informed decisions about which video games are appropriate for their family. I commend the video game industry for recognizing the importance of educating and engaging parents about the ratings and other resources and for leading a national program that will ensure the decision-making power remains where it should be – with parents,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23).

Specifically, the video game industry stated that they will accomplish their objectives by:

  • Featuring new PSAs on video game platforms that will expand on the series already completed and available here;
  • Providing consumers with information on video game-specific web sites and online stores;
  • Providing PSAs to video game industry news and fan discussion sites for use;
  • Encouraging broadcast outlets to run the PSAs on local channels;
  • Working with federal and state elected officials to provide rating and parental control information to their constituents; and,
  • Distributing PSAs to retailers for use on their in-store and online channels.

“Our industry has a long-standing, high-quality track record of empowering parents,” said Mr. Gallagher. “The Federal Trade Commission described the ESRB as having the strongest self-regulatory code with regard to its marketing guidelines and enforcement system. Today we will build on that success.”

According to industry statistics, approximately half of American homes have at least one video game console. Every video game console has password-protected parental controls that allow parents to limit their children’s video game use. As such, each of those consoles, handheld devices, and PCs can be activated to block types of video games and restrict access to the Internet.

For more than 18 years, all computer and video games sold at retail have been rated by the ESRB. 85% of parents of children who play video games are aware of the industry’s rating system and this campaign will build on the already high awareness rate. The Federal Trade Commission reports that parents are present when video games are purchased 9 out of 10 times.

According to a survey conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates in 2012, 70% of parents regularly check the ESRB rating before buying video games. The ESRB rating system also enjoys high levels of trust among parents, who consistently report being satisfied with the information it provides in terms of selecting games for their children.

In the future, the distribution channels established as part of this campaign could also provide a platform for other educational and pro-social messages and information.

ESA offers services to interactive entertainment software publishers, including conducting business and consumer research, providing legal and policy analysis and advocacy on First Amendment, intellectual property and technology/e-commerce issues, managing a global anti-piracy program, owning and operating E3, and representing video game industry interests in federal and state government relations. For more information, please visit www.theESA.com or follow us on Twitter at @RichatESA or @ESAGovAffairs.

The ESRB is a non-profit, self-regulatory body that assigns age and content ratings for video games and apps so parents can make informed choices. As part of its regulatory role for the video game industry the ESRB also enforces industry-adopted advertising guidelines and helps ensure responsible online privacy practices under its Privacy Online program. ESRB was established in 1994 by the ESA.