Part 2 of the ESRB Writeup.
Many gamers believe that a group of non-gamers, that supposedly
know very little about the game, should not be able to say which products are
appropriate for them. For instance: How can a school principal decide what is a
good game for teenagers when he/she has never played the game or anything like
it? Do I tell them what kind of coffee they can drink? What kind of cars are
appropriate for their age group? I certainly know more about those issues then
they do about computer games!
The fans, understandably, do not like being told what they can and
cannot do by what they consider is a foreign, unaffiliated group that is simply
out of line. It does seem silly, when thought about from this angle, but there
are other ways to look at it.
If you are a parent, you obviously want to protect your child. The
thought of him (this is no longer a gender-friendly write-up ;) playing a game
wherein there are naked girls running around, bullets slicing into the flesh of
enemies and blood splattering all over the room, does not give you a pleasant
feeling. You lose sleep over it, even.
The ESRB's ratings are very helpful to you, making sure that your 9
year old child isn't playing Las Vegas
Nudie Madness! You would rather have him playing SimCity, or some children's
trivia game. Johnny can't buy his own games, and all software must go through
Mr. Checkbook: you can keep an eye on what he wants, and you can see what
kind of games he's buying, at a glance, with the rating stamp.
However, some argue, once past the age of twelve or thirteen, when
Johnny learns how to obtain some money and get a ride from his friends to
Electronics Boutique, you know less about the games he is playing. You can
obviously stop him, or make him return games he buys, but he may have other ways
of acquiring games and sneaking them onto the computer (such as warez).
Hopefully, he will have had enough of your good judgement instilled
in him to choose the right games to play; hopefully, Nudie Madness would simply
be a waste of money and time to him. At this point in time, his thought process
is basically set, and it will change only slightly, fortifying, in the next few
years. Once he's 15 or 16, monitoring what games he buys just seems silly... surely he
has enough common sense to differentiate between game and reality. A gory game
would mean nothing to him, and would barely leave an impression.
Still, some parents are fearful for their children even at the
middle-teenage years. In the U.S., this seems to be a major concern, with
juvenile delinquency much more common than in other countries, and especially
with the Columbine shootings in 1999. The shooters were reportedly avid gamers,
playing Quake and ''vampire games.'' Did that really play a part?
That is a whole nother issue.
The ESRB's system doesn't look to change drastically any time soon,
and probably won't. Their influence is growing, and many are fearful that the
gaming industry will turn out like the movie industry: today's theaters do not have many
options for a party under 17 (often, there are absolutely none at all). Will buying an FPS one day be like sneaking into a R-rated movie?
Hopefully not, but the concern is still there: are these
restrictions really necessary? Is the ESRB's method for rating sufficient? Are
the ratings really helpful to parents? The questions go on, and on...
^Back to Part 1: The ESRB