Part 2 of the ESRB Writeup.

The Controversy

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