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ESRB Asleep at the Wheel



Cordova, TN; July 7, in the year of our Lord 2014--Family Friendly Gaming, the industry leader in covering the family friendly video games is addressing the ever increasing problem of the ESRB’s failures. Is the ESRB broken? Yes. Does the ESRB need to be reformed and fixed? Yes. Can you make it happen? Yes. The video game industry continues to move towards the digital downloads. Companies like this because families no longer own a physical copy of the game. With physical copies you can sell, trade, and give them away. That can not be done with a digital download. Family Friendly Gaming has denoted a rise in download only video games. Want to know a dirty video game industry secret? Download video games are reviewed with a different standard at the ESRB.

In fact the ESRB is completely asleep at the wheel when it comes to digital download video games. From the ESRB’s own website on their rating process:

Digitally-Delivered Games and Apps

Games that will be made available solely via download or will be otherwise accessible only online (like web browser games or PC-based and mobile apps, for example) are rated using a "Short Form" rating process.

Publishers of these digitally delivered games and apps complete a series of multiple-choice questions that address content across relevant categories (as described above). The questionnaire also asks questions related to a game's interactive components, such as the enabling of user interactions or the sharing of a user's physical location or personal information. Finally the developer indicates whether the game has a minimum age requirement. The responses to these questions automatically determine the game's Rating Category, Content Descriptors and Interactive Elements, which are issued immediately upon completion of the questionnaire. Because these products are rated by an automated process they do not receive Rating Summaries.

A portion of games rated in this manner are tested by ESRB shortly after they become publicly available to ensure that appropriate ratings have been assigned. In the event content was not fully or accurately disclosed by the developer, either the rating displayed will be promptly corrected or, in egregious cases, the game may be removed from the store and/or its rating revoked.”1

The ESRB is letting these companies decide what ratings to assign their own games. Where is the oversight? The ESRB is letting these companies decide what descriptors to put on their games. No wonder Family Friendly Gaming is finding so many missing descriptors in downloadable video games. The ESRB is not even doing their job. They are running advertisements that they call PSA (Public Service Announcements) claiming they are all that and a bag of chips. Yet they are not even doing their jobs. Their ads ring hollow.

A portion of the games are checked on. The ESRB refuses to disclose what that portion is. Is it 1%? Is it 10%? We do not know. What we do know is the percentage of games with wrong ratings, and missing descriptors has reached epidemic proportions. The ESRB is asleep at the wheel. How can they expect families to trust them, when they are not even doing their jobs? I love the comment about the game may be removed from the store. Digital games are not in stores. They are in the online arenas. Obviously this applies more to their mistakes made reviewing physical copies of games. Or maybe they are referencing places like the Nintendo eShop as a store.

One of the reasons the video game industry has such a bad image is the lengthy list of mistakes made by the ESRB over the years. The ESRB itself has a horrible image. I talk to parents all the time that have a major distrust of the ESRB. Family Friendly Gaming has tried over the years to get them to acknowledge their mistakes, implement transparency, and fix the issues. Instead the ESRB has been hostile, rude, and hateful. Now with digital downloads we can add lazy, and absolutely worthless. The ESRB needs to wake up if they want to improve their abysmal image. Family Friendly Gaming hopes they wake up at the wheel before they crash - yet again.

God bless,
Paul Bury
Family Friendly Gaming

1 http://www.esrb.org/search/ratings/ratings_process.jsp


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