EA CEO Wants to "Move Beyond the Alphabet Soup of Game Ratings"

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EA CEO Wants to "Move Beyond the Alphabet Soup of Game Ratings"

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The gaming industry has a "great responsibility" to help consumers make informed decisions, according to EA CEO John Riccitiello.

Last night, EA CEO John Riccitiello addressed a group of politicians in Washington, D.C., to discuss the need for a universal game ratings system. While the ESRB currently rates retail games in North America, other regions around the world have their own ratings in place, and digital games may not receive ratings at all. "We must move beyond the alphabet soup of game ratings" towards a universal system, according to Riccitiello, who also serves as Chairman of the Entertainment Software Association board. He feels that the gaming industry has a "responsibility" to create a consolidated, recognizable system of software ratings, making it easier for the consumer to stay informed.

"In the past three years the audience for games has grown from roughly 200 million, to over one billion. Virtually everyone on the planet who owns a phone, can play a game. The Supreme Court has given us the same First Amendment rights as authors, musicians and film makers - a set of rights which we cherish," Riccitiello stated after accepting the Media Institute's American Horizon Award, which was presented to him by FCC Chariman Julius Genachowski. "But as we are so often told: With great freedom, comes great responsibility. To live up to that responsibility, we need to do a better job informing the consumer, no matter the channel, the platform, or the geography. We must adopt a self-regulated, global rating system across every format games are played on."

The ESRB is already taking steps toward achieving Riccitiello's goal of universal ratings. Last month, it rolled out the Digital Rating System, allowing digital games to receive ratings for free. The ESRB is also reportedly working with ratings bodies in other countries in the hopes of achieving a universal set of ratings used worldwide.

It's a lofty goal, especially considering that different regions may have very different ideas about what constitutes mature or adult content. Still, Riccitiello seemed hopeful about the possibility. A universal ratings system would undoubtedly make things easier (and cheaper) for publishers like EA, but as the CEO stated, this would also serve the gaming community. Many adult gamers probably don't give ratings a second thought, but this would be especially helpful for parents to make informed decisions about what their kids are playing.

Source: Polygon

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How difficult is it to just add a little notification that says something like "this game has tits and blood"? No ratings, no meetings, no boards, none of that. Just "tits and blood".

I would believe his words were he human, but sadly he's not.

OT: A universal system would be every bit as ineffective and laughable as the current one. As long as you have ignorant humans, all the warning signs in the world mean squat. You could have a system with letters, descriptors, numbers, colorful signs, rubber duckies, hamsters and gerbils, or number of Prince Albert piercings, and it still won't stop Mr. Jones from buying 9-year Timmy Halo to play online and curse like a sailor while teabagging the corpse of an opponent.

E, E10+, Teen and Mature are really that complex of terms for parents to understand? Yeah, other countries have other ratings.. but unless you're an importer that stuff is completely irrelevant. And really, how many parents are importing games for their stupid little kids?

And lets face it, most of the parents who are shocked when their kid plays something like Manhunt didn't even bother too look at the rating in the first place They sure as shit aren't going to do research and make informed decisions. Not to mention making an international system would just add even more letters to the soup since it would need to account for the varied tastes of every country. Let's not forget what is M due to sexual content here is closer to T in japan and what is M for violence in japan is probably banned in Germany and Australia. We'd end up with a rating system with like 30 different ratings in it.

This is just typical EA, them trying to make even their most minor of financial woes sound like some huge problem for society as a whole. Only up side to him spouting this garbage is it took him away from his baby-eating for a few hours.

Also, gotta love the irony of the head of one censorship body giving an award to one of SOPAs biggest supporters.

Just add a big sticker that reads "Turn the fucking case over if you want to know the justification for this rating"?

This is one thing that we do slightly better here in EU
We do not have letters, but [age]+ stickers on media
And that makes things easier that ETMA ratings, because while we know what age is T rating average person have no clue
I previously considered M rating as 15+, later I found out that it was 17+ and it still looks ridiculous. Do you really need additional category just for 17y-olds?
I have seen stickers with 7+, 12+, 16+ and 18+ (in contrast E10+, T13+, M17+ and A18+ in ESRB categories)
I think our categorization is a little better and much more clearer for average parent

I think this man is dying for good publicity. He'll take just about anything, no matter how stupid it might be. It's working optimal as it is (considering that parents are the problem now, and not the rating system). Turning it in to a global system is going to help exactly diddly.

CrossLOPER:
How difficult is it to just add a little notification that says something like "this game has tits and blood"? No ratings, no meetings, no boards, none of that. Just "tits and blood".

I think that's a little insubstantial. I like how the ESRB currently quantifies the amount of tits and blood with words and phrases like "mild cartoon violence" and "partial nudity". Other ratings systems do that too because it's a bit more informative. Addendum: Ratings like T or R18 also give a quick indication of the content as certain themes are common among ratings.

I like the idea of a universal ratings system not just for games but movies and other applicable media as well. I'm not so sure how well that would work though.

meh, the only difference I would change would be giving a short reason why something is rated as such

tits and fap material - Mature

Violence and awesome fatalities - Mature

shit like that, because I know quite a few parents who allow some things mature/teen depending on what the material actually has.

(Example: my parents let me watch scary movies from the day I was born, but if it involved massive amounts of racial/wordy stuff, then they'd usually tell me to wait till I was a bit older.)

Edit: nevermind, It's been years since i looked at a physical case (steam/GoG ftw) and just saw that they do include a couple worlds usually

Psh. There isn't anything wrong with the current system. As has already been stated, none of the warning signs and notifications in the world will keep oblivious parents from buying their kid Grand Theft Auto. If they ignore the current system, they're gonna ignore any other.

I mean, how complex is "front cover: rated M. Back cover: rated M for blood gore, sexual themes and strong language"? I think that's pretty simple. When my brothers and I were younger, even my mom, who never played video games, knew what an M rating meant (she still does, but its less relevant now :P)

One problem with this goal is different cultures have different values, especially on what is considered taboo or not. What might be the norm in one culture isn't appreciated so well in another culture.

I hate to use this as an example, but Yosuke Hayashi, head of Team Ninja and developers of "Dead or Alive 5", brought this up that the Japanese culture are quite fine with, and might like to have breast physics in their game (source). I am no expert on the Japanese culture and what I might be suggesting is entirely false, but if what Hayashi says is true, then it might explain why Team Ninja's games might sell well in their country but are scolded as softcore porn in North America?

NameIsRobertPaulson:
I would believe his words were he human, but sadly he's not.

OT: A universal system would be every bit as ineffective and laughable as the current one. As long as you have ignorant humans, all the warning signs in the world mean squat. You could have a system with letters, descriptors, numbers, colorful signs, rubber duckies, hamsters and gerbils, or number of Prince Albert piercings, and it still won't stop Mr. Jones from buying 9-year Timmy Halo to play online and curse like a sailor while teabagging the corpse of an opponent.

Yep, I just saw a mother and her 10 year old kid walk out of eb games after buying Black Ops 2. I doubt any sort of unified rating system would change things like that.

If I was Riccitiello, I would be more worried about the record low EA stocks have been for the past few months.

But well, I guess making an obligatory process every game must go trough cheaper is somewhat related.

'Lofty' is a funny way of saying 'idiotic'.

Translation: We don't want the inconvenience of submitting our games to three or more organizations anymore, so we want the US government to force everyone to make it easier for us. If Sony et al. can have things like the TPP customized to fit their needs instead of the people's, why can't we have the ratings for games customized to fit ours?

Not sure what the issue is with what he's saying.. oh, he's from EA, now I see it. *sigh*

It helps to remember who he's actually speaking to instead of purely looking at this from a gamers perspective. He's speaking in front of a large group of very important people who likely still think of games as either Pac-Man or murder simulators that create pint sized killing machines. From the perspective of this audience (and, yes, from the perspective of, god forbid, good business) it only makes sense to have as clear and consistent a rating system as possible. Yes, unconcerned parents will still buy little Jane or Jimmy whatever game they want, but there's nothing wrong with making the rating on the package even clearer than it already is. On one hand, it helps parents who do actually care but may not know much about games and, on the other, it provides still another layer of protection for the games industry when someone does something stupid and tries to blame it on a videogame.

blackrave:
This is one thing that we do slightly better here in EU
We do not have letters, but [age]+ stickers on media
And that makes things easier that ETMA ratings, because while we know what age is T rating average person have no clue
I previously considered M rating as 15+, later I found out that it was 17+ and it still looks ridiculous. Do you really need additional category just for 17y-olds?
I have seen stickers with 7+, 12+, 16+ and 18+ (in contrast E10+, T13+, M17+ and A18+ in ESRB categories)
I think our categorization is a little better and much more clearer for average parent

Maybe it has something to do with the US preference for alphabetic scales. Remember, they also rate students from F to A, which them becomes confusing to translate to other numeric scales around the world. It's also why I find the movie rating in my country stupid, which is also alphabetic but then has to add numbers to clarify appropiate age. Why not do it from the start? Stating a number of relative appropiate age skips one step of the judgement process of whether to buy the game or not for your kid. In a way I think it would also homegenize criteria. Even with different values on media content, most countries kind of stand on the same place as to when children have enough experience to understand certain topics of human nature. It would shift the why something is appropiate to a when it's appropiate. I think, though I may be talking nonsense here.

Captcha: Falling pianos.
I think that's Warner Bros. defininition of "mild caricature violence", no?

How about a rating on how uninspired and shitty games are?
EA+ would be the highest rating. :3

Sarah LeBoeuf:
...according to Riccitiello, who also serves as Chairman of the Entertainment Software Association board.

Um... doesn't that present a conflict of interest?

Anyway, the different standards on what constitutes mature or adult content is just one of the many barriers to establishing a universal international ratings system for video games. Another such barrier is coming up with universally recognizable symbolage to identify the different rating levels. The alphabetical system works well for areas that use English as a primary language, but not all areas use English as a primary language or at all.

Heres an idea, get rid of the ratings and just let people do the damn research on the game.

The ratings on the box wont matter a damn if the parent doesn't look into it anyway and will just pay for it when the kid tosses it in the cart anyway.

Thats why there are so many little 11 year old shits on XBL after all.

CrossLOPER:
How difficult is it to just add a little notification that says something like "this game has tits and blood"? No ratings, no meetings, no boards, none of that. Just "tits and blood".

The ESRB ratings already have that information in the form of content descriptors: http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp

You read those to make an informed decision about the content of games if you're concerned with ratings. Apparently, John Riccitiello is unaware of this. Which I find worrying.

CrossLOPER:
How difficult is it to just add a little notification that says something like "this game has tits and blood"? No ratings, no meetings, no boards, none of that. Just "tits and blood".

Well, most games usually have a short content descriptor listed beside the rating on the back of the game box, and (as Hitchmeister said), the ESRB ratings already have summaries of each rated game up on their site. Hell, there's even a fanbase for the ESRB rating description writers.

I'll take Riccitello a little more seriously when he stops whining about global rating systems and starts talking about putting a system into place to warn consumers about on-disc DLC.

I don't disagree with what he is saying, but the man is clearly a moron. First, how in the world is an American organization going to institute a rating system for the whole world? We gonna start invading other countries over it? "We don't care if you have democracy, but you must institute this rating system!" My second problem is that it being free should not be a selling point, but that is how governmental organizations work. You must adhere to their system in order to operate, and you must pay them to be part of that system. You get this with ESRB, you get this with XBLA, and you get this with housing inspectors.

I think what people fail to understand is that the ratings are suggestions and not law. When it says mature, the suggestion is that it's for someone at or above a certain age. That is how these organizations work (in most places in America). You have the right to not have your movie, book, or video game not rated and still sell it. You may limit your outlets by not having something rated, but rating agencies are far from necessary.

I'll use comics as an example. For years comics published under the iron fist of the CCA (comics code authority). It wasn't until comics actively stopped looking for CCA approval that it really took off. Ignoring it allowed for more adult, more serious, and more socially impacting stories. The first thing Marvel did without CCA approval was a story arch where Peter Parkers best friend, Harry Osborne, became addicting to pills. That was a huge problem at the time and here you had a government agency actively stopping the publishing of a work that could inform kids and adults about the dangers of it.

Edit: Also EA CEO "move beyond alphabet soup". Nice.

I don't think the ratings system is the problem here. I think it's just people being stupid. If a parent would really look at the box art for a Call of Duty game, see the numerous guns and combat knives, and still think that it's appropriate for their 10-year-old then they probably just shouldn't be a parent. Hopefully this sort of thing will stop happening over time when the parent-pool starts to contain more people who grew up with modern video games and understand how violent they actually are. Hopefully.

canadamus_prime:

Sarah LeBoeuf:
...according to Riccitiello, who also serves as Chairman of the Entertainment Software Association board.

Um... doesn't that present a conflict of interest?

Not at all. The ESA is an organization run by and for the game industry that lobbies for things they collectively want. You're thinking of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board), which rates videogames for content. The ESRB was founded by the ESA, but as far as I know it's an independent non profit organization. The ESA just got it off the ground in order to get congress off their backs on the issue of videogame violence. Even if the ESRB /is/ run by the ESA, the conflict is in that statement, not in Ricitello being the chairman of the ESA. He's exactly the sort of industry big wig you'd expect to be at the head of that.

OT:

This is incredibly stupid. Has the man forgotten that the ESRB was founded in the first place to keep congress from cracking down on the fledgling videogame industry with a Comics/Hays code style censorship board? Or heck, the california violent videogame thing from last year, which the ESA was a strong opponent of for exactly the same reason they were an opponent of Congress doing it nationally back in the 90's?

Edit: Actually, re-reading this, it looks like he wants the ESRB to create a ratings system for the entire world. The ESRB, unlike the various European ratings boards, is not a government agency. So he's not so much asking the US government to make ratings for the whole word as asking the whole world to pay attention to what a bunch of American soccer moms think. Granted, I'm not sure which is a sillier idea.

Baresark:
I don't disagree with what he is saying, but the man is clearly a moron. First, how in the world is an American organization going to institute a rating system for the whole world? We gonna start invading other countries over it? "We don't care if you have democracy, but you must institute this rating system!" My second problem is that it being free should not be a selling point, but that is how governmental organizations work. You must adhere to their system in order to operate, and you must pay them to be part of that system. You get this with ESRB, you get this with XBLA, and you get this with housing inspectors.

It's rather easy: any game sold or distributed in the US gets a rating. Anything beyond that could simply be an industry standard. Nothing that requires gunboat diplomacy.

-Dragmire-:

NameIsRobertPaulson:
I would believe his words were he human, but sadly he's not.

OT: A universal system would be every bit as ineffective and laughable as the current one. As long as you have ignorant humans, all the warning signs in the world mean squat. You could have a system with letters, descriptors, numbers, colorful signs, rubber duckies, hamsters and gerbils, or number of Prince Albert piercings, and it still won't stop Mr. Jones from buying 9-year Timmy Halo to play online and curse like a sailor while teabagging the corpse of an opponent.

Yep, I just saw a mother and her 10 year old kid walk out of eb games after buying Black Ops 2. I doubt any sort of unified rating system would change things like that.

That's what I said about the Digital Ratings system: If the parent doesn't give a shit then there's nothing the industry can do.

MEANWHILE; Origins has allegedly been hacked by Russians and stolen users account data.

More at 7!

It's a bit condescending I think to assume parents are confused by different standards between countries when they can easily look at what the rating means. They're not that stupid. Not everywhere at least. But if there's no reason not to, I think universal ratings would be fine in the same way universal powerpoints would be fine. That said, the ratings system is arbitrary wherever you go and isn't worth spending large amounts of money on.

Basically, let parents make their own decisions like they do anyway. If anything take the ratings system less seriously, parents shouldn't have to be told what games their child can and can't play.

Now with anyone else I might say "Oh look, they have feelings not entirely centred around money", but since it's John Riccitello, I instead think "Stop pretending to care about the industry and get back to thinking of new and exciting ways that people can pay you after they've bought the product".

Mr. Riccitiello I don't think you would have noticed this, but a move towards a universal rating system would result in you not having to pay as much to get your games rated. I suppose this is a happy coincidence, because it's obviously for the benefit of others and not for your company.

If a game called "Big fuck off gun simulator '13" With a cover of rocket launch killing naked bloody bodies appears on the market, Parents would still buy it for their 11 year old. Escapists please don't be stupid parents.

Hitchmeister:

CrossLOPER:
How difficult is it to just add a little notification that says something like "this game has tits and blood"? No ratings, no meetings, no boards, none of that. Just "tits and blood".

The ESRB ratings already have that information in the form of content descriptors: http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp

You read those to make an informed decision about the content of games if you're concerned with ratings. Apparently, John Riccitiello is unaware of this. Which I find worrying.

To be perfectly honest, it's endemic of the entire situation, really. Based on the number of pre-teens who play games like Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Gears of War, God Of War, Call of Duty, et al it would seem that most parents either don't know or don't care about how in-depth the ESRB really treats their rating system. And if that's not worrying, then I don't know what would be.

I don't really see this as necessary. Do movies have a world-wide standard for ratings? If I fly to Japan or England will I still see the same familiar PG and R movies that I'm used to here? Do movies outside of the US even have ratings? Dollars to donuts he's really doing this so that it'll be cheaper to publish games in multiple countries (note: the price of the games won't actually change) and just has a convenient "think of the children" angle to swing at the politicians.

Over-all I don't really give a fuck, though. Whether this passes or not, I doubt it'll have any sort of bearing on me.

shrekfan246:

Hitchmeister:

CrossLOPER:
How difficult is it to just add a little notification that says something like "this game has tits and blood"? No ratings, no meetings, no boards, none of that. Just "tits and blood".

The ESRB ratings already have that information in the form of content descriptors: http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp

You read those to make an informed decision about the content of games if you're concerned with ratings. Apparently, John Riccitiello is unaware of this. Which I find worrying.

To be perfectly honest, it's endemic of the entire situation, really. Based on the number of pre-teens who play games like Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Gears of War, God Of War, Call of Duty, et al it would seem that most parents either don't know or don't care about how in-depth the ESRB really treats their rating system. And if that's not worrying, then I don't know what would be.

Those preteens are getting access to those games because their parents either don't care or think they're mature enough to handle them. The ESRB is actually a highly effective ratings system, blowing away the MPAA in terms of how well its enforced. But it doesn't matter if the parents ignore it.

Owyn_Merrilin:

shrekfan246:

Hitchmeister:

The ESRB ratings already have that information in the form of content descriptors: http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp

You read those to make an informed decision about the content of games if you're concerned with ratings. Apparently, John Riccitiello is unaware of this. Which I find worrying.

To be perfectly honest, it's endemic of the entire situation, really. Based on the number of pre-teens who play games like Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Gears of War, God Of War, Call of Duty, et al it would seem that most parents either don't know or don't care about how in-depth the ESRB really treats their rating system. And if that's not worrying, then I don't know what would be.

Those preteens are getting access to those games because their parents either don't care or think they're mature enough to handle them. The ESRB is actually a highly effective ratings system, blowing away the MPAA in terms of how well its enforced. But it doesn't matter if the parents ignore it.

Well... yeah. That was my point. :D

I think the ESRB is incredibly thorough, especially on their website, but it's all moot if parents buy their kids these games just to shut them up.

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