A new voluntary rating system for digital games should make life easier for parents of young gamers.
You never know what you're going to get with a downloadable game. There could be violence, foul language or even, God help us, nudity. If, like me, you live in perpetual fear of accidentally exposing yourself to digital genitals, the ESRB might have just the thing.
The ratings board has launched the no-cost Digital Rating Service it announced back in 2011. Now any developer can fill out a questionnaire and receive an official ESRB rating for their digital title. Right now, the rating doesn't mean anything from a legal standpoint, as the system relies on developers evaluating their own content, and without retailers willing to block the sale of unrated games, the ratings board has no clout. Contrary to popular belief, as a voluntary agency the ESRB has no power to prevent game sales, instead, several major retailers simply refuse to stock games that are either unrated or rated AO. The system has been criticized for making games aimed at adults less attractive to developers, but it remains preferable to any kind of State-ran rating system.
The program is mostly concerned with making it easier for parents to identify suitable content for their children and preventing confusion when it comes to online/offline game ratings.
"By simplifying the process and eliminating the cost to developers, the ESRB expects to broaden adoption of its ratings among game providers of all types," an ESRB rep stated. "The resulting ubiquity of ESRB ratings will ease a parent's job by presenting a single ratings standard across the many platforms on which their children access games. Increased adoption of ESRB ratings also means that developers will no longer be subject to differing and oftentimes conflicting rating systems and standards for their digitally delivered games."