By Alyssa Rosenberg
I haven’t played video games in any sort of sustained way since I dabbled in Half Life and Counterstrike in high school. But when the Entertainment Software Rating Board announced that they’d be moving to a new system of determining ratings based on a questionnaire to keep up with the vast expansion of the gaming market, particularly games that are available through browsers, rather than through brick-and-mortar storefronts, I was intrigued. Rating entertainment is a notoriously tricky business, one that reveals weird political biases, generation gaps, and the unevenness of cultural norms and community standards. So I called Eliot Mizrachi, the director of communications at ESRB, to talk through how the new system works.
“What we’ve seen over the last few years is there’s been a significant increase in digitally delivered games,” he told me. “They tend to be more casual in nature, E-rated [for everyone], E 10-rated [for everyone ten or older], and lower-budget. They tend to be more like party games or puzzle games, or that sort of fare.” In other words, it’s not so much that there’s been a boom in overall gaming, but rather a boom in a kind of game that’s fairly easy to rate. Sure we can debate whether the Angry Birds are actually suicide bombers, but a questionnaire can quickly determine the fairly predictable level-to-level content and its impact on viewers. Read more