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ESRB Switching To Full-Time Raters

Video game ratings are always a hot topic of conversation these days, and now, it appears they want the ESRB to be more thorough when issuing their ratings.

Kansas Senator and presidential candidate Sam Brownback has officially reintroduced the Truth in Video Game Rating Act (yes, there is such a thing). This act calls for the ESRB to review a game's content in full before issuing a label, and Brownback has gone on record criticizing the ESRB as being inaccurate:

"The current video game ratings system is not as accurate as it could be because reviewers do not see the full content of games and do not even play the games they rate," he said.

But regardless of whether the act is passed, the ESRB is already taking strides to improve their accuracy, as you can see by visiting parent-oriented gaming site, GamerDad. The ESRB is looking for full-time raters to replace their part-time staff; those who have experience with children, familiarity with video games, and strong communication skills will top their list.

ESRB president Patricia Vance elaborates:

"After months of careful consideration, the ESRB will be switching from part-time to full-time raters in April 2007," Vance said. "Having full-time raters will allow for each one to have greater experience actually reviewing content and recommending ratings, given the increased amount of time each one would spend doing it. This would provide each rater with a greater sense of historical parity for ratings, not to mention helping them to be more attuned to pertinent content and how it should be considered from a ratings standpoint. The full-time raters would also be responsible for play-testing final versions of the game, time permitting, which would allow for ESRB to play-test a greater number of games than it currently does. We'll have more information available about these changes at a later date."

If you're wondering how they review games now, it's more of a disjointed process- they simply review video of a game's "most extreme instances, across all relevant categories including but not limited to violence, language, sex, controlled substances, and gambling." Now, does that mean they're missing vital pieces of content they should see? Perhaps. But what happens when the publisher withholds some possibly offensive content? The ESRB has already issued fines of up to $1 million to publishers after being forced to re-evaluate Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Well, whatever works. And more importantly, whatever gets the politicians and parents off the ESRB's backs.

2/21/2007 Ben Dutka

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