Video Game Rating System

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Video game rating system has come under attack considering the recent mass shooting incidents. Many believe that violence shown in the video games is responsible for these shootings and have called for governmental regulation of the video game industry. In the article”” The Video Game Ratings is an effective Regulation”” Patricia Vance argues that video game rating system created by ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) is an appropriate mechanism to promote and regulate the video game industry. The ESRB was created in 1994 by the video game creators to self-regulate the video games industry and avoid federal regulation of the industry. Vance begins building her credibility by stating that millions of parents rely on ESRB ratings to choose games they deem appropriate for their children and family. She continues to build her argument through various facts and statistics and cites many partnerships which help ESRB in determining and promoting the rating system; however, lack of appropriate resources to monitor the development of video games and feeble enforcement weaken her argument.

In her article, Vance sets the stage by describing the various kinds of ratings ESRB uses to rate the games and the parties involves in developing the ratings. Vance continues to explain the various ratings and how each category is arrived at. The ESRB applies six different rating symbols and over 12 different content labels that refer to violence, sex, language, substance, abuse, gambling, humor and other potentially sensitive subject matter. Despite the elaborate rating systems, research shows effectiveness of ratings depend upon the active parental supervision and participation in selecting appropriate content for their children. The parents need to be active, informed and involved. The rating system is relatively powerless as it requires an active supervision over child’s media activity. Thus, her argument that rating system is effective hinges on active parental involvement.

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As the article progresses, Vance continues to explain the process involved in developing the rating system. She explains that the ratings are not based on checking every single video game since such a thorough examination is not practical. The reasons cited for this include – the games received are not fully playable, many games are lengthy and complex, and a detailed review does not necessarily result in greater assurance. The M-rated video games which are meant for mature audience, contain a wide range of unlabeled content and may expose children and adolescents to messages that may negatively influence their perceptions, attitudes and behaviors. This weakens her argument that ESRB is fully capable of guarding against the inappropriate content to the consumer.

A weak ESRB enforcement system diminishes the argument that ESRB is an effective self-regulating body. Though the rating system is excellent, it is clearly a compromise solution to avoid governmental supervision.The ESRB is promoted and funded by the video industry through their associations. It developed a relatively weak punitive system with a maximum fine of $1 million and temporary suspension of product. The penalty is not strong enough to deter future violations. In the incident involving the game Grand Theft Auto sexually explicit content was not disclosed and was locked out in the code. The code was hacked and could be downloaded from the internet. Although, ESRB moved quickly to restrict the fallout, the damage was already done. The incident showed the lack of control in containing the spread of damaging content in the current internet age. The enforcement system lacks the impact of criminal penalties that could be employed under governmental regulations.

Vance uses strong appeals to logos, with many facts and statistics and logical progression of ideas. She points out that in a study conducted in March 2006, “”83% of the parents surveyed were aware of the ESRB ratings and 74% use them regularly when choosing games for their families.”” She further bolsters her argument by pointing out that “”91% of the respondents indicated that they trust ESRB ratings””, and ESRB provides the kind of information they need. As pointed out earlier, parental participation is central to the effectiveness of ESRB rating system. These facts support her claims that ESRB rating system is effective in parent’s decision-making process.

Along with strong appeals to logos, Vance makes appeals to pathos in the middle paragraphs. She recognizes that parents play an important role in making decision about what games their kids are playing an overwhelming majority of the time. The campaign with slogan “”OK to Play?-Check the Ratings”” is meant to make an emotional appeal to parents to trust the ratings created by ESRB. She points out to the campaigns ESRB deploys to “”encourage parents to use components of the system and to determine if the game is appropriate for their family””.

At the end of the article, the author was effective in appeals to ethos. To enhance her creditability, Vance enlists the efforts to actively educate the retailers and sales Assoicates about the rating system. The partnership with national Parent Teachers Association (PTA) provides educational material to parents. These partnerships created with retailers and national PTA and state and local governments strengthens her credibility and helps her argument.

Vance begins her article by describing the ESRB rating system and effectively educating the reader by describing the active measures taken by ESRB to serve the consumers. Since the effectiveness of the ESRB depends primarily on the active participation of parental supervision, the parental education is key element in ESRB’s mission. Throughout the articles she presents facts to support her claims by pointing out the consumer outreach programs and partnerships that ESRB pursues to maintain the effectiveness of ESRB. However, the enforcement system to prevent misuse lacks strong deterrents such criminal penalties and enforcement of the law. The process of developing ratings assigned to games is not ideal and needs to be strengthened.

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Video Game Rating System. (2019, Jan 28). Retrieved from