Since it's 1994 inception, video games have been rated by in the US by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB).
But the ESRB was not the first rating scheme established in the US.
In the early 90s, moral guardians were up in arms due to
what they perceived as an obscenity outrage. Thie was sparked off by the video games Mortal Kombat and Night Trap from Sega, with its misleadingly lurid cover art suggesting that it was some kind of sleazy sex-themed game.
was escalated all the way to the US Senate.
A 1993 Senate hearing heard from the boss of Nintendo of America, Howard Lincoln who said:
And let me say that for the record, I want to state that Night Trap will never
appear on a Nintendo system. Obviously it would not pass our guidelines. This game ... which promotes violence against women, simply has no place in our society
The outcome of the hearing, threatened that if the video game publishers
did not crank out a rating system by 1994, one would be imposed by the U.S. government.
So, in response Sega of America quickly formed their own self-censorship committee: the Videogame Rating Council. It established 3 ratings:
GA - Appropriate for all audiences.
MA-13 - Mature audiences. Intended for ages 13 and up. Might contain more violence than GA games, mild blood, mild suggestive themes, etc.
MA-17 - Not intended for minors. The game might include
graphic violence, blood and gore, sexual content, profanity, etc.
The system lasted barely a year. The MA-13 came in for particular criticism as being mature seemed at odds with being 13 years old (being mature at 14 seems OK for TV though).
In 1994, the major video game publishers formed the trade association,
the Interactive Digital Software Association (predecessor to the Entertainment Software Association) which eventually came up with an industry-wide ratings system: the ESRB ratings, which we still use today.
Terminator Resistance is a 2019 Poland first person shooter by Teyon Games
Terminator: Resistance is set in a post-apocalyptic 2028 Los Angeles. Players take on the role of Jacob Rivers, a soldier in the John
Connor-led human resistance against Skynet's robotic killing machines.
Terminator Resistance originally had sex scenes that were censored on the demands of platform makers Sony and Microsoft.
According to Teyon , the reason Terminator: Resistance released with censored sex scenes was due to the platform holders, specifically Microsoft and Sony. This was revealed in a tweet reply that Teyon made to a gamer who was eager to find out
exactly why the game had some of its more risque content censored in an M rated title that was already regulated for sexual content.
Teyon were asked about the reason for the censorship they replied in a tweet:
We were forced by Sony and Microsoft -- Teyon (@TeyonGames) December 3, 2019
Sex scenes were obviously censored later in the day by using reframing and a restricted field of view to block the sight of Baron's and Jennifer's breasts. The mod restores the full screen view so that you get to see the boobs as
We know there's a difference between real-world violence and scripted or simulated violence -- such as what you see in movies, TV shows, or video games -- so we want to make sure we're enforcing our
violent or graphic content policies consistently.
Starting on 2nd December, scripted or simulated violent content found in video games will be
treated the same as other types of scripted content.
What does this mean for Gaming Creators?
Future gaming uploads that include scripted or simulated violence may be approved instead of being age-restricted.
There will be fewer restrictions for violence in gaming, but this policy will still maintain our high bar to protect audiences
from real-world violence.
We may still age-restrict content if violent or gory imagery is the sole focus of the video. For instance, if the video focuses entirely on the most graphically violent part of a video game.
Wolfenstein 3D is a 1992 US first person shooter by id Software
Wolfenstein 3D is considered one of the grandfathers of the genre. The game was a hit from 1992, building on other popular PC shooters at the time such as DOOM .
However the game was banned in Germany in 1992 for its Nazi symbology. Until now. Wolfenstein 3D has now officially been removed from the German Ban list, more than 25 years after the game was released.
The change of heart is based on a court ruling made in 2018, involving a web-based parody game Bundesfighter 2 Turbo . The game, which is a parody of politicians, featured right-wing leader Alexander Gauland who transformed into a Swastika
as one of his special moves. The developers appealed the symbology censorship applied to the game with Germany's attorney general, who ruled that the exemption of art applies to video games. This then overrules games censorship rules previously applying
to Nazi symbology in German games releases.
New Zealand's Chief Censor David Shanks has announced two bans.
The first was a document said to have been shared by the terrorist who killed two people in Halle, Germany earlier this month. It has been classified as objectionable under the Films,
Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993. A live stream of the event had already been banned.
Shanks also banned is a low priced video game that puts the player in the role of a killer called Brenton Torrent with the game play consisting
solely of the murder of defenceless people. He said:
The Shitposter from 2 Genderz Productions, that celebrates the livestream of the March 15 terrorist attacks in Christchurch, is classified objectionable.
The creators of this game set out to produce and sell a game designed to place the player in the role of a white supremacist terrorist killer. In this game, anyone who isn't a white heterosexual male is a target for simply existing.
This game is cheaply and crudely made, with little or no appeal in terms of the challenge of its gameplay. Everything about this game, from the name of the shooter character down to its purchase price ($14.88) makes it clear that
this is a product created for and marketed to white supremacists who are interested in supporting and celebrating white extremist attacks.
The games producers will try to dress their work up as satire
but this game is no joke.
The argument about loot boxes being gambling is very tiresome. The debate about whether they are akin to gambling has become more important than the debate about how to keep children safe. Surely
Loot boxes can be deemed an unacceptable monetisation method for children on its own merits, without trying to match apples to pears.
Longfield seems a bit new to the job, she is now calling for small games to be fully vetted by censors when this
approach was given up ten years ago due to the unmanageable volume and unviable economics of expensive censors checking small games.
She is also dreaming that age verification is some sort of panacea for all societies ills. Parents generally know
exactly what age their kids are, but the knowledge doesn't magically make for an idyllic childhood.
Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England, has published a report, Gaming the system' which looks at the experiences
of children who play games online. The Children's Commissioner's Office commissioned the research company Revealing Reality to speak to groups of children who play online games like FIFA, Fortnite and Roblox about what they love and what worries them
about gaming, both to shine a light on their experiences and to inform policy recommendations.
With 93% of children in the UK playing video games, the Children's Commissioner is today calling for new rules to tighten up gambling
laws and to address the worries children have expressed about how they feel out of control of their spending on online games.
However, it also reveals the drawbacks, in particular highlighting how many children are spending money
on 'in-game' purchases because they feel they have to in order to keep up with friends or to advance in the game.
The report also shows how some children feel addicted to gaming and do not feel in control of the amount of time
they spend playing games. Younger children told us they are playing games for an average of two to three hours a day, whereas older children are playing for three or more hours.
To address the concerns raised by children in the
report, the Children's Commissioner makes a number of recommendations, including:
Bringing financial harm within the scope of the Government's forthcoming online harms legislation. Developers and platforms should not enable children to progress within a game by spending money and spending should be limited to
items which are not linked to performance.
All games which allow players to spend money should include features for players to track their historic spend, and there should be maximum daily spend limits introduced in all games
which feature in-game spending and turned on by default for children.
The Government should take immediate action to amend the definition of gaming in section 6 of the Gambling Act 2005 to regulate loot boxes as gambling.
The Government's age appropriate design code must include provisions on nudge techniques and detrimental use of data, as proposed in the draft code.
Games that are distributed online should be
subject to a legally enforceable age-rating system, just as physical games are. There should be a requirement for an additional warning to be displayed for games which facilitate in-game spending. The Government should consult on whether age ratings of
all games should be moderated pre-release, just as physical games are.
Online games should be a key focus of digital citizenship lessons in schools, rather than lessons focusing exclusively on social media. Teachers involved
in the delivery of these lessons should be familiar with how key online games that are popular with children work.
The ESRB doesn't actually play through the games it rates, but are sent a short video featuring the worst or most offensive content the game has to offer, and the rating is based on that See
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