ESRB announcement -- All pubs must do internal audit!

Just got this announcement… pretty interesting reaction. Let’s see how this plays out…

On July 20, 2005, ESRB publicly clarified its policies regarding the requirement to fully disclose all pertinent content in materials submitted for rating. Fully disclosing hidden content accessible as Easter eggs and via cheat codes has always been part of ESRB’s explicitly stated requirements when submitting games to be rated. In the July 20 public announcement, which focused on the revocation of a specific game’s rating assignment, we formally stated that any pertinent content shipped on the game disc that may be relevant to a rating must be disclosed to ESRB, even if it is not intended to ever be accessed during game play.

Coding around scenes, images, or similar elements that might be pertinent to a rating assignment does not render this content irrelevant from a ratings standpoint. If a publisher wishes to “edit out” pertinent content from a final product, it must remove the content from the disc altogether. If that is not feasible, the pertinent content must be disclosed to the ESRB during the rating process so it can be taken into account in the assignment of a rating.

Furthermore, with the support of the ESRB Board of Directors, and in light of recent events, the ESRB is requesting that all game publishers complete a comprehensive review over the next 120 days of all content assets of games first launched in the last 12 months (since September 1, 2004) to determine if non-playable, pertinent content, not previously disclosed to the ESRB, remains in the final code on the discs released to the public. (Please check http://www.esrb.org/downloads/pertinent_content_chart.pdf for a summary of the factors to consider when determining if content is “pertinent,”.) If you become aware of any pertinent content on discs of products first launched in the last 12 months that has not previously been disclosed to the ESRB, please inform us no later than January 9, 2006, so we can determine what steps, if any, need to be taken. Once informed of previously undisclosed content, ESRB may require you to submit materials for rater evaluation. Upon rater evaluation and weighing several factors, ESRB may require corrective actions if it is determined that the original rating assignment (i.e., rating category and/or content descriptors) is no longer accurate.

Once you have completed your internal audit, please go to http://www.esrb.org/downloads/pertinent_content_certification.pdf to access the certification that must be signed and returned to the ESRB no later than January 9, 2006. Please coordinate your efforts internally and arrange for the return of only ONE certification form on behalf of your company. If you do not return the signed certification to us by January 9, the ESRB will suspend all rating services for your company until we receive it.

If you fail to notify us of previously undisclosed, non-playable, pertinent content by January 9, and such content becomes playable through a subsequent authorized or unauthorized release of code to unlock it, rendering the original rating assignment inaccurate, punitive in addition to corrective actions may result.

It should also be noted that this audit only covers publisher/developer-created content included on the disc shipped to consumers, and does not require disclosure of third party modifications to such content. ESRB remains concerned about third party modifications that undermine the accuracy of the original rating, and we are exploring ways to maintain the credibility of the rating system with consumers in light of modifications of this nature.

We appreciate your support in protecting the integrity of the rating system and ensuring that ESRB ratings remain a reliable tool, particularly for parents, to help consumers make informed purchase decisions about the games they bring home.

If you have any questions, please contact Brondi Borer, VP of Enforcement & Compliance, at [email protected].

ESRB

The esrb can go fuck them selves.

All it would take is EA to say “This is the new ESRB. Ignore those guys.”

“Dear Company X, we have discovered that the letters “p”, “o”, “r”, and “n” each occur individually within your game. As you may know this content could be accessed through manipulation of the game to create “porn”, which would give your game an AO rating. Please eliminate all usage of those letters.”

In seriousness I think what the ESRB is trying to do is good, but they are up against a basically insolvable problem…

The ESRB’s in a tough spot. They’re supposed to keep the industry regulation-free. They can’t do that if the public (and politicians) think that game companies have found a way to get around the ESRB ratings. This move seems like real overkill. Then again, if I made games I might be willing to do this one-time certification if I thought the alternative was Hillary-Clinton-style Big Brotherism for the rest of the game industry’s existence.

In any case, the people I would be most pissed at are Rockstar (assuming you believe hot coffee was deliberate – I know there are varying opinions about that).

Is it that hard to change the 17 to an 18 on the M rating logo?

I concur. Their problem seems to be not so much game developers, as their own labels being idiotic.

It’s not the difference between 17 and 18. It’s the difference between an R rating, which is what M functionally is, and an X or NC-17 rating, which is what AO functionally is. That you can’t change without making the rating system meaningless.

What’s idiotic about the ESRB’s system? It mirrors the MPAA system mostly because it’s so widely accepted.

That you can’t change without making the rating system meaningless.

It is already almost meaningless.

It’s not the difference between 17 and 18. It’s the difference between an R rating, which is what M functionally is, and an X or NC-17 rating

Yes, and that metric is also idiotic. Not that America has any monopoly on that, hence England, and our long-standing tradition that you can have sex at 16, but can’t watch other people having sex until you’re 18. That is equally idiotic. But slightly simpler to explain.

They want you all to develop your own style and not be influenced by how the stars do things?

Troy

Anyone else play with the Microsoft Vista beta? There’s a gaming related security widget in the control panel. It scans your installed games to determine their ESRB ratings, then lists them by rating, with the ESRB logo’s and all. You can then allow or deny games to be played, based on rating, to specific users on that PC.

I know this is peripheral to the point of the thread, but I found it interesting when I stumbled upon it. In theory, the OS could download rating updates, and if a “hot coffee” like issue were to recur, and the rating was changed, the game would get re-classified, and if AO was disallowed on that machine, the kids would be locked out.

Thats cool, like the xbox feature, it’s a good idea (and a no brainer really, not sure why every console did not have this, the vchip thing should have hinted to them it was needed. not that anyone on the planet uses the vchip features)

Yes, but they can’t show it in a game without rating it M.

I think just maybe the ESRB should stop making demands while barhopping in England, and get back to work. For fuck’s sake, they’re already serving you booze, and you demand that they audit themselves? Mean, stupid drunks.

Wasn’t the ESRB’s fault this development came to be.

We totally need another ESRB debate thread.

Yeah, Rockstar is clearly to blame for all of this. If anyone should bear the brunt of gamer and developer criticism, it’s them.

–Dave

The MPAA rating system does what it is supposed to do: keep the US government out of the content monitoring business when it comes to film. Given FCC’s track record with TV I’m not sure I would call that idiotic.

I was about to post a picture of boobs to illustrate the difference between the US and England, but the Entity would have removed it. That right there is why the US is so much worse in that department.