ESRB: We don't play games to rate them

by: Peter Skeritt -
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Apparently, you don't need to play a game to rate it. 

In a question and answer session with IGN, ESRB representative Eliot Mizrachi disclosed that the ratings board doesn't necessarily play a game before it decides on a rating:

"Although it seems logical that one would play a game to rate it, there are lots of reasons why we don't. For one, when games are submitted to ESRB for rating they may not have been finalized or fully tested yet. As a consequence, these games may still be buggy, making it difficult, if not impossible, for a rater to play the game from start to finish. Secondly, we assign over a thousand ratings each year and many games can take 50+ hours to play through. So it'd be extremely time-consuming."

The ESRB website echoes this sentiment, but states that ESRB raters view video footage supplied by each game's publishers. This basically means that the ESRB trusts publishers to disclose everything under threat of fines and/or recall and re-rating. Unfortunately, with video games becoming a multi billion-dollar business, it stands to reason that fines and recalls aren't the big bad things that they used to be. It was 2005 when the Hot Coffee scandal forced Rockstar to recall Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Rockstar settled lawsuits and redistributed the game minus the offending content, but was the company really worse off after the fact? 

It's completely understandable that the ESRB doesn't have the staff to play through every game that comes in for a rating, but there's definitely room for error with a rating board that doesn't rely on first-hand experience in order to accurately hand down video game ratings. Some responsibility for mis-rated games should fall on the ESRB, but the board seems intent on holding the very publishers that fund it and keep it running solely responsible. 

Are you all right with the ESRB system as it is, or should there be some changes when it comes to the ratings process?

Sources: SPOnG, IGN

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