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Bad Idea Corner potentially welcomes the ESRB, as it starts rating games by computer, unjudged by humans until release

Faces, have your palms ready. This one's a stormer. It turns out that as of this week, big honcho game ratings body the ERSB will be eschewing the process of actually using human eyes and brains to judge the content of a good proportion of the games submitted, in favour of letting cold, unfeeling machines do the job for it.

That's bound to be fine, right?

The new system requires that developers fill in an in-depth questionnaire detailing all content that may be considered offensive by the masses. There are sections for the likes of sex, violence, strong language, and even poop. This questionnaire is then analysed by the ESRB's Skynet equivalent and a rating is thrown out of its robotic opinion-slot. I kid you not.

Obviously having not seen the full detail of the questionnaire it's tricky to weigh up just how accurate this computerised offense-evaluation is going to be, and the ESRB promises that questions will break down content in a huge amount of detail, but it's easy to imagine that there'll be a bit less room for tonal context, interpretation of directorial vision, or emotional understanding of the content in question. Human beings will evaluate the games after release, and there will be heavy penalties for developers giving duff information, but is it coasting a little too close to Controversial Video Game Industry Nightmare City to only check this stuff out properly once a game is approved and out?

So far the system is only tagged to rate XBLA, PSN and Wii/DSiWare games, with real, human adjudicators continuing to take the reins on the rating of full retail games. But what do you reckon? Is this a necessary streamlining of resources, or a Fox News headline waiting to happen? Of course, most games are already rated without hands-on experience, by way of submitted DVDs of the most relevent content, but is this system going too far?

Source: The New York Times

April 18th, 2011

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18 comments

  • veiidriikwaa - April 19, 2011 4:59 a.m.

    Who cares? It's not as though those of us that should be playing M-rated games pay any attention to the rating anyway. Everyone that is not old enough to buy M-rated games will just try to get their parents to buy the game for them. If the parent does not want to then the child goes without. In the end who cares? As long as the ESRB does not end up holding sway over if a game gets released I'm happy.
  • Omrikon - April 19, 2011 4:50 a.m.

    It sounds like they're just asking developers to be honest about the content and then running the questionnaire through a system to assign a rating. Stuff like graphic violence and sex are going to just be worth more points than profane language, though more likely than not if the worst you have is "damn," it won't be as restrictively rated as more severe curses. Some time prior to this announcement though, the ESRB had announced an available position for a Downloadable Games Tester. I can only imagine the impact this concept had on my chances of landing that job. Oh well.
  • DamnHippy - April 19, 2011 midnight

    Has the ESRB not seen a little channel called FOX News Network, if not, they will be watching soon
  • CoryRX8 - April 18, 2011 11:30 p.m.

    Some idiot Congressman is going to jump all over this. It's times like this that make me glad that Sam Brownback isn't a Senator anymore. Granted, the people of Kansas were dumb enough to make him their governor, but at least he can't censor the rest of the country this way. FYI, I am a Kansan, but I don't live there currently and can't be blamed for the fact that he still has a political career. I would vote against him if I could.
  • shorty_bobert - April 18, 2011 11 p.m.

    When mainstream news gets a hold of this... Gaming is going to see some tough times because it can only end badly...
  • foxyexplosion - April 18, 2011 8:42 p.m.

    Hahah, This is absolutely ridiculous. Its very very lazy of them and will lead to a lot of improper ratings given to games. Assuming a computer can rate story and content like this shows how little the ESRB is actually able to think critically or logically. I really just wish people were smarter than this...
  • WikiParazFTW - April 18, 2011 6:42 p.m.

    wow, I kinda just want to get some popcorn and soda, so i can sit back and watch as this blows up in their face
  • NanoElite666 - April 18, 2011 5:43 p.m.

    At what point did this seem like a good idea...?
  • SolarPoweredShitMachine - April 18, 2011 5:39 p.m.

    Over here in Ireland, our ratings are "add 3 years to what USA/UK give it" with a cap at 18. Not that age ratings matter anyway, considering how many retarded ~10 year olds are on XBL/PSN playing M-rated games.
  • rabidpotatochip - April 18, 2011 5:35 p.m.

    @EnragedTortoise1 - Don't forget "is it possible to mod bare breasts into this game?"
  • Sharkbot - April 18, 2011 5:28 p.m.

    HA! PC Games aren't using this system. ftfw. :D
  • LTS - April 18, 2011 5:08 p.m.

    If I remember correctly, the ESRB Doesn't play the games. The developers send them a video of all the worst stuff in their game and they watch it and rate it from there. They couldn't actually play ever game ever, you know.
  • EnragedTortoise1 - April 18, 2011 4:39 p.m.

    Basically, this can be summed up in two simple questions. 1. Does blood stay on the floor? 2. At any point in the game's script, is there a mention of the word "fuck"? If the answer is yes to either of these, your game is rated M. Congratulations!
  • MancisFrorkYorgan - April 18, 2011 4:24 p.m.

    So... these guys are paid to play games before anybody else and detail the content within these games, yet they see fit to replace themselves with robots? Working for the ESRB sounds like a sweet deal -- why would they mess it up in such a way?
  • IIIIIACEIIIII - April 18, 2011 4:20 p.m.

    When the next Pokémon comes out we're gonna be in trouble. 1) Is there drugs in the game? (Yes, Zinc, Carbon, Iron, and so on) 2) Is there sex in the game? (Yes, Pokémon can breed) 3) Is any form of discrimination in the game? (Yes, certain Pokémon are banned from certain game types) 4) Are there ghosts or monsters or anything considered scary in the game? (Yes, there are a lot of monsters. There are some ghosts too) Rating: 18+/M for Mature
  • Sylverdemon - April 18, 2011 3:35 p.m.

    Hey I don't want skynet or the MCP, or HAL, or any fraking computer getting involved in this.
  • MrWindowPayne - April 18, 2011 3:31 p.m.

    Oh God! What if they rated Duke Nukem this way? I suppose there would have to be a box for Over-the-top, childish humour!
  • LeeVEGETA - April 18, 2011 3:27 p.m.

    Waste of time if you ask me. It might not be too bad if just limited to downloadable games, not many will notice a mess up apart from reviewers/games press. If it were to make its way into the retail market, I can see it been hit with more people to witness those errors.

Showing 1-18 of 18 comments

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