The ESRB has added "ratings summaries" to their game ratings, gaining applause from Senators Hillary Clinton and Joseph Lieberman.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board recently unveiled their newest addition to their ratings system: ratings summaries. The summaries "explain in objective terms the context and relevant content that factored into a game’s ESRB rating assignment." The ESRB has stated that all games released after July 1, 2008 will have ratings summaries. Strangely enough, Nintendo's recent Wii game, Animal Crossing: City Folk, does not currently have a ratings summary. For an example of a ratings summary, here is the summary for the upcoming Teen-rated Wii release, Deadly Creatures:
Deadly Creatures is an action adventure game in which players can assume the roles of an armored scorpion and a tarantula spider as they move through desert terrain and underground passages. Players can inject creatures (e.g., Gila monsters, horned lizards, praying mantis, etc.) with poison, infest an area, cast deadly webs and destroy various rats, beetles, and snakes with their tails. Red blood is emitted from the reptiles or rats when attacked. There is a reference to alcohol in the dialogue (e.g., "…he was a drunk."), and mild profanity can be heard throughout the game (e.g., "goddamn," "bastard," and "son of a b*tch").
Long-time ESRB critics Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Joseph Lieberman both approve of the new ratings summaries, with Clinton saying that "the ratings [are] a real gift for parents as we head into this holiday season." Lieberman even goes to say that he "[applauds] the ESRB for taking this proactive step to inform video game consumers."
Senator Lieberman's crusade against video games began before the ESRB's formation. In 1994, he and Senator Herbert Kohl stood before the U.S. Senate and called out Mortal Kombat and Night Trap's extreme violence and marketing. The Senate's conclusion at the end of that hearing was that the video game industry needed to create a rating system within the year or else the government would intervene. After a few company-specific ratings systems, like Sega's Videogame Rating Council, the ESRB was established and approved by Congress. Years later, Lieberman continued his war against video game violence during the Grand Theft Auto series' rise to popularity. He even tried to go as far as to make selling or renting a video game to a minor a federal crime.
Senator Clinton joined the fray shortly after. She saw games as a "major threat" to morality and went on to say that "children are playing a game that encourages them to have sex with prostitutes and then murder them. This is a silent epidemic of media desensitization that teaches kids it's OK to diss people because they are a woman, they're a different color or they're from a different place."
Thankfully, the two Senators seem to be appeased by the ESRB's latest addition. Only time will tell if they are truly satisfied with ratings summaries or not.