In today’s digital gaming world, the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) is so irrelevant it is nothing more than misdirection. The fact is the ESRB was created to slap a sticker on game boxes so parents and grandparents could feel good knowing a game they bought at the game store was age appropriate. There is nothing more to the ESRB than that.
Here is the ESRB’s definition of themselves…
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is the non-profit, self-regulatory body that assigns ratings for video games and apps so parents can make informed choices. The ESRB rating system encompasses guidance about age-appropriateness, content, and interactive elements. As part of its self-regulatory role for the video game industry the ESRB also enforces industry-adopted advertising guidelines and helps ensure responsible web and mobile privacy practices under its Privacy Certified program. ESRB was established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).
It does not address the many other nuances that the digital game industry deals with. It does not deal with fraud, nor does it deal with the many psychological tactics intentionally employed to create game addictions and unhealthy compulsions. For an eye opener on this, visit The Free to Play Bible.
It does not deal with mobile games and apps, which has surpassed the console game industry.
Yet in a vacuum or anything else remotely resembling a digital game self-regulating body, politicians are left addressing the ESRB with issues relating to gaming that fall outside of age ratings. What is worse, they form letters and opinions to fit the narrow definitions of the ESRB.
Statistics have proven that children do not spend the billions that keep the mobile game industry lucrative, and the ESRB is not suited for this.
While it is still nice to see that little ESRB rating on a game box, it means very little in the scheme of things, and we need a new solution. The ESRB was established by the Entertainment Software Association which defines itself as follows;
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is the U.S. association exclusively dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of companies that publish computer and video games for video game consoles, handheld devices, personal computers, and the Internet.
The fact is that their ratings themselves are questionable in what one person thinks is age appropriate versus another. For instance, a game that is solely “simulated” gambling gets a T for teen rating, while a game marketed for children with an actual slot machine in the game, gets an E for everybody rating. This can be argued that the slot machine is only part of the game, but many parents would feel it completely unacceptable. See where that is going?
Regulation does not exist in the mobile app environment, and app stores are left imposing their own rules. Here is where that fails. With a vacuum of regulation and oversight the mobile game distributors, such as the App Store or Play Store, are left between a rock and hard place. Look at it like this, you have gamers complaining constantly about a certain game, but the game employs people like Kristen Dumont, an acclaimed super lawyer. I am not sure what a super lawyer is, but it made me think twice.