First let me say I was concerned reporting on this that there may be a backlash on games that follow ethics on limiting access to children. I seriously hope that ethical developers do not get penalized by platform providers over the failures of the ratings guidelines that govern them.
This started with a reader’s comment pointing out he played World Series of Poker. This is a simulated gambling game. This started an eye opening investigation for me. This is not about one developer, or one game. I found it crosses from simulated gambling to games like Clash of Clans.
When taking a look at WSOP something caught my eye. In the game description it said it was intended for players 21+. This caught my attention since the app store indicated 12+. This is a huge difference. I started looking at similar games first and came across 21+ or 18+ in descriptions or terms of service, when they where rated 12+ on the app store.
Interestingly some games completely avoid the age distinction in their TOS and description. I noted this when checking out Fortnite. This seems to be more consistent with games published on PC or consoles. I also discovered a great number of games on PC much harder, if not impossible to see their TOS without a purchase.
So what does this tell us? It indicates to me that many developers, for legal ‘or’ ethical reasons, believe the rating granted them, is inadequate. I personally believe if a developer indicates that a game is not suitable for children or teens, they should have the right and obligation to have the ratings systems and boards increase their age rating. In not doing this, the parents and suppliers of games, are being deceived into allowing the flow of, potentially harmful in game mechanisms and content, into the hands of those the developer never intended.
Also in my opinion, if a developer seeks a lower age rating, I am skeptical about their motives. But if a developer wants a higher age rating, there exists a legal or ethical reason. If they can not obtain the higher rating, the rating system failed.
Below are screen shots showing the rating disparity from the rating to the game’s TOS or description. The sampling was very small and this is not intended to falsely lead the reader into the conclusion that this is all that exists, or that all game developers are disagreeing with the granted age rating.