esrb.jpg We here at GSW have ranted before about Matt Sakey's regular IGDA 'Culture Clash' column, oh yes, and this month's upsets another nest of bees, albeit in a well thought-out manner - in discussing changes to the ESRB game rating system.

Generally, the ESRB is under such attack at any given point from extremely unreasonable people that many people around the game industry feel bad about pointing out issues. Not so Sakey, who nonetheless overall notes: "I admire the ESRB. My only true complaint is that they're over-sensitive post-Hot Coffee and a little too quick to re-rate games. The fact that Kim Possible shows more skin than the unhacked version of Oblivion, and the effort involved with hacking it, should have had more bearing on their decision to re-rate that game."

He goes on to suggest, interestingly: "Game rating scales are based on the cinematic model established by the MPAA, which creates an immediate problem that lawmakers can take advantage of by twisting the intent of those ratings to suit their needs... It's wrong to see [game] ratings as delimiters of purchasability. They're just guidelines. To combat this, content descriptors should have greater prominence than the rating itself. If game content is concisely and honestly defined, the rating system is protected."

Another comment is about sex and violence (snuggling up again!): "The ESRB is also wrong to separate sex and violence. In the U.S., R-rated films are open to kids under 17 if accompanied by parent or guardian. Many include some remarkably explicit sexual content, and there's no real limit to the gore and violence an R film can have. Films containing either or both carry the same rating... Sex and violence are both for grown ups. Implying that they should be delineated separately in games (I'm unaware of any released game receiving an AO rating for violence) plays right into the hands of those who want to label games as pornography, and therefore subject to government oversight." An interesting point of view, too, in a column which talks carefully about possible holes in a tricky grid of possibilities. What think you?