INSIDER ESPORTS -- Kai talks about the ESRB and external involvement in gaming.
Is the government, Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and the media going to cause competitive gaming scene to fall even deeper into the hole it’s already in?
Ever since the Columbine High School massacre of 1999, and even prior to that, the media has always blamed violent video games such as Quake, Doom, Counter Strike and Grand Theft Auto as a way for people to learn how to aim, shoot and stay calm during situations. They portray video games as a threat to cause more violence when in reality, it keeps people at home and the freak incidents that occur are just that…freak incidents.
Everyone’s mentality is different and it is impossible to tell what anyone is thinking. You could find someone who is quiet on the outside, and is waiting for the right time to let all that anger out at people they know or you may find someone who is loud, obnoxious and rude, but keeps the killing within in the game.
In the past few months, the government has become more involved in video gaming.
The government of China banned gold farming on June 29th. Gold farming is a trade, which brought in more than $146 million per year and the revenue from it raised by approximately 20% annually. Gold farming involves selling in-game currency for real cash over a website or PayPal to other players of the game.
According to a survey in 2008 by University of Manchester’s Richard Heeks, approximately 80 and 85 percent of gold farmers are based in China. The government claims it instituted the changes in an effort to limit gambling and other illegal online activities.
The German government banned all games that involve killing such as Counter Strike from LAN events in an effort to try to stop the large amounts of high school shootings in Germany in the past year. Due to this ban, many ESL Friday Night events were cancelled and also stopped the Convention X-Treme tournament from happening.
I believe the government fails to see the difference between shooters and your casual everyday gamer.
The people who were involved in the high school shootings in the United States all have a few things in common. They were alienated from their peers and subjected to bullying, which lead to depression, insecurity and the need for attention.
Many players who are willing to compete in these LAN events are usually very sociable with many friends and although they may have disagreements and physical altercations with other players, they are not the type of people who will bring a machine gun to school and go on a rampage. These are the same players who play the game to compete at a high a level and reach the professional status. They want to travel around the world competing in many different events, experience different cultures and meet new people.
In 1994, the Interactive Digital Software Association (now the Entertainment Software Rating Board), a self-regulatory organization, was founded. The organization has headquarters in both Canada and the United States. It was a group created to rate video games based on its content and is meant to aid buyers in determining a game’s content.
The ESRB currently use 7 different ratings to rate video games – 4 unrestricted ratings: EC (Early Childhood), E (Everyone), E10+ (Everyone 10 and older), T (Teen); 2 restricted ratings: M (Mature), AO (Adults Only); and 1 rating prior to release date: RP (Rated Pending).
Games with an unrestricted rating is generally sold to everyone and is usually given to video games that are based on childhood TV shows, sports games, and action/adventure games without blood, gore and sexual content. Most stores in the US and Canada have a policy not to sell games with a restricted rating to those under the legal age if the game is rated AO or under the age of 17 without parental consent if the game is rated M. The games with restricted ratings usually contain blood and gore, sexual themes/content, use of alcohol and drugs, and stop language. A game that has yet to be rated by the board is given the RP rating and appear only in advertising prior to the games release.
As of August 2007, only 25 games have been given the AO rating and that is because many of the major console manufacturers (Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft) prohibit the release and sale of AO-rated video games on their consoles. Many games that would have been rated AO were toned down in order to gain an M rating and be released.
While I personally do not agree with the ESRB rating system, it has been very helpful for adults purchasing video games for their kids, niece, nephew or family friends.
If a 12-year old kid really wanted to obtain a copy of Counter Strike, a game given the M rating by the ESRB, they would be able to in numerous ways. They could talk their parents into buying the game for them; steal their parents’ credit card and purchase the game online via steam; or they could find someone over 17 to purchase the game for them. There are many ways for one to obtain a game they want.
However, the rating system could cause a problem for competitive gaming. As the gaming scene gets older so does it’s players. With the rating system, parents may be reluctant to purchase games for their kids and the kids may not have contacts over 17 to purchase the game for them. As this happens, the gaming scene gets older with no new players. Eventually the original gamers have to move on, get jobs that can help provide for the family.
In a few years the gaming scene will be completely different, but will competitive gaming with these great, but violent games still be around or will it have moved onto other games that are less violent such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band?
American evangelist Billy Graham once said, “The foundations of civilization are no stronger and no more enduring than the corporate integrity of the homes on which they rest. If the home deteriorates, civilization will crumble and fall”.