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ESRB's Vance Explains, Defends Game Rating Process

As part of a detailed article published on Gamasutra today, the ESRB's president Patricia Vance has been discussing in unprecedented detail exactly how the org
As part of a detailed article published on Gamasutra today, the ESRB's president Patricia Vance has been discussing in unprecedented detail exactly how the organization rates games. Vance, who runs the voluntary game rating industry body, answered a host of questions regarding the ESRB-employed game raters, explaining that over one thousand games per year are rated by the organization, and adding: "The ESRB has a staff of six full-time raters, and they're hired through a fairly straightforward interview process." As explained, for any given game, three raters review a DVD or videotape of the pertinent content in a game. This footage is prepared by the publisher. Elsewhere in the interview, a particularly interesting section dealt with Vance's impressions of where rating games might be particularly difficult, as she explained: "Generally speaking, things like language -- bathroom humor, plays on words, slang -- fictitious or non-descript substances, or use of religious imagery can often be tricky. The presence of sensitive social issues in games, like sexual or racial stereotyping for example, have also led to internal debate about how best to address them from a ratings standpoint." In particular, the ESRB president noted: "Though it might surprise people to hear it, low-level or cartoon violence actually tends to be something that receives a lot of thought and discussion. Take for instance an animated character that smacks another over the head with a frying pan. Is that Comic Mischief or Mild Cartoon Violence? To a degree, that's going to depend a lot on the depiction itself." The full article on the ESRB rating system is now available on Gamasutra, including lots more specifics on the mechanics of the game rating process and just how North American video game ratings are arrived at.

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