Psychologist Suggests Ditching Age Rating and Going With Content Instead

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Psychologist Suggests Ditching Age Rating and Going With Content Instead

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According to one expert, age-based rating systems are too subjective to be really effective.

Douglas Gentile, head of the Media Research Lab at Iowa State University, says that rating systems that group media into age brackets are less useful than those that simply inform consumers of a game or a movie's content and then let them make up their own mind whether something is appropriate for them or their children.

Citing a study from the journal Pediatrics, Gentile said that there was disagreement over what the appropriate age for viewing certain content was. He said that around a third of the 700 parents asked in the survey thought that it was fine for children as young as six to watch footage of romantic kissing, for example, while more than a fifth thought the same content wasn't appropriate for children under the age of 13. He also noted that there were some topics that some parents felt very strongly about - such as depictions of homosexuality - and that a content-based system would inform parents that a game or movie might contain things they find objectionable and let them make informed decisions.

Gentile admits however, that his ideas are just the first step and there it would need a lot of work to turn it into a working rating system. The Pediatrics study used 37 distinct and detailed descriptors, terms like "disrespect toward a deity or sacred symbol's name" and "nonsexual partial nudity," which might be a little tricky to fit on the back of a game or movie's box. Gentile hoped that people from the entertainment industry would talk to leading child psychologists and work something out that could be applied to all forms of media.

"Parents say they really want ratings, but they don't really use them that much because they aren't accurate," he said. "The reason it matters so much is because research indicates when parents do use ratings, it's good for kids. They get into fewer fights [jand] have better grades in school. So, the better the ratings are the more power we've given to parents. And 'digital convergence' - the ability to consume the same media on a variety of devices nowadays - means now is the time to develop a rating system that is universal."

Although there's nothing wrong with looking at the rating system to see if it can be improved, Gentile's suggestions might prove to be a little too cumbersome to be workable. What's more, current rating systems like the ESRB and PEGI do actually include content descriptors with their ratings, although not to the degree of specificity that the Pediatrics study uses. Gentile's suggestion that the ratings would allow parents to shield their children from homosexuality is also a little troubling. It's a minor point, but rating systems should serve to inform and protect children from inappropriate material, not foster intolerance and close-mindedness.

Source: Tech News Daily via Game Politics

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But that would involve thinking.

Honestly, the fact it takes a psychologist to say this doesn't say much for us.

Nothing will change, mark my words.

In a perfect world, yes, that would work. But a lot of parents either don't care or just chose to remain oblivious to the current rating system, one that is left up to their discretion is just going to make the issue worse.

If there's concern over fitting all of the descriptors on the back of the box, then don't put them on the box. The rating system can work with the retailers and have the descriptors tied to the bar code. All they would need is a cheap monochromatic screen with a couple of scroll buttons. They can scan the bar code and read all the descriptors.

But videogames are for children! Who would put such disgusting things inside a childrens toy?!

" He also noted that there were some topics that some parents felt very strongly about - such as depictions of homosexuality "

I wouldn't put that on the back of the box just to hammer the nail in on this subject for such morons.

Anyway, people should inform themselves if they want to know more. Enough is done already by retailers and ratings boards.

I've been playing M rated games since I was 8. Literally, my first AAA game was Diablo 2. Don't count all those Blood and clones, GTA, Heavy Metal FAKK and so on.

In theory, this is a good idea. In practice however, it probably just wouldn't work out. People
care little about the rating system enough as is and this won't change that.
Because something works in theory, doesn't mean it will acually work out. Theory is a treacherous thing.

It's a good method for our overly sensitive society. Sadly despite what surveys say most parents don't pay attention to ratings (More so on video games than movies) I think it would be a good thing for the small percentage that really does care.

Ninjariffic:
If there's concern over fitting all of the descriptors on the back of the box, then don't put them on the box. The rating system can work with the retailers and have the descriptors tied to the bar code. All they would need is a cheap monochromatic screen with a couple of scroll buttons. They can scan the bar code and read all the descriptors.

So the parents would have to take each game box to the counter and have the desk clerk scan it? That doesn't make it easier for anyone. Even if you made a customer useable device similar to a price check station, you are making it incredibly inconvenient for any store that actually gets busy. Reading the back of a box > waiting in line to scan a barcode.

Well I can tell you that it won't make any difference. Parents will still ignore it when they buy it for their 9 year old. I doubt game publishers would be up for that, between cost and the space it would consume. I wouldn't be up for it as I shouldn't have to be given every single detail of what is in a game.
Just what is 'nonsexual partial nudity', anyway? Underboob? Or seeing a woman's ankle?

Veloxe:
In a perfect world, yes, that would work. But a lot of parents either don't care or just chose to remain oblivious to the current rating system, one that is left up to their discretion is just going to make the issue worse.

I am inclined to agree with this. Parents will argue that they don't have the time to stand in the store reading every little tidbit that they should be aware of in a game. These days, they really don't. In my opinion the ESRB has been quite on the mark with their ratings, with little bias. The parents who are likely to ignore those ratings are going to ignore a detailed account even more.

Ninjariffic:
If there's concern over fitting all of the descriptors on the back of the box, then don't put them on the box. The rating system can work with the retailers and have the descriptors tied to the bar code. All they would need is a cheap monochromatic screen with a couple of scroll buttons. They can scan the bar code and read all the descriptors.

You don't like GameStop employees, do you? :) Or did you mean the customer would read them?

Veloxe:
In a perfect world, yes, that would work. But a lot of parents either don't care or just chose to remain oblivious to the current rating system, one that is left up to their discretion is just going to make the issue worse.

This.

Soccer moms are the sole reason we got whiny sweary little brats polluting the online gaming culture. They never ever fucking read the ratings.

if they get rid of age ratings how will the Australian government stop me from playing games that involve violence?

Woodsey:
" He also noted that there were some topics that some parents felt very strongly about - such as depictions of homosexuality "

I wouldn't put that on the back of the box just to hammer the nail in on this subject for such morons.

Anyway, people should inform themselves if they want to know more. Enough is done already by retailers and ratings boards.

In today's world, where homosexuality is trying to be considered equal with heterosexuality, this guy would see depictions of homosexuality adding to a rating more than a girl and boy kissing.
This is one part that convinces me this guy is an idiot. Worse, quite possibly a bigot, as well. People with that kind of bias do not belong anywhere near a system that is supposed to help gamers decide what is appropriate to play for certain agegroups.
I would like to ask him if there should be a warning for interracial content.

samsonguy920:

Woodsey:
" He also noted that there were some topics that some parents felt very strongly about - such as depictions of homosexuality "

I wouldn't put that on the back of the box just to hammer the nail in on this subject for such morons.

Anyway, people should inform themselves if they want to know more. Enough is done already by retailers and ratings boards.

In today's world, where homosexuality is trying to be considered equal with heterosexuality, this guy would see depictions of homosexuality adding to a rating more than a girl and boy kissing.
This is one part that convinces me this guy is an idiot. Worse, quite possibly a bigot, as well. People with that kind of bias do not belong anywhere near a system that is supposed to help gamers decide what is appropriate to play for certain agegroups.
I would like to ask him if there should be a warning for interracial content.

All the quote says is that some parents felt strongly about it. It doesn't give a hint of his personal feelings.

Scars Unseen:

Ninjariffic:
If there's concern over fitting all of the descriptors on the back of the box, then don't put them on the box. The rating system can work with the retailers and have the descriptors tied to the bar code. All they would need is a cheap monochromatic screen with a couple of scroll buttons. They can scan the bar code and read all the descriptors.

So the parents would have to take each game box to the counter and have the desk clerk scan it? That doesn't make it easier for anyone. Even if you made a customer useable device similar to a price check station, you are making it incredibly inconvenient for any store that actually gets busy. Reading the back of a box > waiting in line to scan a barcode.

They don't check the back of the box anyway. I've also never seen a line at a price checker.

And yes, I meant the customers check it themselves.

samsonguy920:

Woodsey:
" He also noted that there were some topics that some parents felt very strongly about - such as depictions of homosexuality "

I wouldn't put that on the back of the box just to hammer the nail in on this subject for such morons.

Anyway, people should inform themselves if they want to know more. Enough is done already by retailers and ratings boards.

In today's world, where homosexuality is trying to be considered equal with heterosexuality, this guy would see depictions of homosexuality adding to a rating more than a girl and boy kissing.
This is one part that convinces me this guy is an idiot. Worse, quite possibly a bigot, as well. People with that kind of bias do not belong anywhere near a system that is supposed to help gamers decide what is appropriate to play for certain agegroups.
I would like to ask him if there should be a warning for interracial content.

as much as that should be as it is the world is full of biggest and the notification will their for them then becomes he himself is one, you noticed he also mentioned "romantic kissing" it don't necessarily mean if he saw someone kissing in the street he would hit them with a stick.

the descriptions would have to cover every possible view point

The thing is content is already on the package as part of the current rating system. Granted, it is on the back of the case and in almost the perfect place to be covered by your thumb when picking up a game case. But, that doesn't change the fact that it is listed.

Parents that ignore the current rating system will ignore the content advisories should they be moved from the back to the front of the box. Far too many parents today see video games as parents of the past saw television. An electronic babysitter that they can plop their kid in front of to keep them out of trouble without thinking about content that the child would be exposed to.

There is hope though; We are getting to the point where new parents will be more savvy about video game content. New parents of today is the generation that grew up playing video games. So, I can only hope that they will be more wise about what they expose their children to. Well, the responsible parents at least.

Ninjariffic:

Scars Unseen:

Ninjariffic:
If there's concern over fitting all of the descriptors on the back of the box, then don't put them on the box. The rating system can work with the retailers and have the descriptors tied to the bar code. All they would need is a cheap monochromatic screen with a couple of scroll buttons. They can scan the bar code and read all the descriptors.

So the parents would have to take each game box to the counter and have the desk clerk scan it? That doesn't make it easier for anyone. Even if you made a customer useable device similar to a price check station, you are making it incredibly inconvenient for any store that actually gets busy. Reading the back of a box > waiting in line to scan a barcode.

They don't check the back of the box anyway. I've also never seen a line at a price checker.

And yes, I meant the customers check it themselves.

I guess my point is that making the content rating less accessible isn't going to make more people look at it.

So he wants to remove the age rating and replace it with an only slightly more detailed version? Seems kind of silly to me, most of what he wants is already on the box anyways. Plus the age rating is a good way for parets to tell at a glance which games are most likely not appropriate for their kids. I think that his idea would actually make parents even less likely to read up on the ratings.

Cid SilverWing:

Veloxe:
In a perfect world, yes, that would work. But a lot of parents either don't care or just chose to remain oblivious to the current rating system, one that is left up to their discretion is just going to make the issue worse.

This.

Soccer moms are the sole reason we got whiny sweary little brats polluting the online gaming culture. They never ever fucking read the ratings.

Why dont you just blame it on zee germans because that makes about as much sense as the bullshit you just wrote.

I don't think less people would look at the information. I think at worst we would have the same amount. On the plus side the information given would be far more useful.

People don't read ratings, and mostly they complain about games/movies/books/thoughts they haven't seen, read, investigated, or done anything other than heard of. Thus the discussion is largely moot except for political points anyway.

That said, I've been saying this about age-related ratings for years. I've personally known (and taught) 20-somethings that I wouldn't trust with a colouring book, and known 13-year-olds who could handle some pretty heavy stuff without being affected by it. Granted they're both pretty small minorities, but it falls back into the standard sociopolitical trap of blindly classifying everyone into a few large groups. (Yes, I'm aware that I just did that above. I was being overdramatic to make a point. I accept responsibility for that.)

Before ESRB ratings were standard in the USA, there was a competing method that graded a game on several sliding scales based on the depth of depiction of violence, sexuality, etc. I believe it was mostly used on PC games in the mid-90s. Don't recall the name, but I could dig out my old Realms of Arkania: Star Trail box and find a copy of one. I liked that it provided descriptions without just blanket age groups, and generally provided far more information for people to ignore.

Douglas Dover:
if they get rid of age ratings how will the Australian government stop me from playing games that involve violence?

They'll simply outright ban any game that someone complains about.

Yeah, the ratings are usually inaccurate. Can someone explain to me how Crysis 2 has "partial nudity", or how Bulletstorm has "sexual themes"?

I'll tell you what. There needs to be a global standard at least.
I used to work in GAME and French exchange students how were about 15 would always try and buy 50 cent the game. Trying to explain to them that the huge red circle with the number 18 written in it meant they couldn't buy it was often a chore. After a while I just learnt the French phrase; "tu peut pas ce achete".

for games like grand theft auto the game box would need to be three times bigger to accomodate all the content it has. holy impractical but perhaps a shorthand perhaps a graphical representation

Well having an ERSB rating on the box is pretty useless for some minors,because they will find a way to persuade their parents to buy it for them(this works in most cases).

The idea of the psychologist is a good one,but it won't change the fact that if the game has extreme content(gore,sex,violence etc)minors won't think of a way to get their hands on it.

Or these parents can do their homework and actually look up the game. Be it on youtube or through friends that know about it/have played it. You know, actual parenting.

"He also noted that there were some topics that some parents felt very strongly about - such as depictions of homosexuality "

Yes, be sure to make your children as homophobic as possible, so they can be as biggotted as you are, "good parents"...

guess im not the only one saying that ratings are complete and utter failure of humanity.
for people who keep saying the idiocy of "omg my 10 year old kid will see gore and grow up to be psychopath" should probably remember their youth. people lived before ratings existed, kids watched movies like The Blob at ages of 6 and they grew up to be decent casual people. im sorry if you were so underdeveloped to be unable to differentiate between real world and movie/game but that doesn't mean everyone was.
anyway, according to this forum rules i probably went a bit too far, but id rather express my real opinion than hide behind censorship.

Very cynical bunch of people around here.
I'm sure there's a LOT of parents who would find a proper rating system very helpful. Especially with the gamer generation getting older and starting to become parents themselves.

4173:

samsonguy920:

Woodsey:
" He also noted that there were some topics that some parents felt very strongly about - such as depictions of homosexuality "

I wouldn't put that on the back of the box just to hammer the nail in on this subject for such morons.

Anyway, people should inform themselves if they want to know more. Enough is done already by retailers and ratings boards.

In today's world, where homosexuality is trying to be considered equal with heterosexuality, this guy would see depictions of homosexuality adding to a rating more than a girl and boy kissing.
This is one part that convinces me this guy is an idiot. Worse, quite possibly a bigot, as well. People with that kind of bias do not belong anywhere near a system that is supposed to help gamers decide what is appropriate to play for certain agegroups.
I would like to ask him if there should be a warning for interracial content.

All the quote says is that some parents felt strongly about it. It doesn't give a hint of his personal feelings.

Thank you for noting this. Some people have an issue with homosexuality, apparently, some of these people are parents and got into the study. Big surprise. Studies like this tend to go over a lot of different things and that would probably meet a VERY vitriolic response, hence the singling out of it for the sake of example. Maybe the guy is a raging homophobe, but for all the actual quote notes about him, he could just as easily be homosexual... or an asexually reproducing bacteria.

James Joseph Emerald:
Very cynical bunch of people around here.
I'm sure there's a LOT of parents who would find a proper rating system very helpful. Especially with the gamer generation getting older and starting to become parents themselves.

Yes, there are many bad parenting examples, including, but not limited to, thinking rating system can determine what is suitable for their children.

Yeah, but the problem with this is that it suggests that parents actually look at the ratings info on the box... and I'm pretty sure they don't do that.

Before the ESRB ratings games did have something like this, where language, gore, and sexuality all received separate scores. I'd love to see us go back to something like that.

When my wife and I want to watch a movie with our six-year-old we go to IMDB and check the parental information. While the age ratings aren't useless (we wouldn't bother with an R rated movie, for example) we're going to learn far more from the IMDB descriptions than simply a G/PG/PG-13 rating.

ESRB does give some information on what went into a rating but I think it really is insufficient.

After reading some of these comments, I can't wait for some of you to become parents. Everything changes.

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