NOTE: (I'm also against official ratings boards for movies and music for the same reasons I'm about to argue against the ESRB. I'm just focusing on the ESRB because I figured it's the most relevant to people who read Destructoid.)
The ESRB is completely stupid and unnecessary. There's absolutely no reason what so ever to have an official ratings board for video games. Why should there be an official ratings board telling us what is or isn't appropriate for our children, when we haven't even agreed to the standards that it's using to judge games.
During the development of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Masahiro Sakurai responded on the official Smash Bros. website to a fan question asking what types of weapons Snake would be using in the game. Sakurai said that Snake would not use any guns or knives, because he wanted to make sure the game didn't get higher than a T rating. In the final game, Snake ended up using rocket launchers and hand grenades.
Now call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure that rocket launchers and hand grenades are more dangerous than guns and knives. Not only that, but there are plenty of characters in Smash Bros. who fight with swords. Aren't swords just bigger knives?! Why is it that it's okay to shoot Pikachu with an exploding missile, but if you shoot him with a bullet you've gone too far? Why is it that you can smack Princess Peach in the face with a sword, but if you use a knife you've crossed the line? And furthermore, why should the ESRB have the authority to draw this completely arbitrary line for what is or isn't appropriate?
What if I don't agree with those standards? What if I'm buying a game for my 11 year old sister and I don't think that games with knives are less appropriate for her than games with swords? But, when I go to look at a game in a store, all I see is the big 'M' rating warning me that the game I'm looking at is inappropriate for my sister to play. I have no idea that the reason they consider it inappropriate is because it has knives instead of swords. So now a developer and a store has lost a sale because I've been deceived into thinking a game that I would normally buy for my sister is inappropriate for her to play.
Also, what about the parents who think that swords are too violent? If there are people who think that games with knives are inappropriate for children under 17, then surely there most also be people who think the same thing about games with swords. What about the people who don't want their children playing games with swords, but who buy games that have swords for their children because the ESRB told them the games were appropriate for children? Aren't those people being deceived? Is it fair that they're being mislead into allowing their children to play games that have content that they don't want their children exposed to?
The ESRB basically came into existence due to the constant whining of people like Jack Thompson. Why should we rely on a ratings board that came into existence to please people like Jack Thompson, as if Jack Thompson in anyway represents the mainstream of society?
You're probably wondering how people would know which games were appropriate for their children without a rating system. It's simple, there would still be a rating system. It's just that instead of having an official rating system, games would be rated by websites and magazines like Destructoid and EGM. Reviewers would rate a game's appropriate age group as part of their review of the game. Over time, people would learn which ratings they trusted the most and those would be the ones they'd base their purchasing decisions on.
Eventually certain rating systems would become so popular that they'd end up being the unofficial 'official' rating systems. If people decide that Ted's Rating System is the most fair and accurate, then developers will start putting things like "Ted says this game's appropriate for all ages" on the front of the box. Developers would still have to cater to the rules of ratings boards in order to get the specific ratings that wanted for certain games, but the ratings boards that they'd be catering to would be the ones that the consumers have decided are the best, instead of the one that's being shoved down our throats now.
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