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ESRB gets a 'you suck' out of ten from former employee

3:17 PM on 03.06.2008 // Jim Sterling

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board -- known to you and I as the ESRB -- has come under fire from one its own ex-employees, who has provided a little rating of his own regarding the company's practices.

Jerry Bonner worked as a full-time rater within the ESRB for six months and has criticized the way the organization does its job with several key factors that need changing. His complaints include the suggestion that the ESRB needs to play the games it rates and, more unnervingly, the accusation that sequels are not judged on their own merits, but rather the merits of games that came before it. Next-Generation provides a summary of Bonner's key issues:

  • Drop the "AO" Rating and add a T-16 rating
  • Play through the games all the way
  • Stop rating sequels according to the content in their predecessors (according to Bonner, ESRB does this)
  • Be more open; don't be so secretive

The last two issues are, for me, the key ones. It's pretty obvious that sequels to controversial games get viewed with a more disparaging eye by censors (for instance, had Stephan Pakeerah not had his death falsely attributed to Mahunt, I believe British stores would be selling Manhunt 2 right now), and above all, this need that ratings boards seem to have to shroud themselves in secrecy ought to stop. Dodging questions and acting like a clandestine Illuminati is not going to help the ESRB or, in fact, any rating body being scrutinized by power-hungry politicians. While I agree with Next-Gen that the above points won't stop government busybodies from wanting to control the ESRB's work, I do believe that his suggestions certainly won't hurt, and might at least endear the rest of us some more to the group.

ESRB boss Patricia Vance had a few things to say about Bonner's statements herself, and you can view her counterpoints after the jump.

Patricia Vance's response to Bonner's criticism:

"Mr. Bonner’s article contains numerous misleading statements, factual inaccuracies, and misrepresentations… The author also fails to mention the unique and limited nature of his six-month tenure at the ESRB…

He implies that we arbitrarily change ratings after the raters have done their jobs. This is not the case… And, contrary to Mr. Bonner’s contention, the fact that a title being rated is part of a series has no bearing on the decision…

The author unfortunately also confuses our efforts to ensure the integrity and trustworthiness of the ratings system with unnecessary levels of secrecy. It is regrettable that the author does not appreciate the importance of protecting the confidentiality of the raters to avoid even the possibility of undue influence from external sources.

At the end of the day, ESRB stands behind each rating it assigns, and the process by which it assigns those ratings."

Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
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Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory

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