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ESRB using computers to determine game ratings

8:00 AM on 04.18.2011

Jim Sterling

Former Reviews Editor

The Entertainment Software Rating Board is about to embark on one of the silliest ventures this industry has ever seen, as it's planning to automate the rating of videogames. Starting with XBLA, PSN and WiiWare titles, the ESRB is going to let computers decide what ages videogames are suitable for.

Publishers will soon not need to show their game to a human, instead filling out a questionnaire to determine how much sex, violence, swearing, gambling and foul bodily function is in a game. The rating is then decided upon by a program that replicates the "ingrained cultural norms and predilections of the everyday American consumer."

At least for the trial phase, the ESRB will be testing each game with real humans to verify that the computer got it right. 

Anybody with a shred of insight will already know how wrong this could go. For a start, the game-hating pundits in the mainstream media are going to have a field day when they discover that "computers are rating computer games," not to mention I foresee publishers contesting a lot of the "decisions" this program makes. ESRB reverting back to human testers in 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 

Busy Job of Judging Video-Game Content to Be Ceded to Machines [NY Times]


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Jim Sterling
Former Reviews Editor
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