Monday, October 29, 2012

New Ratings for Online Games

I've started and deleted this article four times since last Thursday, because it just did not sound right.  I know that sounds lame, but I try to write posts that have life and character, and the first 4 attempts felt like a badly-written public service announcement. So here's my last attempt.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board - called ESRB - just added a new category to their ratings guide called Interactive Elements.  Basically, the good people at ESRB want to help the general public evaluate online games using these three categories:

  • Shares Location:  The game may share your location with other players.  For example, in Team Fortress 2, some servers show the country of origin for the players.  

  • Shares Information:  The game shares personal information (such as email address) with third parties. I suggest reading the fine print on games that have this icon to learn what information is shared with whom.

  • Users Interact:  The game allows the players to interact with each other through online chats, user-generated content (e.g. mods), or online messaging (typed messages).  To be honest, the ESRB description makes it sound as though you'll be exposed to something horrible by all the "unfiltered/uncensored" content.  But my own experience is that most mods are marked as to their content by the mod creator, and while some people might use vulgarities when chatting during a game, they will clean up their language if a kid is on the chat.  My daughter plays Team Fortress 2 occasionally, and the only time someone used a vulgarity she told them that she was 10 so they needed to watch their language.  The person apologized.
The symbols for the Interactive Elements are:
Shares LocationShares Information Users Interact

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