Mike Filardi, Aaron Petit
Prior to 1993 there was no standard rating system in place for video games, that changed when games like Mortal Kombat and Night Trap caused a social conversation concerning what kind of effect games could have on kids. While earlier games featured questionable content, it was likely the growing popularity of video games as a medium and the use of digitized actors (as opposed to drawings) in these games in particular that brought about controversy. The content like the “realistic” violence Mortal Kombat became the center of a series of congressional hearings from 1992 through 1993. The focus of the debate was whether or not children should have access to video games with explicit content, and if not how could that access be denied. In the end it was decided that either the video game industry would regulate itself, or the government would step in and do it themselves. This decision strongly resemble the controversy surrounding the regulation of Hollywood, which was at one time regulated by the Hay’s Code, and of comic book publishing, which was regulated by the Comics Code Authority.
The video game industry followed this precedent and the first ratings standard was created with Sega of America’s Videogame Rating Council in 1993. This standard would be replaced by others, each time changing the rules and regulations to find a ratings system that worked. This also has a precedent in film and comic history, as both have changed the way they rated and regulated content over the years. The current standards are the ESRB rating created in 1994 and PEGI in 2003 and while there is still some concern over the effects of video game content, the controversy has largely died down now that video games have entered the mainstream. Looking at this history in the larger context, taking into account the controversies of other mediums, a pattern becomes clear. Once the majority of people become familiar with a medium, nearly all of the fear around it goes away.