Video Game Rating Controversy

By: Thomas DiMarco & Omar Haque


In 1993 a video game rating system was created due to a heated controversy that arose, primarily, because of a single game: Mortal Kombat.  It was deemed to be too inappropriate for many to play, so, through Senate hearings, the government enforced a rating system for video games.  This is where private companies were formed, in order to uphold the law yet keep the industry free from too much government intervention. Prior to its release, there was no system set in place to rate video games. Therefore, there was no way to regulate the content that every game contained and, in turn, there was no guard set in place to prevent young people from buying products that were deemed too inappropriate or indecent for them.  The two largest private companies are PEGI and the ESRB. Combined, the two companies have rated and evaluated the majority of video games in the last two decades.

In the recent past, the ESRB have had some complications with games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Manhunt where the content, when compared to other mature rated games, contained excessive, intensified graphic content. The ESRB rated these games “Mature,” giving potential customers the idea that those games were on the same level of graphic content as others with the same rating.  The ESRB was criticized by the government-created National Institute on Media and the Family for that rating, saying that the content should have been rated differently, arguing for those to be “Adult Games.” Hilary Clinton even requested the FTC to investigate whether or not Video Game makers respected the rating system.

Companies like the ESRB and PEGI have undergone serious scrutinization from government institutions and civil groups and are mistrusted by such groups.  With differing perspectives, the continuous change of content, and an overall lack of good communication between the differing parties has leant to continued mistrust and the creation of a difficult environment to solve the problem mutually.


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