Videogame For Adults: Ratings Explained

Just what is an Adult?

Posted by Staff
Videogame For Adults: Ratings Explained
In the light of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft's policy decisions not to allow games rated as Adult Only by the United States of America's Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) to be played on their platforms, SPOnG has sought clarification on what this meant to territories outside the U.S.

Why? Well, here's what the ESRB, the BBFC and PEGI say about their ratings:

ESRB
ADULTS ONLY
"Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity."

BBFC
18
"Suitable only for adults. No-one younger than 18 may see an 18 film in a cinema. No-one younger than 18 may rent or buy an 18 rated video."

PEGI
18+
"The age rating system comprises two separate but complementary elements. The first is an age rating, similar to some existing rating systems. The PEGI age bands are 3+, 7+, 12+, 16+, 18+. The second element of the new system is a number of game descriptors. These are icons, displayed on the back of the game box that describe the type of content to be found in the game. Depending on the type of game, there may be up to six such descriptors. The intensity of the content is appropriate to the age rating of the game."

So, as far as we can see, an AO game in the United States equates to an 18-rated game in the UK (using the BBFC's certification system). Therefore, we asked all three platform holders whether the policy to disallow Adult Only rated games on their platforms is consistent. Can we expect to see the following withdrawn from sale due to their BBFC rating?


Scarface The World is Yours - BBFC 18 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PC)
The Darkness - BBFC 18 (Xbox 360)
God of War II - BBFC 18 (PlayStation 2)
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men - BBFC 18 (PlayStation 3)
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon - BBFC 18 (Nintendo Wii)

We are currently waiting responses from the local offices of all three platform holders - or failing that, from their relevant homeland HQs. We'll report back on findings as soon as we get definitive comment.


Companies:

Comments

DoctorDee 28 Jun 2007 14:19
1/15
Aahhhh! Hoist be their own petards.

So eager were they to join the prurient "ban this shameful filth" mob that they overlooked the multiplicity of their own standards.

Still, hypocrisy is the greatest luxury.

madjo 28 Jun 2007 14:51
2/15
Well, because of 'parents groups' concerns, most US stores won't sell AO rated items. And those groups would also look down at consolemakers that allow AO-rated games on their systems.

The same is not true for the UK and other European countries. Either we don't have such parents groups, or they are more sensible.

Nintendo and Sony risk less when allowing BBFC 18, or PEGI 18+ rated games on their systems. People won't look down at them.

I think that there lies the difference.
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deftangel 28 Jun 2007 21:19
3/15
Kane & Lynch isn't rated 18 by the BBFC.
Rutabaga 29 Jun 2007 00:53
4/15
Erm, what is the point of this article? ESRB & BBFC are different organisations dealing with US and British content just because it's 18 rated here it doesn't equate to a AO in the USA. What was GOW2 and the other games mentioned rated in the US?
DoctorDee 29 Jun 2007 09:14
5/15
Rutabaga wrote:
Erm, what is the point of this article?


The point of the article is to rail at censorship. The point out the problems with closed platforms, and to show the hypocrisy of the platform holders.

I once famously posted a comment that was widely re-posted, and widely mocked, pointing out that with increasing dominance of closed platform holder (I was talking about Microsoft, though I said, and meant Sony too), and the increasing use of DRM and consoles as media hubs, we would end up in a situation where large corporations controlled what we can and cannot watch.

That day has arrived. OK, today it is to protect us from "inappropriate content", but how can you say with any confidence that in future it will not be to "protect" us from political and social messages the corporations do not want us to hear. The truth about what's happening in Iraq for instance.

Corporate control is invidious and increasing. Handing them the power to decide what we can and cannot see is a crime. Standing by and letting it happen is a disabuse of our democratic rights and our moral obligations.
Rutabaga 29 Jun 2007 10:35
6/15
DoctorDee wrote:
Rutabaga wrote:
Erm, what is the point of this article?

The point of the article is to rail at censorship. The point out the problems with closed platforms, and to show the hypocrisy of the platform holders...

I don't see it as hypocrisy (in this instance), the article (to me) sounded like the ramblings of an angst ridden student trying to point out inconsistancies in big bruver', man!. When in reality the classification systems aren't comparable, the titles you mentioned that were 18 rated here in the UK were all rated M (mature) in the US.Therefore 18 doesn't equal AO as the article tried to suggest. Manhunt in effect is one notch up from this, as it hasn't been given a rating in the UK.
Duoae 29 Jun 2007 11:16
7/15
Well, the simple explanation - one which i've come to from studying this effect over a number of months now - is that Mature rating from the ESRB is inclusive of 18 and 18+ ratings. AO is actually a sneaky attempt to bring a ban rating to the US where, as i've encountered, people rail against "the man" and any american i've spoken to goes crazy as soon as you say how would you feel about a ban being handed down from "on high"?

The general response is, "We don't need that! We fought for our independence and NO ONE is telling me what i can watch or listen to."

So, since the retailers won't stock AO games (all the imporatant ones anyway) and Console manufacturers don't allow AO games on their systems (but the age disparity is pointed out in the article) then there is an "unspoken" allegiance for a ban to be in place... Like the film ratings they have over there... it just isn't possible to release a game under the higher X ratings and make money.
DoctorDee 29 Jun 2007 13:57
8/15
Rutabaga wrote:
the titles you mentioned that were 18 rated here in the UK were all rated M (mature) in the US.Therefore 18 doesn't equal AO as the article tried to suggest. Manhunt in effect is one notch up from this, as it hasn't been given a rating in the UK.

AO in the US means that a user has to be over 18 to view/play the product. An 18 rating in the UK means that a user has to be over 18 to view/play the product. The rating are EXACTLY the same.

The fact that 18 is used to as intended, and AO is used as a way of tacitly imposing censorship is not the issue. The definition of the ratings themselves are exactly the same.

But the fact remains that no-one, and certainly not a platform holder, should be able to tell us what we can see or play.

YenRug 29 Jun 2007 14:56
9/15
Some interesting points of comparison:

http://blogs.ign.com/Matt-IGN/2007/06/27/58644/
Rutabaga 29 Jun 2007 16:04
10/15
DoctorDee wrote:
AO in the US means that a user has to be over 18 to view/play the product. An 18 rating in the UK means that a user has to be over 18 to view/play the product. The rating are EXACTLY the same.


They are NOT the same, other than the number 18, as the poster above you pointed out. M (US) and 18 (UK) are effectively the same rating. Hence GOW2 gets M in US and 18 in the UK.

DoctorDee wrote:
But the fact remains that no-one, and certainly not a platform holder, should be able to tell us what we can see or play.


Do you think it would be acceptable for Rape City 5 and Sim Pedo 3 to be released, there has to be some form of censorship, some line drawn. You know as well as I that Manhunt 2 would be played by kids of a fairly young age, the fault of ignorant parents admittedly.
DoctorDee 29 Jun 2007 16:21
11/15
Rutabaga wrote:
They are NOT the same

OK. Please explain the difference.

DoctorDee wrote:
Do you think it would be acceptable for Rape City 5 and Sim Pedo 3 to be released,

But movies showing realistic representations of rape are frequently released. Movies dealing with the subject of paedophilia are released too.

there has to be some form of censorship, some line drawn.

Why does there? And if there does, who draws the line and where? These are very important questions, and they should not be answered by the BBFC, Microsoft and Sony.

You know as well as I that Manhunt 2 would be played by kids of a fairly young age, the fault of ignorant parents admittedly.

Yes, but those same kids are playing; F.E.A.R., The Darkness, and Resistance. They can even play Manhunter!!! Why is it OK for them to play those games, but not Manhunter 2?

Rutabaga 29 Jun 2007 16:43
12/15
DoctorDee wrote:
OK. Please explain the difference.

One is a US classification, one is a UK classification.

DoctorDee wrote:
But movies showing realistic representations of rape are frequently released. Movies dealing with the subject of paedophilia are released too.

It's all about context.

DoctorDee wrote:
Why does there? And if there does, who draws the line and where? These are very important questions, and they should not be answered by the BBFC, Microsoft and Sony.

So you think there should be no censorship on anything, Snuff movies, child stuff, beheadings etc.

DoctorDee wrote:
Yes, but those same kids are playing; F.E.A.R., The Darkness, and Resistance. They can even play Manhunter!!! Why is it OK for them to play those games, but not Manhunter 2?

It's not OK for them to be playing them they were rated 15 and above.

DoctorDee 29 Jun 2007 18:11
13/15
Rutabaga wrote:
One is a US classification, one is a UK classification.

One is a classification that says a person under the age of 18 cannot view/play the product.

The other is a classification that says a person under the age of 18 cannot view/play the product.

It's not much of a difference is it.

Since both the UK and the US are western democracies with similar levels of multiculturalism and education, what makes these classification so different? That is what I asked, that is what you singularly and spectacularly failed to answer.

It's all about context.

You're fingers are moving, but you're not saying any thing. If it is about context, research has shown that viewers become more engrossed and emotionally invested in a movie than they do in a video game... so surely films showing violence, rape and paedophilia should be banned before games featuring the same themes.

So you think there should be no censorship on anything

That is specifically and precisely not what I said.

What I said is that if such a line has to be drawn, and I believe it has but not at Manhunter, Microsoft and Sony should not be the people drawing it.

It's not OK for them to be playing them they were rated 15 and above.

Again, that's a not particularly deft sidestep of the issue at hand. What I asked was, if Manhunter 2 should be banned, (as you suggest it should to protect kids from playing it) then why should these other games not also be banned to offer the same protection.

Rutabaga 29 Jun 2007 20:39
14/15
DoctorDee wrote:
That is what I asked, that is what you singularly and spectacularly failed to answer.

Because you are going around in circles, arguing over a technicality. We have different rules to the US, in America you can carry a gun, in America you can drive a car at 15. In America you can play GOW2 at 17. The fact that a company operates slightly differently in different countries taking into a account their sensibilities I don't have a problem with. The AO rating in the US is by all accounts a TOKEN NON BAN, the fact that it mentions 18+ is moot.

DoctorDee wrote:

You're fingers are moving, but you're not saying any thing. If it is about context, research has shown that viewers become more engrossed and emotionally invested in a movie than they do in a video game... so surely films showing violence, rape and paedophilia should be banned before games featuring the same themes.

My fingers are moving in relation to your nonsense. MMmmmm! I'm sure you'd trust this research if it produced the opposite conclusion? I'll ask you this HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU THROWN YOUR REMOTE AROUND WHILST WATCHING A FILM?

DoctorDee wrote:

That is specifically and precisely not what I said. What I said is that if such a line has to be drawn, and I believe it has but not at Manhunter, Microsoft and Sony should not be the people drawing it.

I thought it was Nintendo & Sony? Anyway who should draw this line then, if not the censors or the platform holders? If the BBC had produced something for broadcast that later they decided to pull, do you think it should not be the BBC that makes that call?

DoctorDee wrote:
Again, that's a not particularly deft sidestep of the issue at hand. What I asked was, if Manhunter 2 should be banned, (as you suggest it should to protect kids from playing it) then why should these other games not also be banned to offer the same protection.

Why am I sidestepping? Perhaps there was something in Manhunt 2 that was deemed to be beyond the pale even for an 18 rating. Could you please find a quote were I've said that it should be banned, because I haven't. I was merely pointing out the possible reasons for it's non rating.
Tim Smith 2 Jul 2007 11:16
15/15
Rutabaga wrote:
When in reality the classification systems aren't comparable, the titles you mentioned that were 18 rated here in the UK were all rated M (mature) in the US. Therefore 18 doesn't equal AO as the article tried to suggest.


I didn't 'try to suggest', I stated that 18 DOES equate to AO - it is written down for you to read by the ESRB itself - http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp

"ADULTS ONLY
Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity."

This is the only stipulation in the AO rating. No matter how you try to read it, it's there officially.

The ESRB AO rating; the BBFC 18; PEGI's 18+ ratings all stand on the straightforward premise: "If you are 18 or over you can buy this game".

You are over-complicating matters by alluding to regional differences in the application of the ratings. Think speed limits: 60mph is 60mph in both Hampshire and New Hampshire. A rating that states: "If you are 18 or over you can buy this game" should be as simple.

The reason I pointed up the ambiguity is because it is an ambiguity. That's part of my job.

The platform holders are global corporations. Their function is to make money and increase shareholder value. That's fine. However, as soon as they forget this and begin to arbitrate on morality, then that needs to be reported.

We have already nominated our moral guardians (BBFC, PEGI, ESRB). These moral guardians have provided guidelines. These guidelines are clear: "If you're over 18 you CAN buy this product".






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