You wouldn't know it from browsing the shelves at retail stores, but game ratings from the Entertainment Software Rating Board actually go higher than the standard "Mature" tag. Publishers and retailers generally reject any game branded with the infamous "Adults-Only" label, but ESRB president Patricia Vance said she'd love to see that stigma fade.
Speaking to Gamasutra in a recent interview
, Vance explained that contrary to popular belief, the Adults-Only (AO) rating doesn't only apply to sexually explicit games. Rather, the label can just as easily be used to describe violence or any other themes deemed best suited for adults.
"You know, up to this point most people associate AO with sexual content," said Vance. "We've actually assigned AO ratings for violent content as well; it's just that most of the time that product gets edited or changed in order to warrant an M rating, so you never see it in the market."
Vance speculated that as games transition from retail shops to digital storefronts, the industry might see more AO-rated games, as retailers would have no more influence over the types of content consumers can get their hands on.
"It's very possible that there will be greater acceptance of an AO rating going forward," she said. "And by the way, I think that would be a good thing for the system. It's very frustrating that publishers can't release AO product, in many cases."
For more of Vance's thoughts on managing the ESRB and video game ratings at large, check out the extended interview, which is now live on Gamasutra