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FCC Report Examines A 'Robust' Video Game Review System

FCC Report Examines A 'Robust' Video Game Review System

September 4, 2009 | By Kris Graft

September 4, 2009 | By Kris Graft
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In an examination of the Child Safe Viewing Act, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission cited a "robust" voluntary video game ratings system that puts content control in the hands of parents.

Video games are not part of the Child Safe Viewing Act, but the FCC did take into consideration their popularity by further examining the games space, seeking comment on controlling video game access.

"In general, these commenters contend that the Act is silent with respect to video games and, in any event, the video game industry already provides one of the most robust voluntary rating systems available," read the report, which released on Monday.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board is the main body behind self-regulated video game ratings, that range from "E" ("Everybody") to AO ("Adults Only"). Aside from six age-based ratings, the organization also has over 30 content descriptors.

At the end of August, the FCC said it is looking into a new universal ratings system that would encompass TV, mobile, and video games, a proposal that trade body Entertainment Software Association objected to.

The FCC also cited other sources, such as the Progress & Freedom Foundation, a digitally-focused think tank. PFF called game industry's rating system "in many ways the most
sophisticated, descriptive, and effective ratings system devised by any major media sector in
America."

The FCC also cited ESA surveys that said 86 percent of parents who've used the ESRB's ratings system found it to be useful, while 78 percent of parents regularly check ratings.

The FCC noted that current video game consoles as well as Windows Vista offer parental controls that are tied to game software -- parents can set restrictions on a piece of gaming hardware in order to keep it from playing mature-themed games.

The government regulator was largely understanding of the challenges of Internet-connected media. The report said, "According to ESA, an issue arises only with user-reated content or user
chats - which is not an issue unique to video games."

"ESA contends that no rating system or control device can anticipate the extemporaneous world of the Internet. Moreover, ESA states that ESRB-rated games contain a warning notifying parents that online interactions are possible in connection with game play and that such interactions are not rated."


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