The Entertainment Software Ratings Board, the independent body which issues age-appropriate ratings for content in video games, has released a rebuttal to the claims made by the National Institute for Media and the Family in its annual "report card," the 2005 edition of which gave the ESRB an F grade in "Ratings Accuracy."
The ESRB, in return, has given the NIMF an F for research and analysis, disclosure of pertinent facts, and "demerits for neglecting parents' and childrens' best interests", in a move that is sure to intensify the debate over video game ratings and jurisdiction.
More seriously, the ESRB's statement also includes a point-by-point rebuttal of specific claims made in the NIMF report card
. In response to the charge that the ESRB ratings are inaccurate, the ESRB pointed out that the NIMF's own ratings agree with the official marks 80% of the time, and differences are usually a mere year apart.
The ESRB also dismissed claims that its ratings don't reflect increasing levels of mature content in games, pointing out: "NIMF relied on a for-profit company with a vested financial interest in undermining the ESRB (PSVratings, Inc.) to prove this theory."
On points where the ESRB's methodology was questioned, the ratings board said that the real reason for the relatively low number of Adults-Only titles was a publisher-level determination to modify game content to avoid the AO label, which will usually prevent a title from being carried at retail.
Faced with charges that the ESRB system was shown to be critically flawed in the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
case, the ESRB cited Sen. Hilary Clinton, who commented at the time of the controversy over Rockstar's title: "I applaud the ESRB for its quick and thorough investigation."
However, Senator Clinton, though appreciative of the ESRB at the time, is currently preparing
to introduce the Family Entertainment Protection Act into U.S. Congress. This bill seeks to keep the ESRB ratings but introduce greater government oversight and auditing over the entire rating and game selling process, including official penalties for allowing minors to purchase ineligible games, something that the ESRB and fellow industry body the ESA has fought strenuously in the past, and further showcasing the continuing firestorm over ratings and enforcement.