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The ESRB doesn't actually play upcoming games?

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This video by YouTiber YoungYea cites a How Stuff Works article that describes that the ESRB doesn't actually play upcoming games but bases the ratings on game footage sent by the video game companies for upcoming games:

 

 

Now doesn't it seem strange that a video game rating board doesn't actually play the games before making a decision on the rating?

 

Makes you wonder if PEGI does anything similar for European game releases does it?

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Makes sense considering how games usually get pulled from digital stores for ESRB related reasons. Might just be to get a rating on the game before advertising starts on it rather than waiting until the game has gone gold for them to play all the way through to get everything needed for a proper rating.

 

I'll check the video in a bit.

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I distinctly remember reading an ESRB review for the first Scribblenauts game that said something along the lines of "steak can be attached to a baby to attract lions".

 

However, had they actually played the game itself, they would've known that such action is unnecessary: lions will eat babies by default, regardless of whether said babies have steak attached to them.

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I don't see the problem here. In all but rare cases, the ESRB already manages to successfully encapsulate a game's content with their ratings without wasting countless man hours to achieve the same thing. It would be terribly inefficient to change this approach since very little would be gained with how much it would theoretically cost them. For this reason, I would argue it would be strange if they actually did play through all the games which publishers churn out every week before release in order to evaluate them.

 

Not to ignore interesting cases where things might not add up with the content and how it's rated, but I don't think any of that calls for them to abandon this method. As the industry continues to evolve, it's not going to get any easier for any organization to keep up with such an impractical expectation people here are suggesting they do.

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2 hours ago, Chrom said:

*The above post*

I think the main problem YongYea was going after were companies that use lootboxes/surprise mechanics (EA, Blizzard, 2K, etc.) and it not affecting the ratings given by the ESRB. He believes they shouldn't be in "E" rated games since those are typically aimed towards kids and in a way promote gambling. I'd say at the very least, games that rely heavily on them could take the bump to "T" even though that rating won't deter kids from buying/asking for the game and playing it. It's not like Mature rated games where you need proof of age to purchase said game. But the bump could help and they should probably detail it more than just "In Game Purchases" since they aren't DLC.

 

On another note with them not playing through the games and people suggesting they do a complete playthrough before rating, in a way it's easier said than done. Some games you can get the gist of what they offer with a few hours of play (sports games) but a lot of games nowadays are terribly long not just for the main games but any side quests that are offered. The amount of games that come out each and every year would make that impossible since they'd at least need the finished product before reviewers get their copies and way before the release date since a lot of games are rated pretty early either when they're announced or months before they release.

 

A point brought up at the start of the video was the infamous "Hot Coffee" in GTA San Andreas. It wouldn't have mattered if they got the finished product and played through that entire game before giving it a rating because it was so hidden that you needed a cheat device to access it. So the controversy around that would've still happened, unless the ESRB has/had Game Shark or Action Pro.

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if that isn't some massive clickbait nonsense lol
why the hell would they play every game? playing a bit isn't any functionally different from watching some footage
and if there's some x-rated nonsense hidden in it, you think they're gonna waste tons of time scouring every game for it?

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YongYea makes excellent points here and there, but it’s kinda impossible to deny that he also tends to be clickbait, or just in some cases, makes things sound worse than they really are.

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To be honest, I thought this was a known thing?  Publishers will release a vertical slice of media to the ESRB along with information of what the game is about and ratings are determined based on that.  I'm assuming it's a process being done in good faith as any infractions that are contradictory to what rating a game has might constitute a violation against the publisher. (this last part I don't actually know if it's true but it makes sense as a way to hold publishers accountable)

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On 10/5/2019 at 10:01 AM, Kezay said:

To be honest, I thought this was a known thing?  

While some of us have likely known this for more than a decade (Here's an article for Ars Technica in 2006), I'd suggest that a lot of people's knowledge of the ESRB is limited to what's on the game's box (or digital download page). 

 

As Chrom has stated, the ESRB generally gets things right, though there is the occasional rating that raises an eyebrow. However, I do think a point is made in that video. YongYea cites NBA 2K20, which has loot boxes, slot machines and roulette wheels. It has exactly one content descriptor from the ESRB: mild language. They don't bother slapping the gambling content descriptor on the box, despite its presence in game. The best we get is the "In-Game Purchases" descriptor, which while true, is deliberately inaccurate. 

 

We're in a weird moment in gaming, where in-game slot machines using fake currency are being removed from E-for-Everyone titles (Pokemon Let's Go), while other E-for-Everyone titles featuring slot machines you can spin using real money (NBA 2K20). 

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"why the hell would they play every game? playing a bit isn't any functionally different from watching some footage"

 

Then what the heck is their purpose then? If their main purpose is to watch a game rather than play it in order to rate it afterwards, then they just better dissolve the whole ESRB group and join up Motion Picture Association of America instead.

 

Quote

"YongYea makes excellent points here and there, but it’s kinda impossible to deny that he also tends to be clickbait, or just in some cases, makes things sound worse than they really are."

 

Well, because IT IS already worse at this point. NBA2k20 is a perfect example of that. The things he says about EA, Activion, Blizzard, 2k, yup, way worse than ever. Unfortunately, there are "shills" willing to shell out money for half-assed games that these companies put out each year. It's not even a " hit or miss" situation anymore, it's just consistent garbage.

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