Game Content Under the Microscope: What Do You Think?

We’ll be keeping this story high on the front page for a bit simply because it contains such an excellent set of thought-provoking questions. – JB

Today concludes our week-long look at video game violence and content. Originally we hoped to include comments from other voices, and efforts were made to hear from Florida Attorney Jack Thompson and Senator Joseph Lieberman. But neither gentleman was able to meet our deadline. In the case of the distinguished U.S. Senator we can understand, he has a government job after all. Repeated calls were made to Mr. Thompson, in response to his posted offer to talk to us. At press time calls were not returned.

So instead we’ve decided to conclude this round-table on video game violence by posting a series of questions and asking you to tell us what you think.

For a recap of this week’s discussion on “Game Content Under the Microscope”, we spoke to the following individuals:

Monday: ESRB spokesman Eliot Mizrachi
ESRB Ratings

Tuesday: Author and game reviewer Steven L. Kent
An Insider Speaks

Wednesday: Jason Dell Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association
View From the Game Developer

Thursday: Doctor David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family
Watch What Our Kids Watch

Now we open the floor.

Question: The evolution of video game technology has changed the playing field, making for games that are far more realistic today. Should the ESRB ratings be refined to meet these changes?


Should a greater emphasis be placed on the content, beyond whether there is blood or gore? Should the role the player takes in the game (whether hero or villain, upholder of the law or criminal) be considered when ratings are given out?

Can open-ended games, such as Grand Theft Auto, be accurately judged by the ESRB enough to garner a M-mature rating, especially in the wake of the Hot Coffee mod?

A screenshot of the infamous “Hot Coffee Mod” from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. This resulted the game’s Mature rating being revoked by the ESRB.

Do the content descriptors provide enough information to parents and/or other buyers of video games?

ao.pngQuestion: Should the AO (Adults Only) rating be used more to ensure that games are not marketed or otherwise sold to underage buyers?

Do game developers have a responsibility when it comes to what they’re making?

csm.JPGQuestion: Retailer Best Buy has developed their own rating system with Common Sense Media, which will appear on all games sold at the chain store. Does this add confusion for the buyer, or will it help customers in deciding if the game is appropriate for a particular audience?

Question: Can the video game industry honestly say that they are not marketing mature content to minors?

Question: Is it fair to blame video games – or really any form of entertainment – when tragic events, such as the recent shooting at Virginia Tech, occur? And can games really “train” people to prepare for such events?