What, How, and Why
How the Entertainment Software Rating Board helps consumers choose the right games

E for Everyone, T for Teen, M for Mature: You know about computer game and videogame ratings, but do you know the people behind the rating system? At E3, you can meet with leaders of the Entertainment Software Rating Board, the nonprofit organization that rates virtually every computer game and videogame sold at retail in the United States.

The Entertainment Software Association created the ESRB in 1994 to develop a rating system that would help parents and other consumers make informed purchasing decisions.

After consulting communications experts both inside and outside the industry, the ESRB developed an innovative two-part rating system; rating symbols are printed on the front of every game box and short phrases called content descriptors are printed on the back. Rating symbols suggest the age range that may be appropriate for a game (for example, a Teen rating suggests a game may be suitable for people 13 and older). Content descriptors are short, standardized phrases that notify consumers about content that may be of interest or concern and also help explain why a game received a particular rating. After parents check the rating and the content descriptors, they have a good idea of what to expect from a game. The ratings have evolved over the past decade, but the ESRB's two-part rating structure remains, in the words of Senator Joe Lieberman, "an industry model."

But a rating system won't help if parents don't know about it. Recently, the ESRB launched a major public education campaign to show consumers how the system works and to remind them to check the ratings and content descriptors every time they shop for games. The campaign includes public service announcements and point-of-sale signage based on the slogan OK to Play? Print advertisements featuring the OK to Play? slogan have appeared in TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, Working Mother, Parents, and many other large-circulation national magazines.

Although the ESRB is best known for its rating system, its responsibilities reach into related areas, as well. For example, the ESRB's Advertising Review Council monitors and enforces compliance with the industry-adopted Advertising Code of Conduct. Another division, ESRB Privacy Online, safeguards children's personal information on the Internet by helping websites comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

To learn more about the ESRB, visit booth F11 in the West Lobby. Representatives of the Rating Division, Advertising Review Council, and ESRB Privacy Online are available to answer your questions.

BY EDITOR
 
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