The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) turns 20 today.
The freshly formed video game board issued its first ratings certificates on September 16, 1994. The organization formed with five major ratings categories: EC (Early Childhood), K-A (Kids to Adults), T (Teen), M (Mature), and AO (Adults Only). These ratings have changed slightly over the years but the goal has always been the same.
Of all the games rated by the ESRB in the past two decades, 94 percent have received a T rating or lower, and 70 percent were rated E. All told, the ESRB has rated games submitted by more than 9,500 companies for more than 40 different platforms. But even better, awareness of these ratings "remains consistently high," as 85 percent of US parents say they know all about the ESRB. Former US Senator Joseph Liberman, who headed up the hearings concerning violent games back in the '90s, had this to say:
"Twenty years ago, I listened as the video game industry said they could put a system in place that parents would trust, retailers would use, and game developers would adhere to. I'm proud that today the ESRB ratings are so widely accepted and reaffirm the belief that industry self-regulation is not only possible, but can be highly effective."
Yeah, we all hated Lieberman back in the day, but he was right. We did need a ratings system and now we've got a great one. And the board doesn't squelch creativity; in fact, it assists it: Insomniac Games CEO Ted Price added that the ESRB has been "essential" in protecting the freedom of developers:
"A lot of people don't realize it, but games have been under threat of governmental regulation for years. However, thanks in large part to the transparent, voluntary ESRB ratings system, we as an industry have been able to successfully protect our constitutional rights. The bottom line for me is that without the ESRB's rating system, the industry would not be where it is today."
All very true. Happy Birthday, ESRB!