M For Mature

Yup, this article is for over eighteens only! Get ready for some hot letter-on-letter action! Look at this letter e. Look at it just sitting there all innocently at the end of that sentence just waiting to be touched and awkwardly forced into another word using the full stop as leverage. That didn’t turn out as funny as I thought it would in my head. Never mind.

Today I’m moaning about age ratings. Well…no, not moaning. In theory I support that any form of media (games, movies, music and even books) should have adequate warnings on them to give the buyer an idea of what content they are going to be exposed to. I just think age limitations are a bit strict. Or are they? This is one of those subjects that I can see from both sides.

The thing that got me thinking about this more recently was talking to some under eighteens. They blather away occasionally after getting in touch about one of my videos on You Tube or similar and since we have absolutely nothing in common the conversation rarely goes away from games. This inevitably leads to one of us (always them) asking about the kind of games we like or play. Whenever I know the person is under eighteen I always ask how they were able to play a game rated for 18+, should one find its way into their favourites list. “Parents” was the reply every time. I don’t say anything else after that. I don’t scold them like maybe I should – not that it would change a thing.

To better explain, I guess I need to reveal now that I would be being a hypocrite if I declared that these age rating systems should be followed to the letter. When I was a kid I played games and watched movies that were meant for those over the age of eighteen and I can’t say for a fact that it had no effect on me because there’s no way to be sure. I’d justify it only like this: thirteen years ago, which was when I would be around the age of thirteen, you’d be talking about something like Resident Evil on the PS1 being a mature rated game (15+). If you never played it, go look at some screen shots. It could produce frights occasionally but that was it. There was no bad language and the blood just looked like three red pixels hurriedly stuck together.

It is only looking at modern generation games that I feel I can judge without total hypocrisy. M for Mature in the US, or 15+ and 18+ here in the UK, are far more meaningful today than thirteen years ago. Back then it was far more common to just have a PG (Parental Guidance) or X (as in Rated) classification actually. Now look at the modern mature games. Look at Killzone 2 swearing every other second, look at the gore in Prototype or the violence in so many games. These kinds of things I can’t deny should not be seen by younger players. But they do see them, of course.

Part of me thinks that only PG should exist as the single recognised rating that anything receives around the world. This Parental Guidance would incorporate symbols like the PEGI (Europe) and ESRB (US) use to provide full information on the content of the product. So a new game would have a big section on the back marked PG and then a list or collection of symbols indicating things like bad language, violence and so on. Maybe even incorporate the PEGI colour system so green means pretty safe and red means your console may start spitting blood. Then this information is given to the parent and the parent makes a choice.

Youve probably seen a lot of these inside your game manuals.

You've probably seen a lot of these inside your game manuals.

The rating system we currently have is wholly ignored and I think that’s because parents don’t realize just how real games are now. But my global PG idea is no better than what we have. Not really. It would still be ignored or misunderstood (not to mention the clashes it would cause between different rules or regulations for any given country). Kids would still either just get their parents to buy them games they shouldn’t be playing or unethical shop assistants would just let them purchase things that they shouldn’t. A stand is being made in some retailers, but this is more just to cover their own backs for the sometimes terrible ramifications of letting minors play things they shouldn’t rather than a decision based on any kind of good morals.

What doesn’t help about the current system is that the ratings seem all over the place. One country’s 18+ rating could be another’s 15+ or the ratings could be the same but the content different. I remember reading an interview about one of the Halo games when it was brought to Germany for classification there and they asked questions about the motivations of Master Chief and why the war was being fought, so that they could wholly justify leaving in all the violence and death. Germany is also a country which saw blood in some Resident Evil games being replaced by purple dust.

Ever wondered why online interactions can’t be rated by the PEGI/ESRB? Largely it is because they can’t assume that you won’t have some angry kid screaming profanities at you, despite the game you’re playing being rated as E for Everyone or T for Teen or Z for Zach that lives under that bridge over there, but it is also so they cover their back internationally.

More and more US releases are recieving this rating.

In the US, games recieve one of the above ratings.

This strikes me as one of those situations that has no solution. It’s one of those things that just has to carry on as it is because there’s no better option. Games and movies and whatever else have a suggested age rating based on the system in place for any given country that is supposed to be enforced by law, but these things can be circumvented ridiculously easily by child or parent alike and that’s just the way it is. It really shouldn’t be, but it is.

Despite everything I’ve said here that may make it sound like I strongly feel ratings should be more heavily enforced, I know that I broke those rules so many times when I was under eighteen and, even though I still believe the ratings are far more relevant now than they were then, I still feel like a hypocrite.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Written by Ian D

Misanthropic git. Dislikes: Most things. Likes: Obscure references.


  1. B-Statuz /

    To be honest I think there is a lack of violent games. Manhunt 1 + 2 are probably the most brutal games I’ve played, I loved them. But then what else is there?

  2. Michael J /

    Madworld on the Wii is pretty brutal, most open world games allow you to do things that in context are rather violent (and the anti-gaming lobby loves to harp on about – such as beating hookers to death in GTA). I’d say Prototype is pretty darn violent, what with causing people to explode as you take on their visage and using corpses to surf across the floor.

Leave a Reply