Ex-ESRB Rater Offers Harsh Critique of System

By Aaron Linde, Mar 07, 2008 7:58pm PST Former rater for the Entertainment Software Ratings Board Jerry Bonner thoroughly criticized his ex-employer in an article appearing in this month's issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, GameSpot reports.

In his editorial, Bonner called on the ESRB to make a number of changes to its current system and policies for rating games, asking that the Board drop its insistence on secrecy and make the process of rating games more transparent.

Bonner also suggested that the ESRB should consider splitting the T for Teen rating into the age-specific ratings of T13 and T16. He advocated eliminating the AO for Adults Only rating altogether, and changing the M for Mature rating to apply for gamers 18 and older, a one year increase to the current age limit.

The former rater also shed some light on the goings-on within the organization, revealing that more than once the ESRB has overruled designations agreed upon by its raters. Though many of the changes were minor tweaks to descriptive terms and the like, Bonner claimed that the ESRB would occasionally step in to switch up a T rating to an M rating or vice versa. The raters were rarely given explanations as to why the changes were made.

Moreover, the editorial suggested that the ESRB's announcement that full-time raters would get hands-on time with products, time permitting, was false. Bonner wrote that the only games he and his fellow raters got to play were random titles from the ESRB's archive. The ESRB's current policy only requires that employees watch selected footage of a game, rather than play it themselves.

In the same issue of EGM, ESRB president Patricia Vance responded to Bonner's commentary, saying that the article "contains numerous misleading statements, factual inaccuracies, and misrepresentations with respect to key aspects of the rating system."

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