Everyone’s familiar with the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s system. Established in 1994, the ESRB divides videogames into five basic categories: early Childhood (eC), Everyone (E), Teen (T), Mature (M), and that rare beast, Adults Only (AO). While a number of 13 year olds may disagree, the ESRB rating system provides a valuable service. The ratings bring legitimacy and maturity to the gaming community and creates a transparency for game content in the same way MPAA ratings allow for movies.
But, the ESRB may be attempting to bite off more than they can chew. Kotaku is currently reporting that the venerable ratings board is flirting with assigning ratings to iPhone games. However, producing comprehensive ratings for iPhone games may prove to be difficult, if not impossible: as of this month, over 50,000 applications are available for download at Apple’s App Store. The ESRB’s Eliot Mizrachi claims not to be worried, stating that the ratings board “have rated more than 70 mobile games to date and will undoubtedly rate more in the future as the market grows.”
Clearly, 70 rated games is less than a drop in the massive bucket of available software for the iPhone. Moreover, due to the iPhone’s processing limitations, very few games available for the platform contain any graphic content which would merit an ESRB rating higher than Teen, with a majority of popular games following wholly nonviolent models like Peggle, Diner Dash, and Tetris. Is the ESRB is embarking on a fool’s quest in attempting to rate a vast catalog of games, the majority of which take the form of mild, nonviolent entertainment?