The ESRB is now using robots to rate downloadable games

The ESRB recently announced that they’re revamping the rating process for games that will only be available for sale through online downloadable storefronts (think the PlayStation Store, DSi Shop and Xbox LIVE Arcade).

Starting yesterday, they started employing an easily-scalable method for rating games — allowing publishers to complete a new submission form containing new, multiple-choice questions that assess content across every category (violence, sexual content, etc.). It also addresses game style and realism as well as incentives and player perspective. The answers to the questions determine what rating the game gets. Basically, the ESRB has turned into this:

I can't wait to post the results to my Xanga!


Yeah, the rating isn’t official until a DVD accurately reflecting content is received by the ESRB, but it still seems like it could be very easy to game the system this way. (All games that are not purely downloadable will still go through the traditional rating process.) All games rated using the new system will be played as soon as they’re available to the public to ensure that content was not misrepresented. If it was, the game in question will be removed from the store pending resubmission to the ESRB.

“Our rating system is widely considered to be among the most effective in the world, and ESRB continues to be an exemplary model of self-regulation,” said Patricia Vance, who serves as the ESRB president. “We serve a rapidly growing and evolving industry, and it is incumbent upon us to continually adapt along with it. This new process for downloadable games helps position ESRB for a future that promises an ever-expanding market for games while allowing us to continue empowering parents with the ability to determine which ones are OK for their children to play.”

They’re just doing this to make it easier to deal with the huge influx of download-only titles, I understand, but parents — be careful. Unless a game has been out for a few days, the chance probably exists that it has been misrepresented to the ESRB. All the more reason to keep an eye on what your kids are up to, right?