Software Ratings

Overview Most entertainment software manufacturers have adopted the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) system for rating their products. Since its inception in September 1994, the ERSB has rated thousands of software titles. Much like music labeling, which prints ratings on the packaging, entertainment software rating symbols are clearly printed on the front of the software product’s packaging with more detailed content-oriented information printed on the back. This rating system is intended to inform the consumer of the general content and the age appropriateness of the entertainment software product. 

General Information ESRB's software ratings are categorized first by age. Within each age group the rating is categorized further based on levels of violence, nudity and offensive language. For more information about rating entertainment software, visit the Wikipedia ESRB Web page. Here you can view a chart with ratings symbols, read definitions of the ratings, and peruse a list of terms used to describe the software ratings. 

Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) According to the Entertainment Software Rating Board, "The ESRB is an independent, self-regulatory entity that provides comprehensive support services to companies in the interactive entertainment software industry." Read more about the ESRB, their goals, methods, rating system, and the people who rate the software at www.esrb.org. How effective and accepted are the ESRB ratings? To find out, read the testimony entitled "Effectiveness of Media Rating Systems" by Dr. Kim Thompson at a Science, Technology, and Space Hearing on September 28, 2004. You can learn about the criteria that must be met, in order for an entertainment software product to be rated in a specific category, by visiting this Web page. Read about how the government and the entertainment software industry are working together to regulate software content at www.ftc.gov/opa/2001/04/esrb.htm

Additional Links What does the future hold for the software rating system? Some people think that the Internet will be the next battleground for free speech, and they perceive software rating as a step toward computer censorship. Visit this MIT page to read a variety of articles about labeling, rating, and filtering, and their possible affects on free speech. The ICRA (Internet Content Rating Association) is an organization that is developing a universal system for rating the content of Web sites. You can visit the ICRA’s site at www.icra.org.