This morning, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) announced plans for a new line of labels that will begin appearing on video games in the near future. I sat down with ESRB spokesperson Michael Priestly to understand more.
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[A.J.] Hello, Michael. What made you decide to introduce these new ESRB labels? v1d30chumz 3-223-3-251
[Michael] We've been closely monitoring online discourse and made notes of elements in games that tend to negatively trigger gamers of all backgrounds. We then compiled our research to devise new labels and we're planning on rolling out these labels by the end of this calendar year in the hopes that more sensitive gamers can enjoy playing games without unexpected surprises.
[A.J.] I see. Do you mind sharing which labels will be introduced?
[Michael] The complete list is still a work in progress but I can definitely share a few. First, if a game features a realistic-looking strong female protagonist, more sensitive members of the public can be warned in advance with a Stars Judicious Woman (SJW) label and if a game's lead is a seemingly young anime-style female, it will get an Uncensored Japanese Culture (UJC) label. Next, if a game is deemed too difficult and lacks the appropriate accessibility options then the title in question will receive a Git Gud (GG) label. Finally, if a game portrays a reflection of any real-world issue in an even remotely critical manner, we'll label it with Contains Radical Thinking (CRT).
[A.J.] Do you find these to be the most important issues that need to be addressed in modern gaming? What about publishers' undeniable desire to introduce crypto and NFTs to their games; not to mention games with microtransactions that calculatedly prey on people who are predisposed to addiction?
[Michael] To be frank, those issues did not come up in our research of contemporary gaming discourse so we did not consider them as important. Besides, we already have a clear-cut label for some microtransactions which is In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items).
[A.J.] Oh, that's what that means. Thanks for the explanation. Anyway, moving on to my next question; is there any funding that you're receiving to materialize this project?
[Michael] Yes. We have 2 primary sponsors. First, the Freedom of Speech Alliance has donated half of our required resources. You may know them as the fine folks who are currently trying to ban 837 games from schools and libraries. Finally, the Gaming Is for Everyone Foundation has generously supplied us with the other half of our funding. They're renowned for demanding that notoriously difficult games become easier which some gamers have argued takes away from their sense of reward.
[A.J.] Interesting. Is this a joint effort between the 2 organizations?
[Michael] Of course not. They refuse to speak to each other.
[A.J.] Although I'm trying to remain impartial, it appears to me that no matter what kind of content is in a game, people will inevitably argue about it so what's the point of adding these labels to games? Now that I think about it, shouldn't gamers just play the games that they enjoy and ignore the ones that they don't while being happy for others who actually enjoy those games; then, everyone can put aside their differences and simply have fun together as a worldwide community? Isn't that the point of video games or any kind of entertainment for that matter; to have fun and take part in a shared experience with your fellow enthusiasts?
[Michael] Actually, many gamers see games as art and take offense to the notion of games merely being entertainment. In fact, we are changing our organization's name to Arts & Entertainment Software Rating Board and are considering a Not Entertainment (NE) label.
There you have it; brand new labels that the ESRB thinks will solve gaming's biggest issues. What a wonderful era of abundance modern society has become. Can I take a time machine back to the '90s, please?