With games being a popular punching bag for politicians of late, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has taken its share of criticism ever since the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Hot Coffee scandal spilled over into the mainstream press.
Not one to take the abuse lying down, the ESRB today released findings from an October study it commissioned to examine parents' opinions of the ratings system. According to the study, conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, parents agree with the ESRB ratings 82 percent of the time, and think the ratings are too strict another 5 percent of the time.
"As the ratings body for the video game industry, the ESRB's effectiveness depends largely on how accurately its ratings reflect the attitudes of American parents. We are extremely pleased that, year after year, independent research shows such a high level of agreement with ESRB ratings among parents," said ESRB president Patricia Vance.
The study was conducted over 11 days in October, and included more than 400 parents. Each participant was shown footage from eight random games out of a pool of 80 titles rated by the ESRB within the last year. Each parent was asked to rate the game, then told what the actual rating was and asked to rate the rating as "about right," "too strict," or "too lenient."
This approach somewhat mirrors the ESRB's actual ratings procedure, in which raters unaffiliated with the gaming industry are shown footage of "the most extreme content" from games and then asked to assign descriptors and a rating to the product.
"This is a definitive assessment of agreement with the ESRB ratings because it considers the views of those who actually interact with the ratings the most, namely parents of children that play video games," said Jay Campbell of Peter D. Hart Research Associates. "It is especially impressive that parents' level of agreement with the ratings is as broad as it is deep; parents of children of all ages agree that game ratings are accurate."
The ESRB conducts this study on an annual basis. In last year's study, parents agreed with the ratings 83 percent of the time. The study was also conducted in 2003, but the ESRB did not release an exact percentage of parents in agreement with its assessments. The ESRB has not released the raw data from the study.