ESRB Ratings System Explained

After the last two weeks of controversy and confusion regarding the rating and contents of video games, lots of you have been left asking the question “how do the ratings work?” Well, it’s really not an easy question to answer, as it most likely involves esoteric astrology rituals unknown to most and/or super computers running advanced chaos mathematics algorithms to randomly generate ratings. At any rate, I’ve put together a brief guide to help clear things up.

We’ll start towards the middle of the spectrum at the Teen rating, since everything below it pretty much consists of brightly colored talking animals and ninety billion Tetris clones. As highlighted and attacked recently by everyone’s favorite anti-game crusader, The Sims 2 is a life simulator game which involves making babies. Since it’s rated Teen, all the baby making antics and other nudity are tastefully covered up with with a comical pixel blur. A blur which can be easily disabled (pictured left) by entering a quick code in the command console (intProp censorGridSize 0) to unlock all the hot naked sex. However, since the sims lack, erm, reproductive organs, it’s apparently perfectly safe for kids to make ’em dry hump each other all day. An as an added bonus, it can help parents teach kids where babies come from without that awkward “birds and bees” nonsense. Sweet!

So, if naked Barbie-esque people screwing like bunnies isn’t enough to get a Mature rating, what is? Simple. You just add some skimpy clothes to them first. For those with the attention span of a fruit fly or politician, Vice City had several missions involving a porn studio, and cut scenes showing the making of the porn, as pictured right. Sure, the M rating had much more to do with the stacks of joyful violence and carnage than it did the porn missions, but either way dressing the actors in swimsuits was enough to raise the rating. The Sims 2 only reached the level of “sexual themes”, while Vice City scored a “strong sexual content” warning on its label despite showing less skin than The Sims 2. Of course sims don’t have any parts to show, but the characters in VC don’t even show the places where parts should be, so, yea.

Now that we’ve established adding clothes to sex scenes can bump a rating up from Teen to M, how does one achieve the dreaded Adults Only sticker? By adding even more clothes! Yep, I know it sounds quite insane, but just look at this picture from an unmodified “Hot Coffee” scene.

As you can clearly see, the dude is wearing a tank top, pants, and even shoes. Shoes of all things! Not only is he wearing 80% more clothes than the sex scenes in Vice City (and 100% more than the sims), but the girls are too. And aside from just having more clothes on, the content was locked away in a manner which required modding on a PC or memory hacking on a console to view. Seeing as The Sims has demonstrated that having sex and (arguable) nudity is perfectly fine in a Teen rated game as long as it is hidden by a censorship scheme which is easily defeated by any seven year old using an in-game cheat, then having it completely inaccessible outside of modding in San Andreas can’t be a legitimate reason for an AO rating. And if naked dry humping is Teen for The Sims, scantily-clothed dry humping is M for Vice City, and fully clothed dry humping is AO for San Andreas, then there is only one logical conclusion to be drawn: clothes are fucking evil and should all be burned, banned, and burned again!

That said, the only thing more shocking the industry could do is a game about Eskimos. Even the mere mention of it here will surely result in my eternal damnation, so I dare not post a single picture of the inside of the igloo. Why, I bet they’re wearing big furry parkas with hoods(!) in there while rubbing their naughty little noses together. If such a game was ever created, it would without a doubt bring forth the Apocalypse.

Oh, and if any Eskimos are offended, don’t blame me, blame the clothes haters. Igloos and those wacky albino pandas rock!