Adding more fuel to the fire in the ongoing debate over violent videogames, the Entertainment Software Ratings Boards has issued a strong statement of rejection in response to the recent NIMF report card.
Presenting its own appraisal of the National Institute on Media and the Family, who graded the ESRB 'F' for ratings accuracy, the board has offered the same grade for NIMF based on four categories: research and analysis, disclosure of pertinent facts, documentation and working well with others.
ESRB president, Patricia Vance, went on to refute each of the claims made against the ratings board, ultimately labelling the NIMF report card as "silly."
"In recent years, the report card concept has become increasingly arbitrary, simple-minded, and silly, more of a headline-grabbing tool than a parent-helping tool, and NIMF's 2005 report card continues that disappointing tradition," Vance stated.
In response to the claim that ESRB ratings are inaccurate, Vance stated that the NIMF's own ratings agreed with the official marks 80 per cent of the time. "In truth, this has nothing to do with accuracy of ratings. Knowing that retailers generally will not carry AO games, NIMFâs attack on ESRB ratings has nothing to do with whether a rating is accurate and everything to do with the real agenda of NIMF, which is to ban the sale of games it does not like," Vance said.
The ESRB was also accused of failing to account for increasing levels of violence and mature content in its ratings, to which it responded by pointing out that the NIMF had relied on "a for-profit company with a vested financial interest in undermining the ESRB to prove this theory." The company in question was PSVratings, who have been attempting to persuade various industry and political figures to adopt their traffic-light ratings system in place of the voluntary ESRB regulations.
In response to questions regarding its methodology, the ESRB claims that the reason for a relatively low number of Adult Only software titles was that such games are often rejected by retailers, so developers and publishers make a concerted effort to adjust the content of their games in order to avoid an AO rating.
The ESRB ratings system has been applauded by trade bodies including the ESA, and political figures including Senator Hilary Clinton. However, the controversy continues, and the ESA are currently working with Senator Clinton to find an alternative solution to her Family Entertainment Protection Act.
ESA president Doug Lowenstein stated recently that "While we are gratified that the Senator holds the ESRB in such high regard that her bill would give these ratings the force of law, the courts have made clear that giving a private party governmental power is unconstitutional."
The NIMF report card has also come under fire recently from the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association, who continue to question its methodology and research.