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Should the ESRB change it's grading system

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/4/2014 Category: Games
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,635 times Debate No: 58555
Debate Rounds (5)
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I've been an avid gamer for a long time, however one aspect of video games that I have never liked is the scoring system used by the ESRB. Specifically, the large maturity gab between T and M.

Lets look at two examples of what constitutes as an M game. On one hand we have Bayonetta. It is rated M for "Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes". Listen closely and you can here the sound of soccer moms everywhere gasping. However, anyone who has played this game knows that the extent of the blood and gore is that when the enemies of the game are killed, they burst into blood and disappear cleanly, except for a few boss battles, which are completely over the top and cartoony. And while the main protagonist is highly sexualized, the closest we ever come to any sexual content is an accidental grab made by the male lead.

Compare with God Of War. "Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language." Basically the same laundry list as Bayonetta. But while Bayonetta's most violent scene is (arguably) a giant hair centipede crushing a monster straight out of a horror movie to a bloody ball, in the God of war, a distinctly human-like character is graphically ripped in two, on screen, in all of it's "gory" (forgive the pun). Furthermore, while bayonetta does has a habit of losing her clothes (though everything is still covered), she never actually has sex on screen. Unlike God of War, which has a whole minigame dedicated to love-making. These games are rated the same.

the M rating is far to broad, too all-encompassing. As it stands, anything that has more than a brief flash of realistic blood seems instantly zapped to the mature section your local gamestop. I'm not saying we should bump games like bayonetta down to T, since it really doesn't belong there. I think that a new grade entirely should be implemented, something between T and M, in the same vein as the current "E10+" rating.


Welcome to the site!
I'd like to thank my opponent for instigating this fun debate topic.
Like my opponent, I am also a long time avid gamer.
The BoP is on my opponent to show that there needs to be a new rating system, furthermore he should offer a system to replace the current one because a complaint without alternative is useless.

I shall argue two main points:
1. The current is pretty good.
2. Changing the system would be useless.

1. The T and M rating are the ratings in question, so I shall only address them. What constitues an M rated game:
M: "Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language."
Bayonetta absolutely falls into this category. God Of War may be worse but it still falls into this categoty.
T: May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
The rating system works, it consistently provides appopriately rated games. I can say this confidently because my opponent and most gamers agree that it does. There is only the occasional game that might be misrated.
My opponent has a problem with Bayonetta and God Of War.
He can have one of two contentions:
1. Bayonetta should be less than an M-rated game.
2. God Of War deserves more than M-rating(an AO).
On contention 1.
Bayonetta has intense violence. The whole game is fighting and it's pretty intense.
Upon defeating an enemy, they burst into blood. Is that not gore?!
If you look at Bayonetta, she is sexuality personified. Busty, combat master, you can't not want to get her in bed.
Strong language is also prevalent.

Bayonetta is rated M for the following: "This is an action game in which players assume the role of an ancient witch who battles angels and demons while uncovering the mystery of her past. Players use hand-to-hand combat, magic attacks, and pistols to kill enemy creatures that often spray blood when hit. Players can also perform an assortment of over-the-top finishing moves – referred to in the game as 'torture attacks' – on the creatures: impalement with an iron maiden; decapitation with a guillotine; dismemberment with a chainsaw; and summoning a demon that bites, then rips characters apart. During the course of the game, some female characters perform suggestive taunts and poses, including opening their legs or gyrating their hips. Some of the more provocative outfits are shed during battle, resulting in brief depictions of buttocks and breasts. The camera occasionally pans close-up on breasts as they are jiggling. Strong profanity (e.g., 'f*ck,' sh*t,' and 'a*shole') can be heard throughout the dialogue."
I'd say this constitutes an M rated game.

If he feels the game deserves less than and M, he should have to further elaborate.

2. I guess an argument could be made to make God Of War AO. Pro has not made this argument, but even if he did, it would not even matter.
Criteria for AO: Content suitable only for adults ages 18 and up. May include prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content and/or gambling with real currency.
Many M-rated games could qualify for AO but who cares.

M-rated games are for 17 year olds.
AO's are for 18 year olds.
What's the real difference between an 17 year old and 18 year old, especially in regards to the ability to handle content. Contention 2 leads no were.

2. Not much would change if there was a change.
Point two is based off the fact that almost NO ONE strictly follows the ESRB.

By the time most gamers are 15 or even younger they are allowed to play M-rated games.
When gamers are 10 or 11 they can play teen games.
Where would this new rating X be? T<X<M<AO
Teen constitues 13-17(in the realm of ratings).
Having a new rating between T-M would be useless.
X would probably be 14-16. However 15-16 year olds already play M rated games, so it would really only be for 14 year olds.(A good amount of 14 year olds play M rated games too.)
Having a new rating T-M is really just like having a second AO rating. It doesn't really matter.

In your next roud could you explain why you want this new rating?
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for the warm welcome, as well as for not taking it easy on me. I'd also like to ask that you please forgive any lapses in spelling and grammar. While I try my best to fix my mistakes, I type very fast and a few always get through.

I will admit that I did not elaborate fully on many of my points, and I thank my opponent for pointing this out to me. I'll attempt to make my stance clearer, as well as address the points he has presented.

My problem with the current system, mainly, is that it is far too simplistic. If you look at the rating system for many other countries, they use a much more extensive system. I'll once again use bayonetta as an example. Here in the states, Bayonetta received an M, which, by the current standards, it does deserve. However other countries have much more intricate systems, that grade games individually by age, in a manner akin to tv ratings. For example, in the UK, bayonetta recieved an 18 to begin with, but was later moved down to 15. The upcoming sequel has received a 16.

However, all versions of God of War received an 18 (I'll take a moment to clarify that I do not believe god of war should receive an AO. While I personally don't care for it, I think It's fine where it is). While an argument could be made that this just adds confusion, I feel that it shows a greater attention to detail than what we're used to.

However, I don't believe that the ESRB should completely revamp it's grading system. As I said in the closing of my last argument, I believe a new rating should be implemented between T and M, a T15+, if you will. This will provide a place for games such as Bayonetta, Assasin's Creed, and (most of) the Call of Duty Franchise.

I will concede that few people ever take the ESRB into account, save some stricter parents. I personally feel the biggest change would be in the video game industry itself. Gaming companies tend to shoot for a certain rating, in order to gain better access to their target audience. However, this tends to lead to some truly pointless additions to certain games. I'll use my opponents own example of the many, many shots of Bayonetta's breasts. While many gamers find it distracting in other ways, I see no point in it other than pushing up the rating, and it lowers the appeal for me. Placing a rating between T and M would allow companies to present their narrative without having to worry about fluffing it up or dumbing it down.

Allow me to draw a parallel to movie ratings. Lets assume a G equals an E, a T equals a PG, and an R equals an M. The addition I propose would essentially be the PG13.



Sorry for being so late, I was quite busy.

Round 1 sources:

Now my opponent has conceded point 2 in regards to the purpose of the ESRB. As we know the ESRB is a guide for parents to decide what games are appropriate for their kids. If a new system is ineffective in that regard, to me that constitutes a pretty good reason not to develop a new system.

The movie rating analogy is incosistent, if we do a comparison accordingly it would be as follows:
R- 15+
You would also need to create a new movie system.
Also the analogy equartes T and PG.
Now T=Teen and PG13=Teen.
We can conclude T=PG13
PG does not equal T.

Also what would be the exact criteria for this 15+ category? The games you listed easily fall into the M category.

M: "May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language."

Now, I heard norefutation of Bayonetta being an M-rated game
Assasin's Creed, and (most of) the Call of Duty Franchise perfectly fit into the current ESRB system:
Both games are intensely violent (which is enough to get a category into the M-rating),but also have strong language.

Ghost ESRB: "This is a first-person shooter in which players assume the role of an elite military unit tasked with protecting America from an enemy threat. Players by Start Savin" href="">complete mission objectives and engage in battles across a variety of international locations (e.g., United States, South America, Antarctica). Players use pistols, machine guns, rocket launchers, and explosives to kill enemy soldiers in frenetic combat. Battles are accompanied by realistic gunfire, screams of pain, and frequent explosions. Players can also perform close-up attacks (e.g., neck stabbings, headshots) to eliminate enemies. Large blood-splatter effects are frequently depicted; bloodstains appear on the ground. Cutscenes also depict intense acts of violence: a bound soldier shot in the chest; characters executed at close range; civilians gunned down in a space station. During the course of the game, players can select emblems from a menu screen for character customization; a few emblems are suggestive of marijuana. The words “f**k,” “sh*t,” and “a*shole” can be heard in the dialogue."

Also the british 18+:"This adult rating is applied when the level of violence reaches a stage where it becomes gross violence and/or includes elements of specific types of violence. In general terms it is where the level of violence is so visually strong that it would make the reasonable viewer react with a sense of revulsion. This rating is also applied where the level of sexual activity is explicit which may mean that genitals are visible. Any game that glamorises the use of real life drugs will also probably fall into this category."

It seems to me that there are not a sufficient amont of games that absolutely fall into this category. Sure you have Saint's Row and GTA and GOW but a few games is not a enough to generate whole new rating.
Also as aforementioned the 15+ gamers are for the most part no longer bound to a system. Their parents already let them play whatever.
Debate Round No. 2


JPKnight12 forfeited this round.


Extend arguments
Debate Round No. 3


JPKnight12 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4


JPKnight12 forfeited this round.


Vote con.
Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Forte 7 years ago
Changing the ESRB rating system would just be an attempt to lower standards when it comes to mature content. This would render the whole system useless, since the increasing placidity of older gamers would just continually push more and more questionable content to younger audiences.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by lannan13 7 years ago
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