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Game ratings to be decided by computers in US - Report

ESRB to launch computer ratings starting with XBLA, PSN

Starting today, US ratings giant ESRB won't even play some of the games it rates before release - it'll have a computer decide instead.

The New York Times reports that the body has written a program designed to replicate the "ingrained cultural norms and predilections of the everyday American consumer".

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What this means is, starting with XBLA, PSN and WiiWare titles, game developers will now fill out a digital questionnaire to gauge any "violence, sexuality, profanity, drug use, gambling and bodily function" that could possibly offend players.

The questionnaire will then be judged by ESRB's special tech and a game rating spat out. A human won't review the title until after the game is released, the NY Times reports.

Developers can't simply lie about their content either - if they do they'll likely suffer penalties, it's said, and Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft won't certify games without ESRB's backing.

The system sounds similar to that used in Europe by ratings body PEGI, which has applicants submit their games with a "content declaration". The difference is, PEGI's system then has a (human) independent administrator review the submission, where as ESRB will now reportedly use its computer program to do the job.

The decision is said to be based on the huge influx of titles landing on the ESRB's lap to review, specifically Facebook and Apple games which are currently under the exclusive control of the companies that run them.

Under the new system ESRB could potentially see its logos on all of these social and mobile titles, but it's so far refused to comment on any negotiations with Apple and Facebook about adopting the ratings.

Last year the ESRB rated about 1,600 games, of which up to 30 percent were only online. The digital titles set to be rated under the new system are said to total around 650 games a year.

[ SOURCE: NYTimes ]

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