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As WP's senior editor, I edit review and preview articles, attempt to keep up with the frantic pace of Rainier's news posts, and keep our reviewers on deadline, which is akin to herding cats. When I have a moment to myself and don't have my nose in a book, I like to play action/RPG, adventure and platforming games.

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Independent Ratings System Targets Video Game Industry

by Judy on Dec. 1, 2004 @ 2:11 a.m. PST

Cutting through the ambiguity of the current industry-run ratings, Current Attractions has begun an objective and quantitative reporting on the Profanity, Sex, and Violence in today's hottest video game releases. With Current Attractions use of the proprietary PSVratings technology, parents will know exactly what to expect before they purchase video games containing potentially objectionable material for their children.

Until now, video games have been rated only by the software industry's own Entertainment Software Rating Board, (ESRB), which rates games using a subjective, age-based rating system. The ESRB attempts to match the content in games to players' ages, but how many parents know that the Teen-rated best-seller Tony Hawk's Under Ground 2 shows characters vandalizing buildings and women lifting up their shirts to bare their breasts?

The ratings found on Current Attractions are powered by the PSVratings system, the most comprehensive, accurate and objective ratings system currently available. They do not suggest what content is suitable to any particular age group. Instead, they provide parents with the detailed, unbiased information, independent of game manufacturers, necessary to make informed choices based upon each individual family's own personal standards of suitability.

Initially devised to evaluate movies, the PSVratings system utilizes the globally recognizable traffic-light symbol to convey three levels ­ green (suggestive), yellow (explicit) or red (graphic) of Profanity, Sex and Violence. It provides consumers with in-depth information including the exact number of instances and the context in which profanities, nudity, sexual words and activities, disrespectful behavior, character, racial, religious and sexual slurs, alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, tobacco use, threatening behavior and violent actions will be encountered.

Current Attractions' original research shows that while some of this season's major releases bear the same game-industry rating, their actual content varies widely. The inconsistencies found among games with the same ESRB rating can be seen clearly in a side-by-side comparison of four games
rated M:

Game Title Profanity Rating Sex Rating Violence Rating Halo 2 Yellow (None) Red GTA Red Yellow Red Fable Yellow Green Red Shellshock Red Green Red

"The fact is, parents don't know the half of what is going on in these games," said David G. Kinney, CEO of Veritasiti Corporation, the parent company of both PSVratings and Current Attractions.

"We take it for granted when the rating on the box tells us a game is rated for ŒTeens' or for ŒEveryone,'" continued Kinney. "A lot of parents might be shocked by what some video game developer has decided is appropriate for their child. The PSVratings offered at Current Attractions make no value judgments about age-appropriateness. That is a parent's job. We take objective, quantitative research and present it in a way parents can easily understand."

In the volatile video game industry, Current Attractions aims to be a comprehensive resource for parents. The new service will include listings of the most popular video games, a traffic-light style PSVrating, pages dedicated to general information about each game, pages featuring in-depth information about each game and an entire section providing a Parental Guide to Video Games, including a glossary of terms for the uninitiated and links to articles on the effects of gaming on children.

The PSVratings process is both extensive and objective. The system operates on proprietary, database-driven technology featuring in excess of 3,000 rules and more than ten million rule combinations. A Standards Board of educators, child psychologists and child psychiatrists, all of whom are parents, assign ratings to each of the rules of the system; thus creating the PSVratings Standard. Auditors are trained to record instances of Profanity, Sex and Violence in media. The data then goes through three independent stages of validation. Proprietary technology then analyzes the complete data and generates the PSVrating, which ensures objectivity and makes the system unique from the industry-based systems that generate ratings based upon the opinions of a subjective group of parents, critics or enthusiasts.

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