I am really excited to finally be able to tell you guys about one of the biggest projects we’ve ever done. Last year the ESRB came to us and asked if we could create a new advertising campaign for them. They’d been to multiple agencies and none of them were able to communicate the message the ESRB was trying to get out. See until now their advertising has been focused on trying to educate adults about the ESRB. That’s obviously an important task but they wanted this new message to be directed at gamers, that is to say directed at us. They wanted a campaign that would communicate to gamers why the ESRB is important even if they don’t think it directly affects them.
That’s not an easy task but we took the job for a couple reasons. Number one Tycho and I are both fathers now. The discussion about the ESRB and its place in the gaming industry is no longer just academic for us. Our kids will be playing games before we know it. Second, we much prefer the ESRB to government regulation and let’s all be honest here, that’s the alternative.
So when given the opportunity to help the ESRB we jumped at the chance. We spent months creating a series of characters to represent each of the ESRB ratings. Then Tycho sat down and wrote a short narrative that accompanies each one and explains how the ESRB affects their life. Finally Kiko took all the pieces and designed a series of beautiful full page advertisements that you’ll be seeing in gaming mags and all over the web very shortly. The ESRB created some teaser images to promote the new campaign at E3. If you were there you might have seen these big banners around with what looked like Penny Arcade artwork on them.
The response we got at E3 was really positive. Obviously some people want to get into an argument about the ESRB’s intelligence given some of their recent moves and I can’t blame them. I’ll be the first to admit it’s not a perfect system. It would be impossible for the ESRB to play through every game and see all the content. That would be true even if developers didn’t insert hidden sex scenes or release tools that allowed players to modify the game after purchase. I think that as long as they are rating games based on footage put together by the publisher (a publisher who’s desperately hungry for a "T" rating because it means more sales) there will always be problems.
Regardless of what they think about the ESRB I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t agree that a rating system is important. No one wants little kids playing games designed for adults. The ESRB isn’t perfect but it’s all we’ve got and we as gamers can either bitch about it or try and help.