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Games Get New Ratings and Labels

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the trade group that rates videogames, has added four new content descriptions to the existing 26,with new bolder labels, to provide parents and other consumers with a new and unprecedented level of detail about game content. The rating system changes were developed in consultation with experts from both inside and outside the interactive entertainment software industry, including child development experts and family advocates.

The new content descriptors were devised to distinguish between animated cartoon violence and the realistic-looking violence that may appear in advanced M-rated (Mature) titles intended for gamers 17 and older. The new content descriptors are:

- Cartoon Violence, defined as "violent actions involving cartoon-like characters. May include violence where a character is unharmed after the action has been inflicted." - Fantasy Violence, defined as "violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life." - Intense Violence, defined as "graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict. May involve extreme and/or realistic blood, gore, weapons and depictions of human injury and death." - Sexual Violence, defined as "depictions of rape or other violent sexual acts."

In 2002, 63 % of games rated by the ESRB received an E (Everyone) rating, 27 % were rated T (Teen), 8 % were rated M (Mature) and 2 %received an EC rating (Early Childhood).

Effective September 15, 2003 the ESRB ( will require the placement of new labels on the back of game boxes. In addition, ESRB rating symbols will continue to be published on the front of all game boxes. Also effective September 15, the ESRB's "M" (Mature) and "AO" (Adults Only) icons will be modified to include the minimum recommended age for each rating category. The categories themselves are unaffected by this modification, only the icon design will change to ensure that consumers better understand the designated age ranges for these categories.