CT Attorney General Calls ESRB Out Over Teen Rating
After coming under fire from watchdog groups and substance abuse outreaches, JV Games’s Beer Pong is now Pong Toss–but as you can see from this image, the spirit and rules of beer pong remain–namely the use of plastic cups. The game is also still being marketed under the Frat Party Games subheader.
It’s that imagery–along with an official T for Teen rating–that has Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal infuriated. He wants the ESRB to change the upcoming WiiWare title’s rating to Adults Only.
A statement he released on the matter reads in part:
The video game rating board is under the influence — rating frat party video drinking games suitable for minors. Even as JV Games agrees to alter its Beer Pong video game, both it and the rating board stubbornly deny the damaging influence of alcohol depiction in video games.
The ESRB astonishingly downplays and dismisses alcohol depiction in rating the suitability of video games for minors. Parents have the first and last say over their children’s games — but they deserve to know all of the facts. The ESRB, claiming to consider age suitability in its ratings, has a moral and ethical responsibility to consider all potentially damaging material in the products it rates.
The ESRB is defending its rating. A statement they released on the matter says:
[….] The fact is that ESRB’s role is not that of censor. Our job is to impartially and consistently label content about which there may be a diversity of views so consumers can make informed choices for themselves and their families.
Pong Toss involves nothing more than players tossing virtual ping-pong balls into plastic cups, which hardly qualifies it for our most restrictive rating of AO (Adults Only 18+).
Further, GamePolitics reports that ESRB president Patricia Vance wrote a letter to Mr. Blumenthal stating that taking their organization to task may do more harm than good. Ms. Vance said in the letter that WiiWare games are rarely advertised and by championing this effort, the age group is he trying to protect may be more inclined to play Pong Toss by reference of news coverage.
This is an issue beginning to gain steam in the mainstream press. Given the still suggestive imagery of beer pong along with presumed rules in the drinking game’s spirit, it will be interesting to see if Nintendo, long known for a more squeaky clean image that caters more to a demographic of children, responds.