Videogame Rating Council

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The Videogame Rating Council (V.R.C.) was introduced by Sega of America in 1993 to rate all video games that were released for sale in the United States and Canada on the Genesis, Game Gear, Sega CD, and Pico. The rating had to be clearly displayed on the front of the box, but their appearance in advertisements for the video game was strictly optional. It was later supplanted by the industry-wide Entertainment Software Rating Board.

Sega Japanese video game developer and publisher and subsidiary of Sega Sammy Holdings

Sega Games Co., Ltd. is a Japanese multinational video game developer and publisher headquartered in Tokyo. The company, previously known as Sega Enterprises Ltd. and Sega Corporation, is a subsidiary of Sega Holdings Co., Ltd., which is part of Sega Sammy Holdings. Its international branches, Sega of America and Sega of Europe, are respectively headquartered in Irvine, California and London. Sega's arcade division, once part of Sega Corporation, has existed as Sega Interactive Co., Ltd., also a Sega Holdings subsidiary, since 2015.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, many near the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.

Contents

History

As the 16-bit era of video games began in the late 1980s, their content became more realistic. The increased graphical and audio fidelity of the products made violent scenes appear more explicit, especially those containing blood. [1] As controversy stemmed around the realism of this violence, 1992 games Mortal Kombat and Night Trap entered the limelight. Mortal Kombat is a "brutal" fighting game and Night Trap is a full-motion video Sega CD game where players protect a slumber party from vampires. The games were at the center of federal hearings held from December 9, 1993 to March 4, 1994 by United States Senators Joseph Lieberman and Herbert Kohl. [2] [note 1] . One quote that explains how Lieberman felt about video games during one of these trials is “Instead of enriching a child’s mind... these games teach a child to enjoy inflicting torture.”. As a result, the video game industry was given a year to create its own classification system or to otherwise have one imposed on them by the federal government. [1]

<i>Mortal Kombat</i> (1992 video game) 1992 video game

Mortal Kombat is an arcade fighting game developed and published by Midway in 1992 as the first title in the Mortal Kombat series. It was subsequently released by Acclaim Entertainment for nearly every home platform of the time. The game focuses on the journey of the Shaolin monk Liu Kang to save Earthrealm from the evil sorcerer Shang Tsung, ending with their confrontation in the tournament known as Mortal Kombat. It introduced many key aspects of the Mortal Kombat series, including the unique five-button control scheme and gory finishing moves called Fatalities.

<i>Night Trap</i> 1992 video game

Night Trap is an interactive movie video game developed by Digital Pictures and originally released by Sega for the Sega CD in 1992. The game is presented primarily through the use of full motion video (FMV). In Night Trap, the player takes the role of a special agent tasked to watch over teenage girls visiting a house which, unbeknownst to them, is full of danger. The player watches live surveillance footage of the house and triggers traps to capture anyone seen endangering the girls. The player can freely switch their view between different cameras to keep watch over the girls and eavesdrop on conversations to follow the story and listen for clues.

Sega CD add-on for the Sega Genesis video game console

The Sega CD, released as the Mega-CD in most regions outside North America and Brazil, is a CD-ROM accessory for the Sega Genesis video game console designed and produced by Sega as part of the fourth generation of video game consoles. It was released on December 12, 1991 in Japan, October 15, 1992 in North America, and 1993 in Europe. The Sega CD lets the user play CD-based games and adds hardware functionality such as a faster central processing unit and graphic enhancements. It can also play audio CDs and CD+G discs.

Prior to the hearings, Sega had created its own Videogame Rating Council (VRC) in June 1993. The council consisted of experts in education, psychology, and sociology as appointed by Sega. [3] The VRC was one of several ratings groups to appear (among them, 3DO's 3DO Rating System). The VRC classified games that worked with Sega's consoles into three categories based on age: [1] GA ("general audiences"), MA-13 ("mature audiences"), and MA-17 ("for adults"). [3] It was criticized by journalists and consumer groups for vagueness and inconsistency, [1] and other companies did not want Sega to be in charge of the ratings organization. [3] The lead editorial in the January 1994 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly also criticized Sega for failing to inform and educate the public on the ratings system, particularly noting that the ratings appeared on the game boxes but usually not in advertisements for the games, and that most parents "either haven't a clue as to what [Sega's ratings] mean, don't know that they exist, or don't know why the game got the rating." [4]

The 3DO Company American video game company

The 3DO Company, also known as 3DO, was an American video game company. It was founded in 1991 by Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins, in a partnership with seven companies including LG, Matsushita, AT&T Corporation, MCA, Time Warner, and Electronic Arts itself. After 3DO's flagship video game console, the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, failed in the marketplace, the company exited the hardware business and became a third-party video game developer. It went bankrupt in 2003 due to poor sales of its games. Its headquarters were in Redwood City, California in the San Francisco Bay Area.

<i>Electronic Gaming Monthly</i> American video game magazine

Electronic Gaming Monthly is a monthly American video game magazine. It offers video game news, coverage of industry events, interviews with gaming figures, editorial content, and product reviews.

Following the hearings, the games industry created the Interactive Digital Software Association in April 1994, which made a proposal for a rating system. The proposal was adopted by the United States Congress in July 1994 and the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was founded in September to execute the plan. [2] The VRC ultimately folded that year when replaced by the ESRB. [1] VRC ratings had been used on several hundred games made by Sega and others. [3]

Entertainment Software Rating Board North American self-regulatory organization that assigns age and content ratings for video games

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is an American self-regulatory organization that assigns age and content ratings to consumer video games. The ESRB was established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association, in response to criticism of controversial video games with excessively violent or sexual content.

Ratings

The three different ratings were as follows:

VRC General Audiences.svg GAGeneral Audiences: Appropriate for all audiences. No blood or graphic violence. No profanity, no mature sexual themes and no usage of drugs or alcohol.
VRC Mature 13.svg MA-13Mature Audiences: Parental Discretion Advised. The game was suitable for audiences thirteen years of age or older (or teenagers). Game could have some blood in it and more graphic violence than a "GA" game.
VRC Mature 17.svg MA-17Mature Audiences: Not appropriate for minors. The game was suitable for audiences seventeen years of age or older. Games could have lots of blood, graphic violence, mature sexual themes, profanity, drug or alcohol usage.
NYR or, Not Yet Rated: This rating only appeared in advertising and indicated that the game had not yet been rated by the V.R.C. The modern equivalents would be ESRB's RP (Rating Pending) rating and PEGI's TBC label.
Recoloured Ratings.png

The rating symbols appear above in their standard black and white format, but were typically recolored when appearing on actual box art.

Before the Videogame Rating Council

While rival console manufacturer Nintendo enforced strict content guidelines for games released on its hardware, Sega differentiated itself with a more liberal content policy, allowing for the depiction of blood and graphic violence in software released on its home consoles, provided that the publisher label the game's packaging with a generic "Parental Advisory" warning.

Nintendo Japanese video game company

Nintendo Co., Ltd. is a Japanese multinational consumer electronics and video game company headquartered in Kyoto. Nintendo is one of the world's largest video game companies by market capitalization, creating some of the best-known and top-selling video game franchises, such as Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Pokémon.

Such an advisory was put on the packaging for the following games: Techno Cop , Splatterhouse 2

Techno Cop is a 1988 action video game for the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS-DOS and ZX Spectrum. It was subsequently ported to the Sega Genesis in 1990. The gameplay combines pseudo-3D driving in the graphical style of Outrun with side-scrolling action as the player controls a police officer driving to and then moved through various seedy locations in a one-man war against crime. The game was the first game on the Genesis to have a warning label due to its violent content.

<i>Splatterhouse 2</i> 1992 video game

Splatterhouse 2, known in Japan as Splatterhouse Part 2 (スプラッターハウスPART2) is a sidescrolling beat 'em up video game released in 1992 on the Mega Drive/Genesis home video game console published by Namco. It is the sequel to Splatterhouse.

However, nudity and other sexual content remained taboo. Games made for Sega systems generally toned down sexual content.

The nude fairies found in Stormlord were given some scantily clad attire, when the game was ported over to the Sega Genesis.

Similarly, when Sega localized Phantasy Star II for western consumers, it edited dialogue in the game to obscure a non-playable character's homosexuality.

Notable cases

Mortal Kombat

The video game company Acclaim brought Mortal Kombat to the Genesis and Super NES in 1993. Both Sega and Nintendo ordered the game's graphic violence and blood to be toned down.

However, Sega allowed the player to restore the controversial content with a secret code, announced the creation of the Videogame Rating Council and gave Mortal Kombat an MA-13 rating. The result was that the Sega Genesis version of Mortal Kombat outsold the Super NES version. However, the commercial success of the game, including a marketing campaign by Acclaim to prepare consumers for "Mortal Monday", and the fact that the Videogame Rating Council opened the doorway for games to be sold on a Sega console system with adult content promoted national outrage.

Notes and references

Notes
  1. Formally, these were the joint hearings between the Subcommittee on Juvenile Justice of the Committee of the Judiciary and the Subcommittee on Regulation and Government Information of the Committee of Governmental Affairs of the 103rd United States Congress. [2]
Sources
  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Caron & Cohen 2013, p. 91.
  2. 1 2 3 Budziszewski 2012, p. 196.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Foerstel 1997, p. 223.
  4. Semrad, Ed (January 1994). "Violence in Video Games... Part 2!". Electronic Gaming Monthly (54). EGM Media, LLC. p. 6.
Sources

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