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Industry Insights: The GenCon Reports

Ratings not just kid's stuff for RPG industry

by Matt Snyder
August 9, 2001

 

In an industry filled with a spectrum of products that appeal to an equally wide spectrum of ages, content for younger readers and players is a concern. Is a ratings system necessary to help keep adult themes, images, and ideas out of the hands of children?

RPG.net talked with several companies at GenCon 2001 to gauge their reaction to a ratings system for role-playing games. The reaction among publishers was largely against a formalized system.

"It only really has negative effects," says John Nephew, Atlas Games. "I don't see much value in it."

He points out that a book-by-book ratings system would not be appropriate for a wider game line with sophisticated content, like Atlas' Unknown Armies. Nephew says his games do have mature ratings notices when appropriate, but those notices are under his control.

Stephan Wieck, president of White Wolf, agrees. "White Wolf as a company, I'd say we'd generally be against it." Several White Wolf products include self-imposed mature content labels as well. But, Wieck says a ratings system would lead to a lot of limitations. "As soon as you have any kind of ratings system you have retailers screening products."

How retailers might react is an important issue to publishers. James Wallis, Hogshead Publishing, says, "If the stores aren't going to pay any attention to that, then the ratings system is meaningless."

Conversely, such a system could prevent product from reaching customers, says game designer Robin Laws. What's more, he thinks that over time the material approved for younger readers will become harsher as publishers find wiggle room in the system.

Currently, he sees no need for potential problems like that. "Traditionally, ratings systems come about from government pressure" and therefore a voluntary system results. "I would argue that's the only reason to do that," he says.

Interestingly, the publishers have a lot of faith in their younger customers.

"Kids are a lot smarter and can handle emotional problems better than we give them credit for," says Hilary Doda, Dream Pod 9. She adds, "The industry has a bad enough reputation. We don't need to make it worse for ourselves."

Still, not all publishers are dead-set against ratings.

"I'm not opposed to them," says Jason Blair, Key20 publishing, which produces Little Fears. He included several warnings within Little Fears because the game's content is specifically about children and difficult subjects like abuse and guns. The game features a general warning in the introduction, and additional warnings within specific sections of the book.

But, having an outside authority rate games is less clear for Blair. "I think the hardest thing is having someone impartial judge the material"

Anthony Pryor, Sword & Sorcery Studios, says he has mixed feelings about a system, especially as the father of a 12-year-old daughter. "I can understand a kind of voluntary system," he says. "I think it's a legitimate concern. I think it's got to give parents guidelines," he says.

On the other hand, he believes, "Kids of the age that are going to be playing it are going to be able to deal with it."
Matt Snyder TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

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All Industry Insights

  • Gareth-Michael Skarka interviews China Mieville, April 24, 2002
  • lizard's Condensation of All Game Fiction, April 18, 2002
  • Sandy's "God or Whore?" GTS'02, March 26, 2002
  • Allan Sugarbaker with GAMA Trade Show '02: An Inside Report, March 22, 2002
  • Aldo of Impressions on the GamePlay CD, January 3, 2002
  • Gareth-Michael Skarka interviews Ken Hite, February 8, 2002
  • Gareth-Michael Skarka interviews Tim Powers, January 18, 2002
  • Aldo Ghoizzi on Inside the Making of GamePlay, January 3, 2002
  • The RPGnet Awards Cabal presents the RPGnet 2001 Awards Results!, December 5, 2001
  • Ken Whitman teaches us with A Note About Creating a Good Promotional Campaign, October 12, 2001
  • Sean Jaffe on The Fallout, September 27, 2001 [about 9/11]
  • Sean Jaffe on Interesting Times, September 21, 2001 [about 9/11]
  • GodLike: Dennis Detwiler and Greg Stolze, September 14, 2001
  • Jared Nielsen on Tribe Gamer, August 31, 2001
  • Mark Bruno teaches about Copy Editing, August 16, 2001
  • Ratings not just kid's stuff for RPG industry, reported by Matt Snyder, August 9, 2001
  • GenCon '01 News, reported by Matt Snyder, August 3, 2001
  • Origins Report: Would you send your mother to buy from them?, part 4 of 4
  • Origins Report: Booth Babes, part 3 of 4
  • Origins Report: Overview, part 2 of 4
  • The Origins Awards, part 1 of 4, reported by Jason Paul McCartan
  • Gary Gygax Interview, part 1 of 3, by Scott Lynch
  • Why I Write Gaming Materials by Greg Stolze, November 16, 1999
  • Blowing out the Nostalgia Candle by John Wick, October 19, 1999
  • Interview with Sean Pat Fannon, Shards October 5, 1999
  • Portuguese is not Spanish! by Thad Blanchette, September 14, 1999
  • Intuition and Surprise by M. J. Young, July 27, 1999
  • Fear and Loathing in the Wizards of the Coast Game Center by John Tynes, January 26, 1999
  • Breaking In,, on how to break into writing for RPGs, by Steve Kenson, December 22, 1998
  • ALT.RPG, first of a series looking deeply at what gaming is all about, by Matt Miller, September 1, 1998
  • The Night They Tore Old Mecca Down, GenCon report by Randy Porter, August 20, 1998
  • GenCon Fun: con, city, and even housing tips from Randy Porter, June 30, 1998
  • GenCon Lore Vol 3: Program Books, update on GenCon 98 attendance, by Randy Porter, June 23, 1998
  • The Missing and the Dead, update on GenCon 98 attendance, by Randy Porter, June 2, 1998
  • The Definitive Count on who is and isn't attending GenCon 98, by Randy Porter, April 28, 1998
  • How to Scam Games Part II by Steve Johnson, March 24, 1998
  • The Perils of Penniless Publishing by Aaron Rosenberg, February 3, 1998
  • Polyhedral Dice & Mirror Shades, by Greg Costikyan (or, the death of paper).
  • Ken Whitman: A Love Hate Relationship by (of course) Ken Whitman
  • Interview with Sean Punch, GURPS line editor, by Bob Portnell, October 1997
  • YOU DID WHAT? Perspectives On Becoming A Full-Time Writer In The RPG Industry, by Steven Long, September 1997
  • A Resurgence of Role Playing, by Gary Gygax, August 1997

    Other columns at RPGnet

    TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg