Awhile back, Mark Methenitis posted on his blog about the ESRB review process, and its biggest flaw: no one there plays the game before release.

A game company sends a “demo disk” and a bunch of paperwork to the ESRB, and that is what gets reviewed for the rating. Later, “ESRB staff, including raters (time-permitting), play the final version of both hand-picked and randomly selected games to verify that all the materials provided by the game’s publisher during the rating process were accurate and complete” (from the ESRB site).

That last bit is simply a double-checking; the game has already received its rating. So, for the most part, games are actually rated sight unseen.

Is there a better way? I don’t know. Enough games come out on all platforms that there just isn’t time to play them all, even partially. Mark suggests possibly having “expert gamers” play while the reviewers watch.

Nice idea, but that still requires a lot of time. This is really the crux of the problem. It would be a nightmare all around if the rating wasn’t given until the full version of a game was played.

One possibility might be a video of the game being played in a late beta version by one of the designers. They know the product, and how to get through it quickly. What might take the average gamer days or weeks could be shown in, probably, hours.

Of course, we know a lot can change between “late beta” and release (sometimes known as a late, late beta ;). But I think that would give a better idea of the game than just the “demo” and the paperwork. Read the post and see what you think.

ESRB Review Process on lawofthegame.com