Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Content Ratings on RPGs?

I got back more roughs and finished pieces today of some of the "feature" (read: sure to offend) artwork pieces, and am commissioning a couple more last fill-in pieces now that I've done some late layout adjustments. This is taking forever, but man oh man this layout is looking good. I've learned a thing or two these past few months of screwing around with the layout program.

Coincidentally, there is a thread about whether RPGs should carry content ratings here. It quickly degenerated once the specifics of the mentioned passage became known, but the issue of ratings was interesting to me. I will be putting a "16+" graphic on the back of the upcoming box, because some of the illustrations inside are pretty gruesome and people should know that it's not for the kiddies.

What do you think about content ratings for RPGs?

So yeah, three work things running around needing attention NOW - final revisions and layouts for the box set, taking that good long hard critical look at the Vornheim manuscript, and getting the new webstore up and running. All three go slow.

Oh, I joined Bits & Mortars. The plan is to support all currently in-print releases with this after the first of the year. I'll push and promote this more leading up to the release of the Grindhouse Edition.


  1. I don't see a problem with content ratings. It does sometimes have the effect of making youngsters track down something they shouldn't, but crowing in the playground about how you saw Robocop even though it's an 18 is all part of growing up.

    As a guide for adults thinking about sharing a book/film/game with kids, I think it's a useful tool. Everything has age ratings on it nowadays, so I don't see why LotFP shouldn't.

  2. It's a good idea on every side - it creates sensationalism (ooh, look, mature! I want it), it gives the brick-and-mortar some plausible deniability if it gets into the wrong hands, and it provides information for would-be purchasers (you were warned, dumb-ass). Everybody wins.

  3. I'm in agreement with Kelvin. Content ratings, when used as general guidelines, are useful tools when deciding if something is appropriate for kids. Adults should be taking the maturity of an individual child into consideration, however, and not relying only on an age rating before handing something to a kid (or an adult, in some cases). There are kids I know who I would be confident are mature enough to handle something like LotFP at age 14, and other adults that I would be fearful of handing it to at age 50.

  4. I'm with Beedo on this one. It's not even just graphical content though... World of Darkness is pretty jacked conceptually when you get into it.. even if you pretend the art is all flowers and roses. Same with the "Book of Vile Darkness" from 3e D&D.. it isn't something you'd want little kids reading. (Although admittedly I think that was stuck in the adult only sections anyways, heh.)

    Targeted marketing makes it pretty useful as well, I'd say.

  5. "What do you think about content ratings for RPGs?"

    WARNING: Imagination required.

    That should be sufficient.

  6. Generally, the more I know about what's inside the box, the happier I am after I've bought it. In and of themselves, I consider such things in the same light as Beedo, but I do see how they can be abused by idiots.

    But then, what out there truly is "idiot-proof?"

  7. I don't really see it as having much of a benefit beyond the CYA factor. AD&D was supposed to be for ages 10 and up, and it's a wonderland of pentagrams and sagging harpy titties.

  8. I think its only good for covering yourself legally. Im far more in Jeff's camp - imagination required.

  9. I'm more likely to buy a book with a label that says, "WARNING: THIS BOOK CAUSES MORAL DECAY AND SOME PEOPLE THINK YOU SHOULD NOT READ IT." Unfortunately, I usually end up dissapointed.

  10. As long as the warning isn't plastered over any artwork, or bigger than the title fonts, I wouldn't object.

  11. how about "F" for
    "Fuckin Awesome"

    seriously, I would follow the guidelines of the motion picture association;
    R = not suitable for children under 17,
    violence, gore and sexual innuendo

  12. Frankly, I don't see the point of a content rating, unless its intended as a marketing gimmick (Works!).

    On a general principle I'm against age limits on gaming material or media of any kind, as I really don't buy into any of the theories about younger minds supposedly being more suspectible to mental scarring from reading or seeing violent and/or sexual imagery.

    I'd rather go with a line saying "Suggested for Mature Grown-Ups" than something as blunt as a big red "R" or "16" marring the cover of an RPG product.

  13. I agree with navdi.

    Books don't generally carry ratings. If you absolutely want to have a warning, go with the "Suggested for Mature Readers/Gamers" line. But that still makes it look like a cheap marketing gimmick.

    Maybe you could put one of the offensive pictures right on the back cover of the box, so that people know what they're buying.

  14. I'm in a middle ground. While I'm not big on specific age limits or a G/PG/PG-13/R type system I sympathize with those buying for younger individuals. Often when ratings come up you hear the line "parents are responsible for knowing what their children are doing/reading/watching/etc". While I don't disagree in principle too often that's just an excuse to not give a shit. Just because something is someone else's responsibility doesn't mean I can't be helpful. It's not just polite but good business.

    I think a simple blurb on the back that uses something along the lines of "Note this contains violence/graphic violence/nudity/graphic sex/etc. Readers are advised to consider their sensitivities before purchasing."

    I also think it's less important for things not shrink wrapped. If I can thumb through a book I can get a feel. A boxed set or PDF not so much.

  15. come on, this is a no brainer guys.
    if you're intent is to include necrolingus art like the cannibal corpse samples or stuff like some of caspers work, duhhh...of course you need to include an age appropriateness warning. A sealed box set with the 'famous' LotFP art would be an attractive gift for my 12 year old son...i def think he'd dig it, but if he found adult art work inside not only would i be pissed and would let the store owner know in no uncertain terms, i'd also get my ass kicked to hell by my kick boxing better half. i'm def cool with the artwork for my own entertainment but not for my kids.
    if you don't have a warning of some type (and not itty bitty type mind you) you're going to have pissed parents which equals pissed retailers who won't bother stocking the grindhouse ed.

  16. Hi,

    to determine what to put on the back I would look at actual relevant rating systems rather than just make it up yourself. I would probably put on two ratings if I was you, the Finnish rating and one from the U.S.A.. You probably cannot just put their rating on yourself, they would need to rate it and decide the rating for you. You could get ratings for each of the countries your game is most popular in.

    From Wikipedia about the Finnish Board of Film Classification (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish_Board_of_Film_Classification) "It is responsible for inspecting and rating the content of movies and interactive games. Only material intended to be accessible to minors (those under 18 years of age) is subject to mandatory inspection before being released to the public". This means you have to get your RPG (an interactive game) classified. Their site is here: http://www.vet.fi/english/yleista.php .

    For the United States I think you should go with the Entertainment Software Rating Board. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entertainment_Software_Rating_Board

    Really you should get it rated for each country you release in but that is probably not feasable for your business model.

    If you want to rate it yourself you could use http://vomer.info/ .

    All the best,


  17. >>This means you have to get your RPG (an interactive game) classified.

    As far as I'm aware, not a single pen-and-paper RPG sold within Finland, foreign or domestic in origin, has ever done this.

    The VET actually specifies that when they say "interactive games" they mean computer/video games.

    That Vomer site looks useless... who is going to understand any of that gobbledygook if they saw it on a product in a store?

  18. I agree about the Vomer, I put it in there as a last resort!