Video game warnings on boxes?

If you go to ESRB, this site provides parents with straightforward and clear expectations of what to expect in a videogame. For example, a game called The Saboteur was recently released and this is the description of the game as found on ESRB’s web site:

The Saboteur
Platform: Windows PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Rating: Mature
Content descriptors: Blood, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
Rating summary: In this “open-world” third-person shooter, players control an Irish racing mechanic who seeks revenge against Nazis in German-occupied Paris during the 1940s. Players engage in hand-to-hand combat, perform “stealth kills,” shoot guns, and plant and set off explosives to destroy Nazi targets. Stealth kills usually involve breaking the necks of Nazi soldiers or stabbing them from behind; gun attacks can include carjacking an enemy in a vehicle—players shoot the driver and throw out the body before getting into the car—and shooting soldiers or civilians while they’re on the ground (i.e., postmortem damage). Most of these attacks are accompanied by depictions of blood: the blood sprays out of targets and may pool on the ground or stain surrounding walls. In the free-roaming context, players have the ability to approach any character and use machine guns, rocket launchers, and flamethrowers against him; the cries of pain and screaming from these characters may be unsettling (though players are penalized for killing civilians via the point system). And in districts where the Nazi presence is strong (i.e., the “Will-to-Fight” is low), players may witness civilians in the background getting executed by enemy soldiers.The game contains sexual themes and nudity. Female dancers inside a Parisian cabaret are depicted topless, wearing thong-style underwear that expose their buttocks. Inside a French brothel, women walk around with very little clothing on—essentially, topless with the exception of “pasties” as coverings. German soldiers are sometimes shown groping and fondling prostitutes, dancers, and waitresses; prostitutes can be seen walking the streets of Paris, though sexual acts are only mentioned, never depicted. Characters also reference sex/sexuality in the dialogue (e.g., “A girl should always carry protection,” “Laying on your back all day gives one perspective on life,” and “We’re hitting the brothels later. Want to come?”). The dialogue drives much of the storyline, and those who deliver it use profanity (e.g., “f**k,” “sh*t,” “c*ck,” and “a*shole”) in no uncertain terms.


Should this type of clear and frank description be mandatory by law on the OUTSIDE PACKAGING of the video game boxes so that parents and / or all customers are fully aware of what they are getting themselves into when they buy this game — in the same way that cigarette boxes are now equipped with gruesome images and messages?

What might these video game warning labels look like?


One response to “Video game warnings on boxes?

  1. Full disclosure, I’m with ESRB which assigns game ratings. Just wanted to point out that a game’s ESRB age rating (like E for Everyone, T for Teen, M for Mature) is prominently printed on the front of virtually every game box, and the content descriptors (Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, etc.) are on the back. So consumers do have information right on the package to help them make informed choices. The rating summaries (the longer description of content) is available on our website as well as through a mobile website ( in case parents want to look up titles while they’re in the store.

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