Art And Culture

Pictograms Help Gamers Choose With Care

A sample of the new pictograms, clockwise from top left: ‘despair’, ‘social ills’, ‘violence’, ‘fear’, ‘game skill’ and ‘drugs’.A sample of the new pictograms, clockwise from top left: ‘despair’, ‘social ills’, ‘violence’, ‘fear’, ‘game skill’ and ‘drugs’.

Computer and video games officially released in Iran’s market are now required to have the new pictograms issued by the Entertainment Software Rating Association ‘ESRA’.

A video game age rating system that assigns age and content rating for local users, ESRA launched its rating system in 2009 in five categories of +3, +7, +12, +15 and +18 years of age.

The rating system was the result of a one-year investigation and research by scholars of the Iran Computer and Video Games Foundation, on the different harmful content of computer games from the aspects of sociology, psychology, and Islamic teachings.

For the past seven years, Iranian game producers and distributors have been obliged to use the label showing ESRA rating on the package of their CDs and DVDs.

Each age rating shows the specific game that is suitable for the user in the mentioned age group, and restricts the use for those under the minimum age printed on the label for either inappropriate or harmful content such as violence.

However, the reason why it is considered harmful and the type of inappropriate content found in the game was not clear in the label. Now with the new pictograms added to the rating label, printed on the game package, users can better understand the game regarding its content, Mehr News Agency reported.

The pictograms are based on five factors contributing to harmful content namely, ‘violence’, ‘fear’, ‘social ills’, ‘drugs’ and ‘despair.’ The influence rate of each of the five malicious factors in the game is scored with a degree of 1 to 5 for the users.

The more influential the factor on the gamer, the higher score the related factor receives. For example, if violence factor is given a score of 5, it means that the game is really violent, while a score of 1 shows there is little violence in the game. When a factor is not rated, it implies that the game is free of that factor.

Besides the five factors, there is another pictogram regarding the skills needed for playing the game. So the sixth factor, ‘game skills’ is different from the other five and is about the operational and functional aspects.

This factor is scored based on the game genre, speed of the game and the player’s English proficiency, among others. For instance, if a game is rated +3 and its game skills factor has a score of 5, it means the game is appropriate for all ages with no harmful content but the user requires high skills to play the game.

Iran with more than 38 million internet users and 23 million gamers is one of the largest video games market in the Middle East. 

Although Iranian companies have improvised the local industry in recent years and produced a number of high-tech games, the market is dominated by  foreign games.

The necessity of having a rating system was felt as children and young adults form the majority of users of computer and video games. As they often ignore such ratings, it is parents who can control what their children play by carefully selecting the available games in the market through the rating labels and new pictograms.


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