So a lot of you might be wondering what the title of this article means, and the definition of a T rated game and an M rated game, so let’s start with that. A T rated game means suitable for teenagers aged 13 and up and it might contain some mild violence, dry humour, some blood, gambling and other things like that. An M rated game means that it is suitable for a mature audience, usually over 17 years old. This is the second higest rating the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) can give a game. Some of the things you might find in this game are more intense violence, blood, gore, sexual scenes and strong language. So the lines are somewhat blurred, but you can still see a difference between the two.
So now that we’ve got what each of the ratings mean out of the way, I want to start off my talking about games that used to be T rated, that through time have become M rated, and how they have used their ratings to change and improve their games.
We’ll start with the Call of Duty franchise. Call of Duty’s 1, 2 and 3 were teen rated, with the content descriptions of just blood and violence, fitting the T rating. Every Call of Duty since Call of Duty 3 have been mature rated and the content descriptions have varied hugely. One thing that clearly stuck out to me was the line “Includes online features that may expose players to unrated user-generated content” which i can only assume to mean there may be possibly offensive Gamertags and people will be chatting in game as CoD 4 was the first wide-spread multiplayer Call of Duty, and of course the strong language and intense violence played a big part in earning it it’s rating.
So did going from T rated to M rated help or hinder Call of Duty? Honestly, although it’s a tough one, i think it definitely helped them. It would have been pretty tough for the developers to continue in the direction they did while holding the Teen rating and as the series progressed, you can clearly see how the sales got incrementally better and better as they aimed for a more mature audience.
Games that are T rated can also become incredible hits too however. A couple of incredibly big games have arisen with teenagers in their demographics such as Uncharted, Infamous and most of the Batman: Arkham series.
The reason I say most of the Batman games are T rated is because lately it has been revealed that Batman: Arkham Knight will in fact be an M rated game. Now as i said before, it is not up to the developers to decide whether their game is an M, T or any other rating, that is up to the ESRB. All the devs can do is make sure they are making the kind of game they want to make and make the most profit from that endeavour. A spokesperson from Rocksteady commented on the ESRB rating saying that “We didn’t create the game with the rating in mind, we didn’t do that for our other games and this is just the story they wanted to tell”. They justified their decision to not dumb down the game to recieve a more acceptable rating by saying the game “takes us to some dark places”.
I personally, fully support Rocksteady’s decision to continue with the M rating, as we have seen so much catering to more casual players and developers trying harder and harder to push games to a wider audience by giving games a T rating recently. I feel this trend is only going to continue to carry on as it rewards developers with more money, which ultimately is why they make these games, but it’s nice to see some developers stay true to their story and craft their game regardless of ratings.
My final point on the Arkham Knight being an M rated game, and a point to consider when making games that have a mature rating is that there are simply going to be less people able to buy them. Some places in the world simply won’t stock games rated higher than teen and it’s sad that those people might never be able to play (unless obtaining through illegal means) some of the best games ever made.
Some games, such as the Halo series, don’t seem to use their M rated stature enough and with a little tweaking could possibly get the attention of a wider audience by instead going for the T rating. I feel like Halo could either ramp up the violence and gore and not limit themselves as much and go to a fully-fledged M rating while still maintaining the audience they currently have, or just (depending on the reasons the ESRB gave for the rating) adjust their game so they are able to sell to a wider audience.
Overall, I think in the grand scheme of things, a better gaming experience will come from those games that are M rated just because they have more tools in their arsenal to make the game feel more visceral and immersive. That being said, it’s not nice that 15 year old Timmy can’t buy the game all of his friends are playing because his mom just reads the box and sees M for mature, as well as games not being able to be sold in some countries.