Today at the Dubai World Game Expo in the United Arab Emirates, a new video game rating system and board was unveiled. The Entertainment Software Rating Association will evaluate video game content for games released in the Middle East.
According to Dr. Behrouz Minaei, the managing director at Iran National Foundation of Computer Games, "The rating system is designed based on the culture, society and special values of Islam."
The voluntary system is planned to indicate when games "violate any of the Islamic traditions in Islamic countries," according to Eng. Anas Al Madani, Vice President of Index Holding, one of the companies behind the board.
The system will take into account violence, games that promote tobacco or drugs, sexual diversity or nudity, all with the aim of "maintaining the balance of children and player’s psychological behavior."
“The approach of Islam is based on human being innateness 'Al Fitra,' and the most important innate trends are truth, virtue, benevolence, excellence tendency, innovation and creativity. That’s why we made sure that ESRA team are proficient in these areas; Religion, Psychopathology, Educational psychology, Social psychology, Sociology of the family, Family Sociology, Emotional Psychology, Family therapy and Educational technology," said Dr. Minaei.
There was no indication of how, exactly, the ratings will look, whether there's a scale like the ESRB's. As of now, the ratings don't have the force of law in any countries.
I can see the need for a rating system like this. Obviously the values of Islamic countries are very different than the values of the West, so the ratings of the ESRB would be largely meaningless in a much less permissive culture. Still, it would be hard enough to be a gamer in the Middle East; I hope the ESRA ratings don't lead to any kind of censorship.
Overall, it reminds me of a more organized version of the Christian gaming websites out there that try to provide video game reviews from a Jesus-y perspective. Although I am a follower of the Great Elder Gods (Cthulhu! Ftgan!), I support Christians and Muslims making as much information available as possible when it comes to the content in video games... just as long as no one tries to use the ratings systems to influence the content for people like me, who prefer violence, sex and negativity over positive Christian or Islamic ideas.