While your kid plays a game he downloaded through his Xbox, he may be telling others exactly where he is in the real world. And you thought all you had to worry about was what happened within the game.
Parents concerned about the information their kids share when playing downloaded games on devices like an Xbox or PlayStation are getting help from the same group that rates boxed games. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the self-regulatory body for the video game industry, today (Oct. 24) extended its ratings system to downloadable games and now includes guides about the kinds of personal information a game is able to access.
The rating system for digitally delivered games is the same as you see on the physical games you buy in a store, familiar ratings like Everyone, Teen and Mature, and content descriptors that denote violence and sexual themes.
The new interactive element ratings shed light on privacy aspects of gameplay. They include:
- "Shares Info": Personal information such as email address, phone number or credit card is provided to third parties
- "Shares Location": Can display the player’s location with other players
- "Users Interact": Players can get in direct communication with others through social media and networks
Buyers see the ratings prior to downloading the game. However, these new ratings don’t say exactly what gets shared. For example, you won’t know if a game rated “Shares Info” only gives access to an email address or also provides your child’s phone number.
ESRB ratings are assigned through an online questionnaire that the developer completes; they are not determined by independent reviewers.
Participation by game developers and download services is optional. Services implementing the new system include Xbox LIVE Arcade, PlayStation Network, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation™ Certified devices, Nintendo eShop, Wii Shop Channel and Windows 8.