Take a game like GTA IV. Why don't they give the same rating for playing on-line?

The online play is as violent as the offline play. I could understand a lower rating if you can't visit prostitutes and nude dancers in online mode. (I don't know if these "features" are accessible online.)

Take a game like Modern Warfare 2. There's no difference between playing online and playing offline. In my opinion, this game should be rated offline and online with the same rating.

Not that I'm not criticizing the violence in the game. I just want to understand why online gaming is not rated.

  • 4
    I will pose you a (rhetorical) question. <br>Should World of Warcraft be rated AO just because people have been known to have "sex" in the game?
    – user606723
    Commented Aug 14, 2011 at 22:33

5 Answers 5


The ESRB doesn't rate online play because there is no way to predict what you'll hear and see online: theoretically, they'd have to rate every game with online play as AO because every game could potentially have content they'd rate that way. (Conversations about "graphic" sex, for example, or people exposing themselves on their webcams.)

The ESRB site explains it this way:

Online Rating Notice

Online-enabled games carry the notice "Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB." This notice warns those who intend to play the game online about possible exposure to chat (text, audio, video) or other types of user-generated content (e.g., maps, skins) that have not been considered in the ESRB rating assignment.

It isn't very helpful, but it's probably a precaution against legal action (for not warning people that gamers might say bad words online - there have been lawsuits filed for similarly frivolous reasons before).

  • 11
    +1, it's not they don't rate the online mode of the game, it's just that they can't rate all the other people online. Commented Aug 14, 2011 at 20:10
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    That is, just because the game doesn't feature a teabagging animation/feature, it doesn't mean people won't abuse crouching for taunting purposes.
    – badp
    Commented Aug 14, 2011 at 20:16
  • 1
    @badp, I believe that in polite society it is called the "Victory Crouch".
    – Alex
    Commented Jul 26, 2012 at 16:18
  • 1
    @alex I daresay this most polite periphrase is not something I was previously aware of, I am most afraid. Going forward I shall make an attempt to remember that some people deem crouching the appropriate way to celebrate a victory, whence we get this most ingenious periphrase.
    – badp
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 9:26

The rating system used for movies and games are both voluntary self governing regulatory systems taken to preemptively regulate and censor the "community" without government censoring them.

Dave DuPlantis is right, that it cant be really rated due to a lot of things, but more aptly they refuse to rate it because it would discredit the stamp of approval and potently make an opening for government censorship of all games.

There's a few documentaries and articles about how the rating system works and point out the flaws in it, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0493459/ is a look at Hollywood rating system. However the real reason it's there is not to provide a quality rating but to keep the government from censoring things and keeping the option for change in the "public", just don't trust the rating.

An example of not trusting the rating would be the Oblivion rating of M (originally T) when the game was censored without modification. The gaming community removed the censors and the game got a revised M rating. GTA has had the same problems though worse with the "hot coffee" mod that got the game rated AO forcing a reprint to lower it to M, and forced a rewriting of the ESRB's way to rate things.

See: http://pc.ign.com/articles/704/704726p1.html and http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2005/09/5311.ars


You can filter chat text but you can't filter chat audio. I've been in groups where the chatter as we were forming up for a raid most definitely strayed into AO territory. We ascertained that everyone knew their roles in the raid and thus there was nothing along those lines to talk about so of course it strayed into other areas.


They rated online games in the past with ESRB Interactive (ESRBi), but I think they stopped doing that in 2003.


It was my understanding that the ESRB does rate online content used by the game, but the disclaimer explicitly says that interactions, i.e. with other players, are not rated. They can only rate what is included with the game, not what other people will do with it or say in chat.

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