Media Ratings Project

Research Assistants, Alan Bui (Bachelor of Information student) and Des’Ree Brown (MI 2021) worked with Dr. Sara Grimes to design and conduct a comprehensive content analysis of how games and films were rated in Canada, the US and the UK and EU during the same one-year period (2019). The data was used to conduct a preliminary analysis of how different media forms are classified by government and industry ratings systems, such as the MPAA or the ESRB, across age categories and geographical regions. This project will enable a unique and timely intervention into emerging academic and policy discussions about age-appropriate media and design, while laying the groundwork for future research in this area.

Research Assistant Alan Bui  shares his experience:

When we first started this project, our goal was to get a better understanding of how different the film and video game ratings vary across different regions. We had a general sense of what to expect but by the end of the summer, we started to see some very interesting trends that warranted further investigation. For example, we had several movies that were rated R in the U.S. but rated G in Canada. Or one game where in North America it had five heavy content warnings while the European rating only had one mild warning. The second part of the project gave us the chance to pull out specific case studies and examine these works in further detail. It even gave us the chance to see how well we agreed with the ratings based on our own viewing experiences.

For me especially, it was interesting to approach watching movies and playing games in such a critical manner. On one hand, I needed to be attentive to what content can be considered sensitive. But on the other hand, I also needed to immerse myself in the creative work so that I can get a sense of how a “non-critical” viewer may be impacted by the content. Being able to balance the two was a challenge but it made the project as a whole incredibly enjoyable and pushed us to keep exploring more.

*Image by Alan Bui: Poster submission  for the Bachelor of Information Capstone INF402H

Stay tuned for the full report coming soon!