The Media Ratings Project Report

Media ratings, or content classification, systems have long sought to provide audiences and consumers with a standardized set of guidelines for making informed decisions about the media they watch, play, read, or listen to. Many of these systems focus on identifying themes, imagery and other forms of content deemed sensitive or even harmful to specific potential audience members (mostly children) within specific cultural, political, and historical contexts. The Media Ratings Project sought to critically examine the current use and enforcement of a US industry-based system for rating video games (ESRB) in five Canadian provinces, through a broader comparison of media ratings across the provinces and across national borders (Canada/US, US/EU). This report describes our key findings, which demonstrate consistencies but also important differences between age-based classification systems applied in these different regions, which raise important questions about the role of localized cultural norms and biases in the rating process, especially relating to so-called “controversial” and foreign-made media. We point to deep discrepancies between dominant age-based classification systems and children’s literacy, development/maturity, and broader cultural rights, as an additional area of concern and future inquiry. This report makes the case that there is a clear need for Canada to reconsider its existing approach to video game classification and regulation. Written by Alan Bui, Sara M. Grimes, and Des’Ree Brown.

Access the report on Tspace here:

Access the report on SSRN here:

Support and funding provided by the Knowledge Media Design Institute, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto.