Recreational Software Advisory Council

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The Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC) was an independent, non-profit organization founded in the USA in 1994 by the Software Publishers Association as well as six other industry leaders in response to video game controversy and threats of government regulation.

The goal of the council was to provide objective content ratings for computer games, similar to the earlier formed Videogame Rating Council (VRC) and later Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The RSAC ratings were based on the research of Dr. Donald F. Roberts of Stanford University who studied media and its effect on children.

In 1993, senators Herb Kohl and Joseph Lieberman raised concerns over the levels of violence and other adult material appearing in video games which were available to children. Under threat of government regulation, industry groups like the Software Publishers Association (SPA), the Association of Shareware Professionals (ASP), and others had concerns about the intrusion of the government, and the costs, delays and subjective judgements of a review-committee-based system.

At the time, the largest trade group, the SPA had few members in the gaming field, but the ASP had many, and the two organizations decided to work together. Lance Rose (a software attorney) and Rosemary West (ASP board member) appeared before Congress in the summer of 1994 in support of the SPA representation.

The SPA and ASP (and other industry groups) were opposed to an age-based rating system operated by a review committee as developed by the ESRB, which was proposed by several multi-national console game manufacturers and distributors. The groups preferred a content labeling system that would allow parents to know what was in the games and then make their own judgements about what their children would see.

An ASP-sponsored committee, led by Jim Green of Software Testing Labs, and staffed by Karen Crowther of Redwood Games, and Randy MacLean of FormGen, developed the initial version of what would become the RSAC ratings. The committee identified the elements most likely to be of concern to parents and developed specific descriptions of the levels of such content that would define the levels reported. The system would be self-administered by game publishers who could use the system to label their games.

The entire system was turned over to the SPA for its newly formed Recreational Software Advisory Council in 1994.

The council formed RSACi in 1995 which was a branch which rated websites.

The organization was closed in 1999 and reformed into the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA). The background, formation and rating process of the RSAC and RSACi may be viewed here.

Software labels[edit]

  Rsacall.png
Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4
VIOLENCE
Harmless conflict; some damage to objects Creatures injured or killed; damage to objects; fighting Humans injured or killed; with small amount of blood Humans injured or killed; blood and gore Wanton and gratuitous violence; torture; rape
NUDITY/SEX
No nudity or revealing attire / Romance, no sex Revealing attire / Passionate kissing Partial nudity / Clothed sexual touching Non-sexual frontal nudity / Non-explicit sexual activity Provocative frontal nudity / Explicit sexual activity; sex crimes
LANGUAGE
Inoffensive slang; no profanity Mild expletives Expletives; non-sexual anatomical references Strong, vulgar language; obscene gestures Crude or explicit sexual references

Internet ratings[edit]

These RSACi ratings are included and used in the "Content Advisor" feature of Microsoft Internet Explorer.

  Violence Rating Descriptor Nudity Rating Descriptor Sex Rating Descriptor Language Rating Descriptor
Level 0: Harmless conflict, some damage to objects No nudity or revealing attire Romance, no sex Inoffensive slang; no profanity
Level 1: Creatures injured or killed; damage to objects; fighting Revealing attire Passionate kissing Mild expletives
Level 2: Humans injured or with small amount of blood Partial nudity Clothed sexual touching Expletives; non-sexual anatomical references
Level 3: Humans injured or killed Non-sexual frontal nudity Non-explicit sexual activity Strong, vulgar language; obscene gestures; Racial Epithets
Level 4: Wanton and gratuitous violence; torture; rape Provocative frontal nudity Explicit sexual activity; sex crimes Crude or explicit sexual references; Extreme Hate Speech

Criticism[edit]

The RSAC software rating system provided simple and detailed descriptions of a game's content however, one of the main criticisms of it was that (aside from the ALL rating) there was no clear suggestion of the age suitability of the product. Also, the labels were only applied to home computer software and not video game console software. The labels did not stand out on packaging as they were quite small and depending on the game content, may take a long time to read. As a result, this rating system was discontinued and the ESRB system became standard use.

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