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Will Apple offer ratings for iPhone games?

The president of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board says that it's a "no-brainer" for iPhone games to be rated the same way console or PC games are.

A screenshot from the iPhone version of The Sims 3, one of thousands of games available for the Apple smartphone.
Electronic Arts

Most iPhone games are clearly appropriate for all audiences: puzzles, brain-teasers, mazes, and the like. But others, including some of the most fierce shooter games, may not be kid-friendly, at least from parents' perspectives.

But at least right now, there are no ratings for iPhone games, unlike for console or PC titles, and the president of the Electronic Software Ratings Board thinks that needs to change.

The ESRB--which is controlled by the video game industry's leading companies--rates games according to their content. The ratings include "C," for young children; "E," for everyone; "E 10+," for ages 10 and up; "T," for those 13 and up; "M," for ages 17 and older; and "AO," for adults only.

According to Kotaku, ESRB President Patricia Vance thinks it's a no-brainer that iPhone games should be rated, so that parents can have a sense of whether games on the hit mobile device are right for their kids.

"ESRB ratings empower parents to do their job," Vance told Kotaku. "Considering the fact that the vast majority of parents are already aware of and regularly using ESRB ratings, Apple's adoption of them for iPhone games seems like a no-brainer."

That's particularly true, Vance added, because Apple, in its announcements on Monday about the newest iPhone firmware upgrade, said it would offer the ability to block movies and TV shows on the iPhone based on content. But the company said nothing about games.

"Adding ESRB ratings to the controls (Apple) already plans to offer," Vance told Kotaku, "would give parents the ability to exert control over the games their children play as well."

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board rates games, but its president is asking why Apple has not offered such ratings for iPhone games. ESRB

And Vance has a point. Games are clearly one of the killer apps for the iPhone, what with thousands of them already available on Apple's App Store, and many of them among the most popular apps. And while Apple attempts to filter submitted apps for some level of appropriateness, there have been many documented cases of apps of questionable taste making it through.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request by CNET News for comment.

One has to wonder if this is something Apple has thought about, or how much extra work it would take them to add ESRB-style ratings. On the other hand, adding the ratings would also create a situation where Apple might find itself embroiled in controversy if a game ended up having hidden--or difficult to find--content outside the applied rating. That, of course, is what happened with Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in 2005, a scandal that reverberated across the games industry and into politics.

Perhaps Apple has decided it wants none of that.