An industry body in the Middle East has gone and done something fascinating: they've launched a ratings system for games based not on a nation's classification laws, but on the tenets of the Islamic faith.
This makes it a world first, a system aimed at transcending national borders and laws and appealing directly to the parents and guardians of Muslims all over the world, regardless of which country they live in or which laws they live under.
The ratings body is called the Entertainment Software Rating Association, and "rates the content of...games based on parameters such as violence, promoting tobacco or drugs, sexual diversity [and]nudity", according to a release issued by the group. As a result, "the rating system is designed based on the culture, society and the special values of Islam".
So far, it sounds similar to most other current ratings systems, until you hear Dr. Behrouz Minaei, from Iran's National Foundation of Computer Games, break it down.
"The approach of Islam is based on Human being innateness "Al Fitra", and the most important innate trends are truth, virtue, benevolence, excellence tendency, innovation and creativity" he told attendants at the Dubai World Game Expo yesterday. "That's why we made sure that ESRA team are proficient in these areas; Religion, Psychopathology, Educational psychology, Social psychology, Sociology of the family, Family Sociology, Emotional Psychology, Family therapy and Educational technology."
As a freshly-launched initiative, there's little other information on ESRA, though you'd imagine that it will mainly operate as an online reference for Muslim parents. That said, if ESRA ratings can be printed off on stickers and handed out to retailers in the relevant regions, there's no reason it couldn't also be used on game boxes not just in Islamic countries, but in any area there would be enough Muslim customers to make it worth their while.
Makes you wonder what's next! I'd like to see Catholic ratings. S for Shame and G for Guilt, for example.