Even in Japan, a nation known for pioneering the video game business, government concerns over content issues are in the news.
Several years ago, under pressure from the Japanese government, the Computer Entertainment Rating Organization (CERO) was formed to voluntarily label console video games for sale in Japan. The system included 4 ratings: "All Ages", "12 ", "15 ", and "18 " (ESRB equivalent E, T, M, and AO). The ratings were expanded in 2004, with descriptors for drugs, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, crime, love, sex, violence, horror, and language. Japan also has another ratings system, The Organization for Computer Software Ethics (EOCS), which has 2 ratings for pornographic content in PC software, "R" (15 ) and "18 ". EOCS voluntarily restricts the sales of labelled software to minors below the age on the label.
In response to several prefectures banning the sale of Grand Theft Auto III to minors, and calls for a new system, GamesIndustry.biz reports that the Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association (CESA) has revamped the CERO system, and encourages their members to post CERO information in stores. The "new" CERO system will be 5 ratings. "A" (Everyone), "B" (12 ), "C" (15 ), "D" (17 ), and "Z" (18 ). "A-D" would still be voluntarily enforced by CESA, and are only an advisory rating, but "Z" would be regulated by the government. The new version of CERO goes into effect March 1.
No details have been released as to the criteria for labeling a game "Z" vs. "D", other than it would contain "particularly violent scenes". CERO's official website is still only displaying the older rating system.
J: Apparently last years calls for a new system came on the heels of several highly publicized incidents in Japan where juvenile "gamers" (there are non-gamers in Japan???) committed some pretty heinous crimes (mostly stabbings). The sensationalist media latched on, just like the media circus in the UK over Manhunt, and in the US over GTA, where if the perpetrator could be labeled a "gamer", then the games were automatically to blame, above and beyond any other factors including economic status, mental health, history of abuse, drugs, upbringing, etc.