Saturday, March 27, 2010

ESRB Ratings of Classic Video Games: Q-Bert

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Q-Bert is the adventure of a cute little orange puff ball with some kind of a tube for a nose.  He jumps on cubes arranged in a pyramid to make the tops of the cubes change colour.  The goal is to make all the tops of the cubes the colour that the game tells you to change the colour to. 

Q-Bert was originally released in 1982, twelve years before the Entertainment Software Ratings Board started handed out ratings that are slapped on every packaged video game sold. 

Chasing Q-Bert around the pyramid are a the nasty critters, such as snakes and gremlins.  When one of the enemies jumps on Q-Bert, we discover that inside that bright orange puff ball is a mouth, and a rather foul mouth at that.  Given the limited capabilities of  the Atari 2600 and the ColecoVision, Speech synthesis or voice recordings within the games weren't possible.  Instead Q-Bert's outburst of swearing is shown as random punctuation marks that are shown in place of swear words.

Had there been the ESRB when Q-Bert was released their lack of tolerance of cussing in video games would have meant that Q-Bert would have earned a mature rating.  Most kids playing would have to get mommy or daddy to buy the game for their home consoles, but back in those days most video game playing was done out side the home at a place called an arcade.  Every little kid wanting to crank every quarter from their allowance would also would have needed a fake ID.

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