Gaming trade groups like to tout the effectiveness of their ratings systems and parental control options, but on at least one platform, there's an easy workaround that lets developers target games with inappropriate content at children.
Wired recently found dozens of games on the Google Play store carrying all-ages ratings that featured violence, gore, gambling, and other content that commonly earns more restrictive ratings on other storefronts. The site traced the issue to the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC), a group of six international ratings authorities which came together in 2013 to create a worldwide rating system. The heart of the system is a questionnaire developers fill out about their games, with their answers then determining the appropriate regional rating for each of those six authorities, plus a seventh generic IARC rating for the rest of the world.
"Given the high volume of published games and apps, participating rating authorities are not able to monitor every single release," an IARC representative told Wired, while a spokesperson with the UK Video Standards Council said local ratings board PEGI focuses its efforts on the most downloaded titles.
That leaves it up to the platforms to review the ratings on releases, and many of them do. However, Google Play doesn't seem to have any mechanism to keep inappropriately rated titles from releasing on its storefront, instead taking them down after others flag them.
"When we find that an app has violated our policies, we remove it from Google Play," a Google spokesperson told Wired. "We want children to be safe online and we work hard to help protect them."