Recreational Software Advisory Council

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The Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC) was an independent, non-profit organization founded in the USA in 1994 by the Software Publishers Association as well as six other industry leaders in response to video game controversy and threats of government regulation.

The goal of the council was to provide objective content ratings for computer games, similar to the earlier formed Videogame Rating Council (VRC) and later Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The RSAC ratings were based on the research of Dr. Donald F. Roberts of Stanford University who studied media and its effect on children.

In 1994, senators Herb Kohl and Joseph Lieberman raised concerns over the levels of violence and other adult material appearing in video games which were available to children. Under threat of government regulation, industry groups like the Software Publishers Association (SPA), the Association of Shareware Professionals (ASP), and others had concerns about the intrusion of the government, and the costs, delays and subjective judgements of a review-committee-based system.

At the time, the largest trade group, the SPA had few members in the gaming field, but the ASP had many, and the two organizations decided to work together. Lance Rose (a software attorney) and Rosemary West (ASP board member) appeared before Congress in the summer of 1994 in support of the SPA representation.

The SPA and ASP (and other industry groups) were opposed to an age-based rating system operated by a review committee as developed by the ESRB, which was proposed by several multi-national console game manufacturers and distributors. The groups preferred a content labeling system that would allow parents to know what was in the games and then make their own judgements about what their children would see.

An ASP-sponsored committee, led by Jim Green of Software Testing Labs, and staffed by Karen Crowther of Redwood Games, and Randy MacLean of FormGen, developed the initial version of what would become the RSAC ratings. The committee identified the elements most likely to be of concern to parents and developed specific descriptions of the levels of such content that would define the levels reported. The system would be self-administered by game publishers who could use the system to label their games.

The entire system was turned over to the SPA for its newly formed Recreational Software Advisory Council in 1994.

The council formed RSACi in 1995 which was a branch which rated websites.

The organization was closed in 1999 and reformed into the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA). The background, formation and rating process of the RSAC and RSACi may be viewed here.


Software labels

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4
Harmless conflict; some damage to objectsCreatures injured or killed; damage to objects; fightingHumans injured or killed; with small amount of bloodHumans injured or killed; blood and goreWanton and gratuitous violence; torture; rape
No nudity or revealing attire / Romance, no sexRevealing attire / Passionate kissingPartial nudity / Clothed sexual touchingNon-sexual frontal nudity / Non-explicit sexual activityProvocative frontal nudity / Explicit sexual activity; sex crimes
Inoffensive slang; no profanityMild expletivesExpletives; non-sexual anatomical referencesStrong, vulgar language; obscene gesturesCrude or explicit sexual references

Internet ratings

These RSACi ratings are included and used in the "Content Advisor" feature of Microsoft Internet Explorer.

 Violence Rating DescriptorNudity Rating DescriptorSex Rating DescriptorLanguage Rating Descriptor
Level 0:Harmless conflict, some damage to objectsNo nudity or revealing attireRomance, no sexInoffensive slang; no profanity
Level 1:Creatures injured or killed; damage to objects; fightingRevealing attirePassionate kissingMild expletives
Level 2:Humans injured or with small amount of bloodPartial nudityClothed sexual touchingExpletives; non-sexual anatomical references
Level 3:Humans injured or killedNon-sexual frontal nudityNon-explicit sexual activityStrong, vulgar language; obscene gestures; Racial Epithets
Level 4:Wanton and gratuitous violence; torture; rapeProvocative frontal nudityExplicit sexual activity; sex crimesCrude or explicit sexual references; Extreme Hate Speech


The RSAC software rating system provided simple and detailed descriptions of a game's content however, one of the main criticisms of it was that (aside from the ALL rating) there was no clear suggestion of the age suitability of the product. Also, the labels were only applied to home computer software and not video game console software. The labels did not stand out on packaging as they were quite small and depending on the game content, may take a long time to read. As a result, this rating system was discontinued and the ESRB system became standard use.


External links