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The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a self-regulatory organization that assigns age and content ratings, enforces industry-adopted advertising guidelines, and ensures responsible online privacy principles for computer and video games and other entertainment software in Canada and the United States.
The ESRB was established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association (formerly Interactive Digital Software Association).By late 2009, it had assigned nearly 18,000 ratings to titles submitted by more than 350 publishers.
One of the reasons the ESRB was founded was due to violent content found in video games such as Night Trap, Mortal Kombat and Doom, as well as other controversial video games portraying overly violent or intense sexual situations at the time.
The ESRB assigns ratings to games based on their content, similar to the motion picture rating systems used in many countries. Their aim is to aid consumers in determining a game's content and suitability. A game's rating is displayed on its box, the media, in advertisements and on the game's Website(s).
The rating system is strictly voluntary, however nearly all video games are submitted for rating due to the fact that many retail stores prohibit the sale of unrated video games and the major console manufacturers will not license games for their systems unless they carry ESRB ratings.