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Recreational Software Advisory Council

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The Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC) was an independent, non-profit organization founded in the United States in 1994 by the Software Publishers Association (SPA) as well as six other industry leaders in response to videogame 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 the 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 videogames 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 judgments 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 (an 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 multinational 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 judgments about what their children would see.

An ASP-sponsored committee developed the inital 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 as the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA). The background, formation and rating process of the RSAC and RSACi may be viewed here.

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