BY JOHNER RIEHL
you know what “Rated R” and “Rated PG” mean, but does your family know what
“Rated E,” “Rated T” or “Rated M” means?
like movies, video games have ratings, too.
But instead of the Motion Picture Organization of America doling out
ratings, an organization known as the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, or
ESRB, rates virtually all video games sold in retail stores or downloaded via
video game consoles such as PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or Wii.
like the movies, these ratings act as a good starting guideline as to whether
or not a video game is appropriate, but parents will need to do additional
research to find out if the game might actually be a fun and enjoyable choice
for their family.
What Are The Different ESRB Ratings?
ESRB website, here are the seven ratings
categories and symbols:
CHILDHOOD: Titles rated EC
(Early Childhood) have content that may be suitable for ages 3
and older. Games in this category contain no material that parents would find
Titles rated E
(Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and
older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild
violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
10+: Titles rated E10+
(Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for
ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or
mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
Titles rated T (Teen)
have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this
category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood,
simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Titles rated M
(Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17
and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and
gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
ONLY: Titles rated AO
(Adults Only) have content that should only be played by
persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged
scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.
PENDING: Titles listed as RP (Rating Pending) have been submitted
to the ESRB and are awaiting final rating. This symbol appears only in
advertising or promotional materials created prior to the official rating’s
More Than Just A Couple Of Letters
addition to the symbols, which are printed on the front of each box, specific Content
Descriptors are also printed on the back of each video game package. These may include a note that the game
contains references to alcohol, drugs or suggestive themes. Or they could warn against the level of
violence in the game, whether it’s simply comic mischief or intense violence.
Even more detailed information is available on the
ESRB website (www.esrb.org). Here parents can find detailed Rating Summaries which
provide a few paragraphs explaining the game’s content and any questionable
Ratings Are Determined
simple fact is that the sheer amount of time that would be required for the
ESRB to play every minute of every game they need to rate necessitates that
game-makers help police themselves. ESRB ratings
are based on a questionnaire
filled out by each video game publisher plus taped footage of the game which is
viewed by ratings experts.
submission form that companies fill out, any content that could even possibly be
considered questionable must be highlighted.
Video footage of these portions of the game are also submitted so the
ESRB can quickly make judgments on appropriateness without having to play through
It may seem like companies might take advantage of the fact that they are
reporting themselves to try and obtain an inappropriate rating, but ultimately
no one wins in that scenario. Consumer
would feel cheated and misled, and video game makers have given the ESRB the
power to be fined up to $1 million for violations or omissions.
All the major home video game consoles
such as PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii contain safeguards to help
families restrict and monitor content called parental controls. Parents can
choose to restrict what types of game a console is able to play based on the
game’s ESRB rating.
believe it or not, the enforcement of these ratings has been deemed to be more
effective than ratings in the movie and music industries. A 2011 report by the Federal Trade Commission
detailed that undercover shoppers who were under the age of 17 were less
successful in purchasing M-Rated video games than they were in being able to
buy tickets for an R-Rated movie or music that was labeled to have explicit
review sites which focus on games from a family perspective, such as FamilyFriendlyVideoGames.com and GamerPops.com, are the first to incorporate full
ESRB Rating Summaries on their game pages.
But even if parents don’t have time to check online, the ESRB has
created a very cool smartphone App that allows consumers to simply take a
picture of a game box in order to be provided with the additional information
included in the Rating Summary. The app is available as a free download for iPhone, Android and Windows
Phone 7 devices.
Going Beyond The ESRB Ratings
incredibly useful and a great starting point, it’s important to note that ESRB
Ratings aren’t suggestions on whether or not a game is fun for your family, but
rather just provide a critical guideline for families as to whether or not the
content of a game is age-appropriate.
information on additional sources of information for families, the ESRB
provides a nice list of parental resources, which includes links to game
review sites, parental control information and more.