When we were kids there wasn’t much need for rating video games. Pac Man, Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros were simple games, as were the graphics they boasted. But as times and graphics have progressed to a level where the video game industry rivals the movie industry, so has the need to monitor the industry in much the same way.
In 1994, due to the increase in violent content in video games The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was established. It’s a self-regulatory organization that assigns age restrictions in much the same way the motion picture industry does. They also enforce industry-adopted advertising guidelines, as well as ensure proper privacy principles are being adhered online by developers.
All of the major console manufacturers refuse to license material for their systems without the necessary ESRB ratings. It’s mandatory in the age of Grand Theft Auto, that parents acquaint themselves with these ratings. You’ll find a symbol and a content description within each, however more detailed summaries can be found at the ESRB website.
Early Childhood: Titles rated EC (Early Childhood) have content that may be suitable for ages 3 and older. Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate.
Everyone: 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.
Everyone 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.
Teen: 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
Mature: 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.
Adults 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.
Ratings Pending: Titles listed as RP (Rating Pending) have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting final rating. (This symbol appears only in advertising prior to a game’s release.)
The Bottom Line
Making yourself aware of these ratings is a first great step to monitoring what your kids are playing, but keep in mind that as hard as this board works on classifying everything appropriately, it’s not always bang on.
According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2001, some titles that they had classified as acceptable for children as young as 6, did contain some levels of violence. Also, online games are not covered by this rating system as well as games that have optional user-created content. Further research can often be obtained online, by simply Googling the game title.