Video Game Ratings Explained

The holidays are right around the corner, and my 8 and 10-year-old are already begging me to put video games on their Christmas lists. My husband is an avid gamer, so I’ve been educated on video game ratings. But before the holiday season – I thought it would be a good topic for us to discuss and learn from. So what are video game ratings, who puts them out and why should you care? Let’s find out. What Video Games Have a Rating? According to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB):

The rating system is voluntary, although virtually all video games that are sold at retail in the U.S. and Canada are rated by the ESRB. Many U.S. retailers, including most major chains, have policies to only stock or sell games that carry an ESRB rating, and console manufacturers require games that are published on their systems in the U.S. and Canada to be rated by ESRB.

By understanding the video game ratings on games, you’ll be able to determine if a game is appropriate for your child or not.  Let’s learn more about these ratings, where to find them and what they mean.

  • Understanding Video Game Ratings 1 of 8

    As parents, we need to be aware of what our kids are playing. The ESRB has made it easy for us non-gamers to understand what's in a game before we purchase it. Learn more about the ESRB and video game ratings. 

  • Who is the ESRB? 2 of 8

    Video game ratings are issued by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).  The ESRB is a non-profit organization established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).

    I don't know about you, but as a parent - I'm glad there is a third party helping monitor advertising and availability of violent and inappropriate games to our kids. 

  • Mission 3 of 8

    The mission of the ESRB is to empower consumers, especially parents, with guidance that allows them to make informed decisions about the age-appropriateness and suitability of video games and apps while holding the video game industry accountable for responsible marketing practices.

    According to the ESRB, 70% regularly check a game's rating before making a purchase. Sounds like the ESRB is doing what it set out to do!

  • ESRB Three-Part System 4 of 8

    There are 3 parts to an ESRB rating. There is the rating category, content descriptors, and interactive elements.

    • Rating Category
    • Content Descriptors
    • Interactive Elements

    The descriptions are easy to understand, even for us non-game playing moms.

  • More About the ESRB Ratings 5 of 8

    While this rating thing may sound complicated, it isn't - I promise!

    The ratings category is a general guideline of what the minimum age range is that the ESRB feels this game is appropriate for.  There are 7 different rating categories.

    The content descriptors explains the content of the game. There are 30 content descriptors!

    The interactive elements will give you insight into the interactive aspects of the game including: "Users Interact," "Shares Location," and "Shares Info."

    Learn more about the specific ratings here. 

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  • How Are Video Games Rated? 6 of 8

    A game developer must submit a detailed questionare with information about the game's content. The developer must also supply a DVD that includes gameplay and content in the game code. This is pre-release of the game.

    The rating is determined by consensus of at least three specially trained raters. 

    Interesting, digitally delivered games and apps can go through an automated process.

    I have a son who would love watching and learning about video games before hand. 

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  • Where to Find Ratings 7 of 8

    The video game rating can be found on the cover of video game box. On the back of the box, you can typically find the rating category, plus content description and interactive elements.

    Downloadable games often show the ESRB rating before a game is downloaded.

  • ESRB Retail Council 8 of 8

    The ESRB Retail Council is a collection of retailers that are associated with the ESRB and have agreed to educate consumers about ratings and not sell or rent M (Mature) and AO (Adults Only) rated games to customers under 17 and 18 years of age. As a mom who doesn't care for her son to play violent video games, I am glad this standard is in place.  View a list of the retailers participating in this council.

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Hop on over to the Entertainment Software Rating Board website and learn anything else you want to know about video game ratings. image

Do you monitor your child’s gameplay?

More Babbles:

Molly blogs technologyparenting and geekery at Digital Mom Blog. Follow her on FacebookPinterest or Twitter.

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