10 Things Most Parents Don’t Know About Video Game Ratings
Gone areِ the days whenِ video games couldِ show little more thanِ blocky pixelated images on a screen.
If youِ don’t wantِ your children playing games madeِ forِ adults, you’ll haveِ to pay attention toِ what games they’re playing andِ what kind ofِ potentially objectionable content isِ inِ those games.
Luckily, it’s easy toِ keepِ track ofِ this stuff, thanksِ to theِ Entertainment Software Ratings Board (or ESRB).
1. ESRB ratings go deep
For eachِ game rated byِ the ESRB, you’ll find anِ official rating thatِ lets youِ knowِ which age group theِ game isِ appropriate for.
This isِ anِ action-adventure game inِ which players assume theِ role ofِ Nathan Drake asِ he searches forِ a long-lost treasure.
A handful ofِ sequences depict characters gettingِ stabbed orِ beaten withِ clubs; oneِ sequence depicts theِ shooting ofِ a defenseless guard duringِ a prison break.
2. The ESRB doesn’t actually play the games
It’s a ratings board, soِ someone thereِ plays throughِ everyِ game, right.
With games regularly offering moreِ than 100 hours ofِ play time, andِ with soِ manyِ differentِ paths andِ optional content, itِ wouldn’t beِ feasible forِ the ESRB toِ play throughِ everyِ game beforeِ giving itِ a rating.
Instead, theِ makers ofِ the games mustِ disclose andِ show allِ potentially objectionable content toِ theِ ratings board beforeِ a rating isِ applied.
3. Digital-only games get less attention from the ESRB
If a game doesn’t comeِ out inِ a physical form — likeِ allِ mobile phone games, forِ instance — theِ ESRB puts itِ through a “short form” rating process.
The process boils downِ to theِ game’s maker filling outِ a multiple-choice form thatِ poses questions aboutِ the game’s content, theِ presence ofِ in-app purchase, andِ its useِ ofِ information likeِ the player’s location.
The game’s rating isِ then determined automatically byِ the answers received.
4. Common Sense Media is another useful resource
The Angry Birds Movie | Source: Columbia Pictures
The ESRB isn’t theِ onlyِ organization thatِ looksِ atِ video games fromِ a parent’s perspective.
Another helpful resource isِ Common Sense Media, a site thatِ reviews games forِ content andِ offers evenِ more granular age recommendations forِ eachِ game thanِ the ESRB.
Reviews hereِ alsoِ highlights positive aspects ofِ games, likeِ whether itِ containsِ positive messages orِ positive role models forِ children.
5. ESRB has a searchable database
If youِ knowِ the nameِ of a game yourِ child wants, youِ canِ look upِ itsِ ESRB rating easily fromِ the organization’s website.
The site alsoِ has a running list ofِ games thatِ haveِ beenِ rated recently, soِ you canِ keep anِ eye onِ what newِ games areِ available forِ your child’s age group.
You canِ even limit searches toِ a particularِ platform andِ rating to find a list ofِ games thatِ areِ appropriate forِ your child.
6. Ratings are also listed on retailer websites
Source: Common Sense Media
Retailer websites likeِ Amazon, Best Buy, andِ GameStop allِ list everyِ game’s ESRB rating onِ the game’s listing.
Just search forِ the game, andِ you’ll seeِ it.
Note thatِ the information isِ usually limited toِ theِ game’s age rating, withِ noneِ of theِ moreِ detailed information you’ll find onِ the game’s box orِ onِ the ESRB’s website.
7. Online interactions aren’t rated
Many games letِ players play online withِ otherِ people.
Often theseِ games letِ players show eachِ other user-generated content andِ talk toِ eachِ other through headsets.
Since theِ ESRB hasِ no wayِ ofِ policing theِ open airwaves ofِ online play, you’ll oftenِ see theِ phrase “Online Interactions Not Rated byِ the ESRB” onِ game boxes.
8. Ratings are voluntary
There’s noِ law thatِ requires games toِ beِ rated byِ the ESRB.
That said, youِ won’t find unrated games onِ anyِ of theِ major game consoles becauseِ companies likeِ Sony, Microsoft, andِ Nintendo require publishers toِ haveِ their games rated beforeِ being allowed onِ their platforms.
The sameِ goesِ forِ retailers.
9. You can thank Mortal Kombat for the ESRB
The ESRB wasِ founded inِ 1994 inِ response toِ a couple ofِ things.
For one, numerous studies started coming outِ andِ showing thatِ violent video games weren’t great forِ young children toِ play.
That’s alsoِ around theِ time whenِ graphics were becoming moreِ realistic andِ excessively violent games like Mortal Kombat andِ Doom wereِ coming out.
10. It’s not illegal for children to buy M-rated games
Contrary toِ what someِ parents mightِ think, there are noِ laws surrounding whatِ games children areِ allowed toِ purchase.
Fortunately, allِ major retailers haveِ in-store policies limiting whatِ games kids canِ buy, andِ most cashiers check IDs beforeِ selling M-rated games., 7 ] .