Chapter 12 : Learning the ESRB Ratings and Content Description

This chapter may be the most important chapter for the parents to read.  After you have decided which video game system is right for your child you probably will need to purchase some games along with it.

I’m sure you have heard all about the ratings or have seen them on the cover of the game case.  But do you really know what those ratings mean and what content is involved in your child’s games.

As you read on further you learn the significance of those dark black letters on the games and if you should allow your child to play those games.

It is of course always up to the parent to decide if your child is mature enough to play violent or explicit games.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board ratings are designed to provide accurate information about the content of video games.  This is done so the parent can make a confident purchase on their child’s games.  ESRB ratings have two equal parts:

  • Rating symbols- suggest age appropriateness for that game.
  • Content descriptors- indicate elements in a particular game that might have triggered a certain rating or may be of interest or be of concern to the purchaser.

ESRB Rating Symbols

  • EC- Early Childhood-Titles rated with the EC symbol has content that may be appropriate for children 3 and older.  This also means it does not contain any material that parents would find offensive.
  • E- Everyone- The titles rated E have certain content that may be suitable for children 6 and older.  The titles in this category could contain some minimal cartoon, fantasy, or mild violence.  It could also contain infrequent use of mild language.
  • E10- Everyone 10 and Older- Titles that are labeled with this rating may have content suitable for ages 10 and older.  These titles could have more cartoon, fantasy, and mild violence.  It may also contain mild language and minimal suggestive themes.
  • T- Teens- The games rated T for teens could have content suitable for children 13 and older.  They may also contain violence, suggestive themes, minimal blood, crude humor, infrequent use of strong language and simulated gambling.
  • M-Mature-These games with the rating of Mature have content that could be suitable for people in the ages of 17 and older.  Titles with this rating could contain intense violence, sexual content, strong language, blood or gore.
  • A-Adults Only-titles with this rating have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older.  The games in this category may include prolonged scenes on intense violence and graphic sexual content or nudity.

The rating symbol is located on the front of the game case, and should be easy to identify.

The content descriptors are located on the back of the game case and are generally overlooked.  This should not be the case.  This gives you a more detailed description of the rating and what type of content is involved in the game.

ESRB Content Descriptors

  • Alcohol Reference- Reference to and images of alcoholic beverages
  • Animated Blood- Discolored or realistic depictions of blood
  • Blood- Depictions of blood
  • Cartoon Violence- Violent actions involving cartoon like situations and characters.  May include violence where a character is unharmed after the action has been inflicted.
  • Comic Mischief- depictions or dialogue involving slapstick or suggestive humor
  • Crude Humor- depictions or dialogue involving vulgar antics, including “bathroom” humor
  • Drug Reference- Reference to and images of illegal drugs
  • Edutainment- Content of product provides user with certain skills development or reinforcement learning within an entertainment setting.  Skill development is an integral part of product.
  • Fantasy Violence- Violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life.
  • Informational- Overall content of product contains data, facts, resource information, reference materials or instructional text
  • Intense Violence- Graphic and realistic looking depictions of physical conflict.  May involve extreme or realistic blood, gore, weapons, and depictions of human injury and death
  • Language- Mild to moderate use of profanity
  • Lyrics- Mild references to profanity, violence, sexuality, alcohol and drug use in music
  • Mature Humor- Depictions or dialogue involving “adult” humor, including sexual references
  • Mild Violence- Mild scenes depicting characters in unsafe and violent situations
  • Nudity- Graphic or prolonged depictions on nudity
  • Partial Nudity- Brief and mild depictions of nudity
  • Real Gambling- Player can gamble, including  betting or wagering real cash or currency
  • Sexual Themes- Mild to moderate sexual references and depictions.  May include partial nudity
  • Simulated Gambling- Player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency
  • Some Adult assistance May Be Needed- Intended for very young ages
  • Strong Language- Explicit and frequent use of profanity
  • Strong Lyrics- Explicit and frequent references to profanity, sex, violence, alcohol, and drug use in music
  • Strong Sexual Content- Graphic references and depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including nudity
  • Suggestive Themes- Mild provocative references or materials
  • Tobacco Reference- Reference to and/or images of tobacco products
  • Use of Drugs- the consumption or use of illegal drugs
  • Use of Alcohol- The consumption of alcoholic beverages
  • Use of Tobacco- The consumption of tobacco products
  • Violence- Scenes involving aggressive conflict

I hope this chapter has provided some parents with enough information about the games that are available for your children.  Not all games the children want are necessarily right for them.

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