To be honest, I haven’t paid much attention to the rating system of video games. I don’t pay attention to the rating systems of movies either. I have always felt it was just another symbol created by the government trying to tell us what to do.
I’m a sixty-two-year-old adult. I usually buy, watch or play whatever I want. But this is not about me. It is about what our kids are watching and playing.
I agree we do need a rating system for video games. I wouldn’t want a six-year-old playing some of the horror, violent or gore games out today. Our culture is flooded with images of violence, sex, and drug or alcohol references. Our kids are bombarded with this stuff constantly. The games kids play should not add to the problems of our world.
I want to fair about this very delicate subject. Kids are one of our most precious treasures in life, and we need to protect them when necessary. But on the other hand, we don’t want “Big government” controlling what we do in the privacy of our homes. It’s a delicate balance.
So, let’s get started.
What is the rating system of video games? According to Wikipedia, it is a system used for classifying video games into suitability-related groups, for example, kids, teens, or adults.
Most of the rating systems of video games are associated with or sponsored by the state or federal government. Sometimes they are part of the movie rating system Movie Picture Association of America (MPAA). I think most of us are familiar with the “R” or “PG” rating of movies we watch. The MPAA was created in 1968.
History of the rating system of video games:
The idea of a rating system of video games arose from the controversies concerning the violence depicted in the video game Mortal Kombat. This game is a “one to one” fighting game. Compared to some of the games today, Mortal Kombat is tame.
This controversy about the violence in video games led to a United States congressional hearing in 1993. The whole gaming industry was scrutinized because of the level of violence in video games.
After the hearings, Joe Lieberman introduced the Video Game Rating Act of 1994. This act proposed a government oversight committee which would create a rating system for video games.
The threat of this legislation forced the gaming industry to come up with a rating system to police themselves. They didn’t want the government controlling the video game industry.
In April of 1994, video game companies formed the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA). Some of the companies include Capcom, Electronic Arts, Konami, Microsoft, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Nintendo, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Square Enix, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
These companies are major players in the gaming industry still to this day.
The IDSA created the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB). This is the current system used today to rate video games.
On July 21, 2003, the association was renamed Entertainment Software Association (ESA). This is the trade association of the gaming industry in the United States. They are located in Washington, DC.
What does the EAS do?
The main job of the EAS is to oversee the ESRB. They also organize the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). This is an electronic trade show which presents new products and new concepts on the horizon. The first one took place in Los Angeles, California in May of 1995. It was a huge hit and continues every year.
The EAS battles any legislation harmful to the gaming industry. They are involved in lobbying at state and federal government levels. In the first quarter of 2011, the ESA spent $1.1 million on lobbying efforts.
The EAS also combats and reduces copyright infringement of video game-related works for the companies it represents. They work with Google to take down hosting sites that violate copyright laws.
I hope we now know what the rating system is and how the EAS functions. Let’s look at the ESRB rating system and how it works.
Before I get started, I know if kids playing certain video games are left unchecked problems can arise. For example, some studies link playing violent games to increased violence in the player. I have written a post about this subject. The title is “Do Video Games Promote Violence?” I am providing the link if you are interested in reading it.
Let’s do this my fellow gamers:
The big “EC” means “Early Childhood”. Games with this rating are suitable for kids age 3 and up. Parents would approve the material used in the games. Most are instructional in nature. Two examples are “Dragon Tales: Learn & Fly with Dragons” and “Blue’s Clue: Blue Takes You to School”.
I am including a link here for parents. There are over 64 games listed. Parents can pick and choose what they deem appropriate for their kids. https://www.mobygames.com/attribute/sheet/attributeId,89/offset,0/so,0a/
The big “E” general means everyone. Good news parents, this category is suitable for all ages, even the little ones. The game may contain cartoon, fantasy, or mild violence and mild language. “Super Mario Brothers” and “Sonic the Hedgehog” are two very popular games with this rating. Mario first appeared in “Donkey Kong” in 1981. He wasn’t called “Mario”, his name was “Jump Man”. For almost 40 years, our little friend, “Mario” has brought joy and fun to our video game world. Thank you, little buddy, “Let’s Game”.
This one is the big “E 10+”. All this means it is recommended for kids 10 years or older. It may contain more cartoon, fantasy, mild violence, mild language, or minimal suggestive themes.
First, I must say something here. What the heck is mild violence, mild language, or suggestive themes?
Where I come from violence is violence, bad language is bad language, and suggestive means you are suggesting something. It can’t be any worse than watching “Bugs Bunny or the Road Runner”. Yes, I still like watching the older cartoons. My favorite character is Frog Horn Leg Horn. He has a southern twang as I do. I love it.
Perfect examples of these games are “Rachet and Clank” (I love playing this game) and “Minecraft” and most of the Lego games. “Minecraft” has over 40,000,0000 registered players.
These games are recommended for kids age 13 and up. They may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and use of strong language.
There is an awesome variety of games in this rating category. You can be a superhero like “Batman” or “Spiderman”. You can rock the house with “Guitar Hero: Metallica”. If you like the thrill of driving high-powered race cars, then “Need for Speed: Most Wanted” is a must-have game.
This is my favorite groups of games.
Games in this category are appropriate for ages 17 and up. There could be intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and strong language.
The “Call of Duty franchise”, “Assassin’s Creed”, and “Skyrim” are popular games within this rating of a mature audience. The graphics are amazing. I will admit there is a lot of killings in these types of games. “Skyrim” has a massive world to explore and many challenging conquests for players.
A lot of good games in this category. But parents need to exercise caution for young kids playing mature rated games.
Oh yeah, all the games I mentioned, I have. I love playing them.
There is not much different from the rating for Mature. The adult rating for this age group is 18 and up. Like the Mature rating, more intense and prolonged violence, graphic sexual content, and gambling.
Some of these games I have not heard of and I wouldn’t really care to play. For example, there is a game called, “Playboy: The Mansion”. I don’t feel comfortable playing a game with this much sexual content. I can take some but not this much.
Another popular series of games is the “Grand Theft Auto” franchise. “Grand Theft Auto V” alone, sold over 85 million copies. That is a lot of video games. I have this game and I really enjoy playing it. It was fun playing the villain’s role. It is kinda like watching the movie “Goodfellas” being in that “gangster” world.
Now I admit this game is rough and raw. I would not recommend it for the little ones. But I would play it with my granddaughter.
Games with the rating have not been assigned a final ESRB rating yet. The symbol only appears in advertising, marketing, and promotional material. The rating will change as soon as final ESRB has been assigned.
It really kind of hard to list any games in this rating category. By the time people read this post, the rating assignment will probably be changed.
ESRB Content Descriptors:
I’m assuming “Content Descriptors” means it describes the content. That is the definition we are going with, so hang on.
- Alcohol Reference: Somebody is having a drink.
- Animated Blood: Images of cartoon blood.
- Blood: Images of more realistic blood.
- Blood and Gore: More blood or the ripping apart of body parts.
- Cartoon Violence: Road Runner causes Wiley Coyote to run off the cliff again. It’s still funny no matter how many times it happens.
- Comic Mischief: Slapstick humor and language are still funny.
- Crude Humor: I wonder if this includes bad jokes? The humor may be vulgar.
- Drug Reference: People getting high or talking about getting high.
- Edutainment: The player is getting educated by learning a new ability or skills while being entertained. A good combination.
- Fantasy Violence: Violence in these games maybe between humans or other creatures of our imagination. World of Warcraft is a great example.
- Real Gambling: How ’bout a game of “Texas Holdem” or “Blackjack”.
- Informational: These games are more than just fun. Players can learn facts and about the historical settings of a game.
- Intense Violence: Parents should use extreme caution with these types of games. War, destruction, and death are common themes.
- Mature Humor: This may include adult jokes that may not be appropriate for kids.
- Mature Sexual Themes: These games will reference sex and may have partial nudity.
- Language: This includes profanity and references to sex, violence, drugs, and alcohol.
- Lyrics: Practicality the same as the language descriptor but put to music.
- Mild Violence: Probably not life-threatening violence, but enough that could lead to a knot on the players head.
- Nudity: Prolonged images of nudity. It may include full nudity.
- Partial Nudity: This has brief scenes of partial nudity, usually from the waist up.
- Sexual Violence: Parents really need to watch for this description of a video game. It could have images of rape or other violent sex acts. Not for kids of any age.
- Some Adult Assistance May Be Needed: May need adult supervision just to b safe.
- Strong Language: More of the same problem with the language description. Probably considered a lot harsher and rougher.
- Strong Lyrics: More rough language put to music.
- Strong Sexual Content: Even more references to sex and nudity.
- Suggestive Themes: The theme is suggesting something, more sex or more violence.
- Tobacco Reference: Lighting up a cigarette.
- Use of drugs: About getting high.
- Use of Alcohol: As repeated before, somebody is having a drink in the gameplay.
- Use of Tobacco: Sounds like the same thing in “tobacco reference”.
- Violence: A lot of the games today will some form of violence, whether it be in a war setting or fighting off deadly zombies.
Please take note. Some of these descriptions are repeats of other descriptions like the drug or alcohol descriptors. It is worded a little different.
I hope this explanation of the video game rating system is a little bit clearer now. Having a better understanding of the ESRB system can help parents make more informed decisions about which games are suitable for their kids.
This is so important. I don’t want to see young children subject to games that are too violent or too nasty for young minds. There will be plenty of that stuff when they are grown.
But on the other side of the coin, I don’t want the government or some rating system telling me what I can and cannot play in the privacy of my home.
However, I need to understand a lot of people have kids at home and video game content can be an issue. In my case, it is just my wife, Cindy, our two cats, Sassy and Calle, and me.
I don’t have the burden so many parents have today. It is important to protect what our kids are playing and watching. I know this is not easy for parents. There is a fine line between being protective and being over-protective.
I hope this post has been helpful.
Please leave me any thoughts or comments below. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
johnny, the Grey Wolf, Watcher of the Woods.