Understanding ESRB Gaming Ratings for Kids
Gaming has come a long way in the past two decades. For those of us who grew up with Pong or Pacman, we can’t even fathom how immersive and overwhelming games have become.
One of the big questions a lot of parents have is how do I know which games are suitable for which age groups?
And unless you sit with your children during their play time, how do you know what your children are actually viewing and doing in each game that they play?
Fortunately, there is help available.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was setup in 1994 to help setup content ratings for games. It is a non-profit, self-regulatory body that bases ratings on similar criteria to the motion picture rating system.
The ESRB uses a combination of six age-based levels to help consumers understand a game's content and suitability for different age groups. It also offers a system of ‘content descriptors’ which detail the types of content present in a specific game.
The ESRB helps parents with young children in particular to understand which game titles are suitable for their children depending upon the age.
The Six Types of ESRB Ratings
Here are the different levels of rating offered by the ESRB for gaming content:
Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Adults Only (18+)
Content suitable only for adults ages 18 and up. May include prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content and/or gambling with real currency.
Not yet assigned a final ESRB rating. Appears only in advertising, marketing and promotional materials related to a physical (e.g., boxed) video game that is expected to carry an ESRB rating, and should be replaced by a game's rating once it has been assigned.
How Do you Check ESRB Ratings for Apps?
These ratings are a useful guide and should be available on all games released onto the market. But how do you know what they rating will be for games that are downloadable by phone?
App based games are very popular, especially with younger children playing on tablets and phones. Once again, the ESRB has you covered. They have created an ESRB app that helps you search for new game titles that are released onto the market via Windows, Apple, Google or Amazon.
Understanding ESRB Game Content Descriptions
There are also specific content descriptions that the ESRB covers to help you better understand the types of content your children and teenagers can be exposed to.
A full list of the content description is available online, but some of the most common types of content to be aware of can include: Language, Blood and Gore, Crude Humor, Intense Violence, Gambling, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Alcohol, Drug or Tobacco References.
Be Aware What Your Child Is Playing
With gaming, you must take the same precautionary steps as you would with movies, youtube or TV content. Make sure you are aware of what your children are viewing and playing, and check ratings before you allow downloads.
Gaming can be entertaining, and can teach kids valuable skills when planned correctly. Most children will want to play video games and therefore it is essential that you manage the content they are exposed to.