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Using the Video Game Content Ratings Systems to Purchase Games

by: KateG ; edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom ; updated: 5/25/2012 • Leave a comment

You have decided to give a video game as a gift this year, but you have no idea where to start finding the right thing. Well, worry no more! This guide is here to help. Learn more about using the video game content ratings systems to select appropriate games for all ages.

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    So you have decided that your gift will be a video game. What a mine field you have walked yourself into! You may not know it, but if you're not a gamer shopping for games it can be like walking on an alien planet. You don’t know the lay of the land or the language of the natives and there are few guide posts to help you along the way. So we will start with the basics and work our way up. By understanding the video game content ratings systems, this article will help you navigate your way to a great gift!

    Rule One: Know what system you are shopping for. Not all of the systems will have the same games and the game disks are not at all interchangeable between the systems so you have to get this right. Just in case you can’t ask the person you're buying for (or their mother) let's go over a quick guide to identifying a video game system.

    • A small white vertical box: Nintendo Wii

    • A square purple or black cube: GameCube

    • A black rectangle with a big green X on it: XBOX

    • A white box with a rounded front plate, may be horizontal or vertical standing: XBOX360

    • Relatively non-descript black box with a trap door that opens like a CD player: PS2

    • Black box with a dome like top and a slot for inserting games: PS3

    Rule Two: Get an age appropriate game. Games have ratings, look for them and trust them to a point. You should also read the box and try to get an idea of why it is rated what it is. Not all ratings are equal. So read the back of the box and talk with a clerk. Below, you will find more detailed information about the video game content ratings systems.

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    ESRB Ratings

    EARLY CHILDHOOD

    Titles rated EC (Early Childhood) have content that may be suitable for ages 3 and older. Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate.

    EVERYONE

    Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

    EVERYONE 10+

    Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.

    TEEN

    Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.

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    Choosing the Right Video Game: Video Game Content Ratings Systems Information - Continued

    Here, we continue our discussion of the video game content ratings systems and how to choose an appropriate video game.

    MATURE

    Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

    ADULTS ONLY

    Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.

    Definitions of Detailed Descriptions:

    • Alcohol Reference - Reference to and/or images of alcoholic beverages
    • Animated Blood - Discolored and/or unrealistic depictions of blood
    • Blood - Depictions of blood
    • Blood and Gore - Depictions of blood or the mutilation of body parts
    • 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/or images of illegal drugs
    • Fantasy Violence - Violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life
    • Intense Violence - Graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict. May involve extreme and/or realistic blood, gore, weapons and depictions of human injury and death
    • Language - Mild to moderate use of profanity
    • Lyrics - Mild references to profanity, sexuality, violence, alcohol or drug use in music
    • Mature Humor - Depictions or dialogue involving "adult" humor, including sexual references
    • Nudity - Graphic or prolonged depictions of nudity
    • Partial Nudity - Brief and/or mild depictions of nudity
    • Real Gambling - Player can gamble, including betting or wagering real cash or currency
    • Sexual Content - Non-explicit depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including partial nudity
    • Sexual Themes - References to sex or sexuality
    • Sexual Violence - Depictions of rape or other violent sexual acts
    • Simulated Gambling - Player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency
    • Strong Language - Explicit and/or frequent use of profanity
    • Strong Lyrics - Explicit and/or frequent references to profanity, sex, violence, alcohol or drug use in music
    • Strong Sexual Content - Explicit and/or frequent 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. May contain bloodless dismemberment
    • Violent References - References to violent acts

    Continue reading on page 2 for more information about the video game content ratings systems and choosing appropriate games.

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    Rule Three: Know the context. Besides understanding the video game content ratings systems, you should also have a good understanding more about who will be playing the game. A game that might seem fine for your 13-year-old may not be fine for his best friends. You know, the one with really strict and highly religious parents? Keep the context in mind before you buy. Also be aware of the other factors of the house. Do they have other younger children? That maybe a factor in what flies at that house.

    Rule Four: Skip the tacky. You should never give a game you know to be tacky. Leisure Suit Larry is not a good gift for anyone, so pass by the tacky.

    Rule Five: Try to get a gaming MO on your player. Check out the gaming library of the person you are buying for or alternatively strike up a conversation about games. Try to get a feel for the kind of games that they like. Games come in many varieties like:

    • Puzzle games

    • Role playing games

    • First person shooters

    If you can get a few titles then you can talk with a clerk to find similar games.

    Rule Six (the final rule): Don’t stress yourself out too much. This sounds like a lot to deal with at once, especially just for the simple act of buying a gift but you can do this, after all you are smart and you have good taste.

    Now that you are a video game shopping expert you can go out and find the means to play without any fear of making a wrong step in the world of game shopping.