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ESRB Ratings and You
When deciding whether a game is appropriate for your child, the ESRB, or entertainment software rating board, is your official line of defense. Its purpose is to give an unbiased account of any content that might be questionable for younger players. Their ratings are primarily based on written and video accounts of this content submitted by a game's developer. The unfortunate aspect of this is that rating panels may or may not actually play the game, giving you a potentially incomplete insight into the game's content, and when it comes down to the moment of purchase, you may only be left with a short list of vague "content descriptors." I highly recommend visiting the ESRB website for their more complete rating synopsis whenever you're concerned about a particular game, but also look deeper into reviews like this to determine if a game is specifically right for your child.
In this case, the ESRB has given a rating of "Teen" to Sims Medieval, meaning that the content should be suitable for anybody thirteen or older. I prefer to leave that up to you. Without further ado, let's look at the content that earned the game that rating, and see how inappropriate it really is!
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This primarily refers to bathroom humor. Sims, without warning, may choose to emit flatulence or use a chamber pot to relieve themselves. Everything is heavily, heavily censored. Check out the image to the right to see what taking a bath looks like. This game does not want you to see any nudity, and even with third party modifications to remove the blur, the sims have the anatomical completeness of a Barbie doll.
The Sims Medieval, more so than its counterpart the Sims 3, is also filled with a great deal of textual humor. Quest prompts, item descriptions, moodlets and dialogue have a lot of little jokes slid into them, some dirtier than others. In my experience though, nothing has ever been overt, there's always a veil of medieval charm to keep this kind of humor subtle. Like the one or two jokes they slip in for the parents in an animated movie, a lot of kids are unlikely to even get the humor.
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Like other recent Sims games, Sims Medieval allows the player to command their sims into heterosexual and homosexual relationships. Sims can flirt, hug, kiss, and ultimately make babies in an act known in the game as "woohoo." (Pictured to the left.) In the most literal interpretation, woohoo involves two willing sims sliding under the covers and laughing and making barking noises while fully clothed until some hearts float over the bed. The covers move as if the sims were rolling around, and occasionally a hand or foot (still clothed!) pops out from underneath.
Unlike The Sims, where any action is truly optional, there are actually quests in the Sims Medieval where woohoo is a required action. For example, there is a quest where the monarch character decides they need to produce an heir to the throne. The quests that require these actions are fairly obvious from their descriptions, and there are always alternative quests to choose, but it's still certainly a step toward the more mature.
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Use of Alcohol
Another step in a more mature direction from previous Sims titles is the shift from "juice" to actual wine and beer. There is no attempt to mask what alcohol is in this game. Sims are able to brew a wide variety of wines and beers and enjoy them until they pass out. There is even a series of moods sims go through as they choose to drink more and more, from buzzed to tipsy to sad drunk to sloshed.
It should be noted, however, that while a thoroughly sloshed sim will possibly vomit or pass out on the floor, a drunk sim's behavior is otherwise more or less unchange. There's no dancing on tables, streaking or drunk driving of wagons. So while Sims Medieval may include alcohol in its real world incarnations, it does not include all the real world shameful behavior that goes with it.
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I will start by pointing out that this is not graphic violence, that is a different content descriptor entirely. While Sims may be killed by specific actions, there is no blood and no gore. Like you would expect from a fantasy medieval setting, Sims can get in sword fights, poison each other's food, and cast spells on each other. The vast majority of the time these are non-lethal actions. When a sim does die, a grim reaper character descends from the sky and removes the body immediately.
There are highwaymen who roam the kingdom and attempt to mug other sims. There are also punishments for those who enact wanton violence. Violent or dishonest behavior can get you thrown in the stocks, or worse yet, fed to the dreaded "pit beast," a creature that resembles a large blue worm with fangs.
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A Note About Custom Content
Like any Sims game, there is a large online fan community centered around creating Sims Medieval modifications that alter the game to suit their wishes. While this can be something as harmless as adding a new pattern to put on the floors, there are more mature modifications available for download. This is third party content not included in any rating system, so it's important to make sure that if you do let a child play that you are aware, and monitor their use of this content accordingly.
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The Entertainment Software Rating Board, http://www.esrb.org/index-js.jsp
Screenshots and references from The Sims Medieval.
All screenshots provided by the writer.