Your Guide to How Online Games are Rated
Online games are a great source of fun and education for the whole family, but as a parent, it can be a struggle to determine which games are appropriate for your kids. Setting boundaries can be tough, especially if you’ve never played the games yourself. To keep parents informed, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB®) system offers guidance about the content in each video or computer game your child plays. Below, each rating and content descriptor is explained:
EC = Early Childhood
Games rated EC – Early Childhood are great for kids ages 3 and older. This rating means the game shouldn’t include any content that a parent might deem inappropriate. You can trust that your child won’t encounter suggestive language, violence, or mischief of any kind in EC games.
E = Everyone
Games rated E – Everyone feature content that is more suited for children ages 6 or older. Games in this category may contain some comic mischief, mild language, and/or minimal violence. To give you an idea of what to expect, Wizard101 is considered E – Everyone 10+. If you’re unsure of what your child might see in these games, play first for yourself, then make a judgment call.
Games rated T – Teen target young adults ages 13 and older. Content within these types of games may include mild or strong language, violence, and/or suggestive themes. If you’re uncomfortable with your child hearing insults, seeing fighting, or potentially noticing some interesting adult themes, test the waters with each game or ask other parents if they’ve played. You might be surprised at the games some parents play in their downtime.
M = Mature
Games rated M – Mature should have audiences ages 17 and older. They generally contain mature sexual themes, strong language, and/or significant violence. Expect many instances of weapon use, curse words, and other elements reminiscent of R-rated movies in these types of games.
AO = Adults Only
This title is basically self-explanatory, as games rated AO – Adults Only are only suitable for adults. Games that fall within this category typically incorporate explicit and graphic depictions of sex and violence. AO games are not intended for kids under the age of 18, but luckily very few are ever given this rating.
Games rated RP – Rating Pending have been sent to the ESRB and are awaiting their final rating. Because there is no real information available yet, it’s recommended that parents either hold off on making a purchase until the rating is determined or play the game themselves to make an informed decision.
In addition to these ratings, games usually include content descriptors that detail which elements led to their designation of EC, E, T, M, or AO. A few of these include:
- Animated Blood
- Comic Mischief
- Fantasy Violence
- Some Adult Assistance May Be Needed
For a full list of content descriptors and their explanations, head here.
The ESRB does a fantastic job rating the content of computer and video games so that parents can make smart choices for their kids when it comes to gaming. It’s always important to take precaution—whether gaming offline or online—and to set boundaries when possible. This means selecting an age-appropriate rating, using parental controls online, and monitoring gaming habits.