Movies are rated with G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17, so why can’t we use the same ratings for video games?
All of this information is found at http://www.esrb.org . The ESRB has a voluntary, but almost universal, system for rating games according to their idea of age-appropriate gameplay. The ratings are as follows:
Early Childhood is for kids age 3 and up. There is no potentially inappropriate material. Examples- Dora’s Ballet Adventures, Disney’s Winnie the Pooh Kindergarten, and Wonder Pets Join the Circus.
E for Everyone is for games suitable for kids 6 and older. There may be cartoon, fantasy, or mild violence (think Mario), and mild language. Examples include Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Tetris, Disney Tangled, and SpongeBob Diner Dash.
E10+ is for kids 10 and up. They may include cartoon, fantasy, or mild violence, mild language and minimal suggestive themes. These include Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Child of Eden, Disney/Pixar Cars 2: The Video Game, and Chrono Trigger.
T for Teen is for kids 13 and up. These games may include violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, some blood, simulated gambling, and infrequent use of strong language. These include Street Fighter, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Ms. Splosion Man, and DiRT 3.
M for Mature is for 17+, the R rating of video games. These titles may have intense violence, blood, gore, sexual content, and/or strong language. This will include titles like Red Faction, Grand Theft Auto, L.A. Noire, and Call of Duty.
Adults only, the NC-17 rating, is very uncommon since many retailers won’t carry the game and many consoles won’t support them. These games may have prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content, and nudity. These titles include Manhunt, All Nude Nikki, WET, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas after the “Hot Coffee” scandal.
Most of these ratings have thousands of games each, but AO only has 24, showing you just how rare these games are.
There is a second part to the ESRB rating system, shown on the backs of boxes. This is to show specifically what the questionable content is.
Alcohol Reference- reference to and/or images of alcoholic beverages
Animated Blood- discolored or unrealistic depiction of blood
Blood- depiction of blood
Blood and gore- depictions of blood or 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 is inflicted.
Comic mischief- slapstick or suggestive humor
Crude humor- vulgar antics, “bathroom” humor
Drug reference- reference to or images of illegal drugs
Fantasy violence- human or non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from reality
Intense violence- graphic/realistic depictions of physical conflict. Extreme and/or realistic blood, gore, weapons, and depictions of human injury or death
Language- mild to moderate use of profanity
Lyrics- mild references to profanity, sexuality, violence, alcohol, or drugs in music
Mature humor- sexual references and other “adult” humor
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 real cash or currency
Strong language- explicit or frequent use of profanity
Strong lyrics- explicit or frequent references to profanity, sex, violence, alcohol or drug use in music
Strong sexual content- explicit or frequent depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including nudity
Suggestive themes- mild provocative references or materials
Tobacco reference- reference to or images of tobacco products
Use of drugs/alcohol/tobacco- consumption or use of illegal drugs, alcoholic beverages, or tobacco products
Violence- scenes involving aggressive conflict. May include bloodless dismemberment
Violent references- references to violent acts