Just like our eyes wander to the back of a video cassette movie box to check the rating before buying or renting, there is a similar rating system that applies to video games as well.
The ratings, put fourth by the Entertainment Software Rating Board are designed to give consumers information about the content of an interactive video or computer entertainment title and for which ages it's appropriate.
Three independent, trained raters rate each product.
When shopping online, it's a good idea to look at both the description and ESRB ratings.
From the description alone, you can normally tell whether the game will be violent or not or whether it would be appropriate content for children.
ESRB Rating Symbols
Titles rated EC (Early Childhood) have content that may be suitable for ages 3 and older.
Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate.
Titles with either of these two ratings 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Titles listed as RP (Rating Pending) have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting final rating.
(This symbol appears only in advertising prior to a game's release.)
ESRB Content Descriptors
- 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
- Edutainment - Content of product provides user with specific skills development or reinforcement learning within an entertainment setting. Skill development is an integral part of product
- Fantasy Violence - Violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life
- Informational - Overall content of product contains data, facts, resource information, reference materials or instructional text
- 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
- Mild Violence - Mild scenes depicting characters in unsafe and/or violent situations
- 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 Themes - Mild to moderate sexual references and/or depictions. May include partial nudity
- Sexual Violence - Depictions of rape or other violent sexual acts
- Simulated Gambling - Player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency
- Some Adult Assistance May Be Needed - Intended for very young ages
- 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 - Graphic references to and/or 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