by Lori Cunningham (@wellconnectdmom)
Christmas is just around the corner. Where did 2012 go? Fall and Winter are the time of year most video game manufacturers release their biggest hitters. We recommended some of the best games in our post, The Best Upcoming Games for 2012 from E3. Your child/teen will find out about the latest games and most likely will be asking for them on their holiday lists. But how do you know if the game your kid is asking for is appropriate for them?
Fortunately, just like there are ratings for Movies, there are also ratings for Video Games. ESRB, a non-profit organization that evaluates video games ans assigns an official age and content rating for both games and apps. Before purchasing a game for your child, check their rating on the front of every video game to ensure it’s appropriate for your kids.
Video Game Ratings
Here’s a chart from the ESRB website which explains the ratings:
When you look at the game box, you will see this rating clearly on the front in black and white. To get a little better idea of why the game is rated as it is, flip the box over and look for the same rating. By the rating you will now see a brief description such as:
- Mild Lyrics
- Comic Mischief
- Mild Cartoon Violence
- Mild Suggestive Themes
- Mild Blood
- Mild Violence
We are about to review the video game, Zumba Fitness for the PlayStation 3 to post soon. I looked up the game’s summary and rating and found that of all the Zumba games, the Zumba fitness is the only game rated E. The other Zumba games are rated E 10, which means it is appropriate for kids 10 and older. Here are the summaries that popped up for all of the Zumba games after I typed “zumba” in the search box:
You would think that all the Zumba Fitness video games would be appropriate, but they vary in ratings, with Zumba Fitness 2 receiving the most restrictive rating at Teen, due to the lyrics. If a child listens to the music over and over again as they work out, they most likely will be paying attention to the lyrics as they get familiar with the tune.
After clicking on Zumba Fitness, here is the fuller description of the game and how they came up with the rating. You can see that there is a mention of a toast with “this rum cup.” So there is an alcohol reference. Interestingly enough, the lyrics are in Spanish, so unless your child speaks Spanish, they won’t even hear the reference. Nonetheless, it shows you the thoroughness of the ESRB when deciphering the appropriate ratings for each game.
ESRB – There’s An App for That
The ratings on the package are great for getting a quick idea of what a game is about but say you’re at the store and you see the rating but wish you had a way of finding more information about how the rating was derived before you buy the game? ESRB knows that many decisions are made at the point of purchase and they want to arm parents with knowledge so parents can make informed decisions.
The free ESRB app is available for:
A Mom’s Perspective
There are hundreds of thousands of video games and apps out there, with new ones being introduced throughout the year. It is impossible to keep abreast of which games are appropriate for your child’s age and which are not. In the old days, we moms would ask our friends their thoughts about a particular game, hoping their kids had the game. But today, you often need to make a quicker decision. Even asking your friends what they think about their kids’ video game isn’t very thorough research as the mom has likely not played the game exhaustively.
The ESRB ratings is a mom’s best friend. You can trust the ratings and know the ESRB did their homework to give you the cliff notes of why a video game or app is or is not appropriate for your child. And what’s even better than that? You can get it right at your fingertips…either online before you order a video game or through the app while you’re at the store.
I also love the fact that the ESRB gives you an actual description of the game first before it goes into why it rated the game as it did. How many times have you looked at the packaging of a game and had no clue what it was about?
Lastly, before writing this article, I had no idea that the ESRB also rates apps. I know that in my household, I download apps weekly, if not almost daily. Mostly because of my work, but my kids often ask me to download the game promoted within the game they’re playing on the iPad. Now I have a resource right on the iPad that I can open to ensure the material in the game is appropriate for my children.
Do yourself a favor and bookmark this article and/or the ESRB website to remind you where to turn the next time your download an app or buy a video game. Better yet, download the app on your phone while you’re thinking of it so you can be prepared ahead of time.
*I was not given any incentive to write this article. I believe ESRB’s rating system is a great resource for parents and I wanted you to know about them.