The ESRB and You

Posted: January 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

Sorry for not posting on Friday, I was moving back in at school and didn’t have the time I would have liked to write up a post. Instead, I’ve decided to start working on an informative series I like to call The ESRB and You : How not to buy the wrong games for your kids.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing ratings for the content of games and making sure that advertising doesn’t contain things might offend people or be inappropriate for some viewers. The rating system at its core is quite simple, but it has both just enough similarities and enough differences from the system used to rate movies that it can be confusing at times.

First up is “ec” or early childhood. These games are approved for very small children to play. Games that fall in this category are usually things like Dora the Explorer or Sesame Street or the Jump Start series. They tend to be educational and have absolutely no violence or inappropriate themes. The controls also tend to be very simple and friendly.

Next up is “E” or everyone. Games rated E for Everyone are also very kid-friendly though not all kid oriented. These games include a lot of sports games and puzzle games along with some games with mild language and cartoon violence. So here comes the question : What is cartoon violence? Cartoon violence is when the characters aren’t human or poof in a cloud instead of leaving corpses or don’t really die, they just pass though. Things like that. Take the Pokemon games for example. In those games, when you lose a battle, your Pokemon merely faints rather than dies. Or you could look at games like Super Mario Bros. where you fight giant mushrooms and turtles and no one really dies and its very unrealistic. Games rated E are, according to the ESRB, for children 6 and older. This is usually the case, though with anything, if you have any questions about the game and its suitability for your child, you should play it yourself and see what you think.

The last game I’ll cover in this installment is E 10+ or everyone over 10. These games might be more violent or have more mild language and unlike E games, E 10+ games can have some mild suggestive themes, which is why they shouldn’t be played until a child is old enough to understand them. An example of a game rated E 10+ is Rockband 3. The game has no violence, but the lyrics to the songs might have mild language or suggestive themes. Again, its up to you as the parent to know whether or not your child is ready for these kinds of things.

As a game designer, I take the claims that video games can cause children to become violent very seriously and somewhat personally. I’ve been playing video games for longer than I can remember and while yes, I do enjoy playing a high combat swordplay game on the weekends, I’m not really a violent person. My parents always made sure they knew what I was playing and that I was capable of understanding the themes present in the game and capable of knowing what should and should not be applied to real life and what should stay in the game. This is something that all parents should do. If you have any questions about a particular game, feel free to contact me or leave a comment here and maybe I can tell you about it. Always remember, yours is the final say and you should be paying attention to the games that your child plays.

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