The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a self-regulatory organization that applies and enforces ratings, advertising guidelines, and online privacy principles for computer and video games and other entertainment software in the United States and Canada (officially adopted by individual provinces 2004-2005).
It was established in 1994 by the Interactive Digital Software Association (now the Entertainment Software Association). By early 2003, it had rated over 8,000 titles submitted by 350 publishers. Some believe that the ESRB may promote media restriction, while others think that it is necessary for software to have content ratings.
The decision to found the ESRB was influenced by violent content found in games such as Mortal Kombat and Night Trap and other controversial video games depicting violent or sexual situations at the time, and by pressure from the United States Congress.
They rate their games on their content, such as Sexual Content and Blood And Gore. Their are five possible ratings a game can get, EC, E, E10, T, M, AO.
The symbols the ESRB uses are stylized depictions of alphabetical letters meant to convey at a glance a game's suitability.
|EC — Early Childhood: Contains content that is considered suitable for ages 3 and older. Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate. Games that fall under this rating are specifically intended for young children and are usually educational in nature.|
|E — Everyone: Contains content that is considered 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. Example of game with this rating is Lego Star Wars: The Video Game.|
|E10+ — Everyone 10+: Contains content that is considered suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language, minimal and/or infrequent blood and/or minimal suggestive themes. Added to the ESRB ratings icons on March 2, 2005, Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy.|
|T — Teen: Contains content that is considered 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. Example of games with this rating are Star Wars: Rogue Squadron and the Star Wars: Battlefront Series.|
|M — Mature: Contains content that is considered suitable for ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language. Many retailers (such as Target) have a policy of not selling games with this rating to minors without parental presence and approval.|
|AO — Adults Only: Contains content that is considered suitable only for ages 18 and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity. As of August2007, there have been twenty-five products which have received the rating, most of which are available on Windows and Apple Macintosh computers, as well as the Philips CD-i. The AO rating is a subject of heated controversy because of the extreme restrictions it puts on game sales. For example, major retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target do not allow AO-rated games on their shelves.|
|RP — Rating Pending: Product has been submitted to the ESRB and is awaiting final rating. This symbol appears only in advertising and/or demos prior to a game's release.|
The following rating has been updated and is no longer used, but it may appear on games published previously.
K-A — Kids to Adults: Contains content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. These titles will appeal to people of many ages and tastes. They may contain minimal violence, some comic mischief (for example, slapstick comedy), or some crude language. It was replaced by Everyone on January 1, 1998.
The content descriptors are not exhaustive descriptions of all content within a game: they are applied within the context of the rating a game is assigned. For example, a Teen game with one use of strong language and numerous uses of mild language would receive a "Mild Language" descriptor. They are also not always printed as shown below. They may have additional words added to further clarify the highlighted content such as "Mild Blood" and "Mild Suggestive Themes".
- 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 or animated situations and characters. May also 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 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, used for games rated Early Childhood.
- 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.
Online Rating NoticeEdit
Online games that include user-generated content (e.g., chat, maps, skins) carry the notice Game Experience May Change During Online Play to warn consumers that content created by players of the game has not been rated by the ESRB.
They rate games much like movies.
OK To Play Edit
ESRB continues to expand the award-winning OK To Play? Check The Ratings campaign launched in 2003. The campaign makes over one billion consumer impressions annually through print, television, radio and online PSA advertising. The campaign is accompanied by an aggressive public relations initiative which includes thousands of news stories on television, radio, in print and online informing parents about the rating system and where the information can be found on game packaging. These efforts help to increase awareness and use of the rating system so that parents can make informed computer and video game purchase decisions.