Although most parents are wary about letting their children watch films which carry adult age ratings, the same doesn’t seem true when it comes to video games. One study done on this matter claimed that 90% of parents don’t check a game’s rating before allowing their children to buy a game.

While this can be, of course, a matter of personal choice for parents; it seems that for most parents there is a lack of knowledge about video game ratings. Here is some information about video game ratings to help parents make informed choices when buying video games for their children.


The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) was formed in 1994 to provide ratings for video games in the United States and Canada. The formation of the ESRB was the eventual result of a call from the US government for the video game industry to create a self-governing body for video game content ratings, or else the government would form one itself. The ESRB now rates virtually all video game releases in the US and Canada.

Rating Categories

There are several different ratings given by the ESRB depending on the content of a game. Games are awarded one of these ratings depending on a number of content criteria, such as Mild Language, Crude Humor, Intense Violence etc.

  • EC: Early Childhood
  • E: Everyone)
  • E10+: Everyone 10+
  • T: Teen
  • M: Mature 17+
  • AO: Adults Only

Are All Games Rated?

It is not a legal requirement for a game to be submitted for rating by the ESRB. However, the overwhelming majority of games are submitted for rating. The major console manufacturers (Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft) do not allow any games to be released on their systems without an ESRB rating, and some retail outlets will also not stock games that do not have a rating. This makes it preferable for most games publishers to obtain an ESRB rating.

How To Tell What Rating A Game Has

Any game with an ESRB rating will clearly display the rating on its packaging. Look out for a small box containing one of the following rating symbols: EC, E, E10+, T, M or AO. If you are concerned about the content of a game, visit the ESRB website where information on the content of all rated games is listed.

If you have bought a video game for your child and feel unhappy about the rating which it was given, you can contact the ESRB directly. Complaints are taken seriously, and if a game is discovered to contain content not suitable for the rating it was given, the game’s publisher can face serious repercussions.