Most video games back in the day were innocent. Over the course of fifty years, the industry has changed drastically with advancements in technology that transformed our worlds from pixellated squares to realistic environments. The number of games has exploded on the market, and not all of them appeal to everyone, including kids. This is why they’re rated just like films are. A developer’s most significant question is, what rating is suitable for your game? This article will focus on the opinions of parents for the types of content that would suit the appropriate age groups.
Almost all families who own at least one video game console are familiar with the rating system and find them helpful. 84% of parents agree that the ratings given to games are accurate. While the familiarity of content descriptors is lower than the ratings, they are just as helpful.
Parents feel the rating system informs them of the amount of violent content versus other types. The biggest rule of thumb is that any game that contains strong or graphic types of violent content, such as torture, mutilation, or sexual assault strongly belongs in the M rating from the ESRB or any restricted rating from other rating boards across the globe. The intensity of violence portrayed in a game has a significant impact on how the game overall will be rated.
Sexual content has been the biggest issue in games, more so than violence or profanity. Parents feel that most types of graphic sexual content or nudity in games should garner an M rating.
Almost half of parents think any use of an F-bomb in a game is too much for a T-rated title. One-third of parents say that only one use of the F-bomb should be appropriate for a T rating, and as the number of F-bombs in a game increases, parents believe the rating should go up to an M rating.
Over two-thirds of parents claim that every game they saw their child play was rated appropriately, as well as familiarity with the system on marketing for games.
Parents of kids who play more games are more familiar with the ratings and descriptors, and strongly agree that they are helpful and accurate. Families living in the New England and Pacific regions of the United States have higher accuracy perceptions of the rating system. Of course, parents can find rating information through online sources, as well as TV ads. Those are the two most common sources for finding rating information, but it is also possible to rely on game review websites for rating information as well.
Parents feel the rating system does best on the amount of violent content versus other types. Despite this and as previously mentioned, sexual content has been the biggest concern, and violence and profanity are less concerning. In fact, out of the majority of games released at retail, the below list is an average of all games that received higher ratings for the following reasons:
|Graphic sexual content||79%|
|Full male nudity||69%|
|Use of illegal drugs||67%|
|Full female nudity||67%|
|Use of an F-bomb||56%|
|Non-graphic sex scenes||55%|
|Crude sexual humor/innuendo||55%|
|Disturbing or scary images||52%|
|Use of a sexually harsher expletive||40%|
|Use of mild language||38%|
|Action or fantasy violence||36%|
Content in a T-Rated Title
The below list is an average of all games that would normally be rated T but end up being rated M because the game had one or more of the following types of strong content:
|Use of an F-bomb||47%|
|Graphic sexual content||47%|
|Full female nudity||44%|
|Crude sexual humor/innuendo||42%|
|Use of illegal drugs||40%|
|Full male nudity||40%|
|Non-graphic sex scenes||36%|
|Use of a sexually harsher expletive||32%|
|Disturbing or scary images||28%|
|Action or fantasy violence||21%|
Content in M rating
The below list is an average of all games that were rated M because of the following reasons:
|Full female nudity||29%|
|Graphic sex scenes||29%|
|Use of an F-bomb||27%|
|Full male nudity||26%|
|Use of illegal drugs||22%|
|Crude sexual humor/innuendo||18%|
|Use of mild language||17%|
|Disturbing or scary images||16%|
|Non-graphic sex scenes||16%|
|Use of a sexually harsher expletive||15%|
|Action or fantasy violence||13%|
Appropriate rating for profanity
Below is a table for the suggested rating for the types of profanity that may be used in a particular game’s rating:
|Sexually harsher expletive||T|
|F-bomb||T for one use, M for more than once|
|Damn (and its derivatives)||E10+|
|Jesus Christ or God||E10+|
Appropriate rating for violence
Below is a table for the suggested rating for the graphicness of violent content in a game.
|Type||Off-screen, with no aftermath||Off-screen, with bloody aftermath||On-screen, not bloody||On-screen, explicitly bloody or graphic|
|Gun violence||E10+ or T||T or M||E10+ or T||M|
|Domestic violence||E10+ or T||T or M||E10+ or T||M|
|Martial arts||E10+ or T||T or M||E10+ or T||M|
|Sword or knife violence||E10+ or T||T or M||E10+ or T||M|
|Assault weapons||E10+ or T||T or M||E10+ or T||M|
|Torture and mutilation||T or M||M||T or M||M or AO|
The below table shows how the quantity can impact a game’s rating.
|Type||One Scene||Several sequences||Frequent or pervasive|
|Gun violence||E10+ or T||T or M||M|
|Domestic violence||E10+ or T||T or M||M|
|Martial arts||E10+ or T||T or M||M|
|Sword or knife violence||E10+ or T||T or M||M|
|Assault weapons||E10+ or T||T or M||M|
|Torture and mutilation||T or M||M||M|
Please note a rating may be lower depending on how the type of violence is depicted, and if the effects are bloody or not.
Appropriate rating for sexual content
Below is a table for the suggested rating for the types of sexual content in a game.
|Brief nudity||T (partial), M (full)|
|Frequent nudity||T (partial), M (full)|
|One brief scene of sex, no nudity||M|
|One scene of sex, with nudity||M|
|Strong sexual content and nudity throughout||M or AO|
|Explicit scenes of sexuality||AO|
Two-thirds of parents are familiar with their country’s rating system for games, and over 80% of parents say the games that are rated are exactly or similar to what they demand.