Decoding Video Game Ratings

If you’re a parent, you may find video game ratings invaluable in deciding what software is appropriate for your child.

Video game ratings are established by a voluntary board and are intended to help guide parents in making the right choices for their children. The ratings are usually displayed on both the front and the back of the box, with the former providing a quick-to-read rating (e.g. E, M, AO) and the latter describing the exact nature of the content.

Here’s some quick guidance on what they all mean:

  • EC (Early Childhood): Usually suitable for those over 3 years old. Does not contain content that would be offensive to most parents.
  • E (Everyone): Suitable for those around 6 years and older. May contain some mildly offensive language and/or some low-level violence (e.g. cartoons, fantasy)
  • EVERYONE 10+: Typically for those over 10 years of age. May contain more low-level violence, some offensive language and/or some mildly inappropriate themes.
  • T (Teen): For ages 13 and up. May contain suggestive motifs, crude humour, virtual gambling, some violence (including minimal blood) and/or infrequent course language
  • M (Mature): Suitable only for persons ages 17 or over. Violence may be gory and intense, sexual content may be present and/or strong language used
  • AO (Adults Only): Only for those over 18 years old. May contain prolonged graphic violence, nudity and/or explicit sexual content.

MediaWise is a research organisation that focusses on thee effects of all media on families. MediaWise releases an annual report on video games, highlighting both those that are extremely or disturbingly violent, as well as those considered to be family friendly.

Games endorsed by Media Wise include sports games (such as FIFA Soccer, Madden NFL, Need for Speed), simulations (Guitar Hero, The Sims) and classic arcade-style games (Super Mario).  Some games that made the ‘avoid’ list include:

  • Time Shift
  • Manhunt 2
  • Assassin’s Creed
  • Conan
  • The Darkness
  • Call of Duty 4
  • Jericho
  • Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles
  • Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
  • Stranglehol

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