Understanding the ESRB Rating System
Video Games and the ESRB Rating System
It’s an indisputable fact – video games receive a lot of attention, and are firmly woven into the hearts and minds of a large majority of our students. There are certainly varying opinions about video games, ranging from the positive qualities of gaming to those which focus on the negative impact games have on young minds. However, positioning video games as either positive or negative leaves no room for discussion, and often causes a chasm between parents and their adolescent children. It is essential that adults educate themselves on the types of games available. The rating systems designed by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) provide the information adults need to help children and adolescents decide what games are best for them.
ESRB Ratings and Parental Awareness
Whether you have decided that video games are a positive or negative force in the life of our youth, it is essential that you are aware of the types of games played by them. When I hear my students talk about the types of games they play, I often wonder if their parents have checked the ESRB rating on the front of the game. Considering that a large number of students under 14 are playing games rated T for Teen or M for Mature, chances are that parents may just not be aware of the types of games their children are playing.
There are a few things that may cause this to happen:
- the parent trusts the child to choose games on his/her own;
- the parent may be new to Canada or the United States and is unaware of the ESRB ratings;
- the parent is unaware that their child is exposed to M or R rated games at a friend’s home;
- the parent feels the violence and sexual content in games rated M will have no effect on their child.
Whatever the reason, teachers can help to educate parents by providing links to sites containing ESRB ratings (such as the first two listed below). For parents without internet access, you can print a list of the seven ratings, and hand it out at an open house, or at your next parent-teacher conference. It is also important for parents to understand that web-based video games are not rated under this system, making it imperative that children use their computers in the presence of an adult.
Listed below, you will find sites which will help you understand video game ratings, the effects of violent games on our youth, and a link to an episode of IGN Game Scoop.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings provide information about the content in computer and video games so buyers, especially parents, can make informed choices when purchasing games. This site lists the seven ratings, along with their descriptors. Click Here.
This link not only provides a description of the seven ratings, but also a complete list of 30 content descriptors found on the back of the box, and explains what they mean. Click Here.
This link lists a number of articles which discuss the impact video games have on our youth, both positive and negative. There seems to be a consensus that violent games lead to aggressive behaviour, not all video games. Click Here.
4. Bill Seeks Stricter Enforcement of Video Game Ratings – The Detroit Free Press
This article describes a bill that was introduced in the US that would apply stiffer penalties to retailers who sell games rated M to minors. This proposed bill follows the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, as there is increased attention on the role violent games play in inexplicable events such as a mass shooting. Click Here.
5. IGN Game Scoop! TV – Why the Game Violence Conversation is Important (Jan 11, 2013)
In this video, a panel of four adult gamers, passionate about their hobby, discuss the negative attention violent games, and gaming in general has received both recently, and over the last several years. The men provide some great food for thought, as they discuss the importance of educating people about games, rather than making video games the scapegoat for violent events. Something that speaks to me as a parent and educator is that not all video games are made for children, just like not all movies are made for children. Click Here.