Much attention has been focused on video games recently, especially as news of hidden sex scenes on a popular action game has surfaced.
Much attention has been focused on video games
recently, especially as news of hidden sex scenes on a popular action
game has surfaced.
The Federal Trade Commission launched an
investigation of a game software company after it confirmed sex scenes
were hidden on “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.” The game had been rated
“M” until explicit, animated sex scenes were found to have been hidden
The rating then changed to “AO.”
But what does all of that mean?
The content of the games played on those consoles
and on computers varies widely. However, federal officials remind
parents that game packages have information that can help persons
decide if a particular game is suitable.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board maintains a
two-part rating system for video and computer games. A rating symbol –
such as “M” or “AO” – suggests the game’s age appropriateness and
appears on the front of the game box. Content descriptors – such as
“Blood” and “Gore” – point out specific elements of the game that have
caused the rating. They appear on the back of the box.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board also
maintains a Web site at www.esrb.org, where visitors can enter the name
of a game to see its ratings. More information about video and computer
game content is available from parent groups and advocacy organizations
that rate games by various criteria. Search engines on the Web can
point to these and other sources of information on game content.
So, what do the ratings means?
• Games rated “AO” (Adult Only) have content that is
suitable only for people 18 and older. As defined, these games may
include “prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual
content and nudity.”
• Games rated “M” (Mature) have content that may be
suitable for people over 17 and may contain intense violence, blood and
gore, sexual content, and strong language, officials note. This could
include depictions of sexual behavior, and frequent or explicit
• Games rated “T” (Teen) have content that may be
suitable for kids over 13. By definition, they may contain “violence,
suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood and the use of strong
• Games rated “E10+” (Everyone 10 and older) have
content that may be suitable for kids at least 10. These games may
contain “cartoon, fantasy, or mild violence, mild language, and/or
minimal suggestive themes.”
• Games rated “E” (Everyone) have content that may
be suitable for kids at least 6 and may contain “minimal cartoon,
fantasy or mild violence and/or the infrequent use of mild language,”
the ratings board notes.
• Games rated “EC” (Early Childhood) have
content that is intended for preschoolers at least 3. The rating board
says these games contain no material that parents would find
• Games rated RP (Rating Pending) are awaiting final
rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. The symbol appears
only in advertising.
In addition, there are 32 different descriptors to
provide information about what is in a game. For example, by
definition, “Animated Blood” means discolored and unrealistic
depictions of blood, while “Blood” refers to depictions of blood and
“Blood and Gore” means depictions of blood or the mutilation of body
parts as well.
“Violence” refers to scenes of aggressive conflict.
“Fantasy Violence” is intended to be easily distinguishable from real
life. “Mild Violence” shows characters in unsafe or violent situations.
“Sexual Violence” refers to depictions of rape or other violent sexual
acts. “Intense Violence” refers to graphic and realistic-looking blood,
gore, weapons, and depictions of human injury and death.
“Sexual Themes” indicates mild to moderate sexual
references or depictions and, possibly, partial nudity. Other content
descriptors refer to alcohol, comic mischief, crude humor, drugs,
gambling, language (profanity), mature humor, nudity and the like.
Parents may make complaints about a game rating or
advertisement at www.esrb.org or www.ftc.gov. They may view full
descriptions of video game ratings at