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Game Ratings

There has been a lot of discussion in the media over the role video games play in youth violence. The problem is there is no study that definitively shows video gaming causes violence as opposed to video games attracting kids with violent personality types. The best statistic that proves this point is that video game sales went up 8% from 2003 to 2004 and yet at the same time violent crime went down 5%. It pretty much relagates the "violent games cause violence" theory to urban myth status.

Obviously I can only speak for myself. I've been playing video games for 26 or 27 years (I'm 35) and I'm perfectly well adjusted. I have a good technical job and used to teach computer classes. Anyone who would commit an act of violence because they saw it in a video game is the same disturbed kind of person who would do something just because they saw it on television or in a movie or read about it in a book. There is no difference.

That being said, there is no substitution for responsible parenting, which is why the game rating system was created. It's enforced by the Entertainment Software Rating Board and you can check their site for the latest information.

Some machines also give you the ability to lock out games based on their content rating.

Early Childhood

This is the video game equivalent of Barney or Teletubbies. Very simple learning games. Appropriate for those three and older.

Kids to Adults

Simple violence, smacking people on the head a la Mario or Sonic, some crude language like "poop". Appropriate for those six and older. Equivalent to a PG rated film.

Everyone

Same as K-A but removes the stigma of the word "Kids".

E10+

This is a newly announced rating designed for games that are OK for 10 to 12 year olds, mild enough to avoid a "Teen" rating, but may be too strong for those under 10. In all honesty I can't think of a single game that would fit this category, but someone must have asked for it. The first E10+ game I've seen avoided an E rating because one of the songs in the game features the lyric "Shake your body - Shake your body - Shake your body down to the ground."

Teen

Ages 13 and up according the the ESRB, there is nothing in a Teen game that is as intense as a PG-13 rated film. Violence includes serious punching and kicking, acrobatic moves. Emotional taunting by characters. Possible references to drugs and sex. These references are very mild by the standards of other entertainment.

Mature

Ages 17 and up according to the ESRB. More intense than a PG-13 rated film, however there is nothing in a Mature game that is in an R rated movie. There are no sex scenes in video games for example. Violence includes weapon based warfare, simulated blood spatters, stalking other players with the intent of killing them. Language MAY get as strong as the S-word or the BS-word. Language that strong is a rarity. The F-Word will appear, but rarely. I've heard it in background music in games like Crazy Taxi but other than that I've only actually seen it as a part of 2 or 3 games (Deathrow, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel and Chronicles of Riddick which is a game based on an R-Rated movie).

Even the games that push the limit such as the Grand Theft Auto series (which prominantly features prostitutes and drug dealers) on the Playstation 2 and BMX XXX (which allows players to create topless female BMX bike riders) on the Gamecube and Xbox would fall short of an R rating if they were movies.

Adults Only

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas started life as an M rated game for PC, Xbox and Playstation 2. Then it was revealed that there was hidden code inside the game that allows the player to have sex with their girlfriends they make during the course of the story. With 3 different positions!

Even though Rockstar had disabled the code when the game was shipped, it was uncovered by game enthusiasts on the Internet who then (on the PC version) rapidly figured out how to make the copulating couple nearly or completely naked as well.

Bowing to pressure, the ESRB pulled the M rating for the title and re-rated it AO, the first title of it's kind for consoles since the all digital version of "The Joy of Sex" on the 3DO platform 10 years prior.