We all see the ESRB rating posted across the games we buy. The rating is an important factor in determining what games parents will buy for their kids and gives us a clue as to the moral contents of a game. So how does that rating get there ?
As a game reaches its final stages of development and game publishers get ready to launch there next groundbreaking development in game mechanics they submit responses to a detailed ESRB questioner. They will also submit a DVD containing captures of typical gameplay, missions, and cut scenes, along with any extreme content across several different categories such as violence, language, sex, controlled substances and gambling.
ESRB checks the submission for completeness and may even play a beta of the game. Three specially trained ESRB game raters will review the video footage. Each rater recommends an appropriate rating category and content descriptors. The raters are not hard core gamers but rather people who have experience with children and may be parents or caregivers themselves.
The initial recommendation is just a starting point. Raters will collectively deliberate about what rating should be assigned the game. Once raters come to an agreement ESRB reviews the recommended rating category and descriptors and issues a certificate with the official rating assignment to the game’s publisher. Game publishers can accept the rating as final or revise the content and resubmit and the process starts again.
When the game is ready for release to the public, publishers send copies of the final product to the ESRB. The packaging is reviewed to make sure the ESRB rating is displayed properly and that the content that was submitted to the rating board was complete and accurate.
Game Ratings & Descriptor Guide
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings are designed to provide concise and impartial information about the content in computer and video games so consumers, especially parents, can make an informed purchase decision. ESRB ratings have two equal parts: Rating symbols suggest age appropriateness for the game and content descriptors indicate elements in a game that may have triggered a particular rating and/or may be of interest or concern.
To take full advantage of the ESRB rating system, it’s important to check both the rating symbol (on the front of the box) and the content descriptors (on the back).
ESRB Rating Symbols
ESRB Content Descriptors
- Reference to and/or images of alcoholic beverages
- Discolored and/or unrealistic depictions of blood
- Depictions of blood
Blood and Gore
- Depictions of blood or the mutilation of body parts
- Violent actions involving cartoon-like situations and characters. May include violence where a character is unharmed after the action has been inflicted
- Depictions or dialogue involving slapstick or suggestive humor
- Depictions or dialogue involving vulgar antics, including “bathroom” humor
- Reference to and/or images of illegal drugs
- Violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life
- Graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict. May involve extreme and/or realistic blood, gore, weapons and depictions of human injury and death
- Mild to moderate use of profanity
- Mild references to profanity, sexuality, violence, alcohol or drug use in music
- Depictions or dialogue involving “adult” humor, including sexual references
- Graphic or prolonged depictions of nudity
- Brief and/or mild depictions of nudity
- Player can gamble, including betting or wagering real cash or currency
- Non-explicit depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including partial nudity
- References to sex or sexuality
- Depictions of rape or other violent sexual acts
- Player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency
- Explicit and/or frequent use of profanity
- Explicit and/or frequent references to profanity, sex, violence, alcohol or drug use in music
Strong Sexual Content
- Explicit and/or frequent depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including nudity
- Mild provocative references or materials
- Reference to and/or images of tobacco products
Use of Drugs
- The consumption or use of illegal drugs
Use of Alcohol
- The consumption of alcoholic beverages
Use of Tobacco
- The consumption of tobacco products
- Scenes involving aggressive conflict. May contain bloodless dismemberment
- References to violent acts
The information in this post came from ESRB.org.