ESRB Rating - Hows it Work


ESRB Rating – Hows it Work

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 there 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 questionere. They will also submit a DVD containing captures of typical gameplay, missions, and cutscenes, along with any extreame content across several diffrent categories such as violance, language, sex, controlled substances and gambling.

ESRB checks the submission for completness and may even play a beta of the game. Three specially trained ESRB game raters will review the video footage. Each rater recommends an appropriat rating category and content descriptors. The raters are not hard core gamers but rather people who have experiance with children and may be parents or caregivers themselves.

The inital recommendation is just a starting point. Raters will collectivley deliberate about what rating should be assigned the game. Once raters come to an agrement 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

  EARLY CHILDHOOD Titles rated EC (Early Childhood) have content that may be suitable for ages 3 and older. Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate.
  EVERYONE Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
  EVERYONE 10+ Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
  TEEN Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.
  MATURE Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
  ADULTS ONLY Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.
  RATING PENDING Titles listed as RP (Rating Pending) have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting final rating. (This symbol appears only in advertising prior to a game’s release.)

ESRB Content Descriptors

Alcohol Reference

– Reference to and/or images of alcoholic beverages

Animated Blood

– Discolored and/or unrealistic depictions of blood


– Depictions of blood

Blood and Gore

– Depictions of blood or the mutilation of body parts

Cartoon Violence

– Violent actions involving cartoon-like situations and characters. May include violence where a character is unharmed after the action has been inflicted

Comic Mischief

– Depictions or dialogue involving slapstick or suggestive humor

Crude Humor

– Depictions or dialogue involving vulgar antics, including “bathroom” humor

Drug Reference

– Reference to and/or images of illegal drugs

Fantasy Violence

– Violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life

Intense Violence

– 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

Mature Humor

– Depictions or dialogue involving “adult” humor, including sexual references


– Graphic or prolonged depictions of nudity

Partial Nudity

– Brief and/or mild depictions of nudity

Real Gambling

– Player can gamble, including betting or wagering real cash or currency

Sexual Content

– Non-explicit depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including partial nudity

Sexual Themes

– References to sex or sexuality

Sexual Violence

– Depictions of rape or other violent sexual acts

Simulated Gambling

– Player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency

Strong Language

– Explicit and/or frequent use of profanity

Strong Lyrics

– 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

Suggestive Themes

– Mild provocative references or materials

Tobacco Reference

– 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

Violent References

– References to violent acts

The information in this post came from On the right we have provided a way for you to check the rating of any game ESRB has rated.

About Jerry

Jerry is a Children's Pastor and the founder of Coalition of Christian Gamers. He is married and has three children. He can't aim so you will find him on a respawn binge in most First Person Shooters. Username: cocgblog on Steam and Origin.

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