Finding age-appropriate gifts for gamers

8:09 PM, Nov 26, 2012   |    comments
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ESRB ratings are meant to guide consumers towards age-appropriate video game titles.

It's almost a certainty if you have a child who is into video games:  (s)he is going to want to biggest titles this Christmas.  That means that games such as Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops II and 343 Industries' Halo 4 are probably on that list.  Honestly, that's just fine -- so long as the person who the game is for is of the appropriate age for those games.

Call of Duty: Black Ops II is rated "M for Mature" by the Electronic Software Ratings Board (ESRB), a self-regulated agency that assigns video games ratings similar to how the Motion Picture Association of America rated movies, and should be played only by those aged 18 and older.  The aforementioned Halo 4 is also rated "M".

Actually, ESRB ratings work very much like movie ratings.  For an easy comparison, figure it this way:


  • "E for Everybody" is the same as a "G" rated movie.
  • "E10+" is equal to a "PG" movie.
  • "T for Teen" would be just like a "PG-13" movie.
  • "M for Mature" should be treated the same as a movie that is rated "R"

There are two other ratings as well, though it's rare to find many games with these ratings"


  • "EC" means "Early Childhood", and is reserved for learning games for very young children.
  • "AO" stands for "Adults Only".  Games with an "AO" rating should be treated like an "NC-17" motion picture.  Including mobile games, only 35 titles to date have achieved such a rating.

The ESRB ratings can be found on the lower-right corner of the game's box.  Furthermore, on the back of the game box, an expanded ESRB rating can be found highlighting key reasons why the ESRB gave a game the rating it did.  These reasons can rage from "Cartoon Violence" (seen most often on "E" and "E10+" games) to "Strong Language" and "Animated Blood and Gore" (often seen on games rated "T" and "M").  The ESRB does this to better educate consumers by giving them a general idea of a game's content.

When shopping for younger gamers, it's important to pay attention to these ratings and only buy games that are age-appropriate for the intended player.  Little Johnny might want that copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, but unless he's going into college, games like Ben 10 Omniverse from D3 Publisher and Need for Speed: Most Wanted from Electronic Arts would be more appropriate choices.


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