How are video games rated in the United States?

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(WHTM) – The first video game was created in 1958 and thousands of games are made each year, but how are they rated?

In 1958, William Higinbotham created a tennis game called Tennis for Two, thus he created the first video game.

Today, tens of thousands of video games are created and published for people to play and each of those games has a rating; either E, E10+, T, M, A, RP, or RP-Likely Mature.

Who came up with these ratings and who sets them?

In 1994, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was founded and the original ratings were EC, K-A, T, M, and A.

The K-A stood for Kids to Adults and in 1998 it was changed to E for Everyone.

In 2005, a new rating was established, the ESRB introduced the E10+ rating which stood for Everyone ages ten and up.

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Ratings would evolve again in 2014 when the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) started to add ratings to games and apps on Mozilla’s Firefox Marketplace, according to the ESRB.

One year later in 2015, the Australia Classification Board (ACB) became an IARC participating rating authority, stated the ESRB. Also in 2015, the IARC rating system was launched for the Nintendo eShop. Google Play would also add the IARC rating system.

Windows would launch the same system in 2016 and the Oculus store would follow in 2017.

If you go to a gaming store or an online store to purchase games, you’ll find a rating attached to the game but what do they exactly mean?

The following are the ESRB ratings and definitions given by the ESRB website:

E (Everyone)

“Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.”

Games that are rated E include:

  • MarioKart8

  • Madden

  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

  • Animal Crossing

E10+ (Everyone ages ten plus)

“Content is generally suitable for ages ten and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and /or minimal suggestive themes.”

Games that are rated E10+ include:

  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

  • Minecraft

  • Super Smash Bros Ultimate

  • NHL

T (Teen)

“Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.”

Games that are rated T include:

  • Final Fantasy VII Rebirth

  • Tekken 8

  • Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

  • It Takes Two

Video Games that are set in Pennsylvania

M (Mature 17+)

“Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood, gore, sexual content, and/or strong language.”

Games that are rated M include:

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III

  • God of War Ragnarök

  • Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League

  • Persona 3 Reload

A (Adults only 18+)

“Content suitable only for adults ages 18 and up. May include prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content, and/or gambling with real currency.”

According to Game Rant, there are only two games released under the A rating, Grand Theft Auto: San Andres almost received an A rating but the developers decided to take out the part that would have made the game A.

In 2023, around 13,790 video games were released on Steam alone and this number continues to grow each year.

To help parents understand the ratings more ESRB has a parent tool to help inform parents about video games.

ESRB also has a family gaming guide that provides information needed to manage their gameplay experience.

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