Like movies, video games are given ratings that assess the appropriateness of their content for different age levels. The ratings they are given indicate the age range that would find interest in the game, as well as whether or not it is appropriate. In some cases, a game may contain content that is too strong, or graphic for a younger age.
Here is a tool to look up ratings. An explanation of the ratings follows below the tool.
Here are the most common ratings:
EC or EARLY CHILDHOOD
These video games are said to be appropriate for ages 3 and older. The content has nothing that would be found inappropriate.
E or EVERYONE
These video games have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. They may have minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and infrequent use of mild language.
E10+ or EVERYONE 10+
Video games with this rating contain content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older, though not younger. They may have cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and minimal suggestive themes.
T or TEEN
Such video games as those with this rating have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. They contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and infrequent use of strong language, which makes them less suitable for those under age 13.
M or MATURE
Video games have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. These video games contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and strong language. The content is similar to that of a PG-13 or R rated movie.
AO or ADULTS ONLY
Video games with these ratings have content suitable for persons 18 years and older. Such titles have content that may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and graphic sexual content and nudity.
RP or RATING PENDING
This rating is only assigned to games that have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting final rating. You will not find this on any video game that is actually on the shelf.
Video game ratings are general, just as movie ratings are. This means that if your teenager is 15, a T rated game may still be inappropriate for them based on your family beliefs or personal standards.
As a parent, take the time to read the ratings, and find out why they are rated such. It may be okay with your for your child to play a game that simulates blood in a fighting scene, but may not be okay with a game that has sexual content or strong language. So, be selective with your video games, and do not just understand the ratings, but be conscious of why such ratings were assigned, and how you feel about those in the context of your child, and what they might pick up on or learn while playing the video games you buy.