Most of us understand what a game is, and for the most part we’ve all done something that equates to gaming, but we all have varying levels of knowledge of this ever changing industry. Games have gone from being a casual past times that parents used to keep kids occupied to a multi-billion dollar industry. Our parents mainly just got us a game at the store and most were easily kid friendly. There was no hassle, no confusion just simple purchase and forget about it. Today games have so many variations that that simple purchase has become a complicated mess of sorts. This series hopes to aid parents of modern gamers by covering all the intricacies of this past time in easy to understand editorials.
Similar to most other forms of entertainment, games have varying levels of appropriateness. Now what is or isn’t appropriate for your child is not for me to decide. Children mature at different rates, and different cultures view certain things differently. What I’m here to offer are guides to this industry to help parents choose appropriate games for their children. The rest is up to you.
Similar to movies and most other forms of entertainment, games have rating systems on them. The system you’ll need to use will depend on your geological location. These rating systems vary from region to region, but you should be able to find them on the cases games arrive in, digital storefronts or by using an online search. The two most popular rating systems used throughout the planet are the ESRB and PEGI. The ESRB is used mostly in the North and Central American region while PEGI is used by most of Europe, Africa, some of the Middle East and part of Asia. Other regions like Brazil, Germany, Australia, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan have their own systems. We’ll be focusing on the two most popular systems currently in use, the ESRB and PEGI, however this fundamental approach can be used with any rating system.
For a game to be sold in a region it first needs to be assessed by the video game governing body for that region. The system used to judge these games is similar to the motion pictures rating systems used in most counties. In most cases this is a self regulated system that is enforced by most retailers and online portals. Some retailers may even request photo id, but for the most part it’s the responsibility of the consumer. This means parents are responsible for what their children play, not the stores or game developers. This also means that you as the parent need to evaluate each game your child is interested in before purchase.
Allow me to explain how they work. When you’re purchasing a game you’ll need to check the lower corners of the front and back of the packaging for all the information you’ll need. For parents who purchase digitally you’ll find the rating on lower the section of each game’s store page. Once you’ve identified the rating for the game you’ll then need to assess why it earned its rating. Next to the rating or on the back of the package you’ll find more details. These details can either be text in the case of the ESRB, or symbols as with the PEGI system. It’s important to check these extra details, because two games with the same rating may have earned their rating for very different reasons.
Example: The Legend of Zelda has cartoonish visuals and happens to be rated T. Likewise Uncharted 4 a game with photo realistic visuals, guns, and lots of violence also has a teen rating. Both games occupy the same rating, but one offers borderline mature content while the other doesn’t. This is where you the parent need do your research. It’s easy to spend $60 on a game, but is that worth exposing your child to in appropriate content?
Also ratings and games may vary from region to region due to cultural influences and other aspects that the rating body for that regions deems necessary.
Example: Games sold in Germany don’t carry any Nazi symbols. If a game has such symbols they will be removed or replaced. A good example for this are the changes in the Wolfenstein series.
It should also go without saying that games are no longer a past-time exclusively for child. There are games with references to alcohol, gore, drugs, sexual content, strong language and violence. These types of games are targeted towards a mature audience similar to the way websites like Pornhub target adults. This also doesn’t mean that kids won’t come into contact with things they’re not supposed to, but it’s your job as a responsible parent to limit their access as much as possible. On most modern consoles you’re able to use parental controls to limit the games a child can play based on its rating. This helps alleviate the possibility of your child playing inappropriate games without your knowledge.
Even with parental controls in place however, you’ll still need to be vigilant. This leads into the final and most import aspect of selecting appropriate content for your child.
The most important things you can do to limit your child’s access to certain games is to be informed and involved in their lives. The easiest way to do this is watch game reviews, play games with them, watch them play and discuss their favorite games with them. This will ultimately bring you and your offspring closer together, and even if they end up playing something inappropriate you’ll be informed enough to explain it to them.
If you found this guide useful, then please share it with other parents, and be sure to keep up with our social media so you don’t miss when we publish the next guide in this series.
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