Responsible Parental Ratings 101

It’s time for a soap box, and for me to boast about my own experience.

First off, if you’re a parent of a gamer and you don’t know what the symbols above are… shame on you.

Let’s give you a brief introduction either way straight from the ESRB’s own website:

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a non-profit, self-regulatory body established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). ESRB assigns computer and video game content ratings, enforces industry-adopted advertising guidelines and helps ensure responsible online privacy practices for the interactive entertainment software industry.


To empower consumers, especially parents, with the ability to make informed decisions about the computer and video games they choose for their families through the assignment of age and content ratings, and to hold the computer and video game industry accountable for responsible marketing practices.

So now that we have the nitty-gritty details out of the way there’s something else to consider: know your own kids!

Sure you may have a child under 13, but does that mean you feel they can’t handle all PG-13 movies? The same is true for the game ratings. To that same end though, you’re the parent. It’s your job to be responsible and know that while your kids might be able to handle Star Wars Episode III, you might stand in front of the TV during key parts just because you don’t want them   to experience the intensity of emotions yet.

You’re doing your job of sharing your culture with your children, but also protecting them from the darker parts of it.

On the other side of the coin, take Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Rating T) as a perfect example. It’s a Nintendo character fighter with no blood, sparks of cartoonish violence, and nothing much more intense than you’d find in New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Rating E).

You can’t just trust movie ratings any more than you can trust video game ratings… but they give you a road sign. Someplace to start your research.

My oldest is 9 (almost 10) and the last thing he should be playing is something like Call of Duty: Black Ops, just like he should have no reason to watch Alien. It’s just unnecessary.

So why am I ranting?

Because parents need to be paying attention to this kind of thing, and they aren’t.

Because my son paid attention to the rumor that “Black Ops” was going to be at a birthday party and told us, knowing full well that meant he wouldn’t be allowed to go.

Now, as fate would have it, sleeping over was going to be out of the question regardless since swim lessons are Saturday mornings for TJ and Little Miss right now.

As fate also had it, we should have been cleaning out from under the dryer… so it started getting too warm and puffing out a bunch of dust. This managed to set off the fire alarm at an inopportune time in the middle of the night. It then kept the kids awake quite a bit through the rest of the night.

Not a fun evening.

Had he gone though, had he not known… he would have been exposed to something that is rated M for “Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language”. Seriously?

A parent put this in the hands of a 9 or 10 year old?

Read the boxes all of you fellow parents, grandparents, and friends of those people that have children. I don’t have many M rated games, but those that I do own (or have played) I keep out of reach of my younglings.

This is why gaming gets the bad reputation it sometimes does; adults need to be responsible for what the children around them are playing. A video game is just like any other form of entertainment that isn’t understood by the mainstream. Comics suffered a similar fate back in the day (1950s, wasn’t it?) Some parents didn’t understand them (or pay attention) and allowed their children to experience art that was far outside of their development.

Things like that can and will potentially do harm. Sure that harm could simply be nightmares, but isn’t that enough of a problem? Enough of a mark to show that you need to be a responsible consumer of media? Enough to know that you need to teach your children to do the same?

I’m proud of my son for what he told us. He trusts that we shield him from some movies, TV shows, video games, and other media because we don’t feel he’s ready… not out of some power trip or choice to simply deny him.

All it ultimately comes down to here, and why I write this, is because I am begging all of you to please do your jobs out there. Protect your children so that someone that understands the matters at hand even less on capitol hill doesn’t try to take our job away from us and regulate video games.


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