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Itís Christmas morning, and my sister in-lawís 10-year old nephew, Jason, is opening his presents. Heís ecstatic to unwrap a copy of ďSaintís Row the ThirdĒ, a video game that he asked for weeks ago and his parents blindly bought for him. After all, itís a video game, and video games are for children, right? Jasonís parents were in for a world of surprise when they walked into his room a few days later to find him playing the game they bought for him. The character on-screen was a foul-mouthed nude woman, who was beating up another person with a bat.
Now Iím not a parent myself, but I like to hope that most parents would like to be aware of the content in the video games that they buy for their children. Itís obviously the decision of the parents to decide what they allow their kids to see. But many donít know that thereís an easy way to gauge how graphic each video game is before deciding if itís right for their son or daughter to be exposed.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (or ESRB) is a non-profit organization who has developed a universal system to provide a rating for software as it is released to the public. The goal is to give parents the opportunity to make informed decisions about which video games to allow their children to play. Think of the rating system put together by the MPAA that we are all familiar with. The labels shown below are printed on the outside of the box to give a quick idea as to whether the game will be suitable and age-appropriate for their kids.
In addition, the ESRBís web site gives clear, specific details as to what is in a game so that a parent may be well-informed when considering purchasing. Weíre talking about full paragraphs including full quotes from the games. Parents who read these descriptions wonít be surprised as the information provided is very thorough and doesnít hold anything back.
With the craziness of the holiday season approaching, itís easy to overlook something like video game content, but parents need to be informed as they make purchases. Video games arenít just for kids anymore, and parents now have an easy resource to make decisions that aligns with their own parenting style.
Hereís a breakdown of the video game rating labels and what they mean:
FatWallet Asks the Expert:We asked Jacqueline Cromwell, a home school mom who blogs at NerdFamily Things and Geek for the Real Girl if she had any tips for parents buying video games this year.
I realized the nuance of video game ratings when I was shopping last Christmas. I was looking at getting used copies of both Lego Star Wars: Clone Wars and Star Wars Clone Wars. The Lego game had a rating of E for Everyone but the Clone Wars had a rating of T for Teen. When I inquire why it was explained that in the Lego version they are just battling Lego figures but in the other they were fighting people. That generated a higher rating but didn't bother me.
Conversely, Just Dance 4 (which I have and love) has a rating of E for Everybody. I personally find the music and club dancing a little suggestive for my 9 year old daughter. I mean their version of the dance for Umbrella by Rihanna is just a little more suggestive than I feel comfortable with.
It is all about what you feel comfortable with. Don't count count completely on the ratings system but it is good advice if you have never heard of a game. If you aren't sure about a game just go rent it for the night before you buy it. Then play it when the kids go to be and you will be informed (and their Christmas won't be ruined either)."
Now that I have explained the rating system, do you have any "what the @#$% were they thinking" stories that you have witnessed?
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