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How To Choose The Right Games For Your Kids

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Making the right choices as far as what TV shows, movies, and video games your kids watch and play has a huge impact on their development. Watching out for you kids now will ensure that they will grow up with a more realistic perception and appreciation of the world and life in general. I’m not saying violent video games are bad and are completely unacceptable, but you obviously don’t want your 6 year old playing Doom 3 or Splinter Cell or something. Taking advantage of the ESRB rating that is printed on each game is the first step in making the right decisions, but not all kids are created equal and it is up to parents to decide when certain content is suitable for their kids.

Check out the Official ESRB Website for full details on all of their rating information. We just cover the basics here.

The ESRB Ratings

There are seven different ratings that the Entertainment Software Ratings Board assigns to games. These descriptions are taken directly from the official ESRB website www.esrb.com. They are:

  • ”EC” Early Childhood - Titles rated “EC” have content that may be suitable for ages 3 and older. Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate.
  • ”E” Everyone - Titles rated “E” have content that may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
  • ”E10+” Everyone 10+ - Titles rated E10+ have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language, and/or minimal suggestive themes.
  • ”T” Teen - Titles rated T have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood and/or infrequent use of strong language.
  • ”M” Mature Titles rated M have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and/or strong language.
  • ”AO” Adults Only - Titles rated AO have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.
  • ”RP” Rating Pending - Titles listed as RP - have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting final rating. (This symbol appears only in advertising prior to a game's release.)

Content Descriptions

There are also specific descriptions that are used alongside these ratings. They are located on the back of every game box and include: Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Blood, Blood and Gore, Cartoon Violence, Comic Mischief, Crude Humor, Drug Reference, Edutainment, Fantasy Violence, Informational, Intense Violence, Language, Lyrics, Mature Humor, Mild Violence, Nudity, Partial Nudity, Real Gambling, Sexual Themes, Sexual Violence, Simulated Gambling, Some Adult Assistance May Be Needed, Strong Language, Strong Lyrics, Strong Sexual Content, Suggestive Themes, Tobacco Reference, Use of Drugs, Use of Alcohol, Use of Tobacco, and Violence.

Using the ratings and content descriptions makes it easy to find games with content that you deem acceptable.

Other Tips

Here are some tips on how to give your kids the best experience with video games.

  • Kids Aren't Stupid - You know this. I know this. But for some reason game developers seem to forget it. A vast majority of the games using licenses from kid shows and movies are brainless, cookie-cutter copies of each other just with different characters. Games don’t need to be dumbed down for kids to enjoy them.
  • Start Small – A lot of games these days are pretty complex and have complicated controls that many kids just can’t quite grasp yet. I highly recommend starting kids out on older games or classic game compilations (Mega Man Anniversary Collection, Sonic Mega Collection Plus, etc.) and let them learn how to play games the same way we did.
  • Peripherals Rock – Using peripherals like a steering wheel, arcade stick, guitar, or DDR dance pad make gaming more fun for everyone, especially kids. They give them something they can touch and feel and simplify the controls down even further so that they can just act rather than thinking about which button is supposed to do what.
  • Not All Kids Are The Same – Some kids tolerate and understand certain content better than others. As a parent, you have to decide when your kids are ready to move on to violent or otherwise objectionable media. The ESRB ratings are a great guide, but no one knows your kids better than you.
  • Play Along With Them – This is perhaps the most important thing. Play games with your kids. Don’t just buy them a new game to act as a babysitter. Play the game with them so you can help them out if they need it but mostly just to share the overall experience.

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