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Games that are assigned the E 10+ rating by the ESRB contain content that should be suitable for children 10 years and older. The content is often described as “moderate impact.” These games may contain minimal cartoon or animated violence. There may also be animated blood, foul language and minimal suggestive themes. This roughly translates to the video game equivalent of most Disney films. You might see a fight, but it won’t be any more impactful than most Saturday morning cartoons.

Many games in this category can be classified as family friendly. As I mentioned above, these games are rated as the equivalent to most Disney films. If you are a more conservative parent, then it is best to check the content descriptors used on the back of the games box. You can use those descriptors to make decisions about what content you might want to exclude and what you find acceptable. For example, you may be fine with mild cartoon violence, but push a game aside because it contains mild language.

 

Trivia: This rating was implemented on October 1, 2004 by the ESRB. The first game ever given this rating was Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. (Who knew?)

 

Some good examples of E 10+ rated games are:

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Just Dance

Lumines II

Punchout

Braid (XBL)

Final Fantasy III

Chrono Trigger

Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

Super Scribblenauts

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This rating is fairly self explanatory. The games themselves are generally appropriate for players of all ages.

They will contain no (or at the very worst: minimal) violence. Any violence that is depicted will be animated or fantasy violence. You might see Mario bouncing on a koopa’s head, but you won’t see anything much more intense than that.

Most games that I would consider “family friendly” will fall into this category by default. Board games, most mini game collections, and most mascot platform games (eg: Mario and Sonic) all fall here. Even the most conservative parents will have a hard time finding anything objectionable in these games. Many of them are tamer than an episode of Spongebob.

One thing that I need to stress is that ERSB ratings are rating the CONTENT. They do not rate difficulty. The perennial Madden series is a great example here. These games are rated E for Everyone. But, the game has a steep learning curve because it is a professional Football simulator. Most 5-6 year olds would have a difficult time navigating the menus and playing the game.

 

Some great examples of E for Everyone rated games are:

 

Mario Galaxy

Mario Galaxy II

New Super Mario Brothers Wii

Mario Kart Wii

Donky Kong Country Returns

Wii Sports

Wii Sports Resort

Kirby’s Epic Yarn

Super Paper Mario

Super Mario All Stars

Sonic Generations

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The ESRB rating eC is given to games that contain no content that could be considered questionable for anyone ages 3 and below. Most often these games are based on characters in children’s television like Nick Jr or Sesame Street. At the very least they will contain mascots and avatars that are cute and simple with colorful graphics

There are a number of barriers you might run into when looking at games this rating category. The biggest one is that our first instinct is often to look for games that we would qualify as “good games” or “quality gaming experiences” from our perspective as adults. The reality is that there is a large disparity between what makes a game “good” for the adult gamer and for children ages 3 or less.

Games rated eC are often grouped in with games rated E. This is generally fine from a content perspective. But, that does not necessarily mean that the game will be accessible. The most important difference between eC rated games and those rated E is the level of interactivity that they require. Games rated E are not necessarily simple. They can require timing, object recognition and the ability to react to changes in environment quickly. There are not many people who would make a reasonable claim that a 3 year old would be able to play Super Mario Galaxy. It is simply too complex and requires the use of too many concepts that they do not understand.

Most eC rated games require limited interaction. Meaning they are little more than mildly interactive movies or cartoons that give the children opportunities to experience if not actually “play” a game.

A great example of a quality game in this category is a title released on the Wii called “Learning with the PooYoos.” It is a WiiWare title and has a price point of 500 Wii points ($5) so no one should expect a blockbuster gaming experience, but for the price there is plenty of game play available. (Especially once you get a 2 year old to do one of the dances. That is worth the price of admission alone.)

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We’re going to be spending a lot of time here at Engaged Family Gaming talking about the ESRB rating system because it is the single most important tool available to parents when it comes to choosing the games that their children play.

I’ve always thought the best place to start is at the beginning. So below you will find a brief explanation of what the ESRB is and how the ratings are determined.

In 1994 the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) established the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board). This is a non-profit organization that assigns content ratings and establishes advertising and privacy practices for the “software entertainment” (Read: video game) industry.

The rating process is detailed on their website, but largely consists of a group of trained reviewers looking over written documentation, early builds and video footage of the most extreme examples of the content in the game. The game developers need to be careful to include everything; the ESRB makes rating decisions based on all of the content included on the game disks. This even includes game data that is locked out and unavailable for play.

After the content is reviewed, each game is designated with one of six rating categories and is assigned content descriptors. These descriptors document what parts of the game are responsible for the rating or may be a point of concern for consumers.

ESRB rating is not mandatory. There is no state or federal mandate (currently) demanding that all games go through the process. However, most major retailers, like Wal-Mart and GameStop, will not carry a game that has not been rated by the ESRB so it is encouraged in order to help games be commercially viable.

There you have it. This is the ESRB rating process in a nutshell. It is far from perfect, but the work these people do provides some of the most clear and specific information regarding a games content that is available.

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