Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Game Ratings

If you are thinking about buying video games or a new game system this holiday season, you would do well to spend some time at the esrb, or Entertainment Software Rating Board site studying up on the latest information. Here is how they describe themselves and their mission:
"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."

Parents who are unsure about just what their child is getting in a video game can search the site by publisher, title, platform, rating or content in order to learn about the games and systems. If your child has a wishlist with particular games or systems on it (and what child doesn't?) this is essential information. Check it out before you go shopping!

Buddy has been begging me for a PSP. We don't actually play very many video games in our house. Buster has an old PlayStation; one of the first ones that came out when he was about 10. It is in the attic and not hooked up. Buddy has a GameBoy Advance, that I gave him for his fifth birthday. He lost two of the three games I gave him in the back yard this summer. He sometimes plays his brother's Mario Brothers game that is 10 years old. We usually forget to charge the batteries. I also bought him a computer game for his fifth birthday (JumpStart Kindergarten) but he doesn't often think to turn on the computer and play. He would rather ride his bike, play trains or write and draw. That is fine with me. Computer teacher that I am, I believe children under the age of eight or ten don't need to be spending any time at all staring at a screen. Physical play in the real world and direct face to face interaction is where the essential learning takes place for young children. They'll be using technology for the rest of their lives and there is plenty of time to learn it.

That said, I realize most families spend a lot more time playing video games. Some careful planning about what is appropriate and beneficial to your child pays off in the long run. I am glad to recommend this site to you, with it's clear explanation of the rating guide. Did you know, for example, that the "E" rating is not really meant for everyone under the age of six, for example? There is another rating category, EC, for Early Childhood, that is meant for children age 3 and up. Children under three are better off not playing video games at all, but that is another discussion. Here are some more helpful tips for parents about choosing games and game systems, as well as setting up parental controls. If your game system has Internet access you need to think about the options for downloading extended "mods" that allow chat and interactivity that will take your child beyond your direct supervision. It can be confusing to parents and there is a lot to think about when you are trying to keep up with 21st century kids!

Let me know what you think of this site. I am curious to know what games you'll be adding to your household this winter. If Buddy keeps up his campaign for a PSP I will need to know what games are best...

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1 comment:

Katie said...

While I agree that the ESRB is a great concept, I have some major issues with them in practice. They don't actually play the games in order to determine the ratings they give them. Those ratings are given after watching videos of gameplay that usually only last for a hour or so. For the majority of videogames out there right now, that doesn't really give you nearly enough to make a realistic judgment. That's also why there are so many cases of games coming out and ratings being challenged or changed when the ESRB finds out about something that wasn't in their short video. I'd feel much better about the whole thing if the ratings were given by people who actually played the games and actually knew *anything* about games, but they aren't. So while I have faith in their ability to recognize the age-level a Barbie game is aimed at, I'm more dubious about their ratings for just about anything else. I'm also bothered that a completely independent agency that has such low qualifications to pass judgment on games is basically determining what can be made, since none of the consoles and most companies won't even allow games with certain ratings to be sold. That isn't right. I agree that there should be standards and safeguards and that Nintendo, say, has every right to want their systems to not have games that are too adult, but a better system needs to be in place to determine that. Until it is, there's a big problem in the industry.

We expect that a movie rating is given by someone who watched the movie, so why should we expect anything less than a videogame rating from someone who has actually played the game?