In our first Children’s Corner topic, we want to talk about you, your kids, and the ESRB warning labels that are placed on video games. In the today’s topic, we’ll cover the meaning behind them, why you should acknowledge them, and if you should even purchase a game outside the given rating.
Parents, in today’s world it seems that kids are almost forgotten about when it comes to gaming. Video games are becoming more realistic by the minute, VR is slowly, and unexpectedly, taking over, and Nintendo has begun to shy away from their kid-friendly past. As video games seemingly begin to become more adult-focused, it may seem like a daunting task to find video games for your kids.
After all, it’s not a bad past time and it has a lot of benefits for your child (via Engadget) as they mature. With the ability to enhance your kid’s brain functionality, problem-solving skills, and gaming could even help improve your child’s problem-solving skills. However, getting your kids into gaming can be a daunting task and we’re here to help you understand video gaming shopping a little more and even understand why you should or shouldn’t listen to the ESRB labels on a game.
Understanding what the labels mean
When you first enter a game store, if you never have, it can be a mildly overwhelming experience due to how many games there are, how many platforms there are to select from, and understanding what the child you are purchasing for actually needs. ESRB labels are a great way for you to have some suggested idea what kind of content a game contains as far as violence, drugs, nudity, and or sexual content, among many others.
While all the aforementioned words may sound scary, not every game will actually contain said content, which shouldn’t deter you by any means from purchasing a game the child you are shopping for may enjoy. Instead, there’s plenty of ESRB labels as you can see in the picture above.
Even the ESRB has written a guide to their very own rating system, which goes into full blown detail regarding what their rating system actually means. The only downside to their system? It’s convoluted and it doesn’t always actually give you a realistic idea of what contents a game might possess.
Titles such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Edition is rated “E” for everyone with a warning about Comic Book Mischief while its equally as amusing family-friendly title Splatoon 2 (you can read our review to find out more about the game) is rated “E 10+”, which means the suggested age for the game is 10-years old and up for Cartoon Violence.But this is where it gets tricky. Splatoon 2 is all about comic book mischief and it’s very clear about that from the beginning. The entire objective of the game is a rather fun and enjoyable take on King of the Hill (controlling a specified area, in this case, the entire map) by covering it ink. The closest thing to violence is splatting enemies with your water-gun themed weapons such as paint buckets, super soakers, and overly exaggerated paintbrushes among various other weapons.
The closest thing you get to Cartoon Violence is the fact you’re going to house down an opposing player with your weapon of choice with a good serving of paint-like ink. After all, your squid children who just want to have a bit of fun.
So what’s the difference between this one and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe? Nothing. They’re both comic book mischief, but the men and women behind the ESRB, definitely don’t see it that way, which can deter you from buying Splatoon 2, which completely kids friendly by-the-way, for something such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
But this doesn’t mean every game is exempt from this rule. If you want to shop games for kids? Your best bet is to look for that “E” for “Everyone” label on the games and take your time, do a little bit of research, and see just why games are being slapped with that “E 10+” label.
What about those “T” and “M” labels I’m seeing those game cases?
Parents, this one should be a dead giveaway. “T” and “M” mean “Teen” and “Mature”. This should be a dead giveaway that these games are not meant for kids. Even for children between the ages 10 and 15, many of these games are not recommended and you should proceed with purchasing these games while erring on the side of caution.
Games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto are absolutely not meant for children. These games are the perfect example of parents not watching the warning labels on their games. While there are kids who play them and do so rather well, there’s still a reason these labels are on the sleeves. These games are violent, they do contain gun violence, alcohol, drugs, nudity, and or sexual content that’s not suitable for children. The latter more so than the other.
But you may be wanting to know, why is Call of Duty a mature title? Let’s take a look at the ESRB label for Call of Duty: Black Ops III.
M | Mature 17+
Content Descriptors: Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language
Other: Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Rating Summary: This is a first-person shooter in which players assume the role of a futuristic military unit attempting to thwart the plans of a cartel. Players use machine guns, pistols, shotguns, grenade launchers, and various “cybercore” abilities (e.g., drone control, confusion for human enemies) to kill robots and soldiers amid futuristic urban environments. Action is frenetic, with frequent gunfire, explosions, cries of pain, and blood-splatter effects. Some attacks allow players to blow up enemies or blow off their arms or legs. A handful of cutscenes depict figures being beaten, tortured, or stabbed; some stabbings are depicted fairly close up. During the course of the game, players can select emblems from a menu screen for character/team customization; a few emblems are suggestive of marijuana. The words “f**k” and “sh*t” appear in the dialogue.
But that’s not so bad, right? Truth is. I won’t even let my nephew in the room when I’m playing a game past the “T” for “Teen” rating due to how real games are getting. But are there “T” games a kid can play? Of course! There are quite a few out there that have unjustly been labeled as a “T” title.Games like Monster Hunter: World, while complex in what they are, are absolutely fine for your kids. The community is great and more than helpful to younger players. While there is “Blood, Mild Language, Use of Alcohol, and Violence,” the ESRB is exaggerating the part on language. It is very mild and should not stop you from buying the game for someone above the age of 10. To be honest, even their ESRB description, there’s very little “blood” as they’ve mentioned.
Rating Summary: This is a role-playing game in which players assume the role of hunters as they explore and hunt for monsters in the New World. As players traverse various environments, they engage in quests and use swords, lances, and bow guns to hunt and kill their quarry (e.g., dragons, dinosaurs, winged beasts). Battles are frenetic and accompanied by sword slashes, impact sounds, and large explosions. Some areas depict mass monster graves containing large pools of blood and blood-stained bones. In one of the game’s environments, players’ character may sit down at a table and drink mugs of beer; if players continue to consume alcohol, a drunk animation will appear (e.g., character collapsing on the table; character stumbling around and falling down). The words “p*ssed off” appear in the dialogue.
But this doesn’t mean ignore the ESRB ratings. They steal mean something and it’s highly recommended that you read into what is going on within the games the children you know and love will get to play.
Should you still buy that “M” or “T” game for a kid?
Long story short, probably not. Sure, some of them are great! Look at Epic Games’ Fortnite: Battle Royale, it’s an absolute blast, and we love it here at Blast Away the Game Review. Several of us play it on a daily. Same goes with Overwatch. We love seeing young people playing both of these games, but honestly, GTA (Grand Theft Auto), Call of Duty, that kind of stuff? Probably should hold off on until your kids are in their teens.
Y’know, the ESRB rating system is confusing as all heck. Trust me, I’ve been going through it with having my nephew around. Because of his presence, I’ve had to become a lot more aware of the things I watch, the games I play, and even the games that he gets to play. If you take your time, slow it down a bit, you may just get one of the best experiences possible when it comes to gaming for kids.
Plus, if you really want to get them started? SEGA has an awesome SEGA Genesis Classics coming out for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It’s a great place to get them started with classic titles such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Alex the Kid and 48 other amazing titles! Then again, there’s also games like Roblox and Minecraft that kids will know and love!
The long story short. The ESRB labels on gamings are dead on a good chunk of the time. If they say a game is “M” for Mature and your kid is under 18? It’s probably a good choice to have them head back to the shelf and look for something a little closer to their age.
Stay tuned for next Monday as we’ll discuss the benefits of gaming in our next ‘volume’ of Children’s Corner.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPGs, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.