With the recent release of Grand Theft Auto V, so many video games being released going into the holiday season, and two major consoles about to launch, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has been proactive, and created a new PSA to help explain just what video game ratings mean.
The ratings system works in a similar fashion to the one set up for films. Just like the rating system for films, the extreme ends of the spectrum are not used too often. For films, G ratings and NC-17 ratings are somewhat rare. In games, EC and AO are not common.
What are the ratings and what do they mean? Here is a quick rundown, straight from the ESRB.
Why does the ratings system matter? People buying games for kids should pay special attention to the ratings. An M rated game is the equivalent of an R rated film. The current and next gen consoles have parental controls, which can be used to prevent the systems from playing games with certain ratings.
Additionally, some stores will not carry certain ratings. Game developers are very much aware of the ratings system and how it works. You would be hard pressed to find a game with an AO rating, simply because the places that sell games will often not carry games with this rating. There is even legislation in many states to make it illegal to sell games for adults to children. Developers usually don’t want to make a game that cannot be sold. As a result, features and content will often be adjusted or cut all together in order to get a more desirable rating. For example, Grand Theft Auto V has sold upwards of one billion dollars in the first three days of its release. This would not have been possible with an AO rating.