If you are looking to pick out a few family-friendly video games for the holidays, there are plenty of titles to choose from. Despite the fact that games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Assassin’s Creed grab all the headlines, M-rated titles represent less than 20% of all new releases, according to the Entertainment Software Association. But if you’re not familiar with video games, how do you distinguish the good from the bad?
When checking on the suitability of a video game, the first place to start is with the ESRB Content Rating on the front and back of every game box. The Entertainment Software Rating Board provides movie-style ratings for every published game, breaking them down into six categories, from “Early Childhood” to “Adults Only”. The back of the box will also have a short description of any questionable content, e.g. “Lyrics” or “Violence.”
If you still have any questions on the suitability of a title, you can check out the game’s Rating Summary, which can be found on the ESRB web site. Rating Summaries include a detailed explanation of the content that factored into a game’s rating, including specific examples. The ESRB also has a mobile app for the iPhone, Android phones, and Windows Phone 7, which allows you to access the Rating Summaries right from the store.
There are also ratings for gaming apps for smartphones and tablets. Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market have their own age-based rating system, while Verizon and the other carriers recently endorsed an app rating system to be administered by the ESRB.
Remember that most ratings and Rating Summaries will not cover online interaction. You need to make sure you are comfortable with any component of the game that involves accessing the Internet.
Web sites such as Family Friendly Video Games, and Common Sense Media also provide helpful tips on choosing appropriate titles. Don’t rely on what your children tell you, or on the claim that “everyone else has it.” You are selecting games for your child to play, not someone else’s child.
But by far the best way to choose a great game for your children is to get involved with their gaming activities, and even pick up a controller yourself. You’ll get to know their interests and enjoy spending quality time with them…and you might just discover that video gaming is way more fun that you thought it was!
I have been compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.