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BEFORE SANTA COMES……. Part II: Game Consoles & Game Ratings

Face it!  Some of us were born TOO SOON!

Kids today have awesome game systems to play.  Many of us, though, grew up feeding quarters into arcade games like PONG, ASTEROIDS, MISSILE COMMAND, and PAC MAN.  Other spent hundreds of hours playing STREET FIGHTER II, MORTAL KOMBAT, MARVEL VS CAPCOM, DONKEY KONG COUNTRY, and others at the arcade or (later) on early consoles.

Well, soon Santa will be delivering hundreds of thousands of shiny new PLAYSTATION 4, XBOX ONE, Nintendo SWITCH consoles, as well as handheld systems!  And this doesn’t include all the games that will be in stockings!

Unfortunately, as with all technologies, game consoles deliver content designed for people of  many ages and beliefs.  This requires parents to determine what is and isn’t appropriate for their family members based upon family beliefs, children’s ages, and children’s maturity levels & behaviors.

So, whether it’s your family’s first console, or 15th, let’s look at Game Ratings before getting the chimney ready for Santa to arrive!

First and foremost, regardless of which game system Santa delivers, parents who wish to properly parent their children in the area of video game consoles and games MUST do one crucial thing:


When I was in seminary I worked at the old CompUSA chain here in Dallas-Fort Worth.  We were constantly amazed at the games parents would allow kids to purchase, or would purchase for them.  These are parents who, in all probability, would not let their children watch movies like Basic Instinct or R-rated slasher-movies.  Fortunately, our manager allowed us to enforce the game ratings at the check-out.  Many a 10 year old trying to purchase an M-rated game was sent on a quest to find Mom or Dad to get THEM to purchase the game for them.  Interestingly, many parents had never considered these ratings!

Parents must remember that today’s video games are not what we grew up with.  Today’s games have more violence, explicit gore, sexuality, and other material inappropriate for youngsters.  I mean, do our kids need to play game where they are running drug or theft businesses, or prostitution rings?  Plus, with more life-like graphics and sound, games influence and emotionally impact players far more than they did in the early days of Zelda, Pong, and Lode Runner (if you recognize all three of these, you are old….like me!).  As the new VR games and systems arrive they dramatically increase the immersive-ness and emotional impact of games.  This increases the importance of parental oversight!

Fortunately, in the United States parents can rely on the ESRB rating system, managed by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.  The ESRB rating system was designed to help parents manage what their children are exposed to in playing games.  Just like movie ratings, games are submitted to the ESRB to be assessed according to content and age-suitability.  Here are the current ESRB ratings and their definitions.

International readers can find information about non-US rating authorities here.

You may have to be “the bad guy” if you take this seriously, which you should.  You child will undoubtedly proclaim: “But BOBBY’S parents let HIM have it!”  Unfortunately, as I mentioned, above, many parents do not pay attention to the ratings and you may have to make unpopular decisions.  Well, that’s parenting!

To get a feel for what is out there, let’s look at the video game ratings for the top 10 games of 2018 as well as their equivalent movie ratings.  Ratings are according to RANKER:

As you can see, 8/10 of the games are not judged suitable for children <13.  Four of them are the equivalent of an R-rated movie (Rated M: For Mature).  Parents have to make sure that they do not automatically associate “games” with “for kids”.  Parents should remember that the “Average Gamer” in 2018 is actually 35 years old (Male: 33, Female: 37) and going up as boomers and GenX-ers age.  Many game companies design games for that demographic, and sex and violence sells.

So, make sure you inform Santa (and family members) what the boundaries are for games they may be giving your family this year.

Finally, Also, make sure you discuss with all of your children the family rules for who can play or watch the play of games.  If your high school student has a T-Rated game, should his/her 6 year old sibling be able to watch them play it?  Definitely not.  Remember, the ratings are not only for who may PLAY the game, but who should be exposed to the content by viewing game play.  And this also includes game play videos on YouTube!

Be sure you SUBSCRIBE to the blog so you don’t miss the next post:  BEFORE SANTA COMES……. Part III: Game Consoles & Parental Controls!

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