The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) decides and enforces video game rating systems, and was established by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Their aim is to provide information to the public about these ratings, and offer resources for parents regarding video game content/ratings. Ratings range from Early Childhood, Everyone, Everyone 10+, Teen, Mature 17+, Adults Only 18+, and Rating Pending.
Though the ESA argues that video games do not promote violence and that games are protected under the First Amendment, they have established a rating system, via the ESRB, so game players/purchasers can be aware of game content.
A brief explanation of the ESRB is as follows: “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” (ESRB “about” page).
- This page offers an explanation of the ESRB rating system, how it is determined, and the percentages of games by rating.
- The ESRB offered a public service announcement to encourage people to “box check,” or check the ratings on boxes of video games before purchasing/playing.
- A newer system created by the ESRB is a free, mobile phone application for ratings. This application is available for iPhone, Android, and Windows phone platforms. The idea behind this application is to allow people (parents, in particular), to have summarized information about the rating selection of each video game.
- This YouTube video, created by the ESRB, offers an explanation of the application.
- ESRB ratings are enforced by requiring video game publishers/advertisers to include the information on their game box, partnering the video game stories to inform them of the rating system (though they cannot legally enforce sale policies at these stores), and partnering with “game enthusiast” websites.