The ESRB ratings are designed to give consumers information about the content of an interactive video or computer entertainment title and the ages for which the title is appropriate. The ratings are not meant to tell you what to buy or to serve as the only basis for choosing a product. In addition to using the ratings, consumers should check out content descriptions for more specific information about a game’s content. You can find this information, if applicable, on the product detail page under the Note to Customers advisory.
ESRB Ratings Defined
Each product is rated by three independent, trained raters. The raters represent a wide range of backgrounds, races, and ages and have no ties to the interactive-entertainment industry. Raters include retired school principals, parents, professionals, and other individuals from all walks of life. Ratings can be found on the cover of each game, and this site also features a text description of each rating on each product detail page. Here are the ESRB rating definitions:
Early Childhood - Titles rated Early Childhood (EC) have content suitable for children ages 3 and older and do not contain any material that parents would find inappropriate.
Everyone - Titles rated Everyone (E) have content suitable for persons ages 6 and older. These titles will appeal to people of many ages and tastes. They may contain minimal violence, some comic mischief (for example, slapstick comedy), or some crude language. This rating formerly was known as Kids to Adult (K-A).
Teen - Titles rated Teen (T) have content suitable for persons ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violent content, mild or strong language, and/or suggestive themes.
Mature - Titles rated Mature (M) have content suitable for persons ages 17 and older. These products may include more intense violence or language than products in the Teen category. In addition, these titles may include mature sexual themes.
Adults Only - Titles rated Adults Only (AO) have content suitable only for adults. These products may include graphic depictions of sex and/or violence. Adults Only products are not intended to be sold or rented to persons under the age of 18.
Rating Pending - The product has been submitted to the ESRB and is awaiting final rating.
Content Descriptors Defined
In addition to ESRB ratings, most game descriptions help clarify the specific content of each game; this information can be found in the black-and-white box on the back of the game package. However, this site also lists this information on the product detail page under the Note to Customers advisory. These content descriptors give more details about the product in terms of violence, sexual themes, language, and other areas that may be of interest to some consumers. If there is no content descriptor on the back of the package, the rating board believes that the product does not include content that needs to be highlighted.
Here is a list of content descriptors used by the ESRB:
Mild Animated Violence: Contains scenes depicting cartoon/animated/pixelated characters in unsafe or hazardous acts or violent situations.
Mild Realistic Violence: Contains scenes depicting characters in unsafe or hazardous acts or violent situations in photographic detail.
Comic Mischief: Contains scenes depicting activities characterized as slapstick or gross vulgar humor.
Animated Violence: Contains depictions of aggressive conflict involving cartoon/animated/pixelated characters.
Realistic Violence: Contains realistic or photographic-like depictions of aggressive conflict.
Animated Blood and Gore: Contains animated/pixelated or cartoonlike depictions of mutilation or dismemberment of body parts.
Realistic Blood and Gore: Contains depictions of mutilation or dismemberment of body parts in realistic or photographic-like detail.
Animated Blood: Contains animated/pixelated or cartoonlike depictions of blood.
Realistic Blood: Contains representations of blood in realistic or photographic-like detail.
Suggestive Themes: Contains mild provocative references or material.
Mature Sexual Themes: Contains provocative material, including animated or photographic-like depiction of the human body.
Strong Sexual Content: Contains graphic depiction of sexual behavior and/or the human form (i.e., frontal nudity) in either animated or photographic-like detail.
Mild Language: Contains the use of words like “damn.”
Strong Language: Contains commonly referenced four-letter words.