A new publication from the Federal Trade Commission will help consumers use rating symbols on video games to decide whether a particular game is suitable before they buy or rent it. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 83 percent of children aged eight to 18 live in homes with a video game console.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) maintains a two-part rating system for video and computer games. A rating symbol such as E or M on the front of a game’s box suggests age-appropriateness. Descriptors, such as “blood and gore,” appear on the back of the game’s box and explain why the game was given the rating it received.
The ESRB also maintains a Web site, www.esrb.org, where visitors can enter the name of a game to see its rating and the descriptions of its contents.
The ESRB rating symbols are:
The ESRB uses 32 different descriptors to provide information about what’s in a game. For example, Blood refers to blood, Animated Blood means unrealistic depictions of blood, and Blood and Gore means depictions of blood or the mutilation of body parts. Violence refers to aggressive conflict; Fantasy Violence is intended to be easily distinguishable from real life; Mild Violence depicts characters in unsafe or violent situations. Other descriptors include alcohol, comic mischief, crude humor, drugs, gambling, profanity, nudity, and the like.
In some online games, users generate the content. The ESRB says there’s no rating for content created by online players and these games carry a notice that says, “Game Experience May Change During Online Play.” In addition, according to the alert, adults should be aware that software can be downloaded from the Internet that can make a game’s content more explicit than the rating indicates.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.htm. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.