Video Game Rating Systems

What are video game rating systems?

Video game rating systems are systems put in place by the games industry to provide information about games that helps adults to make informed decisions about whether or not a game is suitable for the children in their care to play.

In addition to this, some parental controls on computers or games consoles interact with the game rating to determine whether the game should be permitted for the current user of the device (whether this is a games console, computer, tablet device and so on). You can on some platforms restrict access to games based on the actual rating, or some of the content determined to be in the game by the various video game rating systems.

Not all games are rated, and those that are can be rated by one or more of the video game rating systems currently in existence.

In the UK, video game ratings are now (since July 30th, 2012) almost exclusively categorized according to the PEGI system (Pan European Game Information).

The PEGI system has been operating since January 2003, classifying a large number of video games. Previously classification of video games in the UK was carried out by the BBFC  (British Board of Film Classification) and ELSPA (European Leisure Software Producers Association).

In the USA and Canada the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) classify video games.

Both PEGI and the ESRB provide a wealth of information about individual video games, and both have a searchable database where you can find detailed information about a particular game.

How do the video game ratings systems compare?

In our opinion both systems are good sources of information for any adult, but what we particularly like about the ESRB site is that you can get a little more detailed information about the actual content in any particular game. To illustrate this we did a search for a game called Battlefield 3 on the XBOX 360 games console using both the PEGI website and the ESRB website.

PEGI Video game rating systems rating of Battlefield 3

A video game, Battlefield 3 and it’s rating as determined by PEGI

The result gives us a brief overview of the game, and several icons, which from the key on the PEGI website indicate:-

  • Suitable for players aged 16 and over.
  • Is an online game.
  • Contains depictions of violence.
  • Contains bad language.

When we look at the same game on the ESRB website we see the following.

ESRB Video game rating systems opinion of Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 rated by the ESRB video game rating system

We see from the icon in the screenshot above, this game has a mature rating according to the  ESRB video game rating system, described as generally suitable for ages 17 and up.

However we now know a little bit more about the game by using both systems together, and this is what we would recommend.

Both the ESRB and PEGI websites offer a good deal of useful information about games in particular, but also about the methods by which the games ratings are determined.

Further Information about video game rating systems