Characters like Mario, Sonic, Master Chief, Ratchet and Clank, Lara Croft, Snake, and other popular video game characters have shared one thing in common over the last 20 years: they’re all featured in a game that carries an Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) icon. If you’re not familiar with the ESRB, it’s a non-profit organization that assigns age and content rating information to video games and apps. Today it celebrates 20 years of rating interactive content, helping and educating parents, and ensuring the $21 billion video game industry markets their games responsibly.
As a parent who firmly believes in finding content that’s right for my kids, I appreciate ESRB for being an effective rating system that rates nearly every computer and video game sold in retail stores in the United States. Using ESRB ratings in conjunction with sites like Common Sense Media has been helpful in choosing perfect video games for our family. I find that the ratings from ESRB and Common Sense Media spark discussions about gaming content, ratings, and safe gaming as we help our kids become informed consumers.
When ESRB started, games were designed for 8-bit consoles. As the gaming industry has grown and technology has changed, they’ve rated games and apps submitted by over 9,500 companies for more than 40 different platforms. Here are some other highlights from the past twenty years:
- ESRB started with five rating categories: EC (Early Childhood), K-A (Kids to Adults), T (Teen), M (Mature), and AO (Adults Only). In 1998, K-A was changed to E (Everyone), and in 2005, E10+ (Everyone 10+) was added.
- The first rating certificates were issued on September 16, 1994. Some of the first rated titles included Doom for Sega 32X (M), Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure for Super NES (T), Super Punch Out!! for Super NES (K-A), Sonic Triple Trouble for Sega Game Gear (K-A), and Donkey Kong Country for Super NES (K-A).
- Of all the games rated by ESRB, 94% have been rated E, E10+ or T; E remains the most popular rating category, representing nearly 70% of all games rated.
- Awareness of ESRB ratings remains consistently high with 85% of parents saying they are familiar with ESRB ratings.
- In addition to rating games, ESRB also enforces advertising guidelines (Advertising Review Counsel established in 2000) and monitors privacy practices as a COPPA Safe Harbor (ESRB Privacy Certified established in 1999).
- ESRB is looking to the future by streamlining digital rating services in collaboration with other rating boards across the globe.
Don’t worry if you’re not so familiar with the ESRB ratings! This cheat sheet serves as a great reference!
In honor of ESRB’s 20th anniversary, I’ll be serving an ESRB Parent Ambassador with these 13 fabulous parent bloggers as we help educate parents about video game ratings, content, and fun.
- Monica Vila, The Online Mom
- Mary Heston, Mrs. Video Games
- Leticia Barr, Tech Savvy Mamas
- Sarah Kimmel, Tech 4 Mommies
- Tina Case, Parent Grapevine
- Ana Picazo, Bongga Mom
- Eric & Camila, Geek Junior
- Anne Livingston, Kids Privacy
- Caryn Bailey, Rockin’ Mama
- Beth Blecherman, TechMamas
- Kimberly Kauer, Silicon Valley Mom
- Kris Cain, Little Tech Girl
- Lori Cunningham, Well Connected Mom
- Kathleen Bailey, Gaggle of Gamers
I am volunteering my time and space on my blog to educate families about ESRB ratings as a ESRB Parent Ambassador. No compensation was received for this post or my involvement.