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A video game content rating system is a system used for the classification of video games into suitability-related groups. Most of these systems are associated with and/or sponsored by a government, and are sometimes part of the local motion picture rating system. The utility of such ratings has been called into question by studies that publish findings such as 90% of teenagers claim that their parents "never" check the ratings before allowing them to rent or buy video games, and as such calls have been made to "fix" the existing rating systems. Video game content rating systems can be used as the basis for laws that cover the sales of video games to minors, such as in Australia. Rating checking and approval is part of the game localization when they are being prepared for their distribution in other countries or locales. These rating systems have also been used to voluntarily restrict sales of certain video games by stores, such as the German retailer Galeria Kaufhof's removal of all video games rated 18+ by the USK following the Winnenden school shooting.
A comparison of current video game rating systems, showing age on the horizontal axis. Note however that the specific criteria used in assigning a classification can vary widely from one country to another. Thus a color code or age range cannot be directly compared from one country to another.
|App Store (iOS)||4+
(aged 5 and under)
|9+||12+||17+||No Rating||Ratings are required for applications to be released or sold on the App Store. The 4+ rating is divided into three sub-categories: aged 5 and under, 6–8 and 9–11.|
|Argentina||ATP||+13||+16||+18||N/A||Adopted on 15 October 2005. Rating systems are also used for television and motion pictures. No games distributed in Argentina have used this rating yet, as the majority of the games available for sale are imported.|
|Australia||G||M||R18+||The restricted categories are MA15+ and R18+, the latter was introduced at the start of 2013.|
|Brazil||L||10||12||14||16||18||N/A||The same rating system is used for television and motion pictures in Brazil.|
|E||E10+||T||M||AO||This was adopted in 1994 in the United States, most of Canada, and Mexico. The E10+ rating was first used in early 2005. Games rated RP (Rating Pending) do not yet have a rating.|
|Google Play||3||7||12||16||18||N/A||Uses generic IARC ratings in most countries that aren’t represented by a participating rating authority.|
|Iran||+3||+7||+12||+15||+18||N/A||Some games are forbidden. Games with intense violence, strong sexual content or nudity are prohibited.|
|Japan||A||B||C||D||Z||These ratings have been used since March 1, 2006. The Z rating is the only rating that is legally restricted.|
|New Zealand||G||R13||R15||R18||Games with an unrestricted label in Australia can carry Australian classification labels, but New Zealand labels are required if the game is restricted (MA15+) in Australia or is classified RC.|
|3||N/A||Legally enforced in some countries (but not all).|
|Portugal||3||6||12||16||18||N/A||Portugal uses a modified version of PEGI.|
|Russia||0+||6+||12+||16+||18+||N/A||These ratings have been used since 1 September 2012. The same rating system is used for television, motion pictures, and publications in Russia.|
|Saudi Arabia||N/A||3||7||12||16||18||N/A||Adopted on 2016.|
|Singapore||M18||N/A||Adopted on 28 April 2008.|
|South Korea||ALL||12||15||18||N/A||Before 2006, video games released in South Korea were rated by KMRB.|
|N/A||3DS video games released in Taiwan carry a mandatory age restriction of 6 years or more.|
|United Arab Emirates||N/A||3||7||12||16||18||21||N/A||Introduced in November 2017, and was established commercially as of February 2018.|
In the above table, Italics indicate an international organization rather than a single country.
Similar to other forms of media, video games have been the subject of argument between leading professionals and restriction and prohibition. Often these bouts of criticism come from use of debated topics such as video game graphic violence, virtual sex, violent and gory scenes, partial or full nudity, drug use, portrayal of criminal behavior or other provocative and objectionable material. Video games have also been studied for links to addiction and aggression. There have been a multitude of studies concretely linking violent video game play with increased aggression. A meta analysis of studies from both eastern and western countries yielded evidence that "...strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior."
There are also groups that have argued to the contrary, that few if any scientifically proven studies exist to back up these claims, and that the video game industry has become an easy target for the media to blame for many modern day problems. As is evidenced by meta analyses such as the one cited above, there have been a multitude of studies proving a link between violent game play and aggressive behavior. Researchers have also proposed potential positive effects of video games on aspects of social and cognitive development and psychological well-being. It has been shown that action video game players have better hand-eye coordination and visuo-motor skills, such as their resistance to distraction, their sensitivity to information in the peripheral vision and their ability to count briefly presented objects, than non-players.
The law 26.043 (passed in 2005) states that the National Council of Children, Youth and Family ('Consejo Nacional de la Niñez, Adolescencia y la Familia') in coordination with the National Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts will be the government agencies that assigns age ratings. The Argentine Game Developer Association (Asociación de Desarrolladores de Videojuegos Argentina) was critical of the law.
The Australian Classification Board (ACB) is a statutory classification body formed by the Australian Government which classifies films, video games and publications for exhibition, sale or hire in Australia since its establishment in 1970. The Classification Board was originally incorporated in the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) which was dissolved in 2006. Originally apart the Attorney-General's Department and overseen by the Minister for Justice, the ACB is now a branch of the Department of Communications and the Arts which provides administrative support to the Board and is overseen by the Minister for Communications & the Arts. Decisions made by the Board may be reviewed by the Australian Classification Review Board.
Pan European Game Information (PEGI) is a European video game content rating system established to help European parents make informed decisions on buying computer games with logos on games boxes. It was developed by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) and came into use in April 2003; it replaced many national age rating systems with a single European system. The PEGI system is now used in more than thirty-one countries and is based on a code of conduct, a set of rules to which every publisher using the PEGI system is contractually committed. PEGI self-regulation is composed by five age categories and eight content descriptors that advise the suitability and content of a game for a certain age range based on the games content. The age rating does not indicate the difficulty of the game or the skill required to play it.
Finnish Centre for Media Education and Audiovisual Media (in Finnish Mediakasvatus- ja kuvaohjelmakeskus, in Swedish Centralen för mediefostran och bildprogram (both: MEKU)) is an official institution of the Finnish Ministry of Education. It is responsible for the age-ratings of films, television programs and interactive games. Only material intended to be accessible to minors (those under 18 years of age) is subject to classification before being released to the public; sex films do not need to be classified (but they have to be marked clearly with the age limit 18). Films and television programmes are classified by authorized classifiers, trained by the Centre. The classifiers usually work within the media industry.
Indonesian Game Rating System (IGRS) is an official video game content rating system founded and set by the Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Informatics in 2016. IGRS rates games that are developed and/or published in Indonesia. There are 5 classifications of ratings based on the game content, which includes the use of alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, violence, blood, language, sexual content, etc. These are the following classifications:
Entertainment Software Rating Association (Persian: اسرا) (ESRA) is a governmental video game content rating system that is used in Iran. Games that cannot be rated are considered illegal and cannot be sold.
The Computer Entertainment Rating Organization (特定非営利活動法人コンピュータエンターテインメントレーティング機構 Tokutei Hieiri Katsudō Hōjin Konpyūta Entāteinmento Rētingu Kikō) (CERO) is an organization that rates video games and PC games (except dating sims, visual novels, and eroge) in Japan with levels of rating that informs the customer of the nature of the product and for what age group it is suitable. It was established in July 2002 as a branch of Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association, and became an officially recognized non-profit organization in 2003.
The Ethics Organization of Computer Software (一般社団法人コンピュータソフトウェア倫理機構 Ippan Shadan Hōjin Konpyūta Sofutowea Rinri Kikō) (EOCS, or Sofurin) is an incorporated association that rates PC games (dating sims, visual novels, and eroge) in Japan.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) is the government agency in New Zealand that is responsible for classification of all films, videos, publications, and some video games in New Zealand. It was created by the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 (FVPC Act), replacing various film classification acts, and is an independent Crown entity in terms of the Crown Entities Act 2004. The head of the OFLC is called the Chief Censor, maintaining a title that has described the government officer in charge of censorship in New Zealand since 1916.
The current ratings are:
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a self-regulatory organization that assigns age and content ratings, enforces industry-adopted advertising guidelines, and ensures responsible online privacy principles for computer and video games and other entertainment software in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. PEGI ratings are used on some French-language games sold in Canada, and some Spanish-language games sold in Mexico and Puerto Rico. Despite being self-regulatory, in Canada, games rated by the ESRB are required by law to be rated and/or restricted, though this only varies at a province and territory level. While not regulated by law, other Latin American countries use this system as video game stores sell ESRB-rated copies of games instead of PEGI ones.
The Age classification of information products is a new statutory classification set of rules formed by the Russian Government after enacting in September 2012 a Federal Law of Russian Federation no. 436-FZ of 2010-12-23 “On Protecting of Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development” (Russian: Федеральный закон Российской Федерации от 29 декабря 2010 г. N 436-ФЗ «О защите детей от информации, причиняющей вред их здоровью и развитию»), which classifies films, video games and publications for exhibition, sale or hire in Russia since 1 September 2012. The Ministry of Culture provides administrative support to the classification.
The General Commission for Audiovisual Media (Arabic: الهيئة العامة للإعلام المرئي والمسموع, translit. Alhy'eh Al'amah lel-E'elam Almar'ey wal-Masmoo') (GCAM) is responsible for the age-ratings of films, television programs and interactive games.
The Game Rating Board (게임물등급위원회 Geimmul Deung-Geub-Wiwonhoe) (GRB) is the South Korean video game content rating board. A governmental organization, the GRB rates video and computer games to inform customers of the nature of game contents.
The National Media Council (Arabic: المجلس الوطني للإعلام, translit. al-Majlis al-Watani li'al-Ealam) (NMC) is a body of the federal U.A.E. government which regulates all aspects of media production, publication, and media trade in the United Arab Emirates. The body was established under Federal Law (1) of 2006. By 2013, the NMC has sustained full authority over the media market in the country.
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), originally British Board of Film Censors, is a non-governmental organisation, funded by the film industry and responsible for the national classification of films within the United Kingdom. It has a statutory requirement to classify videos and DVDs. It no longer has responsibility for rating video games in the UK. This role has been passed to the Video Standards Council now known as the VSC Rating Board).
In July 2012, the VSC Rating Board became the sole UK statutory video games regulator for the UK. The VSC Rating Board has been a PEGI Administrator since 2003 and subsequently uses the PEGI criteria to classify video games. The UK Interactive Entertainment Association, a UK industry trade group, works with the VSC to help properly label such games and provide informational material to parents. Games featuring strong pornographic content or ancillary mini-games to be included with a DVD feature will still be rated by the BBFC.
The IARC adopted its own rating system in countries and territories that are not represented by a participating rating authority.
The image below presents outdated usage of various video game content rating systems around the world. Countries filled with gradients are using several rating systems.