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Media Ratings: Video Games - Part II

Angela Oswalt Morelli , MSW, edited by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

The term "Crude Humor" suggests that there are vulgar jokes about bodily functions. Furthermore, "Mature Humor" indicates there are depictions or jokes of a sexual nature. "Comic Mischief" shows slapstick and possibly suggestive humor. Other labels are even more vague than these. For example, the ERSB describes the label "Suggestive Themes" as themes that include "mild provocative references or materials," which can mean a range of things.

There are other terms that describe nudity and sexual content. "Partial Nudity" indicates that there are brief or partial scenes of nudity, and "Nudity" indicates that there are significant scenes of nudity. "Sexual Themes" indicates that sex and sexuality are mentioned in a game scene, while "Sexual Content" indicates that there are scenes of mild or moderate sexual behaviors. Lastly, "Strong Sexual Content" indicates that there are prolonged or graphic sexual scenes.

As far as language use, there are also four labels that describe the content. The "Language" label means that the characters use mild to moderate profanity in the dialogue, and the "Strong Language" label means that the characters use explicit and frequent profanity. The term "Lyrics" indicates that the games uses low levels of profanity, sex, violence, alcohol, and drugs in the lyrics of the music. "Strong Lyrics" labels indicate that games have music lyrics that have frequent uses of profanity, sex, violence, alcohol, and drugs.

"Tobacco Reference" indicates there are images or references of tobacco products, while "Tobacco Use" indicates that characters use tobacco products in the game. Likewise, the term, "Alcohol Reference" indicates that alcoholic beverages are seen or mentioned in the game, but "Alcohol Use" indicates alcoholic beverages are consumed in the game. As well, "Drug Reference" indicates that other drugs are seen or mentioned in the game, and "Drug Use" indicates that characters are seen using another drug in the game. Finally, two more labels inform parents about gambling references or content in a game. The term, "Simulated Gambling" indicates that players can play gambling games, but they are not wagering real money. However, games that have a "Real Gambling" label do allow players to gamble using real money, probably using credit cards or PayPal through an Internet connection.

Despite these highly descriptive ratings and labels it remains very difficult to determine the appropriateness of a game for individual children on the basis of label reading alone. Parents should take time to review children's desired game choices before purchasing them. If youth show interest in a new game, parents can research it online (by reading gaming blogs and game oriented communities), or they may rent the game temporarily and play it themselves to determine if it is appropriate.

Children may obtain video games from a variety of sources outside those that parents purchase. Parents will again be best served by talking to their children about what games they are playing and are interested in, and to coordinate with children's friends, parents and other caregivers concerning which games are appropriate and which are not.


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