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Entertainment Software Rating Board

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ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board)
Type Non-profit, self-regulatory
Industry Organization and rating system
When it was created 1994[1] in Canada and United States
Headquarters Canada
United States
Area served Canada
United States
Mexico/>United Kingdom (only on television)
Key people Interactive Digital Software Association (now the Entertainment Software Association)
Parent 3DO Rating System (by The 3DO Company, now defunct)
Recreational Software Advisory Council (now defunct)
Videogame Rating Council (by Sega of America)

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is an organization that rates video games. Rating is voluntary. Game publishers do not have to submit their games for ratings. There are seven ratings: EC (Early Childhood), E (Everyone), E10+ (Everyone 10+), T (Teen), M (Mature), AO (Adult Only), and RP (Rating Pending). Some retailers make people show identification to prove their age if they want to buy M-rated games. Many retailers will not buy and sell AO games so it is very hard for gamers to find AO-rated games.

On the back of each game's box, the ESRB also rates elements of the game. The back of Super Princess Peach has the words "comic mischief" on it to tell parents that it contains comic mischief.



Rating Meaning
EC Suitable for all, especially 0-5
E Suitable for all ages, may have mild comic humor or violence.
E10+ Suitable for 10 and up. May have relatively mild cartoon humor or mild language/violence.
T For 13 and up. May have more intense language or violence than the E10+ rating.
RP Unknown suitable age. Appears on game promos until the rating is decided.


Rating Meaning
M Only for 17+. Contains obvious, uncensored blood/gore and strong violence and profanity. Many retailers prohibit sales of M games to people under 17 years old.
AO For 18+ only. Many retailers do not even carry these products, or put them in the "adult" section.


Rating Meaning
KA Suitable for everyone. Replaced with Everyone in 1998.[2] This also lead them to think the ESRB is not doing its job.[3] Twenty-three games have received and kept adult ratings, but apparently twenty (almost all) games were given it for sexual themes and content. Two had violence, and the other one was given the "Adult" rating for real gambling.[4]

"Tone Down" controversy

Some publishers of games decide to tone down the game's explicitness in order to qualify for an "M" rather than an "AO" rating.[5]For example, the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had an original M rating, but the game that could be unlocked by bypassing the patch, called "Hot Coffee", seemed to spark major controversy with the game, because it features [[|sex]] and a. Thus, the ESRB decided to re-rate the game as an AO. Rockstar Games then chose to leave the game out of the release, then release an exploit fix that completely disallowed access to the game. However, other games have trouble being "toned down". Thrill Kill, for instance, was given an AO, and then Electronic Arts decided to purchase the publisher, Virgin Entertainment. The release of the game was then canceled, and the game never was toned down.[6][7]


  1. What is the ESRB? from the ESRB FAQ
  2. Critics on the case of the ESRB, ESRB Site. 2000-5-6. Retrieved 5-6-00.
  3. Is the ESRB Actually Doing Its Job? 2010-4-9. Retrieved 4-9-10.
  4. Critics on the ESRB's case for the AO rating. 2008-9-8. Retrieved 9-8-10.
  5. Tone-Downing: From AO to M.
  6. The GTA Exploit from Rockstar Games.
  7. Thrill Kill company bought by Electronic Arts, from concern of sadomasochistic sex.

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