Game Ratings

Unlike films, 86% of parents don’t follow the advice of age ratings

survey of 2000 parents by

Of the survey carried out by over half of adults said they would let their children, 10 to 14 years old, play games rated 18+. Whereas only a fifth would let their children, 10 to 14 years old, watch films rated 18+.

Why are games treated so differently to films? Is it because the graphics for many games are quite cartoon-like?

Fortnite Battle Royale, in game graphics

Just because a game has cute cartoon-like graphics does not mean it should be played by all ages. Fortnite by Epic Games, seen above, is a fine example: You see kids of all ages doing the dances and I know plenty of young kids playing it regularly. The thing is, it’s rated ‘Teen’ by ESRB…


There are two main regulatory bodies that issue age certificates for games. They both are self regulated by the software industry but, as of the date of this article, they are both recognised to be doing a satisfactory job of regulating the issue of games rating certificates.


PEGI (Pan European Game Information) is a European rating system. It not only has an age rating but also icons to show what kind of content the game involves.


The Entertainment Software Rating Board is an American based rating system.

You can access both the above sites and search for the game you want to know about.

Why you should use these ratings

These regulating bodies base their certificates on solid, scrutinised methods that take into account facets of a game that we would not think about as parents. Things we pass off as harmless might be affecting our children’s minds in ways that we might not know about…

Many parents I’ve talked to have said that their child’s mood changes after they’ve been playing, a state of being ‘in the zone’ maybe? Being interrupted mid game can be a bit of a jolt, in my experience, a jolt that I have never felt while watching a film I am engrossed by. Games do grasp the mind in ways I do not understand.

I believe we should trust the rating agencies to be better at judging the appropriateness of a game than us. Of course make your own judgement but do take on board their advice.

Revisiting Fortnite, mentioned previously, we can see that ESRB sees Fortnite as a violent game, hence its rating. When parents ask me about the rating I always remind them that a game that encourages players to shoot others in the head (for extra damage) shouldn’t really be played by young kids.

Rating Addictiveness

PEGI and ESRB do lack a rating with regards to addictiveness. Game companies are employing psychologists to actively make games as addictive as possible and so it should be feasible to assess how the game might trigger addictive behaviour…

This is probably not the case at the moment as game addiction is still only just gaining recognition as a problem.

In June 2018 ‘Gaming disorder’, was officially recognised by the WHO (World Health Organisation). As this subject is taken more seriously then hopefully we will see more action taken to safeguard our children.

advice informative

What are your kids playing? did a study of 2000 parents. 85% admitted to not following age restrictions for games. And over half said they’d let their children play games with an 18+ certificate even though only a fifth will let them watch an 18 cert film.

Seriously?! Is it ok for little Bobby to play Modern Warfare 2 where he gets to mow down a bunch of civilians while walking through an airport with a machine gun?

MW2 airport clearance mission

I could link to the more examples but the above should be enough, especially if you look up the play-through on YouTube. I won’t link to it…

Games have many elements that might adversely affect your child. Every child is different and, as their parent, you have to make that decision on whether they play a game or not. Here’s some things to think about to help you make that decision:

What age group is the game?

Like films and TV series there are guidelines to what age group a game should be played by.

In Europe there is the PEGI rating system. In the US they have the ESRB.

As mentioned above, most parents don’t seem to care or aren’t aware. These are an easy first stop for you. There is also where you can read reviews by adults and kids.

I have a post about game age certificates here.

Does it have Micro-transactions?

These are in game purchases. If you don’t want to risk your child emptying your bank account it is worth knowing if the game has them. I’ve dedicated a post to them here.

Are there any Gambling elements?

Many games take advantage of gambling mechanisms to extract money from players.

In Counter Strike, a very popular game played worldwide,  you get awarded boxes at the end of a game, you then need to purchase a key to unlock the box and the player gets a random prize.

CS:GO box opening – gfycat

The player has to hope it’s a good one but more often than not, according to the odds, they won’t… Sound familiar? Of course, this is gambling.

Is it an online game?

Some games are playable online where your child will play alongside others from around the world. Unless they have pre arranged to play with friends then chances are they’ll be playing with randoms (random players from around the world) whose age, sex, location, beliefs are a mystery.

With young players, it’s a good idea to coach them in playing with others. Any age players should follow a few guidelines and I’ve written a couple of posts that might help:

Some advice for children playing online: link

A guide to choosing a name: link

Is it a time sink?

What games aren’t, if you’re a bit sceptical…

It’s worth being aware that some games require a hell of a lot of time investment before they are really enjoyable.

A fine example is Fortnite. People in the know have given a rough figure of 50 hours before you’re going to start being able to build competently and compete with those that can.

Some games involve grinding away at very similar quests for the player’s character to gain experience points to level up, World of Warcraft can take a long time to level up your character to able to adventure into higher level areas. Trying to get your children to self regulate these kind of games will be a nightmare.

So why do kids play violent games?

The most common factor in all games that your child wants to play is their peer group. “Little Terry next door is stabbing people in ‘Generic Fighty Game II’, why can’t I?”. As a parent, who wants their child to be happy, you will think, “well if he’s playing it, then it’s probably OK… and I don’t want my little darling to be left out”.

But now you know there are games with 18+ certificates lurking out there so you’ll always do your own research as, chances are, nobody else has.



Discord is free communication software. You can use it in your browser or install it on your pc and mobile devices.

Discord Logo
Discord Logo

If you haven’t already download and install Discord, using it in browser is a bit of a fuss.

Start it up and click on friends in the top left.

Discord - home layout
Discord – home layout

You’ll see something like the above picture. I’ve blanked out names with white for privacy.

In the middle is the friends list, highlighted below:

Discord - friends list
Discord – friends list

This will show all friends. Any not online will show with a grey dot next to their avatar instead of the green. I have my list showing only the ‘online’ ones by clicking the ‘online’ tab at the top.

The vertical ellipses to the right of the user allow you to call, message or delete that friend.

Adding a friend in Discord

Click the green ‘Add Friend’ button in the top right of the friends section.

This will prompt you to enter their username and their ID e.g. UserName#9999 – note that capitals must be accurate and no spaces between name and hash symbol.

Discord - user name, ID, options
Discord – user name, ID, options

Your user information

Your username, ID and avatar are shown at the bottom left (highlighted above). Also, mute and deafen buttons allow you to quickly control sound to and from you.

User options

The cog symbol is for your settings. You can change your avatar here.

Of this comprehensive list the ‘Voice and Video’ tab is a very important one and worth exploring to set up your communications settings. There is a ‘Reset voice settings’ button on the bottom if your adjustments make things worse…

The rest you can explore at your leisure.

Sending Messages

 Discord - direct messages
Discord – direct messages

Any personal message threads are shown to the left of the home page. The ‘+’ symbol allows you to start another message thread with someone on your friends list.

You can remove names from this list with the ‘x’ next to their name. This will not delete the messages.

You can also right click on a friend for some handy functions.

What other folks are up to

Discord - active now list
Discord – active now list

The active now section (shown above) not only shows who’s online but also what they’re playing, including music.

Adding a Discord server

Discord - server list and options
Discord – server list

Your available servers are shown to the left. Ones you’ve made will look the same as others you’ve joined. Just click on the server circle to join.

You can add a server by clicking the green ‘+’ icon near the bottom.

The search button allows you to look for servers. Excellent if you want to find a server of a game you like.

discord server page layout
Discord server interface

If you click on a server icon you will go to that server page.

As you can see above the server page is slightly different from the home page.

The centre section is the messages from the text channel you are in.

Text and voice channels

You can see in the red area the channels this server has.

As a default the server has a ‘#general’ text channel. You can add more with the ‘+’ icon next to ‘TEXT CHANNELS’ or ‘VOICE CHANNELS’.

This is great if the server you’re in has people playing on different games so they can jump into their own chat channel specific to that game.

Click on a voice channel to join it. Click on the phone with a cross icon – highlighted in yellow, bottom left- to disconnect from voice chat.

Server member list

Highlighted in green is the member list showing who’s online or offline. It will also show any roles they have been assigned – good for creating sub groups in big servers.

Add people to your server

To add people to the server click on the server name in the top left, next to the Discord logo home button. This shows lots of options, including ‘invite people’.

You’ll get the following window pop-up with your friends listed (blanked out for my privacy):

Discord add people to server window

The easiest way to add folks to the server is when they are already friends and clicking on those invite buttons. So, add someone as a friend first then invite them to the server.


Discord is very good at adding information when you hover over an entity.

There’s also the help button that is a question mark, top right.

Keeping your child safe on Discord

Last but not least, a note on safety.

Early years kids, 6 to 11, keep to closed groups of their friends. Depending on your child you may want to extend this.

It’s fine for them to have their own account but also have one yourself. Get to know Discord so that you are the first port of call for your child if they have problems.

Start servers for your child and their friends. You will then be in charge of that server.

Don’t let your kids join public servers until you are sure they are ready i.e. are old enough and wise enough to field random people contacting them. Once they join a public server people can invite them to their servers and private chats.



Micro-transactions are in game purchases like a funky looking weapon, extra playable areas, buffs to make the player better, new clothes, hats (yes you, Team Fortress 2), extra characters and other such stuff.

It’s always worth knowing about any involved in the game your child is playing as they might not know to select ‘NO’, when the game prompts them to buy that unicorn onesie for their character.

Micro-transactions are a legitimate way for a company to make money and fine if it is done in a responsible way. Sadly, some companies will exploit micro-transactions to make the game unfair or unplayable unless a purchase is made:

Game maker EA controversially allowed some of the main characters of a Star Wars™ game to be unlocked with money. Players could unlock the characters through time but you’d have to play the game like it was a second job to do so. This caused an uproar in the player community and has massively changed the way companies view micro-transactions.

Types of micro-transaction


These just change what the players character looks like in game like different clothes, funky designs for weapons and other flourishes of detail that set you  apart from fellow players.


You can buy better equipment for your character to give them an edge over the game. This has been called ‘Pay to win’ by players. The unpopularity of pay to win is such that it is quite rare and pretty much non existent in online competitive games.

Pay wall

Sometimes a game will give you a number free levels then once you get to a certain level you will be blocked, or at least impeded from continuing as you were, with a purchase of some kind.


Sometimes a game will give you items (especially early in the game when you start playing) but usually they are unlocked via a transaction. A common form of unlock is a chest that you need to buy a key to open.

This is prominent in Counter Strike, a very popular FPS game with a global player base, where players can unlock ‘skins’ for their in game weapons. There are different rarities of skins and they can be sold for real money (many are over $100, some even over $1000!).

CSGO chest unlocking

Random unlocks are gambling and you, the parent, should be aware if there are any in the game your child is playing.

Why micro-transactions can be bad

Depending on your child’s age they may be oblivious to these transactions. When the game asks them to click on a button to purchase they will not question whether or not they should. And if you haven’t set in place safeguards you’ll find your linked account being debited by the game.

The BBC has a great article on the risks involved: ‘My son spent £3,160 in one game’

How can you minimise the risk of micro-transactions?

Play the game

There is no better way to gauge what your kids are playing and find out if there are any micro-transactions involved.

PEGI Parental Controls

Go to PEGI ratings’ page that links you to online resources that guide you through setting up safeguards on your devices:

Sadly they don’t list PC or MAC.

For PCs I recommend that you set up a separate profile for your child to play on. Your child blindly confirming every little request asked by the system or a web site could quickly lead to problems. Restrain them by an account that is not able to carry out certain actions like installing new software. Also, any debit card, credit card or PayPal details will be linked to your account and not your child’s…