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.


Buying games for your child

Don’t impulse buy

In general I wouldn’t buy from a shop while your child is by your side. Also, when you buy a game think that you are buying it for the family. If your child thinks of the game as theirs then it will be harder to control when and how much they play i.e. “it’s my game so why can’t I play it?”, as they would with any of their other toys.


Before you buy the game always do some research first. Online is the most obvious place to start this but also ask around other parents and see what their kids are playing.

Just make sure you do your own research too. Here’s a few things I look for in a game I am going to buy:

Fun gameplay that is not overly repetitive

Some games are just a mindless grind that will, in the end, leave you or your child feeling empty inside…

What’s the game’s age rating

All games will be rated by ESRB or PEGI and they are a great first stop for whether or not you should be letting your kiddo play the game. I’ve expanded more on these here.

Stimulating gameplay

Is there a storyline for them to engage with? Do they have to make choices that affect the storyline? Is there a team element that their friends can join in to play?

Anything that I think might be distressing

This is very much dependent on your child. Are there entities that try to kill the player? Are there interactions with other players that your child doesn’t know?

A number of parents at school have mentioned their children having bad dreams from playing Minecraft after being chased by zombies, I recommended they switch to creative mode (where you are not attacked) and everything is fine again.

Are there any micro-transactions?

These are in-game purchases. I’ve gone into more detail about them here. I am not against micro-transactions, a game developer needs to make money, it’s just that I am aware that some developers might make them integral to keep playing the game. It’s good to know the type of micro-transaction so when your child says they need to buy something, I know why. If your child has enjoyed the game then think about rewarding the developer by buying the premium version or an in game purchase.

Time overhead

Is my child going to have to spend an inordinate amount of time on the game before they really start to enjoy it? Fortnite is a good example where when you get to a certain standard of play you will enjoy it a lot more. But that time before that is going to be pretty painful. Another example is World of Warcraft, any player has to spend a massive amount of time playing to level up their character.

Does the game have any adverse effects on your child

Above all else you want your child to have fun and enjoy themselves. When they do start playing the game you’ve bought pay heed to your child’s attitude and mood during and after. If anything is amiss don’t feel bad about taking the game away and finding an alternative. Just explain to your child why beforehand.

Play the game

Any game I buy for my son I spend a couple of hours playing before he knows I have got it for him so I can check it’s going to be okay. Also, it would be nice if I want to play it with him.