Video game content rating system

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"12+", the rating symbol, redirects here. For the educational examination in use in the UK, see Eleven plus exam.
An example of different Rating Systems on Video game discs which is common practice with PAL/European versions. From top left to down right: the Russian video game rating system, the European PEGI System, the German USK System sharing all the same age classification on this game.

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,[1] and as such calls have been made to "fix" the existing rating systems.[2][3] 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.[4]


Country/System 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18+ Other Notes
 Argentina: INCAA ATP +13 +18 N/A Adopted on 15 October 2005. Rating systems are also used for television and motion pictures. No games distributed in Argentina has used yet this rating, as the majority of the games available for sale are imported.
 Australia: ACB G M R18+ RC The restricted categories are MA15+ and R18+, the latter was introduced at the start of 2013. The X18+ rating does not exist for video games. Games marked RC (Refused Classification) are banned.
PG MA15+
 Brazil: DJCTQ L 10 12 14 16 18 The same rating system is used for television and motion pictures in Brazil.
(PG 12)
(PG 15)
 Europe/ Israel/
 Quebec/ South Africa: PEGI
3 7 12 16 18 In Portugal, there are 4 and 6 ratings instead of 3 and 7, respectively.
 Finland: KAVI 3+ 7+ 12+ 16+ 18+ Adopted on 1 January 2007. The rating agency was merged in 2012 and again in 2014.
 Germany: USK 0 6 12 16 18 Vendors need to perform an age verification. USK 18 games may not be sold via mail order or internet.
 Iran: ESRA +3 +7 +12 +15 +18 Some games are forbidden. Games with intense violence, strong sexual content or nudity are prohibited.
 Japan: CERO A B C D Z 審査予定 These ratings have been used since March 1, 2006. The Z rating is the only rating that is legally restricted.
 New Zealand: OFLCNZ PG M R18 All ages may purchase an M title, but parents are advised that the content is more suitable for mature persons 16 years and over.
G R13 R15 R16
 Russia: Content rating law 0+ 6+ 12+ 16+ 18+ These ratings have been used since 1 September 2012. The same rating system is used for television, motion pictures and publications in Russia.
 Singapore: MDA ADV M18 Adopted on 28 April 2008.
 South Korea: GRB ALL 12 15 18 Before 2006, video games released in South Korea were rated by KMRB.
 USA/ Canada
(ex.  Quebec)/ Mexico: ESRB
EC E10+ T M AO RP 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.
 UNO: IARC 3 7 12 16 18 This was launched by PEGI in 2013 for mobile games.
  •  Spring Green : Aimed at young audiences.
  •  Lime Green : All ages may play.
  •  Yellow : Parental guidance is suggested.
  •  Orange : Not recommended for a younger audience but not restricted.
  •  Red : Restricted exclusively to an older audience unless accompanied by an adult.
  •  Brown : Restricted exclusively to an older audience unless accompanied by an adult, but exist for films.
  •  Blue : Restricted exclusively to an older audience.
  •  Black : Restricted to adults only.
  •  Light Grey : Other rating.

Explanations of specific ratings are available in corresponding articles.

Initial controversy[edit]

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."[5]

There are also groups the 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.[6][7][8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

Rating systems[edit]

Regional and national[edit]


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.[11][12][13] The Argentine Game Developer Association (Asociación de Desarrolladores de Videojuegos Argentina) was critical of the law.[14][15][16]


The Australian Classification Board (CB) 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. The Attorney-General's Department now provides administrative support to the Board. Decisions made by the Board may be reviewed by the Australian Classification Review Board.


The Department of Justice, Rating, Titles and Qualification ('DJCTQ') (Departamento de Justiça, Classificação, Títulos e Qualificação in Portuguese) rates films, games and television programs in Brazil. It is controlled by the Ministry of Justice (Ministério da Justiça).

Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.[edit]

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rates all the video games in Canada (except Quebec), Mexico, and the United States. The above chart previously listed Canada with Europe (UK) using PEGI system but has since been updated to correctly reflect the system in use.

Republic of China[edit]

Game Software Rating Regulations (遊戲軟體分級辦法), also translated as Game Software Rating Management Regulations, is a video game content rating system used in the Taiwan.[17]


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.[18] The age rating does not indicate the difficulty of the game or the skill required to play it.[19]


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.

In January 2014, Finnish Centre for Media Education and Audiovisual Media was merged with National Audiovisual Archive to form National Audiovisual Institute.[20]


Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK) (Self-Monitoring of Entertainment Software), is Germany's software rating organization founded in 1994.


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.


Computer Entertainment Rating Organization[edit]

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.

Contents Soft Association[edit]

The Contents Soft Association (コンテンツ・ソフト協同組合 Kontentsu Sofuto Kyōdō Kumiai?) (CSA)[21] is a cooperative that rates PC games (dating sims, visual novels, and eroge) in Japan.

Ethics Organization of Computer Software[edit]

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)[22] is an incorporated association that rates PC games (dating sims, visual novels, and eroge) in Japan.

New Zealand[edit]

The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC, Māori: Te Tari Whakaropu Tukuata, Tuhituhinga) 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[23] 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.

Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.[edit]

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.[24] In Quebec, ESRB ratings were once used, but PEGI is now used instead; PEGI ratings are also used on 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.


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.


Media Development Authority (Chinese: 媒体发展管理局) (MDA) is a statutory board of the Singapore Government which regulates films, television programs and video games in Singapore.

South Korea[edit]

Main article: Game Rating Board

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.

United Kingdom[edit]

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.[25] 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 using its games rating arm, the Games Rating Authority (GRA).[26]

In July 2012, the Video Standards Council (VSC) became the sole UK statutory video games regulator for the UK. The VSC uses the PEGI ratings system to rate games. Games released in the UK are rated by the VSC's games rating arm, the Games Rating Authority (GRA). This role was previously undertaken by the BBFC. Games featuring strong pornographic content or ancillary mini-games to be included with a DVD feature will still be rated by the BBFC.


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.

Video game rating systems map.svg

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dr. David Walsh (2000-03-21). "The Impact of Interactive Violence on Children: Testimony submitted to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, United States Senate" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 10, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  2. ^ Jerry Bonner (April 2008). "How to Fix the Ratings System: A former game rater lists six ways to bolster the Entertainment Software Rating Board," Electronic Gaming Monthly 227, 30-32.
  3. ^ Felini, Damiano (January 2015). "Beyond Today’s Video Game Rating Systems A Critical Approach to PEGI and ESRB, and Proposed Improvements". Games and Culture 10 (1): 106–122. doi:10.1177/1555412014560192. 
  4. ^ "Kaufhof schafft Filme und Spiele für Erwachsene ab". Der Spiegel (in German). 18 March 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  5. ^ Anderson, Craig A.; et al. (2010). "Violent video game effects on aggression, empathy, and prosocial behavior in eastern and western countries: a meta-analytic review.". Psychological bulletin. Retrieved 15 November 2015. 
  6. ^ "Video Violence: Villain or Victim?", Guy Cumberbatch, London Video Standards Council, 2004
  7. ^ "It's Not the Media", Karen Sternheimer, Westview, 2003
  8. ^ Benedetti, Winda (2008-02-18). "Why search our souls when video games make such an easy scapegoat?". MSNBC. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  9. ^ Radoff, Jon (2009-12-08). "Six Wonderful Things about Games". Retrieved 2009-12-19. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Kaverna (2005-07-19). "Ley 26.043 regula los videojuegos" (in Spanish). 3DGames. 
  12. ^ "Ley 26.043 - Los videojuegos deben llevar la leyenda "La sobreexposición es perjudicial para la salud"" (in Spanish). El Cronista. 2005-07-17. 
  13. ^ "Juguetes, juegos y artículos para recreo o deporte; sus partes y accesorios. Capítulo 95 del SA." (in Spanish). Latin American Integration Association. 
  14. ^ Gustavo Arballo (2006-03-15). "Los videojuegos, parte final: su regulación en Argentina" (in Spanish). 
  15. ^ ADVA at the Wayback Machine (archived October 24, 2005)
  16. ^ Mirror of the ADVA's press release
  17. ^ "Game Software Rating Management Regulations". Taiwan Game Software Rating Information. Digital Game Rating Committee. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  18. ^ PEGI Website
  19. ^ "PEGI Pan European Game Information - What do the labels mean?". 
  20. ^ "Kansallinen audiovisuaalinen instituutti" (in Finnish). Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  21. ^ "コンテンツ・ソフト協同組合". Contents Soft Association. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  22. ^ "EOCS/一般社団法人コンピュータソフトウェア倫理機構オフィシャルウェブサイト". Ethics Organization of Computer Software (EOCS). Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Censorship in New Zealand". 
  24. ^ ESRB FAQ
  25. ^ Nelmes, Jill (2003). An introduction to film studies. Routledge. p. 41. ISBN 0-415-26268-2. 
  26. ^ "The Video Standards Council". bbfc. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 

External links[edit]