Much like movies and television, video games have a rating system that lets the consumer know what kind of content is in the video game that they are buying. In America, this rating system is called the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board). The ESRB uses rating symbols and content descriptors.
The ESRB is often criticized of doing an inadequate job on their ratings. However, what consumers must note is that the ESRB merely provides a guideline and a warning of the content. If you are weary of purchasing a video game, take this warning lightly. You might want to do some research on the game before buying it to be sure that the content is acceptable for whoever you are getting the game for.
Below are the current ratings set by the ESRB, along with the appropriate age groups for that rating.
- EC (Early Childhood) [3+]
- E (Everyone) [6+]
- E10+ [10+]
- T (Teen) [13+]
- M (Mature) [17+]
- AO (Adults Only) [18+]
There is also the RP (Rating Pending) rating. This is only used in advertising, while the game is still under review.
If you need more information on the ESRB, including ratings and content descriptors, visit their official site.
IGN has an excellent article of how the ratings are made, shown by a flow chart.