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Gift finder 2007: Parents' guide to buying video games

  • Story Highlights
  • Entertainment Software Ratings Board was started in 1994
  • ESRB created a ratings scheme to help consumers buy games wisely
  • Nearly all games are rated somewhere between E and M
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By Douglass C. Perry
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( -- There is nothing quite like buying a $60 game for your kids and learning withing hours, that you've just wasted hard-earned money on a stinker.

Simpsons Game

The Simpsons Game offers co-op play, which allows parents to play the game with their children.

While teenage kids and college students have time to read about the intimate details about a game, parents have it the toughest: Many kids want games based on movies and TV shows, typically the biggest culprits of mediocrity, and parents want more than anything to please their kids than to buy them their current favorite game come the winter holiday.

There are many aspects to consider: Quality is certainly one. The amount of violence, harsh language, and crude humor you're willing to expose your child to are others. Cost always comes into play, too.

What's one to do? Our best advice is to check this fully loaded parents' guide to games. We also recommend these easy steps: Find out what the ESRB ratings mean, check good gaming sites (such as GameTap, GameSpot, IGN, 1UP, What They Play), and find a good local retailer with clerks who are willing to explain games to you. Lastly, each console provides the ability for parents to use a "parent control" device, which enables them to lock out games based on their ratings. See the manual for each console or check the options menu to tweak these.

What are the best games for concerned parents? Our feature comprises the top five games in each ratings category (with runners-up listed below) that are high in quality and rated by our team or well-regarded game sites.

Learn your ESRBs
The non-profit, self-regulated board known as the Entertainment Software Ratings Board was started in 1994 and has created a ratings scheme similar to the movie industry's rating system to help consumers become informed so that they buy games wisely.

ESRB ratings shows up on all games in North America, appearing on the lower right corner of the box front and at the bottom of the box's back. There are six rating categories: Early Childhood (EC), Everyone (E), Everyone 10 and Older (E10+), Teen (T), Mature (M), and Adults Only (AO). Nearly all games are rated somewhere between E and M. EC games are very rare, which is why we did not list them here. A rating of AO essentially black-labels any game in North America, as most retailers will not carry AO-rated games. For this reason, most publishers alter or delete parts of their games to conform to the ESRB recommendations.

Early Childhood: These games may have content suitable for children ages 3 and older and contain no material parents would find inappropriate.

Everyone: These games offer content suitable for ages 6 and older. These games might include minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, and might include infrequent use of mild language.

Everyone 10+: These titles should be suitable for ages 10 and older and may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language, and/or minimal suggestive themes than E games.

Teen: These titles may be suitable for ages 13 and older and will, in some or fashion, include violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.

Mature: Any games rated M will include content likely to be suitable for anyone 17 and older. M games comprise intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Adults Only: Any games rated AO are only designed for people 18 years and older because these titles include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.

Rating Pending: RP means these games have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting a final rating. You'll usually see this rating on a game that's still in development.

For more information, the ESRB has a toll-free ratings hotline, 1-800-771-3772.

Parents' Holiday Game Guide 2007
Early childhood and everyone
Co-op and sports games
Mature games
Game Tap's digital downloads

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