A Game by Any Other Name

Recently someone brought up the question of why the US tends to be very slow to get certain games that have been released before the ESRB compared to other nations. It has to do with laws in selling the product and the rating system. I have very strong feelings about just how unnecessary the ESRB, but that would boil down into a rant that I can summarize quite quickly and succinctly “Be a better parent and stop expecting everyone else to do your job.” My parents never once looked at the ratings on the games, they weren’t fools and I’ll explain now the art of gaming names.

There is never a goal of hiding destructive content behind a friendly name, this isn’t the Tobacco industry, indeed it’s almost always (if not always) painfully simple to know whether a game can be safely given to a child that you’d rather not spend time with. I say this because anyone who is attentive with their children will not even need to go this far because they’ll be there while their child is playing “Onslaught Brigade Killer Nazi 7” or whatever else that becomes popular this year.

Lets look at a dozen children friendly games and a dozen non-children friendly games. Try and figure out the pattern for each before you go on to the reveal. When I say child friendly I simply mean that even the staunchest ignorant observer would be hard-pressed to equate playing the game to becoming a murderer (which statistically is unlikely if you were curious).

Children Friendly Games

  1. Sonic The Hedgehog
  2. Super Mario Bros
  3. DeBlob
  4. Pokemon
  5. Sim City
  6. Professor Layton and the Curious Village
  7. Dance Dance Revolution
  8. Donkey Kong
  9. Cooking Mama
  10. Lego (Anything)
  11. Club Penguin
  12. Animal Crossing

Non-Children Friendly Games

  1. God of War
  2. Grand Theft Auto
  3. Killzone 2
  4. Resident Evil
  5. Gears of War
  6. Left 4 Dead
  7. Call of Duty: World at War
  8. Resistance: Fall of Man
  9. World of Warcraft
  10. Fallout
  11. Street Fighter
  12. Assassin’s Creed

So have you figured it out? What noticeable difference there is between games your kids can play and what they can’t (well they could play any of them, but for people who actually think it’ll effect the kid). The games that are kid friendly almost always sound kid friendly, sure you could misconstrue club penguin as a verb and a noun instead of one big noun…which I’ll admit is a HUGE difference.

If you go to club penguin for a fun night of dancing is quite different than going to club penguins. But I digress, even the ambiguous titles up there are pretty obvious upon gazing for about a quarter of a second at the covers. Have you ever looked at a cover for a game and thought “Hmm I wonder if there will be death and destruction.” No. While you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover you will always get a pretty accurate view of the ‘danger’ involved with a game by a look at the cover. Lets have a few visual examples.

Alright this guy has a gun. Probably involves shooting.

Now if the title wasn’t a give away you might notice the pissed off alien with a weapon.

Again if the title isn’t a giveaway (Ultimate Fighting Championship) the picture is.

Now I’ll admit he eats ‘pills’ and ugh…”kills” ghosts…if you can do that. But obviously friendly.

Sure there are lightsabers and ‘violence’ but anyone who knows what Lego’s are knows that they are ALWAYS kid friendly (choking aside).

It’s golf. While I realize this could lead your kid to making millions and incidentally losing their ability to feel compassion (joking joking) it is family friendly.

Now I realize I chose all 360 games (a system notorious for adult games) but that was mostly the point. There is really little to no gray area in gaming. If there is going to be death, murder, drug selling, it’s all painfully obvious on the cover if not by the name but by the visual content. Then again on second thought.

I can see the ambiguity.

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