Why game age ratings are more complicated than they seem

Why game age ratings are more complicated than they seem

Ian Morris Editor of family gaming website Everybody Plays, discusses the challenge for parents buying games their kids can actually play...

What do Harvest Moon, Brain Training, and Mario and Luigi: Dream Team Bros have in common? They all carry a shiny PEGI 3+ rating on the box, despite being games a three year-old could never manage. The amount of reading or maths or spelling skills would go well over a toddler’s head. None are suitable for a three year old, but none say so.

“But PEGI ratings are for content, not difficulty,” I hear you say, Well, yes – but they’re not very good at telling you about that, either. Take Sniper Elite 3, WWE 2K14, and Tales of Xillia. All are rated PEGI 16 for violence, but in a variety of ways. One shows slow-mo close ups of bullets rupturing eyeballs, one features over the top, comic battles between oddly proportioned characters with weird hairstyles - and the other is Tales of Xillia.

It can be confusing world for parents buying games – and it’s something we in the industry underestimate. If you’re just getting into games, or if you’re looking to buy games for your kids, it can be really tricky to know exactly what you’re buying.

"What do Harvest Moon, Brain Training,
and Mario and Luigi: Dream Team Bros
have in common? They all carry a shiny
PEGI 3+ rating on the box, despite being
games a three year-old could never
manage. The amount of reading or maths
or spelling skills would go well over a
toddler’s head. None are suitable for a
three year old, but none say so."


There’s little guidance for parents for choosing games. PEGI ratings are often mistaken as an assessment of a game’s overall suitability rather than its content. And with no way of judging a game’s complexity, buying for kids can be a lucky dip. 

If parents can’t be sure their kids can play a game, they won’t buy any at all. It’s easy to take a ‘risk’ on a freemium game. It’s another to hand over £40 in the hope you’ve managed to judge the box properly.

Part of the reason for starting Everybody Plays was us falling foul of this. Parents need to know a game is simple enough for their child every bit as much as they need to know about the content, so we created our Parental Reviews. 

Every game we review gets given a two-part rating – an age rating based on complexity and a traffic light rating for the content. We describe any questionable content, explain in plain English what their child will be doing in the game and include a few sample sentences of text. Our ratings are available to developers, publishers and retailers to feature on their websites, and allow parents to make an informed decision.

Discoverability has always been an issue for the family market. Our Parental Reviews help put that right.

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Tags: video game , content , age ratings , suitability

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