With gift-giving season just around the corner, kids will surely start hinting about what items they’d want to get. A few post-it notes on the fridge door, a subtle text message, ramblings about a particular toy on the dinner table - yep, kids have their ways.
Some of the most requested items out there are video games and video game consoles. With multiple gaming options out there - PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, there's almost an endless list of video games your kids might request.
Be careful though, it can get confusing. Kids may hand you a wish list of video game titles they would want and they might even try to sneak in some games that they shouldn't be playing. This classic game I'm revealing next, for example, may have a relatively benign title, but is it appropriate for kids?
Read on and I'll explain to you why it's not. I'll also give you methods on how to check a video game's recommended age level.
If you're a console gamer, you're most likely familiar with 2011's classic game "L.A. Noire." It is a gritty, open world detective game from Rockstar, the same company who makes "Grand Theft Auto."
What sets it apart from the violent mechanics of "Grand Theft Auto" is that instead of focusing on criminal shenanigans, L.A. Noire takes a more cerebral approach and puts you right smack in 1940's Los Angeles as a detective using his wits to solve crimes.
It is actually a well-reviewed game that has novel mechanics for its time - it required the player to read various in-game characters' facial gestures, speech patterns and verbal cues to determine if they're lying. It actually felt like you're doing real detective work by doing what detectives do best - read people.
It helps too that the game has some of the best facial motion capture graphics ever done in a video game. The game's characters are dwelling in an almost-uncanny-valley territory of realism.
And soon, this classic game will be in the gaming spotlight once again with the release of its remastered version (it was originally available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC).
With L.A. Noire's remastered version for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch releasing on November 15, many kids will no doubt have this on their shopping list of games.
Rockstar said that the re-release will come with the original game and all the additional content that was sold separately.
The Nintendo Switch version will be an all new Joy-Con control mode with gesture support while the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions will have numerous high resolution graphical and technical enhancements.
Needless to say, this game has the potential to be another hit. However, if your kid asks for it, should you give in?
Unfortunately for your children, the short answer is no.
The game has a "Mature 17+" ESRB rating and it has extensive adult content such as violence, blood and gore, nudity, sexual themes, strong language and use of drugs. Well made game as it is, you don't really want to expose your kids to such themes even on a video game.
Which brings me to my next point. When shopping for video games, how can you tell if a title is safe for kids or not? Again, you need to refer to its ESRB rating.
Entertainment Software Rating Board
ESRB, short for Entertainment Software Rating Board, is an organization that reviews computer and video games in the U.S., Canada and Mexico and assigns age-level ratings based on their content. It's similar to how movies are classified.
If you're buying a retail version of a video game, the ESRB rating is displayed in the physical box.
Digital games will have their ESRB ratings on their storefront descriptions and can be viewed before purchasing them for download. (Note: Consoles also have parental restrictions you can set up.)
According to the ESRB, here are the various ESRB ratings and what they mean:
EARLY CHILDHOOD - Content is intended for young children.
EVERYONE - Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
EVERYONE 10+ - Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
TEEN - Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
MATURE - Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
ADULTS ONLY - Content suitable only for adults ages 18 and up. May include prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content and/or gambling with real currency.
RATING PENDING - Not yet assigned a final ESRB rating. Appears only in advertising, marketing and promotional materials related to a physical (boxed) video game that is expected to carry an ESRB rating, and should be replaced by a game's rating once it has been assigned.
So there you have it, next time you buy a game for your children, don't forget to check the ESRB rating beforehand. You might be giving them video games that they shouldn't be playing in the first place.