Hard Choices

A look at ratings: How much violence is too much?

Posted January 23, 2013

— Video games, movies and many television shows come with a rating to help parents decide what is and is not appropriate for their children. WRAL News took a look at the violence guidelines for these ratings to determine just how much violence, blood and gore is allowed.

Video game ratings are very specific, including exact definitions of violent acts, while movie ratings are much more general. Television shows are voluntarily rated by individual broadcast and cable networks and not by an outside ratings group. They often contain content labels to better explain why they are rated the way they are, but don't include definitions for the difference between intense and graphic violence, for example.

Video games, rated by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board

Early childhood: no violence depicted 

Everyone: may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, including violent actions involving cartoon-like situations and characters, violence where a character is unharmed after the action or violent actions of fantasy nature that are easily distinguishable from real life

Everyone 10+ (recommended for ages 10 and up): same violence guidelines as Everyone rating

Teen (recommended for ages 13 and up): may contain violence and minimal blood, including scenes involving aggressive conflict, bloodless dismemberment and depictions of blood

Mature (recommended for ages 17 and up): may contain intense violence and blood and gore, including graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict; extreme and realistic blood, gore, weapons and depictions of human injury and death; depictions of blood and the mutilation of body parts

Adults only (recommended for ages 18 and up): may contain prolonged scenes of intense violence, including graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict; extreme and realistic blood, gore, weapons and depictions of human injury and death; depictions of blood and the mutilation of body parts 

Movies, rated by the Motion Picture Association of America

G, General Audiences: minimal depictions of violence

PG, Parental Guidance Suggested: some depictions of violence that parents should judge before letting young children attend 

PG-13, Parents Strongly Cautioned: some depictions of violence, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence

R, Restricted (children under 17 not allowed without parents or guardian): may contain intense or persistent violence

NC-17 (no one under 18 allowed): appropriate only for an adult audience, may contain violence that most parents would consider too strong for their children 

Television shows, rated voluntarily according to industry guidelines

TV-Y, all children: may contain cartoon violence that is not expected to frighten young children

TV-Y7, directed to older children: may contain mild fantasy or comedic violence that could frighten children under 7

TV-Y7, with content label FV: may contain fantasy violence that is more intense or combative than Y7 programs

TV-G: contains little or no violence

TV-PG: may contain moderate violence

TV-14: may contain intense violence

TV-MA: may contain graphic violence 

This story is part of WRAL's prime time special "Soft Targets, Hard Choices." We welcome your comments and questions. Send email to hardchoices@wral.com or use #hardchoices on Twitter.


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  • WooHoo2You Jan 24, 2013

    NRA against violent films...big NRA spokesman is Clint Eastwood....

    Remember kids, fake violence and fake guns kill but real violence is a result of TV and real guns are just "tools."

  • WhatYaGonnaDoNow Jan 24, 2013

    @tendonut - Definitely agree!

  • WhatYaGonnaDoNow Jan 24, 2013

    davidgnews- is it the media doing that or is it their home or surrounding environment?

  • WhatYaGonnaDoNow Jan 24, 2013

    @LKG-Lover, yeah, pressing X on a joystick to reload a weapon is very realistic. Plus, the only game that requires head shots to advance is games where you are against zombies.

    How more tightly restricted could they be? Parents would actually be parents and stop trying to be friends would be a good place to start. If you don't want these items in your house don't allow them in. All game consoles, hand held units, DVD players and cable boxes come with some form of Parental control. Maybe concerned parents should set it and stop wanting everyone else to raise their kids.

  • davidgnews Jan 24, 2013

    So many video games, like Rap etc, reflect and amplify the predatory society around them.

  • tendonut Jan 24, 2013

    ESRB Ratings are far more detailed than this article implies, especially when you get into the T and M ratings. For example, right on the back of these games..

    Grand Theft Auto 4 (Rated M)
    Intense Violence, Blood, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Partial Nudity, Use of Drugs and Alcohol

    Halo 3 (Rated M)
    Blood and Gore, Mild Language, Violence

    Uncharted: Drakes Fortune (Rated T)
    Blood, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco, Violence

    If you buy one of these games and are unaware of the contents, it is most definitely your own fault. Movie ratings don't come close to being that specific.

  • LKG-Lover Jan 24, 2013

    I respectfuly disagrees Worland. These new war and killing games are more realistic than the games played years ago. The guns are more realistic and expose our youths to dangerous weapons which they should not be familiar with. They also encourage head shots to move through the different levels. All this violence has numbed our senses to the carnage which can be caused and I believe tips those with mental problems in the wrong direction. The most violent games and movies should be more tightly restricted.

  • Worland Jan 24, 2013

    The violent war type video games are just the modern version of the cowboy and army games we played with toy guns as kids. Kids get together, they play, they socialize, and have fun just like we did. The kids know it's all fantasy, just like we knew the extremely violent cartoons we watched as kids were just fantasy. The technology has changed, but the game is still the same.