Hard Choices

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

Posted January 23, 2013 8:30 p.m. EST

— 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.