Video Game Shopping Guide Part 1

As the Christmas season is fast approaching, many parents have already begun shopping for the video games on their child’s list. This is no easy task for a parent who has paid little attention to the video game scene. With three current generation consoles (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii) and various versions of the PSP (PSP Go, PSP 3000) and Nintendo DS (DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL), I don’t envy anyone who goes out shopping unprepared.

Over the next few weeks we will be bringing you a series of articles to help cut through some of the confusion to help you make informed and responsible purchases.

Earlier this week my colleague, Drew, wrote up a nice over-view of the ESRB game ratings. I encourage you to read that article to familiarize yourself with the ratings system and get a better idea of what the ESRB is all about before you go on any further. Go ahead, I’ll wait right here.

A Brief Guide to Video Game Ratings

Now that you are equipped with that knowledge, let’s empower you with a few tools that will save you both time and possibly even some awkward situations on Christmas morning when your child tries out their new game in the living room.

The first tool in your arsenal is provided by the ESRB and is located at this very website as well as their own website ( On the right hand side of this website you may have noticed a yellow search box that’s adorned with the ESRB ratings. You can use this to search for practically any game title on the market, no matter the game system, and it will return the rating and a fairly detailed description of the plot and the specifics on the objectionable content. It’s fairly comprehensive and will allow you to have some context for words like “Blood and Gore”. This granular view of the content is only available to those of use who are looking for it. A ratings board, like the ESRB sets the rating, but it is up to you the responsible gift buyer to make the final analysis. That said, I have yet to run into a title who’s rating I have completely disagreed with.

Okay, so that method of research is great if your at home and you know the specific games that you intend to purchase. But let’s say your out shopping and you left that list at home, or worse, you’re picking out a title based on the cover art. (Ugh, let’s not think of that last one!) Not a problem if you have an internet enabled smart phone. The following are some terrific options:


The ESRB offers a free app for the iPhone for researching game titles. Simply use the button below to get it:


Use this app to look up any of the various game titles as you shop.

Other Smart Phones:

If you own an Android, Windows Mobile, or Blackberry powered smart phone, you may simply use a web browser to visit the ESRB’s mobile website. Bookmark this site now so you will be ready if you need it:

UPDATE: I called into a local GameStop and Toys”R”Us to see if they have any resources available to parents in regard to the ESRB ratings. Of the two, only GameStop offers a handout (by request only) that explains each of the ratings. Unfortunately, neither store have a means of supplying in-depth information on a per title basis other than on the back of the game box.

About Michael "Tebroc" Corbett

According to Mike's memory banks, his first experience with video games happened in 1981 on his brother Jim's Atari VCS - CX2600. (Mike is unsure of whether or not it was a Sunnyvale Edition.) Asteroids and Defender were his favorite games. Fast-forward 20 some years and he has gone on to save the princess but not any money. He never learned to read but now writes articles using speech-to-text technology. Awesome.