Hello and welcome to Parental Review, where I help parents realize what they are actually blindly giving their little twelve year old.
To start off I would like to explain something more important than the latest new game, that little black and white box on the back of every package in the store. Established in 1994, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board(ESRB) was the industries answer to not having the government force regulations on them after a string of violent video games caught the public's eye. Like the Film ratings it labels a product based on how appropriate the conduct is for different age groups, and ranges from EC(early childhood) to AO(adults only). On the ratings label it also gives the major content which classify it as a specific rating, these would tell you if there is something major like violence or profanity, or even something as simple as comic mischief. In the end just make sure to remember that although there are some safety nets between your children and smut, as a parent you are able to bypass those if you aren't paying attention.
Fears you may have:
Q: What do I do if a game isn't rated?
A: Almost all major retail stores refuse to sell games unrated by the ESRB, and the console manufacturers wont allow many games to be made for their platform if it isn't rated. The only games your child would want that are unrated are computer games and will require you to do a little research I'm afraid.
Q: What are some AO rated games I should know not to buy for my child??
A: Although some consoles will allow AO games to be made on them, most retailers refuse to sell them. AO games are actually rarely made because it is generally a money loss since no stores will sell them. Again you will not find many other than on the computer these days.
Q: What happens if my child buys a game I didn't want them to have without my knowledge???
A: Although "didn't want them to have" is too vague to list every possible answer, many retail stores require ID to purchase Mature rated games(I was carded often when i was in my late teens), and they probably have similar guidelines to prevent sales to really young children without a consenting adult. If you find that a cashier did sell your child a game they legitimately shouldn't have then you may be able to contact their manager and disciplinary action may be taken.
Here is a big one
Q: "insert game title" seems awfully bad, why is it rated M instead of AO?!?!
A: This is a common question voiced by people outside of the gaming community. The simplest answer is "because games aren't just for kids". It may be hard for others to understand this, but it would be like if the latest Summer blockbuster was changed to NC17 and suddenly put in the back with the pure porn videos. Nobody benefits in the end.
List of Ratings
ESRB main page
ESRB wikipedia page
Walmart's sale policy
If you want a parental review on a game you are unsure about contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org