Entertainment Software Rating Board

Why Trust Techopedia

What Does Entertainment Software Rating Board Mean?

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a nonprofit, self-regulatory entity that assigns ratings to electronic entertainment products (primarily games and apps). These ratings are supposed to give consumers a general sense of the nature of the content within the games/apps, particularly whether or not it contains any offensive or otherwise objectionable material.


ESRB ratings currently include the following:

  • EC – Early Childhood
  • E – Everyone
  • E10+ – Everyone ten and older
  • T – Teens
  • M – Mature
  • AO – Adults Only
  • RP – Rating Pending

The board also includes content descriptors that further specify potentially objectionable material.

Techopedia Explains Entertainment Software Rating Board

In the early 1990s, video games became increasingly violent and controversial. Two games in particular – Mortal Kombat and Night Trap – prompted an unprecedented level of media attention, which led to United States Senate hearings in 1992 and 1993.

The hearings (led by Senators Joseph Lieberman and Herb Kohl) resulted in a mandate for a self-regulatory body to provide video game ratings for consumers. If this mandate could not be fulfilled within a year, then the U.S. government planned to implement one of its own.

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) successfully established the ESRB in 1994. The board charges developers a fee (which is scalable, dependent on development budget) in order to rate their product. They also enforce advertising guidelines and, as of 2015, have expanded the use of their ratings into mobile and digital storefronts.


Related Terms

Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.